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Research Coins: Feature Auction

Sale: CNG 73, Lot: 177. Estimate $300. 
Closing Date: Wednesday, 13 September 2006. 
Sold For $1200. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

KINGS of ILLYRIA. Ballaios. Circa 190-175 BC. AR Drachm (3.33 g). Pegasos flying right, B-A-L around / Macedonian shield in incuse circle. Visonà, Greek-Illyrian UM1 and pl. 5, 25 (Uncertain mint; same dies). Good Fine, lightly toned, light roughness on reverse. Extremely rare, fewer than five known.

Ex Classical Numismatic Review XXVII (Summer 2002), no. 30.

Save for his coinage, there is little known about Ballaios. Based on the numismatic evidence, Ballaios was a monarch who reigned in the vicinity of Pharos and, later, Rizon, from circa 190-175/168 BC. Although a few very rare silver fractions have been attributed to Ballaios (cf. D. Ujes, "Le monete del 'RE' Ballaios e della zecca Rizonia al Museo Nazionale di Belgrado," Numizmaticar 16 (1993), pl. III, 30), his coinage mainly consists of small bronze coins. The bronze have his portrait on the obverse and Artemis Phosphoros on the reverse accompanied by Ballaios' name, either with or without the royal title. The silver fractions, though, are anepigraphic, with a crude Macedonian shield on the obverse and a star on the reverse. The present coin is known from only a handful of specimens, all with a crude Macedonian shield on the obverse and Pegasos flying left or right on the reverse (cf. Visonà, Greek-Illyrian and J. von Schlosser, Beschreibung der altgriechischen Münzen I: Thessalien, Illyrien, Dalmatien und die Inseln des adriatischen Meeres, Epeiros, p. 70, no. 1). All of these drachms have B A on the reverse, though often the A is misread as an L due to wear or some other defect. The present coin, however, is one of two known with a third letter visible, L, though only the present coin clearly shows the A (see Visonà, above, for the other). The style and fabric of these drachms clearly place them in the Illyrian region, circa 250-150 BC. Additionally, the style of the shield is strikingly similar to the shield on the silver fractions of Ballaios. No other known king or mint in the region at that time would likely use these letters B A L, or a permutation thereof, on their coins. During the Third Macedonian War, the Illyrian king Genthius was allied with Macedon, and Perseus struck silver issues at Pella for him (cf. Crawford, CMRR, p. 221). It is therefore possible that these drachms were likewise minted by Perseus for Ballaios, whose reign may have extended into the early years of the war.