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filolif 2023 Top 10 Coins


filolif

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Happy Holidays everyone! It was again very hard to narrow down my purchases this year to a top 10 but I did my best. I tried to focus more on provenance and fewer pieces of higher quality as I hope you'll see. Starting with Number 10:

1️⃣ 0️⃣ Neapolis Man-headed Bull Didrachm

*Ancient Greeks Campania Neapolis, Nomos (7.25g), ca. 320-280 BC. BC Av: nymph's head to the right, eagle behind. Rev: Androcephalic bull to the right, above Nike with wreath. SNG ANS 321, ss.*

Provenance:
Adolph E. Cahn Nov 29, 1933 Lot 18
Collection of German Historian Fritz Taeger

After selling my previous Neapolis coin, I had been looking for a replacement. This is one of several in my top 10 that was purchased in an auction where the provenance was not listed. It comes from the collection of German historian and scholar of antiquity, Fritz Taegar. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritz_Taeger He passed away in 1960 and the collection was in the possession of his daughter until it was recently sold at auction. This coin, along with at least 2 others from Mr. Taegar's collection were originally offered in the Adolph E. Cahn auction of November 29, 1933. This additional provenance really appealed to me as well as the excellent detail and unique design elements of this coin. The dolphin control below the bull seems to be relatively rare. Very happy to have been able to purchase this piece.

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https://streamable.com/ybxujo

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9️⃣ Tarsos Pharnabazos Stater

*Greek Asia. Cilicia, Tarsos. Pharnabazos, Persian military commander (380-374/3 BC). AR Stater. Struck circa 380-379 BC. Obv. Baal of Tarsos seated left, holding lotus-tipped scepter. Rev. Helmeted and bearded male head (Ares?) left. Casabonne Series 4; Moysey Issue 2; SNG BN 252 (same rev. die); SNG Levante 71–2. AR. 10.69 g. 22.00 mm. Superb coin, fully detailed and complete. Darkly toned with lovely golden hues, underlying luster. EF.*

Provenance:
Artemide LX October 28, 2023 Lot 277
Goldberg 130 September 27, 2022 Lot 1145

I was able to purchase this coin on it's third time being offered at auction in 2 years. The toning and remaining find patina as well as the unique flan shape really appeal to me. The detail and very complete strikes as well. A lovely coin that is somewhat difficult to fully capture in photos due to its unique surfaces. The powerful portraits of Baal and Ares really make this a unique and beautiful type.

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https://streamable.com/8vycq5

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8️⃣ Corinth Stater

*Continental Greece. Corinthia, Corinth. AR Stater, c. 345-307 BC. Obv. Pegasos flying left; koppa below. Rev. Head of Athena left, wearing laureate Corinthian helmet; A-P flanking neck truncation; to right, triton swimming right, hurling thunderbolt. Pegasi 436; HGC 4 1848; Ravel 1018. AR. 8.53 g. 22.00 mm. Choice example. Lovely old cabinet tone with a hint of iridescence. Minor oxidations/deposits. EF.*

Provenance:
Artemide LX October 28, 2023 Lot 259

I had been looking for a Corinth stater for quite a few months when I purchased this coin. As one of the most important ancient cities, it seemed like a smart idea to include at least one piece in my collection. The beautiful dies and detail of this coin along with the toning really drew me to it and the remaining find patina/horn silver deposites don't really detract too much. The small triton hurling a thunderbolt symbol is a nice bonus too.

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https://streamable.com/yfzex2

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7️⃣ Philip II Macedon Tetradrachm

*Kings of Macedon, Philip II (359-336 BC), tetradrachm, Amphipolis (323- 315), laureate head of Zeus right, rev., nude youth on horseback right, clasping reins and holding long palm branch; below horse corn-ear and Π, 14.37g (Le Rider pl. 46, 3) test cut on reverse, about extremely fine.*

Provenance:
Morton & Eden Auction 123 July 20, 2023 Lot 2

This is my fourth Philip II macedon tetradrachm. I really appreciate the strong simple die work on this coin as well as the vibrant toning especially visibile on the reverse around the horse. The inoffensive test cut is barely noticeable. Test cuts like this rarely bother me as I see it as just another part of the coin's history. 

