Jump to content

Barbarian Gold solidus, and a question


Hrefn

Recommended Posts

Theodosius II paid hundreds of thousands of solidi to Attila the Hun, so many that they continue to be found even today.  They are common enough that it is routine to see examples for sale and auction.  This one was sold by Victor England back in 1990.     Despite the massive production, the die work for the production from the Constantinople mint is usually excellent.  Thessalonica employed less skilled engravers, but their coins usually feature a prominent TESOB mintmark in the exergue, while the capital used CONOB.                                                     image.jpeg.d347da6aecb25b46f16383ef0d81efea.jpegimage.jpeg.01b46f90037cca267a753b4b5c16633a.jpeg

Nevertheless, the following coin caught my attention in a recent auction, and I was able to win it.  These are the seller’s images.

image.png.72c6ac6f5e429892523c1fec8468916c.pngimage.jpeg.f54e20cdccc941176359ab216dea6d37.jpeg

At first glance the obverse could be a normal imperial solidus from a worn die, though on close inspection the letters are a bit idiosyncratically formed, and the celator ran out of room for the full PF AUG after THEODOSIUS.  But the reverse…..either everyone in the mint at Constantinople was very drunk, or this is imitative/barbaric/Migration Era/from unknown Germanic tribe.  All I can say for certain is that the celator was illiterate, the coin weighs 4.5 grams, and it is not official.  An ACS image search yielded only this coin, though my skill using the image search is not good.  

Imitative solidi of Theodosius II are a mystery.  Please feel free to post your thoughts and speculations, newest imitative or barbaric coins, or anything related.  

 

Edited by Hrefn
Spelling
  • Like 11
  • Yes 1
  • Cool Think 1
  • Heart Eyes 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hrefn, I think you made an important find 😉! The coinage of Theodosius II from the Constantinople mint was of high quality, see the example from my collection posted below. Theo.IISolidusAlKowskyCollection.jpg.a2dd278c551cafa8bf6f4244b6b7743e.jpg

Your recent find reminds me of an Uncertain Germanic Solidus in my collection, see example posted below.

GermanicSolidusofZenolate5thcen..jpg.816429dc598bf7de67ac35ae0e363759.jpg

 

 

 

 

Edited by Al Kowsky
  • Like 11
  • Thanks 1
  • Cookie 1
  • Heart Eyes 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Al Kowsky said:

Hrefn, I found a fascinating barbaric imitation of a Theodosius II solidus from CNG 61, lot 2165, that also sold on CNG Coin Shop, # 885434. 

885434.jpg.1c0f4ca82086aaa09d95a77ab9d190b4.jpg

https://www.cngcoins.com/Coin.aspx?CoinID=25164#

Very interesting, @Al Kowsky.   This coin is really interesting.  Not only did this celator not know the alphabet, I am not even sure he knew what letters are.  They appear to be no more than a design element.  Look at the top of the coin.  See how the ODO _ S on the obverse have been added to the inscription on the reverse in the same area of the coin.  Except, on the reverse he managed to correct the retrograde S, then stuck in an extra X.  

Among other quirks, on the shield there are two guys riding the pony.  (At least, I hope that is what is happening there.)  The lance has devolved into a portion of the emperor’s garment.  There is no understanding of the idea that the foot of Constantinopolis should be resting on the prow of a ship.  

I love the style.  The portrait looks like a certain comedian imitating a certain president.image.jpeg.93355afcd623c79807f1fad6e7e67cf1.jpeg

  • Like 3
  • Smile 6
Link to comment
Share on other sites

A very nice coins, @Hrefn. Official coins of the period are well executed, and deviations are uncommon. So, it is pretty certain it was made outside the imperial mint. Their attribution is even more difficult than later imitative coins (Zeno-Justinian), as these early coins were early experiments with the minting by the migrating tribes and thus were even rarer.

While there is no certainty, one way forward could be moving backwards from the better attributed later coins to earlier coins, trying to link design.

I am glad @Al Kowsky showed his Zeno solidus, which has a style of later Anastasius solidi often attributed to Burgundians and the style is also similar to the shown CNG coin of Theodosius, all of which could have been produced by the same people.

