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    Magnificent Archaic Owl

    ATTICA. Athens. Ca. 510-490 BC. AR tetradrachm (24mm, 17.28 gm, 9h).  Head of Athena right, wearing earring and crested Attic helmet ornamented with vine scroll, hair arranged in parallel plaits along brow line / Owl standing right, head facing, olive spray to left, A?E to right, all within incuse square. Cf. Svoronos Pl. 6, 1-6. Cf. Seltman Group L, 339. Extremely rare! Struck from dies of remarkably refined archaic style and very well centered, displaying full crest, facial features, and all four sides of incuse. Surely one of the finest examples extant from this seminal era in Athenian history. NGC XF 5/5 - 4/5.

    From The California Collection. Acquired from Ed Waddell, December 2012.

    The earliest "owl" coinage of Athens coincides with the momentous expulsion of the last tyrants and the city's adoption of the world's first democracy. The quality of this coinage veers sharply between dies of remarkable crudity, comprising most of the coins struck, and a limited number of issues displaying great refinement. The great disparity in artistic quality led Seltman to propose an "imperial" mint in the Attic or Thracian hinterlands, staffed by artists of little or no talent, and a "civic" mint whose engravers displayed the full virtues and vigor of archaic art. In the latter category falls this lovely tetradrachm struck in the last decade of the sixth century BC. The head of Athena exhibits a pleasant profile and her lips are drawn into a tight "archaic smile"; also notable are the arrangement of hair along the brow line, so reminiscent of the marble koroi and reliefs that exemplify the era. The helmet is undecorated save for a single vine scroll at the nape of the bowl and the broad crest is defined just enough to suggest horsehair. The reverse owl is likewise a well-proportioned creature, somewhat slimmer than later incarnations and standing proudly erect. Of special note is the archaic form of the Greek theta (Θ) used in the inscription, resembling a four-spoked wheel. 

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    Auction Dates
    January, 2015
    4th-5th Sunday-Monday
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