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Ursus' Favorite Coins of 2022


Ursus
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Which coins do you like best?  

29 members have voted

  1. 1. Pick up to three!

    • Campania, Neapolis, AR didrachm
      11
    • Ptolemaic Egypt, Ptolemy II Philadelphos, AE drachm
      9
    • Roman Republic, L Censor, AR denarius (Marsyas reverse)
      8
    • Roman Empire, Helena, AE3
      6
    • Margraviate of Brandenburg, Otto II, AR bracteate (knight in armor)
      6
    • Augsburg, Udalschalk of Eschenlohe, AR bracteate (seated bishop)
      2
    • Ulm, Frederick II, AR bracteate (royal bust, branch and tower)
      10
    • Breisgau, Margraves of Baden-Hachberg?, AR bracteate (lion)
      3
    • Schaffhausen, AR bracteate (sheep)
      3
    • Breisgau, Counts of Staufen?, AR bracteate (elephant)
      8


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I didn’t purchase many coins in 2022. My wife and I bought a flat in a 19th century townhouse last November, and the place needed a lot of work. In fact, we spent a great part of the year renovating the place until we were able to move in in October. Turns out such projects cost a lot of elbow grease and money – both funds and spare time for my hobbies were thus limited.

 

My top ten bargain purchases, a recent post showing some additional “snacks,” and this list therefore cover about everything that I added to the collection over the course of the last twelve months. Still, I was able to fill some important gaps and find some pieces that I very much like. Here are my top ten coins in chronological order:

 

1. Though Magna Graecia is not my main collecting focus, I had wanted an example of this type for a while. The history of Neapolis, the most Greek place in ancient Italy, is fascinating. Also, I like the reverse showing the river god Achelous Sebethos. Neapolitan didrachms often come on tight flans, and my example is no exception. I went for it since it still shows all the parts of the design that I consider important. The nymph’s face, the man-headed bull’s head, Nike, and the abbreviated magistrate’s name are all there:

329436953_GriechenKampanienNeapolisDidrachmeNympheu.Achelous.png.5768480a4b0deb5e4632810e16499bd8.png

Campania, Neapolis, AR didrachm, c. 300–275 BC. Obv: diademed head of nymph r., hair in band; X to left. Rev: man-headed bull standing r., head facing, crowned by Nike flying r. above; EYΞ below. 19mm, 7.19g. Ref: Sambon 477; HN Italy 577.

 

2. Heavy Ptolemaic bronze coins feel pleasingly chunky in hand. Minting larger denominations in bronze is somewhat exceptional in the Hellenistic world, and illustrates the particular dynamics of the closed currency system of Ptolemaic Egypt. Since the enormous bronze octobols are currently out of my price range, I settled for the second heaviest type, this AE drachm minted for Ptolemy II:

1229089319_PtolemaerPtolemaiosIIPhiladelphosAEDrachmeSvoronos479.neuesFoto.png.e3c809ce8d89727b1f2a9c62a3624e4a.png

Ptolemy II Philadelphos, Ptolemaic Kings of Egypt, AE drachm (?), 285­­–246 BC, struck c. 255–261 BC, Alexandreia mint. Obv.: Diademed head of Zeus-Ammon r. Rev.: Two eagles standing l. on thunderbolt; Λ between legs of l. eagle. 40mm, 73.6g. Ref: Lorber I.2 B247; Svoronos 479; SNG Copenhagen 149.

 

3. This is my only Roman Republican purchase of the year. I like the depiction of the satyr Marsyas on the reverse, which is likely based on a now lost statue in the Forum also shown on the plutei of Trajan (see this post by @Roman Collector as well as this article). There is discussion in scholarship whether the iconographic program of this coin is simply a hint to the moneyer’s family, the Marcia, or an expression of Marian politics. It has been suggested (see here) that this issue was produced to pay for the Marian war effort against Sulla during the First Civil War:

1802346139_RomischeRepublikRRC3631dDenarL.CensorMarsyasundApollo.png.be65de1f88a1e5a3078cf9e2e4d8aa07.png

Roman Republic, moneyer: L. Censor, AR denarius, 82 (or 83 BC) BC, Rome mint. Obv: Laureate head of Apollo r. Rev: L CENSOR; Marsyas, bald-headed, walking l., with r. arm raised and holding wine-skin over l. shoulder; behind, column bearing statue of Victory. 17.5mm, 4.04g. RRC 363/1d. 

 

4. This coin of Helena is, at first glance, not special. It nonetheless made my top ten list because of its excellent preservation, for being from the Trier mint, which I am particularly interested in, and for Helena’s strange attire. On my coin, she wears what looks like an imperial mantle. Originally, this type of dress was part of the triumphal regalia and consisted of the toga picta worn over the tunica palmata. In the 3rd century, though, it seems to have become part of the consular regalia. The imperial mantle is seen rather rarely on coins of Helena and is iconographically odd. 

