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an interesting Electrum Aspron Trachy of John I

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This is my first electrum coin of the post-1092 reform.  The History of Byzantium podcast got me in the Byzantine mood.  Gold has been too outrageous lately to buy much of anything, but I came across what I thought was a good deal.


(the Forum description): Electrum aspron trachy, DOC-1 IV 8d; Morrisson BnF 60/Cp/El/3; Wroth BMC 46; Ratto 2098; Grierson 1068; CLBC I 3.2.2; Sommer 60.5; SBCV 1942, VF, scyphate, obv. double struck, graffiti/scratches, Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey) mint, weight 3.662g, maximum diameter 32.2mm, die axis 180o, 1122 - 8 Apr 1143 A.D.; obverse Christ seated facing on throne without back, bearded, wearing tunic and kolobion, raising right in benediction, gospels in left hand, IC - XC (Greek abbreviation: Ihso�s Xrist�s - Jesus Christ) flanking nimbus, three pellets at each side of throne; reverse + Iw / ∆ECΠO/TH in column of four rows on left, Θ / ΓE/PW/ΓI in column of four rows on right, John (on left) and St. George standing facing, together holding patriarchal cross on a small globe between them, John wearing crown, divitision, and chlamys with dot (control symbol) below the tablion, St. George nimbate, in military dress, left hand on sword at side; from the S. Lindner Collection; ex Numismatic Naumann auction 71 (4 Nov 2018), lot 680;


There was a German example of the same type which I had my eye on for months, but it has a chip, is 90 or 100 dollars higher, and also had some striking issues.  This one had a badly double struck obverse, but the reverse was what I bought the coin for.

I was also glad to support Forum.  I'll have to ask them about sending it via first class vs. priority next time.  I didn't think about it until well after the order (as none of the dealers from whom I buy send via Priority) but I started worrying about what would happen if they used a regular Priority mailer; I.e. would the postman bend it or just toss it by the door?  It was indeed the mailer which I worried about, but no harm was done; I had sense enough to write a note to the postman and it arrived when I was home.  I am quite delighted with my purchase.

I kind of remember them using a somewhat smaller padded envelope for past purchases.

I'm always rather nervous about ordering scyphate coins.  What if it gets squished?  But the last scyphate one I remember ordering was back in 2009.

I wonder what the gold percentage is on the John II issues?  It doesn't look like there's much gold in hand.

It's a shame that the History of Byzantium podcaster has so much stuff going on at the moment.  I really wanted to hear a podcast about Andronicus.

I also wanted a Trachy of Andronicus but found 0 on vcoins.  On a scale of 1 to 10 (rarest), how scarce are Andronicus Bi Aspron Trachea?  They can't be THAT rare.

Who was it that posted about the electrum series being mostly used in Anatolia?  Why did that happen? 

Feel free to post your AV and Electrum coins of the 1092-1204 Byzantine period.



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The coin was in theory 1/3rd gold, about 5 to 7 carats, it was called during its time period a Trikephalon but in the collecting world it is the electrum aspron trachy.  3 of these were equal to a Hyperpyron. And this coin was thought to be equal to 16 billion aspron trachea. 

Andronicus gold coinage, be careful, check out the forum site on fakes, they command a high price, know the seller.  It is the only time I have purchased an incased coin just because I wanted a second opinion before getting one. You can find his billion trachea much more easily and without worry. 

The circulation pattern is unknown why, but the hoard finds have led us to the separation of circulation of several of the denominations from the Alexius I coin reform of 1092.  Your coin of course was minted by his son and was known as John the Beautiful because of his pious ways. 

In the last part of the century starting with Andronicus and Isaac II the gold content in Trikephalon begins to drop below 5 carats down to 3 carats. So those coins look less yellow than yours. 

I am glad the coin found a good home. 



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Thanks; It appears I made a typo on the title.  I meant John II.

Interesting, I learned something; I didn't know it was called a Trikephalon!  I rather like that better than Electrum Aspron Trachy.

No worries about Andronicus; the price of Andronicus gold is way beyond my budget.  A vcoins Andronicus Trikephalon is going for $1700.

How soon did the de facto electrum coins of Michael and Nicephorus go out of circulation?  Did those have anything to do with the creation of the Trikephalon denomination?



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They had a problem with people trying to pay taxes with the debased money after the reform in 1092, I recently read that Alexius raised the taxes for people paying in old currency, so the government got the proper amount.  

