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Curtisimo’s Top 10 of 2023


Curtisimo

Curtisimo’s Top 10 of 2023  

36 members have voted

  1. 1. Please vote for your 3 favorite coins.

    • 10. Septimius Severus / Circus Maximus
    • 9. Tarsus stater / Double walls
    • 8. Julius Caesar / Aeneas and Ancises
    • 7. Classic style Thasos Stater
    • 6. Hera / Owls of Peiraieos
    • 5. Doson tetradrachm / Poseidon
    • 4. Syracuse 2nd Democracy tetradrachm
    • 3. Caligula and Germanicus denarius
    • 2. Augustus / the Curia Julia
    • 1. Lifetime Portrait of Julius Caesar


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10 The Circus Maximus
This type has been on my want list for a long time. It commemorates an event written about by Cassius Dio that took place in AD 204 during the Secular Games. As part of the games, the spina of the Circus Maximus was constructed to look like a ship. This fake ship was designed to break apart on queue in order to release hundreds of animals at once. This spectacle was so memorable that Septimius Severus chose to commemorate it on his coinage several years later. You can read my write up on the type here.

As a great bonus, I was happy to discover that this coin has a great pre-1970 provenance that includes two notable collections.

Provenance 

  • Ex Paul Tinchant Collection (1893-1981†)(auctioned under the pseudonym “Robert J. Graham”), Jacques Schulman Auction 243, lot 1972 (June 8-10, 1966)
  • Ex ROMA ÆTERNA Collection (a.k.a. chinamul Collection), Gut-Lynt Auction 13 Part II, lot 1638 (October 1, 2023)

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Roman Empire
Septimius Severus
AR denarius, Rome mint, struck AD 206
(2.9 gm, 19.5 mm)
Obv.:  SEVERVS PIVS AVG, laureate head right
Rev.:  LAETITIA TEMPORVM, the spina of the Circus Maximus decorated as a ship facing left, with the turning posts at its prow and stern, a sail mounted on the central obelisk, and the spina's other monuments visible in between; above the ship, four quadrigas racing left; below, seven animals: an ostrich at left and a bear at right; between them a lion and a lioness chasing a wild ass and a panther attacking a bison

9 The Walls of Tarsus
Tarsus has some extremely interesting and influential coin designs. The seated Baal of Tarsus on the obverse of this coin became the prototype for the seated Zeus design used on the coinage of Alexander the Great. The reverse shows a lion and bull scene that was influenced by Royal Persian iconography. The double walls have been a source of speculation among scholars, including David Hendin (see here).

I am happy to have added another Stoecklin coin to my collection and I am hopeful that continued research will turn up additional provenance for this coin.

Provenance

  • Ex Walter Mirko Stoecklin (1915-1981†), Winterthur, Switzerland, acquired prior to 1981, Ex Obolos 8, lot 318; Formerly slabbed by NGC graded Choice VF, strike 4/5, surface 3/5, NGC n. 6376589-009.

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CILICIA, Tarsus
Issued under the Persian Satrap Mazaios
AR stater, Tarsus mint, struck ca. 361-334 BC
(23.00 mm, 10.39 g)
Obv.: (“Ba’altarz” written in Aramaic) Ba’altarz seated l., holding eagle-tipped scepter in extended r. hand; to l., grain ear and grape bunch above L; below throne, M. 
Rev.: (“Mazaios who is over Beyond the River and Cilicia” written in Aramaic) Lion pouncing l., attacking a bull collapsing to r.; below, above crenellated walls. 
Ref.: Hendin GBC6 6658; Casabonne Series 4, Group A. SNG France 360. SNG Levante 113.

8 Caesar and Aeneas 
This coin is fascinating because it shows a mythological scene made famous by the Aenied (Aeneas carrying Ancises out of a burning Troy). All of the figures on the coin were claimed as ancestors by Julius Caesar, including Venus. This coin was struck by Caesar during his African campaign which you can read more about in my write up here.

This coin has the look and tone of a coin that has spent some time in a collection. It was consigned by the Austrian coin dealer Zeno Pop to a Roma auction earlier this year. I am hopeful of adding some to the provenance with further research.

