Such stuff as dreams are made on…The Tempest, Act 4, scene 1
Consisting of over six hundred coins from the Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic Greek periods, the Prospero Collection encompasses the entire ancient Greek world; from Magna Graecia and Sicily in the west, through to Thrace and Macedonia, mainland Greece, the Peloponnese and the Aegean Islands, the Ionian coast and beyond, and North Africa. Put together over several decades with a discerning taste for outstanding examples of the most beautiful and famous ancient Greek coins, the collection has not been added to in the last twenty years and remains complete and untouched. Not since the legendary Nelson Bunker Hunt Collection of Ancient Coins, sold more than two decades ago in New York, has such an important and comprehensive collection of high quality ancient Greek coins been offered for sale in one auction.
The Prospero Collection contains coins of sublime quality, of extreme rarity, of supreme artistic beauty, and of exceptional historical importance. Many of the coins have important pedigrees to the great collections of the last century, some dating back over one hundred years.
The artistic beauty of ancient Greek coins has never been equalled by any other civilization that has existed since, and The Prospero Collection contains masterpieces of the very highest archaic and classical artistry, created by the most famous artists and engravers of the time. Included in the collection are beautiful coins from the Greek colonies in Italy, a particularly fine example being a gold Stater from Tarentum. Its obverse shows the head of Hera and its reverse type, perhaps one of the most beautiful compositions of all ancient Greek gold coins, shows the boy Taras raising his hands in supplication towards his father Poseidon.
The coins of ancient Sicily, particularly those produced at Syracuse, represent the very pinnacle of the die-engravers art and they feature prominently in The Prospero Collection. There are examples of the Dekadrachm of Syracuse, among the largest and most famous of all ancient Greek coins, including a signed example, struck from the very first pair of dies engraved by the artist Kimon. The famous ‘Demareteion’ Dekadrachm, considered to be one of the most beautiful creations of fifth century B.C. numismatic art, is represented in the collection. The artist who created this coin is considered to be one of the greatest master-engravers of the archaic and classical periods. Apart from this important Dekadrachm, the collection also includes its companion piece, the ‘Demareteion’ Tetradrachm, as well as a Tetradrachm from the neighbouring city-state of Leontinoi, also believed to be engraved by the ‘Demareteion’ master.
The Prospero Collection is significant for containing beautiful examples of the coinage of Naxos. The coins from this city-state are widely considered to display some of the greatest artistry of all ancient Greek coins. The famous Tetradrachm from the mid fifth century B.C., its obverse type depicting the head of Dionysos and its reverse showing Silenos with his drinking-cup, is perhaps one of the greatest of all fifth century ancient Greek coins. It is important as it illustrates a move from the more rigid archaic artistic style to a more naturalistic classical one. The master-engraver who produced the dies for this coin is believed to be the same individual known as the ‘Aitna Master’, who produced the famous, and unique, Tetradrachm of Aitna.
The coinages of Thrace and Macedonia are very well represented in The Prospero Collection, among them being examples of the spectacular Tetradrachms of Amphipolis, with the facing head of Apollo as their obverse type. These are among the most sublime of all facing head coins ever produced. From the Macedonian Kingdom, there are historically important coins of Alexander The Great. Among them is an exceedingly rare silver Dekadrachm, its obverse type the head of Herakles wearing a lion’s skin headdress. Another special Dekadrachm issued during the lifetime of Alexander the Great was struck in Babylonia. Its obverse type shows Alexander the Great riding his horse, Bucephalus, in pursuit of an Indian elephant bearing a mahout and his master. This coin is historically fascinating as it probably commemorates Alexander The Great’s defeat of the Indian King Poros.
One of the most admired of all ancient Greek coins is included in The Prospero Collection. The breathtaking gold Stater from Pantikapaion, the importance of which cannot be overstated, bears a facing head of a satyr, bearded and with long dishevelled hair. The work of a master artist, it is without doubt the greatest ancient Greek gold coin and its appearance in the sale will be met with considerable enthusiasm by numismatists.
From mainland Greece are included exceptional early Athenian issues from the sixth century B.C., as well as a spectacular example of the Athenian Dekadrachm. The Dekadrachm is one of the most majestic and highly-prized of all ancient Greek coins, with the head of Athena as its obverse type and a facing owl, with its wings spread, on the reverse. From Crete, a very interesting Stater from Knossos depicts one of the most famous mythological creatures, the Minotaur, which had the body of a man and the head of a bull. The Minotaur, held captive in the Labyrinth, was fed with condemned criminals, maidens and young boys, and was eventually killed by Theseus in the well-known myth. An aerial view of the Labyrinth appears on the reverse of the same coin.
The Prospero Collection contains high quality Electrum Staters from Kyzikos, some of them extremely rare and with fascinating mythological types. A gold Stater from Lampsakos has a female head on its obverse, purported to be that of the poetess Sappho. From Carthage on the North African coast, a silver Shekel dating from the period of the Second Punic War against Rome depicts a male head as its obverse type which, it has been argued, could be that of Hannibal himself. The reverse of the coin shows one of the African elephants that Hannibal would have used to cross the Alps into Italy. An extremely rare silver Tetradrachm displays the head of the Carthaginian Queen, Dido, on its obverse. This coin was struck during the Carthaginian invasion of Sicily, and its artistic style is exceptional, suggesting it was created by a Sicilian die-engraver of the greatest skill. It is a masterpiece from the fourth century B.C.
Finally, from Kyrene on the north African coast are a group of spectacular Tetradrachms. The most important of these shows the head of Zeus Ammon facing three-quarters right. This excessively rare coin, apparently only the second known example, renders the head with immense power and majesty, the eyes being piercing and forceful in their purpose.
These are just a selection of the many highlights from The Prospero Collection, which offers everything that the serious collector desires, from superb quality and extreme rarity, to the very highest artistic and historical importance. A.H. Baldwin & Sons Ltd are proud to present The Prospero Collection for auction and it promises to be one of the most significant and anticipated numismatic events in recent decades.◀ Back