Thursday, March 26, 2009


I love the expression on this gorgon's face. I bought this obol in 2001 from Lanz's auction of Mr. BCD's Corinth collection. I'm very happy that my example of this coin comes from my favorite die of the type. It's a tiny coin; just 10mm across.

My version is a later example. I'm guessing it was made between 400 BC and the Macedonian occupation of 338 BC.

The earlier coinage featured a stern gorgon in an incuse square with the letters TRIH, for trihemiobol, in the corners. Although E. M. Cousinery attributed an example of this coin to Corinth in 1825 a paper by H. P. Borrell in the Numismatic Chronicle of 1840 argued for Tiridia in Thrace, a city with no known coinage, based on Borrell's misunderstanding of the inscription.

The same type was struck by Anaktorion, Leukas, and Medeon in Akarnania. The attribution to Medeon isn't secure; the M could be for Metropolis, Mesma, or it could be a Σ on it's side. It would be nice to assemble a set of these by mints but I probably won't live long enough. Coins of Medeon are rare! A note in the BCD auction (Akarnanien, October 2007) for a stater of Medeon says it is the only silver coin from that city to appear on the market during the last 40 years.


lwht said...

It is not often you see an apparently happy Gorgon depicted on a coin. More often the visage is threatening, or at least looking like the Gorgon is suffering a severe bout of constipation.

Is your collecting of Gorgon heads driven by mint, or by artistic characteristics, or something else?


Ed Snible said...

I became interested in gorgon heads after seeing a hoard of Parion hemidrachms offered by Perry Siegal of Herakles Numismatics. I bought two Greek fractions from Perry at that show but didn't purchase from the Parion hoard. Those were the first ancients I bought (aside from 20 uncleaned.)

I couldn't get the Parion coins out of my mind so I started looking at them on eBay. I only had one book on ancients then, Klawan's Handbook of Ancient Greek and Roman Coins, and it has some interesting gorgons as well. I didn't want to spend a much money so I spent a great deal of time on eBay trying to figure out exactly which Parion gorgons were my favorite. I eventually bought a hemidrachm, an example with the bucranium symbol below the cow. (I believe the obverses associated with that reverse symbol are the best.)

I thought I was just looking for a cheap example but the intense study caused me to develop an interest in all gorgon types. If I had just had a few books with a few pictures I might not have become so fascinated but looking at so many variations and details got me hooked. When I later read in in John Anthony's Collecting Greek Coins the advice to pick artistic coins that are available and not to try to complete any difficult sets I decided to do the opposite. I decided to go for a set. There are a few types I'll never be able to afford, for example the gold tetralitron of Sicily at $55,000, but I would like a set of all the types that Sear estimates at less than say £100. That goal is can be quiet elusive, as many types are extremely rare.

lwht said...

Thanks for the background. It sounds like your are amongst the fortunate few (in fact I know of no other) who found their area of collection focus on the first coin!

Out of interest, how many Gorgon heads does Sear list and how far along the path to completion of the collection objective are you?

Ed Snible said...

I now have a list of over 250 gorgons although many are merely varieties of denomination or mint city. Of my original list I found 21 cities in Sear GCV volume 1 (I can't find my list of volume 2). I have about 15 of them. Some of the remainder are expensive but can be obtained, like the gold obol of Syracuse (Sear #948).

Others are affordable but elusive. #2925, which Sear estimates at £100, is apparently unique. #2013, which Sear estimates at £80, is unique and it cost me about that much just to obtain a photograph from the British Museum!

Kevin said...

Nice coin, Ed. Collecting rarity can definitely be a test of patience. Within my area (imperial quadrans, tessera, semis), about 20% of the varieties make up about 80% of what is typically seen in the trade (rough estimate). I have collected most of the common varieties- now I just spend a lot of time looking and waiting for rare examples to show up. Overall, I think it is more rewarding if you really have to work and wait to assemble a strong collection. In the end, though, it is the academic journey of learning that is most rewarding for me. Show us some more of your favorite pieces!