The @Hrefn's solidus is even more difficult to place. It may be interesting to look for similar coins in Scandinavian colllections.

  • Like 5
  • Yes 1
  • Cool Think 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, panzerman said:

This AV Solidus from Anthemius was struck by the Western Roman Empire Mint at Rome. Looks like a "barbarian imitation" However it was struck at the Imperial Mint.

23926.1.11_1 (3).jpg

John, The quality of Anthemius coinage from the Rome mint did vary although all his coinage is Rare. The coinage of his from the Ravena mint is of better quality & Very rare. Pictured below is a solidus of his from the Rome mint that sold at CNG Triton XXIV, lot 208. The CNG coin has better engraving than your coin, but your coin is in better condition ☺️.

CNGTritonXXIVimage00208.jpg.3c499e0b8e6e6d0bdc74c8b3f11f66dc.jpg

  • Like 6
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

@panzerman, great example of the Rome mint for Anthemius.  They were capable of better portraiture, though.  Here is my Anthemius solidus from Rome, beside the new mystery solidus.  The mintmark is not so clear as yours is, but it is pretty clear in hand.  The official Rome mint may have had less elegant die-cutters than in Constantinople, but the elements of the design, the lettering and the epigraphy are all correct.  image.jpeg.bf59138435b78f704f0d2565a98a7fab.jpegimage.jpeg.44ad16e1ddb45e07a80a1ba847c6b0d2.jpeg

Addendum:  I see @Al Kowsky beat me to the punch.

Edited by Hrefn
Grammar
  • Like 7
  • Popcorn 1
  • Heart Eyes 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 1/9/2024 at 6:53 AM, Hrefn said:

imitative/barbaric/Migration Era/from unknown Germanic tribe.

Great coin. I don't particularly like the attribution to "unkonwn Germanic tribes", however. Clearly, Germanic peoples outside the empire did mint and cast imitations, but only in very small quantities and for very special occasions. Instead, I think these imitations were made by local craftsmen at the border for Roman officials, who were in charge of making subsidy payments to the Huns. 

These eastern mint imitations in the name of Theodosius II exist in surprisingly large quantities. They are typically minted to a good standard. So when a payment to the Huns was due, I think the Roman administration used all the official Solidi they could get their hands on. And if there was a shortfall they tasked local craftsmen (including illiterate locals) to produce imitations of this type. These coins would never circulate in the empire, so they didn't need to look official. However, they had to have the correct weight.

A large number of these imitations ended up in Scandinavia, probably through trade and Scandinavian warbands like the Heruls, who were active in south eastern Europe during that time. 

Here is one of mine. The coin weighs the full 4.5 grams and was found in western Ukraine. 

solidus.PNG

Edited by Tejas
  • Like 11
  • Cool Think 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

7 minutes ago, Tejas said:

Instead, I think these imitations were made by local craftsmen at the border for Roman officials, who were in charge of making subsidy payments to the Huns. 

This does make sense! Apart from the style and typos, the coins are of good fabric and metal (from their look). One possibility is that they were produced in borderland towns with previous minting traditions (e.g., Serdica, as a random example). New mints/workshops are also possible, of course.
Parts of Gothic tribes were serving Huns, which may give the wrong impression that the coins were Gothic produce.

  • Like 2
  • Cool Think 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Below is a coin from my collection, which was almost certainly produced outside the Roman empire, possibly in Scandinavia or in Britain. 

Indeed, the coin was found in Kent, England, but Svante Fischer (Barbarous imitations in Scandinavian solidus hoards" in Nordic Numismatic Journal 2. series 2. p. 17 No. 7-8) shows a die-identical piece from a hoard in Gotland, Sweden (cf. the second coin below).

Fischer suggests that the coin was made in Scandinavia, but given the find spot for my coin a mint in south eastern England under control of Anglo-Saxons, Jutes or Frisians is a possibility too. The obverse bust is similar to the famous Anglo-Frisian Skanamodu-solidus in the BM. Also, the coin imitates a western mint coin of Valentinian III (Ravenna?), which may argue for Britain rather than Gotland as the place of manufacture.

