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Zimm's Top 10 Trachea of the Year


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Seeing how everyone else here on the forums is posting their top coins of the year, I started to feel obligated to also compile a list of my own. This year saw me change focus from earlier Byzantine and Roman coins to solely collecting late Byzantine (AE) coinage. To reflect this change this year’s list will not include any of the (few) new Roman coins I bought near the beginning of the year, but rather just trachea. Although the coins aren’t what most people here on forums collect, I do hope fellow trachy collectors, and other curious collectors alike will enjoy my list.


(Before I start with the list I must apologise for the awful pictures for some of the coins as I am not the greatest at taking them.)

10. Andronicus II - Sear: 2348A, DOC: -, LBC: 656 = PCPC 116.1


Obverse: St. George, wearing tunic, breastplate, and sagion, nimbate, holding spear over shoulder in right hand and shield in left hand, uncertain legend

Reverse: Full-length figure of emperor, holding cruciform sceptre in left hand and globus cruciger in right hand, [manus dei in upper right field?], unclear legend


This coin, unlike the other coins that will appear later on in the list, is not in necessarily great condition, nor does it have well-preserved legends, yet I love it nevertheless. As the sharp-eyed of you might have already noticed, on this type Andronicus is wearing a chlamys, like you would see on his tetartera and basilikons, instead of the traditional loros; a depiction which I personally love. Despite being worn, the coin also has great eye appeal thanks to its green patina. In addition, the type itself seems to be quite scarce. All in all, I was able to find only a handful of examples of the coin catalogued online, hence making it worthy of appearing on this list.


9. John III - Sear: 2090 = DOC: 36, LBC: -


Obverse: St. George, wearing tunic, breastplate and sagion, nimbate, holding spear in right hand, holding shield in left hand, [Ο ΑΓΙΟC] ΓΕWΡ

Reverse: Full-length figure of emperor on left, crowned by Christ standing on dais on right, bearded, nimbate, holding Book of Gospels. Emperor wears stemma, divitision, and chlamys; holds in right hand labarum-headed sceptre, and in left, globus cruciger, IC - XC, ΙW ΔΕCΠ Ο ΔꙋK[AC?]


Like the previous coin, this coin appears on my list only due to its scarcity. I was only able to find five examples of the type online, though the figure is likely higher as I don't have access to all publications. Despite the extensive pitting on the obverse, the reverse is surprisingly clear and well-struck and has far more details preserved than other specimens, especially when it comes to the legend. For instance, the example that appears in DOC has its legend cut off at “IW ΔE”, and due to the flan being so small, doesn’t show the dais Christ is standing on. That is why I felt compelled to include this coin on my list.


8. Theodore I - Sear: 2067, DOC: 7, LBC 186-7


Obverse: Full-length figure of Christ, bearded, nimbate, holding Book of Gospels in left hand, IC - XC, ✚ on either side

Reverse: Full-length figure of emperor on the left, full-length figure of St. Theodore, nimbate, on the right, figures holding a long labarum between one another. Emperor wearing stemma, divetesion and loros, holding akakia in right hand, sword hanging from waist on left side. St. Theodore wearing tunic and breastplate, holding spear over shoulder in left hand, sword hanging from right side of waist. Uncertain legend.


I have no real reason for including this type on my list other than that it’s in great condition for the type. Whilst, admittedly, it is from the scarcer end of Theodore’s issues, it’s not all that rare when compared to the post-1204 trachea as a whole. Regardless, I decided to include it on my list since it’s supposed to reflect which new coins I enjoyed getting the most this year after all.


7. John III - Sear 2089, DOC 35, LBC 219-223


Obverse: St. Michael, wearing tunic, breastplate and sagion, holding sword over shoulder in right hand, holding globus in left hand, uncertain legend

Reverse: Full-length figure of emperor on left, crowned by Christ on right, bearded, nimbate, holding Book of Gospels. Emperor wears stemma, divitision, and chlamys; holds in right hand akakia, and in left, globus cruciger. left hand, IC - XC, ΙW ΔΕCΠ Ο ΔꙋKAC


This, like the previous coin on my list, I included simply due to how much I liked its appearance. St. Michael on the obverse (even if the picture makes it hard to see it), as well as the emperor on the reverse, are both portrayed in extraordinarily fine style. In addition to its fine style, the coin also features virtually complete reverse legends and appears to be in extremely fine condition overall. For the reasons given I decided to grant it the #7 spot on my list.


6. Andronicus II - Sear 2352, DOC 588-9, LBC 657-9, PCPC 120.1-3


Obverse: Seraph, four pellets in each corner

Reverse: Full-length figure of emperor, wearing stemma, divetesion and loros, holding in right hand cruciform sceptre and in left hand akakia, ΑΝΔΡΟΝΙΚΟ ΔΗ[C]ΠΟΤΗC Ο ΠΑΛΕΟΛΟΓΟϹ


Although Sear 2352 isn’t a necessarily rare type, I had to include it on the list simply due to the fact that the legend on the reverse was virtually fully struck. Trachea with legends this clear and complete are something you don’t see every day. In addition, the obverse type with the seraph is also very sought-after, so I was delighted to get it in that regard as well. Due to the aforementioned two factors, I decided to include the coin on my list.


