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Sev's Top Ten 2021... a year late!


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Way back in the middle of this year I promised to post this list.  I'm just managing to squeak it in before the end of 2022, which is surely the record for the latest ever Top Ten list!  It also proves that I'll stoop to any depths to make it into the record book. 🙃

Many of you are wimping out and avoiding the hard thinking involved in ranking your choices.  On the other hand, perhaps this explains why you manage to post yours on time so I'll shut up about that. 😬 In any case, here are my top ten from 2021 in reverse order.  Which three do you like best?

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10. Quietus (260-61) AR antoninianus. Antioch, 4.56g, 22mm.
Obv: IMP C FVL QVIETVS P F AVG; radiate, draped and cuirassed bust to right
Rev: AEQVITAS AVGG, Aequitas standing facing, head to left, holding scales and cornucopiae.
RIC V.2 2; MIR 1727f; RSC 1d.

Why I like it:
I’ve had a coin of Macrianus for decades, but despite many bids, had failed to acquire a coin of his brother Quietus.  In fact, this may well be the coin that had the longest stay on my want list, so it’s very satisfying to finally have one. I really enjoy the third century crisis period, and Quietus is a character in Harry Sidebottom’s excellent Ballista series of novels.  (Well-researched historical fiction is my favourite way to learn history.)  The very dark toning covers a high grade coin with full surface silvering.

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9. Nicephorus III Botaniates (1078-1081) Electrum Histamenon nomisma. Constantinople, 4.35g, 29mm.
Obv: IC - XC; Bust of Christ Pantokrator facing, raising right hand in benediction and holding Gospels with left.
Rev: +NIKHΦP ΔECΠT; Crowned facing bust of Nicephorus Botaniates, wearing collar piece and loros, and holding a cross-tipped scepter in his right hand and a globus cruciger in his left. 
DOC 1. SB 1883.

Why I like it:
My collection is pretty lean on gold and electrum, yet no general Byzantine collection can be complete without at least one histamenon nomisma.  With gold prices and coin prices what they are, it’s a challenging market, so I was pretty pleased to land this coin.  Another plus: Nicephorus III only issued anonymous bronze, so a portrait collector (like myself) needs gold/electrum.  I like the portrait on this one, and the legends are relatively clear.  I can live with the flan crack and the metal flaw on the obverse.

Nic III led an interesting life, first as a general, then as emperor.  I expect the interest diminished somewhat when he was forced into a monkish retirement by Alexios I!  Really, Nic III deserves some credit for the Komnenian restoration, for which he laid the groundwork.

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8. Attica, Athens, AR “New Style” Tetradrachm, c. 95-88 BCE, Aristion, Philon and -, magistrates. 16.64g, 29mm.
Obv: Head of Athena Parthenos to right, wearing necklace, pendant earring, and triple-crested Attic helmet decorated with the protomes of four horses above the visor, a Pegasos in flight rightward above the raised earpiece, and a curvilinear ornament on the bowl.
Rev: Owl standing to right, head facing, on amphora; A-ӨE above, I(? - possibly K) (month) on amphora, API-ΣTI-ΩN ΦIΛ-ΩN, HΓΕ[AΣ] in six lines across fields, MH below; Pegasus to left in right field. 
Thompson 979a-d, 980a-b (obverse die match to 980a, Vienna); HGC 4, 1602.

Why I like it:
This coin is my only New Style tet.  Although I do think the reverse is quite attractive, if you want a really beautiful New Style you should buy a much earlier issue.  On the other hand, this one is hard to beat for its history, which is the reason I was excited to win it for a very reasonable price in a Roma sale.

The philosopher Aristion is famous for having been ambassador to Mithridates VI of Pontus, becoming his confidant, and conspiring with him to eject the Romans from Greece and Asia Minor.  This coin was clearly issued after the agreement, with its prominent Mithridatid symbol, Pegasus drinking.  Upon his return to Athens, Aristion was elected strategos and eventually became tyrant, helping Mithridates to prosecute the war against the Romans.  Unfortunately for Aristion, Rome sent Lucius Cornelius Sulla to recover Greece and Asia province, and Athens was his first stop.  He besieged the city from 87-86 BCE and – infamously – sacked it, leaving it a shadow of its former self.  I’m very happy to have a numismatic representation of this famous incident… it’s not often that Athenian tets of Aristion or (even more expensively) Sulla come up for sale, especially at an affordable price!

