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Mazakes owl tetradrachm form an unattributed coin lot!


JayAg47

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Another haul for me from an eBay auction! 

Won this coin lot for just 50 usd, among them are Roman and Byzantine bronzes plus a couple of Greek silvers. When I first came across this listing, I assumed the tetradrachm was fake (probably why not many bid), but the countless test cuts made me think it might be real, or at least the later intermediate type. But with closer inspection I spotted some unusual lettering on the reverse, upon some further research online, looking up past auctions for hours I found out it was issued under Mazakes. He was the last Achaemenid satrap of Egypt under Darius III. 

Seller's images,

owlMazakesretrogradewithcontrolmark.jpg.31c3b986b839860acc024e53ed9c609b.jpglot.jpg.debfe059101554febffda60ce8805371.jpg

 

My photo of the coin:

mazakes.jpg.9c20b68227e6f278d3ba60a19140490a.jpg

Mazakes

Persia/Alexandrine Empire. Satrap of Mesopotamia, circa 331-323/2 BC.

AR Tetradrachm, 17.08g

Imitating Athens. Helmeted head of Athena right / Owl standing right, head facing; olive spray and crescent to left, "Mazakes symbol" and Aramaic MZ[DK] to right in retrograde. 

Similar coin I found on Fourmancientcoins,

Untitled.png.ad317ad9973f1071a3155330e9f47888.png

Now, most of these issues I've seen online have poor engraving or off-centered with justifiably numerous test cuts. They also have the name Mazakes normally written, however my coin has it in retrograde. With regards to the value, it's all over the place, ranging from few hundreds to few thousands. But attribution and values aside, I'll take an owl tetradrachm for under 50 bucks any day with some bonus goodies to boot!

Couple of my favourites from the lot:

Commodus Sestertius, with Virtus holding Parazonium (23g)

commodus.jpg.eaf26579f2b87882ed96d4532d56584f.jpg

A Janiform Roman Republican bronze (31.3g), my oldest Roman coin. 

galley.jpg.212633e2d50107a99c0830e916621a2a.jpg

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Great find! Yours compares well to my Mazakes, which I admit I overpaid for.

331A5245-Edit.jpg.2a68a2146912957868c69e2f5462d00b.jpg

Mazakes as Satrap of Mesopotamia
c. 331-323/2 BCE
AR tetradrachm 19mm, 16.87g
Imitating types of Athens. Head of Athena r., wearing Attic helmet/ Owl stranding r., head facing; to l., crescent; to r., Aramaic legend.
Le Rider, Alexander, pp. 214-9; Van Alfen, Group IVb

 

Other Egyptian satraps/rulers.

331A8650-Edit.jpg.bd3e9a675dbb642f46956b139d30503c.jpg

Egypt, Achaemenid Province. Sabakes, satrap, AR Tetradrachm. Circa 340-333 BCE
16.61g, 25mm, 9h.
Head of Athena to right, wearing earring, necklace, and crested Attic helmet decorated with three olive leaves over visor and a spiral palmette on the bowl / Owl standing to right with head facing, olive sprig with berry and crescent in upper left field; uncertain letters to left, ""Sabakes symbol"" and SWYK (in Aramaic) to right.
Van Alfen Type III, 24-34 var. (O11/R- [unlisted rev. die]); Nicolet-Pierre, Monnaies 18-26 (same obv. die); SNG Copenhagen 4 var. (no letters on left of rev.); BMC 265 var. (same).

 

331A1965-Edit.jpg.26454736e3a23f0020f2a98018f2b1c5.jpg

EGYPT, Achaemenid Province. Artaxerxes III Okhos. As Pharaoh of Egypt
343/2-338/7 BCE
AR Tetradrachm (26mm, 15.07 g, 9h)
Imitating Athens. Head of Athena right, with frontal eye, wearing earring and crested Attic helmet decorated with three olive leaves over visor and a spiral palmette on the bowl
Owl standing right, head facing; olive spray and crescent to left, “Artaxerxes Pharaoh” in two-line Demotic A script to right.
two test cuts on either side, obv. punch.
Van Alfen Type I, 1–5 = Price, More 147–9; O. Mørkholm, “A Coin of Artaxerxes III” in NC 1974, pl. I, 7–8; cf. Meadows, Administration 329; Mildenberg, Münzwesen 124. 

 

678A0237-Edit.jpg.d54ac9f710774cb2bff0e9a148e2d0c6.jpg

EGYPT, Pharaonic Kingdom. Uncertain pharaoh(s)
Late 5th–mid 4th centuries BCE
AR Tetradrachm 24mm, 17.03 g, 8h
Imitating Athens. Helmeted head of Athena right, with frontal eye / Owl standing right, head facing; olive sprig and crescent to left; all within incuse square. Van Alfen, Mechanisms, Group III.A.1, Fig. 2 = Buttrey Type M. Ex
Ex NGC encapsulation 5872733-112, graded XF, Strike: 5/5, Surface: 3/5.
Ex Ponterio 1985
Ex Robert W. Bartlett Bequest Sold for the Benefit of the American Numismatic Society

 

331A3639-Edit.jpg.f23aa0f19fabf4f92d9755d3adccd910.jpg

Egypt, Ptolemy I as satrap
with name and types of Alexander III
Memphis, c. 323/2 BCE
AR Tetradrachm, 16.09g
bv: Head of young Herakles r. wearing lionskin headdress.
Rx: AΛEΞANΔPoY Zeus seated l. holding eagle and scepter, in l. field, head of Amun-Ra (as ram) r., wearing double-plume crown, monogram under throne
CPE-4, Price-3964
Ex NFA

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That's a nice group lot and great individual acquisition!  The Mazakes owl is a truly rare coin and an excellent bargain. 

