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What's the rarest you've found in uncleaned lots?

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The small number of uncleaneds I have are enough for me.  However, what's the rarest coin you've found in there?  I doubt there are many Priscus Attalus' in uncleaned lots, even ones from France. Heck, there probably aren't many Honorius AE3's in there.

There don't seem to be many people who do uncleaneds here, or if they do, they don't really mention it a lot.

It's my understanding that the 1990's mid 2000's were the glory days of uncleaneds.

Most of the few large uncleaned ones I have aren't uncleaned in the academic sense, as most of the dirt's been removed, leaving only the crusty stuff to do; They're just unfinished.  I do have a couple of completely dirt covered (presumably Aurelianic) Ants.

The middlemen must really know what's a keeper and what's not.  I doubt many gems get left in the uncleaned lots.  I'm sure there's the occasional Procopius.

I think the 'high grade' middle eastern ones (different dealers have offered very similar ones over the years, generally F-VF, mostly gF, common types) are partially cleaned (enough to reveal the details) coins which aren't really worth the dealers' trouble to finish them. 

Uncleaneds aren't really for me in the long run.  Work and life give me very little time to fool with them, even if I knew what I was doing.

I mostly plan to leave mine as-is, for a display.  The 'before' is much more interesting.

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Man, do I wish I'd taken a before picture. I want even sure this thing was a coin! 

Soak, scrub with cut down toothbrush, electrolysis, repeat. 

Considering she is the queen of the gods you'd think she'd be more plentiful. She's not. Was VERY lucky that the pitting was on the back and not on her lovely portrait. 

Here's my Hera:


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This is my kind of thread!

I frequently buy larger lots of low grade coins, and have found a couple of rarities among them. Here are some of the highlights.

Postumus antoninianus, with the bust as Hercules, and with ORIENS AVG reverse. Unfortunately corroded and likely barbarous, but an extremely rare bust type with an apparently unique reverse. Bought from a large lot of uncleaneds off eBay.



Vabalathus antoninianus - sole reign. Not as nice as my other Vabalathus, but still very scarce (and with a different reverse). Bought from a large lot of semi-uncleaned coins off Biddr, although I spotted this coin in the lot before I bought it.



Q. Pomponius Rufus silver denarius. Not from an uncleaned lot, but from a small lot of silver denarii with this coin not visible. I recently made a thread about it!


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I was a fan of uncleaned lots not that long ago. I found many « not often seen » specimens over the years. Here is by best discovery, the only R5 coin I cleaned myself (maybe it’s not rated R5 anymore since I own a second one, which is the Wildwind plate coin).




I didn’t know why this coin was so special until our friend Andrei (@seth77) gave me this explanation: 

"Your coin is minted in the first half of 395, after the demise of Theodosius and the form of the obverse legends shows that. The break in legend is usually reserved for senior emperors, which is mostly why the first part of issues for Honorius ca. 393-395 have an unbroken legend DN HONORIVS PF AVG. This AE2 type was discontinued soon after the death of Theodosius, but by that time Honorius was already a senior emperor in the West and the mint at Constantinople had just enough time to strike some coins with this new obverse legend form. Your coin is not just scarce or rare, it's very rare and historically important."



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1 hour ago, Celator said:

Don't have the photo available but had a Hannibalianus, few Marc Antony denarii, a tribute Penny, some unpublished Byzantines.

Hmmm sounds like a fishing story.... "I swear! I totally caught on this |-------------------------------------------------| big! But I totally let it go... lol

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I don't buy lots in general (and since I only buy from auction houses, uncleaned lots rarely appear anyway).

But my first  ancient coins acquisition was a lot of 35 coins, described as "Roman bronzes". The price was very modest (being my first purchase, I thought this would be the kind of price I will pay in the future).

3 coins were, in my opinion, very interesting and for me it was clear that the lot was not correctly cherry picked.

