World Coins

Market Analysis: Classics stand out at CNG’s Auction 111

A documented ownership history is especially valued for ancient coins and this ancient Greek coin has a magnificent one. The Athenian silver tetradrachm, produced in roughly 500 B.C., was acquired by the Museum of Fine Arts Boston as part of the Catharine Page Perkins Collection in 1900.

It was deaccessioned by the museum in 1980 at a Numismatic Fine Arts sale and soon went to the Nelson Bunker Hunt Collection, which was offered at Sotheby’s in 1991. The Hunt auctions are considered landmark sales that shaped the ancient coin market. 

The long provenance establishes that it was discovered and in the marketplace well before more modern treaties that protect cultural property, and that it can be confidently acquired by museums. 

Athens would continue this design — the head of Athena wearing a round earring and crested Attic helmet on the obverse, and standing owl, head facing, with an olive sprig on reverse — for centuries, making the Athens tetradrachm one of the great coins of the ancient world. 

This one features an attractive Archaic design with a small owl and a well defined facing eye on Athena. CNG offered it on May 29 at its Auction 111 where it was graded in the catalog as Very Fine, toned, some die wear on the reverse, well centered on a broad flan (planchet). The charming piece tripled its $3,000 estimate on its way to $9,000. 

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