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Research Coins: Feature Auction


Delphi Tridrachm from the Ghazzat Hoard

CNG 106, Lot: 248. Estimate $50000.
Sold for $42500. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

PHOKIS, Delphi. Circa 479-475 BC. AR Tridrachm (27mm, 14.91 g). Two rhyta (drinking vessels) in the form of rams’ heads; above, two dolphins confronted; ΔAΛΦ-I-KON in small letters below (traces visible); all within beaded border / Quadripartite incuse square in the form of a coffered ceiling; each coffer decorated with a dolphin and laurel spray, giving the appearance of the dolphins swimming toward the center of the die. Gaza 21 (this coin); Asyut 244 (same obv. die); Svoronos, Delphi 18; HGC 4, 1116; ACGC 413; BCD Lokris 376; Kraay & Hirmer 461. VF, toned, water-worn surfaces. Very rare, approximately fourteen Delphi tridrachms are known.

From the Ghazzat/Gaza 1960s hoard.

The Ghazzat Hoard was found in the sea off the coast of Gaza in the 1960s. The coins from the hoard have been consigned by the Tarazi family, who acquired the coins immediately after they were found. In recognition of the importance of the hoard for scholars, the Tarazi family offered 27 of the hoard’s 29 coins as a single lot in Triton XIX (lot 82). The present Delphi tridrachm was one of the two pieces previously retained by the family.

The tridrachms of Delphi are among the most historically interesting of all Greek coins. Prior to the Asyut find they were only known from two coins in Paris and Berlin, as well as a fragment from the Zagazig Hoard of 1901 (IGCH 1645); now there are at least 14 examples. The obverse type is a direct reference to the Greek victory over the Persians at Plataea in 479, when a great deal of booty, including silver vessels, was taken by the Greeks. These two rhyta were certainly from that booty and must have been brought as a dedication to Apollo in Delphi (rams were sacred to Apollo, along with dolphins). The reverse of this coin is also very unusual: it is not a normal quadripartite incuse but, rather, clearly shows the stepped coffering that we know decorated ancient ceilings, especially those of prestigious buildings like the Temple of Apollo. The dolphins that ornament these coffers are a reference to both the name of Delphi and to the fact that Apollo himself could appear in the form of a dolphin.