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7. Republic of Florence, fiorino of 12 denari, series II (1237-1250). 1.80g, 20mm.
Obv: + FLORENTIA; lily of Florence
Rev: + IOHANNES •B•, bust of John the Baptist facing, holding cross-tipped sceptre and raising right hand in benediction.
MIR 35

Why I like it:
Last year I managed to beef up my Florence collection quite significantly, and this is my favourite of those new acquisitions.  It’s scarce and lovely in hand.  It was produced early in the rise of Florence as a mercantile and artistic capital, not long after having wrested its independence from the Holy Roman Empire in 1197.  Despite being in the grip of an Italy-wide factional conflict between the Guelphs (supporting the Pope) and Ghibellines (supporting the Emperor), Florence managed to prosper, as indicated by this, its earliest coinage which was of astonishingly high quality compared to the competition.  In 1252 the silver fiorino was supplemented with the gold “fiorino d’oro” which went on to become a standard currency throughout Europe.  These early silver florins were the beginning of all that.  (Please see TypeCoin971793’s excellent writeup here.)

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6. C. Curiatius f. Trigeminus AE Semis. Rome, 135 BCE(?). 7.6g. 
Obv: Laureate head of Saturn right, S behind
Rev: Prow right, C.CVR.F (ligate) above, S before, ROMA below. 
Crawford 240/2a

Why I like it:
To be honest I’m not entirely sure why I like this coin so much.  I love the eye on the prow, and the little waves, and the striking head of Saturn, plus I’d been wanting a Republican semis for a long time.  This issue is quite scarce, with many of those listed on acsearch actually being imitations rather than official issues.  As usual, though, I think what propelled this coin so high on my list was a neat historical connection, although I discovered this only after the fact.  Cicero, in his De Legibus (The Laws) brings up a man who is almost certainly this coin’s issuer during a discussion of the harms to the State perpetrated by rogue tribunes of the plebs like the Gracchi, Saturninus, and Sulpicius.  He depicts Curiatius as someone who prepared the way for the “outrageous” illegal acts of Tiberius Gracchus just a few years later:  “it was even five years before [Tiberius] Gracchus that the plebeian tribune Gaius Curiatius, the meanest and vilest of mankind, committed an act that was absolutely without precedent, casting into prison the consuls Decimus Brutus and Publius Scipio—and what men they were!”  Who would have thought that this unassuming little coin was produced under the auspices of “the meanest and vilest of mankind!”  (At least according to the boni “good men” aristocrats with whom Cicero allied himself.)

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5. Valerian (253-260) AR antoninianus, issued 157-59(?). Antioch. 3.10g, 23mm.
Obv: IMP VALERIANVS AVG; radiate, draped, and cuirassed bust right.
Rev: VICTORIA PART; Victory stg. r. on left, presenting a wreath to Valerian stg. l. on right, holding spear.
RIC –, MIR(Göbl) 1604a (one example cited).

Why I like it:
This extremely rare and historically interesting coin flew under the radar, misidentified in a biddr auction last year.  Given that Valerian was captured by the Persians on campaign in the East, the VICTORIA PART type is obviously highly ironic – but until a specimen was found in a Syrian hoard (singled out and written up by Bastien in his 1969 paper “Trésor d'antoniniani en Syrie: La Victoria Parthica de Valérien”) it was only known for Valerian II (somewhat scarce) and Gallienus (quite rare).  As far as I know, this is only the second recorded example for Valerian.

Why are the Valerian examples so rare?  My suggestion is that he was captured by the Persians while these coins were in production.  Perhaps these were the coins taken with him on the expedition (and so captured and melted down), or perhaps this sub-issue was immediately stopped or pulled due to embarrassment. The timing of events and coinage emissions is rather muddled, but we know Valerian’s capture probably took place in 259 or 260.  I intend to write a whole post on this coin, but in any case, it’s an exceptional way to represent the famous catastrophe, minted in the most important nearby city, and I love it!

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4. Attica, Athens, AR tetradrachm, Starr Group II c. 470 BCE (somewhere in the range of 479-465). 17.11g, 25mm.
Obv: Helmeted head of Athena right, with frontal eye.
Rev: Owl standing right, head facing; olive sprig and crescent to left; all within incuse square.
HGC 4, 1593

Why I like it:
Over the past couple years I’ve really improved my sequence of Athenian coins, and this is my earliest one.  Starr Group II tets are rare and desirable, as they are the first issue to incorporate the olive leaves on Athena’s helmet and the crescent behind the owl, presumably in celebration of victory over the Persians.  Obviously a key issue for the history-based collector!  Clearly this specimen has its problems, but I actually quite like the chisel mark (not a test cut!) on the reverse and countermark (or two?) on the obverse.  These indicate that the coin circulated in the east (northern Syria and Cilicia), not a common thing for early owls and so quite interesting - the coin is evidence of Athens’ burgeoning influence on the wider monetary economy, as well as an excellent way to represent the Greco-Persian wars in my collection.