Provenance 

  • From the inventory of Austrian coin dealer Zeno Pop (Z.P. (Austria)), Roma E-sale 107, lot 926 (March 16, 2023)

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Julius Caesar 
AR Denarius, African mint, 47-46 BC
(19 mm, 6h, 3.83 g)
Obv.: Diademed head of Venus to right
Rev.: Aeneas advancing to left, carrying palladium and Anchises on shoulder; CAESAR downwards to right. 
Ref.: Crawford 458/1; CRI 55; BMCRR East 31; RSC 12

7 A Classic Style Thasos Stater
Thasos lost the right to strike its own coins in 463 BC after it failed in its attempt to leave the Delian League. Just before or around the beginning of the Peloponnesian War, Thasos began minting coins again under a new weight standard that aligned the Thassian stater with the Attic didrachm. At the same time, a major Athenian fleet was headquartered at Thasos. The historian Thucydides famously commanded this Athenian fleet for a time. These classic style staters were probably struck to pay the Athenian navy and the fine style may illustrate Athenian artistic influence as well. In my eyes, this coin is a truly fascinating piece of history.

Provenance 

  • Ex Münzen und Medaillen AG FPL 512, no. 21 (July 1988)
  • Ex Künker 174, lot 179  (September 27, 2010)
  • Ex Künker 236, lot 449 (October 7, 2013)
  • Ex Kalevala Collection, CNG E-Auction 536, lot 38 (April 12, 2023)

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ISLANDS off THRACE, Thasos 
AR Stater, struck ca. 435-411 BC
(22mm, 8.73 g)
Obv.: Silenus holding nymph as part of the thiasos of Dionysus; & to upper right Σ
Rev.: Quadripartite incuse square. 
Ref.: Le Rider, Thasiennes 6 var. (letter on obverse); HPM p. 99, 23; HGC 6, 334; McClean 4199 corr. (letter not noted in text).

6 Hera and the Owls of Amisos
It’s hard for me to keep this one out of my top 5 because it is such a wonderful coin. I bought it to represent Hera in my 12 Olympian Portraits collection. I targeted this coin because I am fascinated by the connection to Athens and the Peloponnesian War. During the war, Athens settled Athenians from the port city of Piraeus in Amisos. This explains the owl and ethnic (ΠΕΙΡΑ) on the reverse. This coin has one of the best portraits I have seen on this series. It is also unusual to have so much of the owl and ethnic on the flan.

Of course, the provenance is superb. I was able to discover a published provenance for this coin going back to 1909 and the H. M. Collection. H. M. is currently a mystery to me so that will hopefully be some fruitful research. I also intend to search for any additional provenance for this coin between 1909 and 2015.

Provenance 

  • Ex H. M. Collection, M. Etienne Bourgey Auction (December 15, 1909), lot 166
  • Rudolf Künker Auction 262, lot 7158 (March 13, 2015)

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PONTOS, Amisos (as Peiraieos)
AR Siglos – Drachm, struck late 5th-4th centuries BC, Diog– magistrate
(17 mm, 5.59 g, 3h)
Obv.: Head of Hera left, wearing ornate stephanos.
Rev.: Owl standing facing, wings spread, on shield; ΔΙ-ΟΓ across field, below, ΠΕΙΡΑ
Rev.: SNG BM Black Sea 1066-7; HGC 7, 229

5 Powerful Portrait of Poseidon
In my opinion, these Macedonian tetradrachms represent the most iconic portrait of Poseidon in all of ancient coinage. I purchased this example for my 12 Olympian Portraits collection for this very reason. This coin will require a lot more research on my part to better understand it. There is a lot of disagreement whether these tetradrachms were struck by Antigonos Gonatas or Antigonos Doson. I don’t know enough yet to have an opinion on the matter so I’m sticking with the auction house attribution to Doson for now (note the tag indicates Gonatas). I have downloaded the Panagopoulou reference but I have not yet had enough time to read through it.

The provenance for this coin will require some additional research as well. The coin is ex George Muller of Spink and I hope to learn more about him. I believe the tag that came with the coin is earlier and was written by Leonard Forrer in the 1940’s but I have more work to do to confirm that.

Provenance

  • Ex Collection of a Mentor (George E. Muller, Director of ancient coins at Spink from 1953-1982), ex Naville Numismatics Auction 84, lot 72 (Oct. 8, 2023)
  • Old tag, possibly written by Leonard Forrer (1869-1953†), with “SPK. 1941” written on the back.

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Kingdom of Macedon
Antigonos III Doson, 229-221 BC
AR Tetradrachm, uncertain mint, circa 227-225
(30.0 mm, 16.74 g)
Obv.: Head of Poseidon r., hair bound in seaweed. 
Rev.: Apollo, holding bow, seated l. on prow. Below, monogram. 
Ref.: SNG München 1121. SNG Ashmolean 3264. SNG Alpha Bank 1046. Merker, ANSMN 9, p. 49. 

