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Crudiful, or, beauty in the (jaundiced?) eye of the beholder


JeandAcre

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Posted (edited)

 

No denying it, if you’re really into the kind of medieval coins that confirm every negative esthetic stereotype of the genre, that gets to be its own pathology.  
(Right, at the end, the painting the Joker likes is by Francis Bacon.)

Batman - Partyman (Museum Scene)

This might be most emphatically true in the case of some issues from the later 10th and 11th centuries.  When the sensibility is fully in play, it goes well beyond, for instance, appreciating Carolingian legends for evoking the monumentalism you see on Julio-Claudian and Flavian AE.  By contrast, this is about appreciating an indisputible level of crudity as a viscerally immediate symptom of its own often chaotic milieu.  If the historical significance is really your primary criterion, this synergy between coin and context can approach its own subclass of ‘esthetics.’ Granted, on a more cerebral level than the more usual connotations of the term.
…Just bought this example from @Annes Kabel, from his ebay site.
4HjSBbFwjlCiOK4IrtMoc4MosHa6N40fNdT6AyIVJEKvb9eN-22JJS1ZFEbIs2yZQ3nO8I5wH6G9KBDY68LA0QpVXS1gaOGq2wDHps80aA5_KcDp4Jz6pElysFQ5N5KxhM8NlXos3OcDwS7Wh-fkFpA

s-3l8B4UhhLy8LrmHQGt7QQteTfaEK-XJ9E78HWFr27Zpcyo32Gd1D-EMgvzePfPyqVvAWwtVABXjc97DLbPzqk8vesE6GZ23nj1_I9B58uSazqqaBQwbBQ2kCR4wy3-TQ4TzvceUJ0SYYdOTXxLU6M

Heinrich III as German Emperor, 1046-1056.  Denar of Strassburg /Strasbourg.
Obv.  Heinrich crowned, facing; extending into the lower legend.  Legend mostly unstruck; what’s there appears to be blundered.  From a much different example, Kluge renders it [from 8 o’clock:] HEINRICVS [...] IMPR.
Rev.  St. Mary, haloed; facing, as above.  Again from Kluge (and his plate): S[--]CA MARIA.  Kluge 149.
…Right, so the coin has to evoke an issue from the preceding generation.

sz59nDQlKMtUas66gvHZAdKG9Cy8_2pjn8JbUghPkOLplHnXLkB4X-fCi-g8S_sAa2uOr-b7lPOWQJJBGD1cLjuJeGcZCrE0rk18vPYgWwJWYzvqISaR-fpXpjT6TTZWD8sg4diQOkIBQrhLrEnazuw

 

 

Robert II, King of Francia 996-1031.  Denier of Laon, coissued with Bp. Adelbéron (977-1030).
Obv. Robert facing[, crowned]; (Duplessy:) ‘ROB FRAN REX et  déformations.’ 
Rev. Adelbéron facing; (Duplessy:) ‘+ADALBERO LAD et déformations.’  Duplessy, Monnaies Royales 8.

…You’re cordially invited to post your ugly coins, from Any time, Anywhere!  You’d get points for getting into why you like them anyway.
 

 

Edited by JeandAcre
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I will join in.

I got this coin a couple of weeks ago as a birthday present. My friend who bought it was not aware that Sasanian coinage is not in my collection interests. Apparently, there were a number of coins from this King and the one before him that had similar obverse die damage. I actually like it.

SASANIAN KINGS. Ohrmazd (Hormizd) IV (579-590). Drachm.
( 4.11 g. 32.8 mm ). .900 Silver
Obverse
A portrait of the king facing right wearing a crown with two teeth, a crescent and a globe. To the left of the crown there is a star, and to the right a crescentwith a star. "Royal ribbons" flow from his shoulders. Above his left shoulder there is a crescent. His hair is in a bun and his face bearded. There is a necklace around his neck. There is a single rim around the portrait. Behind the rim are three crescents with star.
Pahlavi legend
Reverse
A fire altar "atasdan" with two straight standing figures. The column of the fire altar is covered with ribbons with the ends upwards. To the left of the fire there is a star, to the right a crescent. There is a single rim around the portrait.

