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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ Themes & Provenance ▸ Birds ▸ OwlView Options:  |  |  | 

Owls on Ancient Coins

Owls are depicted on many different ancient coin types but the most prolific types are the coins of ancient Athens. The ancient slang names for the coins of Athens were "owls" (but in Greek of course) and "girls" (referring to Athena on the obverse, also in Greek). "Owls" were so popular as a central currency of the ancient world that the design remained essentially unchanged and somewhat archaic long after other cities began to produce coins of a more refined artistic style. "Owls" of Athens are still very popular. For collectors, they are perhaps the most popular ancient coin type.


Athens, Attica, Greece, c. 454 - 449 B.C., Very Early "Old Style" Tetradrachm

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On this coin and all classic "old style" tetradrachms struck c. 454 - 404 B.C., the owl's tail feathers are represented by a single prong. On Athens' earlier issues, the owl's tail is composed of three separate feathers. Other than the single prong tail, this coin closely resembles the preceding issues of Starr Group V, in particular the palmette and olive leaves on Athena's helmet, and the narrow, deep incuse of the reverse. It is very likely this coin was among the earliest of the classical "old style" tetradrachms of the c. 545 - 404 B.C. issues.
SH87206. Silver tetradrachm, some characteristics of Starr Group V, but a single prong tail; cf. Svoronos Athens pl. 10, 16 - 18; Starr pl. XXII, 1 - 3; SNG Mnchen 46, Choice aEF, bold high relief, flow lines, light toning, bumps and marks, tight flan, edge cracks, weight 17.143 g, maximum diameter 24.2 mm, die axis 0o, Athens mint, c. 454 - 449 B.C.; obverse head of Athena right, almond shaped eye, crested helmet with olive leaves and floral palmette scroll, wire necklace, round earring, hair in parallel curves; reverse robust owl standing right, head facing, tail of one long prong, olive sprig and crescent left, AΘE downward on right, all within incuse square; rare style variant; $3420.00 (2907.00)


Athens, Attica, Greece, c. 449 - 431 B.C., Time of Pericles, Old Style Tetradrachm

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The old-style tetradrachm of Athens is famous for its almond shaped eye, archaic smile, and charming owl reverse. Around 480 B.C. a wreath of olive leaves and a decorative scroll were added to Athena's helmet. On the reverse, a crescent moon was added.

During the period 449 - 413 B.C. huge quantities of tetradrachms were minted to finance grandiose building projects such as the Parthenon and to cover the costs of the Peloponnesian War.
SH87860. Silver tetradrachm, SNG Cop 31, SNG Mnchen 49, Kroll 8, Dewing 1611, Gulbenkian 519, HGC 4 1597, SGCV I 2526 , gVF+, sculptural high relief, well centered, uneven toning, edge splits, weight 17.169 g, maximum diameter 24.4 mm, die axis 285o, Athens mint, c. 449 - 431 B.C.; obverse head of Athena right, almond shaped eye, crested helmet with olive leaves and floral scroll, wire necklace, round earring, hair in parallel curves; reverse owl standing right, head facing, erect in posture, olive sprig and crescent left, AΘE downward on right, all within incuse square; ex Savoca Coins, silver auction 26, lot 169; $1440.00 (1224.00) ON RESERVE


Athens, Attica, Greece, c. 393 - 297 B.C.

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GS86848. Silver obol, cf. Svoronos Athens pl. 22, 1 ff.; HGC 4 1666 (R1); Kroll -; SNG Cop -, gVF, toned, tight flan, weight 0.695 g, maximum diameter 8.7 mm, die axis 270o, Athens mint, c. 393 - 297 B.C.; obverse head of Athena right, wearing crested Attic helmet with three olive leaves over visor and a spiral palmette on the bowl, hair in parallel curves, eye in profile; reverse owl standing right, head facing, sprig of one olive and one large leaf behind, all in incuse square, AΘE downward on right; ex Beast Coins; rare; $215.00 (182.75)


Persian Empire, Philistia (Gaza or Samaria), c. 375 - 333 B.C., Imitative of Athens

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A Persian Period imitation of Athenian types from the Holy Land. In the past these coins were all attributed to Gaza, however, recent hoard finds indicate a mint at Ashkelon probably also struck this type. It is likely that at least several small mints struck these imitative types.
JD86847. Silver obol, cf. Samaria Hoard pls. 45 - 50, SH269 ff.; Gitler-Tal 4.4.IX.1O; SNG ANS 18; Sofaer Gaza pl. 103, 6, aVF, toned, scratches, tight flan, weight 0.694 g, maximum diameter 7.4 mm, die axis 0o, Gaza(?) mint, c. 375 - 333 B.C.; obverse head of Athena right, wearing crested Attic helmet with three olive leaves over visor and a spiral palmette on the bowl, hair in parallel bands, eye in profile; reverse owl standing right, wings closed, head facing, olive spray with one olive between two leaves and a crescent behind, AΘE downward on right, all in incuse square, no Aramaic inscription visible; ex Beast Coins; $135.00 (114.75)


Persian Empire, Philistia (Gaza or Samaria), c. 375 - 333 B.C., Imitative of Athens

