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@jeand'acre's top 10 of 2023


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(Edit: okay, I'm going to clean this us up, a little.)
The numbering doesn’t pretend to follow any speciously objective order.  (Granted, the first three really are ‘bucket list’ coins, pretty much in order of priority.)  But it would be fun to see what anyone else thinks.  


The first one is (drum-roll …or maybe a longer interlude on balafon:) The Stuff.  _CX8aHDg67zIoeRtHBXpvm9jDrtqfzXMFOuzTKeO


1.  Aksum /Axum.  Armah /Armeha /Alla Amidas.  Generally dated c. 630, putting it at the end of the series.  

(Munro-Hay, Aksumite Coinage, p. 75 /Type 153;

(African Zion (Yale UP), p. 116, no. 51; 

(Philipson, Ancient Ethiopia, p. 52, fig. 19; p. 72.)

…Since dated to c. 540-560 in Hahn, Sylloge of Aksumite Coins in the Ashmolean Museum, 2017), no. 72.

I’m still waiting on a copy of Hahn, and have to suspend judgment.  But the fun thing about the later chronology is that it coincides with later Arabic primary sources, reporting that, in anticipation of the broader Hijra which sent Muhammad to Medina, one contingent of his followers went to Aksum, where they received a cordial reception by the Christian negus.  Traditionally, this has been identified with Armah, but until a copy of Hahn shows up, I’ll have to leave that at the level of an attractive possibility.  

Meanwhile, though, the auction listing (Leu Numismatik) includes the complete Ge’ez legends, with both transliterations and translations.  The alphabet, demonstrating the influence of Syriac missionaries, has affinities with Armenian as well as modern Amharic; early enough here to be unvowelled, comparably to older Semitic alphabets.  See below, especially for ‘Negus Armah /Armeha.’

AXUM. Alla Amidas/Armeha, before 540-550s. Dilepton (Gilt Bronze, 20 mm, 2.10 g, 12 h).

Obv.  ነገሠአ-ረመሐ ('ngsʼrmh' = 'King Armeha' in Ge'ez).

Rev. ለአሐዘበፈሠሐሰየከነ ('lʼhzbfshlykn' = 'Let there be joy for the people' in Ge'ez). Cross in outline with central circle inlaid in gold between two ears of barley. Hahn, Aksumite, 72. Hahn & Keck, MAKS, 72. Munro-Hay, AC, type 153.

Meanwhile, this is the best example, of an already iconic issue, that I’ve ever seen. Stick a fork in me; I’m done.

Believe it or not, this next one really was right below that on the same bucket list.  Here’s a paradigmatic instance of how, for the earlier phases of medieval European coins, historical significance can run over esthetics with a semi truck. Right, sometimes verging beyond metaphor.  I’m deeply enough invested in the history not to blink.




2.  Denier, attributed, with a reasonable level of confidence, to Eustace I, Count of Boulogne 1024-1047.  Issued in the smaller, southeastern county of Lens, within the Boulognese comital orbit.  Replete with a Horrendous rendering of the Carolingian ‘CAROLVS’ /‘KAROLVS’ monogram, and near-hopelessly blundered legends.  (Ilisch, Jaarboek voor Munt- en Penningkunde, 2014.  Cf. pp. 19 ff., 4.1 -4.5, citing Dannenberg 1454 and 1455.)

Even within the small number of examples which Ilisch was able to study, the range of variation is remarkably wide.  Even within his own listings, the variations between photographs and older line drawings (sometimes from Dannenberg) are pronounced, for the legends no less than for the motifs.  One must assume that any number of variant examples remain unpublished.

…While the legend blundering, especially for this region, is almost par for the course, the relatively rapid deterioration of the iconic ‘CAROLVS’ monogram is record-setting, even among other early feudal immobilizations.  Demonstrating how far south things had already gone, in coins as in the surrounding infrastructure, over the (edit: Yipe, This is embarrassing) half century and change following the end of Carolingian rule.

…The counts of Boulogne (and Lens) began life as a cadet line of the regionally dominant counts of Flanders, whose vassals they were.  In the following generation, Eustace II accompanied William the Bastard on the invasion which eventually changed William’s nickname (regarding those, medieval chroniclers were a rough crowd).  This second Eustace is depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry, in a dramatic scene from the Battle of Hastings, in which he points to William, who’s taken off his helmet to show the troops that, contrary to rumor on the battlefield, he’s not dead.  Sadly enough, the extant part of the top of the tapestry (likely after fire damage in, what, the late 18th century) only shows “E[VSTA]CIVS.”


