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Hrefn last won the day on June 28 2023

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  1. @John Conduitt, I like your explanation. I think the researchers may not appreciate the degree to which silver objects are serially manufactured, pooled, melted, recycled, and manufactured again over time. I recall the great silver melt of 1979 when the Hunt brothers cornered the silver market and sent prices to $50/oz. I personally saw everything from Tiffany tea sets, to Georgian platters, Chinese silver jewelry, Mexican coins, and Danish silverware get scrapped. A few centuries of that sort of behavior and the circulating silver supply would achieve a good degree of homogeneity. So the sceats represent the common European silver pool as it was circa 650 AD, continually refreshed by the influx of eastern mine output. In other words, the same material as was available to the early Byzantines. I agree this is a much more plausible explanation than massive and mysterious importation of Byzantine plate into England, or hordes of Saxon sell-swords working in the Byzantine army and remitting their silver pay back to the wife and kids in Kent and Mercia.
  2. Has any significant amount of Byzantine or East Roman silver dated post 410 AD ever been found in the British Isles? Or any hexagrams? I know there were some bowls of Byzantine manufacture in the Sutton Hoo burial. But if the gold tremissis was replaced by the silver sceat or penny circa AD 660, and the new coins were from made from new Byzantine silver, shouldn’t we see more of this Byzantine feedstock? We know for a fact that there were some enormous collections of silver tableware left behind when the province was abandoned by Rome, because some of them have survived to the present. This would suggest old (pre-410) Roman silver as the most probable source of the sceat coinage. If scientific studies are suggesting these coins were made of silver more recently acquired from Byzantium, it should be possible to point to some ingots, hexagrams, or plate from the sixth or seventh century in England which would suggest a sufficient influx of Byzantine bullion to support a coinage, as well as address the question of why Byzantium would send such to an area lost to the empire for nearly two centuries by this time. My impression is that there isn’t much early Byzantine silver in Britain, and little historic rationale to expect there would be. Unless we postulate that it was all melted into sceats, but I find that improbable.
  3. If I recall my Greek myths correctly, the cyclops Polyphemus, famous from the Odyssey, was the son of Poseidon and the nymph Thoos. Less well known is that Polyphemus later fell in love with Galatea, and although she initially spurned him because of his great ugliness, she eventually came to love him. They had a son named Mechanos. He was the first bicyclops, and inventor of the device pictured above.
  4. And that is the heart of ancient coin collecting right there. And there is no straight line correlation between a coin’s price and the enjoyment one can derive from it. I picked up this delightful little bronze nummus this year, showing the ascension of Constantine the Great into heaven by chariot, with the Hand of God extending down to receive him. That’s a lot of historical gravitas in a tiny package, and at eight euro is within almost anyone’s budget.
  5. So that would make my Constantinople solidus one of the earlier type according to Sear. I will update my notes. Position of the spear tip on the Thessalonican coin may not have the same significance; being a one-star variety on the reverse it is the earlier type, but the spear tip is between E and T like the later Constantinople coins.
  6. Leo’s standard solidi of Thessalonica have either one or two stars in the reverse field. Dumbarton Oaks’ Catalogue of Late Roman Coins assigns the one-star Thessalonican variety to the earlier part of the reign. “But when or why the transition was made, we do not know.” -Grierson. I cannot find information on dating the Constantinopolitan solidi in this catalogue. Here are Leo’s solidi from Constantinople and Thessalonica. The first was purchased from Giessener Munzhandllung Dieter Gorny of Munich. Berk-13. D.O. 528. 4/1990 The second is from Stack’s Auction 16 Feb 1994 lot number 26.
