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Triton XXIII – Session One – Greek Coinage Part I

Lot nuber 68

SICILY, Akragas. Circa 465/0–445/0 BC. AR Tetradrachm (24mm, 17.51 g, 1h).


Triton XXIII – Session One – Greek Coinage Part I
Lot: 68.
 Estimated: $ 10 000

Greek, Silver

Sold For $ 7 500. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

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SICILY, Akragas. Circa 465/0–445/0 BC. AR Tetradrachm (24mm, 17.51 g, 1h). Sea eagle standing left; AKRAC-AИTOΣ around / Crab, with carapace in the form of a human face, within incuse circle. Westermark, Coinage, Period II, Group II, 349b.17 (O10/R35 – this coin); HGC 2, 77; SNG ANS 973 (same dies); SNG Lloyd 804 (same dies); SNG Lockett 692 (same dies); Bement 334 (same dies); Gulbenkian 161 (same dies); Kraay & Hirmer 171 (same die). Toned, some porosity, die break at edge on reverse. Near EF. Excellent detail for issue. The reverse of this coin is illustrated on pl. 61 of Bodenstedt’s study of the electrum of Mytilene and Phokaia.

From the Ancient Miniature Art Collection. Ex Leu 7 (9 May 1973), lot 47; Hamburger 98 (3 April 1933), lot 116.

This coin is illustrated in the forthcoming book by H.B. Andersen, Apollo to Apollo: The Hunt for the Divine and Eternal Beauty.

From the earliest issues of the coins of Akragas, there are instances where the engraver of a reverse die appears to have synthesized a human face into the features of the carapace of the crab, as here. In fact, Westermark notes many examples, and agrees with the observations of others that even the likenesses of various animal heads are likewise occasionally engraved in the design. She also agrees that the most likely interpretation is that the human-like face is that of the river god Akragas, displayed within the features of the very emblem that is meant to represent him on the city’s coinage. This phenomenon continued to recur on silver issues of the city throughout the fifth century, culminating in the spectacular issue of rare drachms in the third period of coinage, where the features of the carapace are totally transformed into a stark human face peering out from the reverse (cf. Kraay-Hirmer 183).

The final winners of all Triton XXIII lots will be determined at the live public sale that will be held on 14-15 January 2020. Triton XXIII – Session One – Greek Coinage Part I will be held Tuesday morning, 14 January 2020 beginning at 9:00 AM ET.

Winning bids are subject to a 20% buyer's fee for bids placed on this website and in person at the public auction, 22.50% for all others.