Kings of Macedon. Perseus, 179-168 BC. Tetradrachm (Silver, 32 mm, 16.99 g, 6 h), signed by the senior magistrate (and engraver?) Zoilos on the obverse, Pella, 179. Diademed head of Perseus to right; under the neck truncation, in small letters, ΖΩΙΛΟΥ. Rev. ΒΑΣΙ-ΛΕΩΣ / ΠΕΡ-ΣΕΩΣ Eagle with spread wings standing right on thunderbolt; to right, monograms of ΣΑ and ΖΩΗ; all within oak wreath tied at the bottom; below, star of eight rays. AMNG III/2, 195, 1, pl. 35, 23 (same dies). C. Boehringer, "Chronologie", p. 101, group I, pl. 7, 5 and 18, 1 (same dies). F. de Callataÿ, "Un Tétradrachme de Lysimaque signé au droit et la question des signatures d'artistes à la période hellénistique", RA 1995/1, 15 and 19 (same obverse die). de Luynes 1712 (same dies). EHC 588 (same dies). F. Mamroth, Perseus, 1 (same obverse die). Extremely rare. A lovely toned coin, with one of the finest of all Hellenistic ruler portraits, engraved by an artist of exceptional talent and sensitivity. Extremely fine.
From an American collection, acquired in 2009.
The portrait tetradrachms of the Macedonian King Perseus vary greatly in their quality: Mamroth, whose study of 1928 is vital for Perseus's coinage, divided the issues into five groups that span the eleven years of Perseus' reign. This coin is from the initial issue of 179/8 and has a bust of exceptional style and high relief, accompanied by the signature of an official named Zoilus. Since that signature appears in full (rather than as a monogram) in a prominent position beneath the king's neck it is likely that Zoilus was a senior governmental official, rather than just a mint magistrate; he may well have been the kingdom's Minister of Finance (to use a modern term). In any case, the appearance of his full name beneath the king's head may have led to criticism, thus resulting in its replacement by monograms on all later issues (his monogram also appears on the rare tetradrachms of Amphaxitis, struck in Thessalonica shortly after 167; thus indicating that Zoilos remained as a finance or mint official after Perseus's defeat). This coin served as a prototype for the mass issues of tetradrachms produced by Perseus, yet none of those even came close to its artistry. The spectacularly fine portrait, and the beautifully made eagle, are among the glories of all Hellenistic Greek coinage.