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My Top 10 Picks for 2023

Al Kowsky

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Selecting my top 10 picks for 2023 was easy this year since I acquired only 12 coins, 2 of which I sold to a friend who needed a Christmas gift for his two sons 😂. The 10 coins are listed by age, from earliest to latest. Website members are welcome to pick a favorite in the comments section ☺️.


1. EGYPT-Alexandria. Ptolemy III, 246-222 BC. AE Drachm: 67.32 gm, 40 mm, 12 h. Obverse: Head of Zeus-Amon wearing a taenia, basileion over forehead. Reverse: Eagle standing on thunderbolt, monogram between legs, cornucopia bound with royal diadem in left field, translated inscription "King Ptolemy". Svoronos 964; NGC Ch VF*, Strike 5/5, Surface 4/5. Ex Harlan J. Berk Bid or Buy Sale, Jan. 18, 2018, lot 316.


2. SELEUKID-EMPIRE. Alexander I Balas, 152-145 BC (dated SE 166, 147/6 BC). Tyre Mint. AR Tetradrachm: 14.23 gm, 27 mm, 12 h. Obverse: Draped bust of Balas with diadem. Reverse: Eagle standing on prow, palm frond in background, monogram of Tyre mintmark on club, in left field, translated inscription "King Alexander". SC 1835.5a; Newell, Tyre 72. Ex CNG  87, lot 636, May 18, 2011.



3. ARMEMIAN KINGDOM. Tigranes II the Great, 95-56 BC (struck 80-68 BC). Tigranocerta Mint. AR Tetradrachm: 15.66 gm, 27 mm, 1 h. Obverse: Diademed, draped bust of Tigranes II, wearing a jeweled tiara with a starburst between two eagles. Reverse: Tyche seated on rocks, holding a palm frond, river god Orontes swimming below her, monogram on rock & small monogram on river god's stomach (rare variant). Kovacs 75.1. NGC Ch XF, Strike 4/5, Surface 3/5.


4. ROMAN-EGYPT. Hadrian, AD 117-138 (dated RY 22, AD 137/8). Billon Tetradrachm: 13.36 gm, 26 mm, 12 h.  Laureate bust of Hadrian with a trace of drapery on his left shoulder. Reverse: Nilus (god of the Nile River) reclining, holding water reed & cornucopia, crocodile next to him, date letters in left field. Dattari 1438; Emmett 879.22.


5. ROMAN-JUDAEA, Gaza. Antoninus Pius, AD 138-161 (dated CY 215, AD 154/5). AE 30.5 mm, 20.23 gm, 12 h. Obverse: Laureate, draped & cuirassed bust seen from behind. Reverse: Turreted, draped & veiled bust of Tyche, sign of Marnas near bust. Rosenberger 75; Sofaer 94. Ex Dr. Kenneth Abramowitz Collection.


6. ROMAN-EMPIRE. Maximinus I Thrax. AD 235-238 (struck late 236/7). Rome Mint, 3rd emission. AE Sestertius: 19.12 gm, 30.5 mm, 12 h. Obverse: Laureate, draped, & cuirassed bust seen from behind. Reverse: Pax standing, holding olive branch I scepter. RIC IV 81. Ex Richard McAlee Collection; Ex CNG 87, lot 1048, May 18, 2011.


7. ROMAN-SYRIA, Antioch. Philip II, AD 247-249 (struck AD 247). Billon Tetradrachm: 13.92 gm, 26 mm, 7 h. Obverse: Radiate, cuirassed bust of Philip II facing left, gorgonian on breast- plate. Reverse: Eagle with spread wings facing left with wreath in beak. McAlee 1033a. Ex Andre Ronde Collection.


8. BYZANTINE-EMPIRE. Heraclius, AD 610-641 (struck AD 610/613). Constantinople Mint, 5th Officina. AV Solidus: 4.52 gm, 20 mm, 7 h. Obverse: Draped, cuirassed bust of Heraclius facing front, wearing a plumed helmet with pendilia, & holding a cross. Reverse: Cross potent on three steps, indiction monogram "RFN" in right field. Sear 732; Berk 116. NGC MS, Strike 5/5, Surface 4/5. Ex Mike Gasvoda Collection; Ex Kunker 531, lot 600, Sep. 25, 2021.


9. BYZANTINE-EMPIRE. Maurice Tiberius, AD 582-602 (dated IY 2, AD 583/4). Carthage Mint. AV Solidus: 4.50 gm, 18 mm, 5 h. Obverse: Front facing bust of Maurice, draped, cuirassed, & wearing feather plumed helmet with pendilia, holding globus cruciger. Reverse: Front facing Angel holding a globus cruciger & grounded staff with staurogram. Sear 549. NGC Ch AU, Strike 5/5, Surface 4/5. Ex Classical Numismatic Review XLI.2, Summer 2016.


