IONIA. UNCERTAIN MINT, PROBABLY CHIOS OR SAMOS. Late 7th – 6th century BC.
Electrum EL Stater, 14.11 g., 20 mm., struck on the Milesian standard.
Obv. Sphinx (or possibly bird with monstrous head) with closed wings standing right, stars (or perhaps letters) in field, all within dentate border.
Rev. Square incuse containing pattern of lines and protuberances.
NGC graded CHOICE XF, Strike 3/5, Surface 5/5, NGC 3988309-001, UNPUBLISHED and likely UNIQUE, obverse die engraved in a schematic style. Although the device on the obverse is difficult to make out, the reverse punch and general fabric of the coin offer some clues as to its attribution as they are very similar to those seen on stater issues of Chios featuring a sphinx – for an example see Baldwin, ‘The Electrum and Silver Coinage of Chios’, AJN 48, 1914, 2b, pl. I, a stater recently auctioned as part of the Prospero collection in the NY Sale XXVIII, lot 527 (note in particular the reverse punch that is very close to the one used on the present coin). Also of note is another stater with a more stylized sphinx sold in Triton IX, lot 949, whose reverse punch, although in a circular rather than square incuse, is analogous.
Therefore, it seems very likely that this particular unpublished piece is related to the Chian emissions (whether struck on Chios or another island such as Samos), and may well represent earlier attempts to establish the sphinx imagery that is later popularized on Chios’ coinage.
Note – some of the images show the coin prior to encapsulation.