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Tiny Greek Fractions from "Sammlung Gert Cleff, Teil I” (Gorny & Mosch EA 288): A Wonderful Overlooked Collection of Asia Minor & Satraps

Curtis JJ

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I’ve managed to overcome my recent spell of "hermitism" (apologies for any messages I haven’t replied to!) so that I could mention today’s (completed) auction of a small and delightful, but sadly ignored, scholarly collection of Satrapal, Asia Minor, and Persian AR Fractions: “Die Sammlung Gert Cleff - Teil 1” at Gorny & Mosch (e-Auction 288, Lots 1-84). It included many rarities and published or otherwise important coins, albeit with a rather specialized focus (i.e., small and tiny silver from the Achaemenid, Persian, Cilician / Anatolian, and "eastern Greek" world).

Though small (84 coins), it's a collection that I'm sure will be appreciated by anyone who enjoyed Dieter Klein’s (1999) Sammlung von griechischen Kleinsilbermünzen… (at least the “Eastern” parts) or Axel Winzer’s (2005) Antike Portraitmünzen der Perser und Griechenor Nancy Waggoner's (1983) ANACS #5 sylloge, Early Greek coins from the collection of Jonathan P. Rosen (or CNG’s recent "Klasma Asami Collection of Greek Fractions").

I know nothing of “Gert Cleff.” (Google gives zero help... Zero. Odd.) Gorny & Mosch calls it “Teil I,” so there should be more to come. It was described as “Könige und Satrapen” (tr., “Kings and Satraps, The Gert Cleff Collection - Part 1”). Unclear to me from the grammar if the other parts will be more of the same.

Many lots went unsold, others well below the conservative estimates or previous auction hammers from a decade or two ago (note: the "starting prices" given by Sixbid were actually the estimates; they actually started lower, at 75%, I believe). (Not my area of expertise, but I thought everything went too low, even by the old price standards of last decade.) I wish I'd budgeted A LOT more. I may still go for some of the unsold, but the best coins at least went for the minimum (!).

Here are some of my (winning) bids (credit for all photos: Gorny und Mosch

Lot 3. A rare Themistocles (the famous Athenian general, 6th-5th BCE) AR Hemiobol (7mm, 0.36g) of Magnesia. (More narrative is given [in German] in the previous Lot 2, a really exceptional example of the usually ugly type -- like mine!.) This example cited in Nollé – Wenninger’s (1998/1999) important JNG article. Notice how they oriented the reverse image incorrectly (the QE monogram -- the most important part of the coin! -- should be rotated 90' clockwise), a mistake repeated in many lots:

Themistocles Hemiobol. Magnesia.


Lot 42. Rare-ish AR 1/4 Siglos (8mm, 1.26g), Klein 764 plate coin. (I'm sure it was ex. rare when Klein published his book, but small coin discoveries and publication have skyrocketed in recent decades, both as metal detectors improve -- to the understandable dismay of archaeo-conservationists -- and digital imaging technologies make it possible to appreciate coins that were previously discernible only to bright-eyed 19-year old flight school candidates.) I was the *only* bidder on this one at the 48 E open. In 2015 it hammered at 90E at Munzzentrum 174, Lot 184. (Another specimen, the prior Lot 41, went unsold at 48 E [!]; it was nicer [maybe much nicer], but without the provenance/publication history, at least as far as I know. There were a lot of Sigloi that looked pretty good to me, incl. a fascinating run of nice banker's marks, many unsold or sold at what I considered absurd prices.)




Lot 69. A charming Persis AR Hemidrachm of Manchir III (AKA Minuchetri III). Ex Peter Robert Franke (1926-2018) Collection & Ex Robert Gonnella Collection, illustrated twice on PDC (PDC 47121 = Peus 393, Lot 320 & PDC 39483 = Peus 388 [Gonnella], 273). I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s published (or at least cited) elsewhere as well (I’d be surprised if not, since that’s what I found in a couple min.). The only provenance given was Grün 64, 1536, where it hammered for 260 Euros in 2014. I got it for 90Euro, which means only one other bidder clicked above the 80E min. from my pre-bid. (My planned maximum was, uh, HIGHER! It'll be a nice companion to the Parthian/Persis ? Diobol from Bob L's Koinon article (Fig 21), which I picked up from CNG in Feb.)

Persis Hemidrachm

If anyone knows more about the consignor/collection, I’d love to know. The entry in my "provenance glossary" can't go empty, so I've patched together what info I could so far. The collection (or this part) was formed mostly between the late 1990s and early 2010s, the coin acquired mainly from German auctions.

Several coins were ex Slg. Peter Robert Franke (but noted only as Grün 64) and several of the 84 coins were published (more of them than the catalog indicated; I found some in a short time). If I'd known how affordably the others would go, I'd have kept bidding on Lot 10, a very rare and absolutely astonishing 5mm, 0.12g Tetartemorion (Hemitetartemorion?) from the PRF sale. (At least that one came pretty close to the 2014 hammer, 150 vs. 170 E eight years ago. If not for me, I think it might've gone for the opening bid of 75E! The improved photography, though, shows it's a much better coin than the 2014 Grun 64 catalog indicated, especially for one so tiny. Another nice Slg. PRF coin, this one a Satrapal bronze, Lot 51, went for 70 E, barely half the 130 Euro hammer at the Grun PRF sale.)

