Exquisite ancient coins in Harlan J. Berk’s current Buy or Bid Sale

Harlan J. Berk 193rd Ancient Coin Sale
Harlan J. Berk 193rd Ancient Coin Sale

Coins of exceptional beauty often deriving from famous old collections are a specialty of Harlan J. Berk, Ltd. The firm’s latest Buy or Bid Sale, which closes on 30 April 2015, offers collectors a choice of 542 ancient coins, plus 21 coins of the world and 46 antiquities or antique maps.

Harlan J. Berk, Ltd., founded in 1964, has acquired a world-wide reputation for the excellent selection of ancient coins that the firm offers about five times a year in their Buy or Bid Sales. The Buy or Bid format was invented by Harlan J. Berk and has been adopted by several other American firms too. It offers the buyer two choices. Either he may purchase any coin at the asking price and have it delivered to him immediately, an option that may make excellent sense, considering how the prices for choice material have been skyrocketing in recent auction sales. Or the customer may submit a lower bid, at or above the firm’s reserve, and may find that he has acquired a fabulous coin at a bargain price, if his bid is the highest when the sale closes, in this case on 30 April 2015. Berk’s catalogues are therefore always worth close scrutiny, and the offerings in the present catalogue are particularly noteworthy, due to recent purchases at the New York International, the world’s largest bourse for dealers and collectors of ancient coins.

The current catalogue covers the entire field of ancient numismatics, Celtic, Greek, Roman, and Byzantine, and includes a number of rarities or concentrated groupings that deserve special mention.

First, a spectacular electrum stater from Ionia, dating from c. 635-600 BC, with a reverse incuse reminiscent of those on Milesian staters, and showing on the obverse the forepart of a horse with bridle galloping left (lot 6; EF; $18,000).

A 1/48 stater from Phocaea, weighing only 0.28g, has as obverse type the detailed head of a griffin (lot 9; FDC; $3000). The ability of Greek die engravers to create intricate types on tiny dies is astonishing!

The head of Tanit-Persephone in the style of Kimon on Siculo-Punic tetradrachms is one of the masterpieces of Greek coin art. Berk’s catalogue contains a particularly attractive example with an excellent pedigree, coming from the Niggeler Collection (lot 66; EF; $17,500).

The Aetolian League played an important role in the history of Greece in the third and second centuries BC, but its coinage, in contrast, is very rare. Berk offers a choice example of the rare tetradrachm with the hero Aitolos on the reverse, which moreover has a pedigree going back to Jacob Hirsch’s sale of the Lambros Collection in 1910 (lot 113; EF; $12,500).

A stater of the Akarnanian League showing the forepart of the man-headed bull Achelous on the obverse derives from a sale held by the same Jacob Hirsch five years earlier, in 1905 (lot 112; EF; $15,500). The river Achelaos flowed along the border of Akarnania and its god was the most important river god in the Greek world, the mythological opponent of Heracles and father of the Sirens and of the Delphic fountain nymph Kastalia.

A didrachm of the city Barke, dating to c. 490-470 BC, must rank as one of the great rarities of Greek numismatics (lot 195; Good VF/ Fine+; $25,000). Showing a ram’s head and a silphium fruit on the obverse and a silphium fruit between two dolphins on the reverse, this unique coin is reported to have had a narrow escape in more recent times, being brought out of Libya in 1969 during Gaddafi’s putsch against King Idris.

The catalogue includes an exceptional denarius of Augustus with portrait of Agrippa on the reverse (lot 249; aEF; $12,000), plus a large selection of other denarii of Octavian/Augustus in Fine to Good Very Fine condition at moderate prices.

The rest of the popular first century AD is also well represented, for example by nice denarii of Caligula, Galba, Vitellius and Children, and Julia Titi, plus a perfect denarius of Nero with a monumental portrait (lot 282; FDC; $8,500) and an interesting aureus of Titus as Caesar with the famous Cow of Myron on the reverse (lot 24; EF; $8,000).

