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Kaleun96's Top 10 Coins of the Year


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I've decided to split my Top 10 list in two for this year: 5 coins dedicated to general ancients and 5 coins from my Alexander the Great collection. This is the year I decided to start a proper collection out of Alexander tetradrachms, rather than just buying whatever I fancied. I had owned maybe a dozen or so before this point but without a theme or purpose. The coin that is my #1 overall for the year changed all that.

Due to limited time, I'll mostly do short write-ups only for the Alexander tets.

Top 5 General Ancients

#5 ROMAN REPUBLIC. Julius Caesar & P. Sepullius Macer Denarius (44 BC)
Rome, Latium
Obv: Wreathed head of Julius Caesar, right; star of eight rays to left; CAESAR IMP downward to right
Rev: Venus Victrix standing left, holding Victory on outstretched right hand and scepter set on star in left; P•S[EPVL]LIVS downward to right, MA[CER] upward to left
Crawford 480/5b; RSC 41

Kicking things off with a lifetime Caesar portrait! I have had this type on my list since consigning my elephant denarius earlier this year but I didn't expect to pick up an example so soon after for a pretty affordable price.



#4 PTOLEMAIC KINGDOM. Ptolemy III Euergetes Tetradrachm (246-245 BC)
Tyre, Phoenicia
Obv: Diademed head of Ptolemy I right, wearing aegis around neck
Rev: ΠΤΟΛΕΜΑΙΟΥ ΣΩΤΗΡΟΣ. Eagle standing left on thunderbolt; in left field, monogram of TYP (Tyre) above club; in right field, B (date RY 2) above I; between legs, MY monogram
27.12mm, 14.23g, 12h
SNG Copenhagen 499; PCO 836

Next up, this lovely Ptolemy III tetradrachm from Tyre, a fairly rare mint for Ptolemy III. I've had it in the back of my mind to do a small collection of Ptolemaic tetradrachms from Ptolemy I to Ptolemy VI or VII but this was the only progress I made this year on that front.



#3 CILICIA. Tarsos Stater (384-361 BC)
Tarsos, Cilicia
Obv: 𐡁𐡏𐡋𐡕𐡓𐡆 ('Baaltars' in Aramaic). Baaltars seated to right on backless throne, holding bunch of grapes and grain ear in his left hand and eagle-tipped scepter in his right; in field to right, thymiaterion; under throne, forepart of a bull to right
Rev: 𐡕𐡓𐡊𐡌𐡅 ('Tarkamuwa' in Aramaic). Datames seated to right, in full Persian garb, measuring arrow held in his left hand; on the lower right, bow; in field in upper right, winged solar disk
23.38mm, 10.50g, 6h
Casabonne type 2; SNG France 289; SNG Levante 87

This is another type that was on my list from the beginning of the year, when I decided to try and list particular types I wanted to purchase at some point and then do my best to stick to that list. In the end I didn't fair too badly and ticked off quite a few, the two above included, but I was particularly glad to grab this one as they don't come up as often as you'd like and often with some kind of issue or another. 



#2 ATTICA. Athens Tetradrachm (465-454 BC)
Athens, Attica
Obv: Head of Athena right, wearing crested Attic helmet ornamented with three laurel leaves and vine scroll
Rev: AΘE. Owl standing to right with head facing, olive sprig and crescent behind; all within incuse square.
25.05mm, 17.22g, 4h
Starr V.B Series 3

Another type from my list was a Starr group Owl tetradrachm. I already have had several "Mass Issue" owls, and one I'm pretty happy with, so my next goal was to get a nice example of a Starr Group V.A or V.B owl, which also don't come up as often as one would like. I'm particularly fond of the style of the owl on these V.B owls and while I'd still like to collect some earlier Starr groups, I think this is where the owl peaked stylistically.



#1 CYPRUS. Paphos Stater (440-425 BC)
Mint: Paphos, Cyprus
Obv: Bull standing to left; winged solar disk above, ankh to left, palmette ornament in exergue
Rev: 𐠨𐠭𐠨 𐠪𐠞. Eagle standing to left; one-handled vase to left, 'pa-si sa-ta-sa' in Cypriot script around; all within dotted square in incuse square
23.15mm, 10.75g, 12h
Destrooper-Georgiades 15; Tziambazis 7; Traité II 1291; BMC 17; SNG Copenhagen 26

To wrap up the first half of my list is one of my favourite coins in my collection, a stater from Paphos. A museum here in Stockholm has a nice selection of Cypriot coins and after seeing that exhibit I decided to move them up in terms of priority and was fortunate to have this example pop-up soon after. It's a coin I don't think I would have expected to have in my collection even as recent as this time last year.



