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Leontini - detailed (and free!) study finally available.


Deinomenid

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Leontini is a fascinating city in eastern Sicily that has (strangely) not been systematically reviewed numismatically. The book in the attached link very recently came out and is free as a pdf if you access the function  “Opera disponibile ad Accesso Aperto”. It is in Italian but don’t be unduly deterred as Google translate Italian to English has recently hugely improved, with the whole document pretty much completely understandable with a few exceptions such as “cone” for die and “anvil” etc for reverse. 

It also has a decent summary history section, some hoard discussions and some views on the value or not of die linkage as discussed recently elsewhere on this forum. (There was, in Italy at least, a passionate argument against die studies as a key numismatic discipline that lasted a long while and, some say, seriously damaged numismatic study there.)

The book's focus is on the 160 series of tets so there’s more to do but it covers a real gap in understanding, notwithstanding the commentary of Boehringer's Zur Münzgeschichte von Leontinoi in klassischer Zeit (1998).

 

Link to link here-

https://eut.units.it/it/catalogo/i-tetradrammi-di-leontinoi-dinamiche-produttive-e-storico-artistiche/5636
 

As well as the  usual pages of plate coins, it shows detailed drawings  of  die links, eg -

Screenshot2023-12-26at21-22-28ItetradrammidiLeontinoi.Dinamicheproduttiveestorico-artistiche-Leontinoi_Maltese_def_rgb_pdf.png.4583d238707d5ab577b9596a7fd26aba.png

and deterioration of dies, eg -

Screenshot2023-12-26at21-23-04ItetradrammidiLeontinoi.Dinamicheproduttiveestorico-artistiche-Leontinoi_Maltese_def_rgb_pdf.png.aaedf097a5aad3181cfa3d7b153a196e.png

...which is way more helpful than most studies.

 

 

And - because why not!- here's a tet. Comments, coins, anything relevant at all welcome.

SICILY - LEONTINI 455-446
Head of Apollo on the right, hair raised. Lion's head on the right, mouth gaping. Around it, LEONTINON and four grains of barley. Boehringer 46 (or now Maltese O27/R82!) Silver tetradrachm.
 

2958562-1654870194_origoop.jpg.ef7bbc65cc56c1c82f3ea3a4316536db.jpg

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It looks like an excellent book! It will take time for me to read it.

From a quick look, the number of the used dies is remarkably few. Each die must have lasted for months. They must have used very hot flans to soften the metal to preserve them. Still, I cannot see any evidence of impressions from the tongues (typical of many later Eastern Roman/Early Byzantine coins), which may indicate that they were obliterated during the strike and if the coin was sufficiently cooled before removing it from the dies. Collaboration with experts in metallurgy will answer this or may have been done already.

Also, I cannot see any apparent branching in die use, which would be the case if several dies were used simultaneously. If only one pair of dies was used at a time, there must have been a skilful master striker to match the skills of the master die cutter. 

A beautiful coin, @Deinomenid

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Thanks for sharing! I've had a bit of a read through to see what it had to say about the IBSCC condemned forgeries as they used transfer dies so it's difficult to know if examples sold with the same dies are fake or not. Seems like the author was also a bit unsure and excluded many of the examples with that die paring (series 138 in the catalogue). In a footnote on page 31 about the 320 examples they excluded from their catalogue they say: "The remaining 293 coins, mostly from the market and belonging to series 138 (204 specimens), were excluded from the catalog because of ambiguous authenticity."

I always figured that older examples with this die paring, say from pre 1950, would be OK but they mark many of these with [!], indicating that they're unsure about their authenticity as well. I would've thought that with so many examples one would be able to identify some clues that indicate which of these examples are from the transfer dies and which are not (e.g. based on weight distribution, diverging die deterioration etc) but perhaps not. Wonder how the IBSCC team identified them. If one is in the market for these tetradrachms, sounds like it's best to avoid Series 138 all together. Though it makes you wonder how many other excellent forgeries of this quality are out there for other types but remain undetected.

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IBSCC Website says

  • Use of the IBSCC Internet Archive of Fake Coins, is only available to IAPN members and associated partners.

If any dealers on the forum are members, it would be good to know whether there is relevant information on the topic in the Archive (without giving up any details that the rules may restrict).

When reputable auction houses sell Series 138 coins and guarantee their authenticity, do they base this on firm knowledge of identifying genuine coins?

It is also interesting how NGC deals with the issue. Can NGC be a reasonable solution (with their holders seen as packaging for collectors who do not favour them)?

