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FrizzyAntoine's Top 10* Roman & Mediaeval Coins of 2022

FrizzyAntoine's Top 10* Roman & Mediaeval Coins of 2022  

22 members have voted

  1. 1. Please Choose Your 3 Favourites :)

    • 1. Aegypto Capta Denarius
    • 2. Basil II Constantine VIII Histamenon
    • 3. Faustina Minor Sestertius
    • 4. Alexander VI Grosso
    • 5. Juba II Ptolemy Denarius
    • 6. Saserna Vercingetorix Denarius
    • 7. Lucerian Victoriatus
    • 8. Seljuks 3 Brothers Dinar
    • 9. Brutus Lycian Apollo Denarius
    • 10. Julius Caesar Elephant Denarius
    • 11. Yusuf bin Ayyoub Fals

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It’s that time of the year again, and once more it has been an incredible year numismatically, and one that I am extremely thankful for. I’ve decided to do two Top 10 lists overall, this one for Roman and ‘Other’ pre-modern coins, and a separate one for Greek coins which I will upload in the coming days. I did this as I suppose it’s a fairer representation of my collection overall, and there are often vast differences in artistry and history between Greek and Roman coins that I find difficult to compare directly. I also failed to narrow the list down to 10, so this is actually going to be 11, as is the Greek list, which I guess really makes it the ‘Top 22 of 2022’. Both lists also underwent an innumerable number of shuffles and reshuffles as I tried to reflect on why I had picked each coin and how each one fits in my collection. As always, please feel free to share your thoughts, and similar coins of your own! 

So, without further ado, here they are:

11. Yusuf ibn Ayyub Fals (Damascus, 585 AH / 1189-90 CE)

One of the few Islamic rulers who is popularly recognised in the European tradition, and in a positive light no less, is Yusuf ibn Ayyub. Known by the epithet of Salah al-Din, roughly translating as “Righteous of The Faith”, and latinised as Saladin. He has come to embody the pinnacle of chivalry in western literary canon, and romances of the crusades abound with tales of Saladin and Richard I “the Lionheart”, two noble adversaries locked in a bitter ideological conflict yet possessing boundless respect for one another. The two great princes of Christendom and Islam would not meet until early in 1191 CE, however their fateful encounter was sealed by the events of autumn 1187 CE, when Salah al-Din captured the city of Jerusalem after a siege of some two weeks. This, coupled with the immediately antecedent Crusader disaster of Hattin, sparked calls for the 3rd Crusade, which while being far from the last crusade, was the last time a series of large-scale major military engagements would be fought between the warring sides over the city of Jerusalem itself. The city would remain under the dominion of a variety of Islamic nations for the ensuing 730 years until the British Mandate of 1917, and the subsequent Israeli occupation. Interestingly, even Dante, writing much closer to the events at hand and at a time when the crusading spirit was only just beginning to wane, accords Salah al-Din a place in the ranks of Limbo alongside righteous pagans such as Homer and Brutus, who he feels would have adopted Christianity had it been present in their time. This, despite the fact that Dante would have known well the role Salah al-Din played in the eventual demise of the Crusader states, and the fact that he was in direct conflict with Christian armies for much of his reign. Certainly an interesting display of admiration on his part at least, and perhaps an indication of the more widespread benevolent public sentiment felt towards Saladin in mediaeval Europe. As for this coin, it was minted in the ancient city of Damascus at a time when Salah al-Din was at the height of his power, a short while after his conquests in the Levant, and before he came to blows with Richard’s crusaders. It’s also a rather large coin, being 25mm across, which is perfect as it makes the calligraphy very easily legible. While silver and gold coins of Salah al-Din do feature his name, it can sometimes be difficult to read as it forms only a small portion of the calligraphy. In this case however, the central legend is his name, with the obverse and reverse respectively reading “Al-Malik, An-Nasir” The King, The Helper of Victory, “Yusuf ibn Ayyub” Yusuf/Joseph son of Ayyub/Job.

