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A strange owl, probably an eastern imitation, 4th century BC


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I thought I'd post a thread there for this coin, rather than putting it on the latest ancient acquisition thread, because as ugly as it is, it does demonstrate the complexities of trying attribute these coins.

Eastern imitation owl, circa 4th century BC, unknown mint.

16.90 grams


The latest owl came to me as an eastern imitation, mint unknown -very typical.  I guess I agree with with the seller, although it does have a folded flan, as shown in the photo, a characteristic of the intermediate Athenian owls of the 4th century BC.  So, the question is:  were folded flan coins produced outside of Athens?  It would be a reasonable assumption that the technology, such as it was, could have spread to other mints, and flan folding has been documented with the folded tetradrachms of Ma'in, as shown with this example that I acquired from Roma a few years ago.

Arabia, South Arabia, Ma'in, AR owl circa 200-100 BC.  From Roma 73, lot 527.

Al-Jawf Hoard 21 (same dies).

15.20 grams



Another possibly for the OP coin is that it was overstruck, as there are hints of this on the obverse, although this could also be a die shift strike. The overall style is quite crude and there is that odd line extending from Athena's mouth (a worm?) that I think is actually a die break.

Then there is that odd design on the OP coin behind the ear.  That should be the ridge of the helmet's neck guard running vertically and then mostly horizontally. Instead, there seems to be a letter, and if the coin is rotated approximately 90 degree, there seems to be a an Aramaic qoph.


Now this could just be a coincidence, and this is an Athenian intermediate owl, probably Pi Style V?  I  have not seen this odd design element on the helmet with any of the Athenian intermediate owls that I have viewed or owned over the years.  Very odd.

So, could this be a situation where the coin was re-struck to incorporate this symbol to make it legal for local circulation?  

The mystery continues....

What do you think?


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2 minutes ago, kirispupis said:

What an interesting find! It almost looks like Athena is sticking her tongue out. It’ll be some time before I’m in a place to research, but I don’t think it’s Ma‘in. The style looks too different. Maybe somewhere in the Levant?


I am very sure this owl is not from Ma‘in, more likely somewhere in the Levant.

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It seems that they put lots of effort into reshaping and restriking these coins. Folding can only mean heating the old ones, holding with tongues and bashing them carefully to stop them shooting off somewhere.  What a lot of fuss and economically not worth it.  Why?  We will never know. Another problem that will never be solved!

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Here's one more owl that I think is clearly an imitation struck on a folded flan.  It was sold to me by a German seller as a Lihyan owl, but I am sure about that attribution.  I could not find anything like this coin in my search, and the style is quite different even for the earlier tetradrachms from that kingdom.  Perhaps it is Persian in origin, in the style of an Athenian intermediate owl.

The flan is extremely elongated.  There are suggestions of flan folding as well.  The alpha (A) on the reverse is missing its left extension.

Levant, Persian or Arabian imitation owl, c 4th-3rd centuries BC, folded flan.

16.30 grams


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10 hours ago, NewStyleKing said:

We will never know.

I know nothing here, but once read an article by Martin Huth who had a collection of "similar" coins. He said  "This peculiarity is of the greatest interest and significance as it is not known from any other ancient coinage and therefore clearly distinguishes these coins from other issues...the original silver disk - which must have been considerably larger than the resulting coin - was folded prior to striking. Although no metal analysis has been carried out on any of the coins, they appear to consist of good silver. Given the round, smooth edges of the sides which had been folded and which do not expose any cracks, it seems possible that the original planchet was not simply folded by ham-mering but that heat was employed to ease the process. It then has to be asked why the producers of these coins chose this both primitive and complicated procedure instead of going ‘all the way’ by melting an ingot of silver into a neat shape and then striking it. The most likely answer seems to lie in a lack of availability of locally-mined silver as well as of the necessary melting techniques which require considerably high temperatures. Also, the use of large silver disks of the proper weight indicates that, in all probability, other coins provided the raw material which, in order to delete their original types, were spread out by hammering, resulting in a large flat disk. The enigmatic fact remains however, that the people who made these coins, while not possessing the technical skills required for producing regular silver flans, must have used dies which were made of an even harder material."

That's all I copied sorry. Apologies if  not  directly relevant!


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On 11/2/2023 at 5:01 PM, robinjojo said:

, the question is:  were folded flan coins produced outside of Athens?  It would be a reasonable assumption that the technology, such as it was, could have spread to other mints

Completely by serendipity, in the link from @ambr0zie to the essay on small coins, right next to  it there was an article from John Kroll on.....other mints that used folded flans!!

Briefly, he  highlighted a number of  mints, from Aegina, to Sinope, to Thebes and others and conjectured there are more than we think. Essay here, with  some good photos.


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