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Ursus' Top Ten Coins of 2023


Please pick your favorites  

23 members have voted

  1. 1. Pick up to three

    • Alexander tetradrachm from Soli
    • Celtic imitation of Massalia drachm: nymph and scorpion-lion
    • Thasos tetradrachm: Dionysus and Herakley
    • Roman Republican denarius: oath scene
    • Roman Republican denarius: cupid on goat
    • Roman Republican denarius: altar of Liber
    • Ravensburg bracteate: castle
    • Augsburg bracteate: bishop
    • Rottweil bracteate: eagle
    • Kempten bracteate: St. Hildegard

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2023 has been an all-around eventful year for me both at home and at work. Most importantly, my wife and I became parents. We are incredibly happy but still in the process of settling into a new rhythm of life together with our little daughter – which is why I haven’t been that active on this board recently.


When it comes to coin collecting, I made comparatively few purchases in 2023. On the one hand, I simply didn’t have much time to hunt for coins between some new projects at work and the big baby project at home. On the other hand, prices for quality ancient and medieval coins appear to have risen again, and now often reach a point where I have to tap out. Nonetheless, I managed to add some pieces that sum up to a – for my standards respectable – top ten. Here they are in chronological order:


1. This is my second Alexander tetradrachm. It’s a coin that somehow grew on me. Initially, I was attracted to it because of its rather unusual style and it surprised me that I won it at auction with a lowball bid. The auction house had tentatively attributed it to the Amphipolis mint. With the help of some other forum members (see this thread), though, I was able to identify the control mark as a naval ram and thus attribute it correctly and find some die matches. It is from  the Soli mint on Cyprus - which has an interesting history and is not a common mint for Alexander tetradrachms.


Alexander III "the Great," Kingdom of Macedonia, AR tetradrachm, c. 325/3-319/8 BC, Soli (Cyprus) mint (under Pasikrates). Obv: Head of Herakles right, wearing lion skin. Rev: ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΥ, Zeus Aëtophoros seated left; in left field, naval ram (prow). 25mm, 17.21g. Ref: Price 3097.


2. I like Celtic and other “barbaric” imitations of Greek and Roman coins. This coin imitates a drachm of Massalia and gives the lion on the reverse distinctive insect-like features. Its great luster makes it hard to photograph.


Western Celts: Insubres, Cenomani, or Salluvii, AR drachm (imitation of Massalia), minted in southern Gaul, c. 2nd century BC. Obv: stylized head of nymph r. Rev: scorpion-like lion standing r.; barbarous legend above. 18mm, 2.62g. Ref: de la Tour 2126, CCCBM II 9; KMW 125.


3. Some of you will probably yawn at this coin. It is a common type, yet I had wanted to add one to my collection since I saw an example at the Bode museum in Berlin some years ago and learned about the history of this coinage. The large 1st century issues of tetradrachms  from Thasos were struck by Roman officials in the province of Macedonia in order to pay Thracian and Danubian auxiliary troops that fought in the Mithridatic Wars.


Thasos, Island of Thrace, AR tetradrachm, c. 90–75 BC. Obv: head of Dionysos r., wearing ivy-wreath. Rev: HPAKΛEOYΣ ΣΩTHPOΣ ΘAΣIΩN, youthful Herakles standing l., holding club and lion's skin; monogram in l. field. 31mm, 16.07g. Ref: Prokopov, Silberprägung, Group XVI, 174; Le Rider, Thasiennes 52; HGC 6, 359.


4. I have been intrigued by this type for a while, mainly because of the reverse depicting the Roman ritual of swearing an oath while touching a pig. It is up for debate whether this scene here refers to a specific actual historical event. Crawford argues for a reference to the agreement at the Caudine Forks in 321 BC, but this is far from certain. It might also simply copy the design from a much earlier gold stater (RRC 28). In any case, it is an unusual type showing a culturally interesting scene.


Roman Republic, moneyer: Ti. Veturius, AR denarius, 137 BC, Rome mint. Obv: Bust of Mars r., draped and helmeted behind, X and TI VE downwards. Reverse: oath-taking scene: two warriors facing each other, each holds spear in l. hand and with sword in r. hand touches pig held by figure kneeling between them; above, [ROMA]. 18mm, 3.93g. Ref: RRC 234/1.


5. The reverse of this denarius shows Cupid (or an infant Genius) riding a goat. It is likely derived from a statue that stood in the temple of Veiovis. The goat probably refers to the animal from whose hide the aegis was made, while the caps of the Dioscuri point to the Tusculan origin of the moneyer’s family.


Roman Republic, moneyer: Mn. Fonteius, AR denarius, 85 BC, Rome mint. Obv: MN. FONTEI CF; head of Apollo r., below, thunderbolt. Rev: Cupid on goat, right; around, laurel-wreath; above, pilei; below, thyrsus. 19mm, 3.90g. Ref: RRC 353/1.


6. I like Roman Republican coins that don’t show a head of Roma on the obverse and a horse-drawn chariot or the dioscuri on horseback on the reverse. This one is not only interesting because it was struck during the turbulent years after Caesar’s assassination, it also combines different references to the cult of Liber/Bacchus on both obverse and reverse.


Roman Republic, moneyer: C. Vibius Varus, AR denarius, 42 BC, Rome mint. Obv: head of Liber r., wearing ivy-wreath. Rev: garlanded altar, on which rests mask of Silenus and against which rests thyrsus; on r., panther springing up towards altar; in exergue, C VIBIVS; on r., VARVS upwards. Ref: RRC 494/36.


7. Most forum members know that I mainly collect medieval bracteates, which explains the next forum coins. The first one comes from the royal mint at Ravensburg and belongs to the group of bracteates struck in the region around Lake Constance. Its design later on became the coat of arms of the city and is a visual pun on its name: “Burg” means castle.