  7. I am also unaware of variations in Leo solidi which allow them to be dated. I am curious to know more.
  8. Having recently returned from viewing the Impressionist paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the mutability of light and color is at the forefront of my consciousness. For us humans, there is no single true perception of an object such as a coin or a haystack. Rather, our sense impression is circumstantial, depending on ambient light, time of day, fog, even the quality of our own visual apparatus. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haystacks_(Monet_series) Further, that sense impression is only sensory input which is then assembled and rationalized in the brain, and all of our brains differ. I had a professor who wisely said, “You only see what you are looking for.” I would elaborate that thought to say you are more likely to perceive what you have been trained to look for. The educated brain and the naive observer do not perceive the same thing at all, even though to an outsider it may appear they are regarding the same object. Nor will their visual memory retain the same “picture.” To illustrate, look at the first coin which @Simon uses to illustrate the difficulty of photographing gold. One side is concave, the other convex. The whole coin can never be all in the same focal plane. Low angle light may highlight the devices, but the blazing surface reflecting direct light is also part of the reality of the coin. There can be no single true image. For me, the most important element of the coin is the figure to the right of Christ. My catalog entry describes this: Romanus IV Diogenes, struck in Constantinople, Sear 1859. His wife is figured prominently, Eudokia Makrembolitissa, widow of his predecessor Constantine X. Their marriage legitimized his claim to the throne. Eudokia Makrembolitissa was reputed to be the most beautiful woman of her time. Here is a photograph that attempts to capture her in all her apple-cheeked glory. But bringing in the light from the right, as I have, it is really a better picture of her spouse. There is no photograph which will capture every nuance of any coin’s appearance optimally. Which is why I have no objection to manipulating the exposure, intensity, color, shadows, etc. of a photograph of a coin to bring out any desired characteristic, so long as it is an attempt to reveal what is really there. Like Monet with his Haystacks, all the images are true, and they are all less than the complete truth. And that is OK, and why photography is an art.
  9. Solidi, not folles; but examples of the two portrait styles of Justinian II from his first reign. I have only seen the very youthful portrait rarely. Harlan Berk lists it as H-184, and notes that “extremely high relief coins of this type exist.” The second coin shows a young man, not a boy. Justinian II was only 16 years old when he became emperor. These photos are from the Byzantine mega-thread, so l hope it is OK to repost. The following two coins are from Justinian’s second reign. The obverses feature the Syrian or Semitic style portrait of Christ. Justinian is joined by his son Tiberius on the second coin. I think it is remarkable that the son appears as a child and not a miniature adult. This is rare in late antique art.
  10. Suppose I should append a pretty Byzantine coin, and recent acquisition. Although even on his best day Leontius would be unlikely to win a beauty contest. 2024.20. Solidus Leontius 695-698 AD. OBV. DLEO…PEAV. Leontius with mappa in right hand, globus cruciger in left, in loros. REV: VICTORIA …AVG DA(?). Cross on 3 steps. Bruise in the right field. EX: CONOB Officina delta followed by an A. Sear-1331 Old tag, with my comments in parentheses: “LEU (perhaps) 12/66 OYY (probably code for price) T/A 4231 Leontius solidus G. 134/1 NOT in R”. (Ratto?) A bit of a double strike but a great portrait and identifiable name which fills a gap in my collection.
  11. Decimal Day in the UK was in February 1971. The last pounds/shillings/pence proof set was struck in 1970 and is still widely available at a very low price, certainly much less than the issue price if adjusted for inflation. An interesting and very inexpensive bit of history. Examples on popular auction site for less than $10 plus shipping. One could buy 100 of them to create a fascinating set of chips for friendly poker games. “I see your two shillings, and raise you sixpence.”
  12. ;@Rand, Yes. I was trying to make that precise point, that the Byzantine hexagrams and the Saxon sceats came from the same feedstock, which was old plate. I doubt roughly contemporaneous hexagrams were melted for sceat production. Rather, when both East and West turned to silver coin production, they both drew from the only available and substantial source. And that was old Roman silver. One object from the Mildenhall treasure alone would have yielded material for about 7,000 sceats. Given the mobile nature of the Roman upper classes, who might spend time in Numidia, Britannia, Judaea, and Armenia during the course of a professional career, silver objects they accumulated could come from anywhere. Some of them would be awarded by the emperor as donatives. The empire’s silver would have have been fashioned, pooled, and remelted, coined, disbursed empire wide, then recollected, etc. Over the course of centuries it would not be surprising to discover Roman silver acquired a degree of homogeneity. Collectors of antique silver often bemoan the tendency of households in the past to scrap their old-fashioned or out-of -style silver objects to have them refashioned into the latest styles, but this was a regular occurrence and still occurs. There is no reason to expect the Romans differed on this score. Most collectors of antique silver today would point with pride to any object in their collection which was 200 years old. Very few persons have any silver which is 300 years old, and hardly a single private person would possess a silver object which is 4 centuries old (coins excepted.) The old silver, with the exception of objects concealed and forgotten, has all been melted, as indeed has an incalculable amount of obsolete silver coinage, all furthering the process of homogenization. In the days of the Roman Empire, it conceivable that an Armenian spoon could end up in Gaul, and be flung into a crucible with a broken harness fitting from Hispania and a handful of obsolete Gaulic silver coins. And this process of recombination persisted for centuries.
