18 June 2023
The sale at Numismatica Ars Classica NAC AG in Switzerland on 18–19 May saw the record broken for the world’s most expensive ancient coin when a total of 4,400,000CHF was bid for a gold stater dating from c.350–300, described as of the highest rarity (lot 155).
The coin originated from Panticapaeum, the most powerful city in the Tauric Chersonesus (located in present-day western Crimea), which operated in the Black Sea grain trade. Gold staters produced in the city regularly featured the head of a bearded satyr on the obverse and a griffin with a spear in its mouth, as can be seen on this record-breaking coin.
On the staters of Panticapaeum, the head of the satyr is always depicted in profile facing left, except for on this extremely rare issue in which the engraver broke with custom and depicted the satyr facing three-quarters left. The influence for this change in design may have been the wider numismatic fashion for three-quarter facing heads on Greek coins that developed at the end of the fifth and in the early fourth century BC.
Although the satyr is usually interpreted as a representation of Pan and a punning reference to the name of the city, the auction house believes it could also be a nameless satyr referencing the Spartocid dynasty of Bosporan kings, the rulers of Panticapaeum, whose founder was Satyros I. Meanwhile, the griffin probably alludes to the mythical creatures who were believed to guard the gold found in the mountains of Scythia.
The auction description of the coin states that it represents an extraordinarily rare example of the highest Classical Greek artistry, rendered all the more remarkable by the fact it was not produced in one of the great cultural and artistic centres like Athens or Syracuse, but rather at a distant outpost at the northern edge of the known Greek world.
The coin’s final price of 4,400,000CHF was from an estimate of 1,250,000 CHF.
SOLD FOR £3,876,312