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    Historic Phanes Stater

    IONIA. Ephesus. Phanes (ca. 625-600 BC). EL stater (23mm, 14.14 gm). NGC (photo-certificate) VF 4/5 - 4/5. Milesian standard. Spotted stag walking right, head lowered, ΦΑΝΟΣ EMI ΣEIMA ("I am the badge of Phanes" or "I am the tomb of light") above, retrograde / Two square incuse punches flanking rectangular incuse, all with linear cross-hatch patterns within. BMC Ionia 1 (same dies). Weidauer 39 (same dies). Linzalone LN1074. Clearly struck on a broad oval planchet, with a fine stag and an entirely legible inscription. A rare opportunity to acquire one of the most historic of all ancient coins!

    Ex Heritage Auctions 3061 (8 January 2018), lot 32049.

    One of the earliest recorded coins to bear both a type and inscription, the famous electrum stater bearing a stag and the retrograde legend "I am the badge of Phanes" stands apart for both historical importance and vigorous archaic artistry. The Phanes coinage falls into seven denominations, from the (extremely rare) full stater down to a 1/96 stater, all featuring the stag in various poses; only the full stater and third-stater or trite are inscribed. The early date of the issue is confirmed both by the archaic artwork and legend (some of the Greek letters are of early form, and the die engravers had not yet learned to reverse their inscriptions in the die so as to read correctly on the struck coin), and the discovery of a fraction from the same series in a votive deposit in the foundations for the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, which commenced construction prior to 550 BC. If indeed a person, the "Phanes" named on this piece is likely unknown to history: He might have been a Carian or Ephesian treasury minister of the later 7th century BC, or a private individual wealthy enough to strike his own coinage. Wolfgang Kastner, in SNR 65 (1986), points out that, grammatically, "Phanos" (as on the staters and halves) or "Phaneos" (as rendered on electrum trites) cannot be the genitive of the male name Phanes. He theorizes that the legend refers to a goddess called "Phano" or a place name. An alternative reading of the legend as "I am the tomb of light" has also been proposed, supporting the possibility that the name and types refer to a divinity, perhaps Apollo-Phaneos (light-bringer) or Artemis (due to the stag).

    While the total number of examples of this type is hard to say, it is clear that it is an extremely rare piece. Our research has shown that only five that have been sold at public auction. The first to reach the auction block was offered by A. Tkalec A.G. on 29 February 2000 (lot 114), bringing the equivalent of $287,600 hammer. A second example was sold by Gorny & Mosch on 8 March 2010 (lot 146) for the equivalent of $409,500 hammer, and a third was sold by Numismatik Lanz on 5 June 2014 (lot 252), achieving the equivalent of $381,200 hammer. The fourth was the present coin, previously sold by Heritage as noted above, and a fifth sold by Harlan Berk (ex Jonathan Rosen Collection) on 18 January 2018 (lot 1) for $160,000. There are another couple in public collections (such as the British Museum), and we have heard rumors of a handful that have traded privately. All in all, it would seem that there are no more than a dozen or so examples in existence.

    This coin has been issued a photo-certificate by NGC. It may be sent in for encapsulation after the auction at the request of the buyer, free of charge. Please e-mail if you would like to utilize this option.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2019
    15th Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 5
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 2,604

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