SICILY. Syracuse. Pyrrhos, 278-276 BC. Hemistater or Dekadrachm (Gold, 17 mm, 4.23 g, 6 h). Draped bust of Artemis to right, wearing pendant earring and pearl necklace, and with her quiver behind her shoulder; before, torch. Rev. BAΣΙΛEΩΣ - ΠYPPOY Nike advancing left, holding oak wreath in her right hand and trophy in her left; to lower left, thunderbolt. BMC 2 and pl. XX, 8 ( same dies ). BMFA -. Dewing -. Jameson 1125 ( same dies ). SNG Delepierre -. Pozzi (Boutin) -. Extremely rare, one of a very few known examples. A lovely example of this very important issue with an extraordinary pedigree. Light doubling and minor scrapes on the reverse, otherwise, good very fine.
From an old Swiss collection and from the collections of R. Peyrefitte (hors Vinchon's catalogue, with dealer's ticket) and Theodor Prowe, Egger XL, 2 May 1912, 855 (purchased by Spink for 1300 Kronen against Egger), from the 'Doubletten des Königl. Münzcabinets zu Berlin', Hess, 12 March 1906, 458 (purchased by Spink for 630 Mark), formerly displayed in the Berliner Münzcabinet, and from the collections of Dr. F. Imhoof-Blumer (1838-1920) and Gustav Adolf von Rauch (1805-1877).
Even to the specialist, the name Gustav Adolf von Rauch (1805-1877) might sound less familiar than that of R. Peyrefitte, T. Prowe and F. Imhoof-Blumer. However, the status of von Rauch as a serious collector of Greek and Roman coins is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that his first collection was acquired in 1853 by the Berliner Münzcabinett, which also purchased a number of coins from his second collection after his passing.
Gustav Adolf von Rauch was born in 1805 into a wealthy Prussian family with long military traditions: his father Johann Justus Georg Gustav von Rauch (1774-1841) was an infantry general and the Prussian minister of war in 1837-1841, while his grand-fathers Levin von Geusau (1734-1808) and Johann Bonaventura von Rauch (1740-1814) had ended their careers as chief of the general staff and as a major general, respectively. Under the guidance of Benoni Friedländer (1773-1858), the young Gustav Adolf von Rauch delved into Greek and Roman numismatics, assembling an impressive array of circa 4,300 coins until 1853, when the Berliner Münzcabinett purchased his entire inventory en bloc for 7,000 Talers. However, von Rauch's passion did not end there, as he immediately started a new collection, of which the most impressive pieces were also acquired by the Berlinzer Münzcabinett, now headed by Benoni's son Julius Friedländer, in 1878. Unfortunately, we cannot say for certain whether our coin formed part of von Rauch's first or second collection, although there is some evidence in Friedländer's obituary on the collector that perhaps suggests the latter: '[...] er wandte sich nun besonders den Goldmünzen, griechischen und römischen zu, deren er eine grosse Anzahl vereinigte, darunter die schönsten und seltensten Stücke [...]' ('[...] he now turned to gold coins in particular, Greek and Roman, assembling a great amount of them, among which were the most beautiful and rarest pieces [...]'. J. Friedländer: Nekrolog. Adolf von Rauch, in: ZfN 5 (1878), p. 218).
It is worth noting that von Rauch, who was held in high regard by contemporary numismatists, also served as a major in the Prussian military and mixed with the highest social circles: his sister Rosalie married Prince Albert of Prussia (1809-1872), the youngest brother of the emperor Wilhelm I, and Gustav Adolf himself acted as the chamberlain of the emperor's sole daughter Luise (1838-1923). Such was his social status that Friedländer, in his obituary, reverently points out that '[...] lebte er hochgeschätzt vom Kaiser, welcher ihn mit dem Kronzprinzen in der letzten Krankheit durch seinen Besuch erfreute und so die treuen Dienste anerkannt hat, welche er ihm und seinem Hause gewidmet hat [...]' ('[...] he lived highly esteemed by the emperor, who gave him delights by visiting him with the crown prince during his final disease, thus acknowledging the faithful service he had dedicated to his House [...]'. Friedländer, p. 219).