Head of Athena silver tetradrachm brings $50,000

A beautiful Sicilian, Syracuse, Dionysios I silver tetradrachm brought £32,000 ($49,401) to Baldwin's London on May 8 - testament to its extreme scarcity and condition.

A masterpiece of ancient numismatics, the coin, struck circa 405-500 BC, is signed by the artist Eukleidas - a distinguished master engraver who signed the die as a record of his work.

Baldwin's coin auction
The tetradrachm, a masterpiece by the artist Eukleidas, features the head of Athena

The obverse of the tetradachm features a female charioteer, dressed in a flowing chiton, or unisex tunic, clasping a flaming torch in one hand and the reins of her chariot in the other. Nike, the ancient Greek goddess of victory, soars above the charioteer, while an ear of barley features in exergue.

The helmeted head of Athena is clearly discernible on the coin's reverse. Goddess of wisdom, courage and just warfare, Athena's hair falls in voluminous waves, and around her throat she wears a necklace of pendant acorns. She is flanked by dolphins - invariably supporters and helpers of human beings in Greek mythology.

Previously, debates as to whether Athena could in fact be Arethusa wearing Athena's helmet have raged among collectors and experts alike.

The theory arises from the context in which the ancient coin was struck - in commemoration of the Syracusan victory following the Athenian invasion in 415 BC - however, as the people of Syracuse worshipped Athena before and long after the invasion, honouring her with a temple on the island of Ortygia, this seems unlikely.

Coins are fascinating items, steeped in history, which have changed hands thousands of times and been used in all manner of transactions. See Paul Fraser Collectibles' free guide to investing in coins for more information.

Here at Paul Fraser Collectibles, we have a number of exceptional coins in stock.

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Correction: An ancient gold stater also sold. The coin brought £1,500 ($2,305).

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