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Research Coins: Feature Auction

CNG 87, Lot: 829. Estimate $300.
Sold for $380. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

PONTUS, Uncertain mint. Late 1st century BC. Æ (19mm, 8.65 g, 12h). Bare male head right / Two figures sacrificing a pig; EETI[A] below. RPC I 2156 (same obv. die as ilustration); Imhoof-Blumer, GRMK 281; Leypold, “Schwurszene (Fetia) auf einer unbekannten römischen Bronzemünze,” MÖNG Vol. XX, no. 10 (1978), pp. 78-79, illustration = SNG Leypold 69 (same obv. die); CNG E-188, lot 204 (same obv. die). VF, black patina. A rare and perplexing issue.

Making sense of this rare issue is plagued with difficulties. Imhoof-Blumer placed it at Amisus, where Leypold acquired his specimen, but while this is not unlikely it is far from secure. In addition, the dating is problematic, with Leypold preferring a date of 100-50 BC, while the authors of RPC placed the issue toward the late 1st century BC, although admitting (p. 361) that there is “no good evidence for its date.” These two uncertainties make identifying the individualized portrait on the obverse even more difficult. A client king would seem logical, but the head lacks a diadem.

Turning to the reverse, we find an unusual legend in the exergue. It was first read by Imhoof Blumer as ΓETIA. Leypold read it as FETIA, putting forward the tantalizing argument that the scene refers to a fetial ceremony - the sacrifice of a pig to sanctify a treaty - although what treaty this issue should be associated with is uncertain. Adding to the confusion, the legend on the current specimen and that sold in CNG E-188 clearly begin with an “E” rather than an “F”. Finally, as the authors of RPC appropriately note (p. 361): “Indeed, the use of Latin might perhaps be a problem for almost any attribution, as the fetial ceremony would not be appropriate in the case of a colony.”