Jump to content

Coins that are rare/scarce but you have the means to buy?


Recommended Posts

  • Benefactor

Similar here. I have several coins on my list that are quite rare. There's one with only one recorded sale in ACSearch. My hope is either that coin is re-sold or there are others out there. These are mostly rare bronzes that only a specialist would care about.

  • Like 7
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Rare does not mean expensive.  Ugly outranks rare any day.  I paid $10 for this Alexandria mint Septimius Severus denarius with INVICTO IMP reverse in 1994.  It was listed in Roger Bickford-Smith's pamphlet on Eastern Severans and he said it was the one of my coins he really wanted.  I was considering giving it to him when he died so the British Museum did not get it.  The type is common from 'Emesa' but not otherwise known from Alexandria. Big dealers don't want $10 coins. I will give it to someone someday or take it with me. 😜



  • Like 14
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I put on hold one of my first interests, medievals, because what I would like to add is rather unreachable. It's not really about price as it's about actual rarity and the best way to hope for a break is to sift through french ebay over and over and over and hope for a miracle. Last time that happened for me was in 2018 with something I had wanted for many years: a Charles V denier tournois of the old type, which was minted in 1365. It was in a cheap lot of otherwise unremarkable french coins. These days I don't have the surplus hours to spend relentlessly on ebay tho.

Edited by seth77
  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

There are many such coins in my specialty -- Antonine women on coins. I have several coins that are known from only a handful of examples -- and by handful, I mean 10 or fewer known specimens. Most collectors only want a single example of Faustina I or II, so they choose the highest grade, prettiest example they can find, and there are innumerable examples that fit the bill. So they overlook the less pretty ones that happen to be rare variants. Many of the rare ones resemble common ones, so they go unnoticed by those who don't specialize.

Very rare:


Very common:


Very rare:


Very common:


Only a couple of people actually try to acquire these various rare varieties -- me, @shanxi, @Marsyas Mike, and @curtislclay. So, even though they are more rare than an EID MAR denarius, they aren't worth much because there is no demand for them.


  • Like 10
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Benefactor

As many know, I create lists of coins and buy from that list. Recently, two such coins (okay, more than two - but these two make the story interesting) came on the market.

The first was a variant I didn't know existed. On further research, I was fascinated by it. Once I receive the coin (shipped yesterday) I'll write a full post, but searches on ACSearch, Academia, etc pulled up nothing. It's possible that the coin is unique, though it's unlikely.

So, when it came up for auction, I put in my bid...and won it for 18 Euros. 🙂

Moving on to coin #2, I recently noticed when it came up for auction. I seriously debated bidding on it, but I wouldn't have been able to go far above the minimum. Previous sales (about 40 on ACSearch) put its value at $3k-$4k, which was over my budget. I didn't bid. The coin went for $30k. It remains on my list, though I'm hoping for an inferior copy that I'll have a chance at (a rough one sold for $500 at CNG some time ago that I regret).

Here's a rare one that I did procure. I haven't seen any other copies for sale since I purchased mine, though ACSearch lists 11 previous sales.


Mytilene EL Hekte c. 332 BCE
10.5mm 2.57g 12h
Avers : Tête laurée et barbue de Zeus à droite (Philippe II de Macédoine).
Revers : Tête imberbe d’Héraklès à droite coiffée de la léonté dans un carré linéaire (Alexandre III le Grand).
Bod.103 - B. traité- - Aulock1711 - P.- - BMC.- - Cop.- - HGCS. 5/1029 (R2)

  • Like 7
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My collecting strategies (closer to the idea of a generalist rather than a specialized collector) helped me in this scenario. My major targets were rather common and I was perfectly happy with conditions that many collectors would call average (indulgently). Some luck too. 

Even the targets that I still have on my wish list are not exactly rare. 

Anyway for ancient coins - the paradox is if that you are a specialist you have a better chance to get the rarity cheaply, even if you have to wait. A popular coin, even if not rare, might be too expensive for one's budget. 



