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Michael VII - Half Follis - SB 1880A - a real coin?


ela126

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Recently learned there are no free lunches at Olympus Numismatic’s auction. What had little focus in their first auction had several people jumping on the Byzantine rarities today. Most the coins I had interest in went for far higher than I hoped.

One piece which I learned about while researching the coins is the Half Follis for Michael VII. His Follis (sb 1878) is rather commonly seen, however I noticed a piece looking different than most examples, mainly due to 2 columns of dots on the loros instead of 3. Weight was also 4.5g instead of ~7g, but I’m unsure if that could be a real diagnostic here, as flan weights can vary widely and I see weights from 4-8g listed as follis, but with 3 rows on the loros.

I found several high priced sales on CNG, many from 15 years ago, but one more recently (2019).

My question is: 

1. Did the half follis really exist? I see statements saying the final “half follis” was during Michael’s reign. 

2. Is the best diagnostic a 2 column loros, with the follis being 3 columns or more?

3. Is it significantly more valuable as the 2019 CNG auction suggests, than the standard Follis?

thanks.

Olympus auction example, misattributed as a follis?

IMG_5755.png.e99706ac5f921a1bb1872af58895eaae.png

CNG half follis example, with 1880A attribution.

IMG_5752.png.50b7957f3aa98a8e37f59502219d1767.png

Random 1878 follis pulled off acsearch

IMG_5754.png.5768aaa7a17b469648de41bfd44f55cb.png

 

 

Edited by ela126
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I  do not think so. I would not chase this coin.

The weights of the anonymous follis series fell greatly durring the series 100 years of different rulers making them. ( I know this is not part of that series but that is easily track able.) From 18gm down to Alexius class J or K at 4gm. He starting ruling a few years after this fellow. 

Debasement of the coinage was getting very bad, under Michael IV the gold content of the histamena was 24 carats, then 19 carats at Constantine IX, Then Michael VII it fell to 8 carats fine. One third of its original value.

Alexius takes over in 1080"s and then when able to do so, reforms all coins in 1092. The reform was needed.

Your coin above listed is same size just less weight, we have no idea where it circulated, where it was found and if it was found in a hoard or single loss. If it was a single loss it tells us nothing, if it was in a hoard that would tell us much more,such as what did all the folles in the hoard weigh? Was it low or equal? 

Even without this info i would say the coin is light and not a half. 

Simon

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1 hour ago, Simon said:

I  do not think so. I would not chase this coin.

The weights of the anonymous follis series fell greatly durring the series 100 years of different rulers making them. ( I know this is not part of that series but that is easily track able.) From 18gm down to Alexius class J or K at 4gm. He starting ruling a few years after this fellow. 

Debasement of the coinage was getting very bad, under Michael IV the gold content of the histamena was 24 carats, then 19 carats at Constantine IX, Then Michael VII it fell to 8 carats fine. One third of its original value.

Alexius takes over in 1080"s and then when able to do so, reforms all coins in 1092. The reform was needed.

Your coin above listed is same size just less weight, we have no idea where it circulated, where it was found and if it was found in a hoard or single loss. If it was a single loss it tells us nothing, if it was in a hoard that would tell us much more,such as what did all the folles in the hoard weigh? Was it low or equal? 

Even without this info i would say the coin is light and not a half. 

Simon

These are somewhat the same thoughts I have, the weight, due to debasement during the period is a very poor indicator and nothing firm can be determined from this as follis weights varied drastically during this period. Many follis (sb 1878) weigh in the 4-5g region.

More of where I was “hanging my hat” is on the 2 column loros, from the research I’ve done, which admittedly isn’t thorough, is that this is extremely uncommon, to unheard of, besides the one example sold at CNG, and this coin. That, coupled with the similar weight, is where my belief or idea rests that it could be a half follis. Sadly, no hoard data or provenance is available, so at best, it is an idea.

i suppose more of the smoking gun to discount the half follis idea would be if there are heavier weight Follis specimens with the 2 column loros, then this coin would merely be a light weight Follis example.

