Among the finest known Wappenmünzen drachms from Athens, from the de Nanteuil Collection
71
ATTICA. Athens. Circa 515-510 BC. Drachm (Silver, 14 mm, 4.31 g), 'Wappenmünzen' type. Wheel with four spokes. Rev. Quadripartite incuse square, divided diagonally. Asyut 259. BMFA 1036. HGC 4, 1622. Jameson 1179. Nanteuil 910 (this coin). Seltman pl. IV, δ. Very rare and undoubtedly among the finest known. An exceptional piece struck on excellent metal and with a beautiful old collection tone. Very light scratches on the reverse, otherwise, extremely fine.


Privately acquired from Tradart, from the collection of Jorge Abecassis (1934-2012), Leu 81 ('The Outstanding Collection'), 16 May 2001, 206, ex Leu 7, 9 May 1973, 167 and Hess-Leu 36, 17-18 April 1968, 201, and from the collection of Henry de Nanteuil de La Norville (1876-1941).


While the Athenian coinage is best known for the ubiquitous owl tetradrachms struck en masse in the 5th century BC, the dawn of Athenian coinage was of quite a different nature. The city’s first coinage was developed at a time when Athens was not yet a democracy, but rather in the grips of the Peisistratid tyranny (546-510 BC). The various designs on the obverse of these archaic coins – a wheel with four spokes, a scarab, a gorgoneion, and many more – are often taken to be emblems of powerful families from Athenian nobility responsible for coin production (hence the German term ‘Wappenmünzen’, i.e. coins showing heraldic symbols), although this is based on little concrete evidence.

Whatever the inspiration for the designs may have been, the fall of the Peisistratids saw the swift end of the 'Wappenmünzen'. Athens’ infant democracy very soon shifted to the more familiar iconography of a helmeted Athena on the obverse and an owl on the reverse of its coins, which would come to dominate Athens’ numismatic iconography for the next centuries, thus nipping its early experimentation with varied imagery in the bud.
Price: 45,000 CHF

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