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Starting to Collect Julio-Claudian Dynasty 12 emperors


Amarmur
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Hi my name is Alan and I'm pretty new to ancients. I'm on a relatively small budget but around how much would be a good ball park for each of the first 12 emperors money wise to aim for. I started looking on Vcoins for prices and some are reasonable but I'm not sure its worth the price or to sit on it. From what I see Caligula is the scarcest and hardest one to get of these 12.  Would happily take insight on price ranges for those types of coins. Thanks for the help!

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A lot depends on what types of coins you find acceptable for your 12 Caesars collection. Do you want them all in the silver denarius denomination? Are bronze coins okay? Are provincial issues okay or do you want to stick with imperial issues only? What grade/condition do you want?

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Welcome to collecting.  I find the 12 Caesars to be a very satisfying genre.

Well, many of mine were obtained when coins were a lot cheaper.  Even back in the 90's, I remember looking at really nice Galba Sestertii for $400+.

It completely depends on condition and what denomination you're looking for.

Give us some more information, please.

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Hello and welcome. You have, of course, chosen one of the more expensive areas of collecting. 

Augustus, Caligula, Nero... but also Tiberius or the Caesars from the year of the Four Emperors are simply the best-known and most sought-after personalities. For a Nero you pay more than for a Gordianus, just because of the name and the degree of popularity. In addition, certain persons and their coins are simply rare. 

For a Caligula bronze - in good condition - which has not (!) been worked on / altered with tools - you can pay prices where others buy a used small car for the money.

The question is - silver coins? Bronze coins? And above all - what was your average budget per coin?

 

Edited by Prieure de Sion
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1 hour ago, Prieure de Sion said:

Hello and welcome. You have, of course, chosen one of the more expensive areas of collecting. 

Augustus, Caligula, Nero... but also Tiberius or the Caesars from the year of the Four Emperors are simply the best-known and most sought-after personalities. For a Nero you pay more than for a Gordianus, just because of the name and the degree of popularity. In addition, certain persons and their coins are simply rare. 

For a Caligula bronze - in good condition - which has not (!) been worked on / altered with tools - you can pay prices where others buy a used small car for the money.

The question is - silver coins? Bronze coins? And above all - what was your average budget per coin?

 

Not exactly true. The Vesta As in acceptable condition is absolutely possible for several hundreds.

But.. I don't know your car 😛

Edited by Mucius Scaevola
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37 minutes ago, Mucius Scaevola said:

Not exactly true. The Vesta As in acceptable condition is absolutely possible for several hundreds.

That's just another question of what one understands by acceptable. Nevertheless, it is one of the more expensive areas of collecting. Above all, it doesn't remain with just one coin that you want. And maybe you don't just want to collect mass-produced coins, like Nero and Victoria or Caligula and Vesta. And if you then collect 3, 4... Bronzes in good natural condition and not everyday coins. Then the collecting area can quickly amount to a small car. But what is "expensive"? For some, 1000 USD is expensive, for others it is petty cash.

So the thread creator should be more specific - what he wants to collect (silver, bronze) and above all what his budget is on average per coin. Then we can say more - whether it could work or not.

 

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I agree, he needs to be more specific. But I think that, for now, he doesn't know yet. A Vesta As for around 800-900eur normally is in a pretty good shape. Not the best of the best, but definetly collectable with a nice portrait. Needs a bit of time to check and watch them all, but even for less you can find pretty good ones. 

With his probably limited budget he won't have the big choice other than collecting the common types (except for Tiberius where it's probably better to buy sth else than the Tribute Penny)

Edited by Mucius Scaevola
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Welcome to the forum @Amarmur

You might also consider starting out with a more modest collection for example the “Five Good Emperors” or the emperors and empresses of one of the various dynasties such as the Flavians or the Nerva–Antonine Dynasty or the Severan Dynasty.

Completing a small set in the beginning is fun and provides a sense of accomplishment.

