One-of-a-kind coin makes its debut in Jerusalem (Ha'aretz)
By Amiram Barkat
Valued at $3 million, the Tetradrachm of Aetna makes first public appearance at the Israel Museum
It goes by the name of the Tetradrachm of Aetna; numismatists consider it to be the most valuable ancient coin in the world; and from today, it is on display to the general public for the first time in its history - at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. For the purpose of the exhibition, an insurance company has placed a value of $3 million on the coin.
The principal reason for the Tetradrachm's value is its rarity; it is the only one of a series to be found till now. In addition, the coin is very well preserved, and the quality of its minting and the level of the artwork it depicts is most impressive. A layman can easily identify the smallest details, including the folds of Zeus' robe or the panther skin that covers his throne.
The Tetradrachm of Aetna, however, is not for sale, and the reason for this lies in the coin's Jewish chapter from the past. In the 19th century, the coin found its way into the hands of one of Catania's wealthiest residents, who then sold it to the Castellani brothers, prominent antique dealers from Rome. In 1882, the Castellani brothers sold the coin to a Jewish antique collector, Lucian de Hirsch, for a record sum of 8,000 Belgian francs - some $50,000 in today's terms.
Lucian de Hirsch died of pneumonia at the age of 30, shortly after purchasing the Tetradrachm of Aetna; and his mother decided to bequeath his coin collection to the state, in return for the naming of a collection room at the Royal Library of Belgium after her son.
Since then, the Tetradrachm of Aetna has been featured in various catalogs and research papers, but has never before gone on public display.
Thursday, May 27, 2004
THE TETRADRACHM OF AETNA � on display in the Israel Museum: