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    Rare Prototype Croesus Gold Stater

    LYDIAN KINGDOM. Croesus (ca. 561-546 BC). AV stater (18mm, 10.72 gm). Sardes, "heavy" standard, prototype issue of ca. 550 BC. Confronted foreparts of lion, right, with "sun" on forehead, and bull, left / Two unequal incuse squares. H.J. Berk, "The coinage of Croesus"  (The Celator October 1990), p. 9, 1. McClean 8635. Extremely rare, one of fewer than ten examples known of the earliest gold coin type extant, and hence of extreme importance. Well struck on a large flan for type. NGC XF 5/5 - 4/5.

    Lydia was already the dominant power in Asia Minor before Croesus (Kroisos) attained the kingdom's throne in about 561 BC. Perhaps because of his association with gold and silver, Croesus became legendary for his wealth, and there are several almost mythical accounts of his interactions with another quasi-legendary Greek, the sage Solon, in which they discuss whether wealth and possessions can truly buy happiness. The most famous ancient account of Croesus occurred at the end of his reign, when he questioned the Delphic Oracle as to whether he should make war on the rising Persian kingdom; the oracle answered, with typical ambiguity, that if he attacked the Persians he would destroy a great empire. In the event he did move to confront the Persian King Cyrus, and, after an inconclusive battle, was besieged and captured at his capital city of Sardes in 546 BC, thus destroying his own "great empire." 

    The most important reform attributed to him was the introduction of a bimetallic coinage in gold and silver, first augmenting and then replacing the previous electrum issues begun by his father Alyattes. The design chosen by Croesus, the confronting foreparts of a lion and bull, are thought by Harlan J. Berk to be symbolic of "strength and power" (lion) and "fertility" (bull). The lion had previously been used by Alyattes (see lots 2033-2034), and so an alternative theory might be that this is a dynastic type, with the lion representing Alyattes and the bull representing his son and successor. The earliest form of gold stater, now termed the "prototype" issue, shows the lion with a hemispherical "wart" on his forehead, likely representing the sun rising over the Lydian lion. The forearms of each animal are also positioned differently, in a more "action" pose.  Only a handful of these prototype issues survive today, including this specimen.


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    Auction Dates
    August, 2016
    11th Thursday
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