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Exceedingly Rare Æ Quincussis – ‘Ramo Secco’ Bar with Dolphin

408, Lot: 362. Estimate $500.
Sold for $2200. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Anonymous. Circa 6th-4th centuries BC. Æ Aes Signatum Quincussis (97x78x45mm, 1550 g). Large fragment of bar form. Uncertain central Italian mint. Dolphin right / Ramo Secco dried leaf pattern. Cf. Haeberlin Plate 8, nos. 1, 2, 3 & 6; cf. ICC 4, 5, 6, 8 & 9. VF, rough reddish brown patina with encrustations. Exceedingly rare.

From the Andrew McCabe Collection. Ex Vecchi 13 (4 September 1998), lot 565 (with dated invoice).

This bar has a large dolphin design on one side and a ramo secco dried leaf pattern on the other, both, however, partially obscured by surface encrustations and wear. There are five other recorded bars with a dolphin, all different and none exactly matching this, or indeed each other. All are in museums. Thus, this is the only dolphin bar recorded as in private hands. It’s also the largest bar. The other five are provenanced to Pesaro 1757, Ariccia 1848, Teramo 1840, Tiber 1883, and one unprovenanced in the British Museum. These pre-date the Roman aes signatum bars of the 3rd century BC, probably dating to the 6th-4th century. Hence, it can be considered as the first aes signatum bar with a non-geometric design. Roman aes signatum bars of the third century BC are, in contrast, delicately designed, large and slim (about 10mm thick). The earliest unmarked bars in an archaeological context date from about 650 BC, for example, those found in the Grammechele (Catania) hoard unearthed in 1900 and dated to the seventh century BC (see P. Orsi, Bulletino di Paletnologia Italiana, serie III, tomo IV, 1900 p. 277, who notes the typical full and wide edge flashes from the edges of molds that were technically eliminated in later bars, such as the ramo secco bars, with or without dolphins). [Andrew McCabe]