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Opportunities for amateur research?


CaptainCook123
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Hello everyone, this is my first post and I can definitely say I'm glad to be here!

I'm fairly new to collecting but I'm fascinated by cataloguing my small (so far!) collection. I would love to get more involved in the area but it seems as though catalogues or at least articles, e.g die studies, exist for all the types I am interested in. Is there any scope for an enthusiastic amateur to get involved in something like this? My primary interests are Greek and early/mid Roman imperial silver. 

If anyone could point me in the direction of any useful articles or guides I would also be very grateful. 

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Hello and welcome...

My opinion. You learn first and foremost over time and through your own mistakes, which you also make from time to time. That can't be ruled out at all.

I would rather recommend that you read the threads here. And if you have any unanswered questions - just sweep away, every beginner will be gladly helped here. I think you'll get much more information from the many experts here than from any illustrations.

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There are tremendous opportunities to do amateur research on Greek coins.

If you have a Roman Imperial coin with the picture of some emperor on the obverse it is obvious when it was struck.  That isn’t the case with Greek.

A fun exercise is to go through the catalog you have just compiled for your own collection and write a paragraph for each coin like this:

The date range <year> to <year> BC corresponds to the period between <battle> and <event> when the city was ruled by the <empire>.  The obverse was identified as <god> because <attribute or temple>.  The reverse was identified as <god> because <attribute or temple>.

Often this simple exercise causes you to notice that something as basic as the years are different in different books.  Finding such disagreements tells you a coin deserves more study.

I have a list of coins that I want to research but don’t have the time yet.  Here is an example:soloi.jpg.e43100d19ca76ff302153aa4c663d18b.jpg

CILICIA, SOLOI 100-30 BC, AE24 13.29g.  Aegis/Goddess riding bull; symbols

Edoardo Levante believed the type was struck 200-100 BC.  George Hill assigned the issue to 300-100 BC.  Barclay Head dated slightly more loosely, to 300-80 BC, pointing out Tigranes the Great destroyed Soli soon after 83 BC.  The chronology of Soli is not clear; during the early Hellenistic period the costal cities of Cilicia, probably including Soli, belonged to the Ptolemies.  After the fifth Syrian war (202-195 BC) all of Cilicia belonged to the Seleukid empire.  Tigranes the Great became the Seleukid emperor in 83 BC.


Mithridates the Great, who used the aegis type heavily in his coinage, was Tigranes’ father-in-law and military ally.  It is possible this Soli issue dates to the Mithridatic wars and is connected with him.  It could also be Seleukid; both Antiochos IV and Alexander Balas used the aegis on their regal coinage.  The gorgoneion was appears on coinage of Antiochos III as a shield boss.


The identification of the horse rider as Aphrodite is by Imhoof-Blumer.  He merely calls her “Goddess” but believes the coin depicts the same goddess as Cypriot coins of King Stasioikos that are identified today as Aphrodite or Astarte.  Imhoof-Blumer was certain this type does not depict Europa.  He doesn’t mention traditionally turreted goddesses Cybele and Tyche.  He doesn’t mention Athena, the goddess usually associated with owls.  It’s worth noting that the Stasioikos coin Imhoof-Blumer was certain doesn’t depict Europa is described as depicting Europa on the web site for the Bank of Cyprus.  A modern Cypriot coin copied the design of the Stasioikos coin to celebrate Cyprus’ entry into the European union.

Seven different letters and monograms appear as controls on this coin in auction sales.  As far as I can tell no one has written about what they might mean.

For most coins you won't find such disagreement between catalogs.

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I believe there are many areas of research that are open for anyone including  an amateur can explore.  Ancient numismatics is a vast subject and actual numismatists are rather thin on the ground. You can get into a number of different types of study

A. More general studies such as the activities of a particular mint  or ruler. I have been doing something like this on the lifetime coinage of Alexander III. There is my thread to that effect somewhere in the Greek section. This tends to involve more survey work. You need tor  examine the scholarship on the subject both from the past and more current writings on the subject. This is more of a literature search.

B. Die studies. This is the type of work you were alluding to. These are somewhat more involved however with the burgeoning internet search options such as the Newman Numismatic Portal, R Numis, CNG Research and commercial sites like AC or  Coin Archives  (There are of course many others.) which would help You may want to consult Matin Beckmann's work on the aurei of Faustina Senior and Junior. This will give you some insight as to how to go about your project.  At that point you may want to pick out the coinage(s) you are most interested in working on.  Once completed  you need to consult on line to see what has been done already in your area. All I can say is good luck. Perhaps one more tiny bit of advice. Try to pick a topic that is neither too big nor too small. I have been working on a die study of the Severan drachms from the mint of Petra. Currently there are 28 known with this one being the only drachm from that minted minted for Septimius Severus. 

Ar drachm of Septimius Severus circa 210 AD Petra obv Head right laureate Rv Tyche standing left holding baetyl and military trophy. Unpublished C1  3,11 grms 17 mm Photo by W. hansenpetra1.jpg.ab8f8882c1e1dc865cc28bdefcb7b20e.jpgI picked the date as being sometime around 210 AD as out of the 28 coins there is only 1 of Severus and 3 of Geta. That could change as more information might be forthcoming. However when I started this project in 2007 on average I was able to record on average about 2-3 coins a year. However over the last 6 years I have only seen one. That other than the three I sold in 2018

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Thank you all for your incredibly helpful advice. I think I will start looking into the Arabian-themed coinage of Trajan. A provincial tridrachm from Bostra featuring Arabia on the reverse was the first ancient coin I bought. I've since noticed that there are incredibly similar reverses on denarii from the Rome mint. A comparison between the two might be useful, especially if the dies for the provincial issue might have been carved at Rome.

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