What's the secret handshake? Another new owl tet club member

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by TIF, May 23, 2019.

  1. TIF

    TIF Always learning.

    It seems ridiculous that I waited six years to acquire an owl tet-- arguably the most recognizable, most iconic (icoinic?) ancient coin. There were many reasons. Primarily, I was annoyed that they cost so much when they are soooooo plentiful! As if there weren't enough to choose from years ago, as you've all noticed a hoard of 10,000 (rumored) higher grade owl tets began hitting the market not long ago.

    ATTICA, Athens
    c. 454-404 BCE
    AR tetradrachm; 17.21 gm, ~25 mm
    Obv: head of Athena right, with frontal eye
    Rev: owl standing right, head facing, closed tail feathers; olive sprig and crescent to left; AΘE downward in right field; all within incuse square
    Removed from an NGC slab; AU 5/5 strike, 3/5 surfaces, "Parliament Collection"
    Ref: I really don't know. There are so many catalogs and types and I have no idea how nitpicky various catalogers are. Reid Goldsborough noted that David Sear said there were so many owl tets that in all his years he's never seen a die matched pair! Suffice it to say that this coin is authentic and it is from the "mass emission" period... a "classical owl tet".

    Why did I choose this one? Well, it seemed like a good time to pull the trigger. Prices are pretty palatable right now... still rather high but the coin is a must-have for ancient coin collectors and it is unfortunately popular with ancient coin tourists too. Of course the moment I bid and won I began second-guessing. Should I have waited?

    No, I think I'll be happy with this one. I had a bunch of criteria and this one ticked all the boxes while remaining, well, not exactly a bargain but not unreasonable for the quality.

    As with most of my coins, the reverse is the side of greatest interest and more than anything I wanted a well-shaped flan with excellent centering of the square punch. I wanted it to be clear that the reverse die was a square. As for the obverse, I did not want any part of Athena's face off flan or on the edge. Athena's head is large relative to this flan so there just isn't room for the full obverse design. I'm okay with that. The centering is awesome and the compact flan allowed the excess metal around the reverse punch to squoosh out in a nice way, emphasizing the squareness of that punch.

    Another dilemma was which era of owl tet to get. It had to at least be a classical era tet. I'd also like an early transitional tet (the "three tail feathers" tet) and an archaic, but the mass emission tet seemed logical as a first owl tet (I'm not going to count a New Style owl tet I got in a mixed lot six years ago). Maybe someday to complete the set I'll even go for a profile eye tet, the ones issued a hundred or so years after the coin shown above.

    I did not want any test cuts. Someday I'll look for one with a test cut, or even several test cuts, but for my first owl I wanted no cuts.

    The holder said "light scratches" but I'm hard pressed to see any. I do see horn silver though, but I don't find it particular distracting. Perhaps that helped keep the price down.

    Because it is hard to shown the dimensionality in a single still image, here's a brief in-hand video:

    The obverse relief is of course high and you can get a sense of it in this photo (not a photoshopped reflection; I shot it on glass with black paper underneath).


    Should I have waited for an example with better surfaces? More crest? Eh, perhaps, but I wouldn't have wanted to pay the higher price.


    After years of complaining about the high cost of these common coins, I finally got one and I'm really happy about it. You folks were making me envious with all your owls tets :).

    We've had a bunch of threads about these lately but feel free to show them off again, or any other coin you've initially "resented".
    Last edited: May 23, 2019
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  3. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    Wow, that's a beauty, welcome to the "Owl Club".

    Looks like yours is in the elite status of the club. Rarely do they get much better.

    Mine happens to be the first-floor level.

    Better then the basement I guess, that's where all the "chopped", "holed" & "cut up" ones reside. Spooky stuff.

    Attica, Athens (353 - 294 B.C)
    AR Tetradrachm
    O: Helmeted head of Athena right
    R: AΘE Owl standing right, head facing, olive sprig and crescent to left; all within incuse square.
    21 mm
    Kroll -; HGC 4, 1599

    Ex. Numismatik-Naumann, Auction 52, Lot 126
  4. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    Congrats @TIF! A splendid example! I really liked the side view too.
    TIF likes this.
  5. ValiantKnight

    ValiantKnight No longer on CT

    Ah, I was wondering when you were going to post your owl TIF. That one is a winner for sure!

    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


    Even though it has some wear and the reverse square punch is somewhat off, I was mainly going for as much portrait and reverse design as possible, on a classical owl within budget.
  6. TIF

    TIF Always learning.

    I would have been perfectly happy to buy your coin. That may be the best bang for the buck owl tet I've seen!
    ValiantKnight likes this.
  7. Terence Cheesman

    Terence Cheesman Well-Known Member

    TIF it is always fun to get a new coin especially if it is an Athenian "owl" just do what ever you do when you get a nice coin (little dance, fist pump, whatever) that gets you into the group. Yours looks like a Flament Group II which probably puts it after 450 B.C. This is one of my later owls HGC 1598 392-380 B.C. I usually refer to this one as "Doll Face" athens10.jpg
  8. TIF

    TIF Always learning.

    Thanks, Terence!

    I see why! She looks very surprised to see that owl :D.

    Mat, yours has an unusually nice flan shape for that era, when flans became very irregular in shape, or so I recall.
    Paul M. and Theodosius like this.
  9. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE

    TIF likes this.
  10. furryfrog02

    furryfrog02 Well-Known Member

    Beautiful @TIF! Hopefully some day I will join the club too.
    TIF likes this.
  11. Sallent

    Sallent Live long and prosper

    Yeah, she is a real doll. Here's mine of the same type. Not a doll like yours, but definitely matronly...

