An example of the celebrated silver decradrachm of Acragas is expected to set a new world record when it sells at an October 17 auction in Zurich.
Estimated at an impressive $1.8m, the coin will hold the record for the most valuable Greek silver coin ever sold at auction should it meet this valuation. The same example previously held the record for more than 10 years, after it sold at Sotheby's in 1990 for $572,000.
The current record is held by a silver tetradrachm of Naxos, which sold for $994,500 in January 2012, as part of the Prospero collection. The estimated price for the decradrachm would see the coin providing its current owner with a potential return of 4.89% pa since the 1990 purchase.
The coin originates from the illustrious Hunt Collection and is widely recognised as the most important and beautiful Greek coin in existence. It is one of just 12 examples known, six of which are currently in museums. Stuck circa 409-406 BC, it was reportedly created as a commemorative coin to celebrate the victory of Exainetos, a citizen of Acragas, Sicily, who won the chariot race at Olympia in 412 BC.
The coin depicts a galloping chariot soaring towards the sky, driven by Helios on its obverse, while the reverse depicts the "classic badge of the city" - two eagles perched on a dead hare. The obverse has been attributed to the renowned engraver Myron, with the reverse attributed to Polykrates.
The decradrachm's rarity can be attributed to the fact that the city of Acragas was invaded and virtually destroyed in 406 BC by the Carthaginians, who would have seized and melted down many of the existing coins. Evidence also shows that, due to the small number of dies used, these coins were struck in very low numbers and were likely never circulated.
Paul Fraser Collectibles has a brilliant collection of rare coins available, including a selection of Italian gold coins from the 15th to 18th century.