5. Manuel Komnenos Doukas - Sear 2177, DOC 3, LBC 346-350


Obverse: St. Demetrius, nimbate, wearing tunic, breastplate and sagion, holding in right hand spear and in left hand small sword, Ο ΑΓΙΟC ΔΗΜΗΤΡΙΟC

Reverse: Full-length figure of emperor on left, crowned by Christ, nimbate, on right, emperor wearing stemma, divetesion and chlamys, holding sceptre in right hand and in left hand akakia, star in right field, MANꙋHΛ ΔΕϹ, ΙϹ ΧϹ


Of all the Thessalonican coins I acquired this year, this trachy of Manuel Komnenos Doukas was probably the finest example. From the moment I saw this listed for auction, I knew I had to get it. I completely fell in love with the details retained on the emperor and Christ, as well as the fine style in which St. Demetrius is engraved on the obverse. There isn’t much else to say about this coin other than that it looks astonishing.


4. John III - Sear 2106 var; Sear -, DOC -, LBC-


Obverse: Bust of Christ, nimbate, holding scroll in left hand, right hand raised in benediction, IC XC, KE.. [PO?]

Reverse: Full-length figure of emperor, wearing stemma, divetesion, loros and sagion, holding akakia in right hand and globus cruciger in left hand. [IW?] ΔΕCΠOT Ο ΔꙋKAC


This, along with all the three subsequent entries on this list, has earned its place this high on the list due to a feature they all share; they are all (apparently) unpublished. This first example might at first glance appear like a standard example of Sear 2106, but in fact, this example seems to be a hitherto unknown variant of the already relatively scarce type. In addition to the standard obverse legend of “IC XC (= Jesus Christ)”, there’s also the beginning of a secondary inscription; “KE”. There aren’t many legends beginning with the letter combination “KE” with Christ on the obverse. The only real contender would be ΚΕΡΟ ΗΘΕΙ (= KYRIE BOETHEI = Lord help) (or a variant of it). The coin in question has not yet arrived in the mail, but once it does, I might provide a more in-depth post on it here on Numis Forums (should I be able to, with confidence, figure out the latter half of the inscription).


3. John III - Sear -, DOC -, LBC -


Obverse: Full-length figure of Mary, nimbate, seated upon throne with back, holding head of Christ on breast, MP - ϴV

Reverse: Half-length figure of emperor wearing stemma, divetesion, and loros; holding labarum-headed sceptre in right hand, globus cruciger in left hand


This coin I’ve already discussed in another post here on Numisforums. Like the previous entry on the list, this coin is this high on the list also due to it being an unpublished type. Although there are some half-length and full-length bust types similar to this one, none are an exact match (For half-length types there isn’t a matching type recorded with Mary on the obverse, and for types with Mary on the obverse, only full-length busts are known). Due to this reason I have decided to grant this coin the number three spot on my list. (As to the attribution to John III, neither Theodore I nor Theodore II is known to have issued half-length bust types, hence the attribution to him.)


2. Andronicus II & Unclear Second Emperor - Sear -, DOC -, LBC -, LPC -, PCPC -


Obverse: Christ, nimbate, seated upon throne without back, holding Book of Gospels in left hand, IC - XC

Reverse: Emperor on left side, bearded, wearing stemma and divetesion, holding right hand close to chest, emperor on right side, wearing stemma and divetesion holding left hand close to chest, emperors holding long patriarchal cross between one another, ΑΝ...[Δ]ΕϹΠΟΤΗϹ


This coin was one of the most perplexing coins I bought this year. It was also discussed in a previous thread of mine here on the forums, but I’ll give a short summary of it; The trachy is most likely an issue of Andronicus II (as the legend names the first emperor as an Andronicus) with an uncertain second emperor (both Michael IX and Andronicus III were portrayed with beards, and the coin is weakly struck where the second emperor’s name would be). The style, however, is of inferior quality than that of Constantinople or Thessalonica, but far better than some irregular issues that are of a similar type (also note how this coin has very clear and legible legends in perfect Greek), hence making a provincial attribution a likely option. Until a second example with clearer legends, or other features that would make an attribution possible, appear, this coin will remain a mystery. Regardless, this coin earned the #2 spot on my list due to being my only unpublished Palaeologan type.


1. Theodore I - Sear -, DOC -, LBC - (/79-80?)


Obverse: Facing bust of Christ (Pantokrator), bearded, nimbate, holding Book of Gospels IC – XC 

Reverse: Theodore I on the left, Saint Constantine(?) on the right, holding globus cruciger between them. Emperor wearing stemma, divetesion and chlamys, holding cruciform sceptre(?) in right hand. Saint wearing stemma, divetesion and loros, holding cruciform sceptre in left hand. …Δω… on left, O on top, uncertain letters on right.