Top 5 Alexander III Tetradrachms

#5 Tyre 333-332 BC
Tyre, Phoenicia
Obv: Head of Herakles right, wearing lion-skin headdress, paws tied before neck
Rev: AΛEΞANΔPOY, Zeus Aëtophoros seated left, holding sceptre; in his right hand, eagle standing right; to left, thunderbolt
22.78mm, 17.19g, 10h
Price 3238

Starting off my Top 5 Alexanders, is this very early lifetime example from Tyre that is thought to be the first type issued from this mint circa 333/2 BC. Martin Price originally attributed it to Ake but later research has securely placed it at the Tyre mint. What's interesting about this example in particular, and a reason it made my Top 5, is that it shares a die with the first type thought to have been minted at the neighbouring Sidon mint in 333 BC. The die is believed to have travelled to Tyre with the engraver from Sidon, which predates Tyre by only a few months in striking Alexanders. Whether you believe the first Alexander tetradrachms were minted in Macedonia or Asia Minor, this type is still likely to be one of the earliest of Alexander's tetradrachms and among the first in Asia Minor. The current thinking is that Tarsos started minting Alexander tetradrachms first, followed by Sidon a few months later, and then Tyre, once it fell to Alexander. The earliest types of Sidon and Tyre come just before the dated issues of these cities, which are important to not only the chronology for the types from these cities but also other Alexander types and, in this case, provides a cut-off date in which this type must have been minted by.


#4 Arados 332-324 BC
Arados, Phoenicia
Obv: Head of Herakles right, wearing lion-skin headdress, paws tied before neck
Rev: AΛEΞANΔPOY; Zeus seated left on throne, holding eagle on his outstretched right hand and long scepter in his left; Γ in left field, A below throne
Price 3303; Duyrat Group I (dies D7-R9); Newell, Reattribution 125

Next up is another Alexander type thought to be the first of its kind at the mint where it was struck. This is quite a fascinating example as my immediate thought when I first saw it was "that's a type from Tarsos". Not only because of the A below the throne, a well-known control symbol from Tyre, but also the style of the Herakles. However, I soon found out it was attributed to the Arados mint by Newell and that Price, Duyrat, and Taylor have all upheld that attribution. For those familiar with the usual Arados tetradrachms of Alexander, it is clear this one deviates significantly in style. If it were the first to be minted at Arados, it makes sense that it is stylistically closer to Tarsos, believed to be the first Alexander mint in Asia Minor.
What has led numismatists to the conclusion it is likely the first type is the second control symbol, the gamma in the left field. While this control has been used on other types, it is otherwise unknown at Arados and not seen in this configuration with the A below the throne at other mints such as Tarsos where both controls have appeared previously. The style is also different enough from Tarsos that it seems unlikely to belong there, and shares no die links at all with this mint. The A control symbol can then be thought to represent Arwad, or Arados. The gamma is then thought to represent Arados' king at the time, Gerashtart. There is precedence for this but in Phoenician, where pre-Alexander staters from Arados had a reverse legend reading mem-aleph and then a third letter thought to represent the ruler's name and possibly a number to represent the year of rule. The mem-aleph part has been translated to "King of Arwad" or "Kingdom of Arwad", and Gerashtart's pre-Alexander staters prefix this inscription with the Phoenician letter for G (gimel), becoming "King of Award, Gerashtart". The mem-aleph is Hellenised to simply "A" (later AP), and the gimel to gamma. Some contemporary Alexander types from Arados have even featured the mem aleph legend but without an accompanying letter signifying who the ruler may have been.

If this theory is correct, this type from Arados would be the only evidence of King Gerashtart remaining in power after the city had submitted itself to Alexander.



#3 Tarsos 333-327 BC
Tarsos, Cilicia
Obv: Head of Herakles right, wearing lion-skin headdress, paws tied before neck
Rev: AΛEΞANΔPOY, Zeus Aëtophoros seated left, holding sceptre; in his right hand, eagle standing right; globule above the throne strut
28.19mm, 17.34g, 3h
Price 2990; Newell, Tarsos 1 (O2 R1)

Keeping with the theme of the previous two, this Alexander is also attributed as the first Alexander type to be struck at Tarsos, circa 333 BC. But it may even go further than that. The current consensus holds that Alexander did not start minting his tetradrachms in Macedonia, as first thought, rather he only started production upon his capture of Tarsos, near the end of 333 BC. There are various arguments for this that I won't fully cover here but some of them include: obvious iconographic similarities between the seated Zeus reverse and the earlier staters of Baal from Tarsos, the paucity of Macedonian Alexander types in early hoards, and the continued minting of Philip II tetradrachms following his death and Alexander's ascension.

