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A rather nice half-victoriatus


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Posted (edited)

Perhaps the most "obscure" silver denomination in all of Roman numismatics is the half-victoriatus, Crawford 95/2. This rare coin was struck only once, a tiny subset of the enormous VB victoriatus series Crawford 95/1a-c, issued in 211-208 on Crawford's dating. (Occasional attempts to identify other examples of the denomination are neither convincing nor generally accepted.) It's genuinely rare; I know of maybe 8 examples appearing in relatively recent auctions; another 12 or 13 can be found at the Coinage of the Roman Republic Online museum aggregator site: http://numismatics.org/crro/id/rrc-95.2. (Anyone who follows the link will see why I can't be sure of the exact count!) No doubt there are others, lurking in private collections or the unpublished collections of Italian regional museums. I'm confident there aren't a lot more though; a very cautious guess of <50 surviving examples must be right; not very many for an entire denomination.

The type mostly repeats the general victoriatus description, as follows:

Obverse: Laureate head of Jupiter right

Reverse: Victory crowning trophy, VB (ligate) between them; S (=semis=half) in right field; ROMA in exergue

I've wanted one for a long time, but truthfully I only ever saw one example that appealed to me. That was this coin, lot 258 in NAC 83, May 2015, previously lot 50 in Leu 17, May 1977, the wonderful Nicholas Collection. I was at the sale and I would've made a serious effort to win it, but I deferred to an HJB client and won it for him instead. This is that NAC 83/Leu 17 coin:

image00258.jpg

(Image courtesy NAC)

 

That remained my personal gold standard for the type... until now. I spotted the next coin in Artemide Aste LVII, April 2022, lot 279. 

image.jpeg.b299a108795c8aeb8235256440670d88.jpeg

image.jpeg.88a6e1874defb83cb25726e6b56e454e.jpeg

 

The video gives the best idea of what it looked like. Specs are 1.36g, 13.50mm. I knew a couple things right away: This was potentially among the very best surviving examples of the type, but it absolutely required additional cleaning. That meant I was rolling the dice a bit if I bid, gambling both that it could be cleaned and that I wouldn't hate the surfaces underneath the crud. The second part worried me the most, but what the heck. I bid and won it, for "real" money certainly, but well shy of a record for the type. I had envisioned probably cleaning it myself, but when I had it in hand, I knew that wouldn't do. I'm not a novice at cleaning coins, but I'm hardly an expert either, and this needed to be done right. I've examined several of these over the years, so intellectually I "knew" just what the size is, but emotionally I was still somehow shocked. This is really a very small coin! Well beyond my modest cleaning skills. I sent it to a friend, a serious collector and part-time dealer who I knew had sometimes cleaned other people's coins (as well as his own) with exceptional results. The finished "product" follows, a secular miracle miracle really. (You'll have to imagine the virtual cartwheels I'm turning.) I'm hesitant in general to use terms like "finest known," because how can we ever know that really, but I'll need to be shown a better one before I'm convinced that such exists. The following are quick snaps and video from the guy who cleaned it. I'll add higher-res images after I'm back in the office and can get it shot.

image.jpeg.4c39a3d5244e959b5f768585d221138f.jpeg

image.jpeg.316c6d3df04d6371439a56128625944d.jpeg

The cleaned video does give a fair idea of what it looks like now. Apologies for any lingering typos or formatting weirdness; I'll just blame covid fog, because the coin does seem to have a bit of a curse attached to it. The guy who cleaned it tested positive just before working on it; I in turn tested positive the day he shipped it back. Oh well; I'm boosted and all and only moderately ill. A small enough price to pay really.

 

Edited by Phil Davis
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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, Roerbakmix said:

I’m unfamiliar with the coin, but assuming it’s good silver, the horn silver deposits would easily dissolve in sodium thiosulphate. Could you ask your friend how he cleaned it? 

I recognize your name as someone also very knowledgeable about cleaning ancient coins. Victoriati are notably debased relative to the first, nearly 100% pure denarii/quinarii, but still reasonably good silver. 60-80% purity is the range generally given, but I'm personally dubious that the lower part of that range is really typical, at least for the earliest issues. As an educated guess I'll call this coin 75-80% pure.

