'Star' Croesus Heavy StaterLYDIAN KINGDOM. Croesus (ca. 561-546 BC). AV stater (19mm, 10.76 gm). NGC MS ★ 5/5 - 4/5. Sardes, "heavy" standard, ca. 550 BC. Confronted foreparts of lion (on left, facing right), with extended right foreleg, and bull (on right, facing left) / Two incuse squares, side-by-side. Berk 2. BMC Lydia 30. Boston MFA 2068. Gulbenkian 756. Very rare, an example of the first gold coinage ever struck. Deeply struck on a pleasing oval flan, with considerable detail on both bull and lion, and full, blazing luster in the fields. Among the finest extant and certainly one of the best we have brought to the block!
From the Buzz Owen Collection. Ex Jacob K. Stein Collection (Gemini V, 6 January 2009), lot 134; displayed at Cincinnati Art Museum, 1994-2008, no. 2 from the 182-coin exhibition from the Stein Collection (obverse illustrated on cover of guide); acquired from Harlan J. Berk, September 1991.
Here we have an outstanding example of what can justifiably be termed the "world's first gold coinage." While the Lydian kingdom and several Greek city states of Asia Minor had previously struck coins in electrum, a natural alloy of gold and silver, the accession of Croesus to the Lydian throne circa 561 BC ushered in a revolution in the world economy. The most important reform attributed to Croesus was the introduction of a bimetallic coinage in gold and silver, first augmenting and then replacing the previous electrum issues. The design chosen by Croesus, 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 creation of separate gold and silver denominations ranging from a full stater down to 1/96th of a stater was a visionary move that had a major impact on the ancient economy. Gold staters were initially issued by Croesus on a "heavy" standard of about 10.7 grams, the same weight as the new silver stater denomination (although, since silver is a lighter metal, the gold issues were smaller in size and much more valuable). Since they were only struck during the reign of Croesus, "heavy" standard issues are about 3-4 times rarer than the later lightweight issues, and are much more difficult to find in high grade. This example, graded full Mint State with the elusive "star" designation denoting exceptional eye appeal, is one surely among the finest specimens extant.
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