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https://streamable.com/hp0hir

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6️⃣ Seleukos I Nikator Alexander Type Tetradrachm

*Seleukid Empire, Seleukos I Nikator AR Tetradrachm. In the types of Alexander III of Macedon. Seleukia in Pieria, circa 300-281 BC. Head of Herakles to right, wearing lion skin headdress / Zeus Nikephoros seated to left, holding sceptre; monogram within circle in left field, KP below throne, ΣEΛEYKOY to right, [B]AΣIΛEΩΣ in exergue. SC 29.1b; WSM 890; HGC 9, 16d. 17.16g, 27mm, 2h.  Extremely Fine.*

Provenance:
Roma Numismatics XXVIII July 5, 2023 Lot 355

This coin stunned me when I first saw it. The vibrancy of the yellow-orange toning especially on the reverse was just breathtaking. The impressive portraits and great detail are a great bonus as well. This is a super sharp coin with phenomenal relief as well. The high quality of this piece really sets it apart even if it is generally a less expensive or rare type than most of the rest of my top 10.

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https://streamable.com/3rs1zi

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5️⃣ Athens New Style Tetradrachm

*ATTICA. Athens. Ca. 2nd-1st centuries BC. AR tetradrachm (30mm, 16.47 gm, 11h). NGC Choice XF 5/5 - 2/5, graffito. New style coinage, ca. 98/7 BC. Demetrius, Agathipus, and Phi-, magistrates. Head of Athena right, wearing triple-crested Attic helmet decorated with a vine scroll, Pegasus springing right above upturned cheek flap, protomes of five horses on visor / Α-ΘΕ / ΔH-MH / TPI-OΣ / AΓA / ΘIΠ / ΠOΣ / ΦI, owl standing facing on overturned amphora inscribed with E (month); pilei in right field, ΠE below, all within olive wreath. Thompson 905. HGC 4, 1602. Clearly defined details with hints of rosy toning beneath the deeper patina.*

Provenance:
Ars Classica March 14, 1921 Lot 1602
Pozzi Collection

This is another coin where the unlisted provenance pushed me to bid. It is a super sharp and nicely toned. It comes from the Pozzi collection and was sold in Ars Classica in March of 1921. This is my third Athenian new style tetrdrachm and by far the sharpest and most well preserved. The details on the Amphora and the pilei in the right field of the reverse and really impressive. Always happy to add another owl to my collection.

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https://streamable.com/mvl7za

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4️⃣ Akragas Tetradrachm with museum provenance

*Ancient Greeks Sicily Akragas, Tetradrachm (17.49g), 465-445 BC BC Av: Eagle to the left. Rev. Cancer. SNG ANS 973, ss.

Provenance:
Felix Schlessinger 1935 Lot 223
Deaccessioned from the collection of Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
Collection of German Historian Fritz Taeger

One of my major collection focusses are coins from the Sicilian colony of Akragas and I was excited to add this coin to my collection late this year. It is another coin from the Fritz Taeger collection that also had unlisted provenance dating to the sale of part of the Hermitage museum's collection by Felix Schlessinger in 1935. That particular auction featured numerous high quality coins and this one is no exception. The unique toning along with beautiful sea eagle and crab are really appealing. A wonderful coin that I am tempted to list even higher in my ranking. 

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https://streamable.com/ehtjw9

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3️⃣ Gela Man-Headed Bull Didrachm
 
* SICILY. Gela. Circa 490/85-480/75 BC. Didrachm (Silver, 21.5 mm, 8.75 g, 6 h). Nude rider galloping to right, hurling spear with his raised right hand and holding the reins with his left . Rev. CΕΛΑ Forepart of man-faced bull to right. Buceti 5. Jenkins, Gela, 38. Obolos 6, 2016, 103 ( same dies ). SNG Copenhagen 255. SNG Munich 254. Nicely toned and with types that are of good style, clear and well-centered. Good very fine.*

Provenance:
Brüder Egger January 15, 1912 Lot 77
Collection of Dr. Paul Peter Urone

In keeping with the theme of hidden provenance, this didrachm from Gela was sold in the last Nomos feature without a single indication of its past auction history. This is my second oldest discovered provenance dating back to the Brüder Egger auction of January 15, 1912. While there is some die and surface wear, the completeness of the strike on both sides, the relative high relief, the subtle and beautiful toning really put this coin on another level. Very pleasing in hand and may displace my other Gela pieces as my favorite thanks to the very old pedigree.

