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A scarce solidus of Anastasius


Tejas

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I got the coin below in a recent sale. The coin is a solidus of Anastasius. While solidi of Anastasius are common, this is a scarcer variety with Victoria holding a staff with Christogram, instead of the ealier cross and the later staurogram. 

Anastasius I, 491-518. Solidus (Gold, 21 mm, 4.45 g, 7 h), Constantinople A = 1st officina.

D N ANASTA-SIVS P P AVC

VICTORI-A AVGGG A / CONOB  DOC 6 var. ( this officina not recorded ). MIBE 6. SB 4. 

The type with the Christogram was likely introduced in AD 507. According to Wolfgang Hahn (MIB) the Christogram marked Christ's 500th birthday, which according to some older calculations was celebrated in AD 507. The issue is recorded from almost all officinae, but it did not last long and was probably limited to AD 507.

 

 

 

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Posted · Supporter

Nice coin. I am unsure if we can still call this type scarce as well, as over 100 are now known across different officinae. They used to be hard to get, sometimes misattributed in auctions to Antioch with estimates in $1000s. I felt it was an interesting challenge to complete the officina set, which included both normal and reverse S and examples with no officina. There are also two main obverse varieties, linking old and new styles of the solidi changed in 507. 

Things changed around 2017, when many new coins started to appear, possibly from a large hoard. I even bought several of the same die pair as yours. I still miss 2 or 3 officinas, even though these coins were on the market. 

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And a reverse die link.

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Posted · Supporter
Posted (edited)

1st variety - with chest style as in 492-507 solidi (and small number of 507-518 solidi).

image.jpeg.61687b2266cf5542b664b05243e148cb.jpeg

Classical Numismatic Group, Inc. Triton XX. 10/01/2017. Ex. Sincona AG. Auction 3. 25/10/2011. Ex. Numismatica Ars Classica NAC AG. Auction 40. 16/05/2007

 

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Solidus Numismatik. Auction 18. 15/07/2017.

image.jpeg.57f214034774161b7268cbc346071cac.jpeg

Solidus Numismatik. Auction 18. 15/07/2017

2nd variety - with chest style as in 507-518 solidi.

image.jpeg.0df7a55d29d7f7e49afa57768e12fc22.jpeg

Solidus Numismatik. Auction 13. 25/03/2017

 

Edited by Rand
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Posted · Supporter

Congrats to @Tejas.  Another beautiful coin for your collection, and a very desirable one.  

  My first solidus of Anastasius is of this type, purchased from Dr. Arnie Saslow in the early 1990’s.  Little did I know that I was buying a future plate coin, as @Rand was kind to inform me.  This lacks the officina letter, which is a bit unusual for solidi from Constantinople, and for a long while I thought it might be from a provincial mint, but I doubt that now on basis of style.  There is a small die break at the mouth.  

 image.jpeg.60c9c975301695c205c128abcb5c0d5f.jpegimage.jpeg.acabde0984991948fbbfb1c3d40b621b.jpeg

The celator was expert enough that you can see sandals and some toes on Victory’s left foot.   

Plate coin:   Hahn W, Metlich MA. Money of the Incipient Byzantine Empire (Anastastius I - Justinian I, 491-565). Vol 1. 2nd edition, revised, was published in 2013

image.png.ff309cf456913d686226ce517942c607.png

From Hahn:  6b) Solidus 

Obv.: DNANASTA SIVSPPAVC, frontal bust with the head turned ¾ r., helmeted, without ties, cuirassed, holding spear and shield

Rev.: VICTORI AAVCCC, Victory standing I., holding long staff with 1. headed Christogram on top, star I., in exergue CONOB

ref.  *Superior, May 1990, no. 7367 / Peus 330, April 1991, no. 495 / Hahn coll. (ex Dorotheum 464, Sept. 1992, no. 249)

My only other example of the type is from officina B, purchased in a Bertolami auction.  Since @Rand has illustrated many of the other officinae, I will post this one also, with apologies for my amateur pics which were not taken with scholarly purposes in mind.  The officina letter was clearly added some time after the die was otherwise finished.  image.png.25b778c04ff481bf0c14569ce9a9b100.pngimage.jpeg.fea58d1cb74ee645257506d69972b17c.jpeg

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Posted (edited)

Very nice. My collection has a few 40 nummi pieces, both before the reform and after when a new follis of greater size and weight was introduced. Anastasius it is written left a surplus of 27 million solidi in the treasury upon his death. Money that was mostly spent by his successors, namely Justinian on his reconquests and construction of Hagi Sophia. He had been an accountant by trade.

