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Ewomack's Top 5 Coins for 2023...

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I only acquired 14 coins in 2023, so a "top 10" feels a little excessive. Maybe a top 5? I've never done one of these lists before, so pardon me while I attempt to muddle through this tradition...

5. Greek Obol - Pisidia
Almost exactly a year ago, I bought my first Greek coin, a tiny, humble Obol. I had read about Obols in various ancient Greek Cynic works, so I thought I should experience at least one of them in person. Diogenes of Sinope's disparaging claim that "philosophers are worth 3 Obols" really hits home upon seeing one in hand. 😄 Yet it displays amazing artistry despite its miniscule size.
Pisidia; Selge; c. 250 - 190 BCE; AR Obol; 0.89 grams; Obv: Facing gorgeoneion; Rev: Helmented head of Athena right,
astragalos to left; SNG Ashmolean 1546 - 50, SNG BN 1948-54


4. Anonymous Æ Follis - Attributed to Romanus IV Diogenes
At this time I'm picking up mostly Byzantine coins, so that includes the Anonymous Follis series. I found this example aesthetically pleasing, though Mary's face on the reverse looks slightly sandblasted. A fascinating series that displays Byzantine history, the ultimate long term victory of the iconodules, and the beginnings of the eventual end for the long running empire. Some of its greatest strengths were also some of its greatest weaknesses.

Romanus IV Diogenes AD (1068-1071); Constantinople; Æ Anonymous Follis, Class G, Obv: IC-XC to left and right of bust of Christ, nimbate, facing, right hand raised, scroll in left, all within border of large dots; Rev: MP-ΘV to left and right of Mary, nimbate, ands raised, all inside border of large dots; 26-28 mm. 10.2 gm.; Sear 1867


3. Anastasius I - Æ Follis
Decent portraits of the Emperor who initiated the era of "Byzantine Coinage" seemed really hard to find. Then, one random day (actually, it was October 17th, 2023), this coin appeared at what seemed like an amazing price. It's not perfect by any means, but it had everything that I wanted in an Anastasius I follis. I was very happy to fill that important historical gap with this example. I also picked up a copy of Metcalf's 1969 book The Origins of the Anastasian Currency Reform not long after this coin arrived.

Anastasius I (491-518), Æ follis-17.41g, 33 mm, Constantinople mint; Obv: DN ANASTASIVS PP AVG, Diademed, draped and cuirassed bust of Anastasius right; rev: Large "M", delta below, cross above, star to each side, "COM" in exergue; Sear 19


2. Anonymous Æ Follis - Attributed to Romanus III
Yes, another Anonymous Follis. Decent portraits on Class B examples seem almost non-existant, so I grabbed this one despite its slabbed state. The overstrike, in this case onto a Class A2, also appealed to me, since overstriking an anonymous type onto another anonymous type seems like a strange thing to do. It probably made sense at the time. The Obol above arrived at the very beginning of 2023 and this one arrived very near the end. The numismatic year began and ended on high notes.

Romanus III (1028-1034); Constantinople; Æ Anonymous Follis, Class B, Obv: IC to left, XC to right, to bust of Christ, nimbate, facing, holding book of Gospels; Rev: IS XS / BAS ILE / BAS ILE to left and right above and below cross on three steps; 29 mm. 10.2 gm.; Sear 1823


1. Romanus I Lecapenus - Æ Follis
This coin isn't rare, Sear even says that it was issued in "great quantities," and it isn't in absolutely top condition for its type (though it's likely above average), but for some reason I just can't stop staring at it. Its aesthetic appeals to me deeply in some ineffable way. Romanus I's fierce expression, the labarum leaning casually on his shoulder, the slightly off center cross on the globus cruciger, and the interesting meld of Latin and Greek on the coin's text make this a coin that I have trouble forgetting about. After it first arrived, I kept it in a Saflip out on my desk and found myself looking at it multiple times throughout the day. I even sent a photo of it to a few of my co-workers and they thought it was "cool" (though they also thought that I must have spent an absolute fortune on it, which I didn't). His reputation as "The Gentle Usurper" who reigned completely within the reign of Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus just adds to the appeal. For all of these reasons this has become not only my favorite coin of 2023, but one of my favorite coins in my entire pile.
Romanus I Lacapenus (920 - 944); Constantinople Æ Follis; Obv: +RwMAN bAS-ILEVS Rwm’ Facing bust of Romanus I, bearded, wearing crown and jeweled chlamys, and holding labarum and globus cruciger; Rev: +RwMA/N’ENΘEwbA/SILEVSRw/MAIwN; 27mm, 8.09g, 6h; R.1886-8, Sear 1760

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Brilliant assemblage, @ewomack.  ...And your follis of Romanus I is Just Fine --not an attempt at grading per se!  The patina is fantastic.  The Latin element in the legends coolly evokes the precedent of Leo VI. 

You've got me back to trawling for a follis of Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus.  That's been on the back burner, but literally for decades.  Time to get real about it.


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Admittedly, Byzantine is outside of my scope, though I will say I quite like the Christ portrait on #4 and #1 is just an overall cool looking coin.

The Pisidia obol is cute.  How can you not love a face like that, staring up at you from the mists of time?  (In fact, you've got two faces to look at on that one!)

Edited by lordmarcovan
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Posted (edited)

Thank you for the comments everyone! I will likely never possess a top-notch collection that inspires swoons from the masses (i.e., I'm too cheap to buy ancient gold), but I'm nonetheless having quite a bit of fun buying these beguiling Byzantine bronzes. They appear to be an obscure acquired taste. I apparently have acquired it, perhaps obscurely.

Following my final 2023 purchase, I told myself that I was going to take an extended break from coins, but I already seem to have another one in the post on its way to me.

So much for discipline in 2024. It took me only 4 days to completely obliterate that resolution. I apparently have the resilience of a wet napkin.

Edited by ewomack
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