Although we have had quite a few readers respond to the attribution challenge in our June issue, the mystery coin remains unidentified. One of the respondents, Dr. R.J. Hubartt of Florida, wrote "This is a very interesting and educational experience. You should consider doing this in more issues." Perhaps we will!
Practically everyone figured out that the coin is a didrachm, and most guesses were of cities in mainland Greece or the Greek Islands. Sorry Ross, it's not from Crete. One reader guessed that the coin is from Heraclea in Ionia, not a bad guess from an art historian's point of view as the styles are quite similar. Others guessed Athens, which is altogether too obvious for a competition of this magnitude. At least two readers guessed that it was an issue under Sulla.
We hate to see the offer of a free subscription go unclaimed, so we are going to give everyone another chance. The deadline for submissions is hereby extended to August I, 1993, and we will announce the winner(?) in our September issue. For those who missed the details of our little competition see page 12 of the June issue of The Celator. Those who have already submitted unsuccessful guesses, and that includes all of you who have written in, may send in another three guesses.
Since this is admittedly a tough challenge, we are going to give a couple of hints to guide your search. The coin is indeed a didrachm, and it is unpublished, but another specimen was cataloged in a sale which took place on July 2, 1928. The reverse includes the city name and the name of a magistrate, along with an archaistic Athena Promachos. Now, here's the big clue: This city belonged to and was sometimes the meeting place for members of an important League.
It is a little surprising that we did not receive a single response from a dealer. I'll bet we do now! Let me see now, where did I put those 1928 catalogs?
Having just stepped off the plane after a week in California, followed immediately by a week in New York, things are buzzing around pretty good here. If you're still waiting for an answer to that letter, you sent two months ago, don't give up it's coming! The siting of this Spring's NYlNC was much improved, and the show was well organized. Attendance was not re markable, but it was certainly adequate. We had a table on the bourse floor and enjoyed meeting many of the area collectors that we do not normally see when we're on the other side of the table.
The auctions held in New York during the week of NYINC defy explanation. The Christie's sale of the McClendon Collection of ancient Greek and Roman coins was very successful, with quality coins bringing respectable prices in spite of an uncertain economy. The sale included 234 lots which netted a total of $1,144,451. The sale set a record for ancient coins at Christie's, with 100% of the lots being sold. Exceptional Roman gold coins did particularly well.
It was another story at the NFA and CNG auctions, as floor bidders sat on their paddles and let some remarkable coins slip back to the consignors at amazingly low opening prices. Greek gold coins of exceptional rarity, that in the past were highly coveted and commanded high premiums, went to any buyer willing to raise a paddle for one bid. It was truly a sad state of affairs and points out all too clearly just how fickle the ancient coin market can be.
Of course, there are always kibitzers that will offer their expert assessment of what went wrong, but the bottom line is that too many coins sold for too little money. As a collector, one might ask "What's wrong with that?" What is wrong, is that the market that supplies thousands of collectors, day in and day out, needs and relies on a certain order and stability. That order has been challenged in recent years by the advent of mega-hoards and super counterfeits (Black Sea Hoard excepted). Price instability is a dangerous topping for this banana split. Let's hope that the condition is temporary. We'll have more to say about the auctions next issue, after the results are all in and we have a chance to digest the information
The preceding week, at Long Beach, we heard an interesting tale about a dealer that had so many coins he decided to leave a few behind to lighten the load. Actually, he only left one behind, an EF decadrachm from Syracuse. Fortunately, a colleague retrieved the piece from a deserted backup table. My understanding is that florists and Indian restaurants are going to be doing a brisk business for some time as the debt is repaid. We won't mention the name of this absent-minded dealer, but Bob Levy claims that if you bend over the case and listen really close you could probably still hear the coins talking about it.
We are proud to introduce the work of another well-known author in this issue. David Vagi, formerly a staff writer for Coin World, will be contributing a continuing column titled "Through the Looking Glass". David was formerly employed by Christie's of New York as a specialist in ancient coins, and currently heads the ancient coin department at Superior Galleries. We have admired David's work for several years. He is a rising star in the numismatic fraternity, and we think you'll enjoy his articles.
Thank you to everyone who came out in New York to say hello and for all of your kind words of encouragement. And to Eric McFadden and Tom Cederlind, whose encouragement, although something less than commendable, was at least memorable.
Have a great summer, don't forget the Coppertone, and drop us a note with your point of view!