4 Syracusan Tetradrachm
This coin is a sharp, 5th century BC tetradrachm from Syracuse with an old provenance. Seriously, what is not to like here?

Provenance 

  • Ex collection of German historian Fritz Taeger (1894-1960†), Rhenumis Auktion 11, lot 10015

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SICILY, Syracuse
Second Democracy, 466-406 B.C. 
AR Tetradrachm, struck ca. 460-440 BC
(25 mm, 17.08 g)
Obv.: Charioteer driving slow quadriga right, Nike above flying right, crowning horses, Pistrix (Sea serpent or ketos) in exergue
Rev.: Head of Arethusa facing right, ethnic before, four dolphins around. Minor smoothing present, though a lovely head of Arethusa with each strand of hair visible.
Ref.: Boehringer-546 (Obv. 276, Rev. 378); cf.SNG ANS-177.

3 Caligula and Germanicus
The dynastic issues of Caligula showing Germanicus, Augustus or Agrippina are my favorite of his types. Therefore, I knew I wanted one to represent him in my denarii collection. Caligula denarii are rare and expensive so I was happy to score this coin which is, by my standards, a no-compromise example. The portraits are both nice, the toning is beautiful and the coin just looks great in-hand. The few scratches and imperfections don’t bother me at all, and in fact helped me more easily recognize this coin during my provenance research. I was able to find a fantastic provenance for this coin back to 1925. If you want to read my write up for this coin, please see here.

Provenance

  • Ex Howard Coppuck Levis Collection (1859-1935†), Ars Classica XI, lot 316 (June 18, 1925)
  • Ex Walter F. Stoecklin Collection, Amriswil (1888-1975†), Obolos 9, lot 164 (March 25, 2018)

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Roman Empire
Gaius (Caligula), with Germanicus, 37-41.
AR Denarius, Lugdunum mint, struck AD 37
(19 mm, 4h, 3.38 g)
Obv.: C CAESAR AVG GERM•P.M•TR•POT Bare head of Gaius to right. 
Rev.: GERMANICVS • CAES • PC • CAES • AVG • GERM Bare head of Germanicus to right. 
Ref.: BMC 13. Cohen 4. RIC 12.

2 The Curia Julia
I have been searching for the right example of this type for several years but I never found one that spoke to me until I saw this example. The reverse shows the ancient Roman senate house (the Curia Julia) whose construction was started by Julius Caesar and finished under Augustus in 29 BC. When I bought the coin I knew only about the Marc Poncin provenance from 2006. I have since been able to push that provenance back to 1914 and two more world class collections.

I was pleased and honored that my write for this coin became NF’s first featured thread (see here).

Provenance 

  • Ex Achille Cantoni Collection (1844-1914†), P. & P. Santamaria, lot 207 (November 29, 1920)
  • Ex Walter Niggeler Collection (1878-1964†), Munzen und Medaillen AG & Bank Leu AG, Sammlung Walter Niggeler 2 Teil, lot 1014 (October 21, 1966)
  • Ex Marc Poncin Collection, CNG Mail Bid Sale 72, lot 1357 (June 14, 2006)

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Roman Republic, Octavian 
AR Denarius, 30-29BC, Italian Mint
(21 mm, 11h, 3.54 g)
Obv.: Bare head right.
Rev.: Curia Julia with IMP CAESAR on architrave, at apex, Victory standing upon globe with warriors at the angles.
Ref.: RIC, 266; RSC, 122

In most any other year, this coin would be a slam dunk #1 for me. But this year…

1 A Lifetime Portrait of Julius Caesar
This coin is one of the most historically significant coins in history! Julius Caesar was the first Roman to put his portrait on a coin, an act that was shocking and notable at the time. With this series of denarii struck only a few weeks before he was assassinated, he proclaimed unambiguously that he was now Dict[ator] Perpetvo (Dictator for life!).

Most people mark the start of the Roman Empire with Augustus in 27 BC. Mary Beard makes an interesting case that Pompey could rightly be considered the first emperor. I prefer to think that the empire started in February-March of 44 BC when Julius Caesar made it clear he had no intention of relinquishing absolute power. This coin is a testament to that momentous event.

This example has one of the best portraits I have seen for Caesar. I was also very happy to be able to find a 1983 provenance for this coin. It is my favorite coin of 2023 and now one of my favorite coins in my collection.