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Well my aim is just a portrait of each of the emperors. I'm hoping to snag a cheap one say $100-200 or less per emperor. I realize it is a difficult task and I'm not a big spender so I will focus on Nero for now because well he's Nero haha. I'm okay with provincial coins and I'm not looking for high grade stuff maybe just in good/vg. I'm probably out of my ballpark so I might just focus on Augustus, Nero, Claudius, and the Flavian dynasty. Yeah I'm not rich haha

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1 hour ago, Amarmur said:

Well my aim is just a portrait of each of the emperors. I'm hoping to snag a cheap one say $100-200 or less per emperor. I realize it is a difficult task and I'm not a big spender so I will focus on Nero for now because well he's Nero haha. I'm okay with provincial coins and I'm not looking for high grade stuff maybe just in good/vg. I'm probably out of my ballpark so I might just focus on Augustus, Nero, Claudius, and the Flavian dynasty. Yeah I'm not rich haha

There are lots of inexpensive portrait coins of Nero in the Roman provincial series, but you'll have to shell out at least $200 for an imperial example in any grade. Here are some inexpensive Roman provincial coins of Nero in my collection.

[IMG]
Nero, AD 54-68.
Roman provincial Æ 17.7 mm, 4.17 g, 1 h.
Lydia, Tralles, c. AD 60.
Obv: ΝΕΡⲰΝ ΚΑΙCΑΡ, bare head, right.
Rev: ΚΑΙC-ΑΡΕⲰΝ, bundle of four grain ears.
Refs: RPC I, 2657; BMC 22.345, 125-27; SNG Cop 692; RG 5426; SNG von Aulock --.

[IMG]
Nero and Poppaea Sabina.
Roman provincial billon Tetradrachm; 23.1 mm, 11.55 g.
Egypt, Alexandria, AD 64/65.
Obv: ΝΕΡΩ ΚΛΑV ΚΑΙΣ ΣΕΒ ΓΕΡ ΑV, radiate head of Nero, right.
Rev: ΠΟΠΠΑΙΑ ΣΕΒΑΣΤΗ, draped bust of Poppaea, right, LIA (year 11) before.
Refs: RCV 2002; SGI 664; RPC 5280; Köln 168; BMCG 124; Milne 223; Curtis 138; Cohen 315, 3; Emmett 128.
 

368628280_NeroSideNN.jpg.28aee83adaa4393e254c2ca6ff213f78.jpg

 

Nero, AD 54-68.
Roman provincial Æ 17 mm, 6.4 g.
Pamphylia, Side, c. AD 55.
Obv: ΝЄΡ
Ν ΚΑΙϹΑΡ, laureate and draped bust, right.
Rev: ϹΙΔΗΤ, Athena advancing left, holding spear over shoulder and shield, serpent alongside her; pomegranate upper left field.
Refs: RPC I, 3401; BMC 19.152,75; Mionnet Suppl. 7, p. 66,188; Sear GIC, 608; SNG France 784.

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1 hour ago, Amarmur said:

Yeah I'm not rich haha

It is not for us to "judge" how much a collector can put into coins. What is important is that you like the coins.

 

1 hour ago, Amarmur said:

I'm hoping to snag a cheap one say $100-200 or less per emperor.

But one must honestly say - one of the more expensive collecting areas with not a high budget.

To be honest, you will have to make big sacrifices in terms of preservation. Galba, Otho, Vitellius from the year of the Four Emperors are almost unrealistic at that price, if you still want to recognise something on the coins. With the Flavians with Vespasian, Titus (rather less) and above all Domitian you still have good cards. With Augustus you can get bronzes for the money - especially from the provinces. The typical nephew silver coins as well. I have also seen a nice Tiberius and Claudius bronze for 200-300 USD - even if rare.

But still. It depends, of course, on what is still beautiful for you. That's not for me to judge either - what you find beautiful or no longer beautiful. But still - for the budget per coin it becomes extremely difficult. Depending on the emperor, even impossible.

Be especially careful with coins that look "like new" and can be had for cheap money. If they were "kosher" - old collectors would have bought them long ago or bought them at auction. Often such coins are "tooled" - so badly that they have nothing to do with the original. 

I had to learn painfully at the beginning - that bronzes are very difficult to buy for beginners - if you don't have someone to help you with words and deeds. Silver coins are often easier and safer. With bronze coins you can quickly lose your money. And as a beginner, it's best to stay away from Ebay, Catawiki and the like, even if you often find tempting offers there - which are only cheap at first glance.

These are my recommendations.

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It's been a while since I looked at truly decrepit issues, but as of 2010, one could sometimes snag a decrepit Caligula As for $100. I bought a not too worn, but corroded Sestertius for $225 around then.

But for Vitellius, you'd have to luck into a deal for $200.  Hmm, well, do your search now, hint, hint.

Otho - I'm not sure what the Antioch AE go for, but I'm sure it's well over $200.

It is pretty easy to find a crappy Nero As for under $100.  One can find an okay one from $100-200.

