As iconic in its day as any modern design is now, the Ancient Greek Tetradrachm (literally ‘four drachmae’) was introduced in the sixth century BCE and replaced the older didrachms with their heraldic style. Carrying the head of the goddess Athena on one side and the image of the owl of Athena, with a crescent moon and olive sprig on the obverse, it became widely used throughout the ancient world, not just in Greece. A version recently appeared as a Niue bullion coin.
The Mennica Polska has chosen to take this numismatic icon and use it to create a quite superb new coin, albeit issued for the African country, Cameroon. The coin is struck in a style similar to that popularised by the beautiful ‘From Clovis to Republic’ series issued by the Monnaie de Paris. Those coins are struck with the rim unbound, allowing it to squeeze out gently and thus leave a coin that isn’t perfectly round. We suspect the shape here, because it’s a more extreme version of that, is simply designed – a replica.
Depicting a more detailed owl on a textured antique finish, we think this is a great interpretation of the original. The sprig of olive is enhanced with a jasper stone insert. Often these inserts can detract from the finished coin because insufficient thought was put into placement (or even the base necessity for it), but this actually looks good and isn’t detrimental to the end product.
The obverse carries the olive through of course, but the main element here is an excellent representation of Athena. Inscriptions are well placed and not obtrusive, detailing the composition, issuer, date and denomination. Packaging makes display of the coin easy. The latex ‘floating frame’ lets you see both faces and the mint has incorporated a themed insert to go with it.
The coin is struck in 16.5 grams of fine silver and has a mintage capped at 999 pieces. Selling price seems to be around the €80 mark and it should ship later in November. The original coin, as you can see below, is absolutely beautiful, and while this new effort won’t reach the same iconic levels as the 2,500 year old tetradrachm, it stands as a fine issue in its own right. We like.