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A rare Justinian II from Ravenna


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I don't often buy from HJB, but when I do, it's usually a memorable coin.  The customer service during the purchase was 10/10, with thanks to Phil Davis and Aaron Berk.

It happened to be one of the rare times when I perused MA coins, and I spotted a bucket-list coin, a large module 40 nummia of Constantine IV.  I quickly hit the 'buy' on that and bought the Justinian II also, since the Ravenna mint is one of my favorites.

To make a long story short, they weren't able to locate the Constantine - and that turned out to be very fortunate. The parcel arrived incredibly quickly, but the numpties at the post office managed to maul it.  The photo was taken after I opened the package.  I took a video of the opening, just in case I had to make an insurance claim.  The jagged edge on the left is from when I cut open the envelope.  The hole in the middle is courtesy of the post office.

2058575108_Mauledprioritymailenvelope-WEBresize.jpg.2a1dc4ea70bcf6d491cb3ee1c5159a9a.jpg

I examined the coin and because of it's small size, it seems to be undamaged and not bent.  Are HJB custom flips crimped at the top?  If not, I certainly had a close call.   The coin itself would have been at the bottom of the envelope, beneath the hole, in the unmauled part.  The crimping on the flip kind of looks like the black striations on the envelope.  It missed the coin by maybe 7-10 mm.

I was disappointed not to get the bucket list coin, but arriving broken would have been truly heartbreaking.  Note to self; ask for first class and not a priority mailer next time. I don't have great luck with priority mail.  I'm guessing that the stiff mailer somehow caught on the conveyer belt.

Justinian II is one of my favorite Byzantine emperors to collect (although I don't have many, and one of my three Justinian II's was a 10 nummia from a 1990's era HJB pick bin).

Ravenna has always been my favorite Byzantine mint, the primary reason why I bought a small coin. The Totalus Rankium podcast told an entertaining story (is it true?) about Justinian II (in his second reign) and his revenge upon Ravenna.  According to them, his agents set up a picnic outside the city walls, enticing the local nobles out.  Once they emerged, out popped the knives from the picnic baskets and bye-bye nobles.

The coin itself: the picture and description are from HJB:

1706921706_JustinianII-685-695705-7011-AEFollis-2.84gSear1445RavennaYear21.jpg.6aa199bf7913c9f9b22d1f0e34be2a01.jpg

Justinian II; Second Reign, 705-711 AD. Ravenna, Year 21=705/6 AD, Follis, 2.84g. Berk-817, MIB-54, DO-23, Sear-1445. Obv: Legend mostly off flan, Facing bust of emperor with short beard, wearing crown and loros, and holding [cross potent] (off flan) and cross on globe. Rx: Large M between A/N/N/O and X/X/[I], cross above, RAV in exergue. Unusual type for second reign showing emperor holding loros.

They didn't include size, but it's small, about the size of a Tancred small follis, c. 18 or so mm. The coin itself is pretty scarce (how many Ravenna Justinian II's do you see?) and Sear lacks an image of the type. 

I've had good luck twice within the last year when the original order was sold/unfindable.  I lost out on a lovely Divus Augustus AE the first time, but ended up buying a lovely Apsimar Solidus.  The good luck this time is that the coin seems to have survived unbent although the packaging was bent by the USPS mauling.  I'm also fortunate that it was on the flip side of the address.  It most likely would have been lost otherwise.

Totalus Rankium mentioned that Justinian II was the only emperor to return and reign twice, but I can think of a few; Maximianus (three times),twice: Zeno, and wasn't Basiliscus, Julius Nepos, and probably some others whom I neglected.

The original Justinian II had very many colorful adventures in his quest to reclaim the throne. His coin also went on an adventure.

The post office hasn't destroyed many of my past packages, but they do seem to hone in on ones I care about.  They ran over some radio transcriptions of Hopalong Cassidy (the opera aluminum ones were bent, but Hopalong survived intact) and they also destroyed the earliest known Duffy's Tavern AFRS disc.

 

 

 

 

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I'm thankful that the coin seems to have survived and that I may finally crawl into bed. 