1228437407_RomHelenaAE3SecuritasTrier.png.ac4e321112e24dbbf1e91ffb55adb626.png

Helena, Roman Empire, AE3, 327–328 AD, Trier mint. Obv: FL HELENA AVGVSTA; bust of Helena, wearing necklace and mantle, r. Rev: SECVRITAS REIBUBLICE; Securitas, draped, standing l., raising robe with r. hand and lowering branch with l. hand, in exergue, PTRE. 19mm, 2.88g. Ref: RIC VII Treveri 508. 

 

5. Medieval bracteates are my main collecting field, and the rest of this list consists, as you will have guessed, of bracteates. The first of these is this coin minted for margrave Otto II. of Brandenburg. I like it for its detailed depiction of medieval armor as well as its feudal symbolism. For more info, see my write-up on CT:

1637663303_MADeutschlandetc.BrandenburgBrakteatOttoII.png.4627e46f7e69db96602b50d7c8c9ce0c.png

Margraviate of Brandenburg, under Otto II. “the Generous,” 1184–1205 AD, AR bracteate, Stendal mint (?). Obv: OTO MARI; margrave standing facing, wearing a mail hauberk with coif, greaves, and a conical helmet with nasal bar, holding sword and banner; at feet r., heater shield. Rev: incuse design (bracteate). 24mm, 0.85g. Ref: Bahrfeldt 70; Slg. Bonhoff 802; Berger 1676; Slg. Löbbecke 442; Leschhorn 3508.

 

6. This bracteate was struck for Udalschalk of Eschenlohe, bishop of Augsburg and staunch ally of Frederick Barbarossa. Note how much detail work went into the depiction of his episcopal regalia (mitre, crosier, book, dalmatic). You can find some more information on this iconography and the moneyer here.

1632279760_MADeutschlandetc.AugsburgBrakteatUdalschalkvonEschenlohe.png.49d7c47313a7c236074d9f83feab607b.png

Prince-Bishopric of Augsburg, under Udalschalk von Eschenlohe, AR bracteate, ca. 1184–1202. Obv: bishop seated facing on arc, wearing mitre, holding crosier and book. Rev: incuse design (bracteate). 24mm, 0.87g. Ref: Berger 2631; Slg. Bonhoff 1893; Steinhilber 56.

 

7. Frederick II is one of the most fascinating figures of the medieval period, and I had wanted a coin minted for him for a long time. This bracteate from the royal mint at Ulm checked all my boxes. You can read a bit more about it  here.

1544232127_MADeutschlandetcUlmBrakteatFriedrichII.png.391605e68db7f0b234911355d401750c.png

Ulm, royal mint, under Frederick II of Hohenstaufen, 1215–1250 AD. Obv. crowned bust of king facing, branch to l., tower to r. Rev: incuse design (bracteate). 23mm, 0.33g. Ref: Berger 2598–9; Cahn 168 (for Lindau); Slg. Wüthrich 303; Slg. Bonhoff 1863.

 

8. Medieval coins from the Breisgau region in southwestern Germany have special appeal to me since this is where I live. Many local issues from this area defy a safe attribution, and the coin below is no exception. Hoard finds allow to date it to around 1250. Its weight, style and fabric connect it, for example, to the “dragon penny” (Lindwurmpfennig) that I use as my avatar. Based mainly on this evidence, Friedrich Wielandt proposes to tentatively attribute this type to the margraves of Baden-Hachberg, who according to document sources minted bracteate pennies in the region in the mid-13th century. Probably, they used the mint at Freiburg im Breisgau, which they shared with the counts of Freiburg.

2000432127_MADeutschlandetc.BreisgauvierzipfligerPfennigLowe.png.d8e20ffb10ee59967ecbfe6ba0496d81.png

Breisgau (maybe Freiburg?), Margraves of Baden-Hachberg (?), AR bracteate penny (“vierzipfliger Pfennig”), first half to mid-13th century. Obv: lion walking l., annulet above. 19mm, 0.44g. Ref: Wielandt (Breisgau) 27c. 

 

9. Schaffhausen, situated on the Rhine river close to lake Constance, was made an imperial city by Frederick II in 1264. Around that time or some decades earlier, the civic authorities appear to have started leasing the local mint, which was owned by the Benedictine abbey Allerheiligen. The design of my coin is a pun on the name of the city, which was interpreted as “Schaf-Hausen” (‘sheep house’) in the Middle Ages and even translated into Latin as Ovidomensis. Schaffhausen’s arms still show a ram to this day. I like the goofy look of the sheep on my coin:

316623659_MADeutschlandetc.SchaffhausenvierzipfligerPfennigLammundStern.png.682ca04748abd436b2918cafc8e87a8f.png

Schaffhausen, City, AR bracteate penny (“vierzipfliger Pfennig”), mid-13th century. Obv: sheep walking r., star above. Rev: incuse design (bracteate). 17mm, 0.34g. Ref. Berger 2463; Wielandt (Breisgau) 52;  HMZ 1-427. 

