First Time Coming to Market
The Athena Collection
We are excited to announce a tremendous and rare find of an ancient coin that is nearly 2,400 years old. While individual pieces can be found in big auctions or at national museums, never before has such a beautiful and high grade ancient coin become available to collectors in United States, and this Old World find yielded some very high quality pieces and have been expertly conserved and certified by NGC. To find a group of About Uncirculated, Choice About Uncirculated, or Mint State pieces is a collector's dream come true, and we have done just that.
Completely fresh to the market, these coins have survived 2,400 years in very high grade and it simply amazes us that their condition was maintained for so long. The story of how ancient coins are preserved over time is fascinating, and this is your chance to own a piece of that history. The Athenian Owl tetradrachm was struck at a time in Ancient Greece when large payments of silver were required to fund wars and building projects in Athens.
These tetradrachms are from the 5th Century BC, when the famous city of Athens transformed itself from the leader of a group of city-states to the head of an empire. These coins were struck during the time of and essentially funded the First and Second Peloponnesian Wars (460-445 and 431-404 BC). The costs of war lead to an increased demand and production of coinage. In terms of architecture, this coin was used to finance important building projects, of which the Parthenon is the most well known!
The Origin of Heads and Tails
The Owl is the origin of the phrase heads or tails
as it was the first coin to realize a full design on both obverse and reverse. The head on the obverse is that of Athena, the goddess of wisdom and warfare. Athena wears a crested war helmet and has piercing almond eyes and lips drawn back into a tight archaic smile.
The reverse depicts the owl from the city’s coat-of-arms with the letters AOE represent the children of Athens. The inscription “ΑΘΕ” is an abbreviation of ΑΘΕΝΑΙΟΝ, translated of the Athenians
. The reverse of these coins features an olive sprig, referring to olive oil, one of Athens’ primary exports, as well as ironically acting as a symbol of peace on coins that were often used to fund wars. A crescent shape is seen, likely a waning moon.
Ancient coins such as these tetradrachms were commonly stored in clay vessels known as Amphora and many of these vessels would be stored underground either intentionally as a stash of value or lost underground after a city was destroyed in battle and covered up for the ages. Could this coin be part of a major military payment? Or an ancient depository that was used to fund the construction of the Parthenon?
This a brand new find of impressive high grade ancients and is completely fresh to the market. As the most famous and recognizable coin from the ancient world, the pocket piece of Roosevelt, and the origin of the phrase “heads or tails”, these coins will not last long!
Influence on American Coinage
The Owl was the pocket piece of President Theodore Roosevelt. The stunning high relief of the Owl inspired Roosevelt to commission the legendary Augustus St. Gaudens to redesign U.S. coinage, the result of which was the 1907 $10 High Relief—one of the most iconic issues in American history and paved the way for modern U.S. coinage we see today.
The Athenian Owl is a legitimate rarity, and the opportunity to own one in Mint State grade is few and far between. Grade is of upmost importance when figuring value, and NGC has developed a grading system to describe an ancient coin’s state of preservation, it assigns an overall grade and then addresses the Strike and Surface on a numeric scale.
In 2007 a panel of international experts voted the Athenian Owl in the top ten Ancient coins ever produced. The coin is also featured on the cover of “Money of the Bible” by Ken Bressett and on page 28 and 29 of “100 Greatest Ancient Coins.”