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First among equals - 10 of my better acquisitions for 2023


robinjojo

robinjojo's 2023 top 10 coins  

32 members have voted

  1. 1. What's your favorite?

    • Starr Group II owl
      7
    • Pharaonic owl
      4
    • New Style owl
      2
    • Alexander III tetradrachm
      4
    • Justin I and Justinian I joint reign follis
      5
    • Characene, Attambelos I tetradrachm
      2
    • Kushan AV dinar of Vasudeva I
      3
    • Seljuqs of Rum AE fals
      2
    • Two Mleiha imitation BI tetradrachms
      2
    • Mexico Philip III 8 reales
      2

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  • Poll closed on 01/01/2024 at 05:39 AM

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Something for just about everyone!

This year saw a continuation of my near obsession with Athenian owls and their imitations.  I am actually waiting on a couple that will likely arrive later this month, so perhaps they will be included in next year's list. 

This year also saw the end of my main sources for interesting and relatively affordable ancients, outside of the auction circuit.  I've moved on to other sellers, but the heyday of groups of imitative owls on offer is, at least for now, at a halt. 

So, as a generalist, adopting in a Darwinian sense with the ever-evolving ancient coin market, I am focusing on individual coins that appeal to me, even if they may be from areas that I have largely neglected; perhaps the obsession will abate this way.

1 ) End of a search for a Starr Group II owl.

Finding a decent example is not easy.  At auctions the bidding for these owls is often, quite rapidly, in "blow out" territory for my budget. Also, many examples in the "affordable" price range have significant problems, such as off center strike, condition or metal quality.  

Towards the end of this year an owl became available, priced at the high end of my affordability range.  Nonetheless I bit the bullet and purchased the coin.  

This owl is nicely centered but the reverse is weakly struck, or it was struck from worn dies. I'm still debating that issue, but it is relatively minor and of an academic nature.  This owl is of the same Starr group that includes the decadrachms, and the obverse die does share  similarities, especially with the modeling of the archaic "smile" and eye.

Athens, tetradrachm, circa 475-465 BC.

Starr Group II C

17.10 grams

D-CameraAthenstetradrachmc.475-480BCStarrGroupIIC17.10g11-10-23.jpg.611d2a491cf513c82182d6fbe5ede804.jpg

 

2 ) Room for one more pharaonic owl.

This owl came to me by way of CNG auction late this year.  I certainly have enough of these critters, but I could not pass on this one, with its really nice centering and style.

Egypt, pharaonic owl, late 5th-mid 4th centuries BC.

Buttrey-Flament Style A

16.71 grams

D-CameraAthenspharaonicowllate5th-mid4thcenBCButtrey-FlamentStyleA16.71g12-11-23.jpg.02f3785dd8790217841f7461f48fa9ff.jpg

 

3) And while we're on the subject of owls, here's a somewhat later new style.

Okay, the coin is still in the NGC slab, and should crack it open.  I probably will as part of a New Year's resolution.  I set a very low bar when it comes to this sort of thing.

This coin is quite high grade with even somewhat lustrous surfaces, but it is crude, as is the case with most of these later new style owls.  It was minted a few years before the revolt against Roman rule, a revolt that failed in the end when Sulla laid a siege of Siege of Athens and Piraeus (87–86 BC), resulting in Romans occupation, the deaths of many of its citizens and the destruction of the Athenian economy.

Athens, new style owl,  91-0 BC month Z, control ΔΑ.

Thompson 1123

16.56 grams

Roma seated on reverse. 

D-CameraAthensnewstyleowl91-0RomastdT1123mnthZcontrXENOCLESHARMOXENOS16.56g7-25-23.jpg.41230cf5a3792e764e6e61c204c72ad3.jpg

 

4 )  A "deified" early posthumous Alexander III tetradrachm.

I don't often purchase an Alexander III tetradrachm unless it has something "say", weather this has to do with style or some interesting feature such as an interesting symbol on the reverse.

This example came from my local coin dealer and was part of a trade that included a couple of bullion grade gold coins. While struck on a somewhat compact flan, the modeling of Alexander III's portrait, with eyes pointing upwards, suggests to me a form of deification.

Alexander III, tetradrachm, 323-320 BC, Amphipolis.