 

5299067_1710859418.l.jpg

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Oh you want ugly, do you?

foureemule.jpg.08693b0e4142a8a6176ae5069720f2c6.jpg

Titus(?)/Domitian

Fourée Denarius, 19.5mm, 2.85g, 5h, Unknown mint: 82 or after.
Obv.: [T CAES]AR IMP VESPASIAN; Laureate head right.
Rev.: TR POT IMP II COS VIII DES VIIII PP; Fortuna standing left, holding rudder and cornucopia.
Reference: Obverse possibly RIC II 225 (p. 40), reverse RIC II 32 (p. 157).
Notes: an impossible combination in the official issues.

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Here is a Byzantine hexagram from the perilous 7th century.  Heraclius was hard pressed by the Persians.  After dealing with that threat, he was then confronted with the initial Islamic wave of conquest.  These emergency coins were the first circulating silver coins struck in any number for several centuries, and it is said they were struck from melted liturgical vessels given over to the state.   The coins tend to have irregular flans and blurred impressions.  This one is a brockage with an off center strike,  showing part of the reverse legend retrograde and incuse across the mid portion of the obverse.   The ball underneath the cross, and a portion of the steps, are visible, also incuse, at the bottom of the flan.  In their haste to supply the armies, quality control was not a priority.  

Not a pretty coin, but an eloquent testimony to desperate times.  

 image.png.ec57bca2adda53341d16d57ff99bbc63.pngimage.png.e9d66e2d97c33d56d4f3d71a9255c7c2.png

 

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Insert medieval coin here 🤣

Nice coins of Henry IV are expensive. So I went in the opposite direction.

Henry IV Light Coinage Halfpenny, 1412-1413
image.png.23ad45afb458d8cc1615594a4130ff6b.png
Tower. Silver, 0.56g. Crowned bust facing, annulet either side in upper field; HENRIC REX ANGL. Long cross pattée with three pellets in each angle; CIVITAS LONDON (S 1737).

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The next coin has previously been posted, but at the tail end of a thread last year.    Because it is germane to this thread and has a bit of history behind it, I will take the liberty of reposting it.  

 In 1570, the Turks were pursuing the conquest of the island of Cyprus.  An army of 60,000 Turks under Lala Mustapha Pasha took the city of Nicosia in September.  20,000 inhabitants of the city were slaughtered, with the only survivors being the women and boys sold into slavery.  The Venetian garrison in the city of Famagusta, under the valiant leadership of Marco Antonio Bragadin, were able to resist the Turkish forces for almost a year.  During this time, the emergency issue of the coin below took place.   Despite assurances that the lives of the inhabitants would be spared, and they would be allowed safe passage to Crete, the surrender of the city resulted in a massacre of the Christian inhabitants.  After suffering prolonged tortures, Marco Antonio Bragadin was skinned alive.  

Someone made this coin into a pendant, whether to memorialize the events of the fall of Cyprus in 1571 or because the coin features St. Mark, or for some other reason, we may never know.  The shape of the remaining flan suggests the coin was pierced and worn until broken, then pierced for wearing again.  Clearly, it meant something to someone. image.jpeg.02e65a29e97e7e5781db42eb287083f1.jpegimage.jpeg.8f4f735f901571ccd58b7ffb8e0365a1.jpeg

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Here's one that's of the same vintage as your first coin. It's extremely basic, but circulated around the time of the Vikings and has the peck marks to prove it. I  think it's Bernhard I (973-1011) from Bardowick. A similar type in the past has been attributed to East Friesland.eur50_mine.jpg.fd27be52b85775a2bf5ba4ba7c5ff04b.jpgeur50_r_mine.jpg.178717146e1a45befa66e3dedf963df5.jpg

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Posted (edited)

Yep, you nailed it again, @Hrefn; the piercings effectively, and seamlessly add a new dimension to the coin's immediate historical context.  @RomismatistKluge confirms all you said, apart from attributing it to as far away (...not) as Lüneburg (239).

