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Research Coins: Feature Auction


Rare Alexander II Bronze

Sale: CNG 79, Lot: 150. Estimate $750. 
Closing Date: Wednesday, 17 September 2008. 
Sold For $6150. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

KINGS of MACEDON. Alexander II. 370/69-368/7 BC. Æ Unit (3.34 g, 3h). Young male head right, wearing tainia; small Δ below chin (very faint) / AΛE-ΞAN-ΔPO, horse prancing right. Westermark, Remarks p. 308, 1; SNG ANS 110-1. VF, dark green patina, a few rough spots. Rare.

This is an example of the only coinage definitely attributable to Alexander II. A salient feature of this type is the distinctive Aeolic Greek genitive form of the legend, AΛEΞANΔPO, which is normally used on Macedonian coins down to Philip II. In her article on the early Macedonian regal coinage, Westermark (p. 308 and 313) noted two types with this feature. The first type, to which this coin belongs, has a free horse prancing right, and the legend is dispersed around the horse. In contrast, the second type has a mounted horse prancing left, the legend is concentrated in the field above the horse, and there is a control mark on the reverse. Both also have a particularly artistic style for the obverse portrait of Apollo, but only the first type has an additional mark, a small Δ, below Apollo's chin, which appears to be an artist's signature.

Based on the legend form and the fine style Apollo portrait, both Gaebler and Imhoof-Blumer placed these two types during the reign of Alexander II, although other scholars, such as Head, Naster, and Grose, disagreed. Westermark took a fresh look at the evidence. She notes that the attribution of the first type to Alexander II was certain, based on a number of bronze issues of Perdikkas III in London and Paris that were clearly overstruck on coins of the first type (cf. Westermark, pl. LXX, 41-2). There are no such overstrikes for the second type, which Westermark strongly doubted were issues of Alexander II, also noting that "the [Aeolic Greek] genitive is by no means unknown for Alexander III."

Other characteristics also support the attribution of the second type to Alexander III. While Westermark points out the exquisite style of the head of Apollo on the first type, which suggests Δ is an artist's signature, she does not see such a refined style on the second. The positioning of the letters in the legend also suggest the two types belong to separate periods. The spread-out fashion of the legend on the first type is typical of earlier Macedonian regal coins, while the concentrated fashion of the second is typical of later types. Similarly, the reverse types in general, a riderless horse and mounted horse, also correspond to earlier and later types, respectively. Finally, the addition of the control mark on the reverse of the second type also suggests a later issue.

In sum, Price's attribution of the second type to the reign of Alexander III appears to be correct, as all aspects of these coins correspond to the other bronzes that certainly belong to this later period of Macedonian regal coinage. Thus the first type remains the only coinage securely attributed to Alexander II.