First, this barbarous VRBS Roma. This made me scratch my head a little as I was sure it was a Greek coin with Athena on the obverse and the simplified reverse didn't help at all


A comparison with an official issue


Second, this Campania, Suessa Aurunca (identified again with help from a specialist)


Of course, the overall wear and the lack of reverse details don't make this a super coin, but still a scarce coin and a good addition.


This chunky Titus Sestertius was also a very pleasant surprise


Overall the lot was great but a case of beginner's luck. The price per coin including fees and transport was about 4 EUR/coin. And I think there were only 2 coins that were bad. The lot had some Gallienus antoniniani, some varied LRBs, including a Constantius I, a Postumus (also very nice in my opinion)


I wish all my purchases would be like this =))

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I bought an uncleaned lot only once. It came from an croatian museum and included this Denarius. The portrait looks like Trajan but the reverse looks like its never had been stuck.


Edited by wittwolff
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Like many others, I started collecting ancient coins by buying several uncleaned lots. I soon learned to regret that. By now, almost all of the coins from these lots have left my collection again. They were not easy to unload. It would  have been wiser to spend my money on a small number of attractive cleaned coins instead. Speaking from that experience, I generally do not recommend buying uncleaned lots for three reasons:

First, you mostly don't know how, where, and in what sort of legal situation the coins were dug up.

Secondly, uncleaned lot tend to consist mostly of junk coins: worn slugs, identifiable but common and less than optimally preserved LRBs of the Constantinian era, maybe salted with a few of the usual 3rd century bronzes (Gallienus, Claudius Gothicus, and so on). Don't expect to find any treasures – the lots you buy will have been cherry picked by more than one pair of expert hands before they end up on Ebay.

Third, cleaning coins is a very different hobby from collecting coins. If you don't know what you are doing and aren't prepared to invest a lot of time and money in acquiring the right tools and learning the right techniques, you will likely do more damage than good to the coins you are trying to clean.

The LRB below was probably the best coin I got from cleaning a bit more than 200 uncleaned Romans back then. You can imagine how much of the rest looked like:

1870561930_RomKonstantinderGroeAE3VOTXXXaufblickendesPortrat.png.1f5d8f6cc4e80480ad77369cc8a80768.pngConstantine I, Roman Empire, AE3, 327–329 AD, Heraclea mint. Obv: CONSTANTINVS AVG; head of Constantine, diademed, r., looking upward. Rev: D N CONSTANTINI MAX AVG; “VOT/XXX” within a laurel wreath. 19mm, 3.20g. Ref: RIC VII Heraclea 92.


Edited by Ursus
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I concur; the first reason doesn't bother me - most of those laws are unreasonable to begin with, but I strongly agree on #2 and #3, just for my own situation. 

I don't know what I'm doing, although I'm wise enough not to use strong tools this time. Even the experts had to start with something, however, and now there's youtube tutorials, which weren't there when I did my 2004 project (all slugs).  If I tackle those two trachea, it will be as gentle as possible, using a nylon brush and distilled wter.  Also, I don't really have time. I come home tired and often stressed out from work. My weekends are either spent relaxing or busy with other stuff.  I'm also a large module collector.  Small coins don't do much for me.

The 2004 lot (about 100?) were completely dirt-covered.  I tried the gringgott's dirt remover (and ruined a pan or two, I wasn't going to eat out of those again).  I also did the olive oil method.  I was following the best information I had at the time.  There was a low-grade Augustus? as, although I managed to add a couple of scratches with the brass brush (coin was slathered in olive oil while brushing). I didn't know at the time when to know the coin was finished, and the olive oil made it difficult to determine that.  There was also a chipped Probus Ant, and perhaps a Greek AE or two.  THe rest, as far as I know, were AE3 slugs.

However, for someone who really enjoys doing it and also enjoys ID'ing, cleaning would be perfect and relaxing.  I could totally understand that.  I don't think the hardcore uncleaned people are in it for the profit. I'd imagine a lot of the fun is not knowing what's under the dirt.