Price 103 Mueller 153 Demanhur 895-908

17.23 grams 

D-CameraAlexanderIIItetradrachm323-320BCAmphipolisPrice103Mueller153Demanhur895-90817.23gramsSal5-7-23.jpg.61b48cf67dc0606fd87a9a079ad4d1c8.jpg

 

5 ) A "plain Jane" Byzantine follis - but take a further look.

This coin came out the Roma auction of Byzantine coins earlier this year. On first glance for many this coin would seem to be just another follis of Justin from Constantinople.  However, the legends, which are complete, give the game away.  This coin is actually from the very brief period when Justin I and Justinian I ruled jointly.  The remarkable completeness of the obverse legend makes this coin very special indeed!

Justin I and Justinian I, 1 April 527 to  1 August 527, follis of 40 nummi, Constantinople, officina A.

MIBE 4; DOC 10; Sear 125

31mm, 17.25 grams

D-CameraJustinIJustinianIfollis40Nummi.ConAAD527MIBE4DOC10Sear12517.25g31mm8-15-23.jpg.7053472a0f74a6f10a6b7a524463a0bc.jpg

 

6 ) And now we go off to the fringes of the Seleucid Empire and visit Characene - a tetradrachm of Attambelos.

I actually had an example of this tetradrachm many years ago.  I sold it back in 1993 when we were buying our house and ever since I've been looking, very informally, for a replacement.

I love obscure coins!  The less known, the better.  Here we have a line of kings who are known, in large part, only by the coins that they issued.  This coin is from CNG and it does have quite a remarkable portrait. 

Characene, Attambelos I, 47/46 tp 25-24 BC, billion tetradrachm, dated SE 280 (33/2BC)

Hill C

11.85 grams

D-CameraCharaceneAttambelosI47-4625-24BCBItetdatedSE28033-2BCHillC11.85g8-25-23.jpg.5d8b2bb962b871f39f52bb72dc187cc2.jpg

 

7 ) Another diversion - a gold Kushan dinar of  Vasudeva I.

As with the previous coin, a owned at one time one of these fascinating gold Kushan dinars, in fact the first Kushan coin that I ever owned, purchased back in the late 1980s.  Having sold it many a moon ago, I've looked for a replacement.  This sort follows the line of Joni Mitchell: "Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you got till it's gone."  This is a recurring line for me.

Well, through Roma this time, I was able to purchase a replacement for type.  

Kushan Empire, Vasudeva I, AV dinar, Balkh Bactria,  circa 190-230AD.

MK 528(O1a,R34, Vasudeva II)

8.12 grams

D-CameraKushanEmpVasudevaIAVdinarBalkhBaktriac190-230ADMK528(O1aR34VasudevaII)8.12g11-22-23.jpg.1845ce2e24f9fc53ea254ee730f0254f.jpg

 

8 ) A Turkoman bronze fals of the Seljuqs of Rum (Not a rum deal!)

I've had an interest for several years now in the portrait bronze coins of the Turkomans spanning the period of the 1200's to 1300s.  This coin, while quite common, has a very appealing obverse.  The star to the left of the rider is very interesting, and I wonder if it refers to an astronomical event or is an astrological symbol.

Seljuqs of Rum, SulaymanII, AE fals, AH 592-600 (1196-1204).

Mitchiner 964; Resht 596

8.50 grams

D-CameraSeljuqsofRumSulaymanIIAH592-600(1196-1204)AEfalsNDMitchiner964Resht5968.50g30mm11-25-23.jpg.aa9ba8080704e2ed9d07986072b38b72.jpg

 

9)  Who can have Laurel without Hardy or Abbott without Costello?  Two Eastern Arabia imitation BI tetradrachms of Alexander III.

I was initially going to purchase only one of these crude imitations for type, but was offered a decent discount for the the two by the seller, which, being the softy that I am, couldn't refuse! 

Eastern Arabia, Oman Peninsula, Mleiha, Abi'el,  BI tetradrachms 1st century BC to 1st century AD.

14.98 grams (left); 15.01 grams (right).

D-CameraEasternArabiaOmanMleihaAbielBItets1stcenBC-1stcenAD14.98g(l)15.01g(r)10-31-23.jpg.183f99f20b9f9e459e055f6982915561.jpg

 

10) A brief return (or flashback) to my Spanish colonial coin collecting days.

