Masterpieces of Ancient coinage.

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by BenSi, Feb 4, 2021.

  1. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    I have quite a few owls, but only a few archaic examples. This part of the Athenian series of tetradrachms is a rabbit hole full of coins widely varying in quality. It seems, nowadays, that even very crude examples fetching prices in the $1,500 range or more, while coins with even remotely decent strikes, even with a test cut or two, seem to achieve ever increasing hammer prices at auction. One such example recently fetched a £3,000 hammer price at the recently closed Roma auction.

    Keeping all of this in mind, here's an archaic tet that I have owned since November 1992, by way of Harlan Berk. There is a notation on the tag "x. m&m #6 (1946) 664", which I am still trying to decipher. Was there an old auction firm whose initials were m&m?

    So, here's the coin. I am still learning how to take decent pics of coins with high relief, so I apologize for the obverse pic which is a little blurry.

    Athens, 520-490 BC
    Obverse: Athena, facing right, wearing an archaic style helmet.
    Reverse: Owl, facing in an upright position, AOE to the right, olive branch to the left.
    Seltman Group C or E
    20mm, 3h.
    17.52 grams

    D-Camera Athens archaic, tetradrachm,520-490 BC,, x M&M #6 1946 664, 17.52g Berk 92 2-7-21.jpg

    The centering, especially on the obverse is well above average, with a full crest. However, as with so many coins of this period, there are signs of die wear, particularly on the reverse. In terms of metal and surface quality, this coin very good.

    Another interesting point with this coin is that the O (theta) on the reverse seems to have the dot within a cross, which indicates that this coin might be a somewhat earlier issue.

    This coin doesn't hold a candle when compared to later Athenian tetradrachms, and it certainly is not in the same league or even universe when compared to later emissions from Syracuse and the Hellenistic period, but it does, in its own way, have a certain archaic charm.

    Edit note: I replaced the original image of this coin with what I think is a better one.
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2021
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  3. pprp

    pprp Well-Known Member

  4. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    Numisnewbiest and +VGO.DVCKS like this.
  5. AncientJoe

    AncientJoe Supporter! Supporter

    This is a superb coin in all regards - congratulations!
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  6. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    Thank you.

    I am still trying to figure out which Seltman group to assign this coin. I think it is C or E, but not really sure.
  7. pprp

    pprp Well-Known Member

    I think only someone collecting owls would appreciate its beauty. I was not planning to post this but you reminded me that there are a couple of collectors who do appreciate owls. This is the most important coin I have. It actually should not exist :wideyed:

  8. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    I didn’t jump right into this thread because I don’t think I own any coins that could be labeled masterpieces relative to some of the amazing coins shown here but... what the heck.

    Here are a few I think show particularly good artistry relative to their time and place.
  9. pprp

    pprp Well-Known Member

    With a 1946 provenance and a full crest I would not be surprised if it's a plate coin in svoronos or seltman. I will have a look :nailbiting:
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  10. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    OK, I'll bite, I'm just learning about these... "transitional" Starr group Athena but a mass produced owl?
  11. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    @Curtisimo, it's like, if the medievals from Provence made it under the radar, I Get to know that yours did!
    ...I'm especially needing your example of Maximinus II. Anecdotally (please read, from my level of ignorance), the stylization of the portrait doesn't intuitively jibe with the tradition of Antiocene engraving, to either chronological side of it. But, only that emphatically in this instance, the stylization is stunning, according to its own esthetic rules.
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  12. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    What is the story? I am intrigued.
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  13. pprp

    pprp Well-Known Member

    Athena is Starr IV, while the owl is mass coinage. The dies are at least 30-40 years apart. In theory it's an impossible combination...
  14. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    Nice owl! This coin looks like a transitional type, with a very unusual, wide A on the reverse. The hairline also has a slight wave, reminiscent of the Starr groups IV and earlier.

    A lovely coin!
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  15. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    I understand some think that the later Starr groups were confined to a very short period (i.e. a couple of years) before the mass-produced stage. Your coin seems to offer pretty strong support for that idea. Have you thought about publishing a paper on it?
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  16. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    Here's another candidate. I am photographing my collection on a less-than-systematic basis, so logically this coin came up next.

    What can be said? Well, this coin is another old friend from the early nineties, also from Harlan Berk. I have seen other tetradrachms of Eukratides I, but this example has always been the standard that I use for comparison. In style, condition and in execution it is a wonderful coin.

    Bactria, 171-135 BC
    Eukratides I
    Obverse: Eukratides I facing right, wearing a helmet that looks a lot like a very early pith helmet.
    Reverse: The Dioscuri on horseback riding right, BAΣIΛEΩΣ MEΓAΛOY / EYKPATIΔOY, monogram at right.
    Bopearachchi - Series 6, 51; Mitchiner 1.177dd
    31.5mm, 12 h.
    17.0 grams

    D-Camera Bactria Eukratides I tetradrachm 171-135 BC 17.0 Berk  2-7-21.jpg
  17. PeteB

    PeteB Well-Known Member

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  18. Everett Guy

    Everett Guy Well-Known Member

    What a great group of coins, always seeing new things I never seen before.
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  19. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    Thank you.
    The phases that the design of the Athenian tetradrachms of the 5th century BC are still a work in progress. What is meant by a transitional tetradrachm is that it is a coin that retains some of the design elements of previous design, yet is evolving to what will be come the standard design of the mass production owls.

    The coin that pprp posted is just a wonder amalgam of design elements. The grouping of the owl's tail feathers makes this coin a transitional one, in the Starr scheme of things. Yet the obverse has elements of earlier owls, notably the styling of the pointy-style face, the eyes and mouth in particular, as well as the pronounced wave in the hairline above the eye - an amazing coin.

    Hope this helps.
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  20. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    "Masterpiece" is an interesting word. The past several pages of coins have made me rethink what it means in an ancient numismatic context.

    Below is something that is crude, barbaric, but what i consider to be a true masterpiece:
    Constantine I VLPP barb (2020_11_18 03_38_31 UTC).JPG
    I firmly believe that the celator for this die was a Celtic master artist. The coin has very non-standard Roman appearance, but is extremely elegant and compelling. I like to think that the artist was at the top of his game. He obviously had an official VLPP as a model. However, illiterate though he was, he put his own, native artistic interpretation of the figures on this coin.

    Because this coin is not a simple "apeing" copy, but rather an original, inspired creation, I consider this to be a masterpiece of local artistry.
  21. panzerman

    panzerman Well-Known Member

    I would consider this a "Medieval Masterpiece" bf1544bbb0ffc08988643b4625ca3887.jpg
    AV Saluto d'oro Naples Mint
    Carlo I di Angio 1258-85
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