But I need this earlier example for reaching only more deeply into the distinctly French apogee of the feudal era.  The Captian kings, whose only reliable power base was the literal duchy of Francia, were still clawing out of the smoking crater left by the end of the Carolingian dynasty.  In this map, the Capetian royal demesne is shown in blue, with Flanders to the north.



And then there’s this. Again, bought for the reign, and the attendant historical context, in dramatic contrast to the esthetics.



3.  Frankish Principality of Antioch.  Bohemond I, 1098-1100, 1102-1104.

AE follis, anticipating issues of Tancred, Bohemond’s nephew and regent during Bohemond’s captivity by Turks in Asia Minor.

Obv.  St. Peter facing, haloed, holding cross in left hand, right hand raised in benediction.  In fields, in Greek (not struck up; sorry, transliterating from Malloy):  PETROC (“TP in monogram”).  Vaguely evoking Byzantine precedent over the the past century; only more so, intervening or subsequent issues by Tancred.  

Rev.  (Here’s what sold this bad monkey:)  Cross; in angles (and as Latin as Greek):  “B [/H] [/]M [/T].”  CCS p. 198; Antioch, No. 1.

Just, Bohemond I.  During his personal rule, in his own name.  This is the guy who is memorably (and justly –there, I said it) vilified in the Alexiad, Anna Komnena’s encomium on her dad, Alexius I.  Himself a son of the equally infamous Robert ‘Guiscard,’ Bohemond pursued his dad’s agenda, from Norman Italy to the Byzantine Empire, as well as the principality he established in Antioch.


…No one needs any obligation to admire these people in order to appreciate their historical significance.  We should be grateful for the multitude of bad examples that history allows us to learn from.  …Along the same lines, there’s this.


4.  Latin ‘Empire’ of Constantinople (just, Ha, Ha; there wasn’t much real estate left beyond the city itself). AV hyperpyron, likely Baldwin II (emperor until 1260); possibly Jean de Brienne (regent and, at his insistence, de facto emperor, crowned 1231; d. 1237).  


An unmistakably crude imitation of an issue of John III Vatatzes, emperor of Nicaea 1221-1254.  And, Yeah, the only medieval gold (and we can just say, gold) that I have, besides taris and other fractional dinars, all at around 10 mm and change, from al-Andalus (taifas, with one late Visigothic  imitation) and southern Italy and Sicily (a late Lombard imitation of a Fatimid one, and one of Robert Guiscard).  For more of the known story about this one, you’re cordially referred to this post.



5.  Here’s an example of the remarkably elaborate motifs in German denars /pfennigs of the Salian and Staufen eras (11th-12th Centuries), despite the toxic convergence of small modules and notoriously weak strikes.  Some of the funnest of them are architectural, like this one.


Bishopric of Magdeburg.  Denar, anon.; temp. Konrad II as emperor (1024-1039) or Heinrich’s ensuing sole reign as ‘King of the Romans,’ prior to his imperial coronation, 1039-1046.

Obv. Crowned profile.  (Somewhat anachronistically: [+SCS] MAVR[I]CIV[S].  (The patron saint of the bishopric, and the first Black patron saint in the German empire.  I’m a fan of him, and Magdeburg.)

Rev.  Walled city with three towers (one at the top) and gate. (Retrograde, but still from 12 o’clock:) +MAGADEB[VRG.

Kluge, Die Salier 428 (slight legend variant); Dannenberg 648 (see esp. his first example, which isn’t a variant in any substantive way.)


6.  I’ve spent a long minute collecting all I can relating to the early phases of the Reconquista in Iberia /al-Andalus, c. earlier 11th into the 12th century CE.  Right, El Cid, Alfonso VI of Castile, and them.  Some day, I’ll finish the ostensible OP I started about this, but it’s already too long to post anywhere except, maybe, academia.edu.  

Meanwhile, here’s one favorite, a dirham of one of the taifas.  They were the de facto emirates which sprang up after the collapse of the regional, residual, but still unitary Umayyad caliphate, c.1030 CE.  The debasement symptomizes the economic toll that generations of raiding and extortion by the descendants of the VIsigoths, from the northern fringe of the peninsula, had already taken.


This is lifted directly from the auction listing, by Aureo y Calico.

Taifa de Zaragoza. AH 473 [c. 1080 CE]. Ahmed I al-Moqtadir. (Sarqusta). Dirhem. (V. 1211) (Prieto 268n). Salvo la ceca, todos los datos bien visibles, con fecha completa. Rara. 4,83 g. MBC.