Although I am virtually dedicated to collecting ancients, sometimes I return the roots of my coin collecting.

This is an 8 reales, Mexico, from the last Daniel Sedwick Treasure Coin Auction.  While this type is usually available on the market, albeit at generally high prices, in my view, this coin has the attribute of coming from the legendary Mexican coin collector and author Clyde Hubbard.  I am really happy to have this coin as part of the Spanish colonial part of the collection.

While the king's ordinal is missing, this coin is from the reign of Philip III based on the design of the obverse coats of arms.

Mexico, 8 rales cob,  Philip III, ND (1599-1607), assayer F.  Ex Clyde Hubbard.

KM 44.1

27.4 grams

D-CameraMexico8RPhilIIIND(1599-1607)assayerFCHubbardKM44_127.4g11-11-23.jpg.d2618beefc0ba5589a760ca6128b1f8c.jpg

 

And here's Clyde Hubbard's envelope for this coin:

D-CameraMexico8rPhilIIIND(1599-1607)envelopeCHubbardKM44_127.4g11-11-23.jpg.d342a67028e9b4f3f31043ebc039f319.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by robinjojo
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Wow, fantastic coins all around! It is very hard to pick a favorite. I like the wide variety, too! 👍

The three Owls are really nice and that Alexander tetradrachm is gorgeous. I'm also intrigued by the Attambelos tetradrachm - quite a portrait!

I think if I had to pick, though, it'd be the Mexican 8 reales cob - it's a lovely example with a very cool provenance (and the pencil rubbing on the envelope is pretty neat!) It also happens to be a collecting goal of mine - I'd love to get a shipwreck specimen sometime.

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4 hours ago, robinjojo said:

Something for just about everyone!

This year saw a continuation of my near obsession with Athenian owls and their imitations.  I am actually waiting on a couple that will likely arrive later this month, so perhaps they will be included in next year's list. 

This year also saw the end of my main sources for interesting and relatively affordable ancients, outside of the auction circuit.  I've moved on to other sellers, but the heyday of groups of imitative owls on offer is, at least for now, at a halt. 

So, as a generalist, adopting in a Darwinian sense with the ever-evolving ancient coin market, I am focusing on individual coins that appeal to me, even if they may be from areas that I have largely neglected; perhaps the obsession will abate this way.

1 ) End of a search for a Starr Group II owl.

Finding a decent example is not easy.  At auctions the bidding for these owls is often, quite rapidly, in "blow out" territory for my budget. Also, many examples in the "affordable" price range have significant problems, such as off center strike, condition or metal quality.  

Towards the end of this year an owl became available, priced at the high end of my affordability range.  Nonetheless I bit the bullet and purchased the coin.  

This owl is nicely centered,, but the reverse is weakly struck, or it was struck from worn dies. I'm still debating that issue, but it is relatively minor and of an academic nature.  This owl is of the same Starr group that includes the decadrachms, and the obverse die does share  similarities, especially with the modeling of the archaic "smile" and eye.

Athens, tetradrachm, circa 475-465 BC.

Starr Group II C

17.10 grams

D-CameraAthenstetradrachmc.475-480BCStarrGroupIIC17.10g11-10-23.jpg.611d2a491cf513c82182d6fbe5ede804.jpg

 

2 ) Room for one more pharaonic owl.

This owl came to me by way of CNG auction late this year.  I certainly have enough of these critters, but I could not pass on this one, with its really nice centering and style.

Egypt, pharaonic owl, late 5th-mid 4th centuries BC.

Buttrey-Flament Style A

16.71 grams

D-CameraAthenspharaonicowllate5th-mid4thcenBCButtrey-FlamentStyleA16.71g12-11-23.jpg.02f3785dd8790217841f7461f48fa9ff.jpg

 

3) And while we're on the subject of owls, here's a somewhat later new style.

Okay, the coin is still in the NGC slab, and should crack it open.  I probably will as part of a New Year's resolution.  I set a very low bar when it comes to this sort of thing.

This coin is quite high grade with even somewhat lustrous surfaces, but it is crude, as is the case with most of these later new style owls.  It was minted a few years before the revolt against Roman rule, a revolt that failed in the end when Sulla laid a siege of Siege of Athens and Piraeus (87–86 BC), resulting in Romans occupation, the deaths of many of its citizens and the destruction of the Athenian economy.

