Author Topic: Alexander III: Tetradrachm, Babylon mint, Price 3704, Superb Portrait !!  (Read 4947 times)

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Offline mitresh

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Greece, Alexander III 'The Great' of Macedon, Silver Tetradrachm, 17.23g, Babylon mint, struck ca 317-311 BC



Finally, I managed my hands on a coin type that had been eluding me for long. When this coin came up, it was love at first sight. In my eyes, this is a perfect example of why Classic Greek coins are so much valued and treasured. This is NOT mere metal, it is sheer artistry and reformation of an ordinary metal into a piece of art. The die-cutter, coin hammerer and anvil holder combine to create a fascinating piece of magic and artistry that awes and leaves beholder generations later spell bound with their skills and mastery.

The Obverse die is boldly struck and in considerable high relief so much so that the young head of Heracles 'juts' out and seems to nearly 'come out' of the coin flan, if you know what I mean. The Reverse has great original lustre and again shows the legend and features of Zeus very clearly.

Babylon is an important mint as this was the city where Alexander died on 10 or 11 June, 323 BC. This coin was struck soon thereafter. Sometime back I had read on the net that one way to distinguish lifetime vs posthumous issue is to note the legs of Zeus on the Reverse, the lifetime issues have the legs straight while the posthumous issues have legs crossed as in this specimen. However, I do not know the veracity of this account.

The coin is slightly oval/oblong shape than round. A thought came to my mind, does this signify an eastern die cutter of Persian origin accustomed to the Parthian oval coins? I however doubt this as the mastery of depiction of Heracles/Zeus with the legends, monograms and style of Greek characters suggests an original Greek hand behind the die.

The coin has lovely dark toning that just adds to the overall effect. Haven't been able to stop drooling!
« Last Edit: June 03, 2016, 03:59:13 PM by mitresh »
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Offline THCoins

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Re: Alexander III: Tetradrachm, Babylon mint
« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2013, 09:22:49 AM »
Magnificent, Mitresh !!!.

This one has the same pinkish-coppery toning that my nicest Lysimachos Tetradrachm has. Likely this has to do with the metal composition.
For a discussion of crossed vs straight legs. There is a nice review on this matter Here

Looking a bit better at the monogram : Is this Price 3704  type ?
If so, that is also commonly labeled as Tetradrachm of Seleukos I Nikator in name of Alexander.
« Last Edit: December 09, 2013, 09:34:55 AM by THCoins »

Offline mitresh

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Re: Alexander III: Tetradrachm, Babylon mint
« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2013, 10:15:27 AM »
Fascinating link, Anthony. Thanks for sharing.
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Offline mitresh

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Re: Alexander III: Tetradrachm, Babylon mint
« Reply #3 on: December 09, 2013, 12:18:16 PM »
Yes Anthony, this is indeed Price 3704 but the original sale highlighted/marketed this item as "Alexander III of Macedon", is this mis-selling?
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Offline THCoins

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Re: Alexander III: Tetradrachm, Babylon mint
« Reply #4 on: December 09, 2013, 12:59:16 PM »
Does it really matter ? You already knew that is was an early posthumous issue.
Likely this was issued by Seleukos, thus might also be called a Seleukid Tetradrachm. You may be right that for some this might be less attractive than the Alexander name. but that doesn't do anything to the quality of the coin, does it ?
Look Here for the entry under Seleukos I. (Search for 3704 on the page, SC 82.6)

Offline mitresh

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Re: Alexander III: Tetradrachm, Babylon mint
« Reply #5 on: December 09, 2013, 01:55:51 PM »
No, it really doesn't matter to me. I would have taken the coin anyway. It certainly helps though to have the right attribution in hand from the outset. I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the seller as the coin clearly identified it as a posthumous issue. The only point is that it mentioned the coin as that of "Alexander III of Macedon" (sounds more sexy to attract the buyer) rather than a Seleucid issue in the manner of Alexander of Macedon.  Ignorance? Deliberate? who knows? Nothing to detract from the beauty of the coin though.
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Offline mitresh

