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INTERVIEW WITH A MEMBER: David Atherton


Ocatarinetabellatchitchix

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He used to be called Vespasian70 and managed to interest us in a part of Roman history rich in important events. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t purchased the latest version of the RIC II, just look at his coins’ gallery and you will get the same result ! Let’s now talk with our favorite Flavian fanatic, David Atherton.

 

How did you get interested in ancient coinage ? 

Accidentally to be honest. About 20 years ago I was doing a search online for books about Roman coins and stumbled across a website actually selling them! Needless to say I was hooked! Ever since I was a kid I've been fascinated by the Roman Empire, what a thrill to find out I could actually 'touch' that civilisation with my own hands!

 

What was the first coin you ever bought ? 

A common Vespasian Pax denarius from that first dealer's website I came across Oldromancoins.com, I still have it.

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Can you tell us an anecdote about a coin you own ? Your best bargain ? Your rarest   coin ? The specimen you will never sell ? The one you dream of acquiring ?

 

A little known fact about my collection is that most of my rare Titus silver pieces came from the eminent Flavian collector Harry Sneh before he passed away. I still treasure the chats we had about all things Flavian. I can't count how many times over the years I've thought "I wonder what Harry would've said about that coin?" He is greatly missed.

Best bargain may have to go to this Vespasian RIC 386 sestertius

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Picked it up for under $100, only two other specimens known.

This unique Domitian RIC 6 denarius mule with a Titus reverse is probably my rarest.

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Only one has been recorded. I never thought I'd see this coin in trade, but the dream came true this past summer. However, it was no bargain!

 

The one specimen I will never sell will go to this Vespasian RIC 688 denarius

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I love the fact it is extremely rare and not a portrait coin.

Speaking of non-portraits, my absolute dream coin is one that I actually newly acquired - this Titus Colosseum sestertius, RIC 184.

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Like the Domitian RIC 6 I never thought I would own one and it is now a fundamental cornerstone of my collection. Yes, it's worn ... but it's a Colosseum sestertius!!! Another dream come true!

 

What do you collect exactly ? What is the size of your collection ? 


The Flavian dynasty: silver systematically, bronze representatively. Currently I have over a thousand coins. Most, if not all of which have been attributed and catalogued from this desk with the help of Hershey.

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What part of the history are you interested in ? 

 

The Flavian dynasty mainly because of the fascinating historical events of that era: the Jewish War, siege of Masada, the building and opening of the Colosseum, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, and the battle of Mons Graupius ... just to name a few.

 

Do you have a numismatic goal for the next year ? 

 

To continue to add as many Flavian coins I can that piqued my interest ... really no different than the past 20 years!

 

What numismatic books do you own / consult most often ? 

 

The following are the references I consult. RIC, BMC, and RPC more often than the others.

• RIC - The Roman Imperial Coinage II Part 1, I. Carradice and T.V. Buttrey (London, 2007)
• BMC - Coins of the Roman Empire in the British Museum II, H. Mattingly (London, 1966)
• RSC - Roman Silver Coins II, H.A. Seaby (London, 1979)
• RPC - Roman Provincial Coinage II, A. Burnett, M. Amandry, I. Carradice (London and Paris, 1999)
• BNC - Monnaies de l'Empire Romain III, J.-B. Giard (Paris, 1998)
• Hendin - Guide to Biblical Coins, D. Hendin (New York, 2010)
• Emmett - Alexandrian Coins, K. Emmett (Lodi, Wisconsin, 2001)
• Dattari-Savio - Catalogo completo della collezione Dattari Numi Augg. Alexandrini, A. Savio, ed. (Trieste, 1999)
• Prieur - The Syro-Phoenician Tetradrachms and their Fractions from 57 BC to AD 258, M. Prieur & K. Prieur (Lancaster, PA, 2000)

David Vagi's Coinage and History of the Roman Empire is one I love to read from time to time, but don't use it in my attributions.

The 'core' references I consult.

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Many thanks for participating in our project David. We’d like to know NF members’ comments about this interview, and if you want to go deeper in the Flavian’s coinage, here’s some links that you will enjoy:

 

Gallery: http://tinyurl.com/2cgd8r

Twitter: https://twitter.com/FanaticFlavian

Blog: https://flavianfanatic.wordpress.com

YouTube: https://youtube.com/@FlavianFanatic?si=dtWg_Ayy56paL3oU 

 

 

Edited by Ocatarinetabellatchitchix
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Bravo!  Thanks, @Ocatarinetabellatchitchix, for another brilliant interview.  @David Atherton, I'm really just not wired this way, so envy in any meaningful sense isn't really on the radar.  But it's impossible not to admire your focus, and the exceptional numismatic and historical depth which which you you complement it.  ...Oh, right, and by anyone's standard, your collection is astounding.