The other main reason I like it is that it was another coin misidentified in an auction (as a later mass-produced owl) that flew under the radar.  I won it at the opening price!  Had it been a mass-produced owl, the opening price would have been somewhat too high, but for a Group II it was a steal.  I find steals to be very satisfying. 😄

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3. CARIA, Stratonikaia: Caracalla and Geta (209-211) AE36, issued by Epitynchanontos, Prytanis. 36mm, 30.87g.
Obv: Laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust of Caracalla right and [laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust of Geta left, erased in damnatio memoriae]; c/ms: Head of Athena/Minerva (or Roma?) right within incuse circle between busts, ΘEOΥ within rectangular incuse below (Howgego 188 and 536)
Rev: ЄΠI ΠPV ЄΠITVNKANONTOC Γ ΦΙΛΩNOC CTPATONIKЄΩN; Hekate standing left, holding patera and torch; altar at her feet.
SNG von Aulock 2687var.

Why I like it:
In an interesting thread last year on damnatio memoriae coins it became clear that they are few and far between.  In fact, these particular issues from Straonikaia are pretty much the only ones that are both clearly intentional erasures and reasonably obtainable.  I’ve been wanting one for quite a while and was very happy to manage it last year.  (Well, actually this year, since this is the coin that went through seven months of adventure to get to me!  Said adventure is described in the linked post up top.  The other coin from the package that made my list was the Curiatius, #6.)

It’s puzzling why the damnatio of Geta seems not to have been put into practice on any other coin types.  Why not on Geta denarii or sestertii, for example?  There are solo portraits of Geta on coins from Stratonikaia even, but no erasures that I’m aware of.  Did Caracalla particularly hate dual portrait coins?  That can’t be it, because they are plentiful from other mints, e.g. Marcianopolis.  It’s very strange!  Perhaps a mint official at Stratonikaia, upon hearing of the damnatio, took matters into his own hands and scraped off the portraits on the only issues available to him at the time, only discovering later that the order wasn’t to be applied to coins.  (Except possibly by melting them, which would be hard to confirm or disconfirm.  It would also seem to be the most sensible course.  Perhaps this mint official just wasn’t the brightest!  Typical administrator, yes?)

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2. Charlemagne (768-814), AR denier, issued after 793. Melle mint, 1.47g, 19mm.
Obv: + METVLLO; monogram of Charlemagne.
Rev: + CARLVS REX FR; cross
MEC 923

Why I like it:
A coin of Charlemagne is typically a grail coin for medieval collectors, and I’m no exception.  Unfortunately they tend to be extremely expensive!  This coin was my answer to that problem, and it required quite a lot of research before buying.  The standard wisdom is that it’s not possible to tell whether this Melle type was issued under Charlemagne or Charles the Bald fifty years later, but I noticed that some auction houses (e.g. Elsen and Monnaies d’Antan) tended to attribute some of them unequivocally to Charlemagne (with an attendant price premium).  I dug into the matter, and found a number of helpful articles looking at hoard and other evidence.  

Simon Coupland is a particular expert on the coinage of Charlemagne, and he identifies a number of signs that a coin is Charlemagne’s rather than Charles the Bald’s, based on hoards and other finds: the coin is neatly produced; it has barred A’s on the reverse; it features a chevron in the central lozenge of the monogram; and finally a cross occurring at 1 o’clock with respect to a vertical monogram.  Each of these indicators by itself makes it probable, but far from certain, that a coin is Charlemagne’s.  In addition, MEC asserts that long thin cross crossbars is another indicator (again based on hoard evidence) - this is what Elsen cites.  I reasoned that a coin which has all of these indicators (especially the barred A’s and chevron, which are not very common) would almost certainly be a Charlemagne issue.  The only problem was… I couldn’t find any such coin, despite many, many Melle deniers appearing on the market!  However, eventually one came up on MA shops, identified as Charles the Bald and, given its superb condition, very reasonably priced even for that less popular king.  I snapped it up!  

Is it 100% guaranteed to be a Charlemagne?  Well, probably not, but there are few guarantees in ancient and medieval coins, and I’m very happy to own this one.

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1. Julius Caesar with L. Aemilius Buca. AR denarius, issued 44 BCE, 3.63 g. Obv: CAESAR•IM – P – M Wreathed head of Caesar r.; behind, crescent. Rev. L•AEMILIVS – BVCA Venus standing l., holding sceptre and Victory. Sear Imperators 102. Crawford 480/4.

Why I like it:
Well, duh… because it’s a lifetime Caesar portrait, obviously!  Need I say more?  I also scored it for quite a non-exorbitant price, always an important consideration for me.  My previous Caesar portrait coin ended up in the first AMCC auction, largely because I really wanted to have a Caesar portrait somewhere in there and I thought I could likely get another with the proceeds – maybe even one I liked better – without too much difficulty.  That was well before the current rise in prices, though.  (Oops.)  So it was a great relief to win this baby!  And I do indeed like it better than my previous one due to the (slightly earlier?) more carefully engraved portrait.  Ave, Caesar!

