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A Fortuitously Misattributed Half Follis


Nicomedia13

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Greetings from a longtime lurker on this forum. I finally had something happen worth posting about:

While looking through some Byzantines in a big binder at a recent coin show, I happened upon a half follis attributed to Justinian II's first reign. It was the charming, pizza slice shaped variety made of quartered coins of Constantine IV- a variety I have been pining for! Fifty bucks and I walked away with it, knowing it would have cost at least $30 more to get online. After a quick look in Sear after getting home, I was baffled by the odd ANNO number which resembled the letter A. None of Justinian II's known half folli matched it. After another glance at the well rendered portrait's wide face with and thick beard, my heart skipped a beat. LEONTIUS! Even his trashy small bronzes always looked distinctive. A quick search confirmed my hunch. Leontius had two reginal numbers for his short tenure: A and B. Bingo! My day had been MADE as I suddenly held an immensely more desirable coin in my hand! :-D 

Although my example is pretty rough, the coins of Leontius have always stood out for their polished portraiture in a period of wild political upheaval, an empty treasury, and wars galore. The decision to make (relatively) realistic dies had to be very intentional.  Was the usurper/nose splitter in chief trying legitimize his tenuous reign by making his coins stand out? After an average palace coup in this period, a poor farmer in the provinces would only be clued in to the new Basileus by the garbled/nonexistent legend on a poorly minted coin that he would probably be unable to read anyway. The portraiture barely changed from ruler to ruler. Leontius is a major exception and his idiosyncratic coins prove to be a bright spot in an otherwise dark period of Roman history. Does anyone have any thoughts on this? Also, please post your favorite Leontius coins! 

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