There are some extremely strong rare coin auctions coming up in the opening days of 2012, including the famous New York Sale, held every year by Baldwin's, Markov and M&M.
There are rumblings too suggesting that Classical Numismatic Group might be planning an exceptionally spectacular few days of sales. Here's a first look at a coin from their selection:
This is a 469-460 BC. AR Dekadrachm, minted in Athens apparently struck early on from the first Dekadrachm obverse die.
On the obverse, the head of Athena faces right, wearing a single-pendant earring, necklace, and crested Attic helmet decorated with three olive leaves over the visor and a spiral palmette on the bowl.
On the reverse, an owl stands facing out with its wings spread. An olive sprig and crescent appears to the upper left of it, with A-Θ-E fitting around it, all within the incuse square.
In extremely fine condition, beautifully centred and struck with virtually complete designs on both sides, it suffers from some typical minor surface roughness. The beautiful coin is the second known example from the earliest obverse die in the dekadrachm series.
There is an extended description of how the coin fits into the earlier known dies and their uses in CNG's catalogue.
The present coin is clearly struck from Fischer-Bossert Obverse 0 (as termed in his standard work), but from a different and previously unknown reverse die.
As it does not have any indication of the die break on Athena's eye which developed over time, this specimen appears to have been struck earlier.
The reverse die on the present coin is very similar stylistically to Fischer-Bossert reverse dies 0 (the Berk coin) and 1 (the Berlin specimen), and is most probably by the same engraver. The three coins from these reverse dies also share an unusual technical feature, the softly rounded edge of the reverse incuse square.
The coin has been given a listing of $200,000 in the online auction which closes on January 2, 2012.