IT CANNOT often be said of an auction catalogue that its lot numbers will be used for a very long time, perhaps a century or more, as reference numbers in a standard academic publication. The catalogue of Numismatik Lanz of Munich is just such a one.
This 981-lot sale held on November 26 dispersed the comprehensive collection of the Greek city of Corinth formed by Basil Dimitriades. The offerings began with the earliest coins of this city (early 6th Century BC) down to the Roman coins of Geta (d.211AD). What is important is that this catalogue lists some of the less valuable Roman bronze coins which although individually rare are really quite common as a category. Herein is the usefulness of this catalogue.
The main identifying feature of the coinage of Greek Corinth is the image of Pegasus. The style evolves over some five centuries in parallel with the rest of Greek sculpture. Accordingly, coins, being in the main closely datable, are a useful canon to date sculpture. Actually this holds good for other main cities.
The first lot was a second half of the sixth century BC silver ‘stater’ with an archaic image of the magic steed. It was estimated at DM700. It made DM1300 (£405). The prices for this sale are in the now obsolete deutschmarks – it was last year remember.
To demonstrate the evolution of Greek style we should observe a similarly photogenic example struck c.350BC. This one, estimated at DM600, made DM325 (£100).
Why are these little masterpieces, for that is exactly what they are, obtainable in crisp condition for so little? Coins are multiples, like for instance prints. It is a general rule that the more eminent a city the more coins it struck only incidentally for art but more specifically for trade.
Indeed this catalogue will be relevant long after the prices become meaningless. This is a catalogue for the serious student of Greek art.
Germany: £1 = DM3.20
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