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Rare ancient Greek coin collection sold at NY auction

A collection of rare ancient Greek coins which has been hidden away for two decades is expected to sell for millions of dollars when it goes up for auction in New York on Wednesday. 

The most valuable coin in the collection is this Pantikapaion gold stater, depicting the head of a bearded satyr, which is expected to sell for more than $650,000 [Credit: CNN]
The Prospero Collection features coins of historical and artistic importance, including one described by an expert as "a masterpiece of ancient Greek art." 

Assembled by a private collector over three decades, from 1960 to 1991, the treasure trove has remained untouched for the past 20 years. 

After so long out of the spotlight, the coins have attracted serious interest from potential buyers around the world and at recent viewings in the U.S. and the UK. 

Paul Hill, ancient Greek coin specialist at dealers A. H. Baldwin & Sons, the company behind the sale, said many of the coins were "miniature works of art." 

Hill says the coin, which also features the figure of a winged griffin, is "one of the masterpieces of ancient Greek art." The entire collection is expected to sell for $8m [Credit: CNN}
The most valuable item in the collection is a gold stater featuring the head of a bearded satyr and the figure of a winged griffin, which the auction catalog describes as "without doubt the greatest ancient Greek gold coin." 

Hill said the lot, "a masterpiece of ancient Greek art," had a pre-sale estimate of $650,000 and may eventually go under the hammer for as much as $1 million. 

He said that while most of the lots were likely to sell to collectors, coins were increasingly being seen as an attractive investment, given the global financial crisis. 

"They are of great artistic beauty and historical significance, which makes them more interesting than stocks or shares, and they are tangible and portable, compared to a big estate." 

"Such passion has gone into the collection, and it has been an important part of somebody's life for so long, that there is an element of sadness to see it split up," Hill told CNN. 

"But it is lovely to see it published together now, for posterity, before it is 'recycled' and finds new homes with new collectors all over the world." 

Rare Cypriot coin among the 600 ancient Greek coins in the Prospero Collection 

A rare and ancient Cypriot coin honouring famous Paphos King Nikoklis who founded New Paphos was up for auction yesterday in  New York.

Rare silver distater from Paphos, Cyprus, struck by King Nikokles between c.325-308 BC [Credit: Classical Numismatic Group Inc]
“This coin is considered rare because only four were found and this is what increases its value,” said Stylianos Perdikis, archaeologist and manager of the Kykkos Museum. According to Perdikis, the New York auction house – Classical Numismatic Group – appraised the coin at around $400,000. There are believed to be another two coins in museums in Turin and Florence and the  remaining two in private collections.  There are also rumoured to be three other such coins in private collections in Cyprus but it has not been confirmed.

The Cypriot coin, measuring 26mm in diameter and weighing 21.29 grammes, is silver and was cut in 320 BC in celebration of the founding of new Paphos in that year. The fact that there are very few of these coins is because they were probably taken out of circulation when King Nikoklis was forced to commit suicide after his entire family was killed eight years later in 312 BC.

One side of the coin depicts the  bust of the Goddess  Aphrodite with the flip side depicting a naked Apollo, God of healing and the arts. The lettering on the coins means ‘Paphos Queen’ and ‘Nikoklis Paphos’ respectively.

Perdikis pointed out that the significance of the coin not only lies in its rarity but the fact that King Nikoklis – who reigned from 352 BC  was heralded as somewhat of an innovator in that he was responsible from moving the location of Paphos – the capital of the island at the time – to a new location.

“He was responsible for various works such as moving old Paphos which used to be where present day Kouklia is to a new location [founded near the sea] which is known today as Ktima,” said Perdikis, adding that it was a necessary move as old Paphos was not close to any ports and therefore could not be developed.

Despite being up for auction now, a certain mystery surrounds the rare coin as before 2004 its whereabouts cannot be traced. “We know that in 2004 it was sold to a private collection called Lakeview and now it’s back up for auction at the Classical Numismatic Group but its history before this, where it was found, be it Sicily or Greece, we have no idea,” said Perdikis.

The uncertainty surrounding its whereabouts pre-2004 is not considered surprising, said Perdikis, as the island has passed through so many hands in the course of its history.

Sources: CNN / Cyprus Mail [January 04, 2012]

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