In my case, it's much wiser to leave them as-is.  If I clean it, and I don't mess it up, I probably get a decrepit coin.  The before is much more educational.   And some of the as-is, semi cleaned (the dirt mostly brushed off, but the finishing touches aren't done) look more striking that way. The best of that category aren't photographed.

You'll have to excuse my incompetent picture, but this Viminacium? Gordian Sestertius would probably? yield a decrepit coin. The other large one is worse off.  That's not a knock on the vendor, I didn't expect any masterpieces, and even the cheap-o offerings were commensurate with the price.  Some categories were even really pleasant surprises.   I ordered my samplers to keep them as-is.




Edit; these are the reverses of the dirt-covered trachea.  Most of the small smattering of truly covered coins that I have aren't photographed.


The 'high quality' middle eastern ones came like that, which were true to the sample photo.  Not really uncleaned, but rather unfinished.  They're fine as-is. I'd say these range from aF to aVF. It would be wiser in the long run to buy one $60 coin (or two 30's) rather than 5 12's.

The tiny amount of the same category that I ordered from Dr. Fishman in 2009 were similar, but I actually ended up with a lovely Constantius II AE4 (as-is, it just had a smattering of dirt in the fields).  I ordered a few of his restored AE3's, which were cool. I was mainly in it for the totally awesome $25 Diocletianic-era folles (cleaned).  The other categories were add-ons.

Uncleaneds weren't what they once were, but they would be a very nice educational tool or yield a lot of enjoyment for the person who likes the mystery and for whom ID'ing is fun.


Any idea what the trachy on the right is?  Alexius III?  I'm rusty on my trachy IDs.

Aha, I just realized: the above is the picture of the obverses of both coins, and the one a couple of pics up are the reverses.

But out of curiosity, what are some of the better uncleaneds vendors?

I might put in the occasional order of the $7 (cleaned) provincials.  The surprises are kind of fun, when they aren't BD coins. I'd get those for the fun factor.

My opinion, it's all about what one's into.  For 'keepers', it's probably best to get traditional coins.  For relaxation or educational purposes, uncleaneds.

Edit: I'd suspect that the Gordian Viminacium would be flaky and picking at it would probably make it worse.  What do more experienced people think?

Ancients have been a long-time hobby and I do it for my own pleasure.  The most ID work that I want to do is to find the coin and order the coin. I'm mainly into Sestertii and various large coins, as well as later republican denarii.


Edited by Nerosmyfavorite68
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8 hours ago, wittwolff said:

I bought an uncleaned lot only once. It came from an croatian museum and included this Denarius. The portrait looks like Trajan but the reverse looks like its never had been stuck.


@wittwolff, from here, your denarius is looking like it could be a brockage.  ...Hope I'm right; that would make for a cool explanation.

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16 hours ago, Nerosmyfavorite68 said:

I concur; the first reason doesn't bother me - most of those laws are unreasonable to begin with,

Let's agree to disagree on this point. For my part, I consider a working legal framework to protect archeological sites important. The PAS in Great Britain in my eyes is a very positive example. On the other hand, the situation in Turkey and a number of Balkan countries, where the sale of antiquities is illegal but looting and smuggling are common, is deeply lamentable. That is a different topic, though...


16 hours ago, Nerosmyfavorite68 said:

However, for someone who really enjoys doing it and also enjoys ID'ing, cleaning would be perfect and relaxing.  I could totally understand that.  I don't think the hardcore uncleaned people are in it for the profit. I'd imagine a lot of the fun is not knowing what's under the dirt.

I concur. To me, the difference between coin cleaning and coin collecting is somewht analogous to the difference between liking nice furniture and woodworking. You don't need to be a craftsperson in order to appreciate a Chippedale chair. And if you are a hobby woodworker, you'll enjoy the activity of building stuff yourself despite the fact that you'll likely have to invest much more time and money on it than you would on simply buying furniture of the same quality.

