Delphi tridrachm

Delphi tridrachm

Delphi Tridrachm

Period: Classical Greece

Country: Greece

Denomination: Delphi tridrachm

Mint: Delphi (Phocis)

Weight: 14.82 g

Quality: VF, toned, water-worn surfaces

Auction house: Classical Numismatic Group

Date: 9 May 2017

Starting price: $30.000 euros

Historical context

The Delphi tridrachm is a very rare coin. Interestingly, almost all the specimens known can be traced even to the day they were found. At the beginning of the XXth Century only two specimens were known, one in Paris and one in Berlin. In 1901 a fragment of another specimen was found in the Zagazig hoard, which was composed by 84 coins. In 1969 the Asyut hoard was found. This hoard was contained 900 coins and included 7 Delphi tridrachms. 5 out of this 7 were test cut (example). The Ghazzat hoard, which was also found in the 60’s, contained 29 coins and included 4 Delphi tridrachms. This hoard was immediately acquired by the Tarazi family. This family owned the whole hoard until 2016, when they sold 27 of its coins in a public auction as a single lot. The other 2 coins from the Ghazzat hoard are the one in the auction and another Delphi tridrachm. Interestingly, all the Delphi tridrachms were found in Egypt, which shows that there must have been an important commercial route between Phocis and Egypt during the 5th Century BC.

You are invited to read about the historical context of the Delphi tridrachms here and in the coin description that is quoted next.

Market

Delphi tridrachms are very rare and beautiful coins. However, their price is so high that only a few high-quality-coin collectors can even think about buying them. For this reason, I do not think that it is a good idea to introduce in the market the 4 specimens from Ghazzat hoard in less than a year. This unusual amount of coins available makes their price decrease. In fact, we can see that this coin was hammered for 475.000 CHF in 2010 and this other one for $325.000 in 2012. However, two specimens were auctioned last January: this one for $80.000 and the one now in the auction for $70.000.

Description from the seller

PHOKIS, Delphi. Circa 479-475 BC. AR Tridrachm (25.5mm, 14.82 g). Two rhyta (drinking vessels) in the form of ram’s heads; above, two dolphins confronted; ΔAΛΦ-I-KON in small letters below (traces visible); all within beaded border / Quadripartite incuse square in the form of a coffered ceiling; each coffer decorated with a dolphin and laurel spray, giving the appearance of the dolphins swimming in a clockwise circle. Gaza 20 (this coin); Asyut 245 = Zhuyuetang 39 (same dies); Svoronos, Delphi 18 var. (position on dolphins on rev.); HGC 4, 1116; ACGC 413 var. (same); BCD Lokris 376 var. (same); Kraay & Hirmer 461 var. (same). VF, toned, water-worn surfaces. Extremely rare variety of a very rare series. Approximately fourteen Delphi tridrachms are known; this is one of only two with the dolphins arranged in a circular manner on the reverse.

From the Ghazzat/Gaza 1960s hoard.

The Ghazzat Hoard was found in the sea off the coast of Gaza in the 1960s. The coins from the hoard have been consigned by the Tarazi family, who acquired the coins immediately after they were found. In recognition of the importance of the hoard for scholars, the Tarazi family offered 27 of the hoard’s 29 coins as a single lot in Triton XIX (lot 82). The present Delphi tridrachm was retained by the family.

The tridrachms of Delphi are among the most historically interesting of all Greek coins. Prior to the Asyut find they were only known from two coins in Paris and Berlin, as well as a fragment from the Zagazig Hoard of 1901 (IGCH 1645); now there are at least 14 examples. The obverse type is a direct reference to the Greek victory over the Persians at Plataea in 479, when a great deal of booty, including silver vessels, was taken by the Greeks. These two rhyta were certainly from that booty and must have been brought as a dedication to Apollo in Delphi (rams were sacred to Apollo, along with dolphins). The reverse of this coin is also very unusual: it is not a normal quadripartite incuse but, rather, clearly shows the stepped coffering that we know decorated ancient ceilings, especially those of prestigious buildings like the Temple of Apollo. The dolphins that ornament these coffers are a reference to both the name of Delphi and to the fact that Apollo himself could appear in the form of a Dolphin.

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