Money had quickly become debased in the 11th century, the follis weight fell in a period 50 years from 13gm to 5gm.  

Alexius made the very first currency based on mixed metals. So your coin was a mix of gold and silver and the billion trachea were a mix of silver and copper and so were the City Tetartera, mixed silver with copper. He was criticized for this, but the system lasted for over a century.  

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Being an opportunistic buyer I pounced on another coin.  Stay tuned, although this one's not as nice. It does fill a hole, though.  I previously did not have a coin of said ruler.

Was the coin of this thread called a Trikephalon because of the three figures?

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@Nerosmyfavorite68 look forward to your next coin, I am sure it will be a winner.  I just got a better coin that I have to crack out of its case, it is a replacement coin for a filler I bought only a few months ago. I will post when I am home from travel.

Trikephalon is unknown why it was called that, their was a coin ( My memory is foggy) that had three on one side from an earlier ruler, that to, NOT denomination but that specific coin had that name too becaused of three figures on one side of the coin. 

Just so you see, Dumbarton Oakes web site, check this listing.

Manuel I Komnenos, Electrum, Trikephalon (Aspron Trachy), Constantinople, 1143-1152? — Dumbarton Oaks (doaks.org)

Plenty is starting to surface about the time period but keep in mind, this in a newer section of collecting, before Hendy's book in 1969, none of these coins had proper names, or understanding of how the coinage of the reform worked. I was reading an article by Metcalf the other night, he calls all tetartera under the name follis, but the research was done in 1965. I have to break out BMC to see what coins he is describing in the text. He was using a catalog written 60 years earlier to illustrate the coins. 


Here is an Alexius I Comnenus Trikephalon with only two figures.  ( Edit, ummm the head of baby Christ would make it three. so...I goofed on that example, you might be right. The rest seem to have three people on them.)




Edited by Simon
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Lovely Trikephela! Really nice reverse on yours @Nerosmyfavorite68. And the one posted by @Simonis spectacular. Love that Mary with Jesus head peeking out (looks like a kangaroo pouch w/ a joey!), and the beautifully struck rev legend.

On the old terminology for the late bronze coinage, I enjoy the old distinction between scyphate and "flat coinage"! (E.g. Goodacre's 1938 article, "The Flat Bronze Coinage of Nicaea"!)

Edited by Curtis JJ
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On 7/23/2022 at 3:21 PM, Simon said:

3 of these were equal to a Hyperpyron. And this coin was thought to be equal to 16 billion aspron trachea.

At first I was gobsmacked by the exchange rate (worse than the third century crisis!) but then I realized it was a typo for “billon.” 😆 (Damn autocorrect, probably!) Anyway, you might want to fix that. 

Now I’m amazed the exchange rate was so low!

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Okay i see, billon, not the number but the mix of silver and copper. : ) ( AG?)

Hypeyron is equal to three Electrum Aspron Tachy.

One Electrum Aspron Trachy was equal to 16 of the  Billon Aspron trachy. 

So one Hyperpyron was equal to 48 Billon Trachea. 

This changes, throughout the century as debasement occurs under Manuel I Comnenus.

Also not to make this more complex but after Alexius i Comnenus  a seperation is showing between the denominations. Only in the Capital are all the denominations  found.

In Greece it was Hyperpyron and copper trachea.

In Asia Minor, Electrum trachea and billon trachea.

We dont know why but hoard finds and single losses point heavily to the seperation. 



Edited by Simon
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Posted (edited)

That's a very nice Alexius Trikephalon, Simon.  And it also looks to have more gold than mine.  All of my post-1092 gold are examples of John II; a fluke of what was affordable at the time.

That's even more interesting that my Trikephalon might have been circulating in Anatolia.

Were magnates in Anatolia given their land back after Alexius' reconquest, or did they ever lose it in the first place?

My new buy isn't as nice as the John II, although the karat count is probably higher.  However, I got it on the cheap and I now have an example of that emperor.

Edited by Nerosmyfavorite68
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@Simon Yup, but you (or your autocorrect, more likely) are still writing “billion” with the extra “i” in it. Should be b-i-l-l-o-n. Only one “i”!  🙃

I’m still amazed at how highly the small amount of silver in the billon trachea was valued compared to the electrum coins. 

Edited by Severus Alexander
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