By Jeremy Bostwick – Senior Numismatist & Cataloger, Stack’s Bowers ……
Outside of an Athenian “owl”, there may be no more desired and iconic coinage from antiquity than that featuring one of the most successful military commanders in history, Alexander the Great.
Born in 356 BCE to Philip II, king of Macedon, at age 20 Alexander would inherit his father’s realm following the assassination of Philip. Despite his relative youth, Alexander was ready.
Philip’s well-trained army was a vital component to Alexander’s grand plans, as the new king sought to achieve what his father had only begun—a Greek conquest of Persia. Just five years later, the mighty Darios III and his Achaemenid Empire—stretching from North Africa to the border of modern-day India—was defeated.
And over the next five years, Alexander continued to expand his empire until it comprised much of the known world. He led further invasions into India, thought he turned back due to troop fatigue and homesickness.
While in Babylon, Alexander succumbed to an uncertain malady in 323 BCE, the source of which has been cause for speculation during the two millennia since. With his death, the vast realm of Alexander—just 33 at the time—was forever broken.
Despite reigning for only 13 years, a vast output of coinage with rather consistent iconography bears his name (ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΥ= ‘of Alexander’).
Most famous among collectors now are his silver denominations, such as the drachm and the tetradrachm. These coins feature the bust of Herakles on their obverse, with a seated Zeus on their reverse.
The reverses of Alexander the Great’s coinage were also utilized for the placement of various control marks and symbols alluding to a place of manufacture, a local authority, the date, etc. With this knowledge, one can attribute an issue to a particular city and time period, sometimes even a specific year.
Following the pivotal and consequential event of Alexander’s death, some of his powerful and influential generals, such as Seleukos and Ptolemy, divvied up the empire, with some establishing lengthy dynasties in their own names. Yet the look of the coinage struck under the new authorities did not change. Owing to the lofty status that Alexander held in death and the recognizable features of his coinage throughout the region, the Herakles head/seated Zeus style was continued, sometimes even retaining Alexander’s name.
The Stack’s Bowers June Collectors Choice Online (CCO) sale will feature a number of these silver issues of Alexander the Great himself, as well as many from his generals (Seleukos, Ptolemy, and Lysimachos) and his elder half-brother (Philip III, who succeeded him in Macedon merely in name).
Also represented is a civic issue from Miletos, struck in the early/mid-third century BCE, and an issue from Attalos I, the king of Pergamon, issued over a century after Alexander’s death. Both of these coins are a testament to the important role that the ‘Alexander-style’ coinage played in regional commerce, as it served, for quite some time, as the de facto coin of the realm.
To view our upcoming auction schedule and future offerings, please visit StacksBowers.com where you may register and participate in this and other forthcoming sales.
We are always seeking coins, medals, and pieces of paper money for our future sales, and are currently accepting submissions for our October Hong Kong Auction (until July 29) and our January 2021 Official Auction of the N.Y.I.N.C. Our next CCO (Collectors Choice Online) auction will be in June, with another following in October (for which the consignment deadline is September 8). If you would like to learn more about consigning, whether a singular item or an entire collection, please contact one of our consignment directors today at 800-458-4646 or by email at [email protected] and we will assist you in achieving the best possible return on your material.
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NGC Photo Vision Images Now Available at StacksBowers.com
Did you know Stack’s Bowers Galleries has teamed up with NGC to feature NGC Photo Vision images on the Stack’s Bowers website alongside our own award-winning photographs? NGC Photo Vision images are now available on all lot descriptions (for coins that have them) in our June 2020 Auction featuring the Francesca Collection of United States Gold Coins and all auctions moving forward at StacksBowers.com.
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