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The Question of Imitations in the 12th Century. A Study of SBCV-1930


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Contemporary imitations are not to be confused with the current forgery's that have been flooding the coin market as of late. This has been an alarming trend that is designed to deceive the new collectors as well as some of the more experienced. ( I don't have any examples; I seem to be outbid on trying to get a cheap one.)


To understand the denomination, we really need to figure out what are the contemporary imitations on the 12th century, I will prewarn you, the final results are not going to helpful for easy identification, but it does raise some of the right questions.

This article also does not include 13th century imitations, those are extremely easy to identify, way underweight, crude thin metal, however the issue I chose to focus on, is an issue that does not exists as a known 13th century imitation.


For a look into the question of the 12th contemporary imitations I used all the examples from my collection, 10 examples of SBCV-1930. DOC IV Alexius 39

#1  3.5gm and 17.60mm


#2 1.8gm and 21.74mm


#3 2.8gm and 19.81mm


#4 3.7gm and 22.14mmb3.jpg.1eff47c3aef5ab4b4d704027b24c588e.jpg

#5 3.3gm and 20.61mm


#6  2.3gm and 17.53mm


#7  3.1gm and 18.19mm


#8 1.4gm and 20.49mm


#9 1.9gm and 18.81 mm


#10  2.8gm and 20.89mm



 I looked for a long time for my examples, every time I saw an example better than what I had, I got it. So, some of these coins have been in my collection for 20 years, some in the last 5. I am sure one or two came from a group lot. I believe #5 and #10 were found together, I bought them from the same seller in two auctions ending moments apart. They also have similar patina to them. The rest show how different the same issue can be, not in details, but in shapes and patinas and minor weight variations.

This selection also strengthens the evidence on sequence, a coin was demonstrated by Simon Bendall to be out of sequence in the catalogs, making DOC 39 first and DOC 38 following. In 2000 he published an example overstruck of our coin Doc 39, DOC 38 is far more common in the marketplace. Overstrikes in tetartera are not common but when found, they are key clues to the sequence of issues. 

At least two of my DOC 39 were overstruck on partial G class anonymous follis, the large balls left over from the G class design are apparent. This would also indicate this coin came first because I cannot recall seeing the same on DOC 38 examples.




So the question is are any of these coins' imitations or just regular issues. In theory, they were minted in Thessalonica as were all copper tetartera were in the early 12th century.

So looking at the group above were they all minted in Thessalonica as it has been suggested or perhaps at several official mints? A newer theory has them minted at just one mint in Constantinople, the concept there is that the coin traveled freely on its own. Another interesting segment of the Constantinople mint theory is that certain coins were minted particular parts of the empire then transported for exclusive usage in that area.

What was the goal weight? Without written documents we are making educated guesses.  The best answer I have seen comes from David  Metcalf he used 3.5gm as the goal weight for a Manuel tetarton. That is 96 coins to the Byzantine pound. This matches his findings on the less found but easily attributable Constantinople issue with silver content. As you can see from the coins above the goal weight was rarely achieved. 

The information regarding imitation versus official tetartera we need to solve some riddles, Alot of information is lost to us as collectors.

Where were they found? Were they found together? 

That’s a major problem of the low value change, the tetartera are found not in hoards but in lost coin losses, low end currency that is found in individual losses. We lack the benefit a group of coins. Yes, hoards are found but for the low value coinage they are few and far between, in many cases they were coins that several centuries of currency that were hidden, so that is not helpful, A perfect case scenario would be a Pompei situation were cash drawers could be found intact, but we are not that lucky. Documents do offer information on the lower denominations but not the details, just minor literary mentions they existed.  

Currently we have the Bronze issues separated into two denominations the tetarteron and its half. 

Are the coins that are mis weighted taken for the same value as the correctly weighted ones? If so, was the half a real denomination or just another mis weighted coin?  Did the user value the lower weight coins the same as the regular weighted coins? The little bits of evidence that are left behind say now, may cases coins broken in half are found in the mini hoards.


The Weights are a clear indication but only in the 13th century imitations but not so of the 12th century, imitation tetartera. Imitation coinage of the empire has been known in the academic world but only generally accepted after several well document hoards determined the coin to have been created in the 13th century long after the rulers that the coins imitated had passed but were coins imitated during the normal circulation of the denomination? 

13th century Imitation  SBCV-1932 .7gm and 14.62mm Half Tetarteron


SBCV-1932 official issue  2.2gm and 16.49mm Half Tetarteron



So as I said at the start of this, no clear-cut answers but it does help educate fellow collectors on the questions we need to answer to determine what is official and what is imitation.  








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Wow, @Simon, the fluency and systemmatic depth of your methodology is only more impressive than your command of the sources.  It's fantastic when anyone here can demonstrate this level of expertise.  --Yes, several do, but you're definitely one of them!

By dramatic contrast, I have access to the DOC online, thanks to someone who generously shared the link to all of the volumes.  But I've never gotten along with the .pdf format, or the somewhat ambiguous titles for the volumes, which are linked separately on the website. 

...And here I was assuming that you'd be talking about billon /AE trachea, with the profusion of Frankish and Bulgarian imitations, and so forth.  I love all of the (official) Comnenan tartarterons and halves, but lack pictures of most of them, including anything that would be of relevence here.

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8 hours ago, JeandAcre said:

By dramatic contrast, I have access to the DOC online, thanks to someone who generously shared the link to all of the volumes.  But I've never gotten along with the .pdf format, or the somewhat ambiguous titles for the volumes, which are linked separately on the website.