It's been forever since I bought any of Tiberius.  I'm not sure what they go for nowadays.

 

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Perhaps you might want to invest $35 in a copy of David Van Meter's book.  I think Forum has it.  I consider it a good beginner's book; it was also my first real catalog. The value bands are out of date, but kind of gives you an idea. It's a very good bargain.

Sear's Roman Coins and their Values, volume I might also be a good idea.

Is there still a free online version of ERIC?

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From my experience, the Twelve Caesars are only expensive if you get stuck on a straight denarius run. This is my current set, which I have admittedly been adding/upgrading since 2017, but has cost me less than $3,000 all in 2089177391_TwelveCaesarsupdated2020.jpg.b1ed730a2a12022e8c1f3f6fa6e5d71c.jpg

Otho is the rarest of the twelve in an absolute sense, although Julius Caesar is very tough to find a portrait coin of for reasonable money. There are cheap options for every emperor, mostly by going provincial especially for Caesar, Nero, and Otho.

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18 minutes ago, Finn235 said:

From my experience, the Twelve Caesars are only expensive if you get stuck on a straight denarius run. This is my current set, which I have admittedly been adding/upgrading since 2017, but has cost me less than $3,000 all in 

I see 12 coins (fine coins, congrats) for 3000 USD = 250 USD for one coin in the average. But the thread opener wants maximum 100-200 USD for one coin in the average - or less! And one is a big different - with 2017 and 2022. The prices abnormal higher …

Edited by Prieure de Sion
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This is a 2 in 1 coin I got for under 100 bucks! If you are happy to overlook its condition, this coin oozes with history. 

Caesar.jpg.ec50b90bd1c9cf8b16079663058c1e55.jpg

This denarius was minted under Augustus celebrating the Secular games (Ludi Saeculares) in 17 BC. What's special is that it features the famous 'Caesar's Comet' right above the deified head of Caesar.

Obv: M SANQVINIVS (moneyer) III VIR, youthful laureate head of the deified Julius Caesar right, above, a comet with four rays and a tail.

Rev: AVGVST DIVI F LVDOS SAE, herald or ludius standing left, wearing long robe reaching to ankles and helmet with two long feathers, and holding winged caduceus upright in right hand and round shield with a six pointed star. 2.48g, 17 mm. RIC 340; BMCRE 70; RSC (Julius Caesar) 6; BN 273-4; FFC 4. 

I never went looking for this coin, but it just came my way when browsing Vcoins. In good condition it would've been unobtainable for my budget (also I wouldn't be interested in such an expensive coin in the first place). So this is the theme with the Julio-Claudians or any other coins which are not scarce but driven by demand, if you have enough money, you can go hunting for coins, but if not, just wait a while to snag a budget example. 

Edited by JayAg47
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15 hours ago, Prieure de Sion said:

I see 12 coins (fine coins, congrats) for 3000 USD = 250 USD for one coin in the average. But the thread opener wants maximum 100-200 USD for one coin in the average - or less! And one is a big different - with 2017 and 2022. The prices abnormal higher …

Swap the Claudius cistophor for an As and you're well under budget - that one coin was at least 30% of the total cost of the set. An As like this probably wouldn't cost much more than $100 at auction

1037751136_ClaudiusAEAsLibertas.jpg.5f534702ae2ed8d10173401d5f0234a1.jpg

I remember over at CT we had a thread where we put together a virtual "cheapest Twelve Caesars ever" set - and IIRC we were able to complete the whole thing for under $200. It's possible, but takes an exorbitant amount of time, and even more luck.

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The first century AD is one of the most historically interesting periods in Rome's history.  Civil war, pestilence, fire, earthquakes, assassinations, the Colosseum -- and this was the beginning of the Pax Romana!  Every emperor has at least some uniquely interesting characteristics, and even the worst ones seem to have made a notable contribution to Rome's development.

So many ancient coin collectors focus their efforts on this period that, not surprisingly, the demand for coins of this era (especially portrait coins) constantly exceeds supply.  Prices reflect this, but don't let this dissuade you from pursuing this collection.  Rather, keep in mind a number of principles when you're evaluating a purchase and your enjoyment of this hobby is likely to grow as you pursue each individual coin.

First, keep learning by doing your research using resources such as auctions (ACSEARCH, CNG's archives) and dealers (VCOINS, et al.) so that you become familiar with what's available, reasonable pricing, etc.  I personally agree that without sufficient expertise, eBay is full of landmines and you're likely to step on more than a few if you try to find bargains on your own there.