HJB's customer service was impeccable and they made even a small customer feel welcome.

It's pretty tough to find any Ravenna mint coins from the early 8th century.  Who knows? Perhaps the coin was deposited during Justinian's 'picnic.'

Feel free to post any coins of Justinian II or the Ravenna mint, post-Justinian I.

 

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Challenge accepted.   Here on the left is a Heraclius and son from the Ravenna mint.   These coins are distinguished by their heavy annular border best seen on the reverse of this coin, and their peculiar style.  The other two solidi are included for comparison;  they are both products of the mint at Constantinople.  On the right is a tremissis of uncertain origin.  The massive borders certainly resemble a Ravenna mint coin.  Your informed opinion or idle speculation is invited.

 image.jpeg.e7257b6643ec976a05543449fad3a7d6.jpegimage.jpeg.eb93d3eb1d2951b7856b35f00c512e8c.jpeg

 

Next we have Justinian II himself.  These are all from Constantinople.   The coin on the left is from a rusty OBV die which may have been repolished.  The devices are effected but the fields are beautifully smooth.  Or perhaps the water collected in the low points of the die and oxidized only the metal there.  I have seen coins from this die in a less rusted state three times in the past few decades, though never so well struck.  The youthful portrait is uncommon.  The other solidus shows a more mature emperor.  Frequently this issue is encountered clipped, in my experience.

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Last we have two solidi from Justinian’s second reign.  The portraits of Christ are in the second, more Semitic style.  I really like them, and wonder if they are based on an Eastern iconographic tradition, the traces of which were obliterated by the advent of Islam or by the Empire’s own iconoclasm.  image.png.c75ec78e813ce19db3173cc45934013f.pngimage.png.80fcb3170d136fafe3bb6fe394f8e5ff.png

I hope everyone enjoys these coins.  I know Byzantine coins are sometimes dismissed as lacking the artistic excellence of the Greek or earlier Roman, and therefore less worthy of notice.  But there is beauty, serenity, and emotion here, also.  

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Spectacular, Hrefn!  Do you happen to have any from Sardinia or Rome?

My little guy can't compete with those but it still gets me in the Ravenna club. The coin looks better in person. The bust is more defined.  The near-black patina made it a difficult item to photograph.

It was a narrow escape, indeed. I'm sure the ruffling on the flip probably came from the mishap.   It was indeed fortunate that the coin seems to have survived, unharmed.

I seem to be drawn to coins from three periods: Justinian-early Heraclius, 680-705, and the Comneni.

 

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1 hour ago, Nerosmyfavorite68 said:

Spectacular, Hrefn!  Do you happen to have any from Sardinia or Rome?

 

Sadly, no.  Nothing from Sardinia.  From Rome I have a coin of Anthemius, then some Ostrogothic coins.  No Byzantine coins from after Justinian the First’s reconquest of Rome, minted in Rome.  

Edited by Hrefn
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This one came from a lot of 300 unnoticed. 

b095.jpg.f6c05bd08a9bfb480b42834257cea7b0.jpg

Constans II
644 to 645 AD
Mint: Ravenna
AE Follis
Obvs: DN CONSTANTINVS PP. Bust facing, wearing crown and chalamys, and holding globus cruciger.
Revs: M between ANNO and numerals II II. Cross above, RAV in exergue.
20x26mm, 3.7g
Ref: SB 1138, Gr.--, DOC 206

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2 hours ago, Nerosmyfavorite68 said:

Spectacular, Hrefn!  Do you happen to have any from Sardinia or Rome?

My little guy can't compete with those but it still gets me in the Ravenna club. The coin looks better in person. The bust is more defined.  The near-black patina made it a difficult item to photograph.

It was a narrow escape, indeed. I'm sure the ruffling on the flip probably came from the mishap.   It was indeed fortunate that the coin seems to have survived, unharmed.

I seem to be drawn to coins from three periods: Justinian-early Heraclius, 680-705, and the Comneni.

