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Collecting Themes for Ancients


mmarotta
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When I was an active collector, my primary passion was for Ancient Greek coins, worth about a day's wages, from the times and towns of famous philosophers. From Thales of Miletos to Hypatia of Alexandria, I pretty much hit them all, at least, all the major ones. My guide was Lives of the Philosophers by Diogenes Laertius. (see for instance http://classicpersuasion.org/pw/diogenes/ for an online translation.) So, it was pretty neat to have a coin from Abdera, the home of Democritus (Demokritos) who came up with the idea of atoms and realize that this coin could have passed through his hands.

 

For Romans, my interest in collecting a series was limited to the Five Good Emperors: Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antonius Pius, and Marcus Aurelius. I had them as denarii. Nerva was the tough one, of course, having ruled only briefly.

 

I also have quite a few HERMES and MERCURY coins, both Greek and Roman. Online, my username has been mercury (or mercury-something) since 1985. His common attributes are the caduceus and traveler's hat (petasos). Winged sandals and winged cap complete the outfit. I have a couple of coins with just the caduceus, and oddly enough one of them is Conder token.

 

There are more ways to collect and I have some other little runs and sets.

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I also have quite a few HERMES and MERCURY coins, both Greek and Roman.  Online, my username has been mercury (or mercury-something) since 1985.  His common attributes are the caduceus and traveler's hat (petasos).  Winged sandals and winged cap complete the outfit. I have a couple of coins with just the caduceus, and oddly enough one of them is Conder token.

 

 

 

I know one of the most popular ways to collect Roman coins is by Emperor. However i must confess if i were to take up collecting ancients (which i hope to do one day) then i would take the collect by deity approach.

 

Mercury/Hermes being popular as is Jupiter, Juno and of course the ever popular Athene/Minerva. The latter the Athenian Owls being the most famous example of. Which is probably the coin i'd start on.

 

Greek/Roman coins are something i've wanted to do something about for a while but i've never yet got around to it. Although happily i seem to be slowly working my way back to that point one century at a time. So there is hope yet. On a few occasions now i've nearly bought an Athenian Owl, the only thing that stopped me last time was the hole that had been drilled into the coin. (Were these not done by bankers? Or someone similar to test for either the purity of the coin or to see if it was real? I honestly forget).

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... i would take the collect by deity approach.

Even there, assuming that you start with the Twelve Olympians, would you do Roman or Greek? Apollo is Apollo and popular, but some of them (Zeus/Jupiter, Hermes/Mercury, Athena/Minerva, Artemis/Diana) would be easier than others. Hestia might be harder as a Greek than as Vesta the Roman. Hephestion/Vulcan would be a toughie in either case. Ares appears easily on only one series of Greek coins I know of, though Mars is pretty common for Roman coins of the military anarchy, which figures, of course. And still, the congruencies are often of our own design. I mean is Hermes really Mercury?

 

Beyond that are minor deities. The manheaded bull is often called a "river god." Similarly, when we have a generic coin from a generic town with a generic female on it, we call her "Nymph" by the name of the town.

 

"... i've nearly bought an Athenian Owl, the only thing that stopped me last time was the hole that had been drilled into the coin. (Were these not done by bankers? Or someone similar to test for either the purity of the coin or to see if it was real?

 

Usually -- without seeing the coin -- a hole drilled through it is for hanging the coin as jewelry. Testing with a cut usually meant making some kind of cut at the edge into the coin along a radius, or perhaps punching it on the surface, to see if the surface is just plated.

 

Like everything else in numismatics it seems, Owls are going up in price. A nice one -- genuine from a reputable seller -- will run about $900 or so. Not that you cannot find a bargain. Centering, wear, etc., are in the eye of the beholder, as always.

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Even there, assuming that you start with the Twelve Olympians, would you do Roman or Greek?  Apollo is Apollo and popular, but some of them (Zeus/Jupiter, Hermes/Mercury, Athena/Minerva, Artemis/Diana) would be easier than others.  Hestia might be harder as a Greek than as Vesta the Roman.  Hephestion/Vulcan would be a toughie in either case.  Ares appears easily on only one series of Greek coins I know of, though Mars is pretty common for Roman coins of the military anarchy, which figures, of course. And still, the congruencies are often of our own design.  I mean is Hermes really Mercury?

