The Prospero Collection of Ancient Greek coins
The Prospero Collection is a renowned collection of ancient Greek coins.
Background and history
According to numismatic circles the collection was started in the 1960s by the notable British architect Richard Seifert, most famous for designing a number of buildings in London including the Centrepoint tower, Tower 42 and the King’s Reach tower.
Before appearing for sale at Baldwin's Auction House in January 2012 the collection was believed to have been unseen for decades, and had not been added to in 20 years. It was stated to contain numerous coins “having pedigrees dating back to collections dispersed in the early 20th century”.
Coins within the collection
The collection contained 642 coins from the Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic Greek periods, spanning the breadth of the ancient Greek world from Magna Graecia and Macedonia to the Aegean Islands and North Africa.
Regarded as the finest collection of its kind ever assembled, it contained a wealth of rare, unique and highly important coins. Many of the coins had originated from the legendary Bunker Hunt Collection sold by Sotheby’s in the early 1990s.
Highlights of the collection included:
- A Demareteion silver dekadrachm from Syracuse, Sicily, featuring a Charioteer driving a chariot with Nike flying above and the head of Arethusa surrounded by four swimming dolphins, dated circa 466 – 405 B.C
- A silver Didrachm from Campania, Neapolis, featuring the head of a nymph facing to right and a man-headed bull standing to right, being crowned by a flying Nike, dated circa 350 – 325 B.C
- A Gold Half Stater from Calabria, Tarentum, featuring the head of Hera wearing a stephane, earring and necklace and Teras seated on a dolphin, carrying a trident, dated circa 334 – 332 B.C
- A Gold Stater from the Kingdom of Epirus, Pyrrhos, featuring the head of Athena wearing a Corinthian helmet ornamented with pegasos and the Godess Nike holding a wreath and a trophy, dated circa 297 – 272 B.C
Prior to the sale, Baldwin’s ancient coin specialist Paul Hill stated:In January 2012, the Prospero Collection was sold at auction in New York by the London-based numismatic specialists Baldwin’s.
“The Prospero Collection is the most important collection of ancient Greek coins to appear on the market in almost a quarter of a century, since the sale of the Nelson Bunker Hunt Collection in New York. This will, without doubt, be one of the most significant ancient numismatic events of our generation and an opportunity to acquire coins that have not been available for decades”.
Every one of the 642 lots offered from the collection was sold, for a total of approximately $25 million. This result more than doubled the collection’s pre-sale estimate and became the biggest sale in the company’s 140-year history.
The top-selling lot of the event was the facing head gold stater of Pantikapaion, a coin dated circa 350 – 300 B.C and originating from a colony in the Black Sea region.
It sold for a World Record price of $3.25 million, smashing the conservative estimate of $650,000 and making it the most expensive ancient Greek coin ever sold at auction.
After the remarkable sale, Paul Hill commented:
“The sale of the Prospero collection has far exceeded our expectations. It has truly been a once in a generation auction and one that will go down in numismatic history. It was an honour and a privilege to catalogue this collection and the results achieved are testament to the dedicated team at Baldwn’s.”
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