Enclosed are pictures of an ancient coin. It measures about 20 to
21 millimeters in diameter. Any information you can give me about this
coin will be greatly appreciated.
The coin images submitted have the appearance of a circa 288 to
244 B.C. silver tetradrachm from Boeotia, an ancient (and current)
region of Greece.
The leading city of the Boeotia region in ancient times was
Thebes. According to Greek Coins and Their Values, by David
R. Sear, Thebes was an arch rival of Athens and supported Sparta
during the Peloponnesian War. Thebes was later conquered by Philip II
of Macedon in 338 B.C., then later destroyed by Alexander the Great in
336 B.C. The city was partially restored by Kassander (or Cassander),
a later king of Macedon.
The silver tetradrachm features the head of Zeus on its obverse
and on the reverse a seated Poseidon, with a trident and dolphin.
Apparently, there is some debate regarding the identity of the
personage on the obverse of the coin. While the predominant belief is
that the obverse portrays Zeus, some believe it may instead depict
Poseidon, which would mean that the Greek god of the sea is depicted
on both the obverse and the reverse of the coin.
One characteristic of coins produced by this region is the
appearance of an oxhide shield. In these images, the shield appears on
Poseidon’s throne on the coin’s reverse. The shield dominates the
entire obverse on other coins of Boeotia.
If genuine, this tetradrachm would be an extremely rare coin. An
example, described as being in Extremely Fine condition, realized a
hammer price of $45,000 in a Classical Numismatic Group auction
(Triton XI) in January 2008.
The description in the Triton XI catalog states: “After years of
languishing under Macedonian rule, Thebes was granted autonomy by
Demetrios I Poliorketes in 287 BC. Among the rights recovered was the
right to strike civic coinage, and this magnificent Hellenistic
tetradrachm was the first series for the rejuvenated city.”
More information on this coin can be found in The Coinages of
Demetrius Poliorcetes, by Edward T. Newell, published in 1978.
As a genuine coin of this type is so rare, there is a high
possibility that the piece owned by Mr. Lyons could be counterfeit. In
addition, it could be a fake struck contemporary to the original
pieces. To know for sure, the piece needs to be examined and
authenticated by a reputable ancient coin expert.
Coin World’s Readers Ask department does not accept coins
or other items for examination without prior permission from staff
member Erik Martin. Readers Ask also does not examine error or variety
coins. Materials sent to Readers Ask without prior permission will be
returned unexamined. Please address all Readers Ask inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org or call
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