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The (Complete) Dotted Border


Curtis JJ
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Anyone else feel like sharing coins for which the border was a big part of what made them attractive to you?

Even though it's considered a minor design element, usually not even mentioned in descriptions, I'm a bigtime sucker for a coin with a complete border, usually "dotted" ones (or "bead border," or the "pearl ring" in the phrase "pearl ring diameter" [PRD]). (This came up briefly re: a lovely Sev. Alex. denarius in a run of comments recently -- here and here and here -- in the CNG e-sale thread.)

I don't know when it was first used (my earliest may be the Tarsos Stater below, c. 361-334 BCE, and the latest a 12th cent. Artuqid AE Dirhem), but I have the impression it's popularity peaked with late Roman coins.

Given how many coins use a border, it's amazing how few actually have a complete one (or complete one on both sides). When it happens, it's usually an impressive effect, even on common and less-artistic types:

image.jpeg.ddb839f26e1e74e9f45c16326c001032.jpeg

Actually, that one isn't quite 100%. Neither is this one, but still close enough to set these coins apart from most others of their type:

image.jpeg.4a35cf381f74aaf76d7640b5115c6c1f.jpeg

 

A complete border requires a full flan, skillful centering, and a strong strike. Even with great centering, just a bit of weakness and you can lose a big chunk:

image.png.44311b6fee1b7e17f9b13638d51dc4c6.png

For some types (like 3rd cent. Sestertii), it's unusual to see even part of the border, so just portions are notable:

image.jpeg.ef57a1e39469439bd7e4f12b78a6b9e5.jpeg

The border also gives room for dramatic artistic expression. One thing I love about this obverse die on Mazaios Staters (Cilicia, Tarsos, c. 361-334 BCE) is that Baal's staff is depicted extending beyond the border. It's as if the engraver was saying their work was too great to be constrained by boundaries (I've seen a much better-centered example posted here by @Brennos, which is rare for this type).

image.png.4b3a71e53977a8cf6558cf7404e79f9c.png

 

The same technique was used to great effect with Hellenistic portrait coins (of Lysimachos, other Seleukid Kings, and, no doubt, many others). On the Antiochos IX below, notice how the neck truncation extends beyond the (filleted) border around 6 o'clock:

image.png.8776bab69e8529916ec5ef1ed7348b3a.png

Other times, it seems the engravers had trouble working within those constraints. On the reverse below, the legend is crammed awkwardly into the space within the border, but still spills out a bit on either end! You can see also see the failed attempt to make space by curving the legend (and using the tiny dot for "O", which I seem to recall is an archaic form?):

image.png.c016101b8847d9ba8a7ae1da5af173dd.png

When done properly, though, at least for my taste, it can make up for various other defects, such as slightly misshapen flans or worn specimens, and still results in an appealing coin:

image.jpeg.82fea5bf8b49a67d8f64d977b1917697.jpegimage.jpeg.099701e0e908b18b8d0883b5ec7df1aa.jpeg

 

This one even has a second inner ring on the reverse! 

image.jpeg.53baa9b1b8a0dd08bc3a07ebd59a9c1e.jpeg

Edited by Curtis JJ
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@Curtis JJ...Nice coins!

Here's a Licinius I with full border both sides...lnew-removebg-preview.png.666c475fe165671cd6592fccf6d3c7af.png

Licinius I AE3 Follis. AD 318-320....19mm....3.24gr some silvering remains.

Obverse..IMP LICI-NIVS AVG, laureate bust right, wearing imperial mantle, holding globe, sceptre and mappa

Reverse.. PROVIDEN-TIAE AVGG, campgate with three turrets,6 laters, no door, Λ in right field.

Mintmark SMHA. Heraclea mint 1st oficina

RIC VII#48 (Note: RIC wrongly describes the bust as facing left.)

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Nice coins Curtis! I don't have many with a full rim but this one will do.