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A Persian Period imitation of Athenian types from the Holy Land. In the past these coins were all attributed to Gaza, however, recent hoard finds indicate a mint at Ashkelon probably also struck this type. It is likely that at least several small mints struck these imitative types.
GS86843. Silver obol, cf. Samaria Hoard pls. 45 - 50, SH269 ff.; Gitler-Tal 4.4.IX.1O; SNG ANS 18; Sofaer Gaza pl. 103, 6, VF, toned, well centered on a tight rhomboid flan, a little rough, encrustations, weight 9.4 g, maximum diameter 0.636 mm, die axis 180o, Gaza(?) mint, c. 375 - 333 B.C.; obverse head of Athena right, wearing crested Attic helmet with three olive leaves over visor and a spiral palmette on the bowl, hair in parallel bands, eye in profile; reverse owl standing right, wings closed, head facing, olive spray with one olive between two leaves and a crescent behind, AΘE downward on right, all in incuse square, no Aramaic inscription; ex Beast Coins; $125.00 (106.25)


Persian Empire, Philistia (Gaza or Samaria), c. 375 - 333 B.C., Imitative of Athens

Click for a larger photo
A Persian Period imitation of Athenian types from the Holy Land. In the past these coins were all attributed to Gaza, however, recent hoard finds indicate a mint at Ashkelon probably also struck this type. It is likely that at least several small mints struck these imitative types.
GS86844. Silver obol, cf. Samaria Hoard pls. 45 - 50, SH269 ff.; Gitler-Tal 4.4.IX.1O; SNG ANS 18; Sofaer Gaza pl. 103, 6, VF, toned, slightly rough, bumps and scratches, crowded rhomboid flan, weight 0.754 g, maximum diameter 9.5 mm, die axis 270o, Gaza(?) mint, c. 375 - 333 B.C.; obverse head of Athena right, wearing crested Attic helmet with three olive leaves over visor and a spiral palmette on the bowl, hair in parallel bands, eye in profile; reverse owl standing right, wings closed, head facing, olive spray with one olive between two leaves and a crescent behind, AΘE downward on right, all in incuse square, no Aramaic inscription; ex Beast Coins; $125.00 (106.25)


Persian Empire, Philistia (Gaza or Samaria), c. 375 - 333 B.C., Imitative of Athens

Click for a larger photo
A Persian Period imitation of Athenian types from the Holy Land. In the past these coins were all attributed to Gaza, however, recent hoard finds indicate a mint at Ashkelon probably also struck this type. It is likely that at least several small mints struck these imitative types.
JD86845. Silver hemiobol, cf. Samaria Hoard pls. 50 - 51, SH306 ff.; SNG ANS 20, gF, toned, die wear, rough/porous, irregular flan, edge chips, weight 0.216 g, maximum diameter 6.6 mm, die axis 270o, Gaza(?) mint, c. 375 - 333 B.C.; obverse head of Athena right, wearing crested Attic helmet with three olive leaves over visor and a spiral palmette on the bowl, hair in parallel bands, very large eye in profile; reverse owl standing right, wings closed, head facing, olive spray with one olive between two leaves behind (no crescent visible), AΘE downward on right (off flan), all in incuse square; ex Beast Coins; $90.00 (76.50)


Seleukid Kingdom, Cleopatra Thea and Antiochus VIII Grypus, 125 - 121 B.C.

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Antiochus VIII Epiphanes Grypus (Hook-Nose) was crowned as a teenager, ruling jointly with his mother Cleopatra Thea. In 121 B.C., one day when he returned from a hunt, his mother offered him a cup of wine. Since this was not common behavior for her, Grypus was suspicious and forced her to drink the wine; poisoned, it killed her. Grypus fought a civil war with his brother that ended with his murder.
GB87733. Bronze AE 19, Houghton-Lorber II 2263(2)a, Houghton CSE 317, SNG Spaer 2443, HGC 9 1189 (S), VF, highlighting desert patina, struck with a worn obverse die, obverse slightly off center, beveled reverse edge, weight 5.690 g, maximum diameter 18.9 mm, die axis 0o, Antioch (Antakya, Turkey) mint, 123 - 122 B.C.; obverse radiate head of Antiochus VIII right; reverse BAΣIΛIΣΣHΣ / KΛEOΠATPAΣ / KAI BAΣIΛEΩΣ / ANTIOXOY in four downward lines first two on the right, last two on left, owl, looking forward, standing right on amphora on its side, IE (control) inner right; ϘP (Seleucid Era year 190) with aphlaston (control) to right below; scarce; $90.00 (76.50)


Persian Empire, Judaea (Yehudah), 375 - 333 B.C.

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Minted in Judaea while under Persian control, prior to Alexander the Great's conquest. Click here to see a map of the Persian Empire about 500 B.C.
JD59398. Silver obol, Meshorer TJC 5, Hendin 1051, aF, weight 0.487 g, maximum diameter 8.4 mm, c. 375 - 333 B.C.; obverse oriental style head of Athena; reverse Aramaic inscription, owl standing left, head facing, olive spray right; rare; $60.00 (51.00)







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