And that is finally a wrap on my 2021.  A terrible year for other reasons,* but a great one for coins!  So: three cheers for coins (and the new NumisForums), I say!

* On that subject, my new treatment is going well so far! 🤞

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Good to hear your treatment is going well. I remember on CoinTalk you weren't in the best of health.

As for the coins, my favourites are 9, 4 & 1. If I had to pick one, it would be #4. If I'm not mistaken, Starr Group IIc includes the dekadrachm issue, so your tetradrachm is very desirable. I really like it.

All the best for the coming year.

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Some great pieces, It was a good year for coins ( My picks are #1 and #9)  and as for the new Year I hope everything health wise improves greatly.  Happy New Year. 

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10 hours ago, Severus Alexander said:

Way back in the middle of this year I promised to post this list.  I'm just managing to squeak it in before the end of 2022, which is surely the record for the latest ever Top Ten list!  It also proves that I'll stoop to any depths to make it into the record book. 🙃

Many of you are wimping out and avoiding the hard thinking involved in ranking your choices.  On the other hand, perhaps this explains why you manage to post yours on time so I'll shut up about that. 😬 In any case, here are my top ten from 2021 in reverse order.  Which three do you like best?

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10. Quietus (260-61) AR antoninianus. Antioch, 4.56g, 22mm.
Obv: IMP C FVL QVIETVS P F AVG; radiate, draped and cuirassed bust to right
Rev: AEQVITAS AVGG, Aequitas standing facing, head to left, holding scales and cornucopiae.
RIC V.2 2; MIR 1727f; RSC 1d.

Why I like it:
I’ve had a coin of Macrianus for decades, but despite many bids, had failed to acquire a coin of his brother Quietus.  In fact, this may well be the coin that had the longest stay on my want list, so it’s very satisfying to finally have one. I really enjoy the third century crisis period, and Quietus is a character in Harry Sidebottom’s excellent Ballista series of novels.  (Well-researched historical fiction is my favourite way to learn history.)  The very dark toning covers a high grade coin with full surface silvering.

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9. Nicephorus III Botaniates (1078-1081) Electrum Histamenon nomisma. Constantinople, 4.35g, 29mm.
Obv: IC - XC; Bust of Christ Pantokrator facing, raising right hand in benediction and holding Gospels with left.
Rev: +NIKHΦP ΔECΠT; Crowned facing bust of Nicephorus Botaniates, wearing collar piece and loros, and holding a cross-tipped scepter in his right hand and a globus cruciger in his left. 
DOC 1. SB 1883.

Why I like it:
My collection is pretty lean on gold and electrum, yet no general Byzantine collection can be complete without at least one histamenon nomisma.  With gold prices and coin prices what they are, it’s a challenging market, so I was pretty pleased to land this coin.  Another plus: Nicephorus III only issued anonymous bronze, so a portrait collector (like myself) needs gold/electrum.  I like the portrait on this one, and the legends are relatively clear.  I can live with the flan crack and the metal flaw on the obverse.

Nic III led an interesting life, first as a general, then as emperor.  I expect the interest diminished somewhat when he was forced into a monkish retirement by Alexios I!  Really, Nic III deserves some credit for the Komnenian restoration, for which he laid the groundwork.

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8. Attica, Athens, AR “New Style” Tetradrachm, c. 95-88 BCE, Aristion, Philon and -, magistrates. 16.64g, 29mm.
Obv: Head of Athena Parthenos to right, wearing necklace, pendant earring, and triple-crested Attic helmet decorated with the protomes of four horses above the visor, a Pegasos in flight rightward above the raised earpiece, and a curvilinear ornament on the bowl.
Rev: Owl standing to right, head facing, on amphora; A-ӨE above, I(? - possibly K) (month) on amphora, API-ΣTI-ΩN ΦIΛ-ΩN, HΓΕ[AΣ] in six lines across fields, MH below; Pegasus to left in right field. 
Thompson 979a-d, 980a-b (obverse die match to 980a, Vienna); HGC 4, 1602.

Why I like it:
This coin is my only New Style tet.  Although I do think the reverse is quite attractive, if you want a really beautiful New Style you should buy a much earlier issue.  On the other hand, this one is hard to beat for its history, which is the reason I was excited to win it for a very reasonable price in a Roma sale.