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11 minutes ago, ela126 said:

More of where I was “hanging my hat” is on the 2 column loros, from the research I’ve done, which admittedly isn’t thorough, is that this is extremely uncommon, to unheard of, besides the one example sold at CNG, and this coin. That, coupled with the similar weight, is where my belief or idea rests that it could be a half follis. Sadly, no hoard data or provenance is available, so at best, it is an idea

The change is unusual, but it would be an interesting design change to make a coin of lesser weight. I don't think it would indicate a lesser valued coin. In any case it is a variation from the original design and any variations indicate a different type. 

I have several of these from group lots, I will pay more attention to them because of this posting, Thank you @ela126

Happy New Year.

 

Simon

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That was an interesting observation, but I agree with @Simon's advice to use caution with this one.

First, these Michael VII folles do not fall into the anonymous follis category, at least according to Sear. It does appear the half follis did exist as Sear 1880a (one of the auctions pictured). Sear doesn't list any weight boundaries, but the book does try to represent at least relative sizes pictographically. Given the usual vagaries of such a process, the photo of the "extremely rare" 1880a looks smaller than the photo of the more common 1878. Measuring the photos gives a diameter of around 27mm for the full follis and around 19mm for the half follis (I admit this certainly isn't a rigorous method). So the listed sizes of those juxtaposed auctions confuses me, but the difference between 19mm and 22mm isn't immense, either. Sear adds to 1880a "As 1878, but struck on a smaller flan from smaller dies." Would a full follis have 22m or 25mm diameters (based on the auctions posted), but a half follis a 23mm diameter? Shouldn't the half follis have considerably smaller size? I don't know, it seems bizarre, but I have to admit that I don't know enough about these pieces to acknowledge anything beyond this confusion. There is also an "extremely rare" 1879 follis, but the differentiation listed is "As last (1878), but with IC -  XC beneath the transverse limbs of cross, and the stars above."

Interesting in any case. Something seems strange in the examples shown, but it's hard to say exactly what. It's probably due to my lack of experience with these pieces.

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2 hours ago, ewomack said:

That was an interesting observation, but I agree with @Simon's advice to use caution with this one.

First, these Michael VII folles do not fall into the anonymous follis category, at least according to Sear. It does appear the half follis did exist as Sear 1880a (one of the auctions pictured). Sear doesn't list any weight boundaries, but the book does try to represent at least relative sizes pictographically. Given the usual vagaries of such a process, the photo of the "extremely rare" 1880a looks smaller than the photo of the more common 1878. Measuring the photos gives a diameter of around 27mm for the full follis and around 19mm for the half follis (I admit this certainly isn't a rigorous method). So the listed sizes of those juxtaposed auctions confuses me, but the difference between 19mm and 22mm isn't immense, either. Sear adds to 1880a "As 1878, but struck on a smaller flan from smaller dies." Would a full follis have 22m or 25mm diameters (based on the auctions posted), but a half follis a 23mm diameter? Shouldn't the half follis have considerably smaller size? I don't know, it seems bizarre, but I have to admit that I don't know enough about these pieces to acknowledge anything beyond this confusion. There is also an "extremely rare" 1879 follis, but the differentiation listed is "As last (1878), but with IC -  XC beneath the transverse limbs of cross, and the stars above."

Interesting in any case. Something seems strange in the examples shown, but it's hard to say exactly what. It's probably due to my lack of experience with these pieces.

Certainly valid to exercise caution. Also, I may have introduced some confusion by showing the Roma auction’s real 1878 follis.

in this case the CNG half follis is listed as 23mm and 4.67g. The Olympus follis in question as a potential 1880a is 22mm and 4.5g. The die size between these 2 is almost exact. So size is similar, although 1878’s have also been this small. Moreso the focus, beyond the similar smaller size is the very odd 2 column loros, which to my knowledge, no 1878’s or really any coins except the CNG example show.

in the end, nothing definitive, but the similar size, and moreso, the seemingly exact unique die of the emperor is why there was the 1880a attribution idea. I think the final determination would be if I consign the coin the CNG and they do attribute it as a 1880a 😉

Thank you for the thoughts and Happy new year!

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