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Research Coins: Printed Auction


One of Three Known

Triton XXII, Lot: 423. Estimate $50000.
Sold for $90000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

PTOLEMAIC KINGS of EGYPT. Ptolemy V Epiphanes. 204-180 BC. AV Mnaieion – ‘Oktadrachm’ (26.5mm, 27.65 g, 12h). Alexandreia mint(?). Struck circa 204/3 BC. Radiate, diademed, and draped bust right; spear over shoulder / BAΣIΛEΩΣ ΠTOΛEMAIOY, radiate and filleted cornucopia; stars flanking. Svoronos 1254; Olivier 2988 (D1/R1) = Hunt III 61 (this coin); EHC p. 110, 3 and no. 323 = BMC 51; SNG Copenhagen –; Leu 36, lot 217. Good VF, trace deposits, tiny mark on obverse. Extremely rare, one of only three known, none in CoinArchives.

From the collection of a Northern California Gentleman. Ex Nelson Bunker Hunt Collection (Part III, Sotheby’s New York, 4 December 1990), lot 61; Numismatic Fine Arts XXX (8 December 1992), lot 180; Münzen und Medaillen AG XLVII (30 November 1972), lot 546.

Ascending the throne at the age of 5 or 6 in 204 BC, Ptolemy V Epiphanes faced a kingdom in crisis: A native Egyptian uprising under a rebel Pharaoh controlled much of Upper Egypt, the government of Alexandria was paralyzed by infighting between rival courtiers, and the Seleukid and Macedonian kingdoms launched invasions of Egypt’s outlying provinces. Despite these travails, the young king was honored by a new effusion of coinage that, unusually for the Ptolemaic series, bore his own portrait, rather than that of the dynasty’s founder. This included gold mnaieia (worth 100 silver drachms) with a dramatic radiate portrait of Ptolemy V shouldering a spear. The bust, wearing the solar crown of Helios, recalls a similar portrayal of his grandfather Ptolemy III on gold mnaieons struck during the previous reign, while the spear alludes to the martial temper of the times. The two stars on the reverse may refer to a pair of comets that marked the king’s birth and his ascension to the throne. The extreme rarity of this issue today indicates the gold was struck only sparingly and supplemented by contemporary issues depicting his father Ptolemy IV, his mother Arsinoe III, and a re-issue of the familiar Theoi Adelphoi mnaieons depicting the first four Ptolemaic rulers. In contrast, silver tetradrachms bearing Ptolemy V’s diademed portrait were issued both at Alexandreia and branch mints, primarily Tyre, Phoenicia, in considerable quantities (see next lot).