  13. I felt the article deserved an additional illustration. The first two coins are Byzantine Hexagrams featuring the legionary battle cry, “Deus adiuta Romanis!” Almost always poorly struck and appearing like the emergency coinage they probably were, the first coin is a brockage with just a few letters of the reverse inscription ROMANIS seen retrograde and incuse in the middle of the flan. Nevertheless, they are both chunky bits of good silver which would gladden the heart of any barbarian. Possibly they are similar to the feedstock of the coins in the following row, since it is thought that they were made of melted church plate, among other things, during the crises of the Persian and Muslim threats to the empire. The second row shows examples of the earliest North European silver coinage since the departure of the Romans. From left to right, the first is from Northumbria circa AD 710, a type “J” penny attributed to Osric. The obverse shows two facing profiles flanking a standing cross; the reverse a whorl of birds. The next coin is from Kent, circa AD 690, attributed to Wihtred. The obverse is a diademed bust; the reverse is a bird on a cross. The third coin is from Mercia (or Essex?) circa AD 735, attributed to Aethelbald. A female centaur graces the obverse, and a wolf whorl the reverse. The fourth coin is from Denmark, around AD 700, with a bearded visage usually believed to be Wodan, and a fantastic beast on the reverse. Believed to be the first Danish/Viking coin. The crosses on the obverse may not be intended to be Christian symbols, but be merely apotropaic. The area where these were struck was highly pagan when these were produced. (I always wanted to use the word apotropaic in a sentence, and now I have!) The third row is comprised of coins of Louis the Pious. The first three are Class 2 deniers. The first is from Bourges; the second is from Tours where the great battle was fought by Charles Martel only 66 years before. The third came from the mining town of Melle (Metallum). If the article is correct the silver from which all these deniers were minted may have originated there. Because these are Class 2 deniers, they can be precisely dated to AD 819-822. The final coin is part of the so-called Temple coinage (AD 822-840) with the legend XRISTIANA RELIGIO, also called Class 3. These coins of Louis the Pious were of almost identical design throughout the Carolingian empire, which doubtless served as a powerful statement of unity and centralized power. Unfortunately the lack of mint marks renders them less valuable to archeologists and less interesting to collectors. The fourth row contains coins of Charles the Bald, AD 840-877. Here, mint designations have returned, and we see examples from Paris (PARISII CIVITAS), Le Mans (CINOMANIS CIVITAS), Quentovic, an important trading port (QVVENTOVVICI), and St-Denis, the burial site of the French kings (SCI DIONVSII M) for the mint of Saint Dionysus who is buried there.
  14. If this were widely understood, and I do not believe it is, the enthusiasm for slabbed coins in the ancient coin collecting community would probably decrease markedly.
  15. Welcome, @Hoth2. Ostrogothic gold coins do tend to be very similar to their Roman counterparts, so much so that experts sometimes disagree on their attribution, and even experienced dealers sometimes make mistakes. Sometimes this can afford an opportunity for the lucky collector. Here is a coin misattributed to Constantinople as a routine solidus of Anastasius. It came out of an auction by CNG a couple of years ago. But the coin is Ostrogothic. The inscription on the obverse reads DNANASTA SIUSPFAUG. This stands for Our Lord Anastasius Pius Felix Augustus. Anastasius’ coins from Constantinople read DNANASTA SIUSPPAUG for Our Lord Anastasius PerPetuum Augustus. On the reverse, the most obvious mark of this coin’s origin is the exergue, which reads COMOB. This is almost always indicative of a Western mint. Constantinopolitan coins will read CONOB. This coin matches MEC 1.112, solidus of Theodoric, Rome mint. Ostrogothic coins tend to be as carefully designed and struck, if not actually superior, to imperial coinage. With Justinian’s reconquest of Italy, if can be very difficult to differentiate Ostrogothic coins from those of the reestablished imperial regime, but that is all part of the fun.
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