Insights

One of world's oldest coins, struck 625 to 600 B.C., sells in German auction June 5

One of four known staters of Phanes realizes €280,000
By , Coin World
Published : 06/21/14
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One of four known examples of one of the world’s oldest coins, a stater of Phanes, led all bidding during Numismatik Lanz’s June 5 auction.

The circa 625 to 600 B.C. electrum coin — a lump of metal, really — realized a hammer price of €280,000 ($381,184 in U.S. funds). The buyer’s fee is either 15 percent for items being exported from the European Union, or 25 percent for pieces staying in the EU, so a final figure was unavailable.

The Extremely Fine coin comes from western Asia Minor (modern Turkey), and is one of the earliest coins with a legend. 

The stater is among a series of coinage of Phanes, an enigmatic coin issuer who added his signature to his coins in the last quarter of the seventh century B.C.

The Phanes coinage, as presently known, consists of seven denominations, from stater down to 1/96 stater, with some denominations occurring in different varieties, according to Classical Numismatic Group. 

Only the two largest denominations bear the name of Phanes. 

Four examples of the largest denomination are known, and all carry a legend (Phanos emi Seima) that translates to “I am the badge of Phanes.” Trites, equal to one-third of a stater, carry a name translating to “Of Phanes.”

Though smaller coins lack the inscription, the series is linked by a deer in their design, a common weight standard, and the use of the same reverse punch across several denominations, according to CNG.

The stag in the design led some researchers to believe it was issued in Ephesus, Ionia, since a cult of Artemis existed in Ephesus, and the deer was sacred there. The auction house says that interpretation has been refuted, however, so the coins’ origins remain murky.

The stater touches upon one of the earliest mysteries of coins — was Phanes a privateer, a banker, a tyrant or even a divine phenomenon?

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