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Portrait of Seleukos I

CNG 111, Lot: 218. Estimate $2000.
Sold for $9000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

KINGS of PERGAMON. Philetairos. 282-263 BC. AR Tetradrachm (29mm, 16.97 g, 12h). Pergamon mint. Struck circa 269/8-263 BC. Diademed head of Seleukos I right / Athena, holding shield decorated with gorgoneion to left, and cradling spear, seated left on throne with back in the form of a small sphinx seated right; ivy leaf above arm, monogram on throne, bow to right. Ingvaldsen, Philetaerus 8, dies VII/21; Newell, Pergamene 15, dies XVIII/39; SC 309.5b; SNG BN 1601; Pozzi 2249 (same dies). VF, a few marks. Well centered on a broad flan. Excellent portrait.

When Lysimachos established the mint of Pergamon, he entrusted its treasury to the eunuch Philetairos. Philetairos changed his allegiance to Seleukos I, probably shortly before the Battle of Korupedion in 281 BC, where Seleukos defeated Lysimachos. Although Seleukos was assassinated the following year, Philetairos struck a series of Alexander-type issues in the name of Seleukos. Philetairos continued to acknowledge Seleukid primacy for some time, but soon struck a coinage in his own name. This coinage featured Athena Nikephoros on the reverse, similar to the reverses of Lysimachos. Perhaps because this move might have been viewed as a threat by his Seleukid overlord, the obverse of the first issues of these coins featured the portrait of Seleukos I. Houghton & Lorber (SC), citing Le Rider and Newell, assign this coinage to the aftermath of Antiochos I's victory over the Galatians, circa 269/8 BC. Near the end of Philetairos’ reign, in the mid-late 260s, the portrait of Seleukos was replaced with the portrait of the Pergamene king, noting a final break from Seleukid authority. Similar to what was done in Ptolemaic Egypt, all of the subsequent kings of Pergamon continued to use these types on the coinage, and even kept Philetairos’ name. Distinguishing the issues between the various rulers has been difficult for numismatists. Westermark’s die study of the coinage, however, provided the key necessary for understanding the series, although more recent hoard evidence has refined Westermark’s assignment of the issues.