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https://streamable.com/n1rplm

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2️⃣ Syracuse Hieron II 16 Litrai
 
* Sicily. Syracuse. Philistis, wife of Hieron II (274-216 BC). AR 16 Litrai-Tetradrachm, c. 240-218/5 BC. Obv. Diademed and veiled head left; grain ear to right. Rev. ΒΑΣΙΛΙΣΣΑΣ / ΦΙΛΙΣΤΙΔΟΣ. Nike driving quadriga right; crescent above; to right, KIΣ; below horses, grain ear. HGC 2 1554; SNG ANS 882; BAR Issue 65; CCO 71 (D17/R48). AR. 13.61 g. 27.00 mm. Superb example in exceptional state of preservation. Lovely old cabinet tone with golden hues around the devices. Old collector label. Minor metal flaw on reverse. Good EF.*

Provenance: 
Mario Ratto March 11, 1933 Lot 54

Another coin that is replacing one I recently sold. This type has always appealed to me because of the beautiful die work, especially on the quadriga reverse along with the importance of Syracuse in the ancient world. While the obverse portrait of Philistis is a bit rusty as is common for this die, the toning and provenance are beyond anything I expected to be able to acquire. The Artemide auction mentioned an old collectors tag (that seems to date to 1938) but the actual Mario Ratto 1933 auction provenance was again unlisted. A shockingly beautiful coin in hand and one I feel fortunate to have been able to purchase.

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https://streamable.com/vk21oc

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1️⃣ Messana Hare and Dolphin Tetradrachm
 
* ‡ Sicily, Messana, tetradrachm, c. 420-413 BC, ΜΕΣΣΑΝ, nymph Messana in long chiton driving mule biga walking left; in ex., two dolphins nose-to-nose, rev., ΜΕΣ-Σ-ΑΝ-ΙΟ-Ν, hare springing right; below, dolphin right, 17.23g, die axis 8.00 (Caltabiano 514; SNG ANS 366, same dies; SNG Fitzwilliam 1076, same dies), a few marks in the fields, toned, about extremely fine Provenance: European Connoisseur collection (formed before 2002).

The designs on this coin go back to the period when Anaxilas of Rhegion took control of Messana in 480 BC when both cities adopted the same general types of a mule-biga and a springing hare. The obverse commemorated Anaxilas’s victory in the mule-biga event at the Olympic Games in that year. The same general types continued to the utilised with variations throughout the 5th century with the crouching figure of Anaxilas himself on the earlier issues replaced, as here, with the more elegant and upright figure of the nymph Messana.*

Provenance:
Jacob Hirsch November 11, 1907 Lot 201
Jacques Schulman June 5, 1930 Lot 31
European Connoisseur collection

By far my most exciting purchase of 2023 is this Messana Tetradrachm. This coin also had the first hidden provenance I was able to find this year. When searching, small defects really help to confirm that a coin matches an auction plate photo. In this case, the flan shape and small very old scratch just above the hare really helped me to find the sale history. The toning is rich and deep with hints of color and the details are incredibly sharp all things considered. This type had been on my most wanted list since I began collecting ancients and I am finally able to call this one my own.

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https://streamable.com/p9f5ro

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And that’s it for me. Thanks for reading and happy collecting in 2024! 

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OMG !

Scrolling down your post, at every new coin I've seen, I thought, well, that one is tremendous, I'm positive it will be in my top three choice in the end .... and the next one was even a better choice : I vote for all ten coins !!

Congrats on a brilliant selection

Q

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I keep coming back to the list and videos… Breathtaking coins, especially those from Sicily. It is incredible how, over 2000 years ago, people cared about art and about leaving memories about them. They did achieve immortality, even though many names are lost.

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3 hours ago, DonnaML said:

Every single one is absolutely gorgeous. I can't even begin to choose a favorite!

I would love to hear something about your procedure for discovering these pedigrees. Did you find all of them before you bought the coins?

Thank you so much! And thank you to everyone who has offered such kind comments. 

As far as pedigrees go, I have put in many dozens of hours searching the auction plate photos attempting to find matches to coins I suspect may have older sale history. I knew about the provenance of all but one of the coins in my top 10 before I bought them. Its definitely a fair amount of work but I find it to be a really rewarding part of the hobby too.

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Wow, these are some fantastic greek silver coins. Spectacular! And good provenance hunting too, well done. Tradition compels me to pick a favorite (or two, or three), and if you were to put a gun to to my head, I think I'd scream no. 1 and 3 😄 

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Stunning coins and even more impressive research ability. I am partial to the Campania, Neapolis Stater as I own one myself (though not as nice or with as awesome a provenance) thank you for sharing they are all breathtaking. 

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I missed this when you posted it. These coins are fantastic and right up my collecting alley. 

If I could pick only one to add to my collection, it would be the Akragas tetradrachm. It wins by a beak from the Gela didrachm and Messana tetradrachm.

Congratulations on a great year of collecting.

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