World Coins

One of these coins is fake, the other is real

Two silver tetradrachms of Athens — one real (right) and one fake (left) — were among lots sold in Classical Numismatic Group’s e-auction No. 426, which ended Aug. 8.

Images courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group.

Silver Athenian tetradrachms may be the most iconic ancient Greek coins of all time. 

The obverse of these coins features the goddess Athena and an owl appears on the reverse.

During the second half of the fifth century, Athens produced an enormous quantity of silver tetradrachms, tapping its mines in Laurion and the constant stream of tribute it received from the cities of the Delian League.

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Tens of millions of tetradrachms were struck. The coins served as an international currency prior to the time of Alexander and were used not only to pay for goods and services, but as a trade good in themselves.

Because it was such a popular coin, it was also a target for counterfeiting.

Two of these coins — one real and one fake — were among lots sold in Classical Numismatic Group’s e-auction No. 426, which ended Aug. 8. 

The circa 454 to 404 B.C. contemporary imitation tetradrachm realized a hammer price of $475, against an estimate of $300. 

The auction house classified the coin as Good Very Fine example, noting that it includes test cuts on the reverse and edge.

Test cuts used in ancient times helped gauge content and authenticity of a piece.

The imitation weighs 17.15 grams and measures 22 millimeters in diameter, close to the specifications of the real example under our review also in the sale. 

The authentic piece weighs 17.13 grams and measures 21 millimeters in diameter. It also carries a test cut on the reverse.

Also classified as Good Very Fine, the real example realized a hammer price of $300, the same as its estimate. 

Prices are not finalized as of press time Aug. 8, since a buyer’s fee of 20 or 22.5 percent applies, depending on bidding method.

For full auction results, visit the firm’s website

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