Edited by Ursus
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Unattributed lots are a great way to find stuff I can't otherwise afford.  I've never done the uncleaned LRB thing, mostly because I'm lazy and I figure I'll just screw up coins by trying to clean them.  Below are some recent treasures (sort of) from an unattributed eBay lot - if anything, this lot was an overly-cleaned, rather than uncleaned lot, but as unappealing as it looks at first glance, I was surprised to find some rarities and/or interesting types. 


Here's the pick of the litter:  

As soon as I saw this portrait I thought it looked like Pompey the Great - but what's he doing on a Provincial Æ?  It might be Pan, I thought, but I have a lot to learn.  Thanks to a Google image search, I figured this one out pretty quickly (Google search for Pompey Nike Æ brought several up).  Almost everybody selling one of these describes it as "rare" but there are so many of them that I rather doubt this.  The Pompey obverse was issued from Pompey's time on into the Flavians, so there are a lot of variations of the same basic type; attributions are all over the place and mine has almost no reverse legends remaining beyond a ΔI in the field, a couple of which I found.  Despite the worn reverse, the portrait on mine is quite nice compared to a lot of them I saw: 


Pompey the Great (era) Æ 18 Soloi-Pompeiopolis (c. 50 B.C.-50 A.D.) Bare head of Pompey the Great right / [ΠOMΠHIOΠOΛITΩ?], Nike advancing right, holding wreath; ΔI [ΛΑ ?] in right field. SNG France 1213-1217; SNG Levante 880-882 var. (5.50 grams / 18 mm)  eBay June 2022

Attribution:  Many varieties of this type; most online sources are vague about attribution.  Reverse legends missing, except ΔI in right field.  Others with ΔI have ΛΑ below.  See: Numismatik Naumann Auct. 42; Lot 576; 03.04.2016 Roma E-Sale 31; Lot 212; Nov. 2016 (asiaminorcoins.com) Artemide Aste 45E; Lot 242; Dec. 15-16, 2018. 

A Diocletian follis from Carthage.  It is a tad rough, but Carthage personified on the reverse is why LRB's can be so rewarding.  The website Constantine the Great Coins has a terrific write up on the issues from this mint:  http://www.constantinethegreatcoins.com/Carthage/  


 Diocletian  Æ Follis (298-303 A.D.) Carthage Mint IMP DIOCLETIANVS PF AVG, laureate head right / SALVIS AVGG ET CAESS FEL KART, Carthage standing front, looking left, holding fruits in both hands, A in exergue. RIC VI Carthage 29a/31a. (9.08 grams / 27 x 24 mm) eBay June 2022

Attribution Notes: RIC VI 29a - small head type (298-299 A.D.) RIC VI 31a - large head type (299-303 A.D.)

"RIC states "Elmer, N.Z.1932, divided this issue into two sections, with portraits small or less small and with Carthago thin or larger -- distinctions which are very difficult to maintain.  It is likely that, if the issue was of any duration, these differences came about to some extent by natural variation and development.""  Constantine the Great Coins http://www.constantinethegreatcoins.com/Carthage/  


 Pseudo-autonomous Æ 20 (Marcus Aurelius/Commodus) Germe, Mysia (see notes) (c. 138-192 A.D.) IEΡAC VΝΚΛΗ, unbearded, youthful head of Senate right / [Γ]E[ΡM]HNΩN, Herakles, naked, standing facing, head left, holding club and lion's skin. RPC IV.2, 11358 (temporary). (3.05 grams / 20 x 18 mm) eBay June 2022 

Notes:  Appears to be obverse die-match to eBay auction 371942123222, Seller arkadyn July 2022.  Identified as: Ehling 403.5; SNG Copenhagen 126; SNG von Aulock -; SNG München -; BMC 5. RPC 11358 references: Ehling 382–4 ('Spätantoninisch')

