To crest or not to crest - the marketing of owls on today's retail and auction markets

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by robinjojo, Apr 27, 2021.

  1. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    As with any ancient coin, the more detail the better, especially the prevalence of irregular flans, off-center strikes, die engraving of varying levels of quality, and coin surfaces exposed to environmental factors over the course of thousands of years.

    Given the narrow flans of most classical owls, the focus of attention is mostly on the crest of Athena's helmet, or lack of a crest. It seems that this is a crucial factor in determining a coin's sale price on the retail market, or the hammer price at auction, even if the "full" crest comes at the expense of a nose, or chin.

    "Full crest" is the marketing superlative given to owls who are endowed with this feature, even if the crest really isn't full in many cases. But, as with so many other aspects of selling these coins, that feature ultimately rests in the eye of the seller and buyer.

    Here's an owl that I own, graded EF, that came out of Roma's E-Sale 55 (4-18-19), lot 168, where is hammered for £420, plus 20% buyer's commission of £84, for a total of £504. That equals $701.00 at today's exchange rate.

    17.18 grams

    D-Camera Athens tetradrachm near full crest, EF 17.18g Roma 55 lot 168 after 449 BC 4-27-21.jpg

    While this coin has a nice crest, it isn't full. It also has some weakness, probably due to die wear on the lower obverse, plus a small flan flaw just above the brow.

    Would this coin, on today's market, be described as having a full crest? I think that is possible, given the premium attached to this feature, and the desire of many ancient coin collectors to have one really nice type example in their collections. Another factor to consider is the flood of money entering the ancients market, creating a seemingly endless upward spiral for virtually all ancients, rare, scarce and common.

    It is a shame, in a way, that owls not possessing obverse crests tend to get less attention, although I have noticed during an auction that coins with nice portraits and owls sell for more than cruder, less well executed examples, but there's little doubt, to me, that the demand for an owl for many buyers and bidders is determined by the presence or absence of the crest.

    Here are couple of owl lots with crest detail that sold in E-Sale 83:

    This coin is nicer than what I posted:

    And one more:

    What do you think? Please post any owls or other ancients you wish.

    Thank you.
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  3. svessien

    svessien Senior Member

    «Full crest», «Full steps», «Full ribbons», «Full bands». I know where this type of description originates, and couldn’t care less.
    Do I like your coin? YES! Does it have an interesting history? YES!
    That’s pretty much what matters to me.
  4. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

  5. ValiantKnight

    ValiantKnight I AM the Senate!

    My owl was from that same Roma sale. It’s not full crest unfortunately but this does not bother me at all.

    Attica, Athens
    AR tetradrachm
    Obv: Helmeted head of Athena right
    Rev: Owl standing right, head facing, olive sprig to left, crescent behind, AΘE to right, all within incuse square
    Date: 454-404 BC
    Ref: SNG Copenhagen 31
    Size: 17.19g, 24mm

  6. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    A wonderful coin!

    I especially like the style and good centering.
  7. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    I like your coin! If I were in the market for an Athenian owl, I would never want to sacrifice Athena's nose or chin for the sake of the crest.

    Mine may not be the worst owl anyone's ever seen, but close, perhaps, especially given the test cut and bankers' mark on the reverse. Crest? What's a crest? But I paid only $300 for it 14 years ago, and I like it anyway.

    NEW COMBINED Athenian Owl Tetradrachm.jpg
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  8. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    While going through the boxes I found an old purchase from Imperial Coins and Antiquities, David Michaels proprietor. That must have been back in the late 1980's.

    This owl is a totally different creature. It was sold as an imitation from Babylon, M. Mitchiner 113A.

    4th century, BC.

    17.2 grams and quite high grade with good quality metal.

    D-Camera Athenss Babylonia imitatioin tetradrachm 4th cen BC Imperial Coins 17.2g 4-27-21.jpg

    No crest here worth mentioning, and a very distinctive style eye of Athena, and owl on the reverse.
  9. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    Donna, it seems that you have two countermarks on the reverse, one on the owl's breast, and the other in the field to its right. The latter countermark is kind of hard to make out, but it seems to be a horse facing right, with some characters around it.
    Antonius Britannia and DonnaML like this.
  10. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks. I've never had any idea what that is.
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  11. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    Personally I'm quite happy for newer ancients collectors and investor types to obsess about one particular feature! I expect that's what allowed me to pick up this example (also from Roma) for only 340 GBP hammer:

  12. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    It does open up opportunities to acquire nice coins at reasonable prices for astute buyers and bidders.

    That's a nice owl for 340 BP.

    I think it would be listed as a $800 to $900 coin on sites such as Vcoins or MA Shops. On eBay I would not be the least surprised to see it listed at $1,000. Whether or not it sells at that price is another matter.
  13. Antonius Britannia

    Antonius Britannia Well-Known Member

    I wanted the sought after full crest designation. Mine is ex Heritage and I paid a bit much ($960 buyers fee included), but I love the coin, and am very happy. ngcowlo.jpg ngcowlr.jpg
  14. kazuma78

    kazuma78 Supporter! Supporter

    This is the one I ultimately decided on. I wanted most of the design present and while I didn't care about the crest truly being full, I wanted to be able to at least tell what it was.
  15. Nemo

    Nemo Well-Known Member

    Here are some of my owls.

    Athens Owls Authentic Plated And Imitations.jpg
  16. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

  17. Herodotus

    Herodotus Well-Known Member

    $375 USD total for this. Would I spend 2x-3x as much for more crest?


  18. DiomedesofArgos

    DiomedesofArgos Well-Known Member

    My humble drachm. I wanted an owl, but it's not my primary collecting area, so I didn't want to spend too much. One day, I'd like to get a nice tetra, but for now, this scratches my itch nicely.

  19. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    That's a beautiful owl, very well centered and a very good price for you. Congrats!

    An excellent owl! Yes, the full crest does not need to be present for a coin to have the beauty of yours.

    Actually this full crest business is quite silly, but there's a clear marketing incentive on the part of dealers and auction houses to promote it.
  20. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    You have some interesting countermarks on those two owls. One of the countermarks looks like a veiled head facing left.
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  21. Antonius Britannia

    Antonius Britannia Well-Known Member

    I thought the Drachms were rarer and more expensive? I thought I read that the Athenian mint was working overtime minting mid-mass tetra's and made very few drachms. I could be wrong/ mistaken
    robinjojo and DiomedesofArgos like this.
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