10. Julius Caesar Denarius (Military mint accompanying Caesar in Italy, 704-705 AVC / 49-48 BCE)

While there’s much that can be said about this coin, I feel like most of it has already been said many times over, and most here will know the history surrounding this piece quite well, better than I can articulate it at any rate. The later years of the Roman Republic is one of my favourite periods of history, and in many ways shares stark and sobering parallels to our own time, so a coin that encapsulates the crux of the Republican civil wars had to make this list. Suffice it to say that this type had been on my watchlist as a key “Must Have” since I first started collecting, and this year at last the stars aligned on an example with a clear, full legend and an elephant rendered in pleasant, not overtly cartoonish style.

9. Quintus Caepio Marcus Junius Brutus Denarius (Military mint accompanying Brutus in Lycia, Summer of 713 AVC / 42 BCE)

I’ll be the first to admit, it’s strange that a fourrée has made it onto the list. But this is a fourrée of impeccable style, of a rare issue, and in generally quite good shape still. More importantly, as this particular fourrée shares an obverse die with genuine, fully-silver coins of the same series (my far-from-exhaustive search did not turn up any reverse die-matches, though the style is uncannily close to the known official reverse dies as well). It has been postulated that such military mints produced fourrée coinage in an official capacity when supplies of silver ran low, likely done in order to mollify restless troops who did not particularly feel like risking life and limb for ideological whimsies at a time of extreme political turbulence. Supporting this notion are the widespread nature of fourrée military issues from during the Imperatorial period, and the thoroughly studied issue of Quintus Cornuficius from the same time period. Even Crawford concedes this possibility on Page 560 of RRC.  Taken together, this suggests to me that this coin was an official product of the mint accompanying Brutus in Lycia over the course of the spring and summer of 42 BCE, as he prepared to meet Octavian and Antony in the field to decide the fate of the Republic. 

8. Kay Ka'us II, Qilich Arslan IV, & Kay Qubadh II Dinar (Konya, 647-657 AH / 1249-1259 CE)

Minted in central Anatolia by an offshoot of the original Great Seljuk empire, the self-styled Sultanate of Rum held sway over much of Anatolia from the late 11th Century onwards following the Battle of Manzikert – lands that had been considered part of the heartland of the Roman Empire (more properly the successor Eastern Roman / Byzantine Empire). They remained in control of these regions until the rising tide of the Mongols finally reached their lands in the 1240s. This dinar was issued at Konya, the capital of their empire, by a coalition of 3 brothers who were vassals of the Great Khan over the 2 decades following their father Kay Khusraw II’s defeat at the hands of the Mongol general Baiju in 1243 at the Battle of Köse Dağ, where the Seljuk sultan and his army fell prey to the signature feigned retreat tactic. Despite the history at play, my primary driver for purchasing this dinar was the superbly rendered calligraphy, which fills up a rather broad flan at ~25mm across, making it a joy to behold in-hand.

7. Roman Republican Victoriatus (Luceria, 542-545 AVC / 211-208 BCE)

An interesting type made at the height of the 2nd Punic War, one of the most pivotal conflicts in the history of the Mediterranean world, I knew I had to get one of these eventually. But the issue for me was always that the portraiture and general artistry of this series seems to vary wildly, and is often not all that good. The recent *gasp* “hoard” (I don’t want to think too deeply about where all these pristine examples have come from suddenly) helped to bring prices in line with what felt fair for something like this, and I was able to find this example being offered by a dealer who doesn’t specialise in ancients, and therefore didn’t care that this obverse die is of wonderful style and rather tough to find even with the flood of new examples on the market (and is usually attracts a higher premium as a result). The reverse imagery depicts Victory crowning a trophy of arms, signalling good times are ahead with the Roman pushback against Hannibal in Italy and simultaneous gains in Hispania, to say nothing of the successes in Sicily – the flashpoint of the First Punic War. The obverse meanwhile has a bust of Jupiter, fitting as the chief deity of the Roman Pantheon and therefore one of the chief architects of their successes. 