Each volume had a different writer but the uniformity of the plates are in the end of Volume II. You might find it easier to save the plate pages as a separate file. , Right now my only version of Volume 5 is the online one and it cumbersome to read about a coin then look in Volume II for the plate. 

8 hours ago, JeandAcre said:

...And here I was assuming that you'd be talking about billon /AE trachea, with the profusion of Frankish and Bulgarian imitations, and so forth.

Jean,The concept of Bulgarian Imitations is and has always been in great contention. Hendy came up with that theory but it is now having greater acceptance as faithful imitations, not Bulgarian, the reason they first got that designation, was they were found mostly in Bulgaria. I believe the coinage was of a military issue. Also Ortes Zervos was working on a study that both the imitation trachea and imitation tetartera were made at the same time by the same people. ( I have not seen it to read yet, I have just read notes on the study.) Most of the faithful imitations were traches of later rulers particularly, Alexis III and Manuel.

8 hours ago, Al Kowsky said:

Am I correct in assuming that the coins in your photos circulated at par with genuine coinage 🤔?

 We dont know Al, I never pointed out what I thought to be imitation because we do not have any guidelines on the 12th century imitations. I always considered # 6 to be an imitation but that was without any real reason, it just looked off. If you look at #9, the weight is way off but it shows signs of being minted early over the remains of an anonymous follis because the boarder of dots. 

I chose this group because the issue is considered semi rare, and this issue was not found in the 13th century hoards, and I only had these 10 examples. I included all 10.

If I chose any other type, the number of coins would be much greater and more confusing. Good example is the jeweled cross issue by Alexius, so many different types of crosses on the reverse. (Ortes Zervos has also done a paper on those but I have not found it to read.)

I wrote this because of the Alexius modern forgery that was recently posted by @Topcat7, they are getting harder to tell at a glance, the patina work is getting scary better.  I thought looking on how different one type could look it might help.

Thanks for reading and hopefully it was helpful and eye opening for some. 


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Just to be anal, two more examples I have, both were put away some time ago (I forgot until I looked at an old Forum album I have kept up, both were rephotographed today.).  In example number 11. Again, shows signs of being restruck over a K or G anonymous follis. 

@catadc mentioned the K in conversation, I do believe the overstrikes could have been made on partial G follis or full K anonymous follis since they had shrunk as small as some tetartera. We also discussed this coin as being rare in the market but not according to the site finds in Corinth and Athens. 

In Athens (Finds to 1949) 96 examples. In Corinth (Finds to 1929) 61 examples.  Interesting contrast to the more common DOC 38 SBCV-1929 (in Athens 180 examples, In Corinth 85 examples.)

Here is # 11  2.4gm and 21.68mm (well-worn and very smooth to the touch)




Now example #12 is very rough. 2.5gm and 17.71mm (slightly Bent) 



So, this is more information than anyone cared to know about on particular type.  Still the additional coins to not bring any clarity to the issue. 



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For the record - I believe all the above are official issues. In addition to the above SB 1930, I have seen a few SB 1929 overstruck. I believe some of the first tetartera were overstruck on folles. 

I had a look on my (incomplete) records of the tetartera collection. My Alexius tertartera minted in Constantinopole arequite consistent in weight, around 3.5 - 4.1 gr. Those minted in Thessalonica are between 0.9 - 5.5 gr. Lack of control, contemporary imitations or 13th century imitations? Might be very well all valid answers.

We agree that SB 1932 was heavily imitated in the 13th century. I have seen some very strange looking SB 1931 during the last year in auctions. Looking again at the pics above, I have my doubts that #2 is authentic (Mary looks so thin and small). I have my doubts on this SB 1929 below (17 mm, 2.66 gr) that I marked as not an original issue. 


And my SB 1930. I do not have dimensions.


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@catadc comments about the overstrikeing of SBCV-1929- SBCV-1930 and SBCV-1931 on old K class and G Class follis really got me thinking that it is not helpful in determining sequence. Perhaps my thinking it is more common on SBCV-1930 , therefore it is earlier. Bendall's find of the SBCV-1929 struck over a SBCV -1930 has far more provocative and compelling case for sequence. 

One thing I have noted with collectors of the earlier Roman coinage is several board members have the ability to identify the patina with the area that the coin came to it final resting place. Many of my overstrikes have that orange patina, such as my example from #4, if we knew where that patina indicates its orgin or province, then perhaps that would help with the puzzle. 

Problem is my coins were mostly chosen, not just acquired but picked up because of the appeal. That bias removes my collection from assisting on the general state of the coins or where they circulated.

As for your @catadc SBCV-1930, if mine are official so is yours. It is withing the weight, no major errors in the emperors clothes. 

I leave tomorrow,  for another trip, perhaps I will get a chance to reshoot some of my examples of that patina. 

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  • 1 month later...
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When going over some older acquisitions, this one I won earlier this year for a few dollars.  This coin appears to be overstruck on the SBCV-1930, adding merit to Simon Bendals find resequencing the tetartera. SBCV 1929 came after SBCV-1930 


21mm 1.64gm

Bit look at the reverse flipped. Notice the base, looks like the virgin with her arms spread. 


Btw, Here is the article Bendall published Dec 2000.



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  • 5 months later...
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Posted · Benefactor

One more I found misattributed by the dealers notes as Manuel. It is Alexius.  only 2.8 gm. 

I have a little time home, I will start this with another type, something more complex with many varieties. 




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