9 Known Specimens, NGC Ch F
Lot 41: Ionia, Uncertain Mint, 5th Century BC, Electrum 1/12th Stater, Only Nine Known
Electrum 1/12th Stater
Obverse: Siren standing right holding tympanon.
Reverse: Bucranium facing with fillets hanging from each horn.
Extremely rare, only nine specimens known. This example NGC certified #6062075-014. An excellent write-up from Roma:
This type, which is known from just five examples including the current piece, was encountered for the first time in only 1957 when a specimen appeared for sale at the Hess-Leu auction in Luzern on April 16 of that year. That piece, lot 271, now resides in Oxford. Two further examples were sold by Munzen & Medaillen, one on 6 October 1987 (lot 131), which was the Rosen specimen. Jeffrey Spier inexplicably wrote (Numismatic Chronicle 1988, p.221) that that example was gold rather than electrum, though it is clearly not. Another was sold on 22 March 2002 (lot 72); the last example was sold at The New York Sale 25 on 5 January 2011 (lot 97). All were heavily worn and/or incomplete. The current piece is the only known example in this grade.
The mythical Sirens are best known to us from two ancient epics: the √îArgonautica√ï by Apollonios in which Jason and the Argonauts have to travel pass them on their quest for the Golden Fleece, and Homer√ïs √îOdyssey√ï, where they are portrayed as a pair of dangerous creatures that lure passing sailors to their deaths with their sweet music (Odyssey XII, 40). They are supposed to have inhabited an island with a particularly rocky shoreline onto which sailors would be drawn by their desire to hear the Sirens sing, leading to shipwreck. Speaking to Odysseus and warning him of the dangers he would encounter further into his journey, Queen Circe describes the Sirens as sitting in a meadow, with around them √ía great heap of bones of mouldering men√ì (XII, 45).
Although later depicted as women with wings, feathery tails and scaly bird-like feet, and eventually as mermaids, whose bodies were as seductive as their voices, depictions of the Sirens in early Greek art were as they appear on this coin, combining the body of a bird with the head of a woman, as can be seen on the √îSiren Vase√ï, now in the British Museum, decorated in c. 480-470 BC and roughly contemporaneous with this coin.
View a video of this coin here:
- Offered By: Kenneth W. Dorney
- Lot #: 41
- Listing #: 543723
- Closes: Tuesday, January 31, 2023 11:19:30 AM CT
- Estimate: $2,500