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A silver stater (c.510-500BC) of the Greek-settled Tarentum (Tarento in Southern Italy) was first recorded in the mid 18th century. Greek coins are very well documented from this angle. This provenance is probably what tempted an estimate of SFr38,000 to be suggested. Normally one would not dare to give such a high estimate. In the event it sold for SFr35,000 (£14,000). Of the eight examples known, it is the only one in private hands but it is of a general design of which there many variants.

As I attended the sale, I got the impression that the room was very sluggish. It seems that the estimates were on the bold side but in the event justified. Either the calaloguers at Leu were dazzled by the quality of all the coins (355 lots) or the seller had a justly high opinion of the lots and demanded reserves which necessitated the estimates. Perhaps it was a bit of both and anyway this is not something we are privy to.

In the event only 60 (16.9 per cent) of the lots did not find a new cabinet and all these were coins of lesser value. Thus this sale may be described as a magnificent success, at least that is what everybody rightly said at the fine banquet (Steak de veau sauté aux herbes “provençale”) that Leu gave after the sale. I like going to Switzerland.

The highest price of the day was the SFr390,000 (£156,000) given by Zurich dealers and auctioneers Numismatica Ars Classica for one of the classically desirable Greek coins – the silver tetradrachm of Amphipolis (357-356BC) with the facing head of Apollo. A facing head is notoriously difficult to achieve on something as small as a coin. I quote the catalogue: "…unquestionably one of the great masterpieces of Greek numismatic art, and surely one of the loveliest”. Just about every coin in this historic sale deserved such an epithet. The estimate was “only” SFr180,000 and the price realised is but the most glaring example of the principle that the very best sells, in all fields, for prices which bear scant relationship to the predictable.

The coin used to illustrate the cover of the catalogue was the silver tetradrachm of Syracuse (405-400BC) struck from dies cut and, this is important, signed by the artist Eukleidas. This masterpiece also bears the difficult to achieve facing head. Of the four known examples this is the best. The estimate? – SFr250,000. After spirited bidding from all over the room it fell at SFr245,000 (£98,000). Pride does not allow me to conceal that I bought it and, no, of course, it was not for me personally.

All this is very rarefied so a random choice of a more easily affordable coin is in order. One of the more common coins in this series is the silver tetradrachm of Alexander the Great’s general Ptolemy, the founder of the dynasty to which he gave his name, who ruled his share of the empire from 323-283BC. The estimate was SFr2000, it was a particularly beautiful example.

It was one of several lots which fell to Tom Eden, of Morton & Eden and ex-Sotheby’s now regrettably closed coin department (see Antiques Trade Gazette No. 1489, May 19), for SFr1600 (£640). This very same coin made £1950 at Glendinings in London in December 1986. It is good to note that these boys are not letting the grass grow under their feet. This last reported lot demonstrated that in this sale, in general indeed, the market is a trifle weak in the Eastern post Alexander series.

Right, top: the highest price of the day in the Leu (Zurich) sale on May 16 was the SFr390,000 (£156,000) paid for the Amphipolis tetradrachm with the facing head of Apollo.

Right, middle: illustrated on the cover of the catalogue and estimated at SFr250,000 was the tetradrachm of Syracuse that realised SFr245,000 (£98,000).

Right, bottom: Tom Eden succeeded with a bid of SFr1600 (£640) for a Ptolemy I tetradrachm (estimate SFr2000); the silver stater of Tarentum with an 18th century provenance that made SFr35,000 (£14,000) in the Leu (Zurich) sale on May 16.

Exchange rates: £1 = SFr2.5/DM3.19