Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich   |   Auction 96   |   6 October 2016 Sort by Lot-NumberSort by Estimate
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Lot 1074





Estimate: 15'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 12'000 CHF ---
Greek Coins
Islands off Attica, Aegina. Stater circa 480-457 BC, AR 12.27 g.
Description Sea turtle seen from above; T pattern of dots on shell. Rev. Large skew pattern incuse. References
Dewing 1676
SNG Lockett 1970
Milbank pl. 1, 13 Condition
In exceptional condition for the issue and undoubtedly among the finest specimens known. Struck in high relief and exceptionally complete. Good extremely fine Provenance
Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio sale 177, session B, 2013, 11065
Though it is technically impossible to know which city-state was the first in Greece to strike coins, it would seem that the honour belongs to Aegina, an island off the coast of Attica whose people excelled as sailors and merchants. The first type of Aeginetan stater, now attributed to c. 555-550 B.C., has on its obverse a turtle with spider-like flippers and a narrow, shield-shaped carapace decorated with a row of pellets along the central ridge; the reverse features a small, deep incuse square with raised, thin criss-crossing ridges. Such was the basic form of Aeginetan coinage for centuries to come. The initial issue was followed by a similar one (c. 550-530 B.C.) on which the turtle had a heavy collar, and the raised dividers in the incuse square assumed the familiar ‘Union Jack’ pattern. The collared turtle/‘Union Jack’ type subsequently went through at least five stages of development, covering the period c. 530 to c. 450 B.C. The shell on these later pieces is often decorated with a trefoil collar, with some taking on the form usually described as a ‘T-back’ the T-form created by the decorative pellets. Curiously enough, mixed within these turtles, from the periods c. 550-530 and c. 500-490/80 B.C., are ‘proto tortoise’ coins, which instead of a turtle show a tortoise with a shield-shaped, segmented shell. Aegina’s next evolution was dramatic, for the familiar turtle was permanently replaced with a tortoise. The date of this exchange is not certainly known, though dates such as c. 457, c. 450, or c. 446 B.C. have been offered. In this case the tortoise had an oblong-shaped shell with raised, segmented squares that made it distinct from the earlier ‘proto-tortoises’, which had a shell that tapered at the end and which was of sharper relief. The ‘Union Jack’ incuse punch remained with the incuse areas being relatively shallow, with thick bars separating the sunken squares and triangles. The bars eventually became thinner, and various symbols and letters were placed within the sunken areas. On some of the last staters, generally dated from c. 350 into the 320s, the island's ethnic appears in the obverse field as the letters AI flanking the tortoise, or within the incuse portions of the reverse, abbreviated as AI, AIΓ or AIΓI. Though minting of the tortoises seems to have ended by the late 4th Century B.C., they continued to circulate, with some of the later drachms even being included in a hoard from Zougra in the Peloponnese (ICGH 301) that was buried in about 146 B.C.

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