 

Hirsch (IIRC) had an amazing sardinia sale this summer (tremissis, solidii, plate coins, unique coins etc)

Edited by TheTrachyEnjoyer
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2053367524_PostaldamagedflipfromJustinianIIRavennaHJBWEBRESIZE.jpg.68c75a73b66cb9ac9d6fbaeb2a4731f9.jpg

The striations at the top of the flip illustrate how close the piece came to a bad end.  The initial disappointment of losing out on a long-wanted coin was far less than the sorrow of the post office messing it up.  The way the envelope is bent, I'm leaning more towards the item being run over or somehow getting caught under/at the top of the conveyor.

IIRC, the one I missed out on was S-1173.  I would have preferred the 3-4 bust type, but beggars can't be choosers.

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12 hours ago, TheTrachyEnjoyer said:

Hirsch (IIRC) had an amazing sardinia sale this summer (tremissis, solidii, plate coins, unique coins etc)

https://www.acsearch.info/search.html?term=Byz&category=1-2&company=17&auction=9344&lot=&date_from=&date_to=&en=1&de=1&fr=1&it=1&es=1&ot=1&currency=usd&order=1
 

(none of these are mine)2E3D42E4-49CE-432E-9435-8670B72D2611.jpeg.6d6636d5e6a27c3e2d0b56f8afaec471.jpegE66B43EA-7C50-4F13-ACB4-0DE7C38A30E7.jpeg.314718614133e9b24f2ae516126f9d10.jpeg1973E1C0-1A27-438C-81FB-1886AA7B47A4.jpeg.3dc107316019d7e1cc8fa8fc234e5649.jpegE1C70C79-AD7F-43A1-853A-99A693D0EB59.jpeg.5edf449541decdf7147fdce664352770.jpeg64BF0E8B-8703-4292-A26D-6A240FE388D1.jpeg.9cf6b80de3423168cc66f83ff8e343e0.jpeg2B10506E-7285-4F68-B02C-1B2B46071453.jpeg.2420aa2c69fd668d6a14faeec0e92840.jpegF6F27CD5-AFE4-428B-9B6D-CEA331C959DA.jpeg.1b3752c7f020cec667c5f2f5f6cf0265.jpegEB0EB9C6-473D-4FD2-8EB4-0ACA67304EF9.jpeg.898040c9f09407b76e0f241e0ec50094.jpeg

Just a few examples. See the link above and scroll down a bit to where the middle Byzantine starts

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Posted (edited)

On a scale of 10, and one can use halves, what do you reckon the rarity of this Ravenna AE is?

Both Justinians have always fascinated me.  Although the second one wasn't the most admirable character, his cool meter was very high.

Totalus Rankium mentioned that it's written that upon hearing of the rebellion of 711, Justinian II raced back to Constantinople, 'roaring like a lion.'

Edited by Nerosmyfavorite68
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That run of Sardinian coins is amazing.  It shows the virtue of specialization in building a collection.  The end result is more than the sum of the parts.  And that collector probably knows more about the Sardinian coinage than anyone else by virtue of studying it over the years it would take to assemble such a collection.  Even advanced Byzantine gold collectors are unlikely to acquire a single Sardinian coin.  I certainly have not.  

On the other hand, being a generalist has its own charms.   Coins which are beautiful and/or historic are always desirable regardless of whether or not they “fit” in one’s collection.  A coin from an area outside the heart of my collection can stimulate my curiosity, sometimes leading to acquiring relevant books, learning the name of experts in the field, and watching auctions for examples of similar coins.  This is happening to me now, with Carolingian coins.  

But, my family has a saying, “You can’t buy everything.”  Nor can you become an expert in every niche of numismatics.  The book budget alone.......  which is why I know almost nothing of Byzantine bronzes.  

Financial considerations force some degree of specialization on all of us.   I would love to improve my collection of solidi, acquire more tremisses and semisses of which I have very few, and get more Visigothic, Ostrogothic, Lombard and Burgundian coins.   I will never branch out into the huge run of Merovingian tremisses as they are just too expensive;  I suspect there are many French collectors and they keep the prices high.  Anglo-Saxon sceats are great but the series is too big for me to contemplate any extensive collection of them.  Anglo Saxon and Viking pennies are very attractive but again the field is huge, and pricy.  Crusader coins, I will certainly buy the occasional one because the history is fascinating, but if you are looking for beauty, Classical Greece and Rome are more obvious avenues. 

