A CoinWeek article by Tyler Rossi explores the 150 year unbroken provenance of a silver drachm of Alexander of Pherae. Here's an excerpt - see the complete article online.
Alexander oversaw a massive minting program that included a series of beautiful silver drachmai. This particular drachm stuck by Alexander (shown below) is a stunning example of classical Greek numismatic artistry.
Pherai, Alexander tyrant. c. 369-358 BCE. AR Drachm, 5.87g (18mm, 10h). E? – ???? – ?S Laureate head of Ennodia r., wearing pendant earring and pearl necklace / ???? – ???? – ?? Lion's head r., with open jaws. Image: Shanna Schmidt Numismatics. Image: CNG.
It is possible to trace this particular coin practically back to when it was excavated. It was first mentioned in 1879 by the noted Greek archeologist, numismatist, and philologist Athanasios Rhousopoulos in a short study he published in the German Archeological Institute's journal, Athenische Mitteilungen. The coin was first owned by Ioannis Photiades Pasha. As the Ottoman ambassador to Athens in the 1860s and governor of Crete from 1879 to 1885 (among various other international diplomatic postings), Photiades used his wealth and position to amass a truly spectacular collection of ancient Greek, Roman, and Byzantine coins. He focused exclusively on coins from the area covering the states stretching from Thessaly to the Cyclades. The Pasha collection was sold in a landmark auction held in Paris by M. Delestre and H. Hoffman May 19-24, 1890, five years after Pasha had passed away.
Rhousopoulos purchased this coin as lot 171 of the Hoffman auction. As the same coin he wrote about in 1879, it is obvious that he had a connection to the drachma. Rhousopoulos would hold on to the drachma until his death in 1898 when his estate consigned the collection to Dr. Jacob Hirsch for sale in 1905. Despite it not being advertised which collection Hirsch was selling, he did state that it was a highly important collection of Greek coins from the estate of a well-known archaeologist and it was widely understood whose coins they were (Walker, 599).
As lot 1446 in the 1905 Hirsch XIII auction, this coin was estimated to sell for 950 German Marks. Prior to World War I, $1 was worth roughly 4.2 marks. So, this drachma was slated to sell for roughly $226, or $6,770 adjusted for inflation.
Twenty-four years later in 1929, this coin resurfaced again as lot 238 in the July 2nd Ars Classica auction. This sale contained the collection of Captain E.G.S. Churchill of Northwick Park as well as those of two unnamed collectors. There is unfortunately no distinction made between the three collections in the 1929 catalogue. The coin was attributed by Ars Classica four years later in their July 1933 auction catalogue to the collection of the Swiss numismatist and noted expert on Thessalian numismatics, Dr. Friedrich Imhoof Blumer.
The coin would come to public auction 49 years later, in the Leu sale of April 1982. While it was given an estimate of 5,000 Swiss Francs, the coin hammered for 11,500 Francs. Adjusted for inflation, this would be 19,282 Francs or $20,478. It was here that the un-named BCD collector acquired the coin. As one of the greatest modern collectors of Greek coins, it is unsurprising that BCD would put together a group of Thessalian coins including this Alexander of Pherae drachma.
Numismatika Ars Classica 124, 2021, lot 134, page 79.
To read the complete article, see:
A Silver Drachm of Alexander of Pherae
Wayne Homren, Editor
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