This blog is about one of the most iconic Greek coins that were ever minted. These coins are known by almost all coin collectors. But this coin will also be recognized by most of the people in general. It is pictured on the modern 1 euro of Greece and partly symbol of the Greek city Athens nowadays.
I talk about the famous Tetradrachm form Athens minted more than 2000 years ago.
Three different types can be distinguished trough time although these types can also be differentiated in more types. I will only discuss the three general types slightly:
1) Archaic Tetradrachm
2) Classical type Tetradrachm
3) New Style Tetradrachm
Weight: 16.85 g
Catalog: Seltman-328, Asyut-Group III.
Obv: Helmeted head of Athena r.
Rev: Owl standing r., head front, olive twig with two leaves before, ?T? in l. field. Seltman’s “Civic Mint” issue, though misnamed by him and dated too late, contained some very interesting coins, including the earliest to bear the famous Athena/owl types at Athens in our opinion. According to Seltman, the tetradrachms of this group were “superior in technique and style” and “the finest medallic coins ever produced in Athens”; Athena’s features and helmet on the obverse were “carefully and effectively treated”, while the owls on the reverse were “of special merit”, “reminiscent of the style of the vase-painters of the period”. This class, in our view, was a trial or experimental group like the earliest Croesus coins. The present coin in particular supports that idea, for its reverse type, struck in extremely high relief, places the olive branch at the lower right of the design rather than the upper left as usual, forcing the ethnic to be placed to the left rather that the right of the owl. This variant type occurs only on this one reverse die, otherwise known only from a coin in Berlin published by Seltman and Svoronos, which was struck from a similar but not the same obverse die. The obverse die of this remarkable coin relates very closely to the obverses of the Persian War issues, though they are miserably made because of the massive quantity issued. Therefore, this is the last of the experimental issues.
Weight: 17.30 g – Diameter: 21.00 mm
Silver, HGC:4-1590, Archaic helmeted head of Athena right,Owl standing right, head facing; olive sprig to left, ATE to right; all within incuse square,Well struck on a broad flan, with nearly full portrait showing and full reverse lightly toned. Rare type and exceptional example of an archaic Athenian tetradrachm, unusually well struck
The iconography of both sides of the coin refers to the Greek god Athena. On the obverse you can see the helmeted head of Athena. And on the reverse, you can see the Athenian owl who represents Athena. Athena can be associated with wisdom, handcraft and warfare. But it was also the patron of different cities across Greece. Above all with the city Athens. So, it was a logical idea to place her on the coins of Athens since Greek cities referred to their own city on coins.
The Athenian Tetradrachms were the first successful international coins. They were minted from 510 B.C. until at least 42 B.C. when the Romans stopped minting the Athenian coins and replaced them for their own denarii.
Catalog: Kroll 8,HGC 4,1597
Weight: 17.23 g
Diameter: 24.00 mm
Obv;Head of Athena right,wearing earring necklace,and crested Attic helmet
decorated with three olive leaves over visor and a spiral palmette on the bowl.
Rev;Owl standing right,with head facing on left,;crescent and olive twig with leaves and one berry, ΑΘΕ to right,all withing incuse square
Catalog: SNG Cop. 63 HGC 1599
Three different types
Archaic Tetradrachm: At first there are the so-called Archaic Tetradrachms. These coins were minted from 510 B.C. until 480 B.C. These coins have a more primitive appearance compared with the following tetradrachms. The Archaic types are the most valuable ones because of their rarity.
Classical type Tetradrachm: Since 478 B.C. the Classical types were minted until 393 B.C. These coins were minted in extreme numbers. But their style is a real piece of art. They have more details and more life in them compared with archaic types. These coins are extremely wanted in the world. Quality and style make the price for these coins. The value varies between the €450 and €4500 each. A small difference can make the price here! An important difference is amount of crest that can be seen on the flan of the coin.
New Style Tetradrachm: The last general type that was minted is the New Style tetradrachm. The iconography is the same but the style is very different. A big difference is that the owl now sits on an amphora and that he is surrounds by an olive wreath. Of course, this all refers to the international olive trade of Athens.
Many Athenian tetradrachms can be found on MA-Shops. So, if you are looking for one you will find it here!
Catalog: cf. SNG.Copenhagen 137 | cf. Svoronos, Trésor Pl.43,23
Weight 16,92gr. | Silver Ø 32mm.
Obv. Head of Athena Parthenos right, wearing triple crested Athenian helmet, ornamented with griffon
Rev. Owl standing right, head facing, om prostrate amphora, Nikè in quadriga on right, within laurelwreath
Weight: 16.92 g – Diameter: 33.00 mm
Written by Joël van Dam, Owner of Joëlnumismatics.
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