MarkianopolisCommodus.jpg.3e920eccf2d5a5148113ea12cb86c35c.jpg

Moesia Inferior, Markianopolis. Commodus AE20. Nemean Lion.

Obv: AVT KAI L AVP KOMODOC, laureate head right
Rev: MAPKIANOPOLEITWN, Hercules wrestling Nemean lion left.

Edited by AncientOne
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@Curtis JJ, you are right it is surprisingly difficult to find a full dotted border on both sides of a coin. I have some with a full border on one side and a few that come pretty close on both.

Complete on one side:

E03DAD13-6DBF-4A09-9957-A4A0F96F45B5.jpeg.fab42ff6a89f2e76a09c769cab651508.jpeg

13EC077F-8673-42B1-A3B2-1567E8F266A7.jpeg.692b7137d71b1df07153b04c99e74e01.jpeg

Close on both side

608F24F0-B112-4E65-A060-F73516E54ECE.jpeg.0c51b7201a93372439f237b7f1b514f7.jpeg

Closest on both sides

0ED438AF-3C98-4CA3-939B-200C486DD374.jpeg.20b924ff55bbaca6ce37a5d94e64516c.jpeg

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I had to search for 10 minutes until I found a complete dotted border:

normal_ephesus_fac.jpg.b677db015669cc9e7d672318d9392393.jpg

Ephesos (Circa 50-27 BC)
Jason, magistrate
Obv.: Ε - Φ, Artemis advancing right, drawing arrow from quiver at shoulder and holding bow; hound at her feet
Rev.: ΙΑΣΩΝ, Cock standing right with palm over wing within laurel wreath.
AE, 10.88 g, 25 mm.
Ref.: SNG Copenhagen 344

 

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Extraordinary write-up. Funny, today I was checking my album and I was thinking that you need to select a lot of coins until you find one with the full border (especially on both sides). As you correctly stated, you need 1. a big enough flan 2. good centering 3. powerful strike. Very difficult to fulfill all these 3 points! Not to mention the coin needs to be in a good condition to highlight the full presence of the border.

But I don't condemn the mint workers too much - in the end, they were overworked and the technical capabilities were extremely limited. But every time I check my coins or any auction I can't stop asking myself how were the ancient people able to create such gems and most of the actual modern coins are .... meh.

As I said, I don't have many examples - and this feature raises the prices in auctions a lot, on a side note. Just 3 where both sides have the full borders - the ones with just a side having it complete don't count (but I don't have a bunch of them anyway)

image.png.e87e38b78d93bbdf7b729b36f9842941.png

A Probus antoninianus I liked a lot and the full border was a bonus.

image.png.7b0d3486ff5012365b61ed1a657e2507.png

This Maximinus Thrax would have been an excellent candidate - but the bad strike ruined it (OK, not completely, I still like this coin)

image.png.6439635bdb06d8cfcd5dc9568a88c4b8.png

A Saloninus that barely made it

Although this coin is far from fulfilling the scenario, I think it deserves a mention, as it is (as far as I know) the only example of a Roman coin where the design exceeds the border (similar to the Greek examples posted in the OP)

image.png.0c14fec4befbde9c76bc51ec05983cc2.png

Edited by ambr0zie
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Posted (edited)
39 minutes ago, ambr0zie said:

it deserves a mention, as it is (as far as I know) the only example of a Roman coin where the design exceeds the border (similar to the Greek examples posted in the OP)

 

You're right, good one! I don't know if it's the only one but I've definitely noticed that eagle beyond the border for exactly this reason. Quite an interesting type (for several reasons)!