I know that cleaning this involved fairly extensive scope work as well as chemicals. I'll get back to you about what chemical(s) were used, assuming it isn't somehow proprietary (which I very much doubt.) As he described it, the "hard" part wasn't so much removing the junk as maintaining the original surface underneath. I think he succeeded wonderfully in that.

Edit: @Roerbakmix I spoke to my friend. He uses various methods after evaluating a given coin, but does prefer to keep his actual methods under his hat.

Edited by Phil Davis
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I hope you are right as rain soon, Phil!

🤯 ... just wow!!  (Based on the video, not the photos.)  General rule: When Phil is impressed, be impressed!  What an amazing cleaning job, too.  I'd love to hold this in hand and experience its tininess.  It would be very easy to pass over this as a full victoriatus, the design is perfectly reproduced at the smaller scale.

I couldn't possibly post anything worthy of this superlative coin.  But still, I'd like to post something just because this thread deserves plenty of replies.  So... let me try generalizing this way: what recent Republican acquisition(s) am I most excited about?  I have three.

First, from a while ago but lost in the mail, then found just recently... phew!

image.jpeg.a2151e81cfe749ba28be8f32dcf081ab.jpeg

Curiatius Trigeminus semis, c. 135 BCE.  Obv: Laureate head of Saturn r.; behind, S. Rev: C CVR F Prow r; on deck, Victory with wreath and below, ROMA. Crawford 240/2a. 7.60g.

My understanding is that quite a few of these are actually imitations, but I believe this is official(?), given the style and the presence of Victory on the prow albeit a bit faintly.  I love the Saturn and the eye on the prow. 😊  This coin is part of a recent effort to boost the presence of the semis in my collection. 

Now going to the super old and heavy stuff, here's what I believe to be a fragment of aes formatum or signatum (197 g, 59x45x28 mm) :

image.jpeg.3f46bdbd68f24ef428e84b466cc6a5b1.jpeg

It has the "shelf" or lateral projection (casting remains?) characteristic of Bertol & Farac type IIb, and it does appear to have some kind of inscription, at least on the "obverse" as presented here.  Bertol & Farac say "aes signatum are actually bronze pieces which are similar to aes formatum type IIb and are distinguished from them by a depiction on both sides. Precisely because of this fact, we consider that aes formatum type IIb is an intermediate form towards aes signatum."  I'm thinking this piece fits pretty well there.  It may even qualify as aes signatum if there is in fact some kind of design on the other side... not sure, though obviously it's not the later, thin aes signatum.  I'm betting this is no later than the 4th c. BCE.  Thoughts greatly appreciated, as I don't really know what I'm doing!

Finally, here's what I won in Roma just today!  Pretty excited to get a big early aes grave (all I had was a knucklebone uncia).  I did bid on the double-Apollo just before it, but wasn't willing to go another increment... maybe will regret that, it did go for a pretty decent price IMO.  Still, I'd say this was a bargain at GBP 210, plus it helps remedy that lack of semisses:

image.png.c0333367256775148dfba1c9b77fb4a6.png

Anonymous Cast Æ Semis. Rome, circa 270 BC. Pegasus flying to right; retrograde S below / Pegasus flying to left; S below. ICC 34; Crawford 18/2; HN Italy 280; Haeberlin pp. 84-85, 1-100 pl. 35, 7-10. 153.93g, 53mm, 12h.  From the collection of Z.P., Austria

OK, not worthy of the OP coin, but I'm excited about those three. 😄

Edited by Severus Alexander
wrote "McCabe" instead of Phil! duh
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52 minutes ago, Severus Alexander said:

I hope you are right as rain soon, Andrew!

🤯 ... just wow!!  (Based on the video, not the photos.)  General rule: When Phil is impressed, be impressed!  What an amazing cleaning job, too.  I'd love to hold this in hand and experience its tininess.  It would be very easy to pass over this as a full victoriatus, the design is perfectly reproduced at the smaller scale.

I couldn't possibly post anything worthy of this superlative coin.  But still, I'd like to post something just because this thread deserves plenty of replies.  So... let me try generalizing this way: what recent Republican acquisition(s) am I most excited about?  I have three.

