Head of Athena facing right, wearing a crested Attic helmet decorated with three olive-leaves and a palmette.
Owl, with closed wings, standing right with head facing; in upper left field - olive twig with three leaves and crescent moon, in lower right field - 'AΘE'. all within partially incuse square.
Superb example of the 'Athens Owl' made some 2400 years ago featuring Pallas Athena and her owl, the badge of Athens. The amazingly high relief of this coin was achieved by heating the 'blobby' blanc of silver until it was a dull cherry red and striking the coin while it was in this near molten state. The coin is not rare – but in this superb condition is very difficult to find. 'Owls' for the most part weren't used for everyday commerce because their buying power was far too high. Compared with smaller fractions, they show up infrequently in archaeological excavations in the Athenian agora, or marketplace. They were used in Athens instead for large transactions such as building projects, payment for war supplies and personnel, and international trade. As international trade coins, they were also used by other cities for the collection of tribute and taxes and by traders and merchants for large commercial transactions. 'Owls' were employed heavily in international trade, but they weren't the first coins accepted across international borders. That coin would have been the Aegina Turtle. Athenian Owls, however, were minted in far greater numbers, travelled much further, and were imitated all over the known world at the time. The coins that replaced the Owl as the most commonly used international currency were Alexander the Great's silver tetradrachms and gold staters, which in turn were replaced by the Roman denarius.