Here's the one example that I have, an odd one in terms of style, and a coin that was improperly cleaned.  This coin came out of Roma E-Sale 60, lot 374.

For a while I thought that the Mazakes Aramaic characters were added as a counterstamp over the AOE of an Egyptian owl.  The characters are quite uniform and large.  However, I don't seen any indications of a recessed field that indicates the presence of a counterstamp.  So, it appears that the Mazakes characters were in the die when the coin was struck. 

Obverse style does not match other examples that I have seen online.  All of those coins have the eye style of the Athenian intermediate owl.  This one harkens back to the classical owl style eye.  Quite odd and an ongoing investigation on my part.

It is really too bad that someone basically removed the surface hoard patina, leaving corroded surfaces.  The coin should have been left as found.  Traces of the hoard patina are still present in a few recessed areas on the reverse.

 Mazakes, Persian satrap, imitation owl, circa 331-323/2 BC.  From Roma E-Sale 60, lot 374.

15.94 grams

D-CameraAthensMazakesPersiansatrapimitationowlc331-323-2BCRoma6037415.94g7-19-23.jpg.d6d28584d19dbd3d199494e842727a95.jpg

 

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I was the underbidder (in fact the only other bidder) of that lot! Small world lol

I didn't actually know about the Owl tet; I assumed it was fake based on my (very poor) knowledge of Greek coins and the bad seller photos, and was mainly hoping to get a bargain on the other coins. I'm glad it's genuine though, and you got a good deal!

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3 hours ago, robinjojo said:

That's a nice group lot and great individual acquisition!  The Mazakes owl is a truly rare coin and an excellent bargain. 

Here's the one example that I have, an odd one in terms of style, and a coin that was improperly cleaned.  This coin came out of Roma E-Sale 60, lot 374.

For a while I thought that the Mazakes Aramaic characters were added as a counterstamp over the AOE of an Egyptian owl.  The characters are quite uniform and large.  However, I don't seen any indications of a recessed field that indicates the presence of a counterstamp.  So, it appears that the Mazakes characters were in the die when the coin was struck. 

Obverse style does not match other examples that I have seen online.  All of those coins have the eye style of the Athenian intermediate owl.  This one harkens back to the classical owl style eye.  Quite odd and an ongoing investigation on my part.

It is really too bad that someone basically removed the surface hoard patina, leaving corroded surfaces.  The coin should have been left as found.  Traces of the hoard patina are still present in a few recessed areas on the reverse.

 Mazakes, Persian satrap, imitation owl, circa 331-323/2 BC.  From Roma E-Sale 60, lot 374.

15.94 grams

D-CameraAthensMazakesPersiansatrapimitationowlc331-323-2BCRoma6037415.94g7-19-23.jpg.d6d28584d19dbd3d199494e842727a95.jpg

 

I think your's must've been an early modification by Mazakes mint workers, they just grabbed a classic tetradrachm and scraped the AOE and stamped in Mazakes, but mine would've been made later by melting other tets and minting it from their own dies? Unlike other intermediate tets that have folded flan, mine look uniform indicating it must have been made from scratch. 

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Possibly.  But as I mentioned I don't see any indications of a recessed or incuse field around the characters, something that I would expect of a counterstamp.  Now it is possible that the corroded surfaces are obscuring this feature, and there has been weight loss resulting from the cleaning.  So I need to keep looking.  That's what I like about these imitation owls, a fairly unresearched field, some notable works excepted.

Edit:  Now that I think more and more about the nature of the characters on the reverse, I am actually leaning in the direction of a counterstamp applied to a pharaonic owl.  I just cannot account for the classical owl format for a Mazakes owl.  As mentioned all examples, actually the few shown online, are imitations of the Athenian intermediate owl.  Unless this coin of mine is a one-off creation at a mint, which I doubt, I think there is a strong possibility that a Mazakes counterstamp was applied while the coin was in circulation, which actually adds a new wrinkle in the story of this coin.

Edited by robinjojo
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Athenian Imitations from Arabia, in: M. Huth and P. van Alfen, Coinage of the Caravan Kingdoms: Studies in the Monetization of Ancient Arabia (ANS Numismatic Studies 25, New York 2010), pp. 227-256.

https://www.academia.edu/8847316/Athenian_Imitations_from_Arabia_in_M_Huth_and_P_van_Alfen_Coinage_of_the_Caravan_Kingdoms_Studies_in_the_Monetization_of_Ancient_Arabia_ANS_Numismatic_Studies_25_New_York_2010_pp_227_256?email_work_card=title

 

Sadly , even in 2010, Huth still gave the start of the NewStyle as 196 BC! Now c 164 BC

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