Jump to content

Guidance on Byzantine coins...


ewomack
 Share

Recommended Posts

Byzantine coins have always carried only peripheral interest for me, but recently something in my gut has compelled me to learn more. Perhaps my recent purchase of the book "Byzantine & Renaissance Philosophy" sparked a long dormant neuron?

Where does one start down this gilded and mosiaced road? I did see a Sear book from 1996 called "Byzantine Coins and their Values" ( a 2021 2nd edition exists) and Volume V of the Sayles series, "The Romaion/Byzantine Culture," seems potentially relevant. I also see the tempting 2015 "The Beginner's Guide to Identifying Byzantine Coins" by Fitts.

Having browsed acres of Byzantine coins online, I'm particularly interested in their grading and condition criteria. It looks like the standards of medieval coinage may also apply to Byzantine coinage to a degree. It appears one should expect some roughness from even nice specimens.

As far as reading about Byzantium itself, I see quite a few histories out there, but does anyone have any particular recommendations? I have read some very (very very) high level history of Byzantium, but not nearly enough.

Edited by ewomack
  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

24 minutes ago, ewomack said:

Where does one start down this gilded and mosiaced road? I did see a Sear book from 1996 called "Byzantine Coins and their Values" ( a 2021 2nd edition exists) and Volume V of the Sayles series, "The Romaion/Byzantine Culture," seems potentially relevan

Hi @ewomack  the Eastern Roaman Coinage (Byzantine) is a big field, it is basically 1000 years of coinage and different styles and art used.  

The David Sear book is the most used way to communicate between collectors, I don't think the 2021 edition is a rewrite but a reprint. It was first written in 1974 but last revision was 1987.  If anyone has the 2021 edition, please correct me if I am wrong.

As for where to start I loved the Wayne Sayes series and the Volume V was very influential to me when I first started collecting. Each emperor was depicted with a coin and the story of his reign. 

As with any type of collecting you have to dabble a bit and then decide what you want to collect and have some goals in mind. My original collection was to complete all known types of a denomination, once I completed that, I decided to collect and attempt to complete the century. 

@seth77 recommends (as do I) the DOC volumes, they are excellent but very detailed.  You can find them online for free as well. However, I don't think I would start there until you know what you want to collect. 

If you have more questions, I know many on the board, as well as myself would be happy to help. 

Simon

  • Like 7
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have both the Dumbarton Oaks and Sear Byzantine (the 2006 version) books. Both are fine but I would recommend the Sear book for a new collector ... you just need to completely ignore the "value" part as the numbers can be way off.

  • Like 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The fact that DOC is online and can be readily browsed is such a bonus for someone just starting because it gives you an opportunity to make up your mind which direction you would like to go with your new found interest all the while having access to a professional numismatic work. There are 8 volumes, once you settle for a direction for your collection you might consider getting the physical format for the corresponding books, which will help you in a couple of ways: 1. it is easier to browse/read and you can almost feel where to open a book to search for the right info and 2. you can add your notes and make the catalogs even more complete with new material unlisted and perhaps insights, ideas and/or new interpretations.

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

@ewomack Welcome to the Dark Side of the Dark Side.

My favorite Byzantine coin books are as follows, in order of favorite, with my favorite first.

"Byzantine Coins And Their Values" by Sear : I've used this book, more than any other, whenever I want to lookup a Byzantine coin.

"The Dumbarton Oaks Collection" can be downloaded for free on the internet, and is excellent. I've used this quite often, to lookup Byzantine coins. It has more coin photos, than any other reference, that I've seen.

"ERIC II" by Rasiel Suarez : I like this huge book. It's skimpy on the Anonymous/Jesus folles, but I like reading his descriptions of the Emperors and their coins, and it covers both the Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire.

"Byzantine Coins" by Grierson : This book has a lot of good information, and has lots of photos of coins.

"Byzantine Coins" by Whitting : This book is interesting to read, and has some good photos of coins.

"Ancient Coin Collecting V : The Romaion/Byzantine Culture" by Sayles : This book only has 1 coin photo per Emperor, but it is an inexpensive book, and is fun to read. I like all of the books, in Sayles's 6 volume series.

For Byzantine history books, I've heard a lot of good things, about the 4 Norwich books. I have the 4 Norwich books, but I haven't had time to read them, except for a few pages.

"Byzantium : The Early Centuries" by Norwich : This is Volume 1 of the detailed 3 volume series.

"Byzantium : The Apogee" by Norwich : This is Volume 2 of the detailed 3 volume series.

"Byzantium : The Decline And Fall" by Norwich : This is Volume 3 of the detailed 3 volume series.

"A Short History Of Byzantium" by Norwich : This is a 1 volume short version of the history of the Byzantine Empire. Even this "short" history book is 431 pages long.

Edited by sand
  • Like 6
  • Yes 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

21 minutes ago, Simon said:

If anyone has the 2021 edition, please correct me if I am wrong.

I just bought it. It is a reprint of the 1987 work.
Needed an update of my first edition (bought at 7.50 GBP as a student!)

  • Like 2
  • Smile 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

P.S. : And, Youtube seems to have wonderful videos, about anything you can think of. I imagine, that Youtube has lots of interesting videos, about many aspects of the Byzantine Empire. I recently subscribed to "Youtube Premium" for $12 per month, so I no longer have to watch advertisements, except for the advertisements that are embedded in the videos, which are easy to fast forward and avoid. I like that a lot.

