It took a long time, and at least a few dozen auctions lost, but I can finally cross off one of my "bucket list" coins - the classic Athens Tetradrachm!
Despite an apparent hoard working its way through the market, an Athenian tetradrachm is not a coin that comes cheap, ever. While Athens tets that are worn mostly flat or look like they were fished out of a running garbage disposal are available and relatively (~$100) cheap, they are tough to find for under $500, and can easily go into the thousands as one approaches "fleur de coin". I went in with a specific set of criteria:
- Must have the entire face on-flan
- Must have the entire helmet and at least most of the crest on-flan
- No significant test cuts or banker's marks obscuring important details
- Must be very close to full weight (17g)
- Must have a bold, fully struck owl and AΘE
- Preferably should have full olive sprig on flan
- Ideally should show its age; e.g. not make me wonder if it was made last year in a Bulgarian counterfeit shop
- Must be in pleasing style
This was my ultimate selection
AR Tetradrachm 25mm, 16.96g
Classic period, 454-404 BC
Obv: Helmeted head of Athena right, eye facing viewer
Rev: Owl standing right, facing viewer; AΘE left, Olive sprig above right
Let's see those Owls!