10. GERMANY, Saxony (Albertine Line). Augustus I, AD 1553-1586 (dated 1578). Dresden Mint, Hans Biemer, mintmaster (HB monogram). AR Thaler: 29 gm, 40 mm, 12 h. Obverse: Augustus in armor holding a sword. Reverse: Saxony coat of arms. Davenport 9789. PCGS AU55.




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2 hours ago, CPK said:

Beautiful coins! My favorites are the Ptolemy drachm and the Hadrian tetradrachm.

I'm curious, with a patina like that, if that Ptolemy drachm has an older collection provenance. 🤔

CPK, singig, JayAg47, & kirispupis, The Ptolemy "hockey puck" is one of the coins that's been on my "bucket list" for a long time & surprisingly was offered with no provenance other than Harlan J. Berk 🙁nevertheless, the coin was a good buy & I'm happy with it 😊.

Edited by Al Kowsky
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3 hours ago, robinjojo said:

Wonderful coins, Al! 

I particularly like the Alexander I Balas tetradrachm.

robinjojo, The Alexander I Balas tet is stunning in hand & fully lustrous 🤩. The shekels made for the Judaean market have a similar composition, but they rarely have the quality of the Balas tets. The shekels use a portrait of Melkart instead of a living person. Pictured below is a shekel I sold long ago for comparison.


Edited by Al Kowsky
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8 hours ago, Di Nomos said:

Fantastic coins all, but your bookends are my favourites - 1 & 10. The Saxony coin is one I wouldn't normally give much time to, as it's not in my collecting area, but I really like it. The portrait is excellent.

Di Nomos, At one time I had a large collection of thalers & crowns that Heritage auctioned for me. So acquiring another at this late date was a throwback to the "good old days" for me. Last year I won a stunning Austrian thaler about the same age as the Saxony thaler, so this coin provided an excellent comparison. Needless to say, the Austrian thaler is far superior in the engraving & overall execution 😉. The Holy Roman Empire, centered in Austria, set the pace for the modern era of coinage ☺️.


AUSTRIA- Holy Roman Empire. Archduke Ferdinand II, 1564-1595. AR Thaler: 28.20 gm, 40 mm, 12 h. Hall Mint. Obverse: Crowned & armored bust of Ferdinand II, holding sword & scepter. Reverse: elaborate coat of arms surrounded by the order of the golden fleece. Davenport 8094.


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Fantastic additions! That Ptolemy III is really, really impressive, the obverse is fantastic! 

About that issue of Tigranes II the Great; the reverse shows the same theme as the tetradrachm struck under Augustus, some 80 or 60 years later (see e.g.: https://www.acsearch.info/search.html?id=6179322). Interesting, do you know if Augustus intentionally copied the design? 

Edited by Limes
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8 hours ago, happy_collector said:

Nice quality coins! My favorites are #1, 2 and 9. I like the feeling of holding a large-sized and chunky coin. Your Maurice Tiberius solidus has a pretty cute obverse portrait and a good-quality reverse design. Thanks for sharing!  🙂

happy_collector, I too like bronze coins with some mass ☺️. In the past I bought a number of raw Ptolemy "hockey pucks" that turned out to have problems when submitting them to NGC 😠, so to avoid this predicament again I started looking for coins that had been slabbed already & scored this coin at a Heritage auction 😄. The portrait on the Maurice solidus is rather amusing, he looks child-like 🤣.

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26 minutes ago, Limes said:

Fantastic additions! That Ptolemy III is really, really impressive, the obverse is fantastic! 

About that issue of Tigranes II the Great; the reverse shows the same theme as the tetradrachm struck under Augustus, some 80 or 60 years later (see e.g.: https://www.acsearch.info/search.html?id=6179322). Interesting, do you know if Augustus intentionally copied the design? 

Limes, You raise a good point with the Tigranes tet 😉. No doubt Augustus intentionally copied the reverse design on the Tigranes tet for two reasons, he wanted to show the Armenians no longer controlled Antioch, & by copying the reverse design he wanted his new tets to be on par with the Armenian coins, despite the newer coins being debased. For comparison is an Augustus tet I sold long ago.


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  • 4 weeks later...

You bought 12 coins and have 10 remaining - but these are fantastic coins. 

My choices would be #3, #4 and #10. 

Fun fact about #10 (a type I know because of the fun fact) - I know a collector who looks VERY MUCH like Augustus I. Yes, the face might be common, but the resemblance is stunning. Of course he has an example and of course he claims (joking, but every joke has a part of truth) that he is a descendant of Augustus I. 

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That Ptolemy is amazing!  Aside from the obvious (gold!!!), I found the Ptolemy and that Max Thrax sestertius the standouts, but it wasn't easy to choose from amongst such an array!

We both bought Saxony thalers in 2023.  Mine is a tad earlier than yours but yours is 15 grade points higher than mine.


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