Athens, new style owl,  91-0 BC month Z, control ΔΑ.

Thompson 1123

16.56 grams

Roma seated on reverse. 

D-CameraAthensnewstyleowl91-0RomastdT1123mnthZcontrXENOCLESHARMOXENOS16.56g7-25-23.jpg.41230cf5a3792e764e6e61c204c72ad3.jpg

 

4 )  A "deified" early posthumous Alexander III tetradrachm.

I don't often purchase an Alexander III tetradrachm unless it has something "say", weather this has to do with style or some interesting feature such as an interesting symbol on the reverse.

This example came from my local coin dealer and was part of a trade that included a couple of bullion grade gold coins. While struck on a somewhat compact flan, the modeling of Alexander III's portrait, with eyes pointing upwards, suggests to me a form of deification.

Alexander III, tetradrachm, 323-320 BC, Amphipolis.

Price 103 Mueller 153 Demanhur 895-908

17.23 grams 

D-CameraAlexanderIIItetradrachm323-320BCAmphipolisPrice103Mueller153Demanhur895-90817.23gramsSal5-7-23.jpg.61b48cf67dc0606fd87a9a079ad4d1c8.jpg

 

5 ) A "plain Jane" Byzantine follis - but take a further look.

This coin came out the Roma auction of Byzantine coins earlier this year. On first glance for many this coin would seem to be just another follis of Justin from Constantinople.  However, the legends, which are complete, give the game away.  This coin is actually from the very brief period when Justin I and Justinian I ruled jointly.  The remarkable completeness of the obverse legend makes this coin very special indeed!

Justin I and Justinian I, 1 April 527 to  1 August 527, follis of 40 nummi, Constantinople, officinca A.

MIBE 4; DOC 10; Sear 125

31mm, 17.25 grams

D-CameraJustinIJustinianIfollis40Nummi.ConAAD527MIBE4DOC10Sear12517.25g31mm8-15-23.jpg.7053472a0f74a6f10a6b7a524463a0bc.jpg

 

6 ) And now we go off to the fringes of the Seleucid Empire and visit Characene - a tetradrachm of Attambelos.

I actually had an example of this tetradrachm many years ago.  I sold it back in 1993 when we were buying our house and ever since I've been looking, very informally, for a replacement.

I love obscure coins!  The less known, the better.  Here we have a line of kings who are known, in large part, only by the coins that they issued.  This coin is from CNG and it does have quite a remarkable portrait. 

Characene, Attambelos I, 47/46 tp 25-24 BC, billion tetradrachm, dated SE 280 (33/2BC)

Hill C

11.85 grams

D-CameraCharaceneAttambelosI47-4625-24BCBItetdatedSE28033-2BCHillC11.85g8-25-23.jpg.5d8b2bb962b871f39f52bb72dc187cc2.jpg

 

7 ) Another diversion - a gold Kushan dinar of  Vasudeva I.

As with the previous coin, a owned at one time one of these fascinating gold Kushan dinars, in fact the first Kushan coin that I ever owned, purchased back in the late 1980s.  Having sold it many a moon ago, I've looked for a replacement.  This sort follows the line of Joni Mitchell: "Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you got till it's gone."  This is a recurring line for me.

Well, through Roma this time, I was able to purchase a replacement for type.  

Kushan Empire, Vasudeva I, AV dinar, Balkh Bactria,  circa 190-230AD.

MK 528(O1a,R34, Vasudeva II)

8.12 grams

D-CameraKushanEmpVasudevaIAVdinarBalkhBaktriac190-230ADMK528(O1aR34VasudevaII)8.12g11-22-23.jpg.1845ce2e24f9fc53ea254ee730f0254f.jpg

 

8 ) A Turkoman bronze fals of the Seljuqs of Rum (Not a rum deal!)

I've had an interest for several years now in the portrait bronze coins of the Turkomans spanning the period of the 1200's to 1300s.  This coin, while quite common, has a very appealing obverse.  The star to the left of the rider is very interesting, and I wonder if it refers to an astronomical event or is an astrological symbol.

Seljuqs of Rum, SulaymanII, AE fals, AH 592-600 (1196-1204).

