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Research Coins: Feature Auction

Sale: Triton VIII, Lot: 727. Estimate $5000. 
Closing Date: Monday, 10 January 2005. 
Sold For $4750. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

IONIA, Smyrna. Antinoüs, favorite of Hadrian. Died 130 AD. Æ 38mm-Medallion (34.85 gm). Marcus Aurelius Polemon, magistrate. [ANTINOOC] HRWC, bare head of Antinoüs left / POLEMWN ANEQHKE CMVPNAIOIC, female panther left, grasping a filleted thyrsos. Blum pg. 41, 14; Klose XLVI 19 (V1/R16); BMC Ionia -; SNG Copenhagen -; SNG von Aulock 2212. VF, variegated brown and green patina, surfaces smoothed. Very rare and unusual. ($5000)

From the David A. Dowdy Collection. Ex Schweizerische Kreditanstalt 7 (27-29 April 1987), lot 857.

This medallion has undergone a remarkable transformation in antiquity. It actually consists of two separate medallions. One, bearing the reverse, was carefully hollowed out with a lathe, then had a highly polished sheet of silver set into it. Another coin had the obverse shaved off, and was inset into the hollow, forming a small box mirror. This transformation went unnoticed until 1966, when the coin was cleaned and found to separate into two halves. The obverse is noticeably small than the opening in the reverse, and must at one time have had a separate flange to hold it in place. A similar alteration of an Antinoüs medallion is found in another auction specimen, Leu 30 (28 April 1982), lot 369, where coins from Arcadia and Claudiopolis in Bithynia were turned into a cased mirror. Small bronze case or box mirrors are frequently encountered from the third century, the interiors either tinned or silvered. These two examples may merely be small cosmetic mirrors or compacts, but the existence of two altered Antinoüs medallions leads to speculation that these may have played some role in cult practice.

See lot 715 for a note on the life and coinage of Antinoüs.