Rare Alexander the Great silver decadrachm gets $27,600 in auction
- Published: Jul 27, 2020, 9 AM
Alexander III (the Great) of Macedon carved out a famed military career, and his coins are popular 2,300 years after being issued.
A rare silver decadrachm from his reign — one of perhaps fewer than two dozen examples known — realized $27,600, including 20 percent buyer’s fee, during Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles’ June 2 auction.
The coin had an estimate of $20,000 and up, after failing to sell Jan. 14, 2020 in the New York Sale (to which Goldbergs contributes) with a $30,000 estimate.
The circa 325 to 323 B.C. coin weighs 41.34 grams and is graded Choice Extremely Fine by Numismatic Guaranty Corp., which assigned it a rating of 5/5 for strike and 2/5 for surface, the latter due to its dark original toning and scratches.
Rare and desirable
Among the rarest and most desirable of all ancient Greek coins, the famed decadrachms of Alexander the Great were struck at Babylon from the bullion seized after the city’s conquest from the Achaemenid Persians.
The types follow the huge emissions of Alexander’s tetradrachms, sporting the head of the mighty Herakles wearing his lion’s skin on the obverse, and the father of the Olympian pantheon, Zeus, seated on the reverse.
There has long been speculation that the portrait of Herakles features the likeness of Alexander himself, but opinions vary.
Estimates of surviving populations of this rarity range from 20 to 25 pieces, generally toward the lower number. Many of these were discovered in 1973 in what has become known as the Babylon Hoard.
The scarcity of these issues (worth 10 drachms) suggests they may have served a ceremonial purpose, perhaps given as presentation pieces to high ranking officers or possibly to soldiers who distinguished themselves in the conquest of Persia.
“Alexander was known for giving largesse, and it is tempting to think that he may have taken a personal role in their distribution,” according to the auction house. “Today these surviving decadrachms are a tangible example of one of the greatest treasures in ancient numismatics.”
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