I wish I could quantify the rarity of the Ravenna bronze of @Nerosmyfavorite68.  But I think collectors are pretty much in the dark about such matters, aside from an impression more or less informed over years of collecting.  And that is only for specialists.    Dealers may have a better idea.  I can tell you that solidi of Heraclius are more common than Phillipicus, but if you  asked me how many of either are on the market, I would have only the wildest guess which could well be off by an order of magnitude, or more.

 




 

 

 

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Yes, well said.  Unless one's a billionaire such rare issues are largely unaffordable.

The numbering of DOC is a bit confusing.  My type is in Vol 2, part2, on page 663, 23.1 and 23.2.  Both reference other collections and sales, so I assume this means that DOC didn't own one themselves? Both annotations note, W-, T-, R-.

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That would suggest it is rare.   Alternatively, it may mean little scholarly effort has been devoted to the series.  Or both.   It was not long ago that even Roman provincial coins were little studied, or so I have read.   Everything outside of standard “Classical” numismatics, i.e. Greece and Rome, was neglected compared with the level of interest these coins elicit now.   I think the W is Wroth, and the R is Ratto.  Ratto’s collection of Byzantine and related coins was auctioned in 1930, and the catalog became a standard reference reprinted by Schulman in 1959.   I am not sure there was any comprehensive guide to Byzantine coins before that.   Dumbarton Oaks comes along much later.  I think Wroth and Ratto were pioneers.   

The internet has done great things in promoting the diffusion of knowledge, and broadening the market for coins.  

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Wroths byzantine provincial coinage is still a decent reference. Nothing like it has been reproduced in modern times until:27C9DE38-DCFD-4AF0-A878-47B28CB3E213.jpeg.04241bfa9682af858aa584d74936f604.jpeg

67653B31-AAA8-40D7-89EF-9847EFE63E04.jpeg.2e721e1f5f3cd44d5283883fa310059a.jpeg 

This series is absolutely essential for anyone interested in early to middle Byzantine provincial coinage. Dumbarton oaks pales in comparison to this series…all that being said, it is rife with errors both due to scholarship and translation. Tread with caution (and appreciation that this series was even made!).

A sample of the academic discussions:
332951AC-1586-4CBD-A310-D96F837AAA43.jpeg.6ff2f3595a3f974f5679606db08252e5.jpeg

A sample of the catalogue:

7D150634-D6A1-401D-B70C-1FC49B87A7A4.jpeg.5df1d9d8770b6a6bf6ff55a427de0034.jpeg

I paid about $200 for all four plus shipping from Italy which is actually a very fair price in my opinion. I have paid more for much less when it comes to reference works. For example, this book series and MIB helped me to properly ID the provincial tremissis of Thedosius III I had. No other works contained the reference and it was non existent in the sales archives or elsewhere online. (in the newest Sear as an addendum)

A426E04E-4C63-412A-A42B-8F6B41D2F3FF.jpeg.3cd877a0d9fdd48ecb2e9e54803c6e99.jpeg

Theodosius III of Adramytium. 715-717. AV Tremissis (12.5mm, 1.14 g, 7h). Ravenna mint. [...] OSIЧ(retrograde)S M, crowned facing bust, wearing loros, and holding patriarchal globus cruciger in right hand / VICT[...] A, cross potent; CO[N]OB. DOC –; MIB 11 (same rev. die) = Ranieri 806 (same) = SB 1501a. Clipped, area of flat strike, a few light scratches on reverse. Near EF. Extremely rare. The second known and the only one in private hands, the other of which is in The Hague. 

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I counted 18 listings of Sear 1310 on acsearch, not counting possible duplications (one with a raggedy flan may have showed up 3+ times), but I didn't note any for 1445.

I'm not really interesting in selling it, and would probably take a figurative bath if I did, but I asked out of curiosity.

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