Edited by JeandAcre
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Another great interview! Thank you @Ocatarinetabellatchitchix and @David Atherton for sharing this with us. David, I've always been impressed with your systematic and scholarly dedication to your chosen field of interest and I look forward to seeing what new Flavian pieces you acquire in the future. I'm still gobsmacked (as the British might say) by that Colosseum sestertius!

Edited by CPK
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Another wonderful interview with Ocat & David ☺️! Over 20 years David has amassed an enormous number of coins for his collection & managed to keep a very narrow focus doing it. His coins are well researched & photographed. I especially enjoyed browsing through his Blog: https://falvianfanatic.wordpress.com. Hershey looks like the purrfect companion for David, frequently pulling him away from all that tedious research 🤣.

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Great interview and very nice coins. I admire the discipline required to focus on such a narrow field. I guess the advantage is that it takes just only a minute or two to check out the relevant section in each new auction catalog.🙂

Edited by Tejas
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Thank you for the interview @Ocatarinetabellatchitchixand @David Atherton. I do wonder, as I dont think you may ever collect anything else than Flavian coins (but maybe Im wrong): will you at some time in the foreseeable future, reach a point that the only coins left to collect are unique pieces or pieces only in a museum, and that are (almost) impossible to add? Or are there still loads and loads of Flavian coins to collect for you? How many Flavian coins are actually out there? 

That Colosseum sesterius is absolutely by far my favorite of your collection, for obvious reasons. Absolutely fantastic piece! 

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A great collection David.  As a fellow Flavian Fanatic I know how much the Colesseum coin means to you.  I think I speak for many of us when I say we value your generosity in giving your time and expertise when chasing down Flavians.

Edited by Jay GT4
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On 11/4/2023 at 4:19 PM, Limes said:

Thank you for the interview @Ocatarinetabellatchitchixand @David Atherton. I do wonder, as I dont think you may ever collect anything else than Flavian coins (but maybe Im wrong): will you at some time in the foreseeable future, reach a point that the only coins left to collect are unique pieces or pieces only in a museum, and that are (almost) impossible to add? Or are there still loads and loads of Flavian coins to collect for you? How many Flavian coins are actually out there? 

That Colosseum sesterius is absolutely by far my favorite of your collection, for obvious reasons. Absolutely fantastic piece! 

With silver it will be difficult to add much more due to the rarity of the missing varieties from my collection. Bronze is more wide open because there are so many varieties and types available that I can only representatively add pieces - enough to give one a good idea about the character and make-up of the bronzes struck by the Flavians.

There are probably @5000 Flavian coin varieties available, counting both imperial and provincials.  I will have plenty of coins to chase that will keep me occupied for quite awhile!

Regarding other collecting niches: I once considered collecting coins of Elagabalus, but have temporarily abandoned that for now ... perhaps someday.

 

Edited by David Atherton
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5 hours ago, David Atherton said:

I once considered collecting coins of Elagabalus

Unfortunately - the man behind Elegabalus is historically more interesting than his diversity in coin types. The Flavians have much more interesting reverses to offer on the silver and gold coins - in my opinion there are hardly any interesting reverses on Elagabal. In my opinion, the monotony of the 3rd century slowly begins with him. Only the provincial bronzes are very interesting under him as far as the depictions are concerned. 

But this is of course a subjective individual opinion - everyone may (justifiably) think differently!

 

5 hours ago, David Atherton said:

There are probably @5000 Flavian coin varieties available

But as I read, you'll be busy with the Flavians for a while anyway... 😄 

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On 11/3/2023 at 9:44 PM, Ocatarinetabellatchitchix said:

It doesn’t matter if you haven’t purchased the latest version of the RIC II, just look at his coins’ gallery and you will get the same result !

As a newcomer into the world of Flavian coinage I second this! @David Atherton's coin gallery was my first resource and still a go to if I want to learn more about a coin he has that I have purchased. If by some off chance he does not have it listed then I immediately know to purchase it because it is a one of one haha. Great interview @Ocatarinetabellatchitchix ! Thank you for this series and shining a spotlight on our niche area of collecting!

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42 minutes ago, The_Collector said:

As a newcomer into the world of Flavian coinage I second this! @David Atherton's coin gallery was my first resource and still a go to if I want to learn more about a coin he has that I have purchased. If by some off chance he does not have it listed then I immediately know to purchase it because it is a one of one haha. Great interview @Ocatarinetabellatchitchix ! Thank you for this series and shining a spotlight on our niche area of collecting!

