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A 'New' Maximinus Thrax Denarius. (If you hate provenance, look away now)


John Conduitt

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My newest ancient is a good example of a Maximinus I Victory denarius. A common coin, but my nicest of this ruler. Of course, I wouldn’t buy just any old Maximinus denarius. It must have been found in Britain, and this was - in Cambridge in 1897.

The Cambridge Hoard made its first recorded appearance in March 1897 when Alfred Henry Sadd (1851-1914) showed coins from it to William C Boyd (1840-1906). Sadd was the third of three generations of antique dealers on King’s Parade, Cambridge, and often traded coins found in the area.
Boyd was an entomologist and treasurer of the Royal Numismatic Society. He arranged to buy the whole hoard that April, and published A find of Roman denarii near Cambridge in the Numismatic Chronicle (Volume 17, 1897, pages 119-126). He presented it to the Royal Numismatic Society on 29 April 1897, which was fast work given he had 193 coins to study.

In fact, this was not the entire hoard as Boyd believed. Sadd had already sold 14 coins to Frederick William Hasluck (1878-1920), a teenager at Cambridge University, who would later become an archaeologist of sufficient renown that a century after his death he has a Wikipedia page. The hoard therefore comprised 207 coins - 155 denarii and 52 antoninianii dating from Clodius Albinus (196) to Philip II (248). This denarius was the only Maximinus I in the hoard.

Maximinus I Denarius, 235-236
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Rome. Silver, 19mm, 2.82g. Bust of Maximinus I, laureate, draped, cuirassed, right; IMP MAXIMINVS PIVS AVG. Victory, winged, draped, advancing right, holding wreath in extended right hand and palm in left hand; VICTORIA AVG (RIC IV, 16). From the Cambridge Hoard 1897. Ex Alfred Henry Sadd; William C Boyd; Baldwin’s Auction 42 (26 September 2005); York Coins; Marc Breitsprecher.

The composition of the hoard, mixing old silver denarii with new debased antoniniani, is unusual. Most often, hoards contain one or the other. This hoard was therefore built slowly, likely by a merchant, ending no later than 249. 10% of the coins are from before Septimius Severus’s campaign in Britain and probably came to Britain with him. Another third are from Severus Alexander’s time, which seems to be the merchant’s busiest period. A quarter were added from Maximinus Thrax onwards, although there was only one coin of his. Britain seems to have been peaceful in the late 240s, and this hoard preceded the Plague of Cyprian. It follows that hoards at the time were mostly deposited to hedge against currency debasement.


The Cambridge Hoard: Clodius Albinus 1, Septimius Severus 7, Julia Domna 2, Caracalla 17, Geta 4, Macrinus 2, Elagabalus 25 (+1), Julia Paula 2, Aquilia Severa 2, Julia Soaemias 1, Julia Maesa 11, Severus Alexander 55 (+2), Sallustia Barbia Orbiana 1, Julia Mamaea 17 (+1), Maximinus Thrax 1, Gordian III 29 (+6), Philip I 12 (+4), Oticilia Severa 2, Philip II 2. Total 193 (+14) = 207.

This coin featured in a review of the Cambridge Hoard in 2008
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The Celator, Vol. 22, No. 6, June 2008, issue 252.

The original 193 coins remained in Boyd's collection until they were auctioned by Baldwins in 2005, although they made no mention of the hoard on most of the lots. (I still can’t believe how little value is placed on such things, but fortunately the dealers that bought them knew what it was worth). Luckily, Boyd's notes made it clear where they came from, as did his labels on the coins. At least the Victorians valued provenance.

William C Boyd’s label for the Maximinus Thrax denarius.
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There's quite a chance that other people here have Cambridge Hoard coins, or at least some from the William C Boyd sale, the catalogue for which ran to 180 pages.

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Cool provenance!!! I like the old collector's tag!

Here's my most photogenic Max Thrax. Unprovenanced:


[IMG]
Maximinus I, 235-238 CE.
Roman AR denarius, 3.13 g, 19.2 mm, 6 h.
Rome, 2nd emission, 236 CE.
Obv: IMP MAXIMINVS PIVS AVG, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust, right.
Rev: PROVIDENTIA AVG, Providentia standing left, holding baton and cornucopiae; globe at feet.
Refs: RIC 13; BMCRE 86-88; Cohen 77; RSC 77a; RCV 8315; MIR 11-3.
 
 
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GordainIIIRIC297b.JPG.6ed25bd28546193ae79fb102abdfba56.JPG

OOOOH! I recognize that tag style and have one from the same collection. At the time I purchased the coin I noted: “This tag indicates this coin is from the William C. Boyd collection that was auctioned by Baldwin's Auctions (42), 26 September 2005. The partial date at the bottom of the tag is the date Boyd purchased the coin. So 1900 here.“

I wish I knew what WSI, XII meant. Anyone know?

Gordian III AE As. 4th issue, 241 - 243 A.D.
IMP GORDIANVS PIVS FEL AVG, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right, seen from behind / AETERNITATI AVG S-C, Sol standing facing, head left, holding globe and raising right hand. RIC 297b; Cohen 44; Sear 8773.

Edited by Orange Julius
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16 hours ago, John Conduitt said:

He arranged to buy the whole hoard that April, and published A find of Roman denarii near Cambridge in the Numismatic Chronicle (Volume 17, 1897, pages 119-126).

Is your coin pictured in that issue? If not, do you know when the earliest photographic record of it occurred? I have a friend who is a big fan of old provenances, but he feels that assertions about provenance are not as good as old photographic proof of provenance. 

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42 minutes ago, Valentinian said:

Is your coin pictured in that issue? If not, do you know when the earliest photographic record of it occurred? I have a friend who is a big fan of old provenances, but he feels that assertions about provenance are not as good as old photographic proof of provenance. 

