Tetradrachms of Athens have long been one of the most popular series amongst collectors of ancient coins. Commonly referred to as “owls,” these coins were struck, with few interruptions, between c.512 B.C. and c.50 B.C. They feature the goddess Athena (the patron deity of Athens) on the obverse and on the reverse, an owl. Over the years, the thickness and diameter of the planchet changed, as did the relief of the die cutting. Even the weight of Athenian tetradrachms evolved along with the economic fortunes of the host city. Stylistically, the series is divided into three major eras, the exact dating of which remains a controversial topic among numismatists and historians.
The silver tetradrachms of Athens, which pair the helmeted head of the goddess Athena with the standing figure of her owl, were produced on a very large scale from the mid- to late-5th Century B.C. So many were struck that scholars consider it fruitless to conduct a die study on the series (a problem which, one day, might be resolved with the aid of technology).
Even though a large number of these coins survive to the modern day, it still is not enough to meet the interest expressed by collectors. Owls remain a staple of the ancient coin field, with most every new collector seeking one, and veteran collectors revisiting the series to find just the right example.
One design element on these coins that almost always is missing or is incomplete is the horse hair crest that adorns Athena’s helmet. The broadness of the obverse dies and the comparative narrowness of the planchets assured that most every Athenian tetradrachm of the Classical period was missing at least half of its crest.
Head of Athena with frontal eye right, wearing crested Attic helmet ornamented with three olive leaves and floral scroll, pearl necklace hanging from earring
Owl standing right, head facing, olive sprig and crescent behind; all within incuse square
A perfect choice for Numismatists, Historians, Military Veterans, Collectors.