First, from a while ago but lost in the mail, then found just recently... phew!

image.jpeg.a2151e81cfe749ba28be8f32dcf081ab.jpeg

Curiatius Trigeminus semis, c. 135 BCE.  Obv: Laureate head of Saturn r.; behind, S. Rev: C CVR F Prow r; on deck, Victory with wreath and below, ROMA. Crawford 240/2a. 7.60g.

My understanding is that quite a few of these are actually imitations, but I believe this is official(?), given the style and the presence of Victory on the prow albeit a bit faintly.  I love the Saturn and the eye on the prow. 😊  This coin is part of a recent effort to boost the presence of the semis in my collection. 

Now going to the super old and heavy stuff, here's what I believe to be a fragment of aes formatum or signatum (197 g, 59x45x28 mm) :

image.jpeg.3f46bdbd68f24ef428e84b466cc6a5b1.jpeg

It has the "shelf" or lateral projection (casting remains?) characteristic of Bertol & Farac type IIb, and it does appear to have some kind of inscription, at least on the "obverse" as presented here.  Bertol & Farac say "aes signatum are actually bronze pieces which are similar to aes formatum type IIb and are distinguished from them by a depiction on both sides. Precisely because of this fact, we consider that aes formatum type IIb is an intermediate form towards aes signatum."  I'm thinking this piece fits pretty well there.  It may even qualify as aes signatum if there is in fact some kind of design on the other side... not sure, though obviously it's not the later, thin aes signatum.  I'm betting this is no later than the 4th c. BCE.  Thoughts greatly appreciated, as I don't really know what I'm doing!

Finally, here's what I won in Roma just today!  Pretty excited to get a big early aes grave (all I had was a knucklebone uncia).  I did bid on the double-Apollo just before it, but wasn't willing to go another increment... maybe will regret that, it did go for a pretty decent price IMO.  Still, I'd say this was a bargain at GBP 210, plus it helps remedy that lack of semisses:

image.png.c0333367256775148dfba1c9b77fb4a6.png

Anonymous Cast Æ Semis. Rome, circa 270 BC. Pegasus flying to right; retrograde S below / Pegasus flying to left; S below. ICC 34; Crawford 18/2; HN Italy 280; Haeberlin pp. 84-85, 1-100 pl. 35, 7-10. 153.93g, 53mm, 12h.  From the collection of Z.P., Austria

OK, not worthy of the OP coin, but I'm excited about those three. 😄

Thanks! I did wonder where Andrew was in this thread; now I get it! I'm recovering acceptably so far; still a bit achy and such, but fever's gone. Fwiw, while I claim no real "expertise" on RR bronze, I agree with both of your conclusions. In my view the first semis is surely official; I see "something" on both sides of the "lump," which makes it quite a nice acquisition.

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7 hours ago, Phil Davis said:

Perhaps the most "obscure" silver denomination in all of Roman numismatics is the half-victoriatus, Crawford 95/2. This rare coin was struck only once, a tiny subset of the enormous VB victoriatus series Crawford 95/1a-c, issued in 211-208 on Crawford's dating. (Occasional attempts to identify other examples of the denomination are neither convincing nor generally accepted.) It's genuinely rare; I know of maybe 8 examples appearing in relatively recent auctions; another 12 or 13 can be found at the Coinage of the Roman Republic Online museum aggregator site: http://numismatics.org/crro/id/rrc-95.2. (Anyone who follows the link will see why I can't be sure of the exact count!) No doubt there are others, lurking in private collections or the unpublished collections of Italian regional museums. I'm confident there aren't a lot more though; a very cautious guess of <50 surviving examples must be right; not very many for an entire denomination.

The type mostly repeats the general victoriatus description, as follows:

Obverse: Laureate head of Jupiter right

Reverse: Victory crowning trophy, VB (ligate) between them; S (=semis=half) in right field; ROMA in exergue

I've wanted one for a long time, but truthfully I only ever saw one example that appealed to me. That was this coin, lot 258 in NAC 83, May 2015, previously lot 50 in Leu 17, May 1977, the wonderful Nicholas Collection. I was at the sale and I would've made a serious effort to win it, but I deferred to an HJB client and won it for him instead. This is that NAC 83/Leu 17 coin:

image00258.jpg

(Image courtesy NAC)

 

That remained my personal gold standard for the type... until now. I spotted the next coin in Artemide Aste LVII, April 2022, lot 279. 

