An ancient coin that may have marked the homecoming of an island of
Greeks led all bidding during Morton & Eden’s June 10 and 11 auction.
The circa 460 B.C. silver tetradrachm of Naxos, featuring Dionysos
on the obverse and Silenus on the reverse, realized £74,400 ($125,234
in U.S. funds), including the 20 percent buyer’s fee, in the sale. A
private collector bought the coin, which had an estimate of £30,000 to
£50,000 ($51,125 to $85,208 U.S.), according to the firm.
The entire population of Naxos, an island in the Aegean Sea, was
allowed to return to their homeland 15 years after being forced out in
476 B.C. They had been moved to Leontini (also called Lentini), a town
in Syracuse, Sicily, by Hieron of Syracuse.
This coin, which the auction firm calls “one of the most celebrated
coins from antiquity and a masterpiece of engraving,” is believed to
have been from a special issue marking the 461 B.C. return.
The symbols on the coin — Dionysos and Silenus — are both related to
drinking, wine and drunkenness, and the return home was certainly a
cause to which the Greeks could raise a glass.
All examples known of this coin are from a single pair of dies, and
this example has a provenance dating to “a European collection formed
in the 1920s,” according to the auction house.
The coin has minor tooling in the obverse field and is graded by the
firm as Very Fine.
The auction overall realized £1,056,838 ($1,775,488 U.S.), including
20 percent buyer’s fee.
The firm is now accepting consignments for its next auction of
ancient, British, and world coins, historical medals, plaquettes and
paper money to be held in November.
For more information about this or future auctions, telephone the
firm at (011) 44 20 7493 5344, email it or
visit its website.