World Coins

Ancient Greek gold coin and imitation offered in CNG auction

A circa 323 to 323 or 322 gold distater of Macedonian king Alexander III, the Great, realized $16,520 while an imitation gold stater of Macedonia, either under Alexander III or Philip II, realized $3,540 in a January sale.

Images courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group.

A pair of coins issued in the fourth century B.C. either are or purport to be gold issued during the reign of famed Macedonian king Alexander the Great or a successor.

They were sold as separate lots in Classical Numismatic Group’s Jan. 27 auction and offer an interesting comparison.

The authentic piece is a distater (2-stater piece), weighing 17.14 grams and measuring 21 millimeters in diameter (the size of a Jefferson 5-cent coin). It was struck circa 325 to 323 or 322 B.C. at the Amphipolis mint, under Antipater, the Macedonian general and statesman who served under kings Philip II of Macedon and Alexander the Great.

The coin realized $16,520, including the 18 percent buyer’s fee, against an estimate of $7,500.

The obverse shows the head of Athena, wearing crested Corinthian helmet decorated with serpent, a single-pendant earring, and two pearl necklaces.

On the reverse, Nike stands to the left, holding a wreath in her extended right hand while cradling a stylis in her left arm; a vertical thunderbolt is in the left field.

The coin has light scratches and minor edge marks from a prior mounting that was removed, but is otherwise Very Fine.

Compare that with an imitation stater representing a coin from the same mint.

Imitations, especially in gold, were often made to serve as money where coinage was lacking in circulation.

This imitation was struck circa 325 to 319 B.C. (either during Alexander’s reign, or shortly after his death in 323 B.C.).

The imitation weighs 8.56 grams, roughly what an authentic stater should weigh based on the authentic example being about twice as heavy, and its 18.5-millimeter diameter is about the width of a Lincoln cent.

The design motifs (Athena, Nike) are roughly the same, but fewer details are in the engraving on the imitation.

The coin has light scratches and scattered marks but is also VF, the firm said.

With an estimate of $1,500, the coin realized $3,540, including the buyer’s fee.

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