Featured A Coin of Biblical Proportions

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by AncientJoe, Feb 4, 2020.

  1. AncientJoe

    AncientJoe Supporter! Supporter

    This type has been on my wantlist for many years but I've only had a couple opportunities to attempt to buy one and hadn't succeeded. It never comes beautiful and, to @Valentinian 's thread on "Condition and price balance", I wouldn't be 5x happier to buy the finest known (real) example which is just a bit nicer but at 5x the cost.

    I was the underbidder but never saw the coin in person (I had a dealer view and represent me). Upon seeing it at the NYINC show last month, I was willing to give the winning dealer a modest profit and finally cross an important type off my list.

    This coin depicts the story of Noah, including the dove, his wife, and the ark itself.

    It shows how Noah and his wife standing in the ark floating on the water, first sending out a raven and later a dove (to get information about the current status of the flood) and how they thank God for their rescue after leaving the ark. These successive events are artfully drawn together into a single scene in the reverse. A mural or a relief on a building in the city may have been a common inspiration for the various coin depictions: showing two frames of a scene makes this a novel and distinct artistic execution and very atypical relative to other scenes depicted on coins, closer in form to papyrus or reliefs.

    It's a large coin - 34mm - and a challenge to photograph. I'll eventually try again but this is at least decently representative of what it looks like in-hand.


    Many cultures have written flood myths, starting with "Gilgamesh of Uruk" in 3000 BC. In that myth, "Noah" was called Utnapishtim but the main thematic elements have noticeable similarities.

    Roma wrote a nice description of the type recently:

    "This reverse depiction of the Noah and the Ark saga is the only event recorded in the Old Testament to be commemorated on an ancient coin and is unique to Apameia, Phrygia. Founded by Antiochus I in 270 BC, the city was well located at the source of the Maeander and the central point from which many trade routes were accessed. Goods arriving from the caravan routes in the east were purchased in bulk by the city's merchants and repackaged into kibotoi (chests) to be forwarded to other ports. The distinctive wooden shipping crates became the symbol of the city's economic activity and eventually the city was known by the nickname 'ή Kίβωtός' (the chest).

    A local myth claimed, perhaps by the large Jewish community living within the city, that the mountain situated behind the city was Ararat, the place where Noah's ark (ή Kίβωtός) rested after the deluge. The depiction of Noah and his wife standing within an Apamean kibotos floating above water and inscribed 'NΩE' (Noah) is a visual representation of the connection between the Old Testament parable and the city itself. This reverse type provides visual evidence for the double meaning of the city nickname 'ή Kίβωtός' as both chest and ark."

    In his "100 Greatest" book, HJB says there are fewer than 20 surviving examples; I think that's under-estimated but it's undoubtedly a rare type.

    While there are some obvious problems (reverse smoothing and metal pitting), there are some positives: the dove is fully visible, as are Noah and his wife, and you can make out just a bit of the "NΩЄ" legend written on the ark, which is admittedly more visible in-hand (above my red underlines):


    I've been offered two "nice" examples with better metal quality or fewer problems but they were still far from perfect. In this scenario, I was willing to accept a couple tradeoffs in condition in favor of owning an important, historical coin.

    Perhaps I'll upgrade it eventually but a dove in the hand is worth two in the bush.
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2020
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  3. Ocatarinetabellatchitchix

    Ocatarinetabellatchitchix Supporter! Supporter

    Fantastic coin! Is it Philip I on the obverse?
    ominus1 likes this.
  4. AncientJoe

    AncientJoe Supporter! Supporter

    It is indeed - I should have included the attribution:

