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Research Coins: Printed Auction


Previously Unknown Inscribed Tetradrachm of Vādfradād (Autophradates) II

CNG 97, Lot: 440. Estimate $30000.
Sold for $45000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

KINGS of PERSIS. Vādfradād (Autophradates) II. Early-mid 2nd century BC. AR Tetradrachm (25mm, 16.23 g, 11h). Istakhr (Persepolis) mint. Bearded head right, wearing diadem and kyrbasia adorned with eagle / Aramaic wtprdt rtrk’ zy ’ly’ (= “Vādfradād [f]rataraka of the gods”) downward around left, fire temple of Ahura-Mazda; above, half-figure of Ahura-Mazda; to left, Vādfradād standing right; to right, eagle standing left on standard. K&M 3/1 var. (no legend on rev.); cf. DeMorgan pl. 28, 10 (for type with possible traces of rev. legend); Sunrise 574 var. (same); cf. MACW 736 (drachm; wtprdt only). EF. Struck in high relief. Extremely rare inscribed tetradrachm, one of two known (the other in a private collection).

Traditionally, the issues of Vādfradād II represent the earliest reappearance of coinage in Persis since those issues that were struck by the fratarakā – a series of local dynasts who gained independence from the Seleukids as rulers in their own right – in the third century BC. The term fratarakā that was applied to these early rulers derived from from the title prtrk' zy alhaya, or "governor of the gods," that appeared on the coins they issued, referring to their administrative role as local priests, as local representatives of the Seleukid kings, or an association with the earlier Achaemenids (J. Wiesehöfer, “Frataraka,” Encyclopædia Iranica, Vol. X, Fasc. 2 [2000], p. 195).

In addition to a portrait wearing a more stylized kyrbasia adorned with additional adjuncts – most often an eagle or crescent – the issues of Vādfradād II (and his immediate successor, the so-called Unknown King I) were thought to bear no reverse inscription, a situation that lasted until the time of Darev I (the successor of Unknown King I), who was thought to be the first to add his name, along with the royal title (mlk’), to his coins. This led to the assumption that Darev I enjoyed a degree of independence from the Seleukids that his immediate predecessors (Vadfradad I and Unknown King I) lacked, since no names or titles of these rulers appeared on their coinage. The poor preservation of prior published examples tended to support this conclusion with some coins having tantalizingly possible, though inconclusive, partial inscriptions, In 1978, Michael Mitchiner published a drachm of Vadfradad I (then in the collection of David Sellwood) that included a partial inscription, which he read as wtprdt (Vadfradad). Klose and Müseler, in their catalog of the coinage on Persis (p. 41), noted that this interpretation be taken with the greatest caution until further material appear that would confirm the name, as well as a possible title for this ruler. This tetradrachm does that by being the first example of its type for this ruler with an almost complete reverse legend. The name wtprdt, although in retrograde, is clear and confirms Mitchiner’s reading. The remaining letters, although weak and double struck, are sufficiently evident to complete the remaining inscription as [p]rtrk’ zy ’ly’ – ([f]rataraka of the gods). That this coinage ought to be attributed to Vadfradad II is without doubt. On the other hand, the appearance of the inscription [p]rtrk’ zy ’ly’ in this tetradrachm’s reverse legend is entirely new, and its presence requires further study of Vadfradad II’s position as afratrakā, as well as the previously assumed chronological transition between those issues bearing the reverse title prtrk’ zy ’ly’ and those with the royal title mlk’.

For a synopsis of the chronology of the kingdom of Persis, see CNG 90, lot 787. A more detailed discussion of the coinage of Persis will appear in the forthcoming book, Anne van't Haaff and D. Scott VanHorn, Catalogue of the Coins of Persis, circa 280 BC – AD 224.