Thanks TC! My gallery is a blessing and a curse - a blessing because it easily tells ME what I already have; a curse because it shows others the rarities I don't!

But I'll take it as a compliment if I'm missing something you know to snatch it up! LOL

Edited by David Atherton
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Very nice interview. I am fortunate that I can call David a friend. I have very much enjoyed the journey and have been thrilled by the new acquisitions. I can thank and blame him for my own fascination with Flavian coins. He has been a thoughtful and helpful guide in this journey and I can hardly wait to see his next acquisitions. Congrats David!

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1 hour ago, Orfew said:

Very nice interview. I am fortunate that I can call David a friend. I have very much enjoyed the journey and have been thrilled by the new acquisitions. I can thank and blame him for my own fascination with Flavian coins. He has been a thoughtful and helpful guide in this journey and I can hardly wait to see his next acquisitions. Congrats David!

It's been a wild strange ride!

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17 hours ago, Curtisimo said:

Great interview. @David Atherton, I have to say that your new Colosseum sestertius rivals your Domitian / Germania denarius as my favorite from your collection. That’s a collection cornerstone type coin.

Someday when I get around to putting it together, that Germania Capta denarius would have to be placed somewhere in my Top Ten Coins of all time. For fun I thought about doing a Top 100 Flavian coins list à la Harlan Berk's 100 Greatest Ancient Coins. Or I can go the easy route à la Casey Kasem and do a Flavian Top 40. 🙂

Edited by David Atherton
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  • 4 weeks later...
  • Benefactor

Great interview @Ocatarinetabellatchitchix and @David Atherton !

It would come as no surprise to me if future generations were to cite the "Atherton Collection" when referencing Flavian coins.

Thanks for sharing your coins and your knowledge with us, David.

 

 

 

Edited by LONGINUS
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18 minutes ago, LONGINUS said:

Great interview @Ocatarinetabellatchitchix and @David Atherton !

It would come as no surprise to me if future generations were to cite the "Atherton Collection" when referencing Flavian coins.

Thanks for sharing your coins and your knowledge with us, David.

 

 

 

High praise indeed! 👏 

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2 hours ago, LONGINUS said:

Great interview @Ocatarinetabellatchitchix and @David Atherton !

It would come as no surprise to me if future generations were to cite the "Atherton Collection" when referencing Flavian coins.

Thanks for sharing your coins and your knowledge with us, David.

Wouldn't surprise me either. I own only a handful of Flavian coins - but I already check out @David Athertons collection at forumancientcoins.com quite regularly. Especially, when I consider buying another Flavian coin. I'm certainly not the only one. I really like the descriptions, they're as short as possible and as long as necessary. And there are some phenomenal coins. The Domitian RIC 6 denarius mule or the Titus Colosseum sestertius are incredible... It's a pleasure to just click through it 🙂
I remember how I looked at the Curtis Clay collection in the H.J.Berk Buy or Bid Sale and didn't understand the prices. But since I learned about the historical context of the Domitian RIC 6 denarius mule it seems to me like it was an absolute bargain buy. It's interesting how the view on a coin can change completely as soon as you know a bit of context.

 @David Atherton, I hope that you have a backup of everything that is on forumancientcoins.com? My experience is that all websites can experience issues and I imagine that it would be a huge amount of work to recreate all of that.

Edited by Salomons Cat
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1 hour ago, Salomons Cat said:

Wouldn't surprise me either. I own only a handful of Flavian coins - but I already check out @David Athertons collection at forumancientcoins.com quite regularly. Especially, when I consider buying another Flavian coin. I'm certainly not the only one. I really like the descriptions, they're as short as possible and as long as necessary. And there are some phenomenal coins. The Domitian RIC 6 denarius mule or the Titus Colosseum sestertius are incredible... It's a pleasure to just click through it 🙂
I remember how I looked at the Curtis Clay collection in the H.J.Berk Buy or Bid Sale and didn't understand the prices. But since I learned about the historical context of the Domitian RIC 6 denarius mule it seems to me like it was an absolute bargain buy. It's interesting how the view on a coin can change completely as soon as you know a bit of context.

 @David Atherton, I hope that you have a backup of everything that is on forumancientcoins.com? My experience is that all websites can experience issues and I imagine that it would be a huge amount of work to recreate all of that.

Thank you for the extremely kind words. 🙏  It's flattering to know the gallery write-ups are of some use to others.

And yes, a backup of the info from the gallery is in my Google Drive.

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