A rare Greek silver tetradrachm of Syracuse once part of the famed
Nelson Bunker Hunt Collection realized 590,000 Swiss francs (about
$653,515 U.S.) during Nomos Ag’s sale No. 8 on Oct. 22. The coin had
an estimate of 75,000 Swiss francs (about $81,323).
The price includes an 18 percent buyer’s fee.
“The fight for this coin just went on and on with two bidders
fighting it out ’til it hit this terrific price,” said Alan Walker,
director of Nomos.
The Sicilian silver tetradrachm was struck circa 410 to 400 B.C.,
according to Nomos.
The obverse shows a quadriga galloping to the left, being driven
by a goddess (perhaps Persephone) with Nike flying above.
Experts debate whether the portrait appearing on the reverse is of
Athena, who is typically found on coins in Athens, or Arethusa, a
well-established symbol on the Syracusan coins.
One theory suggests that Arethusa is wearing Athena’s helmet, in
celebration of the Syracusan triumph over the Athenians, but Athena’s
necklace is also present. In addition, Athena was honored at Syracuse
when a sanctuary was erected to her on the Ortygia to commemorate the
Syracusan triumph over the Carthaginians in 480 B.C.
“At around the time this coin was issued Sicily was facing yet
another Carthaginian invasion — which resulted in the destruction of
Akragas — so a coinage honoring Athena would be quite appropriate,”
according to the auction firm.
The coin is signed by the engraver Eukleidas in very small letters
inside the helmet worn by the allegorical figure depicted on the
reverse of the piece.
The coin weighs 16.56 grams and measures 28 millimeters in
diameter, making it slightly wider than a Presidential dollar and
twice as heavy.
The date of issue is in question, with the strike either during
the last years of the Democracy, or shortly after Dionysos I seized
power in 405 B.C.
The auction in total realized 2,620,290.30 Swiss francs, or about
$2,902,370 U.S., including the buyer’s fees. ■