Edited by FrizzyAntoine
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6. Lucius Hostilius Saserna Denarius (Rome, 707 AVC / 46 BCE)


A face only a mother – or indeed a numismatist – could love. The fearsome countenance displayed on the obverse of this type is generally held to be a relatively veristic portrait of Vercingetorix. The features of the portrait are consistent across the series, and match up with the generalisation of the Gauls held by the Roman populace, and are in keeping with the depiction of other powerful Roman enemies on coinage, such as Philip V of Macedon. Add to that the fact that he was held captive in Rome at the time, awaiting his ceremonial execution as part of the Triumph, and a strong case starts to form for the identity of the fierce Gaul. After all, isn’t the defeat of a fearsome and powerful enemy all the more glorious for Rome? At any rate, these coins were minted around the time of Julius Caesar’s triumph of 46 BCE, celebrating victory in the recently-concluded Pompeian civil war, but doing so under the ostensible veneer of proclaiming his successes in the decade long Bellum Gallicum. The reverse features a Celtic chariot, propelled by two agile horses and with a spear-hurling warrior standing poised for combat on the rear platform – these types of chariots had been used in warfare since the Bronze age, and were still regularly used in combat across Gaul and Britannia at the time of this coins striking. 


5. Juba II and Ptolemy Denarius (Caesaraea, 763-764 AVC / 10-11 CE)


This coin encapsulates nothing less than the end of an era. The Hellenistic era, to be a touch more precise. This is one of the many interesting types of denarii issued by King Juba II of Mauretania, a Numidian prince whose father was allied with the Pompeian cause in Africa and committed suicide shortly after their defeat at Thapsus. Juba however would himself come to be a close personal friend of Augustus, and was rewarded with the prosperous kingdom of Mauretania, encompassing much of modern Morocco and Algeria. The obverse of this coin shows Juba as Herakles, and is accompanied by the legend REX·IVBA, "King Juba". It’s a portrait in good style and with an interesting motif for the time and place, however the reverse is where things really get interesting though. While many of these types copy late republican denarii or various types issued by Augustus, the reverse of this coin features another portrait, of yet another Mauretanian prince – Juba’s son and successor, Ptolemy. The legend on the reverse, while mostly off flan on this example, reads R·XXXVI, "Regnal Year 36", which indicates it was minted around 11 CE when Ptolemy would have been a young man a little over 20 years old. Ptolemy would become co-ruler alongside his father nearly a decade later, and then succeed him as sole ruler of Mauretania when Juba passed away in either 23 or 24 CE, ruling in his own right for another 16 years until his raving mad cousin Caligula – with whom I’m sure we’re all quite well acquainted – would invite him to Rome out of the blue one day in 40 CE before murdering him for no good reason and confiscating his wealth, making Mauretania a province under direct roman governance in the process. Importantly, Ptolemy was the son of Juba and Cleopatra Selene, the daughter of Mark Antony and Cleopatra VII. This makes him the last member of the Ptolemaic bloodline to wear the diadem of kingship, and so the death of Ptolemy of Mauretania would mark the passing of the final monarch descended of the Diadochi, being a direct descendant of Ptolemy I, son of Lagus, who had founded the most enduring of the Hellenistic dynasties more than 3 centuries earlier.


4. Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia) Grosso (Rome, 1492-1503 CE)