    "PHRYGIA. Apameia. Philip I, 244-249. Pentassarion (Orichalcum, 34 mm, 18.56 g, 7 h), Aur. Alexander, archon for the second time. •AYT•K•IOYΛ•ΦIΛIΠΠOC•AVΓ• Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Philip I to right, seen from behind. Rev. ЄΠ M AYP AΛЄΞANΔP//OY B APXI AΠ/AMЄΩN The story of Noah: on the right, half-length figures of Noah and his wife, in tunic and stola, standing left in square chest representing the Ark, inscribed NΩЄ and floating on waves; above to right, a seated bird; on the left, Noah and his wife standing left upon dry land, raising hands in supplication; above, a bird returning from land with olive branch in its talons. BMC 182. SNG von Aulock 3510 (same dies)."
    dlhill132, Broucheion, Edessa and 6 others like this.
  5. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I have always wanted one of these but know I never will. Most are rough; few have even two letters of Noah. Of course I would rather have one from the time of Septimius Severus (my specialty).
    The above is not mine and never will be. However, despite the lack of full Noah I would prefer the one below due to surfaces and four added attractions:

    What holes? I see no holes.
    dlhill132, Trish, Andres2 and 6 others like this.
  6. Gavin Richardson

    Gavin Richardson Well-Known Member

    A remarkable and significant coin. It could not have gone to a better care-taker.
    TIF likes this.
  7. Ocatarinetabellatchitchix

    Ocatarinetabellatchitchix Supporter! Supporter

    Darkness doesn't exist: it's only the absence of light.
    There is no cold: only absence of heat.
    Holes don't exist: they are only absence of matter.:wideyed:
    cmezner and Pellinore like this.
  8. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Wow! :)

    Congrats on this second chance acquisition!

    It is fun to read all of the different version of "great flood" lore across various cultures and times.
    panzerman likes this.
  9. Voyager

    Voyager New Member

    I'd love that
  10. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    What a wonderful acquisition for your collection!
  11. Theodosius

    Theodosius Unrepentant Fine Style Freak! Supporter

    Congratulations on the significant score!

    It was good luck you got a second chance at it.

    It is always exciting when you post a new coin because we all know it will be amazing.

    Valentinian likes this.
  12. TypeCoin971793

    TypeCoin971793 Just a random guy on the internet

    Really great coin!! I’m excited that you crossed an important type off your list and took the opportunity to share it with us! Your coins are always a treat to see.

    Due to the similarities and the fact that they are all contemporaneous with each other, I believe that there was an actual event. My guess is a comet/meteor struck in the ocean somewhere. This would have caused a massive tsunami that would have wiped out much civilization, and breaking through the crust would cause long-term vaporization and worldwide rainfall as seawater came into contact with exposed magma.
    Trish, Alegandron and TIF like this.
  13. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    That's what I believe as well :).
    Alegandron and TypeCoin971793 like this.
  14. rrdenarius

    rrdenarius non omnibus dormio Supporter

    great coin, story and second chance buy! Thanks for sharing.
  15. panzerman

    panzerman Well-Known Member

    Fantastic coin/ great historical versions of the Great Flood exist in many ancient cultures. That coin will find a good home in your fabalous collection:)
    Zacharia Stichin in his book the "The 12th Planet" found your version in Sumerian texts. The Sumerians believed the Annuanaki, colonized Earth, created mankind, but eventually wanted to wipeout what they created with a deluge.
  16. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter I dig ancient coins...

    Great coin and I imagine you are very pleased in having it.
  17. 7Calbrey

    7Calbrey Well-Known Member

    Bravo. When I'll post a similar coin this year, I shall entitle my thread " NOAH " "Inshalla".
  18. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Dombes collector Supporter

    Exceptionnal coin, I'm blown away by this representation, and didn't know its existence

    Thanks for sharing
  19. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    OR, the world is flat, and laying on the back of a turtle. The turtle slipped into a pond, and we got splashed. :D :D : D
  20. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    Wow, @AncientJoe ... wow! Iconic and Epic! Just fantastic.
  21. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter I dig ancient coins...

    Various literary traditions have Phillip as at least a "closet" Christian. I doubt, however, that his apparent interest in Christianity has anything to do with the depiction of the "Flood" on this coin. Anyway, if anyone is interested in regarding this gateway into the source material here is a relevant link.

    Theodosius and panzerman like this.
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