The Coin Widely Believed To Have Popularized The Idea Of “Heads Or Tails” Was The?
Answer: Athenian Tetradrachm
While the Ancient Greeks can’t lay claim to inventing games of chance, or the idea of letting fate decide by flipping a coin, they can at least lay claim to influencing what we say when flipping a coin. For centuries, the Greeks minted the most recognizable coin in the ancient world (and certainly the most recognizable ancient coin today): the “Athenian tetradrachm”.
The coin was quite distinctive since it was the largest silver coin of its day, thick and heavy in the hand, and struck with an impression of the goddess Athena on one side and her patron animal, the owl, on the other. The coin was used for business and in high value transactions throughout the empire for over four hundred years, and the “head” (Athena’s profile), and the “tail” (her owl), were instantly recognizable features of the coin. A coin that was flipped landed, naturally, on either the head or the tail, and the terminology stuck around even when people were speaking of coins without an obvious head and tail.
Image courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group, Inc.