Arethusa decadrachm coin from Syracuse may bring $50,000 at Gemini auction

Gemini Auctions is a strong contender when it comes to ancient coins: for example, we reported last year on their sale of a Constantius II gold medallion in a joint auction with Heritage for $126,500.

This week, they will hold another major sale of them with one of the starring lots being a highly impressive decadrachm from 400-370BC, Syracuse which hails from the collection of a Chicago collector who held it for 40 years.

The obverse shows a quadriga galloping left, driven by a charioteer holding reins and directing the horses with a goad. Above him, Nike is flying right to crown the charioteer. In the foreground are a cuirass, two greaves, and a Phrygian helmet.

Syracuse quadriga decadrachm coin
The quadriga on the obverse of the Syracuse decadrachm coin

The reverse shows the head of the nymph Arethusa facing left, wearing a reed wreath, triple ear pendant, and necklace. Beneath her chin is a pellet and around her are four dolphins.

Arethusa in Greek myths was a nereid nymph who was transformed into a fountain on the island of Ortygia in Syracuse (hence her appearance on some coins from the region) as she fled from the river god Alpheus.

Gallatin only records five examples from this pair of dies, and Gemini describe it as "one of the most complete and sharply struck Syracusan decadrachms we have ever handled, from one of the freshest pairs of dies."

Syracuse Arethusa decadrachm coin
Arethusa looking as lovely as ever on the decadrachm's reverse

The obverse has virtually unparalleled detail. The decorations on the helmet in the exergue, as well as the details on the crest are highly unusual, as are the details on the chest armour.

The quadriga driver has complete detail on her chiton, showing folds and pleats, as well as the delicate piping around the neck. She also has extraordinary detail in her hair and face. Likewise the head of Arethusa has incredible detail, especially detailing of the ear and a pearl visible where the earring attaches to the ear lobe.

A stunning coin all round, it is listed at $50,000 in the auction which concludes on Sunday, January 8.

Extremely fine and rare coins of this period can be particularly fascinating. We currently have a Carian Islands, Rhodes (c. 410 B.C.), Silver Tetradrachm, showing the facing head of Helios in stock which is available right now.

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