Edited by sand
  • Like 1
  • Yes 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Harlan Berk’s book on Roman Gold Coins of the Medieval World is inexpensive and covers 383AD to 1453AD.  It is a bit old, but is a thin and quick listing of almost all the usually encountered Byzantine gold coins.   It is not a primary reference but it is pretty comprehensive, and includes some rarities as well.  Additionally, it illustrates a few known counterfeits, knowledge of which might well be worth the price of purchase.  I would recommend it if you have your sights set on collecting the gold, as an adjunct to your library. 

Norwich’s histories of Byzantium are good.  

@sandcovered the arena perfectly.  

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Apart from the books that have already been mentioned, here are a few that I use:

 

Lianta, E. Late Byzantine Coins (1204-1453) in the Ashmolean Museum

Marchev, V. et al. Catalogue of Late Byzantine Coins, Volume I   https://www.orthodoxcoins.com/books/catalogue-of-late-byzantine-coins-vol1/

Early Byzantine Copper Coins https://www.byzantine-ae.info/

 

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have few dozen cheap (lower to mid grade but not horrible) Byzantine coins that I bought in the early 2000s. I used the Sear reference for attribution and it worked well for most things (except really scruffy trachy).

I also enjoyed all the volumes in the Sayles series.  

Edited by Oldhoopster
  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

Thank you everyone for the incredible information and the ominous welcome to "the dark side of the dark side." 😁

Though no one mentioned reading it, I did take perhaps a small risk and ordered a copy of "The Beginner's Guide to Identifying Byzantine Coins" by Fitts from 2015. The word "beginner" in the title drew me in and I'm hoping it will start at a very basic level that I can build on for the Sear book, which I plan to read afterwards. I guess we'll see.

I also purchased a lower priced Byzantine coin off of Vcoins that I'll share after it arrives. My brain liked it. Next, unless reading leads me elsewhere, I hope to acquire a decent Justinian I follis. Procopius's "The Secret Histories" also lingers somewhere towards the top of my reading list.

A weakness of mine is owning a coin from the era of a primary source material that I'm reading. A few examples: I bought an early Nero Hemidrachm while reading Seneca (the coin likely dates to when Seneca was running the empire), a Marcus Aurelius denarius while reading his "Meditations," a Julian II bull coin while reading some of his Cynic-themed works, an Edward VI shilling while reading his diaries, etc., and I thought a Justinian I follis would mix well with Procopius.

I really like the artwork on medieval coins and Byzantine coins, at least earlier ones, seem to have a similar mysterious and beautifully imperfect aura. I think I will definitely get into them, especially as I learn more.

Thanks again for the suggestions and the support!

 

Edited by ewomack
  • Like 6
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Benefactor
Posted (edited)

Welcome to the coinage of the Eastern Roman Empire, ewomack!  There are some fine recommendations in this thread for references.  Perhaps the greatest teacher when it comes to Byzantine coins, and other coins for that matter, is experience.  I suggest, in addition to acquiring one or two the fine references, is to study the Byzantine coins being offered on website such as VCoins, MA Shops or Forum, as well as the auction websites.  CoinArchives is another source to research auction trends for Byzantine coins - I usually do this by emperor.

Wikipedia has an excellent webpage on the Byzantine Emperors, a kind of general overview.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Byzantine_emperors

Good luck & have fun!

Edited by robinjojo
  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not a book, but I loved reading this when I started: http://augustuscoins.com/ed/Byz/index.html

For grading, I am usually ignoring it and go with "acceptable for me based on the general condition of the type" or "acceptable for my budget", and in some extreme cases "buy this one now or wait for months / years for a better one" (valid mostly if you specialize). 

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 7/24/2022 at 5:02 PM, sand said:

@ewomack Welcome to the Dark Side of the Dark Side.

My favorite Byzantine coin books are as follows, in order of favorite, with my favorite first.

"Byzantine Coins And Their Values" by Sear : I've used this book, more than any other, whenever I want to lookup a Byzantine coin.

"The Dumbarton Oaks Collection" can be downloaded for free on the internet, and is excellent. I've used this quite often, to lookup Byzantine coins. It has more coin photos, than any other reference, that I've seen.

"ERIC II" by Rasiel Suarez : I like this huge book. It's skimpy on the Anonymous/Jesus folles, but I like reading his descriptions of the Emperors and their coins, and it covers both the Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire.

"Byzantine Coins" by Grierson : This book has a lot of good information, and has lots of photos of coins.

"Byzantine Coins" by Whitting : This book is interesting to read, and has some good photos of coins.

"Ancient Coin Collecting V : The Romaion/Byzantine Culture" by Sayles : This book only has 1 coin photo per Emperor, but it is an inexpensive book, and is fun to read. I like all of the books, in Sayles's 6 volume series.

For Byzantine history books, I've heard a lot of good things, about the 4 Norwich books. I have the 4 Norwich books, but I haven't had time to read them, except for a few pages.

"Byzantium : The Early Centuries" by Norwich : This is Volume 1 of the detailed 3 volume series.

"Byzantium : The Apogee" by Norwich : This is Volume 2 of the detailed 3 volume series.

"Byzantium : The Decline And Fall" by Norwich : This is Volume 3 of the detailed 3 volume series.

"A Short History Of Byzantium" by Norwich : This is a 1 volume short version of the history of the Byzantine Empire. Even this "short" history book is 431 pages long.

Good summation. I have to say basically Sear is the one book "catalog", and Grierson has information no other one volume, (or any volume), has. Those would by my 2 choices starting out if I had to choose 2. The Witting book can be had cheap on Ebay at times, and for a lower price good to pick up. 

  • Like 2
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.

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.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...