By Russell A. Augustin, AU Capital Management, LLC
The Colosseo Collection ……
Depending on who was in control at the time, the electrum coinage of Phokaia and Mytilene in Ionia was struck as payment to either the Persian Empire or the Delian League. Issued semi-annually, the volume of coins minted was prolific – both mints produced a wide range of designs and a significant output of electrum coinage.
Even though the Athenian owl tetradrachms were increasing in popularity, the hektes produced from Ionia remained the preferred coinage around the Aegean Sea. They were able to maintain their dominance through highly profitable trade with the other coastal cities, resulting in the hekte acting as a recognizable trade currency. Stylistically, the coins resembled intaglio gem engraving, with the reverses engraved incuse. While Mytilene utilized the reverse space with additional artistic designs, Phokaia retained the archaic tradition of the four-part incuse square.
Phokaia also consistently depicted their civic badge, a seal named Phoke, on the obverse of the coin alongside the primary image of a god or animal.
They remained in circulation across the region for over two centuries, helped in part by their relative resistance to wear through the firm alloy of silver and gold. The series was finally ended in 326 BCE when gold became preferred over electrum after Alexander the Great standardized the coinage of eastern Greece.
This coin is unknown to any reference guide and possibly unique. However, it can be accurately identified as a coin minted by Phokaia by both the seal shown on the obverse and the incuse reverse square.
The portrait shown on the obverse is that of Zeus. While a common choice for coins throughout Greece due to the significance and popularity of the “King of the Gods”, Zeus occurs relatively infrequently on electrum and is only seen facing left on one other very rare issue.
Regardless of the metal type, Zeus is always depicted majestically, paying homage to his importance. This coin is no exception, showing his portrait in a respectful, fine style and adorned with a laurel wreath, fit for the “Father of Gods and men”.
IONIA, Phokaia, Electrum Hekte, ca.450-400BCE, 9mm, 2.6g. Head of Zeus l./Quadripartite incuse square. Extremely rare, possibly unique.
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