The coin weighs 4.35 gr., but the metal is a pale-gold alloy, which the Huns would likely not have accepted from the Romans. 

solidus1.PNG

soldidus2.PNG

Edited by Tejas
  • Like 6
  • Thanks 1
  • Yes 1
  • Cool Think 1
  • Heart Eyes 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

39 minutes ago, Tejas said:

I don't particularly like the attribution to "unkonwn Germanic tribes", however. Clearly...

I just wanted to point out that this period is not my “area of expertise” at all and I therefore always enjoy reading your comments and explanations. Always very exciting to find out the details from you here. Please continue...

  • Like 1
  • Yes 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Tejas said:

These coins would never circulate in the empire, so the didn't need to look official. However, they had to have the correct weight.

This also gives clues about the 491-492 ANASTASIVS PERP solidi attributed to Thessaloniki. These solidi are identified by the lack of an officinae letter and two stars on reverse. Below are my two examples.

These solidi are about four times rarer than similar solidi from Constantinople, which is not unexpected. However, the projected die number is much higher for Thessaloniki solidi than for Constantinople solidi. There were even suggestions that Thessaloniki mint ignored the change from ANASTASIVS PERP to ANASTASIVS PP, which likely happened on 01/09/492 after the indiction cycle.

Several Western mints followed the change, and I see no reason why Thessaloniki would not. I think these coins were mass-produced during 491-492 to pay the Ostrogoths engaged in the siege of Ravenna and tributes to other tribes. This is supported by the fact that the two coins with known find provenances are from Gotland and Slovakia (route to Gotland). A third solidus from the Stockholm collection has no provenance record but is likely to be a local find.

However, I could not explain why some dies deviate from in style (the third coins below, not mine). To meet the demand, some of those coins were possibly produced by irregular craftsmen, possibly outside the Thessaloniki mint - similar to the Theodosius II solid above.

image.jpeg.f6553f070b98a36762d4726d0c10f1d5.jpeg

Roma Numismatics Limited. Auction 12. 29/09/2016

 

image.jpeg.f7fae791f68b0cb87d87268a2f12000f.jpeg

 

Fritz Rudolf Künker GmbH & Co. KG. eLive Auction 60. 26/05/2020

 

image.png.1ea74c36953b21ce244a7e6de629a68c.png

Stack's Bowers Galleries. Public Auction of U.S. Gold, Silver & Copper Coins, U.S. Paper Currency and World Gold & Silver Coins. 09/03/2006. NOT MINE

 

  • Like 6
  • Cool Think 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My attribution of my solidus as “ imitative/barbaric/Migration Era/from unknown Germanic tribe “ was intended to indicate the uncertainty of its origin.  Tejas’ theory of the origin of solidi which look like mine is very reasonable.  But considering the coining of gold was a jealously guarded imperial prerogative, one would have to suppose a provincial official who was granted by Constantinople, or, who arrogated to himself the authority to coin gold.  He would be senior enough to be responsible for conveying tribute, have access to coinable gold and lots of it since there is no point in making just a few solidi if he were in that position, and have the means to actually make the coins.  Granted, the tools could be borrowed or appropriated from a pre-existing establishment. 

The question arises, why not just give the Huns, or whomever the recipient was, the bullion?  Ultimately, they were probably just going to melt it for jewelry, sword hilts, and horse trappings anyway.  Why coin the gold?   The only reason would be if the recipients insisted on it. Which they may have, who knows?  

Anyway, it is a very interesting topic for speculation.  

Edited by Hrefn
Typo
  • Like 4
  • Yes 1
  • Cool Think 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, Tejas said:

Below is a coin from my collection, which was almost certainly produced outside the Roman empire, possibly in Scandinavia or in Britain. 

Indeed, the coin was found in Kent, England, but Svante Fischer (Barbarous imitations in Scandinavian solidus hoards" in Nordic Numismatic Journal 2. series 2. p. 17 No. 7-8) shows a die-identical piece from a hoard in Gotland, Sweden (cf. the second coin below).