In light of both your points on coins' careers after leaving the mint, especially @Romismatist about peck marks, here's another of my, increasingly shameless reposts.  AEthelred penny, Dreng in Lincoln.  Even the Scandinavian moneyer's name, from a major town of the Danelaw (heavily settled by Vikings for over a century), failed to assuage the skepticism of the first-generation Dane who presumably got it as Danegeld.  ...I love peck marks, but not so much when they take over the entire coin!  

image.jpeg.bb33427a51daf28b53c511b91a8916cd.jpeg

image.jpeg.724d53593583435b239bb820412deadc.jpeg

 

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Production values were a loose, but it's still Medieval silver!

Germany-Austria, Dukes of Carinthia. Duke Rudolf II von Habsburg, AD 1275-1286. AR Pfennig (18mm,0.83g). St. Veit mint.  Obv: Half-length crowned bust, holding in his raised hands two inward-turned heads. Rev: Indistinct. Ref: CNA Cb 45. image.jpeg.ec8e1e2807696a8bfe788786aa47e3cb.jpeg

 

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Yow, @Edessa.  I'm used to production values for German coins as of the 11th century, but not as late as this!  And Rudolf von Habsburg, no less.  You have to wonder if the sloppy strikes were largely a symptom of how high the original mintages were.  ...A little like how, in the 18th century, when printing really starts to accelerate, the books often replace the copperplates of the 17th century with frankly shoddy woodcuts. 

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Interesting thread.  My collection has lots of low-grade and/or ugly coins that usually come in unattributed lots.  Trying to figure them out is a lot of fun, I think.

Most recently is this silver coin from the (Spanish) Netherlands - I found it in a local dealer's junk silver jar (which was scheduled to go to the smelters!).  It is an "arendschelling" of Ferdinand III and it took me hours to figure this out.  Not in Numista, only two others turned up at auction - apparently these are more common for other rulers.  Anyway, I doubt it is worth much, but I had a lot of fun figuring it out.  And I'm pretty happy about rescuing it from the smelters!

image.jpeg.244685e15f17b50e1d89ada5002afbd3.jpeg

Netherlands, Kampen ND  AR Arendschelling HRE Ferdinand III (1637-1657) MO A[RG IMP]ERI [CI]VITA CA[MPEN], crowned coat-of-arms / FERD • III • D [G] ELEC [R]O [I]MP • [SEM AVGV], imperial double eagle; crown above. CNM 2.30.67 (see notes). (3.93 grams / 29 x 28 mm) AZ April 27, 2024(melt value)

Note:  I found only two of these at auction:  "scarce, most Eagle shillings were coined in the name of Rudolph II or Matthias I" Kavel 6625 | Heritage Auctions Europe (May 2019) Both auctions:  CNM 2.30.67

 

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I often find deep pleasure in things that don't measure up to "normal" aesthetic expectations. Art has saturated itself in "beauty" for so long that it can become a little boring or stale at times. More surprises await in the non-beautiful. The realms of the non-aesthetic (i.e., ugly coins, atonal music, abstract art, etc.) offer the mind different stimuli to challenge preconceptions, stereotypes, and values. Thelonious Monk's song "Ugly Beauty" expresses it well. This thread says it all for me. Human culture and history are both beautiful and ugly, they even seem complementary and inseparable, but we usually spend too much time on the beautiful. I love exploring the less valued realms.

Byzantine coins provide a nice midway point between the Roman and the medieval. They combine elements of both and move the empire's aesthetics into abstraction. They're often poorly or unevenly struck, or overstruck to incomprehensibility. Flans can take just about any shape. Finding nice examples of Byzantine coins can become an addicting challenge all its own. One quickly gets used to saying "good for the type." For example, this Tiberius II Constantine arguably represents an above average quality example for the type, despite its almost ghoulish appearance and extensive pitting on the reverse.

