Macedonian Bisaltae Tribe Octodrachm

The ANA World’s Fair of Money and Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio Auction to be held this August in Chicago will offer an impressive group of ancient coinage. The region of Macedon provides the location for the group that produced the impressive Octodrachm (equivalent to eight drachms) we preview this week. Before the time of Alexander the Great (and other kings of Macedon), various tribes ruled areas of Greater Macedonia, the region just northeast of Greece, but west of Thrace and the Black Sea. The tribe known as the Bisaltae ruled the area just north of the region that would develop into the important port of Amphipolis. The Bisaltae tribe had access to hills rich with silver, and were therefore able to mint large denomination silver issues (such as this Octodrachm). These large Macedonian issues were likely produced in a different manner than most conventional ancient coinage. The Octodrachms of the Bisaltae, as well as the Octodrachms of Alexander I and the Dodecadrachms of the Derrones, were seemingly produced in a two-part process. Flattening on the reverse would suggest the coins were struck with dies individually rather than at the same time, a process usually attributed to the coins’ massive size.  The reverse design was the first to be struck; the coin would then be turned over and struck with the obverse design. Evidence of this can be seen on the coin offered here as there is some flattening to the inside of the incuse square. The reverse incuse design featured on this coinage is purely ornamental rather than a function of pushing metal into the obverse die. The Dodecadrachms of the Derrones are perhaps the best example of this double striking method, as they display a Triskeles on the reverse which is predominantly found flattened or mashed as a result of the secondary strike.

The obverse design features the prominent bridled horse walking to the right, with a semi-nude warrior standing facing in the background holding spears, native inscription around.  Many Octadrachms in this series are engraved in a manner where the standing figure appears disjointed at the waist with the legs engraved disproportionately ahead of the torso. This was likely done because the horse’s hind legs were located in the same area. The piece offered here was engraved by a more skilled artist who was able to correctly position the warrior’s legs with the horse’s, allowing the coin the correct contrast and depth. The reverse of this piece, as stated above, is a shallow quadripartite incuse square that shows an even flattening due to the minting process. This piece exhibits good artistic style for the type and the engraving was executed in a semi-realistic manner. This coin is well struck on a nice large problem free planchet of excellent metal quality. Our ancient numismatic experts have estimated this piece to be of Choice Extremely Fine quality.

Look for this and other ancient and world numismatic rarities in our upcoming August ANA World’s Fair of Money Auction. Preview this impressive coin along with the rest of our auction this July at the Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio office located in Irvine, California. For details please refer to the Events Calendar link at To schedule an appointment, please call 800.458.4646. Our Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio August ANA World’s Fair of Money Auction is still open for further consignments of world and ancient coins, and our 2014 August Hong Kong Showcase Auction and sale is still taking consignments of Asian coins as well. Time is running short, so if you are interested in consigning your coins and paper currency (whether a whole collection or a single rarity) be sure to contact one of our consignment directors.

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