 

10. The last coin on this list constitutes a small numismatic riddle. A hoard containing several hundred of these bracteates was found in the Münster valley in the southern Black Forest in 1893. The other coins in the hoard allow to date the type to about 1330 to 1360, but the unusual design showing an elephant does not indicate who minted them. The find spot of the hoard points to the counts of Staufen, who owned silver mines in the Münster valley. Furthermore, a medieval woven tapestry made in the Freiburg monastery Adelhausen shows a strikingly similar elephant, which apparently copies from the same model image as the bracteate, as well as the arms of three noble families from the region with connections to Staufen. Friedrich Wielandt thus considered the counts of Staufen as a possible minting authority, but also speculated that a Habsburg mint in Neuenburg or Todtnau might have produced these small pachyderms. More recent scholarship appears to mostly gravitate towards the Staufen attribution, albeit with a big caveat.

This type is relatively scarce. This year, a total of five examples that I am aware of came up for sale, three of these in a condition that I considered desirable. I missed bidding on the first one, was outbid on the second coin by @shanxi, but the third became mine. I did a small write-up on it here.

377963085_MADeutschlandetc.StauffenElefantenbrakteat.png.47cedb1c832cc5c7f8b83ba128b2e293.png

Breisgau, Counts of Staufen (?), AR bracteate penny (“vierzipfliger Pfennig”), c. 1330–1360. Obv.: elephant l., palanquin on back. Rev.: incuse design (bracteate). 17mm, 0.28g. Berger 2438; Wielandt (Breisgau) 50; Slg. Wüthrich 55–56; Slg. Bonhoff 1786.

 

Please post your comment or coins and pick your favorites!

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For a "poor year", you did a great job. 

I particularily like the Neapolis didrachm - I like the example a lot. Good obverse, the MFB's face is visible - well done. 

Close contender is #3 - L. Censorinus. This is a personal favorite and the first RR denarius I have ever bought. It is one of my favorite designs.  

The Ptolemaic is not bad at all - I also wanted a coin to represent this statal entity but I had to settle with an obol. 

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Very nice list…I chose number 1 as my favorite, and I’m sure that huge Ptolemaic bronze must be fun to have in hand. 

And though I know absolutely nothing about medieval coins, the Frederick II bracteate (#7) really stood out to me, beautiful coin.

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They're all terrific, and a brilliant demonstration of how to collect on a budget.  Thank you, lots of us on this forum speak 'collecting on a budget' fluently.  Congratulations on the move!  

Among the ancients, I especially have to like the AE of Helena.  But the Frederick II bracteate of Ulm is exceptional --with lots of competition, merely from what I've seen from recent auctions.   I've never gotten an example; what I have for the reign runs to his denaros as king of Sicily.  You're making me want to be on the lookout for one! 

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Thanks for the compliments and kind words, everyone! I wish all of you a happy 2023.

 

On 12/23/2022 at 4:41 PM, ambr0zie said:

This is a personal favorite and the first RR denarius I have ever bought. It is one of my favorite designs.

I can very well understand why. I grew to like that reverse design, too.

 

On 12/23/2022 at 6:57 PM, panzerman said:

Frohe Weihnachtes Fest!

Dankeschön. Ich hoffe, Du hattest ebenfalls schöne Weihnachten und wünsche Dir ein frohes Neues Jahr!

 

On 12/23/2022 at 8:52 PM, Nerosmyfavorite68 said:

The elephant is quite endearing!

On 12/27/2022 at 11:31 AM, Limes said:

Also, the rendering of the elephant on your bracteate penny is quite interesting!

I agree with the two of you – it's quite a cute little critter, isn't it?

 

On 12/27/2022 at 11:19 PM, Shea19 said:

And though I know absolutely nothing about medieval coins, the Frederick II bracteate (#7) really stood out to me, beautiful coin.

Thanks! It seems that this type, probably due to a large and well-preserved hoard find, often comes in excellent condition. As @JeandAcre has pointed out above, quite a number of nice examples went to auction recently and sold for reasonable prices. I guess I picked the right time to buy one...

 

On 12/28/2022 at 5:06 AM, JeandAcre said:

Congratulations on the move!  

Thanks a lot – it has been a lot of work to get there, but now that we moved in, everything looks  beautiful and we're happy. Still, my personal lesson from 2022 is that you should probably think (and calculate) thrice before buying a 150 year old historic landmark...

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The voting is pretty even across the board, a testament to the appeal of all of your top ten!  Even though you didn't get many coins this year I'm totally unsurprised that the ones you did get are great. That's how you roll!  (FYI I picked #1, #5, and #10 as my favourites, but it was super hard to narrow it down to three!)

Thanks for the info on your Marsyas denarius.  The paper you cite has some interesting info on my related Crawford 360/1b, my first Secret Saturnalia gift (from @ValiantKnight back in 2017). Turns out it's an early issue after the mint (and Temple of Jupiter) burned down in 83 BCE and was used (like your coin) to fund Marius's defense against Sulla, returning from the east. I'm convinced, as the paper argues, that the obverse depiction is of Juno Moneta, in mourning for the lost mint. Very cool, thanks for that!

image.jpeg.cbb0bbd00bddab7f788ee7d24b3a9fe4.jpeg

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