Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich   |   Auction 96   |   6 October 2016 Sort by Lot-NumberSort by Estimate
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Lot 1078

Estimate: 60'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 48'000 CHF Price realized: 110'000 CHF
Greek Coins
Olympia, Elis. Tetradrachm circa 356 BC, the 106th Olympiad, AR 12.26 g.
Description Laureate head of Zeus l. Rev. F – A Eagle standing r., with closed wings, on Ionic capital. References
Seltman 182c (this coin)
Weber 4048 (this coin)
Jameson 2102 (this coin)
BCD Olympia 121 Condition
Extremely rare. A spectacular portrait of Zeus of superb style struck in high relief. Wonderful old cabinet tone and good extremely fine Provenance
Sotheby’s New York sale 19 December 1998, 24
NAC 72, 2013, 365
The Sir Herman Weber collection
The Lambros collection
The Jameson collection
The collection of the Money Museum Zurich
One of the few ancient traditions that survived to be reborn in the modern world is the quadrennial Olympic Games. Though the religious aspect disappeared with the eclipse of Greco-Roman paganism, the spirit of athletic competition among nations has survived intact. Every four years the world’s attention turns to these great games, as it did in Olympia so many centuries ago. The coinage issued for these games had numerous purposes – as vehicles for commerce, as a source of income through a mandatory exchange, as a showcase for the works of gifted engravers, as souvenirs for visitors, and as celebrations of Zeus and Hera, who presided over the Sanctuary at Olympia and the games themselves. A narrow range of images dominate Olympic silver coinage, including the portraits of Zeus, his consort Hera and the nymph Olympia, the eagle and thunderbolt as symbols of Zeus, Nike as a symbol of victory, and the laurel wreath as an allusion to the games. Olympic staters appear to have been produced only to coincide with the games, and it has been demonstrated through Charles Seltman’s careful die study (1921) that two separate mints contributed, one perhaps at the Temple of Zeus and another at the Temple of Hera. The mint of Hera probably was combined with that of Zeus some time toward the end of the 4th Century B.C., and perhaps a century later the Olympic mint may have been moved to the regional capital of Elis. This stater from the temple mint of Zeus is a perfect example of the fine workmanship of Olympic coinage of the early Hellenistic period, bearing a forceful head of Zeus and a vigilant eagle perched upon the head of a ram. Even within the repeating themes at Olympia the engravers celebrated varieties, including, on the Zeus/eagle issues, the eagle perched variously upon the back of a recumbent ram, a hare, a fawn, a stag’s head, a snake, an Ionic column capital, or a simple base.

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