The philosopher Aristion is famous for having been ambassador to Mithridates VI of Pontus, becoming his confidant, and conspiring with him to eject the Romans from Greece and Asia Minor.  This coin was clearly issued after the agreement, with its prominent Mithridatid symbol, Pegasus drinking.  Upon his return to Athens, Aristion was elected strategos and eventually became tyrant, helping Mithridates to prosecute the war against the Romans.  Unfortunately for Aristion, Rome sent Lucius Cornelius Sulla to recover Greece and Asia province, and Athens was his first stop.  He besieged the city from 87-86 BCE and – infamously – sacked it, leaving it a shadow of its former self.  I’m very happy to have a numismatic representation of this famous incident… it’s not often that Athenian tets of Aristion or (even more expensively) Sulla come up for sale, especially at an affordable price!

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7. Republic of Florence, fiorino of 12 denari, series II (1237-1250). 1.80g, 20mm.
Obv: + FLORENTIA; lily of Florence
Rev: + IOHANNES •B•, bust of John the Baptist facing, holding cross-tipped sceptre and raising right hand in benediction.
MIR 35

Why I like it:
Last year I managed to beef up my Florence collection quite significantly, and this is my favourite of those new acquisitions.  It’s scarce and lovely in hand.  It was produced early in the rise of Florence as a mercantile and artistic capital, not long after having wrested its independence from the Holy Roman Empire in 1197.  Despite being in the grip of an Italy-wide factional conflict between the Guelphs (supporting the Pope) and Ghibellines (supporting the Emperor), Florence managed to prosper, as indicated by this, its earliest coinage which was of astonishingly high quality compared to the competition.  In 1252 the silver fiorino was supplemented with the gold “fiorino d’oro” which went on to become a standard currency throughout Europe.  These early silver florins were the beginning of all that.  (Please see TypeCoin971793’s excellent writeup here.)

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6. C. Curiatius f. Trigeminus AE Semis. Rome, 135 BCE(?). 7.6g. 
Obv: Laureate head of Saturn right, S behind
Rev: Prow right, C.CVR.F (ligate) above, S before, ROMA below. 
Crawford 240/2a

Why I like it:
To be honest I’m not entirely sure why I like this coin so much.  I love the eye on the prow, and the little waves, and the striking head of Saturn, plus I’d been wanting a Republican semis for a long time.  This issue is quite scarce, with many of those listed on acsearch actually being imitations rather than official issues.  As usual, though, I think what propelled this coin so high on my list was a neat historical connection, although I discovered this only after the fact.  Cicero, in his De Legibus (The Laws) brings up a man who is almost certainly this coin’s issuer during a discussion of the harms to the State perpetrated by rogue tribunes of the plebs like the Gracchi, Saturninus, and Sulpicius.  He depicts Curiatius as someone who prepared the way for the “outrageous” illegal acts of Tiberius Gracchus just a few years later:  “it was even five years before [Tiberius] Gracchus that the plebeian tribune Gaius Curiatius, the meanest and vilest of mankind, committed an act that was absolutely without precedent, casting into prison the consuls Decimus Brutus and Publius Scipio—and what men they were!”  Who would have thought that this unassuming little coin was produced under the auspices of “the meanest and vilest of mankind!”  (At least according to the boni “good men” aristocrats with whom Cicero allied himself.)

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5. Valerian (253-260) AR antoninianus, issued 157-59(?). Antioch. 3.10g, 23mm.
Obv: IMP VALERIANVS AVG; radiate, draped, and cuirassed bust right.
Rev: VICTORIA PART; Victory stg. r. on left, presenting a wreath to Valerian stg. l. on right, holding spear.
RIC –, MIR(Göbl) 1604a (one example cited).

Why I like it:
This extremely rare and historically interesting coin flew under the radar, misidentified in a biddr auction last year.  Given that Valerian was captured by the Persians on campaign in the East, the VICTORIA PART type is obviously highly ironic – but until a specimen was found in a Syrian hoard (singled out and written up by Bastien in his 1969 paper “Trésor d'antoniniani en Syrie: La Victoria Parthica de Valérien”) it was only known for Valerian II (somewhat scarce) and Gallienus (quite rare).  As far as I know, this is only the second recorded example for Valerian.

Why are the Valerian examples so rare?  My suggestion is that he was captured by the Persians while these coins were in production.  Perhaps these were the coins taken with him on the expedition (and so captured and melted down), or perhaps this sub-issue was immediately stopped or pulled due to embarrassment. The timing of events and coinage emissions is rather muddled, but we know Valerian’s capture probably took place in 259 or 260.  I intend to write a whole post on this coin, but in any case, it’s an exceptional way to represent the famous catastrophe, minted in the most important nearby city, and I love it!

