Why this 460 B.C. silver tetradrachm brought a whopping $613,999

Auction Roundup: An artist dubbed the Aetna Master is credited with creating the dies
By , Coin World
Published : 11/01/16
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The market for premium ancient Greek and Roman coins continues to thrive, based on recent auction results in sales in Europe.

Recent offerings of major collections, as well as scattered highlights of iconic coins, provide proof that the top end of the market is, for the most part, cruising right along. Some weakness is evident when material isn’t superb quality, but top items bring top prices.

A handful of lots sold at auction in late September to mid-October reveal market dynamics for these popular areas of coin collecting.

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Naxos tetradrachm

The image of a bearded, disheveled Dionysos on the circa 460 B.C. silver tetradrachms of Naxos befits the god of the grape harvest and wine making.

The tipsy counterpart to Dionysos — Silenos — appears on the reverse of these famous coins, raising a cantharus (two-handled drinking cup) to his lips to quench his unending thirst for the grape’s fermented juice. 

The artist dubbed the Aetna Master is credited with creating the dies for this coin, which sold Oct. 6 during Numismatica Ars Classica’s auction of Greek coins from the America Collection.

The coin realized a hammer price of 600,000 Swiss francs ($613,999 U.S.).

The coin is “very rare and among the finest specimens known of this prestigious and fascinating issue,” according to the auction house. “[It is] undoubtedly one of the finest examples of Archaic engraving in Sicily and one of the most impressive representations on a Greek coin.”

The coin has a notable provenance as well, having once been in the British Museum Collection (it was exchanged out in 1948). 

Graded Extremely Fine by the firm, the coin was struck on a “very broad flan and [has] a wonderful old cabinet tone.”

The coin previously sold as part of Morton & Eden’s April 23 auction of four spectacular ancient Greek coins, leading the way with a hammer price of £320,000 ($515,818 U.S.).

Keep reading about recently sold ancient rarities:

Ancient coin’s six-figure price rooted in its standard-bearing design : Ancient Greek coins, in many ways, the standard bearers for classical beauty in coin design. Among the well known and respected practitioners of this art is the sculptor known to us today as Kimon.

‘Eid Mar’ denarius of Brutus brings in over $300,000 in auction : Perhaps no coin of antiquity is as familiar, or as important, as the ‘Eid Mar’ denarius of Brutus.


A.D. 71 gold aureus of VespasianHow much would you pay for this gold aureus from A.D. 71? (Tip: It would need to be a lot) : The design is more readily available as a silver denarius, but less so in gold on the aureus.

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