Rodrigo Borgia is one of those historical head-scratchers. A Spanish cleric whose uncle managed to unexpectedly wrest the papacy from the clutches of the Italian gentry, and a generation later his young nephew would wind up sealing the deal by blackmailing and bribing his way onto the throne of Saint Peter. The loving father of at least 5 children (and perhaps over a dozen) with at least 3 mistresses (including at least one during his tenure as Pope), the parallels between Alexander VI (his pontifical name) and most modern Pope’s are scant. He made war on the Neapolitans by allying with the French and imploring them to invade Naples, then flipped allegiance when Charles VIII of France took him up on the suggestion, forming the Holy League to bring the Spanish into the conflict, all while covering it with the veneer of one final holy crusade to be carried out against the Ottoman Turks (with whom he enjoyed relatively friendly relations, who he even called upon for aid when Charles invaded, oh and did I mention he held the Sultan Bayezid II’s brother as a hostage in return for an annual stipend so large that his predecessor Innocent VIII had used it to construct the Sistine Chapel itself). Of course, in the end he allied with the French again, marrying his son Cesare to a French princess in return for aid in subduing the great houses of the Romagna. He also issued the Papal Bull Inter Caetera, among others, which formalised the claims of the Spanish crown to ownership of much of the Americas, implicitly giving them the authority to enslave and abuse the local indigenous populace under the pretext of spreading Christianity and bringing about their salvation. He made Cesare a cardinal at only 18, and when that didn’t pan out, he gave him command of the Papal armies, something he excelled at to the point where Machiavelli uses his story as a fundamental example in The Prince. Unfortunately, the fortunes of the family waned almost as fast as they had waxed, when Alexander VI died unexpectedly in August of 1503, and his long-time rival Guiliano della Rovere shortly succeeded him as Pope Julius II. The story of the Borgia family is a perfect embodiment of the wild and heady days of the Italian Renaissance, and so having a coin from a key player of the period is a real thrill for me. Oh, and did I mention Jeremy Irons does an incredible job of playing Rodrigo Borgia in the TV series The Borgias (historical inaccuracies notwithstanding it really is worth a watch). As for the coin, it shows the Borgia coat of arms with their signature bull, above this are the keys to the Vatican, themselves surmounted by the Papal Tiara. The reverse meanwhile showcases the saints Peter and Paul, and bears a small flower as the symbol of the mint-master Pietro Paolo della Zecca, with the exergual legend ROMA denoting it was minted in the city of Rome itself. The coin is tariffed as a Grossus Denarius, worth 12 deniers/pennies, and weighs about the same as a denarius from the 2nd Century CE – suffice it to say the city was by now quite a long ways from the golden days of the Caesars.


3. Faustina Minor Sestertius (Rome, 900-904 AVC / 147-151 CE)


There’s not much I can say here, as this coin basically speaks for itself. Where Greek portraiture is often more superficially beautiful, the portraits found on Roman bronzes of the 2nd Century really do take the cake when it comes to realism. Even modern dies, cut with pinpoint precision, fail to capture the quintessence of vitality with which engravers of the Antonine age were able to so effortlessly imbue their subjects. Mind you, not all dies have that intangible spark, but those that do really are in a class of their own. It explains why a masterfully rendered sestertius of Hadrian was for quite a while the most expensive ancient coin ever sold. While my humble Faustina pales in comparison to such masterpieces, I can’t help but feel as though I’m staring at a renaissance masterpiece in miniature, and not simply a piece of currency. 

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And the best for last...........

2. Basil II & Constantine VIII Histamenon (Constantinople, 977-989 CE)


There are a number of major motivations for collecting Byzantine coinage – history, religion, and even artistic merit (or often lack thereof). I was primarily motivated by the artistry of this piece, which like many coins of the pre-modern era features motifs motivated by religion, and also manages to encapsulate an interesting piece of history. The obverse takes care of the religious and artistic aspects rather handily, with a beautiful depiction of the Christ Pantokrator, among the most widespread and well-known icons of the Orthodox church, surrounded by a legend declaring ☩·IҺS·XIS·RЄX·RЄGNANTIҺM, "Jesus Christ, King of Kings". I’ll admit, I’m not normally a fan of these coins, as frontal portraits are notoriously difficult to execute effectively, and this region hadn’t really been renowned for its numismatic artistry in nearly half a millennium. However, this portrait might just convince me that the engravers of Byzantium could go toe-to-toe with their counterparts of antiquity when the mood hit. The reverse meanwhile is imbued with much of the historicity of this piece, bearing the dual portraits of the co-emperors Basil [proper name Basileus] II ‘Bulgaroktonos’ [“Bulgar Slayer”] and his brother and eventual successor Constantine VIII ‘Porphyrogenitus’ [“Born Into The Purple”], who are shown carrying a Patriarchal Cross, a variant of the more familiar Latin Cross with a second, smaller crossbeam above the main one. Of the two brothers, Basil is depicted with a sterner expression and a short beard signifying his status as the elder brother and elder stateman. This attention to detail is borne out in the costume worn by each brother as well, with Basil wearing the Loros, a highly formal and ceremonial dress reserved for the Imperial family and based on the ancient triumphal attire of the Roman consuls of old. Constantine meanwhile wears the Chlamys, a less formal and less exclusive dress whose origins lay in a style of large cape worn in Greece since the Archaic period. An important distinction, as Basil ranks amongst the greatest [and longest-reigning] emperors of Byzantine history and counts amongst his achievements the establishment of the Varangian Guard, Christianisation of the Kievan Rus, and the re-establishment of a Byzantine frontier along the Danube after an absence of some 4 centuries, while Constantine would only rule in his own right for 3 short years and lay the seeds for the inevitable decline of the empire over the ensuing century. The reverse legend reads ☩·bASIL·C·COҺSTAҺTI·b·R, an abbreviation for ☩·bASILЄIΟS·CΑΙ·COҺSTAҺTIҺΟS·bASILЄIS·ROMAIOҺ, "Basil [Basileus] and Constantine, Kings of The Romans".