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4. Attica, Athens, AR tetradrachm, Starr Group II c. 470 BCE (somewhere in the range of 479-465). 17.11g, 25mm.
Obv: Helmeted head of Athena right, with frontal eye.
Rev: Owl standing right, head facing; olive sprig and crescent to left; all within incuse square.
HGC 4, 1593

Why I like it:
Over the past couple years I’ve really improved my sequence of Athenian coins, and this is my earliest one.  Starr Group II tets are rare and desirable, as they are the first issue to incorporate the olive leaves on Athena’s helmet and the crescent behind the owl, presumably in celebration of victory over the Persians.  Obviously a key issue for the history-based collector!  Clearly this specimen has its problems, but I actually quite like the chisel mark (not a test cut!) on the reverse and countermark (or two?) on the obverse.  These indicate that the coin circulated in the east (northern Syria and Cilicia), not a common thing for early owls and so quite interesting - the coin is evidence of Athens’ burgeoning influence on the wider monetary economy, as well as an excellent way to represent the Greco-Persian wars in my collection.

The other main reason I like it is that it was another coin misidentified in an auction (as a later mass-produced owl) that flew under the radar.  I won it at the opening price!  Had it been a mass-produced owl, the opening price would have been somewhat too high, but for a Group II it was a steal.  I find steals to be very satisfying. 😄

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3. CARIA, Stratonikaia: Caracalla and Geta (209-211) AE36, issued by Epitynchanontos, Prytanis. 36mm, 30.87g.
Obv: Laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust of Caracalla right and [laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust of Geta left, erased in damnatio memoriae]; c/ms: Head of Athena/Minerva (or Roma?) right within incuse circle between busts, ΘEOΥ within rectangular incuse below (Howgego 188 and 536)
Rev: ЄΠI ΠPV ЄΠITVNKANONTOC Γ ΦΙΛΩNOC CTPATONIKЄΩN; Hekate standing left, holding patera and torch; altar at her feet.
SNG von Aulock 2687var.

Why I like it:
In an interesting thread last year on damnatio memoriae coins it became clear that they are few and far between.  In fact, these particular issues from Straonikaia are pretty much the only ones that are both clearly intentional erasures and reasonably obtainable.  I’ve been wanting one for quite a while and was very happy to manage it last year.  (Well, actually this year, since this is the coin that went through seven months of adventure to get to me!  Said adventure is described in the linked post up top.  The other coin from the package that made my list was the Curiatius, #6.)

It’s puzzling why the damnatio of Geta seems not to have been put into practice on any other coin types.  Why not on Geta denarii or sestertii, for example?  There are solo portraits of Geta on coins from Stratonikaia even, but no erasures that I’m aware of.  Did Caracalla particularly hate dual portrait coins?  That can’t be it, because they are plentiful from other mints, e.g. Marcianopolis.  It’s very strange!  Perhaps a mint official at Stratonikaia, upon hearing of the damnatio, took matters into his own hands and scraped off the portraits on the only issues available to him at the time, only discovering later that the order wasn’t to be applied to coins.  (Except possibly by melting them, which would be hard to confirm or disconfirm.  It would also seem to be the most sensible course.  Perhaps this mint official just wasn’t the brightest!  Typical administrator, yes?)

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2. Charlemagne (768-814), AR denier, issued after 793. Melle mint, 1.47g, 19mm.
Obv: + METVLLO; monogram of Charlemagne.
Rev: + CARLVS REX FR; cross
MEC 923

Why I like it:
A coin of Charlemagne is typically a grail coin for medieval collectors, and I’m no exception.  Unfortunately they tend to be extremely expensive!  This coin was my answer to that problem, and it required quite a lot of research before buying.  The standard wisdom is that it’s not possible to tell whether this Melle type was issued under Charlemagne or Charles the Bald fifty years later, but I noticed that some auction houses (e.g. Elsen and Monnaies d’Antan) tended to attribute some of them unequivocally to Charlemagne (with an attendant price premium).  I dug into the matter, and found a number of helpful articles looking at hoard and other evidence.  

Simon Coupland is a particular expert on the coinage of Charlemagne, and he identifies a number of signs that a coin is Charlemagne’s rather than Charles the Bald’s, based on hoards and other finds: the coin is neatly produced; it has barred A’s on the reverse; it features a chevron in the central lozenge of the monogram; and finally a cross occurring at 1 o’clock with respect to a vertical monogram.  Each of these indicators by itself makes it probable, but far from certain, that a coin is Charlemagne’s.  In addition, MEC asserts that long thin cross crossbars is another indicator (again based on hoard evidence) - this is what Elsen cites.  I reasoned that a coin which has all of these indicators (especially the barred A’s and chevron, which are not very common) would almost certainly be a Charlemagne issue.  The only problem was… I couldn’t find any such coin, despite many, many Melle deniers appearing on the market!  However, eventually one came up on MA shops, identified as Charles the Bald and, given its superb condition, very reasonably priced even for that less popular king.  I snapped it up!  