Second, most collectors here will tell you that you should buy only coins that truly appeal to you in some way -- visually, historically, artistically, etc. -- rather than just as a placeholder in your collection.  If you buy coins in the latter category, you'll most likely end up unhappy with the coins at some time in the future.

Next, while it's satisfying to complete your goal of collecting all 12 Caesars, acquiring them slowly and thoughtfully means you'll probably be more satisfied with a partial collection of coins, all of which you cherish and enjoy handling, than quickly assembling a complete collection of coins, some of which evoke the reaction "Hmm, what was I thinking when I bought that one?"  Don't be in a rush.  You'll discover that the chase can be as much fun as the acquisition.

Feel free to ask for general advice in the forums and threads here.  However, if you're looking at a specific coin, use a private message to solicit feedback from a member who seems to collect in the same area or seems otherwise knowledgeable.

Finally, while it's good to set a per-coin budget, be aware that your budget might change -- most likely grow -- over time if you aren't in a rush to complete your collection.  So evaluate each potential coin thoroughly and weigh all the positives and negatives, especially when you find a more expensive coin that seems to "call" to you.  You'll usually end up making the right decision.

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Wanted to post an update that I finally bought a Nero coin from David Connors on Vcoins today. It's a provincial coin and it has a nice looking bust of Nero. I think it looks better than his fat neck looking ones. Was thinking of the Roman Egypt ones as well but the irony of the goddess of goodness and justice on the reverse of this one takes the cake for me haha

rNd6He9sb3PTMLg87x7JmWn5Ki234X.jpg

Edited by Amarmur
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This is a post I made on another board ca 2020. I suspect Caligula will not be your highest priced coin. That would be Julius Caesar, followed by Otho and Galba, depending upon denomination. Vitellius will be pricey as well. The others are much more accessible. I completed my set for $2387 over several years.

—-

Consummatum Est.
So about fifteen years after getting my first Twelve Caesars coin, I have finally finished my Twelve Caesars set to 
my satisfaction. I say “to my satisfaction” because it was technically complete after I bought Orfew’s Otho in 
AMCC 2. But my Titus was a slug, so I bought a better Titus a few weeks ago. It just came in today from the Great 
White North. Here’s a “virtual tray.” A group photo is below.
I subscribe to the school that says there are no rules for a Twelve Caesars set. But my arbitrary guidelines were 1) all 
imperial (no provincial); 2) all bronze. I soon found out that imperial bronze was impossible for Julius Caesar and 
Otho, so I had to go denarii there. I also recognized that sestertii would be out of my price range. I’m happy with the 
middle bronze (AE as) collection I assembled. My favorite might be humble Claudius, with its genuine and 
attractive desert patina. My least favorite? Let’s face it. That Vitellius is a pretty ugly coin. But Vitellius in bronze is 
precious regardless of condition.
For anyone who is interested, here’s a chart with the acquisition year, the seller, and the price. Perhaps it’s a bit crass 
to list price, but I know that when I was thinking about making a serious run at a Twelve Caesars set, I was curious 
what it could be done for. Still, I had no real budget or timeline. I just bought the next coin that I could afford at the 
time. Predictably, the Julius Caesar denarius comes in at the most expensive, followed by the usual suspects Otho, 
Galba, and Vitellius. That Year of the Four Emperors is hard on the ol’ budget! The Augustus Altar of Lugdunum 
comes in at the cheapest. The Nero price is from 2005; that coin would probably cost me a lot more today.
I got serious about making a run at a Twelve Caesars set in 2017 (note that almost half of the set was bought in 2018 
alone). I really didn’t think I would land a Julius Caesar portrait denarius until maybe as a retirement gift to myself
in the distant future. But a pleasing budget option happened to show up in VCoins just at a time when I had a little 
extra money, so I figured that was the universe telling me to go for it. I’m glad I did.
It may be interesting that only two coins come from auction (one being an unsold lot). I’ve returned to serious 
collecting only in the past three years or so and am still an auction neophyte; my VCoins purchases show me 
hugging the shore.
In the future, I would like to upgrade my Caligula. (I actually have two and would probably sell both and invest in a 
better grade.) I might also get provincial bronzes of Julius Caesar and Otho just to have an all-middle-bronze lineup.

 

 

1661E0F3-9A0B-4441-BA60-C31D8A9E0042.png

7779F844-0B58-410D-B46F-520977847B23.png

Edited by Gavin Richardson
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