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Research Coins: The Coin Shop

731649. Sold For $695

ILLYRIA, Kings of. Ballaios. Circa 190-175 BC. AR Drachm (3.81 gm). Macedonian shield / B-A, Pegasos flying right. J. von Schlosser, Beschreibung der Altgriechischen Münzen I, pl. IV, 7 var. (pegasos left); cf. D. Ujes, "Le monete del 'RE' Ballaios e della zecca Rizonia al Museo Nationale di Belgrado," Numizaticar 16 (1993), pl. III, 30. Toned, good VF. Extremely Rare. $695.

CNR XXVII, June 2002, lot 29.

These two drachms (see CNR XXVII, June 2002, lot 30) are apparently issues of the Illyrian King Ballaios. Save for his coinage, there are no other references in the historical record of this king. Nevertheless, based on the numismatic evidence, Ballaios was a monarch who reigned in the vicinity of Pharos and, later, Rizon, from circa 190-175/168 BC. Prior to the discovery of these two coins, no drachms have been attributed to Ballaios. A drachm of the same artistic style, but with pegasos flying left, though, has been published, but it was attributed as an "uncertain Illyrian coin." See von Schlosser, Beschreibung der Altgreichischen Münzen I: Thessalien, Illyrien, Dalmatien und die Inseln des Adriatischen Meeres, Epeiros, pg. 70, no. 1.

The letters B and A appear on all of these three drachms. However, on one of our specimens another letter appears, L. The characteristics of these letters, in conjunction with their placement, do not indicate any subordination of one letter to another, thus they should be read together as an ethnic or name. If read clockwise, starting at the upper-right, which seems most logical, the inscription on the three-letter specimen reads B-A-L. The similarities in style to other coins appear to place our coins to the region of Illyria and northern Greece, circa 250-150 BC. From this time and location, there were no cities whose ethnic, nor ruler whose name, would yield the inscription on these coins except Ballaios.

The appearance of a Macedonian shield on the obverse also gives credence to our attribution. During the reigns of Philip V and Perseus, autonomous cities affiliated with Macedon produced silver fractions that used a Macedonian shield on the obverse. During the Third Macedonian War, the Illyrian King Genthius was allied with Macedon, and Perseus struck silver issues at Pella for him. See Crawford, Coinage and Money under the Roman Republic, pg. 221, citing Livy xliv, 27, 8-12. It is therefore possible that Perseus minted these coins for Ballaios. It is also possible that the shield is not intended to be Macedonian per se, but rather a simple shield type reflecting a wartime coinage. Preparations for the Third Macedonian War could easily have extended into the last years of Ballaios' reign.

The hoard evidence is most convincing. There are a number of published hoards containing Ballaios' coins, though only three of the coins attributed to him are silver. One of these is a silver fraction that has an obverse type of a Macedonian shield that is an exact stylistic match with our coins. See Ujes, "Le monete del 'RE' Ballaios e della zecca Rizonia al Museo Nazionale di Belgrado", in Numizmaticar 16 (1993), pl. III, 30. Another silver fraction in a different hoard of Ballaios also has a shield as obverse type. Though too worn to determine whether it is a Macedonian shield, the reverse type is the same as the previous fraction, thus it may very well be. See Ujes, supra, pl. IV, 17. The evidence of these two fractions, combined with that of the inscriptions on our coins and the historical background, leads to the logical conclusion is that these coins are drachms of Ballaios.