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Research Coins: Feature Auction


Remarkable Achaemenid Imitation of Athens

CNG 111, Lot: 411. Estimate $750.
Sold for $1400. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

EGYPT, Achaemenid Province. temp. Artaxerxes III Okhos – Sabakes. Circa 343/2-333 BC. AR Tetradrachm (21mm, 16.99 g, 9h). Imitating Athens. Head of Athena right, with profile eye, wearing crested Corinthian helmet with pi-style palmette / Owl standing right, head facing; olive sprig and crescent behind; AΘE to right; all within incuse square. Unpublished. Good VF, attractively toned, a hint of die wear, light scratch under tone on reverse. Excellent metal.

From the Ealing Collection.

This remarkable Athenian type tetradrachm combines an obverse of the earliest pi-style type with the reverse of the classical period types, but with the A of the ethnic placed high in the upper right corner, a characteristic that defied convention at Athens since the early 5th century. On closer examination, the style of the obverse die is a perfect match to those used from the Type III tetradrachms of Artaxerxes III through the Type III tetradrachms of Sabakes struck in Egypt (cf. Van Alfen pl. 7, 121–35, and Anderson & Van Alfen, Fourth, pl. 50, 39-41). This owl is also consistent with the style used on those pieces. The flan is of thick composition, as the Persian issues. The sole difference is that this coin bears the ethnic of Athens, and the reverse type is in an incuse square. While it is tempting to suggest that this may be the earliest of the imitations struck under Artaxerxes, the relative chronology of the dies in the Persian series does not support such a placement. An attractive alternative is that this coin was part of a parallel series struck under the Achaemenid administration that retained the city ethnic, perhaps to satisfy the requirements of the intended recipient of this coinage.