Silver tetradrachm of Naxos in Sicily brings $174,800 to lead the way
A spectacular silver tetradrachm of Naxos in Sicily, struck circa 415 BC, brought $174,800 and a gold medallion of the Roman Emperor Constantius II fetched $126,500 at the Heritage-Gemini auction of ancient coins, Thursday, April 14, in conjunction with the Chicago International Coin Fair (CICF) in Rosemont, Ilinois. All prices quoted include the 15% buyer’s premium.
With ancient coins leading the way, the three-day series of auctions conducted by Heritage topped $9.6 million, nearly doubling results from the 2010 CICF sales and setting several records along the way. The 552 varied Greek, Roman and Byzantine coins that made up the offering on April 14 drew spirited bidding both on the auction floor and on the Heritage Live remote internet system, achieving a total of $3.4 million.
“Every great coin – and there were many – brought top prices because of a combination of floor, mail , phone and Heritage Live internet bidders,” said Harlan J. Berk, President of Gemini Numismatic Auctions Ltd., which partnered with Heritage in the ancients sale. “No single element was dominant, which is also very healthy.”
“These results point to the continuing overall strength of the world and ancient coin market,” said Cristiano Bierrenbach, Vice President of International Numismatics at Heritage. “We worked closely with Gemini auctions on the very successful ancient coin session on Thursday, April 14, and the World Coin sessions on Friday and Saturday, April 15-16 were also huge successes, with prices realized 30% higher than our most optimistic pre-auction estimates.”
“The key to having a successful sale today is consistent high quality,” said David S. Michaels, Director of Ancient Coins for Heritage, “which in this competitive market is not easy to achieve.”
The Heritage-Gemini sale nearly matched the pre-auction estimate of $3.5 million despite the withdrawal of the cover coin, an Athenian decadrachm with an estimated value of $875,000.
“Numismatics is an ever-advancing science, and we received some new information that called the authenticity of this piece into question,” said Michaels. “The public’s reaction to our withdrawal of the Athens from the sale was very positive,” he noted.
In the Greek section, a collection of 13 highly pedigreed coins of Elis, Olympia brought uniformly strong bids, topped by $37,375 for a beautiful silver stater struck circa 452 BC, formerly of the Spencer Churchill Collection (lot 51). Two runs of early electrum coins, circa 7th-6th centuries BCE, from Lydia and Ionia also drew intense interest and bidding, with a lion-headed stater of Miletos achieving $74,750. Other notable Greek prices included $92,000 for a silver stater of Cos struck circa 480 BC; $86,250 for a silver tetradrachm of Acragas, circa 406 BC; and $60,375 for a Ptolemaic bronze coin with an exceptional portrait of the famous Queen Cleopatra VII, setting a record for an Egyptian bronze coin.
A high-quality offering of Roman Republican and Imperatorial coins, many from an old California collection, sparked nearly frenzied bidding on a number of silver coins in excellent condition, including $4,025 for a denarius of Ti. Veturius against a pre-auction estimate of $1,000; $4,025 for a denarius of C. Limetanus against a pre-auction estimate of $750; $10,350 for a denarius of Q. Pomponius Musa against a pre-auction estimate of $4,100; $21,850 for a “Sulla’s dream” denarius of L. Aemilius Buca against a pre-auction estimate of $15,000, and $4,887 for an “elephant denarius” of Julius Caesar against a pre-auction estimate of $2,000. Imperial silver also fared well, with the highlight being $34,500 for a denarius of Diva Sabina, wife of Hadrian against a pre-auction estimate of $12,000. Roman gold aurei continued in high demand, with prices like $27,600 for an aureus of Hadrian depicting a reclining Hispania against a pre-auction estimate of $14,000, $29,900 for a mint state aureus of Antoninus Pius against a pre-auction estimate of $14,000 and $43,125 for an FDC aureus of Numerian against a pre-auction estimate of $26,000.
“Across the board, the results were outstanding,” Berk said. “The price for the Diva Sabina was remarkable, as was a Severus Alexander denarius selling for $750. The fact that Illinois has no sale tax on numismatic coins certainly helped. This is all the more special because the whole sale came together in just over 30 days.“
Late Roman and Byzantine gold proved exceptionally strong, with most coins going for well over estimate. Highlights included $8,150 for a facing-portrait solidus of Constantius II; $16,100 for a solidus of Julian II “The Apostate”; $12,650 for a solidus of Magnus Maximus and $40,250 for an FDC tremissis of Eugenius.
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Heritage Auctions, headed by Steve Ivy, Jim Halperin and Greg Rohan, is the world’s third largest auction house, with annual sales more than $600 million, and 500,000+ online bidder members. For more information about Heritage Auctions, and to join and gain access to a complete record of prices realized, along with full-color, enlargeable photos of each lot, please visit HA.com.