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Electronic Auction 519

Lot nuber 130

ATTICA, Athens. Circa 406/5 BC. Fourrée Drachm (13mm, 3.08 g, 9h). Emergency issue.

Electronic Auction 519
Lot: 130.
 Estimated: $ 300

Greek, Silver

Sold For $ 1 100. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

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ATTICA, Athens. Circa 406/5 BC. Fourrée Drachm (13mm, 3.08 g, 9h). Emergency issue. Helmeted head of Athena right, with frontal eye / Owl standing right, head facing; olive spray to left; all within incuse square. Kroll, Piraeus 3-54 (dies A/a); Kroll pp. 7–8; HGC 4, 1690. Toned, breaks in plating, exposing core. Near VF. Very rare.

From the Joshua Lee Collection.

Although the present coin does not match any of the dies in Kroll’s article, the style is so close to that of his dies A/a, that this coin must be from dies engraved by the same hand. As noted below, the hoard was massive in size, and it would not be surprising to find new dies by the same engraver(s).

In 405 BC, the Athenian playwright Aristophanes wrote The Frogs (οἱ Bάτραχοι), and in 392 BC, he wrote The Assemblywomen (αἱ Ἐκκλησιάζουσαι). Both plays contain pertinent references to the monetary situation in Athens resulting from the Peloponnesian War. In The Frogs, ll. 725-6, the Chorus complains that the current employment of less-than-honorable citizens and foreigners in positions of civic leadership is similar to the city-state's recent use of gold issues and so-called "grievous coppers" (πονήροις χαλκίοις) as currency, and in The Assemblywomen, ll. 815-22, one man complains how a decree of 394 BC, declaring these fourrées suddenly worthless, left him quite literally "holding the bag."

Suffering from a lack of funds late in the Peloponnesian War, Athens struck its first gold coinage, a clear sign of an economic emergency and one documented in the annual Parthenon inventories. In 413 BC, the Spartans captured Dekeleia and thereby cut off Athens from its main silver source at Laurion. By 407/6 BC, the need to raise funds for the city's defense became so desperate that the authorities ordered the melting down of available gold, including seven gold statues of Nike, which subsequently disappear from the inventory.

The "grievous coppers" mentioned in Aristophanes have consistently been interpreted as "official" fourrées, struck when the supply of gold was exhausted by 406/5 BC. Numismatists have subsequently attempted to distinguish this official issue from fourrées that were fabricated privately, which are voluminous for the issues of the fifth century. The 1902 discovery of a sizable hoard of plated tetradrachms and drachms at the Athenian port city of Piraeus provided the largest single piece of evidence in support of the theory that the fourrées Aristophanes mentioned were "official" issues, and not private fabrications. Re-examining the issue in 1996, John H. Kroll (Essays Oeconomides, pp. 139-142) argued that while the direct evidence was not conclusive that the "grievous coppers" of Aristophanes were "official" fourrées, no plausible alternative hypothesis existed, and that the identification of the 1902 Piraeus Hoard with the emergency coinage struck in 406/5 BC was very persuasive.

According to Kroll, the drachms in the hoard numbered in the hundreds, if not thousands, and most were disbursed into the market over the years following its discovery. Kroll analyzed the groups that were obtained by the ANS and Athens, as well as a number of private pieces that were identified. All the coins are of identical distinctive condition, coloration, and style, and were struck from a limited number of dies, nearly all had evidence of bronze disease. Another notable feature is that there is no crescent on the reverse on all dies. Only coins struck from the dies identified in the hoard can be reasonably attributed to the "official" fourrée issue of 406/5 BC. As the importance of these fourrées were only recently recognized, nearly all of the pieces absorbed into the market cannot be traced to the hoard with certainty. However, the consistent appearance of the coins noted by Kroll can be used as a basis for determining the likelihood of coins from these dies having originated from the hoard. The present coin is struck from the dies used on the hoard, and also has the same appearance as those coins, making it likely that this coin originates from the hoard.

Closing Date and Time: 29 June 2022 at 10:43:00 ET.

All winning bids are subject to an 18% buyer’s fee.