    Attica Athena Owl Tet.jpg
    Attica Athens
    AR Tetradrachm (22mm, 17.10 g)
    Athens Mint, 4rth Century BCE
    Helmeted head of Athena, r.
    Owl standing r., head facing, olive sprig and crescent to l; AOE in r. field.
    SNG Copenhagen 63ff.
  12. David@PCC

    David@PCC allcoinage.com

    Bout time. Geez :D
    Just kidding, that's a very nice example. At some point I will upgrade my avatar which has an off center obverse.
    dadams and TIF like this.
  13. Jwt708

    Jwt708 Well-Known Member

    Beautiful coin! You'll have to show me the handshake one day.
    TIF likes this.
  14. CoinBlazer

    CoinBlazer Numismatic Enthusiast

    How much on average do one of these go for?
  15. Sallent

    Sallent Live long and prosper

    Way more than their rarity suggests. One like mine in VF condition from the later non-classical types, expect to pay close to $500 (depending on whether it has test cuts or not). One of the classical bug eyed coins, expect to pay $700 or so for semi-clean budget examples with some issues (like centering, flan flaws, etc), while top end examples without test cuts and a full Athena crest will go for around $2000.

    Vcoins has over 200 on sale now, that's how common they are, but people want them badly apparently so they are willing to pay a lot even if there's a lot of them for sale at any given time. Weird, I know, but it's almost the ancient version of a Rolex watch.
    dadams and Paul M. like this.
  16. Clavdivs

    Clavdivs Well-Known Member

    Nothing to share other than to say congratulations... looks like it was certainly worth the wait - it's a beauty!
    Enjoy the long weekend and have a glass or two to celebrate!
  17. TIF

    TIF Always learning.

    That is a very complicated question. So much depends on not just wear but centering, strike, surfaces, artistry, presence or absence of test cuts, etc-- and the different eras of owl tets make a huge difference. The later tets (the "profile eye" and eastern imitations) are generally much less expensive, although the even later "new style" owl tets jump up a bit. There are just so many of these that it is hard to give a simple answer. The best thing to do is to review sales archives and prices to see for yourself.

    CNG's archives are freely available. Here'a link to CNG's sales records using search terms "Athens owl tetradrachm", but you're going to see a wide range of types. You'll have to sort out yourself the classical owl tests versus archaic versus early transitional versus "profile eye" and other later versions. ACsearch.info is more comprehensive database but you have to have a paid account to see the prices realized.

    Sixbids just launched a searchable database and I haven't yet tried it. Here's the link: https://www.sixbid-coin-archive.com/#/en. Try typing "athens owl tetradrachm" in the search box.

    You can see what fixed price sellers are asking but of course they will generally be more expensive than the auction coins because you're paying a premium for the convenience of buying it now. Vcoins.com is a good place to look. At any given moment there are tons of owl tets there.
    Last edited: May 23, 2019
    dadams and PeteB like this.
  18. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana

    You're fashionably late to the party, but dressed to steal the show. :D She really is a beauty, and on both sides, too.

    I love the sharp crest on mine, but the missing necklace is a bit lamentable.

    Attica Athens - Tetradrachm 2018 Top.jpg
    ATTICA, Athens
    AR Tetradrachm. 17.19g, 24.5mm. ATTICA, Athens, circa 440s-430s BC. Kroll 8; SNG Cop 31; HGC 4, 1597. O: Head of Athena right, with frontal eye, wearing earring, necklace, and crested Attic helmet decorated with three olive leaves over visor and a spiral palmette on the bowl. R: Owl standing right, head facing; olive sprig and crescent to left, AΘE to right; all within incuse square.
  19. Sallent

    Sallent Live long and prosper

    Yeah Zumbly, you shouldn't have to settle for one without a necklace. I tell you what, I'd offer you $200 to get rid of that less than perfect coin...:rolleyes: . That way no one can say I ain't a pal or not willing to take one for the team. :D
    TypeCoin971793 and Paul M. like this.
  20. Nicholas Molinari

    Nicholas Molinari Well-Known Member

  21. Paul M.

    Paul M. Well-Known Member

    No. I'm curious how much you paid (and it's a little gauche to ask), but your coin hits pretty much all the bases for me: great centering, good amount of crest, enough space between the nose and edge of the flan, lots of luster, little wear, no test cuts, and a clear outline of the incuse square reverse.

    My classical Owl (which I don't have good pictures of, unfortunately), hits most of these: centering, crest, nose, reverse square, no test cuts, but has a little wear and much less luster. I'm guessing I paid about what you did, because I bought it 2 or 3 years ago and nobody informed me that a hoard of 10,000 of them would come to market anytime soon. ;)

    I did not see this particular coin, but a dealer once told me about a fourrée classical Owl he handled that was actually made with a test cut. I probably would have paid well for that coin. But, in general, I also dislike test cuts. They typically mutilate the owl's face and I don't find that attractive at all.

    +1. Seeing the full outline of the reverse die was a thing I looked for as well. One should also look for a little space between the nose and edge of the flan, which you have as well.

    Without knowing the price you paid, but given the general market conditions, I would hazard a guess that the answer is no. You have a great eye and always seem to choose the nicest examples within your budget, which is a great skill for a collector to have.

    I paid $1k a couple years ago for a coin substantially similar to @TIF's, but with more wear and less luster. Good centering and no test cuts were what drove the price, IMO.

    Heh. The rest of the coin blinded me so much, I didn't even notice the lack of a necklace. Really, that is a stellar coin.
    TypeCoin971793, zumbly and TIF like this.
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