Edit: by the way @ambr0zie-- love the Dacian captive for your avatar! I love that series of Trajan denarii but don't yet have that one, sitting on the shield. (I think the image was first used by Domitian for a Germanic captive aureus)

Edited by Curtis JJ
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19 minutes ago, Curtis JJ said:

Edit: by the way @ambr0zie-- love the Dacian captive for your avatar! I love that series of Trajan denarii but don't yet have that one, sitting on the shield. (I think the image was first used by Domitian for a Germanic captive aureus)

Thanks.  It is a type of coin that was on the top of the wish list for me, unfortunately the borders are ... partial.

image.png.607dc0bac6f9351d9d36bd090704ebe1.png

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I had a friend who was new to ancients and only wanted to buy coins which had the full dotted border on them... he quickly abandoned that plan. Here are a couple of mine which come to mind as close enough to make the cut:

Ex Biaggi:

image.jpeg.00427c0cca27bdfa1313240515235972.jpeg

image.jpeg.23ed9d391049d87e6caa5be666576e60.jpeg

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Tough assignment! I'm not sure I have any that truly qualify on both sides, although a few come close, and arguably qualify on one side at least, plus most of the other. Such as:

Caracalla:

image.jpeg.3784768574bc37436a6396119b709f45.jpeg

Plautilla:

image.jpeg.daf6ddbd3b0ddfadc3521810fa4766ee.jpeg

Severus Alexander:

image.jpeg.f8b2ef05267da609f4113492de1242d5.jpeg

Otacilia Severa:

image.jpeg.9cf341ac3dd74a61f0587112bd90ac2f.jpeg

 

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11 hours ago, shanxi said:

I had to search for 10 minutes until I found a complete dotted border:

normal_ephesus_fac.jpg.b677db015669cc9e7d672318d9392393.jpg

Ephesos (Circa 50-27 BC)
Jason, magistrate
Obv.: Ε - Φ, Artemis advancing right, drawing arrow from quiver at shoulder and holding bow; hound at her feet
Rev.: ΙΑΣΩΝ, Cock standing right with palm over wing within laurel wreath.
AE, 10.88 g, 25 mm.
Ref.: SNG Copenhagen 344

 

Cock with palm...a symbol of Apollo,   so I'm lead to believe.  The cock crows at first light when the sun ( Apollo)  comes up  OK?  Nice rendition!1501911922_MYCOICKFSRBOTH.jpg.bc5672ec1486be2178b5d266c8a76cee.jpg

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6 hours ago, AncientJoe said:

That flan is something you don't see every day!

Indeed… It’s a special issue in my view. It has a newly-recognised denominational mark on the reverse and is part of a series issued along with drachms (also with denominational mark) and a unique pentadrachm (also displaying an explicit denomination).

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As has been noted a full border of dots generally requires a generous enough flan combined with a well centred strong strike.

I have noted that there are some exceptions to this. For example this hemidrachm from Pharkadon has an obverse design incorporating a dotted border that is much smaller than the design on the reverse. This gives more leeway in the striking process for the obverse .

117749648_Thessaly1bimg.jpg.dfe02306c09a65002d888cf948d7b80b.jpg

I have seen Severus Alexander above and it would appear that for some issues the control on flan size and central strike is well controlled. @DonnaMLillustrates a MARS VLTOR. I also have an example that almost meets the ciriteria as the reverse  has lost about 5 dots at 1 o'clock..

RI_077a_img.JPG

The output of Probus at Rome gives us many examples that meet the ciriteria but these seem more prolific in Emissions 2 and 9.  

Emission 2

RI_132ja_img~0.jpg

Emission 9

RI_132yw_img.JPG

There is a negative side effect of having a large flan is that the flan might not have enough metal available across the entire flan to reflect the design regardless of how good the strike is. This leads to flatness in the strike that can be seen on corresponding sides of the resultant coin. Here, on an emission 2 coin of Probus, it can be seen in the head of the emperor and legend above in the reverse, which corresponds to the centre of the cuirass on the obverse. 

RI_132jf_img.JPG

The oversized flan and well centred strike were certainly part of the appeal with this Constantine the Great from Rome despite the influence of the flan ceck through the border on both sides.

RI_160gi_img.jpg

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