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    Lovely Arsinoe Octodrachm

    PTOLEMAIC EGYPT. Arsinöe II Philadelphus (died 270/268 BC). AV mnaieion or octodrachm (28mm, 27.72 gm, 12h). NGC Choice XF 5/5 - 3/5, marks, graffito. Posthumous issue of Alexandria under Ptolemy II, ca. 251/0 BC. Diademed and veiled head of the deified Arsinöe II right with horn of Ammon; lotus-tipped scepter behind, K in left field / APΣINOHΣ-ΦIΛAΔEΛΦOY, double cornucopia, grape bunches hanging at sides, bound with fillet. Svoronos 475. Olivier & Lorber 171-250. Troxell, Arsinoe, Group 3, p. 44 and pl. 7, 3. SNG Copenhagen –. A few small marks consistent with the grade, otherwise well-struck from dies of pleasing style.

    From the Collection of A Scottish Gentleman. Ex Harlan J Berk, Buy/Bid Sale (December 2010).

    Gold mnaieions were first struck under the enlightened Ptolemy II (282-246 BC), who built the famous Library of Alexandria and towering Pharos lighthouse. In 279 BC he married his sister, the beautiful and ambitious Arsinöe, in the manner of the old Egyptian pharaohs. The sibling marriage scandalized Greek society, which gave Arsinöe the nickname Philadelphus, or "brother-lover." Arsinöe embraced the term, making it part of her royal title, and she proudly placed it on her coinage. Arsinöe's regal profile, veiled and crowned with a jeweled coronet, graces the obverse of most Ptolemaic gold octadrachms. The double-cornucopia on the reverse symbolized both Egypt's abundance and the joint rule of Ptolemy and Arsinöe. Gold coins bearing Arsinöe's portrait continued to be struck for centuries after her death in 271 BC.

    On the initial series of Arsinöe gold mnaieions, struck after her death by her husband Ptolemy II, the letters behind the queen's veiled head were used to differentiate different obverse dies. The die marked with a K (kappa) started out life marked with an I (iota), but after it grew worn from repeated strikes, mint officials had it partially re-engraved to restore lost detail, and turned the I into a K by the addition of two small "legs." The "K die" continued in use for the year, and the later strikes show a pronounced loss of detail, meaning even coins found recently in Mint State or About Uncirculated condition can appear quite worn.


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