Art collectors from around the world will gather in Zurich on 17 October to compete for hundreds of well-pedigreed ancient Greek and Roman coins from two famous collections offered by the Zurich-based firm Numismatica Ars Classica
. The combined estimate of the 411 coins offered amounts to over 6 million Swiss Francs ( $ 6.3 million).
The undisputed star of the sale is lot 6, the silver decadrachm of Acragas (modern day Agrigento, Sicily) estimated at an eye-watering 1.75 million Swiss Francs ($ 1.8 million); not only exceedingly rare, but also of the greatest historical importance. This masterpiece of ancient art was struck at a time of great turmoil in Sicily, just prior to a Carthaginian invasion in which Acragas itself was virtually destroyed in 406 B.C. When sold back in the Sothebys auction of the Hunt Collection in 1990, this coin realized the record price of $ 572,000, a record that was not exceeded for more than 10 years. Today, it is widely accepted to be the most important and prestigious Greek coin in existence and will undoubtedly reach a new record price paid for a Greek silver coin.
The coins will be offered in two separate auctions. The first, Auction 66, contains 84 ancient Greek coins highlighted by many pieces once owned by oil tycoon Nelson Bunker Hunt and formerly auctioned by Sothebys in 1990 and 1991. The Nelson Bunker Hunt collection, long celebrated as one of the finest and richest collections of Roman and Greek coins ever assembled, has acquired almost mythical status. This pedigree will no doubt add to the attraction of the coins, especially in this age when provenance is very important. The other Greek coins in the sale are gold and silver pieces ranging in date from the 6th to the 2nd Centuries B.C., struck throughout the Mediterranean world, from the Iberian peninsula to Babylon and Egypt. Dozens of the coins offered are of the highest level of artistry, a key component in the ancient Greek coin market.
The second sale, Auction 67, presents more than 300 ancient Roman gold coins, the Roman part of a staggeringly vast collection of 37,895 coins assembled in the early 20th century by the American philanthropist and railroad heir Archer M. Huntington. For the better part of a century or more, these coins have been off the market, on loan to the American Numismatic Society in New York City since 1949 from the Hispanic Society of America, an institution that Huntington founded in 1904. This is the first time since the legendary sale of the Ward Collection of New Yorks Metropolitan Museum of Fine Arts that there is the chance for collectors to choose from such a large number of interesting and beautiful coins which were, up to a few months ago, in a public institution.
The Roman gold of Auction 67 covers more than half a millennium, from 46 B.C. to A.D. 476, and is supplemented with 16 gold coins of the Byzantine Empire struck as late as the 9th Century A.D. Most bear portraits of the issuer, a hallmark of coins of the Roman Empire. Highlights include a gold coin bearing the heads of Julius Caesar and his nephew Octavian, best known as Augustus, Romes first emperor.
These are two of the most important groups of ancient coins to come to auction in recent memory, says Arturo Russo, a professional numismatist and Director of Numismatic Ars Classica. The outstanding quality and strong provenances of these coins has aroused much excitement since collectors know it is unlikely that an opportunity like this will ever be repeated on such a scale.
Numismatica Ars Classica is the leading auction house in the field of coins of the ancient world. They have offices in London, Zurich and Milan. Over the last two decades, Numismatica Ars Classica has auctioned some of the most prestigious and valuable collections of Greek and Roman coins in the world. The coins of NACs forthcoming auctions 66 and 67 can be viewed in London until 2 October and in Zurich from 16-17 October 2012.