SWITZERLAND: ABOUT 75 people filled the room at the Tkalec sale of Greek and Roman coins on February 19. For collectors of useless information (and aren’t we all?) I can report that the T of Tkalec is not pronounced and that the name is the old Croat equivalent of ‘Weaver’.

The actual point of this report is to continue a story now a year old. The very earliest inscribed Greek coins were inscribed by the issuer Phanes probably at Ephesus in the very late seventh century BC. They are made of electrum, a natural alloy of gold and silver from the alluvial deposits of the nearby Pactolos river.

There are three examples known and there was one in the Tkalec sale in February last year. It made the SFr equivalent of £185,000 and was reported in some detail in Antiques Trade Gazette No. 1434 (April 15, 2000). We now know that it was bought for a client of CNG (London and the USA). This report speculated as to whether there were any more to come out of the proverbial woodwork. Well, up to a point. The recent Tkalec sale in Zurich had a fractional example, namely one third of a unit. Again there are but three examples known and, as with its big sister, this is the only one out of institutional captivity. It was estimated at SFr75,000 which I fancy was also the reserve, and made SFr80,000 (£34,000). Again the buyer was CNG, and I understand for the same client.

Exchange rate: £1 = SFr 2.35

Whilst on the subject of the very earliest real coinage it is worth noting that Chicago-based Harlan J. Berk, in their ‘Buy-or-Bid’ sale which closes on March 15, have a complete set, if there is such a thing, of the coinage of the Lydian ruler Croesus who ruled round about 575BC. This ruler was the first to attempt a bi-metallic coinage and the fluctuating prices of bullion gold and silver caused much confusion. Nothing changes. Croesus is known to have contributed gold in the form of ‘Cows’ (cf. the Golden Calf?) and pillars to the temple of Artemis/Diana at Ephesus. This is not the one visited by St. Paul but rather an earlier structure, said to be the very one on which Alexander the Great was born in 356BC, that was burnt down by Herostratus one October night. The goddess was absent assisting at the birth, of course. Herostratus committed this terrible act being desirous of eternal fame even at the expense of a great crime. Well, we still know his name rather than that of the chief fireman. But I ramble. This group of 30 gold and silver coins, most of which are said to be the best available specimens may be had for $135,000. Or you can take the risk of making a bid to be decided on the Ides of March.