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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, Greece, Old Style Tetradrachm, c. 454 - 404 B.C.

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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.
SL86746. Silver tetradrachm, SNG Cop 31, SNG Munchen 49, Kroll 8, Dewing 1611, Gulbenkian 519, HGC 4 1597, SGCV I 2526, NGC XF, strike 4/5, surface 4/5 (4280036-004), weight 17.14 g, maximum diameter 23.3 mm, die axis 270o, Athens mint, c. 454 - 404 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; $1650.00 (1402.50)


Athens, Greece, Old Style Tetradrachm, c. 454 - 404 B.C.

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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.
SH86507. Silver tetradrachm, SNG Cop 31, SNG Munchen 49, Kroll 8, Dewing 1611, Gulbenkian 519, HGC 4 1597, SGCV I 2526, VF, well centered on a tight flan, nice toning, banker's marks, light marks, die wear and cracks, small edge cracks, weight 17.07 g, maximum diameter 24.4 mm, die axis 270o, Athens mint, c. 454 - 404 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; from the David Cannon Collection, ex Beast Coins; $900.00 (765.00)


Athens, Greece, New Style Tetradrachm, c. 100 - 99 B.C.

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The owl is surrounded by magistrates' names and symbols. The amphora is marked with a letter that may indicate the month of production. Letters in the exergue may indicate the source of the silver used in production.
SL35724. Silver tetradrachm, Thompson 861d; cf. Svoronos Athens pl. 61, 1 (same magistrates); SNG Munchen 215 (same); HGC 4 1635; magistrates Dositheos, Charias, and Dion, NGC Choice VF, strike 4/5, surface 2/5, smoothing (2490379-008), weight 15.913 g, maximum diameter 28.2 mm, die axis 0o, Athens mint, 100 - 99 B.C.; obverse helmeted head of Athena Parthenos right, triple-crested helmet decorated with curvilinear ornament on the shell, griffin (or Pegasus?) flying right above the raised earpiece, and protomes of horses above visor; reverse owl stands right on amphora, A−ΘE divided by owl's head, above magistrates names ∆Ω−ΣI/ΘEO−Σ / XAP/IAΣ / ∆IO in five divided lines across field; control symbol in right field: Tyche standing half left, long scepter vertical in right hand, cornucopia in left hand; ∆ on amphora, AΠ below; NGC certified (slabbed); $800.00 (680.00)


Athens, Greece, Pi-Style III Tetradrachm, 353 - c. 340 B.C.

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The name Pi-style refers to the floral helmet ornament on the obverse which resembles the Greek letter pi (P) bisected by a long central tendril.
SH86206. Silver tetradrachm, Kroll Pi-Style p. 244, fig. 8; Flament p. 126, 3; SNG Cop 63; SNG Munchen 96; SNG Delepierre 1479; Svoronos Athens pl. 20: 2, Choice VF, well centered on a tight flan typical of the type, toned, bumps and marks, weight 17.153 g, maximum diameter 21.5 mm, die axis 270o, Athens mint, 353 - c. 340 B.C.; obverse head of Athena right with eye seen in true profile, wearing crested helmet ornamented with three olive leaves and pi-style floral scroll, pellet in ear; reverse owl standing right, head facing, pellet over eyes, olive sprig and crescent left, AΘE downward on right, all within incuse square; $800.00 (680.00)


Metapontion, Lucania, c. 300 - 200 B.C.

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Metapontion (Latin: Metapontum) was an important city of Magna Graecia, on a plain of extraordinary fertility on the Gulf of Tarentum, between the river Bradanus and the Casuentus. It was about 20 km from Heraclea and 40 km from Tarentum.
GB71325. Bronze AE 16, Johnston Bronze 68a; BMC Italy p. 263, 193; HN Italy 1704; SNG Cop 1254; Pozzi 542; SNG ANS 562 var. (Athena l.); SNG Morcom 296 var. (same), VF, green patina, some corrosion, weight 3.069 g, maximum diameter 15.5 mm, die axis 180o, Metapontion mint, c. 300 - 200 B.C.; obverse Athena Alkidemos advancing right, brandishing spear in right, shield in left; reverse META, owl standing right on stalk of barley right, head facing, wings closed; $190.00 (161.50)


Kamarina, Sicily, 420 - 405 B.C.