Edited by Ancient Coin Hunter
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Great coins shown here. My notion that the type was „scarce“ is clearly not tenable. Wolfgang Hahn called the type even rare, but it seems that a lot more coins have come to light since  the publication of his MIB. 

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Posted · Supporter

It would be interesting to know what the NF community thinks about the definition of rare/scarce/common for ancients. The dealers understandably refer to historical designations. However, as more coins appear, some rare types become more common, and new types appear, becoming new rarities.

For mylself, I tend to follow a classification of one of the RIC volumes (cannot remember which now, so maybe modified).

  • 1: unique
  • 2-5: extremely rare
  • 6-10: very rare
  • 11-25: rare
  • 26-100: scarce
  • 101+: common

I apply this to both types and varieties - common types may have rare varies (arguably most die combinations would be ‘rare’).

As for the discussed type, I find it very interesting and somewhat hard to explain. I did a die analysis of it, but had to interrupt it about 2 years ago to update the structure of my database, to allow automated die projections and die linkage drawing. I did not want to compromise the additions of new material.

From what I recall:

  1. The projected duration of the issue was about 4 months, based on the ratio of the number of 10th Officina dies compared to the issue with a known duration (PERP issue of 72 weeks from 11/05/491 to 01/09/492). The 10th officina was used as far more numerous, so likely continuously issuing coins. For some reason, other officinas were used less often, some were very scarcely used.
  2. I drew linkages between dies of different officinas to understand their interactions. The interactions proved complex, to the degree that I wondered if officinas were separate workshops and did not have another purpose. Updating linkages was laborious, and available software became slow with many dies plotted. I hope to have a better solution soon.
  3. I tried to find evidence of the transition to the 507-518 series. It is likely that the discussed series was just before it, but it would be good to confirm this. So far, I found very close dies but no direct die links.

PS. I think I have 12 or 13 coins of this type, but my interests shifted more to Western types, so I will need to return to complete it.

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Posted · Supporter

I remain astounded that a coin’s position on the rarity scale does not translate into higher prices for ancient coins, as opposed to modern coins.  Here is a gold coin, a millennium-and-a-half old, arguably quite historic, certainly quite beautiful.  There are perhaps 100 collectible examples, but let us be generous with our estimate and say there are 200 examples.  Some of these are immured in museums, perhaps 30 of them (a wild guess) leaving 170 examples on the market.  

The gold value is not inconsiderable, and the coin presently sells for about three times the bullion value, with extraordinarily nice examples commanding a bit more, but not by an order of magnitude.  The price is certainly within the means of a prosperous professional person, a dentist for example, in the developed world.  

We had all better hope that Byzantine coin collecting does not become an interest of dentists in the United States, because there are 170,000 of them.  If merely one out of a thousand US dentists suddenly became a serious collector, there would not be sufficient supply to satisfy their demand.  

The effect this would have on prices is predictable.  

In fact, the only reason we are able to afford our coins is that the ancient coin community is minuscule.  If a television show ever features a hero or heroine, a detective or spy who rewards him/herself with the purchase of one choice ancient coin after each successful mission, interest will be fueled to such an extent that the market will be radically altered, and the present golden era we collectors are enjoying will be over.   

Edited by Hrefn
Grammar
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Posted · Supporter

An advantage of being on a lazy holiday - I have updated the list of the discussed solidi in my database.

I have photos of 98 coins (26 reverse dies) and refences to quite a few more in museum collections and old sales, which I do not have access to, but the total number is certainly more than 100.

Actually, I only have photos of coins with 'reversed' S officina letter and not with normal S. I found my old note that normal S officina needs confirmation.

image.png.0a0767a8a08797bf82cbd6d37d42287e.png

Based on above, the projected total number of reverse dies is 35. This is not a big number for an imperial mint, which supports a small issue theory.

Of note, these coins are among the best style in the whole Anastasian series.

 

 

Edited by Rand
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5 hours ago, Rand said:

I think I have 12 or 13 coins of this type

This is quite amazing. 12 or 13 of this type alone. May I ask, how many solidi do you have - roughly I mean. I think if Attila were to return we should turn to you to pay him off.:-)

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4 hours ago, Hrefn said:

I remain astounded that a coin’s position on the rarity scale does not translate into higher prices for ancient coins, as opposed to modern coins

I think it does. In fact, as an economist, I'm pretty sure it does. But you only look at the supply curve, the number of ancient coins of a certain type available at different prices. You also need to look at the demand curve, i.e. the demand for coins of a particular type at different prices. The intersection of these two curves is the market clearing price. A US copper cent with a rare mintmark, as boring and historically uninteresting as it is, can fetch much higher prices than an ancient gold coin of great historical interest, simply because there are thousands of collectors out there trying to complete a set of mint marks of certain US copper cents with a certain year.

