World Coins

Commemorative coins are an ancient phenomena

A circa 166 to 165 B.C. silver tetradrachm celebrating a Seleucid Panhellenic festival is offered at auction by Gemini Auction.

Images courtesy of Gemini Auction and Harlan J. Berk, Ltd.

While collectors might think of commemorative coins as a relatively recent concept, the phenomena dates to ancient times.

A silver tetradrachm of the Seleucid Kingdom, being offered in Harlan J. Berk’s Gemini Auction April 18 and 19, is one of the earliest commemorative coins.

The coin, issued circa 166 to 165 B.C. for Antiochus IV, was one of the two commemorative coins struck for the Panhellenic festival that Antiochus IV created to compete with a festival the Romans were carrying on. 

The Panhellenic festival lasted about 30 days and had many parades, dinners, and athletic events. This coin depicts a real statue of Apollo Citharoedus that was shown at the games. 

This coin, with a head of Apollo on the obverse, is considerably rarer than its companion commemorative showing a head of Zeus, so it may be considered one of the most desirable coins issued by the Seleucid kings, according to the auction house.

The statue on the reverse was created by the artist Bryaxis and shows Apollo wearing a long peplos (body-length garment), advancing to the right, playing a lyre and holding a patera (a broad, shallow dish). 

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The coin weighs 16.79 grams and is “toned bold Very Fine,” according to the auction house. 

It has an estimate of $14,500. 

For full details of the auction, visit the firm's website.

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