Ravensburg, royal mint, likely under Frederick I Barbarossa, AR bracteate penny, c. 1185–1200 AD. Obv. three towers with central gate, small ringlets above flanking towers, pseudo-lettering around. Rev: incuse design (bracteate). Ref: Berger 2533, Slg. Bonhoff 1842, Slg. Wüthrich 255.


8. This episcopal issue from Augsburg is not exactly rare but in very attractive condition. I like that it shows the bishop performing the rite of blessing. The seller apparently got their hands on a small hoard, so I was able to get it for a bargain price.


Prince-Bishopric of Augsburg, under Udalschalk von Eschenlohe or Hartwig II von Hirnheim, AR bracteate, ca. 1184–1208. Obv: bishop facing, raising both hands, pellets above hands. Rev: incuse design (bracteate). 22mm, 0.67g. Ref: Berger 2640; Slg. Bonhoff 1903; Slg. Wüthrich 313; Steinhilber 61.


9. Another bracteate from the Lake Constance region. The Rottweil mint is special insofar as it only struck a single type over a long period of time. Other bracteate mints usually changed types rather often in order to declare the old types invalid and have them exchanged for new coins at a premium. This way of collecting taxes is known as renovatio monetae but apparently did not happen at Rottweil. There is a very detailed studies of all known dies from Rottweil. Mine was struck from die #113. This die may date a bit later than the bulk of coins from Rottweil that were struck during the reign of Frederick II.


Rottweil, royal mint, under Frederick II of Hohenstaufen, AR bracteate penny, 1215–1250 AD. Obv: stylized eagle facing, head r. Rev: incuse design (bracteate), 18mm, 0.36g. Ref: Slg. Bonhoff 1875, Slg. Wüthrich 270, Berger 2565 (die: Klein, Rottweil, no. 113, tentatively dated c. 1270–1280).


10. Last but not least, a 13th century bracteate from a monastic mint. The Benedictine abbey of Kempten was founded by St. Hildegard of Vinzgouw, the wife of Charlemagne and queen of the Frankish realm. Her bust is shown on this coin. It is also present in the abbey’s arms. I can appreciate the slightly comical style of the portrait.


Princely Abbey of Kempten, AR bracteate penny, c. 1230 AD. Obv: crowned bust of St. Hildegard  with lily and cross; pseudo-lettering around border. Rev: incuse design (bracteate). 20mm, 0.38g. Berger 2512–3; Slg. Bonhoff 1837–40.


Please name your favorites and post anything related!

Edited by Ursus
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All excellent coins but #2, #4 and #6 are the champions - #2 for the abstract lion, #4 - a great RR type I am more than happy to own myself and #6 for the interesting design .

Here is a much later coin showing Liber and panther (or leopard - depending on the cataloguers)


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I really love the Bracteates! My favorites are #7-8-9-10.😍 I do not have any/ but I have AV Angster ND/ Bern/ Burgdorg/ Grafschaft/ Graf Hermann III 1357-77.  There were some special gold strikings from original dies in 15th century.

Rottweil is more famous for.....




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Congrats on the birth of your daughter : been there 35 years ago and it's been nothing but good time with the kids !

My vote went to the three RR coins. I agree with you, the ones showing something else than Roma/biga are the most attractive. Since you asked for posting, here are some





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Great list @Ursus, thanks for sharing. I have to agree with you, there's something very appealing about your tetradrachm of Alexander, from Cyprus. The portrait is somewhat different then normal, but very refined. I also for the good old pig oath scene, and the bracteate from Ravensburg (I cant help but enjoy architecture on coins!). 

Have a great 2024, with your expanded family 🙂

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Congratulations on the birth of your daughter! We did that about 10 years ago and I convinced her to put together a State Quarters set with me when she was six. So you have some chance of combining your "hobbies".  On to the coins, a really neat set!. The one that sticks out to me is "Cupid on a Goat". Love that.

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Congratulations on the birth of your daughter. I have two, hoping my youngest shares my passion for coins. My elder daughter prefers make-up, shoes & clothes!

Of your coins, they are all interesting, but I particularly like #6.

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Thanks for the kind words and congratulations, everyone!

On 1/2/2024 at 4:30 AM, savitale said:

We did that about 10 years ago and I convinced her to put together a State Quarters set with me when she was six. So you have some chance of combining your "hobbies".

I very much hope so – I'm extremely excited to see what interests and hobbies she will develop over time. But there is still a lot of time for that...

On 12/30/2023 at 11:15 PM, Ryro said:

I also added this little cutie to my collection this year, 

That's a nice example. I like the portrait style!

On 12/30/2023 at 6:35 PM, Qcumbor said:

My vote went to the three RR coins. I agree with you, the ones showing something else than Roma/biga are the most attractive. Since you asked for posting, here are some

These are all exquisite! The camel denarius with the scorpion field mark is on my want list for 2024. Certainly a very interesting type.

On 12/30/2023 at 3:45 PM, panzerman said:

I really love the Bracteates! My favorites are #7-8-9-10.😍 I do not have any/ but I have AV Angster ND/ Bern/ Burgdorg/ Grafschaft/ Graf Hermann III 1357-77.  There were some special gold strikings from original dies in 15th century.

Rottweil is more famous for.....

That's a true rarity and a small numismatic riddle you have there. The background of these extremely rare Goldabschläge (test strikes, donative coins, semi-private collector items or something else) is still very much up for debate. In any case, that is an extremely desirable coin. (Also: nice dog, though I'm more of a cat person!)

On 12/30/2023 at 2:28 PM, JayAg47 said:

My favourites are the Thasos tetrdradrachm (I'm also after one)

Good luck on the hunt for one!


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