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Masterpieces of Ancient Greek Coinage from the Archaic to the Late Hellenistic Eras.







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                                                                                                                     March, 2015


 W                                New Style Tetradrachma of Athens (165 - 55 BCE)


     The final coinage of an autonomous and democratic Athens began in 165 BCE. Political and economic factors had permitted no regular silver coinage for at least 60 years. Then, thanks to a new Pax Romana in Greece and the Aegean, Athens fortunes revived and she began proudly issuing a new silver coinage. On one side of the coin, a fine profile image of Phidias' Athena Parthenos, and on the other, a stephanephoric owl. Athenian New Style owls were issued without interruption for 75 years until Athens unwisely sided against Rome and suffered a siege and sacking at the hand of Sulla. After the disaster of 88 BCE, Athenian New Style issuances were episodic and small, a tiny fraction of what they had been in the 130's and 120's.

    Numismatists are still not agreed about what occasioned and sustained Athens' New Style coinage, but there is in fact only one known source of revenue that could have underwritten this substantial coinage. In 165 BCE, Rome granted Athens monopolistic control of trade passing through the prosperous Aegean island of Delos. Revenue from taxing trade at Delos was the source of bullion for Athens' New Style "trade coinage". The stepanephoric reverse celebrated the revival of an autonomous  and properous Athens under the protection of course of the burgeoning Roman Imperium.



A112.  Athens. New Style tetradrachm issued in 159/8 BCE.

A rare Early Period issue illustrating the very first style of this coinage. The sixth issue according to Thompson's often confirmed ordering of the series. On the reverse the monograms of magistrates Eudoros and Hippon appear with a club, flanking an owl of the species that still inhabits the Parthenon. On the obverse, a profile view of Phidias's famous statue of Athena Parthenos that stood in the Parthenon. The worn dies show several die cracks (a common feature on the earliest issues), but overall the detail is exceptional and the style excellent, as Thompson notes in her commentary on the early issues. Thompson believes, correctly I think, that two or at most three celators were responsible for the first six issues and that these were amongst the best artists for the entire series. Thompson # 20.          


Unlike several Middle Period issues, whose populations have been enriched by new finds since Thompson published her comprehensive study in 1961, the earliest New Style issues remain quite rare, especially in a condition collectors find attractive. (Most of the Early Period New Styles grade "aT" in my experience, "aT" for almost terrible.) Thompson census discovered 12 specimens of this issue, three quarters of them impounded in museum collections. That  number was confirmed 16 years later in an update of her census. Including this coin, I have seen two Eudoros/ Hippon issues in commerce in 25 years. This coin, I believe I can attest, is the finest known example of this rare Early Period New Style. Early Period New Styles in this condition are now beginning to command several thousand dollars at auction.

16.23 gms., 34 mm. EF. Ex Freeman & Sear Sale 15, lot 96.



Terravitan@aol.com or 480-595-1293




A113. Athens. New Style tetradrachm issued in 154/3 BCE.

Popular Early Period "Caps of Dioscuri" issue struck with the monograms of magistrates Polycrates and Gryllos. The eleventh issue of the series according to Thompson accepted sequencing. The second group of Early Period New Styles, to which the Dioscuri issue belongs, reflects the pressure of an larger coinage fueled by escalating Delian revenues. This is clearly one of the best examples of the Dioscuri, but certain features of the treatment, especially of Athena's helmet, reveal haste in producing dies.


Thompson #64a. This Dioscuri issue weighs 16.73 gms on a large planchet of 35 mm.

ex Malter Galleries Auction #90, lot 37



Terravitan@aol.com or 480-595-1293.