NEW YORK, JUNE 19 -- Record bids pushed the take beyond expectations at an auction today of coins and antiques collected by the onetime billionaire Hunt brothers, who lost their fortune speculating in silver.
The total presale estimate for the auction at Sotheby's was $12 million, but that figure was quickly surpassed. The total reached $17 million even before the sale was over.
Two silver Greek coins became the first and second most expensive ever sold at auction, and a Greek vase painted with a battle scene sold for a record $1.76 million, Sotheby's said.
The 18-inch vase, from about 510 B.C., is black with red figures painted on it depicting the death of Kyknos in battle with Herakles (Hercules). It was reconstructed from a fragment signed by Euphronius, one of the most important ancient Greek artists, said Sotheby's David Redden, an expert in the field.
The buyer was identified only as a European dealer.
The Decadrachm of Agrigentum, a coin dating from 410 B.C., sold for $572,000, followed by another decadrachm, circa 465 B.C., for $528,000.
The previous record for an ancient coin was $272,000 in 1974. That also was a decadrachm.
The first decadrachm sold today is one of eight known specimens of its kind, Sotheby's said. It shows an eagle and four horses being driven by the sun god Helios on one side and two eagles perched over a dead hare on the other.
The other has the head of the goddess Athena on one side and an owl on the other.
An item from Nelson Bunker Hunt's collection, the rare Ides of March coin struck by Brutus to commemorate the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C., sold for $99,000.
All prices include the auction house's 10 percent commission.
Bunker Hunt and his brother, William Herbert Hunt, heirs to an oil fortune, lost more than $1.5 billion speculating in the silver market a decade ago. The Dallas businessmen emerged from bankruptcy reorganization earlier this year.
Part of the reorganization called for the Hunts to sell off their antique collections and some personal possessions.