This coin I have not yet discussed here on the forums due to the (until recently) uncertain attribution of the coin. For a long time, I had dismissed the coin, following Lianta’s attribution of a similar, albeit far more irregular, type in LBC, as an issue of John III (Before acquiring Lianta’s work I had the coin attributed as a possibly unpublished issue of an uncertain Nicaean emperor). However, as I recently was flipping through the pages of LBC again, I stumbled upon the type once more and remarked how different the style was from my coin, which prompted me to take a closer look at my example again. I had previously noticed how there was a triangle-shaped letter on the left side of the reverse (a gamma, delta or an alpha), but had foolishly assumed every other letter of the legend had been erased due to wear, a weak strike or corrosion. Now that I inspected the coin again, I made a most remarkable discovery; there was a second, albeit very faint, letter still preserved on the coin, an omega, making the legend spell out Δω (pictures below). Taking a look at the list of emperors from that time, neither Alexius (whose types this very closely resembles), John nor any other emperor from the 12th-14th centuries had a name, whose beginning would have the letters Δω in it, with one exception, Theodore. With a bit of research, I was also able to find a second example of the type (struck with the same reverse die as my example) that was offered for sale at a CNG auction a few years ago (https://www.acsearch.info/search.html?id=3296145).

(Raw photos of the legend fragment)

51C0D14B-6803-4DDB-99D2-8A00EC99E514-300x268.jpeg 41BA8D86-E282-49E1-BD28-C626EFE294F9-300x220.jpeg

(Edited photo with enhanced contrast)


What is important to note, is that unlike the (rather irregular and considerably smaller) examples Lianta presents in LBC  (https://hcr.ashmus.ox.ac.uk/coin/hcr53455 from the Whittemore collection), the CNG example and the one I have are of far superior (seemingly) official style Nicene style, making the possibility of it being a contemporary imitation rather slim (also important to note is the size of my example at 30mm and 2.49g in contrast to Lianta‘s at 22mm and 1.1g (picture below)). Thessalonican coins on the other hand were struck in an entirely different style, and the emperor wasn’t portrayed with this type of chlamys, making a Thessalonican issue unlikely. The saint on the right side of the reverse, despite the lack of legible legends, can, with a certain level of confidence, be identified as St. Constantine due to the imperial regalia the saint wears, and the short beard he is portrayed with.


The weight of the coin itself, the rough flans, and the type of regalia worn by the emperor, are most in line with those of the early Nicaean Empire. John III can be ruled out due to the legend naming the emperor as one bearing the name of Theodore. However, making the distinction between Theodore I and Theodore II is more difficult. However I, personally, have attributed the coin to Theodore I due to two factors, the style used, and the regalia of the emperor. Theodore I, and admittedly some scarcer issues of John III, portray the emperor with the same sort of chlamys with a half-circle design in the centre. This design, aside from a singular tetarteron, wasn’t used by Theodore II Laskaris. In addition, the rough style of the coin would be odd for Theodore II, whose coins were minted at already properly established mints at Magnesia and Thessalonica. Hence Theodore I, whose reign saw the establishment of new mints in Nicaea and later Magnesia, would seemingly be a more likely candidate for this rather rough coinage. 


Despite the examples provided by Lianta from the Whittemore collection (Originally found at Sardis in Asia Minor (N. Chron. 1973, 1047-9, discussed by Bendall in N. Circ. 1978, p.178,1)) being of a completely different (and irregular) style (and of much lower weight and diameter), they do (seemingly?) feature the same design as the two other, seemingly official, examples. The Sardis coins have been a subject of debate ever since they were discovered, with attributions ranging from John III and Theodore II to a hitherto undiscovered Latin issue. I am not yet sure if these coins are, indeed, of the same type, or just coincidentally happen to feature a very similar design. (Important to note is also the fact that there were no coins found at Sardis that were issued after the reign of John III, which is why Simon Bendall was against the attribution as Theodore II, which is also the opinion I hold). However, due to the differences in style and size, I am personally not yet sure what to think of these more irregular types, if they even are related to the type I have acquired in the first place.


Now, to end my summary of the type, I have come up with a theory for what this coin of Theodore I might be. I would like you to keep in mind, however, that this is merely a theory, and I have no concrete evidence to back it up. Due to the crude style of the coin, and its similarity to the coins of Alexius III (the last significant issue of trachea before the fourth crusade), I am led to believe the coin in question could, in fact, be one of the early types struck by Theodore after fleeing to Asia-Minor and establishing his dominion there. The irregular flan shape, the still not fully developed Nicaean engraving style (note the crude but yet detailed design) and the type being so similar to those of Alexius III would all hint toward it. Considering how Theodore was of lowly descent compared to the Angeloi, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that to make the change of leadership less noticeable, he would make his first coins bear imagery in use by his predecessor. This imitation of Angelid coinage could also be a result of Theodore trying to legitimise his claim to the throne as a continuation of the Angelid dynasty as he had married Alexius III’s daughter Anna, and received the title of despot from the former emperor. Now, as stated above, this is just a theory that I came up with, and I have no evidence to back it up. I merely saw fit to come up with a theory to explain the existence of the coin and the odd characteristics it has.


And that’d be the end of my list. I do hope all of you enjoyed reading it, and I’d love to hear your opinions on it. Also, feel free to share related types in your own collections.

Edited by Zimm
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