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January 10, 2012

Coin Found in Ukraine – Highest Grossing Item at Baldwin’s New York Sale

Kyiv, January 10, 2012. 9.12 gram gold stater (ancient Greek coin), found in the Black Sea region near Pantikapaion (present-day southern Ukrainian city of Kerch), was auctioned off at Baldwin’s New York Sale XXVII for USD 3.25 million. The coin dates back to 350-300 B.C. and is considered “one of the greatest and most admired of all ancient Greek coins, a true masterpiece”, according to Baldwin’s catalogue for The Prospero Collection.

The coin’s catalogue price was USD 650,000 and it became the most expensive piece at the January New York Sale. The next top price item of the Sale was a 16.98 gram silver tetradrachm from Sicily, sold for USD 850,000 (catalogue price – USD 125,000).

“The facing head Pantikapaion gold stater, among the most spectacular numismatic objects to survive from the classical world, is one of the greatest pinnacles of ancient Greek numismatic art,” reads the catalogue for The Prospero Collection, to which the rare piece belongs. The catalogue quotes a British writer Godfrey Locker Lampson: “The head of the satyr is a marvel of speaking portraiture. That so much expression could be packed into so small a round would not be believed by any one who had not seen it.”

The ancient coin created on the territory of Ukraine bears the image of a satyr’s bearded head with long disheveled hair and a pointed ear. The flip side of the coin features a winged griffin – with horned head, raised forepaw, and a spear in its jaws. The creature stands on a large grain-ear that symbolizes financial well-being of Pantikapaion.

Other items from the Black Sea region auctioned at the sale include the 4th century B.C. silver drachm from Kolchis (sold for USD 110,000), lion-faced silver drachm from Pantikapaion (sold for USD 9,500), another 4th century B.C. gold stater with a pan and a griffin on it also from Pantikapaion (sold for USD 120,000), and silver drachm depicting goddess Demeter from Tyra (sold for USD 7,500).

Greek colonies dotted the south of Ukraine (mostly the coast of the Black Sea) back in the day. Pantikapaion, the capital of the Greek cities union, was founded in the seventh century B.C. In several centuries the city became a prosperous economy that profited on grain exports.