  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I do enjoy fly-specking and identifying scarce varieties, as @Roman Collector generously suggests.  But I am not really systematic in my search for that kind of material - I like to be surprised, and a lot of my motivation is base bargain-hunting.  Sometimes I get lucky.

This is why eBay is such a pleasure for me - so much junk, so much of it unattributed (and so much of it fake).  Here is a recent example of my collector's "thinking" (if that's what it could be called.  This coin was described as an as of Faustina I - it even came with a very detailed flip insert.  The seller wanted $45 "buy-it-now" which is more than I pay for about anything on eBay (I operate on a small budget). You don't need to be an expert like @Roman Collector to see this is not Faustina.  Here are photos when I got it, and a picture of the flip info:



Notice any problems, besides the attribution?  Bronze disease!  This thing was almost fuzzy with it.  The seller's photos rather muted this lurid green of it, but it was obviously afflicted in a bad way.

So why did I go for it?  Well, Severan middle bronzes are scarce in general (posts by @maridvnvm and @Severus Alexander and others whet my appetite for these).  So I tried to attribute it, just for fun; when I started poking around and found a die-match, and a correct attribution - this was not, as I first thought, Julia Maesa, but rather her daughter, Julia Soaemais (mother of Elagabalus).  Uh oh, I was starting to get that falling-in-love-with-the-wrong-gal feeling!  I knew I wouldn't pay $45 for it, but the seller accepted offers - so after mulling it over for days, I low-balled it at $27, which he accepted, and shipped it right away.  I immediately dropped this diseased thing in distilled water and I have to say I got lucky - this is what it looked like after soaking only an hour, with some gentle scraping.  My guess is, from the old pitting, that this had BD years before, was treated, and it came back, mostly on the surface.  It's been soaking for the past several days and is actually cleaner than this now.  


Julia Soaemias   Æ As/Dupond. (218-222 A.D.) Rome Mint IVL[IA SOAEMIAS AV]G, draped bust right with stephane / / VENVS CAELES[TI]S, S-C, Venus standing facing, head left, apple in right hand, grounded scepter in left; star in right field. RIC IV Elagabalus 403 / 404. (9.63 grams / 24 x 22 mm) eBay Oct. 2022   $27.00 BO BIN

Attribution:  This looks like an orichalcum dupondius?  OCRE  lists as / dupondius separately:

RIC IV Elagabalus 403 (dup.)

RIC IV Elagabalus 404 (as)

Obverse Die-Match: British MuseumNumber 1867,0101.2176 Described as as/dupondius but ref: RIC IV Elagabalus 404 (as); BMCRE 385, p.597

Here's the British Museum specimen with mine:


Given its condition, I doubt this was a good "deal" at all, but this is an empress I'd never be able to afford from the usual auction/dealer channels, and I am actually quite pleased with its appearance, despite the problems.  Although the reverse is rough too, the entire legend is visible, as well as the star in the right field; with some re-toning, it might actually look pretty good in a hundred years or so!  

  • Like 10
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 10/17/2022 at 10:09 AM, JayAg47 said:

Are there any coins that you've been wanting for sometime but they rarely come up for sale? it doesn't necessarily have to be expensive. I guess those types of coins are mostly niche types. 

There are a handful that are hard to find and aren't in the "unaffordable" category. Many more that I most likely will not afford when they do show up...

and every now and then - a nice surprise:


Egypt, Alexandria, Gallienus, AD 253-268, Potin Tetradrachm, Dated RY 15 (AD 267/268)

Obv:  AVT K Π ΛIK ΓAΛΛIHNOC CЄB, laureate and cuirassed bust right 

Rev: Poseidon standing left, right foot on dolphin, holding palm frond and trident; ЄI/L (date) to lower left, palm frond to right

Ref: Köln 2953; Dattari (Savio) 5259; K&G 90.108; Emmett 3827.15 (R3)

Edited by Sulla80
  • Like 9
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...