Fischer suggests that the coin was made in Scandinavia, but given the find spot for my coin a mint in south eastern England under control of Anglo-Saxons, Jutes or Frisians is a possibility too. The obverse bust is similar to the famous Anglo-Frisian Skanamodu-solidus in the BM. Also, the coin imitates a western mint coin of Valentinian III (Ravenna?), which may argue for Britain rather than Gotland as the place of manufacture.

The coin weighs 4.35 gr., but the metal is a pale-gold alloy, which the Huns would likely not have accepted from the Romans. 

solidus1.PNG

soldidus2.PNG

Amazing coin.  The devices do look to have been inspired by a Visigothic solidus of Valentinian III.  Here is a likely prototype.

image.png.ea4bd6deb6ef8fc7e03177aa889ebabe.png image.png.0759bc9b297b10de9fbb2eae23b4dcbc.png 

ex: Subjack collection   

but I think the obverse inscription is trying to copy the reverse inscription of a coin of Theodosius’ MVLT XXX VOT XXXX type, with the addition of a Visigothic style CCC.   I read the obverse as XX MUT (CCC retrograde) XXX TAVO.  This last bit being a garbled VOT XXX.

 

  • Like 7
  • Popcorn 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Hrefn said:

But considering the coining of gold was a jealously guarded imperial prerogative, one would have to suppose a provincial official who was granted by Constantinople, or, who arrogated to himself the authority to coin gold.

Do we know this? The coining of gold in the name of somebody other than the emperor certainly was a jealously guarded imperial prerogative, but the coins were minted in the name of Theodosius and in any case would never circulate within the empire. I think there was often a shortage of minted coins and if the coins were minted in the name of Theodosius to the correct weight standard there was no harm done.

To the question why the tribute needed to be paid in coins rather than bullion, my answer would be that the Huns, like the Romans, understood the value coins. Hence, they understood that the coins were standardised to a certain weight and the emperor guaranteed with his name and depiction that the coin was intrincically valuable, which is difficult to guarantee with bullion.

Of course, these are just theories. But the real question is, why would Huns or some unknown Germanic tribes beyond the Roman border mint these coins? They had basically no need for monetary coins. They used gold coins as raw material or store of wealth and in certain rare occasions may have used them to mimick Roman customs such as donativa. 

But again, this is just a theory and I can imidiately think of interesting counter examples which are difficult to explain. For example, there are large numbers of imitative silver denari, which circulated in the Przeworsk and Chernyakhovsk cultures in the 3rd to 4th century. These coins are often heavily worn and appear to have circulated as monetary coins. Here is a typical example from my collection:

 

den.PNG

Edited by Tejas
  • Like 7
  • Cool Think 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

19 minutes ago, Hrefn said:

Amazing coin.  The devices do look to have been inspired by a Visigothic solidus of Valentinian III.  Here is a likely prototype.

Interesting. If a Visigothic coin was the model for my coin, I would almost certainly say that it is an Anglo-Saxon/Anglo-Frisian solidus and that it was not minted in Gotland. 

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Typical Ravenna solidi of Valentinianus III have a distinct dot at the left shoulder, similar to the imitative coin above. The Visigothic solidus of @Hrefn does not have it, so an imperial solidus was a more likely prototype.

 

image.png.23cb782930446c6f034c81065fdcea00.png

 

Imitative coins with signs of circulation had been long produced in Eastern Europe, even before the Germanic tribes and Huns. I do not see why people of the multiethnic groups that shaped these tribal nations would not have had a monetary need for coins in the V-VIth centuries.

  • Like 3
  • Yes 1
  • Cool Think 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

54 minutes ago, Rand said:

Typical Ravenna solidi of Valentinianus III have a distinct dot at the left shoulder, similar to the imitative coin above. The Visigothic solidus of @Hrefn does not have it, so an imperial solidus was a more likely prototype.