Mitchiner 964; Resht 596

8.50 grams

D-CameraSeljuqsofRumSulaymanIIAH592-600(1196-1204)AEfalsNDMitchiner964Resht5968.50g30mm11-25-23.jpg.aa9ba8080704e2ed9d07986072b38b72.jpg

 

9)  Who can have Laurel without Hardy or Abbott without Costello?  Two Eastern Arabia imitation BI tetradrachms of Alexander III.

I was initially going to purchase only one of these crude imitations for type, but was offered a decent discount for the the two by the seller, which, being the softy that I am, couldn't refuse! 

Eastern Arabia, Oman Peninsula, Mleiha, Abi'el,  BI tetradrachms 1st century BC to 1st century AD.

14.98 grams (left); 15.01 grams (right).

D-CameraEasternArabiaOmanMleihaAbielBItets1stcenBC-1stcenAD14.98g(l)15.01g(r)10-31-23.jpg.183f99f20b9f9e459e055f6982915561.jpg

 

10) A brief return (or flashback) to my Spanish colonial coin collecting days.

Although I am virtually dedicated to collecting ancients, sometimes I return the roots of my coin collecting.

This is an 8 reales, Mexico, from the last Daniel Sedwick Treasure Coin Auction.  While this type is usually available on the market, albeit at generally high prices, in my view, this coin has the attribute of coming from the legendary Mexican coin collector and author Clyde Hubbard.  I am really happy to have this coin as part of the Spanish colonial part of the collection.

While the king's ordinal is missing, this coin is from the reign of Philip III based on the design of the obverse coats of arms.

Mexico, 8 rales cob,  Philip III, ND (1599-1607), assayer F.  Ex Clyde Hubbard.

KM 44.1

27.4 grams

D-CameraMexico8RPhilIIIND(1599-1607)assayerFCHubbardKM44_127.4g11-11-23.jpg.d2618beefc0ba5589a760ca6128b1f8c.jpg

 

And here's Clyde Hubbard's envelope for this coin:

D-CameraMexico8rPhilIIIND(1599-1607)envelopeCHubbardKM44_127.4g11-11-23.jpg.d342a67028e9b4f3f31043ebc039f319.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

robinjojo, This is a wonderful group of coins 🤩! I voted for the Kushan dinar, & also like the Amphipolis tet & the Mexican cob 😍.

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6 hours ago, CPK said:

Wow, fantastic coins all around! It is very hard to pick a favorite. I like the wide variety, too! 👍

The three Owls are really nice and that Alexander tetradrachm is gorgeous. I'm also intrigued by the Attambelos tetradrachm - quite a portrait!

I think if I had to pick, though, it'd be the Mexican 8 reales cob - it's a lovely example with a very cool provenance (and the pencil rubbing on the envelope is pretty neat!) It also happens to be a collecting goal of mine - I'd love to get a shipwreck specimen sometime.

Thanks!  I really need to get off my duff and photograph more cobs!  

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6 hours ago, singig said:

I voted for #1 Starr Group II owl , I also like the #4 Alexander tetradrachm. Congratulations !

 

Thanks!  I wasn't sure how to allow multiple choices when setting the poll.  Three per member would have been nice.  Maybe next year I'll figure this out.

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6 hours ago, happy_collector said:

These are nice coins to add, @robinjojo. Thanks for sharing. As someone who likes Athenian Owl, my #1 favorite would be your Starr II Owl. Your Alexander III tetradrachm and gold Kushan dinar are my other big favorites. 🙂

Thanks!  I did go somewhat off the path with the Alexander III tetradrachm and the Kushan AV dinar, but was a nice diversion from all those owls!

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Thank you all for your votes and comments. This has certainly been an eventful year to say the least, and I think the future of our hobby is full of the promise of new hoards discovered, interesting coins entering the market and hopefully new collectors bitten by the ancients bug!

This is truly a hobby that can unite a diverse array of people from all walks of life and differing views and beliefs through a common interest and passion for ancient coins, and other coins for that matter.

May everyone's journey of discovery and bliss continue in the New Year!

Happy Christmas and 2024!

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Thanks for sharing these coins. I can appreciate collecting whatever seems interesting in addition to focusing on a specific area. I don't know enough about Athenian owls so I voted for the Justin I / Justinian I coin. I think it is really cool you can narrow the date of emission to such a precise period.  

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