AUCTIONEERS Baldwin's have announced the sale of what is being billed as the most important collection of ancient Greek coins to come to auction in nearly a quarter of a century.
The multi-million pound Prospero collection contains over 600
coins from the Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic Greek periods and
includes some of the rarest and most historically important
examples of Greek coinage.
The collection, formed over several decades, has remained
untouched since being completed 20 years ago. Baldwin's ancient
coin specialist Paul Hill said: "The Prospero collection is the
most important collection of ancient Greek coins to appear on the
market… since the sale of the Nelson Bunker Hunt collection in New
He also explained why the anonymous collector had named the
collection Prospero: "Like the character of Prospero in
Shakespeare's The Tempest, an underlying preoccupation
for the magical and mythical can be seen throughout the
It ranges from the sixth to third centuries BC and contains,
among other highlights, coins from ancient Sicily, including hugely
sought-after examples of the die-engraver's art from Syracuse.
Baldwin's have singled out a number of star lots to give a taste
of the breadth and depth of the collection. Among them are examples
of the dekadrachm of Syracuse, one of the largest and most famous
of all ancient Greek coins, including a signed example, struck from
the very first pair of dies engraved by the artist Kimon.
The famous Demareteion dekadrachm, considered to be one of the
most beautiful creations of fifth century BC numismatic art, is
also represented. The artist who created this coin is considered to
be one of the greatest master engravers of the Archaic and
"Supreme artistic beauty matches exceptional rarity throughout
the collection and none represents this more than the breathtaking
gold stater from Pantikapaion, the importance of which cannot be
exaggerated," said Mr Hill. "It bears a facing head of a satyr,
bearded and with long dishevelled hair. The work of a master
artist, it is without doubt the greatest ancient Greek gold
He added: "The catalogue for the Prospero collection is still
being prepared, however Baldwin's anticipate that the Naxos
tetradrachm will be estimated in the region of £60,000-£80,000, and
the Demareteion dekadrachm in the region of £80,000-£100,000."
There are a number of examples of the coinage of the city state
of Naxos. One such is the tetradrachm from the mid fifth century
BC, its obverse type depicting the head of Dionysos and its reverse
showing Silenos with his drinking cup. "Perhaps another of the
greatest of all fifth century ancient Greek coins," says Mr Hill,
it is important as it illustrates a move from the more rigid
Archaic artistic style to a more naturalistic Classical one. The
master-engraver who produced the dies for this coin is believed to
be the same individual known as the 'Aitna Master', who produced
the famous, and unique, tetradrachm of Aitna.
ATG coins correspondent Richard Falkiner has confirmed the
importance of the Demareteion dekadrachm, pinpointing it as the
example that took $90,000 in the Bunker Hunt sale at Sotheby's New
York on June 19, 1990, selling again at Bank Leu in Switzerland on
May 15, 1991 for SFr132,500, then about £53,000.
The collection, will be offered as part of Baldwin's 140th
anniversary celebrations, on January 4 at the Waldorf Astoria
hotel, New York as part of The New York Sale XXVII-XXVIII.
Meanwhile, Morton & Eden are also working on a
major collection of ancient Greek coins for their October 24
The 168-piece collection has been put together over the past 50
years and covers high quality examples mainly of the archaic and
classical periods (6th to 4th centuries BC).
Expectations run to £1.5m in total.
Further details have yet to emerge as cataloguing is still
underway, but the selection in this image, examples include 5th and
4th century tetradrachms of Barce in Cyrenaica, Rhodes; similar
aged tetradrachms of Leontini and Naxos in Sicily; a triple siglos
of Kos; and Cretan staters of Phaistos and Gortyna.
By Ivan Macquisten
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