Saturday 27 May 2023

Crimean Coin Taken by Soviets from Museum Collection Sold for Record Price

A gold stater from Panticapaeum the Greek colony on the Kerch peninsula in Crimea was sold at a Numismatica Ars Classica auction in Zurich last week for more than £4.8m (SFr5.39m with fees) setting a record for the most expensive ancient coin sold at auction (José da Silva, 'Ancient Greek gold coin from Crimea sells for a record-breaking £4.8m' Art Newspaper 26 May 2023). On the obverse the coin, minted around 340BC-325BC, shows the head of a satyr in bold relief, on the other a rather scraggy griffin depicted holding a spear in its mouth. Coineys were most excited about the way the satyr is depicted in three quarters view rather than in profile as is more usual. Another feature making the coin so desirable for a collector seeking that something special is the coin's rarity; it thought to be one of only three of its kind in existence and the only one not in a museum collection.
The stater was once in the collection of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg until the early 1930s when the museum sold off many of its treasures to raise money for the Soviet government. At that time, the Hermitage also sold paintings such as Raphael’s The Alba Madonna (around 1511) and Jan van Eyck’s The Annunciation (1434-36), which went on to form the core collection of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. [...] The stater’s sale last week helped Numismatica Ars Classica make a mint at its spring sales. “The whole auction realised exceptionally high prices totalling over SFr21m, well exceedi resale estimate of SFr11m,” says Arturo Russo, the co-director of Numismatica Ars Classica. “This is a sign the whole market for numismatics is flourishing, and is especially strong for ancients at the moment.”
The 1934 sales were prompted by Stalin’s push to sell works of art to raise foreign currency to fund domestic industrial growth. This was part of the implementation of rapid industrialisation during the Stalinist Five Year Plans (in this case the Second, 1932-37), and this followed on from the Ukrainian Holodomor of 1932-3.The coin was acquired by Charles Gillet, a French industrialist who focused on collecting rare books, furniture, and antiquities, including coins.coin was acquired in 1934 by Charles Gillet, a French industrialist who focused on collecting rare books, furniture, and antiquities, including coins.

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