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Antiquities Owned by Bankrupt Ex-Billionaires Sold Off

June 20, 1990

NEW YORK (AP) _ A 2,500-year-old Greek vase and two ancient silver coins brought record prices at a court-ordered auction of antiquities owned by the one-time billionaire Hunt brothers.

The 18-inch-tall vase from about 510 B.C. sold for $1.76 million Tuesday at Sotheby’s. The old record for an ancient vase sold at auction was $493,000.

The gleaming black vase depicts the death of Kyknos in battle with Herakles, or Hercules. It was reconstructed from a vase fragment signed by Euphronius, one of the most important Greek artists of the period, said Sotheby’s David Redden, an expert in the field.

Nelson Bunker Hunt and brother William Herbert Hunt, heirs to an oil fortune, lost more than $1.5 billion in an alleged attempt to corner the silver market a decade ago and sought bankruptcy reorganization.

The Dallas businessmen were ordered to sell off their possessions to pay their creditors, the biggest of which is the Internal Revenue Service.

R. Carter Pate, the trustee in charge of liquidating Nelson Bunker Hunt’s estate, expected all the sales, which will be held through 1991, to raise between $20 million and $25 million.

But Tuesday’s sale of 164 vases, coins and bronze figures generated $20 million alone, Sotheby’s said.

The record-setting Greek coins were the Decadrachm of Agrigentum, from about 465 B.C., which sold for $572,000, and an Athenian decadrachm, circa 465 B.C., which sold for $528,000.

The Athenian coin, with the goddess Athena on one side and an owl on the other, had set the previous record for a coin sold at auction in 1974 when it went for $272,000.

The Agrigentum coin is one of eight known specimens of its kind, Sotheby’s said. It shows an eagle and four horses being driven by sun god Helios on one side and two eagles perched over a dead hare on the other.

A coin struck by Brutus to commemorate the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. sold for $99,000. One side notes the day of the murder, the Ides of March, and the method, daggers. The other side bears a picture of Brutus.

Dealers from Europe, Japan and the United States were among those bidding. Many items sold for two and three times their presale estimates.

On July 21, 600 items owned by Bunker Hunt - including bronze sculptures of bulls, Indians and horses and porcelain birds and waterfowl - will be auctioned in Texas. An auction of sports paintings formerly owned by Bunker Hunt also is planned.

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