Last week (January 16th-18th) a New York auction house held a three day auction of coins, currency and scrip. Let's focus in on the coins, which offered some remarkable results.
The top selling coin was a Sicilian (or rather Siculo-Punic) dekadrachm from the time of the first Punic War, followed by a Chia-ch'ing Chinese cash coin.
The obverse shows the head of Tanit, wreathed in grain-ears, facing left, wearing single pendant earring, whilst the reverse presents Pegasos flying right with a Punic legend below it B'RST --"in the land of".
It boasts lovely old toning over a few old reverse scratches and minor deposits and is a pleasing example of this magnificent issue in good very fine condition. Struck by the Carthaginians in Sicily during the first Punic War against Rome, these large silver pieces were likely issued for military purposes.
The types are clearly influenced by models of Corinth and her colony, Syracuse, but conversely are indicative of the waning of Greek influence in Carthaginian Sicily.
On the obverse, the head of Tanit is rendered in a style derived from earlier gold and electrum of Carthage. Pegasos on the reverse, meanwhile, is copied from Corinthian Staters, but the treatment of the winged horse is alien to the Greek prototype.
In the event, it flew like the winged horse past its $12,000-16,000 listing to sell for $31,150.
Extremely fine and rare ancient coins can be fascinating. We currently have a Carian Islands, Rhodes Silver Tetradrachm, showing the facing head of Helios in stock which is available right now.
Despite this result, this was not by any means the top-selling coin in the sale. That honour went to a Chinese cash coin.
Dating from the Chia-ch'ing dynasty (1796-1820), it measures 64 mm in diameter and weighs 135.2g.
Presenting no images, it simply bears the letters for Chia-ch'ing Tung-pao, on the obverse, whilst the reverse shows T'ien-hsia T'ai-p'ing. In good very fine condition, it had been listed at just $300-400, but some ferocious and determined bidding saw the price skyrocket to and extraordinary $24,250.
Stephen Goldsmith, Senior Vice-President of the company's Numismatic Division, told us:
"Demand for the “classic” Chinese coins has strengthened. We knew, before hand, that estimating classic Chinese coins was an exercise in futility, so we focused on lotting and describing the material properly. The results speak for themselves.
"The Chia Ch’ing Place cash coin was a good example, realizing $21,000 hammer on a much lower reserve. We knew it was worthy of an illustration and a single lot; we just didn’t know exactly how worthy!"