Is it 100% guaranteed to be a Charlemagne?  Well, probably not, but there are few guarantees in ancient and medieval coins, and I’m very happy to own this one.

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image.jpeg.07208d15689314ed7343d0579ab93cfe.jpeg
1. Julius Caesar with L. Aemilius Buca. AR denarius, issued 44 BCE, 3.63 g. Obv: CAESAR•IM – P – M Wreathed head of Caesar r.; behind, crescent. Rev. L•AEMILIVS – BVCA Venus standing l., holding sceptre and Victory. Sear Imperators 102. Crawford 480/4.

Why I like it:
Well, duh… because it’s a lifetime Caesar portrait, obviously!  Need I say more?  I also scored it for quite a non-exorbitant price, always an important consideration for me.  My previous Caesar portrait coin ended up in the first AMCC auction, largely because I really wanted to have a Caesar portrait somewhere in there and I thought I could likely get another with the proceeds – maybe even one I liked better – without too much difficulty.  That was well before the current rise in prices, though.  (Oops.)  So it was a great relief to win this baby!  And I do indeed like it better than my previous one due to the (slightly earlier?) more carefully engraved portrait.  Ave, Caesar!

And that is finally a wrap on my 2021.  A terrible year for other reasons,* but a great one for coins!  So: three cheers for coins (and the new NumisForums), I say!

* On that subject, my new treatment is going well so far! 🤞

S.A., It looks like you had an excellent year 😊! My favorite has to be #3, the Caria damnatio memoriae bronze 😍. Unlike other coins that have had Geta's image removed by abrasion, this coin had the die image filled so the image couldn't be seen, something that could only be done at the mint. My 2nd favorite would be the choice Charlemagne denier, & my 3rd favorite is the Athenian Owl with the deep test cut. Despite considerable wear, the coin still retains a hefty weight & attractive toning. BTW, your photos are impressive 🤩.

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Glad to see your 2021 list @Severus Alexander !
I can't wait seeing your 2022 !!! 😄 

I completely agree with Al on the quality of your pictures. 

My choice here would be the Charlemagne first, followed by the Damnatio memoriae, the Nicephorus III histamenon (I don't collect byzantine but that one is something great), and the lifetime JC. All are great coins though, for the historical reasons you explained. My choice is based on how I like the coins themselves only

Needless to say how glad I am to read about your treatment being effective. I wish you a most happy and painless new year

Q

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I can understand why you had a tough time coming up with a top 10. All your coins are great!
If I had to pick an absolute favorite, I think I would chose the Valerian VICTORIA PART. The irony is just too good.

The Caracalla/Geta Damnatio is a close second. Such an interesting story and so cool to see it played out on a coin. 

Rounding out 3rd place is Quietus. I am a fan of the crisis of the 3rd century and all of the emperors/caesars/coins that it spawned.

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Thanks for the compliments and best wishes, everyone! ☺️

19 hours ago, Di Nomos said:

If I'm not mistaken, Starr Group IIc includes the dekadrachm issue, so your tetradrachm is very desirable. I really like it.

Thanks, I had forgotten that detail! I'm actually not sure which subgroup mine is, I've received various opinions ranging from a to c. The compact owl suggests group IIa, but I think Athena is more along the lines of IIb/c. (I wonder a bit how well-defined the groups actually are.)

19 hours ago, ValiantKnight said:

Will never not be envious of that Charlemagne 😮 Definitely beats the one in my top-10 list.

Well, maybe, but you have three!! 🤩 (I confess I couldn't resist picking up another one myself:

image.jpeg.41af4e71e9909970d67c89e912c9deac.jpeg

)

11 hours ago, Al Kowsky said:

Unlike other coins that have had Geta's image removed by abrasion, this coin had the die image filled so the image couldn't be seen, something that could only be done at the mint.

Actually, when you see the coin in hand, it's clear that Geta's portrait has indeed been scraped off.  Maybe my photo is misleading!  But thanks for the praise of my photography anyway. 😄 And to you too, @Qcumbor!

2 hours ago, Furryfrog02 said:

If I had to pick an absolute favorite, I think I would chose the Valerian VICTORIA PART. The irony is just too good.

I'm glad to see the Valerian is proving to be among the favourites. I love ironic types! (Many thanks to @Claudius_Gothicus for his help with this coin, also to @curtislclay and @kapphnwn.)  I share your fascination with the third century crisis, @Furryfrog02.

2021 was a good coin year for me, but 2022 was even better... I think I'll indulge in more than one list.

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50 minutes ago, Severus Alexander said:

Well, maybe, but you have three!! 🤩 (I confess I couldn't resist picking up another one myself:

 

Nice! I remember seeing that particular coin at auction. Glad to know you were the person who bought it! There was another one at auction recently that I bid on but lost unfortunately. So I decided to use the money towards my new Charles the Fat upgrade.