Provenance 

  • Ex Münzhandlung Ritter Lagerliste no. 19, lot 327 (November 1983)
  • Ex Collection formed in the Rhineland, Leu Numismatik Web Auction 24, lot 496 (Dec. 3, 2022)

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Roman Imperitorial
Julius Caesar, 49-44 BC. 
AR Denarius, P. Sepullius Macer (moneyer), Rome mint, struck first half of March 44 BC
(17 mm, 3.53 g, 4 h)
Obv.: CAESAR [DIC]T PERPETVO Laureate and veiled head of Julius Caesar to right. 
Rev.: P•SEPVLLIVS - MACER Venus standing front, head lowered to left, holding Victory in her right hand and long scepter adorned with star in her left; to right, round shield set on the ground. 
Ref.: Babelon (Julia) 49 and (Sepullia) 4, Crawford 480/11, CRI 107b, RBW 1684, Sydenham 1072

Happy New Year everyone. I hope you all have a fabulous 2024 in both coins and life. Stay tuned and I’ll post a few of my contenders if I can get around to doing a few photos before the end of the year.

Edited by Curtisimo
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Curtis, Congrats on a sensational year 🤩! You added many handsome coins this year, with many having early, important provenances. My favorites are #7, depicting the old satyr lusting over the nymph, #5, the handsome tet of Poseidon, #4, the finely engraved Sicilian tet 😍.

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WoWiE!!! I had to go 1, 5, & 4 as my favs. Just stunning artistry, provenances and history wrapped up in these coins. But your top ten could have been upside down and I could still not have complained about your order with such great coins every step of the ladder. An incredible year for an incredible guy. 

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Absolutely fantastic, and my favorite part might be your inclusion of all the provenance details! I voted for 2 & 6 (purely on the basis of attractiveness), and also 8 (not only because it's outstanding, but because I became very familiar with that type in researching the controversy as to whether the reverse of my M. Herennius denarius portrays Aeneas & Anchises or one of the Catanaean brothers). If I could have voted for a fourth, it would probably have been # 5.

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Spectacular coins! I can't vote less than 4. My choices were #9 because Tarsus coins are simply impossible to ignore. #7 Thasos stater - this is my favorite design and I was more than happy to acquire an archaic drachm; #4 - great tetradrachm, peak of Greek artistry and #1 - here it is pretty obvious. 

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Wow, great coins! Another set that it is tough to choose from. I'll go with the #2. Augustus / the Curia Julia in first place because of the remarkable depiction of this most important building. Then the #1. Julius Caesar lifetime portrait denarius because it is an iconic coin that is also on my bucket list. In third place I'll put #9. Tarsus stater / Double walls because I just love the architectural scene.

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I am with the crowd : my three choices are the one gaining the most votes so far ...

# 5 Antigonos Doson is my first choice. The Portrait of Poseidon is beautiful, but I'm in awe with the reverse since I first saw the Alberic du Chastel's example of the type a few years ago (in a book, not in hand unfortunately)

# 1 who wouldn't want a lifetime JC in their collection, and this one is the kind of specimen to my taste : some minor flaws that don't distract from the coin, a distinctive and strong portrait of the dude

# 2 everything is to like on this one, great style, great preservation, spectacular reverse scene, and a most interesting writeup to boot

 

Cherry on the cake, all those provenances are astounding. I can just try to imagine the sum of work you've done searching all of them

You have an admirer here Sir !

Q

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Thank you to all of you for the kind words and votes! I am very happy to see that there is a fairly even distribution of votes with the outliers being the JC portrait pulling ahead and the the JC Aeneas falling behind.

My #4 or #5 could well move up my list in the future if I ever solidify additional provenance for them.

I still have to catch up on photography for some of the contenders but here is one that I considered for the 10 spot.

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Roman Empire
TITUS (79-81)
AR Denarius, Rome mint, struck Jan. 1 - Jul. 1, AD 80
(3.36 g, 17 mm)
Obv.: IMP TITVS CAES VESPASIAN AVG P M, Laureate head left
Rev.: TR P IX IMP XV COS VIII P P, Elephant advancing left
Ref.: RIC II (1926) 22b; RIC II.1 (2007) 116
Ex Numismatik Naumann Auction 131, lot 658 (August 6, 2023)

You can see my write up on it here.

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What a spectacular list, Curtis! It is very hard to pick favorites, but the Syracusan tetradrachm and the denarus with a lifetime portrait of Caesar stand out to me. You certainly had a great collecting year.

I wish you all the best for 2024.

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