image.jpeg.b299a108795c8aeb8235256440670d88.jpeg

image.jpeg.88a6e1874defb83cb25726e6b56e454e.jpeg

 

 

The video gives the best idea of what it looked like. Specs are 1.36g, 13.50mm. I knew a couple things right away: This was potentially among the very best surviving examples of the type, but it absolutely required additional cleaning. That meant I was rolling the dice a bit if I bid, gambling both that it could be cleaned and that I wouldn't hate the surfaces underneath the crud. The second part worried me the most, but what the heck. I bid and won it, for "real" money certainly, but well shy of a record for the type. I had envisioned probably cleaning it myself, but when I had it in hand, I knew that wouldn't do. I'm not a novice at cleaning coins, but I'm hardly an expert either, and this needed to be done right. I've examined several of these over the years, so intellectually I "knew" just what the size is, but emotionally I was still somehow shocked. This is really a very small coin! Well beyond my modest cleaning skills. I sent it to a friend, a serious collector and part-time dealer who I knew had sometimes cleaned other people's coins (as well as his own) with exceptional results. The finished "product" follows, a secular miracle miracle really. (You'll have to imagine the virtual cartwheels I'm turning.) I'm hesitant in general to use terms like "finest known," because how can we ever know that really, but I'll need to be shown a better one before I'm convinced that such exists. The following are quick snaps and video from the guy who cleaned it. I'll add higher-res images after I'm back in the office and can get it shot.

image.jpeg.4c39a3d5244e959b5f768585d221138f.jpeg

image.jpeg.316c6d3df04d6371439a56128625944d.jpeg

 

The cleaned video does give a fair idea of what it looks like now. Apologies for any lingering typos or formatting weirdness; I'll just blame covid fog, because the coin does seem to have a bit of a curse attached to it. The guy who cleaned it tested positive just before working on it; I in turn tested positive the day he shipped it back. Oh well; I'm boosted and all and only moderately ill. A small enough price to pay really.

 

Beyond awesome. It has always been on my want list! Congrats, Phil.

And, please get better!

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6 hours ago, Phil Davis said:

Thanks! I did wonder where Andrew was in this thread; now I get it! I'm recovering acceptably so far; still a bit achy and such, but fever's gone. Fwiw, while I claim no real "expertise" on RR bronze, I agree with both of your conclusions. In my view the first semis is surely official; I see "something" on both sides of the "lump," which makes it quite a nice acquisition.

Yeah, sorry about that @Phil Davis... I'm on a steroid treatment for immunotherapy side effects and I think it's messing with me!  I was reading one of Andrew's pages and then started talking to him instead of you.  🤦‍♂️ Then to make matters worse, I edited only one of the two wrong name instances! 🤪  (BTW is Andrew on NumisForums yet, do you know?)

Great to hear your recovery continues apace, and thanks for the feedback... I'm glad I seem to be on the right track!

And again: stunner coin!!!

 

Edited by Severus Alexander
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5 hours ago, Severus Alexander said:

Yeah, sorry about that @Phil Davis... I'm on a steroid treatment for immunotherapy side effects and I think it's messing with me!  I was reading one of Andrew's pages and then started talking to him instead of you.  🤦‍♂️ Then to make matters worse, I edited only one of the two wrong name instances! 🤪  (BTW is Andrew on NumisForums yet, do you know?)

Great to hear your recovery continues apace, and thanks for the feedback... I'm glad I seem to be on the right track!

And again: stunner coin!!!

 

I told Andrew about this place early on, so I know he knows about it. He probably signed up, but wasn't terribly interested in trying on another forum. He did read my write-up yesterday; hopefully he poked about a bit while he was here.

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Posted (edited)

Well, my fog has lifted sufficiently to remind me that I really should quibble with my own post and point out that the OP coin isn't quite the only time the Romans struck the half-victoriatus denomination. There's also this excessively rare little item, Crawford 98A/2, struck in Luceria in c. 214-212 BC on Crawford's dating and surviving in surely <10 examples. (Off the top of my head, I know of four.) The OP coin does remain the only instance of the denomination with "normal" victoriatus types. Mommsen for one preferred to see this as a hemidrachm.

 

image00360.jpg

 

(Image courtesy NAC. Not my coin!)

 

 

Edited by Phil Davis
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