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I'm so glad to hear that things are going well, @Severus Alexander. May the New Year be even better for you!

Those are all very interesting coins, and it's hard to choose the three most appealing. But I have to go with 4, 2 (even if it isn't Charlemagne!), and 1.

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Very glad to hear the new treatment is going well, @Severus Alexander! I wish you all the best for 2023 and hope that your coin year 2022 was just as successful as your 2021 🙂 

I most like your Caesar Denarius, your Stratonikaia AE with the erased Geta portrait and your new style Tetradrachm with the small Pegasos on the reverse.

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It's good to see that each coin on the list has received at least one vote now!  Thanks, @DonnaML, @Ursus, @SimonW, and @singig for the kind wishes. 😊

Here is one of my many runners-up from 2021:

image.jpeg.fd685c7bcecdd09a3b6c8865d2b7b06c.jpeg

Artuqids of Mardin: Husam al-Din Yuluq Arslan (AH 580-597 = 1184-1200). AE Dirham, 33mm, 15.10g, dated AH 596 = 1199/1200.

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Your Severan issue with the damnatio memoriae of Geta is my favorite! I'd like to own a DM coin one day, too. I saw one of Domitian, in the museum this year. Fascinating issues. 

I wish you all the best of health in 2023!  

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On 1/1/2023 at 3:47 AM, Severus Alexander said:

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image.jpeg.72bbdf23dc7978fa77dc481d7a0885e0.jpeg
2. Charlemagne (768-814), AR denier, issued after 793. Melle mint, 1.47g, 19mm.
Obv: + METVLLO; monogram of Charlemagne.
Rev: + CARLVS REX FR; cross
MEC 923

Why I like it:
A coin of Charlemagne is typically a grail coin for medieval collectors, and I’m no exception.  Unfortunately they tend to be extremely expensive!  This coin was my answer to that problem, and it required quite a lot of research before buying.  The standard wisdom is that it’s not possible to tell whether this Melle type was issued under Charlemagne or Charles the Bald fifty years later, but I noticed that some auction houses (e.g. Elsen and Monnaies d’Antan) tended to attribute some of them unequivocally to Charlemagne (with an attendant price premium).  I dug into the matter, and found a number of helpful articles looking at hoard and other evidence.  

Simon Coupland is a particular expert on the coinage of Charlemagne, and he identifies a number of signs that a coin is Charlemagne’s rather than Charles the Bald’s, based on hoards and other finds: the coin is neatly produced; it has barred A’s on the reverse; it features a chevron in the central lozenge of the monogram; and finally a cross occurring at 1 o’clock with respect to a vertical monogram.  Each of these indicators by itself makes it probable, but far from certain, that a coin is Charlemagne’s.  In addition, MEC asserts that long thin cross crossbars is another indicator (again based on hoard evidence) - this is what Elsen cites.  I reasoned that a coin which has all of these indicators (especially the barred A’s and chevron, which are not very common) would almost certainly be a Charlemagne issue.  The only problem was… I couldn’t find any such coin, despite many, many Melle deniers appearing on the market!  However, eventually one came up on MA shops, identified as Charles the Bald and, given its superb condition, very reasonably priced even for that less popular king.  I snapped it up!  

That is a great coin. 

I have a coin of this type. I bought it as Charles the Bald, but according to your criteria it may have been minted by Charlemagne:

Weight: 1.56 gr

Obv.: CARLVS REX FR

Rev.: METVLLO

The coin has the barred A on the overse and a chevron at the center of the monogram on the reverse. I didn't know about these criteria before. I thought, based on my "sense of style" the coins with clear letters and wider spacing between the letter were likely to be early. This does fit well with your criteria.

Screenshot 2023-01-03 at 19.03.54.png

Edited by Tejas
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Posted (edited)

Thanks, @Limes and @Tejas!  There was a damnatio Domitian in a recent auction where the portrait had clearly been scraped off, from Kibyra I believe... a dual portrait issue with Domitia.  This seems to be another issue where the damnatio extended to coins.  I'd be wary of any re-patinated examples, though.

I agree that your coin is very likely to be Charlemagne, Tejas. The second coin (acsearch ID 803630) does look to be late, I wouldn't be confident of the first (6840174).  I think there are quite a few coins that fall in a grey area of indeterminately Charlemagne/Charles the Bald.

Here's another runner up from last year, a fraction issued in Rome just after Constantine's victory over Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge:

image.jpeg.d42685580c7b4b6ca03b8792b503e064.jpeg

Edited by Severus Alexander
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All are wonderful my friend. The Julius Caesar, Charlemagne and Sulla New Style are my favorites.  Your exceptional research and historical interest focus means I always enjoy seeing your coins and understanding why you like them.

This list was worth the wait!

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