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4 hours ago, Kaleun96 said:

Wonder how the IBSCC team identified them

Their secrecy or at best lack of transparency is a real shame. I'm not sure  in whose  interests they are acting by withholding this sort of  information, unless possibly they see themselves as a  rent seeker. The argument it keeps out forgers is specious as though it's subscription-based for "dealers" even their guild-like terms don't keep out some less reputable types, though they seem to blame that on individuals rather than the companies they might run, which is  amazing  intellectual gymnastics.

The forgerynetwork descriptions of these coins from that source are singularly  unhelpful, though thankfully in Leontini  there are enough valid examples to be statistically relevant.

 

8 hours ago, Rand said:

the number of the used dies is remarkably few.

 

In total  he has just 40 obverses and 122 reverses, for the high 1:3 ratio though sometimes  that  ratio is  1: 10 plus!

 

screenshot-2023-12-26-at-20-28-49-i-tetradrammi-di-leontinoi-dinamiche-produttive-e-storico-artistiche-leontinoi-maltese-def-rgb-pdf_orig1.png.49501ef0ed6a7d6fde430c63510d1d13.png

Esemplari - examples.

Rami - branches

Dritti - obverse

Rovesci - reverse

Rinvenuti  - found

Stimati - estimated.

 

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The author, Sebastiano Paolo Maltese, has done an excellent job - I will remember the name.

The number of identified coins per die is very high:

  • 39 coins are known for each obverse die with no singletons
  • 12 coins are known for each reverse die with very few singletons.

This means that all (or nearly all) produced dies are known.

 

Acknowledging the irregularity of the minting over about 50 years:

  • 40 obverse dies mean a die served 1.25 years
  • 122 reverse dies mean a die served 5 months. 

This is much longer than my current estimates of 2.3 weeks for reverse dies for 491-492 Constantinople solidi (provided each Officina/workshop used one die at a time). Constantinople coins also have a much lower obverse/reverse ratio.

 

The relatively small number of dies and the high number of coins per die mean that an advanced specialist collection could collect them all, producing a reference die collection. Such a collection would greatly help identify known and future fakes. This would be similar to Stanley Gibbons Reference Collection of British Stamps https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Md99wdfE68A

 

There is little doubt that with modern technology, identifying forgeries is possible. The question is, who takes leadership in putting the needed steps together?

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On 12/27/2023 at 7:18 AM, Kaleun96 said:

I would've thought that with so many examples one would be able to identify some clues

It took some time given the language  but I'm now at page 140 where he  gives a pretty strong  hint as  to  how to tell. Or a way. He discusses the trend  over time in slightly lower weights, but points out that  Branch XIII, which includes these  infamous Series 138 coins suddenly rises in weight. I guess it COULD be because they are  mostly mint state so less wear, but it might be a clue. Here's the chart, and  my (Google-assisted) attempt at his comment  in English.

 

"Looking at Period IV, the high presence of tetradrachms from ca. 17.30g upwards  could be misleading: an actual increase in weight occurred in Branch XIII - a figure that risks being delegitimized by the potential presence of fakes among the numerous examples of the 138 series".

Webcapture_28-12-2023_204017_.jpeg.892b43906c92a0341c2da71ca52f6b01.jpeg

 

 

 

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11 hours ago, Deinomenid said:

It took some time given the language  but I'm now at page 140 where he  gives a pretty strong  hint as  to  how to tell. Or a way. He discusses the trend  over time in slightly lower weights, but points out that  Branch XIII, which includes these  infamous Series 138 coins suddenly rises in weight. I guess it COULD be because they are  mostly mint state so less wear, but it might be a clue. Here's the chart, and  my (Google-assisted) attempt at his comment  in English.

 

"Looking at Period IV, the high presence of tetradrachms from ca. 17.30g upwards  could be misleading: an actual increase in weight occurred in Branch XIII - a figure that risks being delegitimized by the potential presence of fakes among the numerous examples of the 138 series".

Webcapture_28-12-2023_204017_.jpeg.892b43906c92a0341c2da71ca52f6b01.jpeg

 

 

 

Yeah I noticed that too so thought it was odd that they didn't try to then do this analysis with the full range of Series 138 coins. My understanding is that this chart only includes the coins of Series 138 that were not excluded from the catalogue. So the bulk of Series 138, the 204 coins excluded from the catalogue, aren't represented here and might show an even stronger pattern in the weight distribution.  

Though given so many of the examples that were included were still marked [!] for uncertain authenticity, it might be hard to even create a small control group of Series 138 by which to test the hypothesis. For example, if there were Series 138 examples of known authenticity in high grades, it might be possible to detect a difference between those and the weights of the suspected fakes. Even then, though, one suspects is that the difference in average weight wouldn't be so great as to be a useful indicator for individual examples, rather just as a characteristic of the fakes.

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