It seems to me there was much more to find in the way important collection provenances and publication history than given by the cataloger. I don't know this literature well, but if I'd had more than a couple hours notice, I'm sure I'd have found more info. I suspect that those who know this kind of coinage well (I do not) will likely recognize or be able to find more of the coins published/cited in the literature.

I live for this kind of sale (numismatically speaking), but I would've missed it entirely except for a happy accident. (If I learned of it later today, I'd have been heartbroken... Heartbroken AND outraged!) I only learned of the auction hours beforehand because I accidentally clicked on a Gorny und Mosch email about “Military Badges….” (The remaining 1,250+ lots appear to be non-numismatic. A shame for “Die Sammlung Gert Cleff,” and the community of lovers of tiny Greek Fractions, but lucky for me.) It seems I received at least one other email a few days ago, but ignored it because I didn’t think it was about coins (G&M sends emails about all kinds of art/antiquities/etc. sales).

I can’t find the auction on Numisbids (what I usually use) or Biddr; I did find it on Sixbid once I went looking, but I don't usually use that site. Another unforced error: At least a few auction images were upside down. That can't have helped.

If you collect Achaemenid / Persian coins, I'd recommend checking the unsold lots / after-sale when it's up (as noted above, Sixbid gives the "estimates" as "starting prices," they actually opened 25% lower).

The collector clearly had a predilection for tiny rarities, and the extent of my expertise was only to know that they deserved better than they got!



Edited by Curtis JJ
fixing links
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Great pickups with impressive provenance. Congrats, Curtis. As evidenced by the number of unsold lots and relatively low hammer prices, it would seem that AR fractions - especially from Eastern series - are not getting the appreciation they deserve.


54 minutes ago, Curtis JJ said:

It'll be a nice companion to the Parthian/Persis ? Diobol from Bob L's Koinon article (Fig 21), which I picked up from CNG in Feb.


Thanks for that mention. I recall our CT correspondence last winter. So glad that ex-Sellwood diobol resides in your collection.

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Nice Themistokles at a great price!  And that Persis hemidrachm is fabulous.  Geez, I guess I should be checking SixBid after all.  Definitely some low prices there, and I would have bid on a few things... some of the tiny coins, some of the Persian, and also the Narseh drachm.  Oh well!

Here's my wee Themistokles:


Magnesia ad Maeandrum: Themistokles (465-459 BCE), AR tetartemorion, 0.21g and 5.5mm.


I also have an early 1/12 siglos which I think is rather scarce:


Darius I to Xerxes I (505-480 BCE), 0.48g and 8mm

I do think that some of the low prices on the tiny coins aren't just because the auction was neglected (though I think you're right about this!) but that some of the cut price auction houses have had scads of some of these types over the past couple years, e.g. some of the Tarsos obols.

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3 minutes ago, Severus Alexander said:

some of the cut price auction houses have had scads of some of these types over the past couple years, e.g. some of the Tarsos obols.

Yes, you're absolutely right about this! (I've bought a bunch myself -- though I started to be more cautious about some firms after a while.) These include a lot of types that were formerly considered very rare. Apparently flooding out of Turkey or the Middle East. Here's just one example: I've noticed a recent surge in examples of the really cool, fabled "optical illusion" Cilicia Hemiobols (Winzer 3.5, two confronted female heads, their faces overlapping in a triangle and sharing one eye, copying the earlier [?] incredible Hekte type from Lesbos, and possibly with a portrait of Artaxerxes III on the reverse).

They used to sell for multiple $1,000s a couple years ago. (Actually, Leu's example a few weeks ago still hammered at 1100 CHF at their Web Auction 20.) I've seen several others at the budget auctions recently (including several examples on ACSearch -- in fact, more in the last 12 or 18 months than in all of previously recorded numismatic history!). So it's become a lot less rare than a few years ago (and/or some of them are fake).

Here's a potential gift: Right now, there is a completely misidentified one on VCoins (popped up a few weeks ago, it's still there!), STILL up and COMPLETELY misidentified for under $80. The seller seems to have no idea. I probably should buy it, but apparently I'm not going to pull the trigger (I try not to buy totally unprovenanced coins from certain regions, including this one). If anyone is into small silver and competent to judge the value and authenticity, I'd say that one could be a tremendous steal (assuming it's genuine). If someone buys it, let me know how you like it! (I watch-listed it weeks ago, but apparently no one else has gone for it, so I don't think I'm spoiling anyone's dreams of saving up for this one.)

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Wow, thanks @Curtis JJ!!  I just bought it!!  🥳  I love this type and watched with dismay as the Leu example climbed into the stratosphere!  I owe you one, call in the favour anytime. 😄

For once it pays to be on the west coast!  I'm sure most everyone else is asleep.

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8 hours ago, Severus Alexander said:

Wow, thanks @Curtis JJ!!  I just bought it!!  🥳  I love this type and watched with dismay as the Leu example climbed into the stratosphere!  I owe you one, call in the favour anytime. 😄

For once it pays to be on the west coast!  I'm sure most everyone else is asleep.

Excellent!!! I'm very glad to know you got it!

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