 

image.png.23cb782930446c6f034c81065fdcea00.png

 

Imitative coins with signs of circulation had been long produced in Eastern Europe, even before the Germanic tribes and Huns. I do not see why people of the multiethnic groups that shaped these tribal nations would not have had a monetary need for coins in the V-VIth centuries.

Here is an official solidus of Valentinian III from Ravenna.  I was going to say there was no dot on the left shoulder, but there is!  Kudos to @Rand.  I had a professor who liked to say, “You only see what you are looking for.”

Still, I think the style of @TejasKent solidus looks more like the Visigothic coin than it does the official solidus. But each of us must judge for him- or herself.      

Addendum:  I just thought of another point, which may be determinative.  Visigothic solidi usually have a wreath over the head of the emperor.  @Tejas’s Kent solidus does not.   The dot on the left shoulder, and the absence of the wreath, may be enough to render the Visigothic coin less likely as the prototype.    image.jpeg.8700e0612a7b90f75ee930e92d58bb81.jpeg  image.jpeg.db5e69f058a3a55fef340087f197ac00.jpeg

Edited by Hrefn
  • Like 6
  • Popcorn 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Initially, I thought the style of my solidus reminded me of Suevic coins of the same period. Also the pale gold alloy seemed to point in that direction. However, the coin found on Gotland (and another one sold in an auction in Poland last year) suggest to me that the coin was minted in northern Europe. The model was originally probably a solidus of Valentinian III from Ravenna. However, I think it is possible that the direct model was already an imitation. So my coin may be an imitation of an imitation. This also means that it may have been minted long after the original model circulated. I think any time between say 450 and 650 is a possibility. I think the fact that it is a pale gold alloy may also be important. Is it perhaps linked to the Anglo-Saxon pale gold thrymsas? Is the Christian imagery important or was it just copied without any meaning? 

  • Like 5
  • Cool Think 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

10 hours ago, Rand said:

Imitative coins with signs of circulation had been long produced in Eastern Europe, even before the Germanic tribes and Huns. I do not see why people of the multiethnic groups that shaped these tribal nations would not have had a monetary need for coins in the V-VIth centuries.

I think that a monetary economy needs certain prerequisites such as a certain degree of social and economic stability, some urbanization, trade, centralized control and some form of administration. I think especially the 5th century in south eastern Europe outside the Roman empire does not really meet these criteria. Instead, we have different groups like settled subsistence farmers and cattle breeders and highly mobile warrior bands. I find it hard to believe that these people had monetary economies, i.e. a regular need for coins. 

Also, my theory about subsidy payments to the Huns can also be modified to include border trade. Imagine, Roman slave traders in the border regions, looking for new merchandise, which they can sell on the markets in Constantinople or the other imperial centers. Huns may be the suppliers of these slaves, demanding 1 or 2 gold pieces per slave. If the Roman traders were short in minted gold, they could have asked local craftsmen to strike up some imitations that were good enough for the Huns. This is not counterfeiting as long as the coins are of full standard and in any case the striking of the coins may have been done outside the borders and the coins would never circulate in the empire.

I think there was a constant shortage of official gold coins. Minting gold probably produced no seignorage for the imperial coffers as long as they maintained the full standard. Instead, the costs of minting was probably only covered by the seignorage from minting bronze and silver coins, i.e. fiat money which had a nominal value that was higher than the intrinsic value of the metal.

 

  • Like 4
  • Cool Think 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

23 minutes ago, Al Kowsky said:

Maybe it's time to jump on the bandwagon before the prices get out of reach 🤔.

Not a bad idea, though as always, there is so much stuff competing for my very limited budget!  Finishing my Twelve Caesars set is my top numismatic priority for 2024.

I have only owned one solidus, ever.  It was this holed Zeno, pedigreed to the Eliasberg Collection.

7BFDD278-F661-4759-BBBA-C8930EC972BD.png.f943af9af8e15c000a6875698fd92748.png

It was the centerpiece of my old "Holey Gold Hat" collection:

IMG_6380.jpeg.d50f0a678f2d3d770efdf8d5f787b189.jpeg

 

Edited by lordmarcovan
  • Like 6
  • Heart Eyes 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...