578_to_582_TiberiusIIConstantine_AE_Follis_01.png.327277ca0fc2dae5d26b5c6ce9568a3d.png578_to_582_TiberiusIIConstantine_AE_Follis_02.png.c888350405519ac2cbe33fd4e180e411.png
Tiberius II Constantine. 578-582 AD. Æ Follis (37mm, 16,64g, 12h). Constantinople mint. Dated year 5 (578/9 AD); Obv: d M TIb CONS-TANT PP AVC, crowned facing bust in consular robes, holding mappa and eagle-tipped sceptre; Rev: Large M; cross above, ANNO to left, u to right; CONE. MIBE 25; Sear 430.

History records the usurper Phocas as someone who was "unpleasant in appearance" and his coins don't seem to contradict or sugar coat that claim. Again, this would probably be considered a pretty nice, or at least an above average, example, despite the uneven strike and abstract expressionist flan.

602_to_610_Phocas_AE_Follis_01.png.6c149c90c93488148ce4ab05801cd456.png602_to_610_Phocas_AE_Follis_02.png.93705c96edc6ae518822bd37c2a511b4.png
Phocas (602-610), Æ Follis (33mm, 11.79g), Cyzicus, Dated RY 4 ? (605/6); Obv: δN POCAS+PERPAVG, Crowned bust facing, wearing consular robes and holding mappa and cross, small cross to left; Rev: Large XXXX, ANNO above, II/II (date) to right, KYZA, Sear 665

The sometimes alarming crudity of Byzantine pieces from the late 7th to the 8th centuries reflects the parallel breakdown of the empire. Some refer to this as the "Byzantine dark ages." The standards of "nice coin" for this time frame change drastically from other time frames. Again, this Constantine IV example would probably be considered "not too bad" despite the mauled reverse and funky flan.

668_to_685_ConstantineIV_Follis_01.png.9af231afc75d3c56ee1ef83f3c05ac61.png668_to_685_ConstantineIV_Follis_02.png.0f2f3287da10b37f83f7aa60dd1c001a.png
Constantine IV Pogonatus (668 - 685), with Heraclius and Tiberius, Æ Follis (20mm, 4.38 g). Syracuse mint; Obv: No legend, Crowned and cuirassed facing bust, holding globus cruciger; Rev: Large M, flanked by Heraclius and Tiberius standing facing; TKW monogram above, [SC]L in exergue; MIB 104; SB 1207

Medieval coins then take abstraction to new heights. Some look like they could crumble in your hands.

1000_to_1100_Vienne_Denier_01_01.png.614b6904cbb8871d4c8f3c710a61eea3.png1000_to_1100_Vienne_Denier_01_02.png.3953faff46a05619f30bf37ece95aaa2.png
France ARCHBISHOPRIC OF VIENNE - ANONYMOUS AR Denier, 11th - 12th Centuries; Obv: .+. S. M. VIENNA. (Saint Maurice of Vienne), profile of Saint Maurice, facing left; Rev: MAXIMA. GALL (Grand Gaul)

1000_to_1100_Vienne_Denier_02_01.png.17156fe8486c08e2091cdc094040d411.png1000_to_1100_Vienne_Denier_02_02.png.c1cf377d48b5ab59ada8d985ca0e18ae.png
France ARCHBISHOPRIC OF VIENNE - ANONYMOUS AR Denier, 11th - 12th Centuries; Obv: .+. S. M. VIENNA. (Saint Maurice of Vienne), profile of Saint Maurice, facing left; Rev: MAXIMA. GALL (Grand Gaul)

I love this almost absurdly cartoony coin. I really want more like it.

1441_Germany_Pfennig_Mittelalter_01.png.ed08d2ee7802e5f1f5d814fa0a97ebcf.png1441_Germany_Pfennig_Mittelalter_02.png.401836cc1004e260bf80e22decf4d8a7.png
Translated verbiage from dealer: Middle Ages Germany. Penny (1441). Slight embossing weakness. Very beautiful-excellent. Augsburg diocese and city (jointly)


And then we get to this level. This coin hasn't been mauled past the point of its still being recognizable as a coin. But it's getting there.

Mangled01Obv.png.7479256100c36304e25fc33cbe78073d.pngMangled01Rev.png.db20cd2896473c3afe433575815bec3c.png

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