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Research Coins: Affiliated Auction

Sale: Nomos 5, Lot: 162. Estimate CHF3000. 
Closing Date: Monday, 24 October 2011. 
Sold For CHF5500. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

ATTICA, Athens. Circa 430s BC. Tetradrachm (Silver, 17.20 g 9). Head of Athena to right, wearing disc earring, pearl necklace and a crested Attic helmet adorned with three olive leaves and a spiral palmette. Rev. ΑΘΕ Owl standing to right, head facing the viewer; to left, olive sprig and crescent moon; all within incuse square. Agora 8a-8b. Svoronos, Trésor pls. 12-13 passim. A lovely, bright, glossy and lightly toned example, beautifully struck. Virtually imperceptible scratch on the obverse, otherwise, nearly as struck.

From a European collection, acquired in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Athenian tetradrachm coinage struck from c. 449 until no later than 404 was one of the most immense series of silver coins ever struck. These coins were used all over the Mediterranean area for trade purposes: they were struck as a way of using the silver from the rich mines of Laurion and were reused for local coinages all over the Greek world. To give you an idea about how many coins must have been made, the “untouchable” reserve that was kept in the Parthenon in 430 BC consisted of 6000 talents of coined silver: i.e. 36 million drachms or 9 million tetradrachms (and this was a very small percentage of the coins originally struck!). Needless to say, the vast majority of the silver coins struck by Athens have long since been melted down and turned into other coins or objects. The present piece is a perfect example of those made during the later third quarter of the 5th century BC.