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A Gorgoneion was a horror-creating apotropaic Gorgon head pendant. The name derives from the Greek word gorgs, which means "dreadful." The Gorgons were three sisters who had hair of living, venomous snakes, and a horrifying face that turned those who saw it to stone. Stheno and Euryale were immortal, but their sister Medusa was not, and was slain by Perseus. Zeus, Athena, Hellenistic kings and Roman emperors wore Gorgoneion for protection. Images of the Gorgons were also put upon objects and buildings for protection. A Gorgon image is at the center of the pediment of the temple at Corfu, the oldest stone pediment in Greece from about 600 B.C.
GB73539. Bronze tetras, Westermark-Jenkins, type E, 194; Calciati III p. 55, 20; SNG ANS 1226; HGC 2 547 (S); BMC Sicily -; SNG Cop -; SNG Munchen -, gVF, nice green patina, weight 2.624 g, maximum diameter 15.0 mm, die axis 0o, Kamarina (near Scoglitti, Sicily, Italy) mint, 420 - 405 B.C.; obverse facing head of Medusa (gorgoneion) with radiating locks, fierce expression, knitted eyebrows, no hairband, chubby cheeks; reverse KAMA (downward on right), owl standing left on left leg, head facing, lizard with head down in right talon, three pellets (mark of value) in exergue, no control marks; scarce; $180.00 (153.00)


Pergamon, Mysia, c. 133 - 27 B.C.

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The cista mystica was a basket used for housing sacred snakes in connection with the initiation ceremony into the cult of Bacchus (Dionysus). In the Dionysian mysteries a snake, representing the god and possibly symbolic of his phallus, was carried in a cista mystica on a bed of vine leaves. The cista in the mysteries of Isis may also have held a serpent, perhaps associated with the missing phallus of Osiris.
GB84965. Bronze AE 17, BMC Mysia p. 129, 160; SNGvA 1371; SNG BnF 1813; SNG Cop -, VF, tight thick flan, scratches, weight 8.662 g, maximum diameter 17.3 mm, die axis 0o, Pergamon (Bergama, Turkey) mint, c. 133 - 27 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Asklepios right; reverse AΣKΛHΠIOY / ΣΩTHPOΣ, Asklepian snake coiled around omphalos, owl standing on the snake's back; $180.00 (153.00)


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; $105.00 (89.25)


Soloi, Cilicia, c. 100 - 30 B.C.

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Soli (or Soloi) was a colony of Rhodes, founded c. 700 B.C. southwest of Tarsus, in Cilicia. It was destroyed in the 1st century B.C., and refounded by Pompey the Great as Pompeiopolis (not to be confused with the Pompeiopolis in Paphlagonia).
GB57540. Bronze AE 26, cf. SNG BnF 1197, SNG Levante 872, SNG Cop -, aVF, weight 9.225 g, maximum diameter 24.1 mm, die axis 0o, Cilicia, Olba mint, c. 100 - 30 B.C.; obverse aegis with winged gorgoneion in center; reverse ΣOΛEΩN (below), Aphrodite riding bull right, owl before, monogram above left; rare; $90.00 (76.50)


Teate, Apulia, Italy, 225 - 220 B.C.

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Apulia, one of the richest archaeological regions in Italy, was first colonized by Mycenaean Greeks. Apulia was an important area for the Romans, who conquered it during the course of wars against the Samnites and against Pyrrhus in the 4th and 3rd centuries B.C. but also suffered a crushing defeat there in the battle of Cannae against Hannibal. However, after the Carthaginians left the region, the Romans captured the ports of Brindisi and Taranto, and established dominion over the region.
GB70442. Bronze uncia, HN Italy 702d, SNG ANS 752, SNG Cop 698, SNG BnF 1435, Lindgren 238, aF, weight 2.366 g, maximum diameter 13.3 mm, die axis 180o, Teate mint, 225 - 220 B.C.; obverse head of Athena right, wearing crested Corinthian helmet; reverse TIATI, owl standing right, head facing, closed wings, large pellet (mark of value) in exergue; rare; $80.00 (68.00)




  



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