1. Augustus ‘AEGYPTO CAPTA’ Denarius (Pergamon or Ephesos, 725 AVC / 28 BCE)


It feels fitting that this year’s top spot goes to the original Princeps himself, and much like the man, this coin truly is primum inter pares for me this year. Imbued with amazing historical significance, a beautiful portrait of fine Eastern style, and perfectly highlighting the masterful way in which Augustus utilised coinage as a medium for the dissemination of state propaganda, this coin really does have it all. The AEGYPTO CAPTA denarii were issued sometime shortly after Octavian’s victory at Actium and the subsequent triumph and annexation of Egypt, likely minted a short while after these events. There are two separate versions of this type, one minted in Italy (likely Brundusium, shortly after the well-known ‘Actian’ types) and the other minted at either Ephesos or Pergamon, two of the greatest cities of Asia Minor. The design is mostly the same across the types, with the main difference being the style of the portrait and the use of control symbols – a flagellum in Italy [likely to reassert legitimacy as he was a member of the College of Pontiffs] and a Capricorn in Asia [just beneath the neck truncation of the bust], with the Capricorn being the zodiac sign of Augustus and closely associate with depictions of him across the Eastern territories [it would also help that certain versions of the foundational myth of the Capricorn involved an Egyptian origin, being transformed in the waters of the Nile]. The reverse style also differs, and in my opinion the Eastern ones win out on both sides, especially the obverse, as I do rather love the fierceness of the Italian-rendition crocodiles [it’s one of the few types where I’d be more than open to having a duplicate]. The obverse has the usual niceties legitimating the rule of Augustus, referring to him as CAESAR·DIVI·F·COS·VI, "Caesar, Son of the Divine, in his Sixth Consulship". The reverse meanwhile is most definitely the star of the show on this type. Yes, there are plenty of animals on ancient coins; lions, elephants, horses, snakes, eagles, even rabbits and seahorses abound. But a Nile Crocodile, amongst the most fearsome creatures on planet Earth, is a real treat, even moreso as in this case it was chosen as the ideal personification of Egypt to be conveyed to the Roman populace – powerful, exotic, and fierce, yet nonetheless brought to heel by the might of Rome, and importantly, lest anyone should forget, Augustus. The legend is commensurate and in keeping with the beautifully succinct numismatic laconicisms for which Augustus is known: AEGYPTO CAPTA, “Egypt is Captured”, signifying in no uncertain terms that the Ptolemaic kingdom of Egypt had been conquered by the Roman state and was now to become the personal property of the Princeps. No need to complicate matters further – Antony and Cleopatra have been dealt with, the grain supply is secured so no Roman will ever starve again, and there will be no more trouble from the East for years to come.

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Magnificent additions, you had a very good year. Although your no. 2 is of great beauty and interest, I could not help voting for no.'s 6 and 1. Great coins, and also high on my wantlist but difficult to acquire! Also have to give credits to your Faustina Minor sestertius, with a great portrait; it will probably get the Faustina fanatics in a frenzy 😄 

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All of them are magnifico!!!!!!!