…But see also MEC 6 (The Iberian Peninsula), p. 665 and plate 27 [p. 666].  …The Fitzwilliam Collection’s examples from al-Andalus are, well, less than stellar, but the early phases are relatively well covered.


7.  This was a foray further into the mainstream of ‘Ancient’ than I usually go any more.  As in the case of that many collectors (you know who you are), the esthetics –or maybe, the information afforded by them– was a key selling point.

…Sure, Fine.  I’ll just paste the attribution from the best listing I could find on ACSearch.


Kingdom of Numidia. Juba I (c. 60-46 BC). AR Denarius (18.5mm, 3.72 g, 7h).

Obv. REX IVBA, Diademed and draped bust to right, scepter over shoulder.

Rev. Punic legend around octastyle temple; pellet within temple.

MAA 29; Mazard 84; SNG Cop. 523.

I need the bilinguality of the legends, even if I can’t navigate anything beyond the Latin.

What was really called for, in this instance, was Juba’s coiffure.  Evoking the dreadlocks of fellow Berbers, shown here, a small handful of generations later, mowing down some Dacian infantry on Trajan’s Column.  (Dang, Sorry, Dacians.  …From Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lusius_Quietus#/media/File:Lusius_Quietus_on_Column_of_Trajan.jpg.)



8.  And there has to be this example of the brilliant series of these, most memorably shown and explicated by Donna ML.  (...Typing this from Google Docs; Just Hoping I remember to include the links.  --Late-breaking edit: @DonnaML, and @Ryro, et al., I'm still learning the finer points of searching on this forum, but this is at least one of the operant threads.)  

From the dealer’s pics, before it was liberated (yes, with a, thank you, hammer):



…Right, replete with the pharoanic crown above the canopic jar.  I’m still not done with the extent to which the Ptolemies appropriated (edit: why won't strike-throughs even translate here, even when you go to the trouble of doing them in More Than One other medium?  The British public Demands to know!) perpetuated the Pharaonic ethos.  The fact that this was being carried on as late as the Antonines still leaves me in abject amazement.  …At that point, regarding the persistence of one cultural tradition, just How Many millenia are we even Talking about?  To quote Van Morrison, I’m a soul in wonder.


The last two literally get to be from Christmas.  In the first case, from a guy in the UK, who sold it to me at less than his purchasing price, insisting that I didn’t pay him until I saw it.  In the second, an Honest to God Christmas present, from no less a luminary than @TheRed, known for his expertise, especially in Angevin /Plantagenet coins, c. Henry III -Edward III.


9.  German empire.  Philipp von Schwaben, son of Friedrich Barbarossa; ‘King of the Romans’ 1198-1208 (assassinated before he could be crowned as Emperor).  Denar pfennig of Wetzlar.


For now, the best reference I have for this is the following.


But, given the blundered legends, there’s lots to recommend it on esthetiic levels.  

First, for anything comparable from the Staufen or Salian period, the flan is remarkably broad, clocking in at a truly amazing –that’s, measure it again, mild expletive of choice, Amazing 25 mm.  For anything that isn’t a, Thank you, Brakteat, this is exactly Nowhere in my frame of reference.

Then there’s the rendering of Philipp himself, enthroned, with his scepter and Reichsapfel (danke, orb), with –I need this– his feet extending into the lower legend.  …And then there’s the ubiquitously sweet gray toning, only more pronounced on the obverse, where it’s that much more called for to bring out the details.  …I kind of need it.


10.  As the last, and only one that was literally a Christmas present, this truly takes pride of place.




Norman Sicily.  Roger II, Duke 1105 -1130; King 1130-1154.  Tercia ducalis (yes, that’s the denomination), c. 1140 CE (cf. below).

Obv.  Arabic legend, with a coolly accurate AH date of 535.

Rev.  Ornate cross, with pellets in the angles and the termini.  


MEC v. 14, 214 (p. 226); D’Andrea and Contreras, The Normans’s coins of the kingdom of Sicily (sic), p. 190, 242.

In this instance, the book by Andrea and Contreras is frankly of more use than the volume of MEC.  As in the Iberian context, I have to suspect that this is partly due to the operant limitations of the Fitzwillam collection.  The book by Andrea and Contreras includes citations of numerous prior references, variously dimly familiar to yours truly, and not.  It also has renderings of the Arabic legends, with literal translations (ex. from this listing: “was minted the year five and thirty and fivehundred”).