No, but I'm not aware of many C19 hoards where the coins are photographed in the original analysis. Fortunately, it came with a card written in Boyd's hand and the hoard was kept together and not auctioned until modern times. It's a similar situation to the East Harptree Hoard, auctioned 129 years after its discovery with all the photographic evidence you need.

There are certainly several levels of hoard provenance, running from a photo of it lying in the dirt to it being mentioned in a listing. There's room for error in all of them. Even today, many hoards are just too vast to have photos of all the coins, especially when they're cheap Gallic Empire antoniniani or LRBs. But there's a lot of other evidence that adds up. There might be a photo of it from the sale of the hoard or from the dealer who bought the hoard. It might come with an old note. It should match the types listed for the hoard. And usually, it will at least look as if it came from that hoard. I can look through upcoming auctions and pick out all the East Harptree/Nether Compton/Rauceby etc coins without much trouble.

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Great coin. And maybe celebrating his victory over the Germans at the Harzhorn.

For now I offer up a Fides Militum...which turned out not to be the case. Certainly not Semper Fidelis (the motto of the U.S.M.C.)

Edit and P.S. According to Herodian Maximinus adorned Rome with large banners/tapestries depicting his victories in Germania, largely to cow the Senate and impress the people, sort of in lieu of erecting a column or building the arch of Maximinus. 

maxthrax1.jpg.41ad97ed2b6e603ba054adb35cc99447.jpg

maxthrax2.jpg.03f5224c887d46ccca910820c42ca25d.jpg

 

Edited by Ancient Coin Hunter
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Terrific coin and provenance, @John Conduitt.  Your observations on the hoard, and hoards of the period more generally, are nothing short of enlightening.  Yes, a hedge against ongoing debasement; makes instant, intuitive sense ...once you mention it!   :<}  With thanks to @Ancient Coin Hunter for venturing into the (likely) original context of the issue.

I have to be of two minds about extensive and /or inherently important provenance, on one hand, and detector finds, even single ones from last week, on the other.  The fact is, from here, both extremes equally resonate. 

If you wanted to, you could characterize it as the numismatic equivalent of the complementary relationship of historiography to history--> in the sense of what(/ever) was really happening on (.../in) the ground.  For me, a 'brand new' detector find has its own kind of provenance, however metaphorically.  The very fact that, to all appearances, it has never seen the light of day since it was in circulation has a profound level of coolness all its own.  ...Yes, even if some misguided dealer (never the detectorist himself; witness ebayUK) proceeded to clean it to a kind of polish it probably never had at birth! 

 

Edited by JeandAcre
Just style and content --nothing to see here....
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Lovely coin with a fascinating background story! I wonder about something; on the reverse of the coin, there's a line running from about 11 o'clock, to about 5 o'clock. To the left of the line, the colouring is different and brighter from the colour to the right of the line. Is this an indication for the way in which your coin was positioned in the hoard? For example, that another coin was partly over the reverse of your coin, which caused the difference in colouring? I'm also asking this, because I have a coin of SS with a line running on the reverse, comparable to yours. Might be completely unrelated, of course. See the picture below, line drawn by me (obviously :-)) on the reverse. Above is darker and has a golden hue, compared to the area of the reverse below it. 

SSmetlijn.png.b4f7b978ef9eaf8b28a955fe5dfbba1e.png

On 7/21/2023 at 2:57 AM, John Conduitt said:

The original 193 coins remained in Boyd's collection until they were auctioned by Baldwins in 2005, although they made no mention of the hoard on most of the lots. (I still can’t believe how little value is placed on such things, but fortunately the dealers that bought them knew what it was worth).

Makes me wonder how many provenances were lost due to this. Glad some of the dealers did recognize the value of this information....!

To conclude, here's my Maximinus I, with the same reverse (different die, obviously, but same letter alignment). 

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7 hours ago, Limes said:

I wonder about something; on the reverse of the coin, there's a line running from about 11 o'clock, to about 5 o'clock. To the left of the line, the colouring is different and brighter from the colour to the right of the line. Is this an indication for the way in which your coin was positioned in the hoard? For example, that another coin was partly over the reverse of your coin, which caused the difference in colouring? I'm also asking this, because I have a coin of SS with a line running on the reverse, comparable to yours. Might be completely unrelated, of course. See the picture below, line drawn by me (obviously :-)) on the reverse. Above is darker and has a golden hue, compared to the area of the reverse below it. 

SSmetlijn.png.b4f7b978ef9eaf8b28a955fe5dfbba1e.png

 

Yes I would say it is very likely colouring from another coin in the hoard. I have a few hoard coins where it’s more obviously where another coin was next to it.

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7 hours ago, LONGINUS said:

Beautiful coin and interesting post, @John Conduitt!

I’ve no Cambridge Hoard nor William C. Boyd related items but I’m always interested in the tags included with many ancient coins.

 

I also have no provenance on this recent purchase, but I thought that the ticket was interesting. Someone used the ticket to track the value over the years. I don't think that the years correspond to a Sear's RCV edition, so perhaps it was the appearance of a similar lot in auctions. Pretty steep inflation!

Roman Republic. Anonymous. 115-114 BC. AR Denarius (20mm, 3.90g, 9h). Rome mint. Obv: {RO]MA; Helmeted head of Roma facing right, mark of value behind. Rev: Roma seated left on pile of shields, holding spear, two birds above, she-wolf suckling the twins Romulus and Remus to right. Ref: Crawford 287/1; Sydenham 530, Ex Baldwins 111 (5 Jul 2023), Lot 166. Includes old collection ticket.

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