I have the "Three Brothers AV Dinar" apparently before a small hoard was found in Turkey 50-100 AV coins from 5 Sultans/ these were impossible before. I am watching that Turkish series Eturgal/ 5 seasons on netflix. Its like the "Rat Patrol" the Byzantines/ Templars and Mongols are shown as inept fools. In reality the Mongols esp. were, "Masters of the battlefield" By 1241 they conquered most of the "Oid World"

The Alessandro VI piece is dazzling/ I have a AV Fiorino di camera/ the Borgias were much maligned by their foes later on.

Your Basil II "Bulgar Slayer" is supberb/ as is the Julius Caesar Denarius.

All of them would be welcomed into my coll. 

thanks for sharing.... I love the way you show them off. I am always afraid to handle mine/ so leave them in  SAFLIP.IMG_1010.JPG.8540893a9bff485cc61f22b16c43a894.JPGIMG_1011.JPG.af0050a0f63bf613b0fb3e97fb536cba.JPG




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11 hours ago, Sulla80 said:

Wow - great coins and nice write-ups, I got stuck staring at the Lucius Hostilius Saserna denarius which voted for as my favorite.  Best wishes for a great 2023!

23 hours ago, JeandAcre said:

Sorry, @FrizzyAntoine, they're all so fantastic, I just couldn't get any traction with only picking three.  Amazing stuff (...he said, in hushed tones).

On 12/21/2022 at 9:16 AM, kapphnwn said:

I like the Victoriatus and the Faustina the best great coins 

On 12/21/2022 at 9:03 AM, akeady said:

Great coins.   I voted for 6, 2, 1 but they're all lovely.


On 12/21/2022 at 6:23 AM, Di Nomos said:

Going by the voting, seems I've followed the crowd, but my favourites are numbers 3, 1, 6 & 2 in that order.......order liable to change!

Well done on excellent videos as well as excellent coins also. 

On 12/21/2022 at 1:51 AM, Limes said:

Magnificent additions, you had a very good year. Although your no. 2 is of great beauty and interest, I could not help voting for no.'s 6 and 1. Great coins, and also high on my wantlist but difficult to acquire! Also have to give credits to your Faustina Minor sestertius, with a great portrait; it will probably get the Faustina fanatics in a frenzy 😄 

On 12/21/2022 at 1:40 AM, Prieure de Sion said:

My absolute favorite ... 😍

On 12/21/2022 at 1:36 AM, happy_collector said:

Nice additions! I really like your coins #2 and #3. 🙂

On 12/21/2022 at 1:15 AM, El Cazador said:

Great coins, i voted for numbers #6 and #2 


thanks for sharing 

Thank you all! I really appreciate the comments, and hope everyone has a great holiday season!

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On 12/21/2022 at 6:42 AM, panzerman said:

All of them are magnifico!!!!!!!

I have the "Three Brothers AV Dinar" apparently before a small hoard was found in Turkey 50-100 AV coins from 5 Sultans/ these were impossible before. I am watching that Turkish series Eturgal/ 5 seasons on netflix. Its like the "Rat Patrol" the Byzantines/ Templars and Mongols are shown as inept fools. In reality the Mongols esp. were, "Masters of the battlefield" By 1241 they conquered most of the "Oid World"

Thank you John! 
I hadn't realised there was a hoard of the dinars but you seem to be spot-on, looking at acsearch seems quite a few popped up around 2017-2018. I've heard good things about Ertugral but not sure I have the stamina for nearly 500 episodes, maybe one day!

On 12/21/2022 at 6:42 AM, panzerman said:

the Borgias were much maligned by their foes later on.

Indeed, most of the more salicious stories (poisonings, incest, and the like) are fabrication. Though they must have still gotten down in the mud with everyone else to get as far as they did in the cutthroat game of renaissance politics.

On 12/21/2022 at 6:42 AM, panzerman said:

I love the way you show them off. I am always afraid to handle mine/ so leave them in  SAFLIP.

Thank you! I store most of these in either Quadrum capsules or Abafil trays, and filming can be a little nerve-wracking. But video feels like the best medium overall to really capture that in-hand feel of a coin, so I've been slowly experimenting with it for a couple years now.

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