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Research Coins: Affiliated Auction

Sale: Nomos 3 & 4, Lot: 88. Estimate CHF4500. 
Closing Date: Monday, 9 May 2011. 
Sold For CHF6000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

ATTICA, Athens. Circa 485/480 BC. Tetradrachm (Silver, 16.53 g 5). Head of Athena to right, wearing crested Attic helmet. Rev. ΑΘΕ Large owl standing to right, head facing; behind, olive sprig. Kraay ACGC 185. Seltman Group E/F. Fresh and remarkably well struck and centered. Roughly struck and with some flatness on the owl’s body, otherwise, extremely fine.

From a European collection.

In the 480s Athens was feverishly preparing to meet an expected Persian invasion, especially by building a fleet, which would, of course, be instrumental in destroying the future invaders. To build this fleet Athens used the city’s silver reserves and the new finds from Laurion to mint an enormous number of tetradrachms, so many in fact that there were not enough competent die cutters available to produce them: thus the often extremely crude tetradrachms struck during this period. The present coin is, in fact, remarkably well struck and well made for this issue. However, some scholars believe that the very crude Athenian tetradrachms were not produced by Athenian ‘blacksmiths’ called in to create emergency dies, but by the Persians themselves, who had occupied the city while the Athenians and their fleet had fled. They would have used captured silver to pay their troops in coins that were copied from those of their greatest enemy.