The Carthaginians in Italy, Sicily and North Africa. Tristater, uncertain mint in Sicily circa 260, EL 22.50 g. Head of Tanit (Kore-Persephone) l., wearing barley wreath and earring. Rev. Prancing horse r.; behind, palm tree. Below, b’rst (in the land) in Punic characters. Gulbenkian 377 (these dies). Jenkins-Lewis, pl. XVI, 371. Jenkins Punic Sicily IV, series 6, A. Extremely rare, only sixteen specimens recorded by Jenkins of which only six are in private hands. A spectacular issue of great beauty and fascination. Superb iridescent tone and extremely fine Ex M&M 52, 1975, 258 and Leu 71, 1997, 100 sales. Electrum (a natural or artificial alloy of gold and silver) was the original metal used for coins when they were invented in Lydia and Ionia at the end of the seventh century B.C. Although the idea of coined money spread like wildfire throughout the Greek world over the course of the sixth century B.C., silver, without the addition of gold, quickly became the preferred metal for coins at most mints. Electrum coins largely died out except at Cyzikus, Phokaia, Lampsakos, and Mytilene in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C., cities that produced them in part for use in the Black Sea grain trade and to meet the requirements of northern mercenaries who preferred them in payment. Carthage and the mints of Punic Sicily followed a similar pattern to the Greek world at large until the late fourth century B.C. They normally struck silver and, in a few cases, gold as well, beginning in the late fifth century B.C., but around 320 B.C., electrum was introduced for Punic coinage for reasons that remain unclear. The impressively large electrum tristater offered here was struck at an uncertain Siculo-Punic mint around the outbreak of the First Punic War in 264 B.C., at the same time that Carthage was producing a substantial emission of gold shekels. Clearly Punic gold and electrum issues were struck for different purposes and different recipients. The tristater features the similar Tanit and horse with palm tree types to those of the preceding billon trishekel, but also carries a Punic legend. This was originally thought to name Byrsa, the acropolis of Carthage, but is now usually accepted as the locative expression ”in the land.” It has sometimes been suggested that ”the land” in question was the Libyan territory of Carthage, but the use of irregular die axes (Carthaginian issues normally employed vertical axes) and Sicilian find evidence has led to the conclusion that the tristaters were produced at a Siculo-Punic mint rather than at Carthage. Unfortunately, the extremely vague legend makes it impossible to know whether it refers to a specific mint city or to a mobile mint facility moving with Punic forces in Sicily. The important Punic centres at Lilybaion, Panormos, and captured Akragas have all been proposed as the possible mint city at various times.