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Research Coins: The Coin Shop

 
401901
401901. Sold For $3750

ATTICA, Athens. Circa 454-404 BC. AR Tetradrachm (24mm, 17.15 g, 8h). Head of Athena right, with frontal eye, wearing earring, necklace, and crested Attic helmet decorated with three olive leaves over visor and a spiral palmette on the bowl / Owl standing right, head facing; olive sprig and crescent to left, AΘE to right; all within incuse square. Kroll 8; SNG Copenhagen 31; SNG München 49; Dewing 1611–22; Gulbenkian 519–21. EF, wonderful deep iridescent tone, a couple minor edge splits, small area of flat strike on obverse.


Fifth-century BC Athens produced a vast quantity of tetradrachms. These “owls” depict on the obverse the helmeted head of Athena, goddess of war and patron deity of the city, and on the reverse an owl – emblem of the goddess – standing right with its head facing towards the viewer, an olive twig and crescent behind, and the letters AΘE before. The majority of Athenian tetradrachms were struck between 454- 404 BC, around the time of the Peloponnesian War. In addition to funding this conflict, the silver from the Laurion mines, coined into these ubiquitous tetradrachms, was used to fund the massive Periklean building campaigns on the Akropolis. Yet these coins, not merely for domestic use, had been since the early 5th century an important international trade currency, setting the weight standards for countless other coinages. Such broad acceptance of Athenian coinage required the engravers to adopt a certain stylistic conservatism, as foreign merchants might not accept a radically redesigned tetradrachm, and the basic types remained unchanged until the introduction of the New Style issues in 165 BC.