So if Tarsos is truly the first mint of Alexander's to strike his tetradrachms, this type be the very first Alexander tetradrachm ever produced.


#2 Abydos 328-323 BC
Abydos, Mysia
Obv: Head of Herakles right, wearing lion-skin headdress, paws tied before neck
Rev: AΛEΞANΔPOY; Zeus seated left on throne, holding eagle on his outstretched right hand and long scepter in his left; male figure standing left; Ξ below throne
Price 1498; ADM II Series I, 5a (same dies)

By this point you may be noticing a theme in my Top 5 Alexanders, and this one is no exception. It's thought to be the first tetradrachm type of Alexander to have been minted at Abydos, circa 326/5 BC. While Abydos is very well known for its Alexander drachms, with 61 total types across its 30-year mint history, Abydos only ever had five tetradrachm types, of which 3 are lifetime types. Only 3 examples of these lifetime types appear on acsearch (1 of this type, 2 of another type), so it's also a very difficult mint to get a lifetime tetradrachm from, let alone the first in the series.
The Zeus on the reverse is also stylised like he is on the drachms from Abydos and Lampsakos, where Zeus has a three-quarter turned view facing outwards. This is quite a common style to be found on drachms from these mints at around this time but it is rarely found on tetradrachms: only the 3 types from Abydos, 2 types from Lampsakos, and possibly 1 type from Sardes. This is at a time when many other engravers at Alexander's mints were still struggling with accurate portrayals of perspective so it's cool to get a much larger version of this unique perspective of Zeus from the drachms. This is a type I certainly didn't expect to be able to pick up anytime soon due to their rarity, so that combined with the unique style means it finds its way to #2 on my list.



#1 Amphipolis 333-326 BC
Amphipolis, Macedon
Obv: Head of Herakles right, wearing lion-skin headdress, paws tied before neck
Rev: AΛEΞANΔPOY, Zeus Aëtophoros seated left, holding sceptre; in his right hand, eagle standing right; prow facing left in left field
27.93mm, 17.21g, 9h
Price 4; Troxell A1 (Tetradrachm)

Without a doubt, this is my #1 coin for the year. You may also think it's another "first type of its kind at X mint" but unfortunately, it's merely the second. That doesn't diminish how interesting a type and important a coin it is to me though. I can credit this coin for finally convincing myself to double-down on Alexander's and start a proper collection of his tetradrachms. The initial research I did for this coin is what led me to write my long article discussing the possible origins of Alexander's tetradrachms: https://artemis-collection.com/the-origins-of-alexanders-tetradrachm/
To briefly summarise how it links in to that discussion, it is believed to be the second tetradrachm type of Alexander's minted at Amphipolis due to the left-facing prow control symbol on the reverse. There are several early types with different control symbols that could all be candidates for "first" at Amphipolis as they all share their control symbols with posthumous tetradrachms minted in the name of Philip II, which were thought to have been produced between 336 and 328 BC. These symbols are: prow, rudder, stern, fulmen, and janiform heads, which never appear again on lifetime tetradrachms of Alexander at Amphipolis, strongly suggesting their manufacturer being concurrent or consecutive with the Philip II types. But what places the prow at the beginning is a subtle feature of the Herakles portrait, a double-row of locks that is found only on the Herakles of lifetime Philip II didrachms. The first tetradrachm from this mint is the type with the right-facing prow and double-row of locks, followed by my type with the left-facing prow.

Looking beyond how it might fit into the picture of Alexander's coinage, I simply find this to be one of, if not the most, attractive coin in my collection and it's going to be hard for any coin to top that in the near future.



Thanks for reading my Top 10 for this year. Let me know if you have any favourites!

Edited by Kaleun96
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Great coins, you had a good year! And congratulations with your no. 1, you are very pleased with it! The Alexander tets are all lovely, but I also like to give some credit to the Stater from Tarsos. Such a lovely design. 

Have a excellent 2023!

Edited by Limes
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