Notes:  Both BMC and SNG Cop. place Germe in Lydia. Recent scholarship has discovered that it is actually in Mysia, on the river Rhyndakos. For further reading, see L. Robert, Villes d' Asia Mineure pp. 67-9, 171-201 and 37-411." Tom Mullally, FORVM

This issue for Diadumenian from Sillyum (one of my favorite ancient town names) is apparently "unpublished" - I only know this thanks to Wildwinds, where the only other one I could find; it seems to be a die-match for mine.  This is the only "unpublished" ancient I own, I think:


Diadumenian Æ 17 Sillyum, Pamphylia (c. 217-218 A.D.) [...ANTΩ]ΔIAΔ[OVM...], bare-headed, draped and cuirassed bust right / CIΛΛV[Є]ΩN, Tyche standing left, holding rudder and cornucopia. Unpublished (see notes). (4.65 grams / 17 mm) eBay June 2022      

Attribution Notes:  Appears to be a die match for unpublished specimen on Wildwinds via Gitbud & Naumann Auction 38; Lot 568; 06.12.2015.  Auction description: SNG von Aulock -; SNG Copenhagen -; BMC -; Isegrim -; apparently unpublished.  Here's the Wildwinds die-match with mine (top):


Here is one of those provincials with a very crude portrait - what a forehead!  The Cremna mint was not hiring the best in the business, I'd say. 


Herennius Etruscus           Æ 23 (251 A.D.) Cremna, Pisidia · IMP CAES · Q · ER · ETR · MES DECIVM, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right / GEN COL CREM, Genius standing left holding patera and cornucopia, lighted altar left. RPC IX 975. (5.60 grams / 23 mm) eBay June 2022

Note:  RPC states "Die-links 1-10: same pair of dies."  But from examples online, it seems at least two dies used; this one matches Museum of Fine Arts Boston No. 63.888; the reverse die matches RPC IX 975 ex. 1.  Dots not noted in obverse legend in RPC and elsewhere.   RPC additional reference: vA Pisidien II, 1482–9

I'm saving the best for last - this one caused me a lot of difficulty to attribute:  the POC on the obverse legend is usually found on Septimius Severus provincials, bet the portrait is clearly a boy.  Caracalla?  Geta?  Severus Alexander?  Elagabalus?  After a lot of fumbling around online, I got a hit on acsearch:  Vespasian, Jr.!  Never heard of the guy, buy Smyrna issued some coins for him, and nowhere else.  David Atherton posted one on Coin Talk:  https://www.cointalk.com/threads/vespasian-the-younger.391901/  Here's mine:


Vespasian the Younger     Æ 16 Smyrna, Ionia (c. 94-95 A.D.) ΟΥƐ[ϹΠΑϹΙ]ΑΝ[ΟϹ] ΝΕΩΤΕΡΟϹ, bare-headed bust right / [ΖΜ]ΥΡΝ[Α]ΙΩΝ, Nike walking right holding wreath and palm branch over shoulder RPC II 1028; BMC 319; Klose, XLII, 1; plate 31, V1/R1. (3.02 grams / 16 mm) eBay June 2022     

Attribution Notes: The portrait on this Smyrnian bronze.. (with) the inscription OYEC P ACIANOC NE W TEPOC (‘the younger Vespasian’), has been a subject of much debate...An accidental mulling of a Vespasian Junior portrait die and a reverse die (of) Nemesis intended for an issue of Domitian’s wife Domitia makes it clear that the subject must be Vespasian Jr. Beyond this single issue, no other coins are known to name or portray Vespasian Junior..." NAC AG

Die Matches:  Per RIC, there are two obverse dies, which looks to be the case from many online examples.  For obv./rev. die match, see: Numismatica Ars Classica AG Auction 62; Lot 2031; 06.10.2011 For obverse die match (only), see RPC 1028, specimen No. 24

P.S.  Anybody know what this one is - I could never figure it out: 


Edited by Marsyas Mike
wrong website attribution!
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