Coin, Sicily, Siculo-Punic decadrachm
ca. 260 BC - Carthage - AU(55-58) - Silver
PLEASE NOTE: this collector's item is unique. We therefore cannot guarantee its availability over time and recommend that you do not delay too long in completing your purchase if you are interested.
Head of Tanit/Persephone on the left, crowned with ears of corn and wearing a pendant earring.
Pegasus prancing on the right, wings spread.
An exceptional coin, as much for its absolute rarity as for the incredible finesse of its engraving, this decadrachm with spectacular dimensions of more than 37 g and a diameter of almost 4 cm (!) can only fascinate. The island of Sicily, first occupied by the Punic colonies, then by Carthage itself, minted these decuples to facilitate regional trade, inspired by the engraving models of their influential Greek neighbours. The result is simply stunning, on a module that never ceases to impress. The example we offer is superbly preserved, well centred, struck with great force and extreme precision on a meticulously prepared flan. A beautiful cabinet patina has formed in the fields and reliefs, alternating between golde reflections and iridescent tones, particularly on the reverse. The details of Pegasus' wing or Tanit-Persephone's hair never cease to amaze, this is truly a spectacular object! This decadrachm was sold in the Vinchon sale of the P M collection, 7 November 1966, lot no. 24; it is supplied with the collector's labels. Head 880; Coll. de Luynes 3757; M. 127; Jenkins & Lewis, pl. 27-2.
BARZTH in Punic characters. This legend means "in the lands" or "on the territory", to be understood and developed into "(currency minted) in the territories (of Carthage)".
- Denomination: Décadrachme
- Year: ca. 260 BC
- Mint name: Carthage
- Composition: Silver
- Diameter: 39.8
- Greece province: Sicily
Silver can fall into your pocket but also falls between copper and gold in group 11 of the periodic table. Three metals frequently used to mint coins. There are two good reasons for using silver: it is a precious metal and oxidizes little upon contact with air. Two advantages not to be taken for granted.
Here is thus a metal that won’t vanish into thin air.
It’s chemical symbol Ag is derived from the Latin word for silver (argentum), compare Ancient Greek ἄργυρος (árgyros). Silver has a white, shiny appearance and, to add a little bit of esotericism or polytheism to the mix, is traditionally dedicated to the Moon or the goddess Artemis (Diana to the Romans).
As a precious metal, just like gold, silver is used to mint coins with an intrinsic value, meaning their value is constituted by the material of which they are made. It should be noted that small quantities of other metals are frequently added to silver to make it harder, as it is naturally very malleable (you can’t have everything) and thus wears away rapidly.
The first silver coins probably date back to the end of the 7th century BC and were struck on the Greek island of Aegina. These little beauties can be recognized by the turtle featured on the reverse.
The patina of silver ranges from gray to black.
The millesimal fineness (or alloy) of a coin indicates the exact proportion (in parts per thousand) of silver included in the composition. We thus speak, for example, of 999‰ silver or 999 parts of silver per 1 part of other metals. This measure is important for investment coins such as bullion. In France, it was expressed in carats until 1995.
An “AU(55-58)” quality
As in numismatics, it is important that the state of conservation of an item be carefully evaluated before it is offered to a discerning collector with a keen eye.
This initially obscure acronym comprising two words describing the state of conservation is explained clearly here:
This means – more prosaically – that the coin has been in circulation but sufficiently little that its original beauty is preserved almost in its entirety. The wear is barely visible and any other defect can only be identified with a magnifying glass or a particularly keen eye. The number (55-58) indicates that between three quarters and almost all of the original luster remains.