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22 hours ago, Hrefn said:

Congrats to @Tejas.  Another beautiful coin for your collection, and a very desirable one.  

  My first solidus of Anastasius is of this type, purchased from Dr. Arnie Saslow in the early 1990’s.  Little did I know that I was buying a future plate coin, as @Rand was kind to inform me.  This lacks the officina letter, which is a bit unusual for solidi from Constantinople, and for a long while I thought it might be from a provincial mint, but I doubt that now on basis of style.  There is a small die break at the mouth.  

 image.jpeg.60c9c975301695c205c128abcb5c0d5f.jpegimage.jpeg.acabde0984991948fbbfb1c3d40b621b.jpeg

The celator was expert enough that you can see sandals and some toes on Victory’s left foot.   

Plate coin:   Hahn W, Metlich MA. Money of the Incipient Byzantine Empire (Anastastius I - Justinian I, 491-565). Vol 1. 2nd edition, revised, was published in 2013

image.png.ff309cf456913d686226ce517942c607.png

From Hahn:  6b) Solidus 

Obv.: DNANASTA SIVSPPAVC, frontal bust with the head turned ¾ r., helmeted, without ties, cuirassed, holding spear and shield

Rev.: VICTORI AAVCCC, Victory standing I., holding long staff with 1. headed Christogram on top, star I., in exergue CONOB

ref.  *Superior, May 1990, no. 7367 / Peus 330, April 1991, no. 495 / Hahn coll. (ex Dorotheum 464, Sept. 1992, no. 249)

My only other example of the type is from officina B, purchased in a Bertolami auction.  Since @Rand has illustrated many of the other officinae, I will post this one also, with apologies for my amateur pics which were not taken with scholarly purposes in mind.  The officina letter was clearly added some time after the die was otherwise finished.  image.png.25b778c04ff481bf0c14569ce9a9b100.pngimage.jpeg.fea58d1cb74ee645257506d69972b17c.jpeg

This is a stunning coin. I love the style and the squeezed in officina letter.

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Posted · Supporter

Not that many! I have slightly more than 100 Anastasian gold coins accross the 3 denominations, but many are western types. So may be 50-60 solidi. I can say precisely when back home. Even though I have receipts for every coin scanned and on iCloud, to my shame I have not updated the inventory list for some time.

I have many many gaps with no hope to ever complete the collection!

Regarding the type discussed, let us not forget the true rarities that are likely part of the same the series - of which I have none.

Aureus

Dumbarton Oaks Collection. Byzantine Coins in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection and in the Whitemore Collection. Vol. 1. Edited: Bellinger AR, Grierson P. 1966. Second Impression, 1992. Ex. Rodolfo Ratto. Monnaies Byzantines et D'Autres Pays Contemporaines a L'Epoque Byzantine. 09/12/1930.

 

image.jpeg.126eab182642c2e0ada6b96c195afddc.jpeg

 

Aureus.

Sotheby's. The William Herbert Hunt Collection. 05/12/1990. Ex. Glendining's 03/10/1973.

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Semissis.

An Israel Collection (to be clarified). Hahn W, Metlich MA. Money of the Incipient Byzantine Empire (Anastastius I - Justinian I, 491-565). Vol 1. 2nd edition, revised, 2013

image.png.a23a3a9afa275f4a338430cd3ef9b379.png

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Posted · Supporter

@Tejas, I agree with your economic analysis.  The only reason we can afford our hobby is the low demand keeps prices within reach.  I guess my astonishment should be directed at the low demand rather than the low prices.  I think this is an unstable equilibrium.  The supply will probably not increase massively, even though some new coins may be found.  But I believe the demand has the potential to multiply manyfold. 

If a popular personality, e.g. Elon Musk, were to tweet that he was developing a collection of solidi, that would be all it would require.  If 0.1% of US dentists, plus a similar fraction of lawyers, physicians, and financiers decided Elon was worth copying, ancient coin collecting would turn into Tulip-mania.  

Personally, I do not want this to happen.  But I believe it is a non-zero possibility.  The ancient coin collecting community is so tiny, any change in popular culture  which attracts attention to it has the potential to be very disruptive.  The social isolation imposed by governments during the COVID epidemic probably stimulated the coin market, with real effects on prices.  But there was nothing specific about COVID which directed the public toward coins.  Specific mention of coin collecting, either by an influencer or in popular entertainment, would probably have a much more powerful effect.  

I hope to collect for a few more years yet, so if numismatics continues to dwell in undeserved obscurity, I will not be disappointed.  

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