This is just one more brilliant instance of the cultural pluralism of the Norman series over southern Italy and Sicily.  As in the case of the Christian rulers in Iberia, these people didn’t feel any need to leave their own beliefs at the door; they merely acknowledged the ongoing presence, and profound cultural (and often administrative) value of the people who would always be their neighbors longer than their foes.

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Edited by JeandAcre
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Hoping you have better luck, @ambr0zie.  Mine was neither cheap, nor beyond my (thank you, limited) means.  Seriously wishing you the  best.  Yes, even one representative example is as fun as they look.  Wishing you the best with that.   And this is the thread, and, dare I think, the OP from @DonnaML


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What bugs me the most is that both the coins were cheap. I don't think I regret more than 5 coins I ever lost in auctions - because this is healthy in the end, it makes no sense to regret a coin you didn't win. Who knows how much was the winner willing to bid. But those two were bargains.

Since the coins are not mine, I will not post pictures. But I can say the Pius example was as least as good as yours and the hammer was 55 GBP 😐

Triple-Facepalm-Star-Trek | Massively Overpowered

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Thank you @JeandAcre , that is an impressive list from a fellow "historical eclecticist", if I may coin a term.  I think #1 is probably my favorite, though I am somewhat primed because I recently saw a traveling exhibit of Ethiopian art (including some Axumite) at the Walters Art Museum here in Baltimore.  Other faves are #10 (I've previously written about the mix of cultures in Norman Sicily, in the context of a bronze of William II), #8 (Pharaonic Egyptian stuff on coins is always cool), and #7 (interesting artistically, as a historical artifact from a culture on the fringes of the Classical world, and also because I happen to own a specimen:)



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Thanks for all of that, @Parthicus.  ...Wow.  Why lie; I envy you the Ethiopian exhibit!  Nearest I ever got was one of the references, the catalogue of an earlier one.  That just happens to include a lengthy article on Aksumite coins by Munro-Hay, with plates that are orders of magnitude better than the ones in his own, until recently standard reference.


And Yes, your example of Juba kicks some stuff all over the block.  (The relative lack of detail on mine was a point of regret from the time I was considering buying it.  May we just say, it was leaning just far enough toward the good side of adequate.)


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9 hours ago, ambr0zie said:

What bugs me the most is that both the coins were cheap. I don't think I regret more than 5 coins I ever lost in auctions - because this is healthy in the end, it makes no sense to regret a coin you didn't win. In the end, who knows how much was the winner willing to bid. But those two were bargains.

Since the coins are not mine, I will not post pictures. But I can say the Pius example was as least as good as yours and the hammer was 55 GBP 😐

Triple-Facepalm-Star-Trek | Massively Overpowered

Shoot, sorry about the surrounding drama.  Yes, auctions are their own, strange adventure.  Still rooting for you to land a good one, not as dramatically high as you might reflexively anticipate (just saying, if it was me...)!

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A wonderful group of coins!  Medieval coins are outside my focus, if for no other reason than the scope of coins produced in this period. 

I love the first coin, the Aksum /Axum coin.  The centering and strike is excellent and a really like the "local" style.  The Taifa de Zaragoza dirhem is also a very choice example and would be my second choice.

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22 minutes ago, JeandAcre said:

Huge thanks, @robinjojo!  Yes, I've noticed that stuff from the taifas runs to being scarcer than either the earlier examples from the Caliphate, or later ones from the Almoravids and Almohads.  But if that's the historical context that you need, you kind of just have to do the best you can.

I don't know if you have access to PBS, but a wonderful program, Ornament of the World,  was broadcasted in 2019 about Moorish Spain at the height of its power and influence.  It is available on DVD:


Here's a preview:



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Thanks, Lots!  I have access to whatever PBS makes available online, from their own website.  

...I have to love the way that, nearly a half millennium after the beginning of the Inquisition, Scarlatti (teaching harpsichord to one of the princesses at the Spanish court) never blinked at including 'Moorish' influence in his own, single-movement 'sonatas.'  --Which, as an Italian expat, he didn't hesitate to characterize as 'an ingenious jesting with the art.'  

Right, anticipated by the 'Moorish' musical influence on the Troubadours by the 12th century, and, thank you, anticipating what white American musicians were doing with Rhythm & Blues by the 1950's.  ...I need all of it. 

...Bookmarked the trailer.  Thanks again.  No, Really.

(Edit:) Rats, it's not available from the PBS website.  But it was truly great to see how much of their stuff is.  Some of it is very memorable, back to when I did television (...no cable; when there was nothing on PBS, it meant there was nothing on).  Might even take a serious look at some of it.

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