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    Description

    'Official' Fourrée?

    Athens. Ca. 454-413 BC. AR/Æ fourrée tetradrachm (24mm, 13.73 gm, 3h). Head of Athena right, wearing crested Attic helmet ornamented with three laurel leaves and vine scroll / ΑΘΕ, owl standing right, head facing, olive sprig and crescent moon behind, all within incuse square. Reverse test cut, revealing copper core, otherwise of good style. SNG Copenhagen 31. Lightly toned and attractive. Good Very Fine.

    From the R.G. Collection.

    There is still considerable controversy over whether Athens ever "officially" issued silver tetradrachms of silver-plated copper, or "fourrées." The technique of silver-plating a copper coin was widely used by ancient forgers, but these coins were unofficial counterfeits and merchants often tested coins for purity with test punches and chop marks, commonly found on early Athenian "owl" tetradrachms. In the latter years of the Peloponnesian War, Athens' once bulging treasury emptied of silver and the government resorted to many expedients to stretch the money supply. In two plays he wrote at the turn of the fourth century, the playwright Aristophanes makes derogatory references to changes in the Athenian coinage and refers to the new coins as "redheads," or "coppers." Combined with hoard evidence that at least some plated owls are die-matched to official issues, some scholars have concluded that the Athenian government resorted to issuing plated coins as an emergency measure. Certainly plated "owls" are commonly found and many closely resemble contemporary "official" issues in style; however, the "owl" coinage was ubiquitous in the Greek world and widely imitated (see the following selection of imitative types) with both pure silver and fourrée issues. Though hardly definitive, the weight of evidence suggests that at least some plated tetradrachms were "officially" issued; most surviving examples, however, are probably contemporary counterfeits. The style and fabric of this piece would seem to indicate it is one of the official "emergency" issues.


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    Auction Dates
    September, 2012
    6th-11th Thursday-Tuesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
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