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Re: Alexander III: Tetradrachm, Babylon mint
« Reply #6 on: December 09, 2013, 02:00:47 PM »
Did you notice the 'closed eye' of the Lion at 12.30 'o' clock? It even has fine eye-lashes if you observe closely (I can make out 3 strands of fine whisker like lashes at top and bottom of the eye).
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Offline THCoins

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Re: Alexander III: Tetradrachm, Babylon mint
« Reply #7 on: December 09, 2013, 04:37:45 PM »
As i see the whole of the lion cap it is clear that it is a lion. When you ask me to pinpoint the eye in a closeup this is much more difficult for me. And the eyelashes i certainly can not make out.
But that only demonstrates for me the ability of the engravers to suggest all sorts of details when i look at the coin from a distance !

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Alexander III: Tetradrachm, Babylon mint
« Reply #8 on: December 09, 2013, 05:06:51 PM »
The coin is slightly oval/oblong shape than round. A thought came to my mind, does this signify an eastern die cutter of Persian origin accustomed to the Parthian oval coins? I however doubt this as the mastery of depiction of Heracles/Zeus with the legends, monograms and style of Greek characters suggests an original Greek hand behind the die.

Cutting the die is one phase of the production process. Making the flan is another, otherwise unconnected phase. If the coin is slightly oval, that indicates that the flan was probably made by rolling a ball flat, much as you would do with dough to make a pie bottom. The ball must be rolled in two directions, or you will get an oval. This flan is round enough to have been rolled horizontally and vertically, but either the pressure on the roller was not exactly the same or the ball was still cooling off and similar pressure yielded less flattening at a somewhat later stage. The ball cannot have been very cold, as the edges of the flan are not cracked. Moreover, the deep relief probably necessitated hot striking.

The question of whether this betrays a Parthian influence is hard to answer. My guess is that the minting technique was quite similar in Macedonia and Parthia, but the Parthians saw a gain of efficiency by rolling in one direction only, while the Macedonians liked round so much better that they sacrificed the time gain at the mint for beauty. Maybe the only thing that can be said is that the coin passed the scrutiny of several people at the Babylon mint and was found to be within their standards.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline mitresh

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Re: Alexander III: Tetradrachm, Babylon mint
« Reply #9 on: December 10, 2013, 12:35:41 PM »
Thanks Peter. Your response is an interesting insight to the flan rolling process that I was unaware of.
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Offline ghipszky

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Re: Alexander III: Tetradrachm, Babylon mint
« Reply #10 on: December 27, 2013, 01:45:45 AM »
What a beautiful, beautiful coin. I agree, for my the coins are works of art to rival ancient Greek statues.
Ginger

Offline THCoins

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Re: Alexander III: Tetradrachm, Babylon mint
« Reply #11 on: June 26, 2014, 08:33:23 PM »
Recently newly photographed, i thought this would be a nice addition to this thread. As this is a very much similar issue of Seleukos I in name of Alexander the Great. The differences mostly are in the depiction of Zeus on the chair and the position of the monograms.

Tetradrachm 17.09 gr, Seleukos I i.n.o Alexander, Babylon mint, Price 3708.

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Alexander III: Tetradrachm, Babylon mint
« Reply #12 on: June 26, 2014, 08:52:16 PM »
I see a lettered monogram in a wreath and a single letter. They seem to have swapped places, compared with Mitresh's beauty. Is this how the coins are attributed to a ruler?

Peter
« Last Edit: June 28, 2014, 11:22:23 AM by Figleaf »
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline THCoins

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Re: Alexander III: Tetradrachm, Babylon mint
« Reply #13 on: June 26, 2014, 09:01:15 PM »
I believe the attribution of the posthumous Alexander Tetradrachms is a science in itself. It is not only the monograms, but also the portrait style, depiction and posture of Zeus and the details of the chair which are taken into account.
If you look closely at the chairs here, you'll also see differences between the two.

Offline mitresh

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Re: Alexander III: Tetradrachm, Babylon mint
« Reply #14 on: June 27, 2014, 05:29:28 AM »
Beautiful coin Anthony, still drooling  :o :o
In the quest for Excellence, there's no finish line.