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Research Coins: Feature Auction

CNG 111, Lot: 652. Estimate $3000.
Sold for $4000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Augustus. 27 BC-AD 14. AR Cistophorus (25mm, 11.97 g, 12h). Ephesus mint. Struck circa 25-20 BC. IMP • CAE SAR, bare head right / AVGVSTVS, capricorn right, head left, bearing cornucopia on back; all within laurel wreath. RIC I 477; Sutherland Group V, – (unlisted dies); RPC I 2213; RSC 16; BMCRE 696 = BMCRR East 263; BN 916–7. Near EF, deeply toned with some iridescence. Well centered, good metal.

The cistophoric tetradrachm was introduced by the Attalid kings of Pergamum in the 190s BC, and was intended for circulation only within a closed economic region in western Anatolia. Its name derives from the cista, or sacred basket containing serpents, that appeared on the obverse of the first issues. The Pergamene Kingdom was later bequeathed to Rome in 133 BC as Asia Province and the coinage continued, with the local design gradually supplanted by portraits of Roman rulers. It was theoretically a tetradrachm (4-drachm piece) on the reduced Asian standard of about 3 grams per drachm; however, its weight was also equivalent to three Roman denarii, so it could also have passed current in the western provinces as a triple denarius piece. Whether cistophori were used in the west in this fashion is a matter of ongoing debate.