There are also many choice rarities of the year 193, the Severan emperors, and the soldier emperors, for example denarii of Pertinax, Manlia Scantilla, Didia Clara, and Pescennius Niger; an antoninianus of Diadumenian; and an excellent sestertius of Gordian II Africanus (lot 404; VF; $6,000).

The collection of bronze coins of Constantine I and his sons brought together by the retired high-school teacher T. R. McIntosh includes some interesting rarities, in particular the second recorded specimen of a reduced follis from the mint of London whose obverse shows a figure of Victory on the shield held by Constantine (lot 480; EF; $1,500). McIntosh, who died in January 2015 while the present catalogue was being compiled, had long been a generous donor to the Harrisburg University of Science and Technology and to its library, which will be named after him. The money that his estate receives from selling this part of his coin collection will also be donated to that institution.

Harlan Berk has written two popular books about Byzantine gold and copper coins, so always tries to include a good selection of them in his catalogues. The current catalogue, for example, includes two rare Byzantine solidi whose small thick planchets show that they were struck at Carthage rather than Constantinople: solidi of Constans II (lot 36; FDC; $1,000) and Constantine IV (lot 37; EF; $1,400).

The catalogue closes with a selection of 21 modern coins from the middle ages up until the twentieth century, 39 antiquities, and seven old maps.

The prices cited are those for which each of the coins described can be purchased immediately, as explained above. Those who prefer to submit lower bids by 30 April 2015 will need patience and luck, but will doubtless also be able to acquire the odd lot for a very favorable price. Harlan Berk charges no buyers fees in his Buy or Bid Sales; successful bidders pay only the amount of their bids plus a small charge for postage and handling.

The catalogue for the 193rd Buy or Bid Sale is accessible online at http://www.hjbltd.com/currentbbs/era.asp. Printed catalogues can be ordered from Harlan J. Berk, Ltd., 31 N. Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60602; tel. 312-609-0018; e-mail [email protected]

  • 6 Ionia, uncertain mint. Electrum Stater, 625-600 BC. Weidauer-139. EF. $18,000
  • 24 Titus as Caesar, 70-79 AD. Aureus, Rome, 76 AD. RIC-859. $8,000
  • 37 Constantine IV, 668-685 AD. Solidus, Carthage. Sear-1189. EF. $1,400
  • 66 Siculo-Punic Tetradrachm, 350-300 BC. Jenkins III, 138.7 (this coin). From the Niggeler Collection. EF. $17,500
  • 113 Aetolian League. Stater, 220-205 BC. Tsangari 93, 582a, pl. 33 (this coin). Ex Lambros Collection, Jakob Hirsch 29 (1910), 392. Ex Bement Collection, Ars Classica 6 (1924), 1017. Ex Spencer-Churchill Collection, Ars Classica 14 (1929), 242. EF. $12,500
  • 195 Barke, Cyrenaica. Didrachm, 490-470 BC. Unique. Good VF/Fine+. $25,000
  • 249 Augustus, 27 BC-14 AD. With Agrippa. Denarius, 13 BC. RIC-408. EF. $12,000
  • 282 Nero, 54-68 AD. Denarius, 65-66 AD. RIC-60. FDC. $8,500
  • 414 Heraclius, 610-641 AD. Decanummium, Catania, 621-2 AD. Berk-605. Sear-885. EF. $185
  • 422 Constans II, 641-641 AD. Half Follis, Syracuse, 651-2 AD. Berk-699. Sear-1113. EF. $225
  • 547 Bavaria. Karl Theodor, 1724-1799. Taler, 1781. Dav-1965. VF. $200
  • 552 England. Aethelstan, 927-939. Penny. Sear-1093. Ex Schembri Collection. EF. $3,350
  • 605 Map of Ancient Rome. Published by Henri Abraham Chatelin, Amsterdam 1719. 33.65 x 43.8 cm. $650


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