Alexander the Great is known for his military acumen. Numismatically speaking, he is known for the enormous output of coins he issued or that celebrate the late ruler, also known as Alexander III of Macedon.
A gold stater of Alexander the Great offered in Classical Numismatic Group’s auction No. 111, closing May 29, is an example of the continually evolving scholarship on ancient coins.
The coin, struck under Balakros or Menes, ancient rulers circa 332 to 327 B.C., at the Tarsos Mint, wasn’t always thought to have originated in that time and place.
The coin measures 16 millimeters in diameter and weighs 8.56 grams, about the same size as a Roosevelt dime and the same weight as a small U.S. dollar coin.
It shows on its obverse a helmeted head of Athena facing right, with a griffin on the helmet. The reverse shows Nike standing left, holding a wreath in her extended right hand, cradling a stylis in her left arm. A kerykeion (a staff with two oppositely twined serpents and surmounted by two wings) appears below her right wing.
The coin is now considered to be from the earliest series of staters of Alexander that were struck at the mint of Tarsos (Tarsus), a historic city in south-central Turkey.
According to the auction house, an early attributer, Edward Newell, originally suggested that the coin series from which this came (along with several others lacking a mint signature or date) was issued at Sidon.
G.F. Hill in 1923 (writing in the Journal of Hellenic Studies) maintained that attribution, though skeptically. Newell, too, later doubted his attribution, and suggested the pieces may have been issues of an early mint, at Damaskos (Damascus)
More recently, Georges Le Rider, in Alexander the Great: Coinage, Finances, and Policy (published in 2007), convincingly argues that the eight issues of gold actually were the first issues of Alexander-type staters at the mint of Tarsos, which assigns a new importance to these staters, according to the auction firm.
The re-attribution of the eight issues, no longer thought to be from Sidon, results in their being, not only the first issue of Alexander staters from Tarsos, but the first issues of Alexander’s new stater coinage from anywhere.
The coin is Near Extremely Fine and has an estimate of $2,000.