 

Beyond that are minor deities.  The manheaded bull is often called a "river god."  Similarly, when we have a generic coin from a generic town with a generic female on it, we call her "Nymph" by the name of the town.

 

"... i've nearly bought an Athenian Owl, the only thing that stopped me last time was the hole that had been drilled into the coin. (Were these not done by bankers? Or someone similar to test for either the purity of the coin or to see if it was real?

 

Usually -- without seeing the coin -- a hole drilled through it is for hanging the coin as jewelry. Testing with a cut usually meant making some kind of cut at the edge into the coin along a radius, or perhaps punching it on the surface, to see if the surface is just plated.

 

Like everything else in numismatics it seems, Owls are going up in price. A nice one -- genuine from a reputable seller -- will run about $900 or so. Not that you cannot find a bargain. Centering, wear, etc., are in the eye of the beholder, as always.

 

 

 

I'd just stick with the 12 Olympians and although i know that the Roman/Grrek equivalents do differ somewhat on some aspects i'd not diffentiate much between the two. I do tend to favour the Romans more than the Greeks though.

 

The Owl had a hole going only half way into the coin, it didn't go the whole way through.

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.

 

The Owl had a hole going only half way into the coin, it didn't go the whole way through.

 

In the case of modern precious metal coins, a divot like that is usually the result of a metalsmith robbing a little metal from a coin to use as solder in a brazing operation before returning the coin to circulation. Solder gained that way at no expense to the smith adds to the profit margin.

 

 

Maybe the practice wasn't limited to modern coins or to modern times.

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Aetheling wrote: "The Owl had a hole going only half way into the coin, it didn't go the whole way through."

 

28Plain suggested: ...  the result of a metalsmith robbing a little metal from a coin to use as solder  in a brazing operation ... Maybe the practice wasn't limited to modern coins or to modern times. 

 

I think that if the cut went halfway through, then it was a test cut to reveal the core, as AEtheling suggested at first. Just how this was done is not clear. We went around and around on this on Rec.Collecting.Coins and all I can say is that experiment should come before speculation.

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Having come across that debate before on RCC that's why i stated i thought it was a test cut. I went and had a look on Reid's site thinking he might have an explanation for it, but alas none to be found.

 

 

Uh oh now you've done it. You went and used the "R" (eid) word! :ninja:

 

Jim

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Uh oh now you've done it.  You went and used the "R" (eid) word!  :ninja:

 

Jim

 

 

Oh i know... ;)

 

I'm waiting for Mike's reply on that one. Something like "well that's half the reason why the discussion keeps going round and round"

 

RCC versus Reid?

 

 

Actually i get on alright with Reid, i think we've only disagreed the once which for me and him is very good going, and i can't even remember what that was about.

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Having come across that debate before on RCC that's why i stated i thought it was a test cut. I went and had a look on Reid's site thinking he might have an explanation for it, but alas none to be found.

 

I have some material at my site about holed coins, and I have some other material about test cut coins, and I have still other material about banker's marked coins. A hole that goes only halfway through the coin? Michael's site probably has something about this. (You guys asked for it.)

 

I don't remember any previous discussion about this. This may be a result of a hole that goes halfway through my head. My guess would be that this coin was a botched attempt to create a holed coin for the purposes that holed coins served. Test cuts were simple slashes with a blade or chisel. Banker's marks were designed. It alternately could be a crudely designed banker's mark, I suppose.

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I had a feeling you'd be lurking somewhere! :ninja:

 

 

Yeah on the holes, the dealers had about three of the Owls for sale and all three had these round drilled holes going half-way into the depth of the coin. The holes were on the reverse side with the Owl. I said "nice coins but i'm not keen on the drilled bits", the reply i got from the dealer there was that they were done to test the coin.

 

Now forgive me if i'm wrong here Mike and Reid, but surely doing so would have removed quite alot of silver from the coin and i presume ancient coins like medievals after them would have been traded on their respective weights rather than size? So drilling a hole like that would be less of a test cut and more of either putting the coin out of circulation for good or devaluing it to circulate as a lower denomination?

 

All mere speculation on my part since it's not within my field of expertise, you guys know your ancients so i defer to you.

 

I am thinking that they were probably used as jewelry or something?

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Now forgive me if i'm wrong here Mike and Reid, but surely doing so would have removed quite alot of silver from the coin and i presume ancient coins like medievals after them would have been traded on their respective weights rather than size? So drilling a hole like that would be less of a test cut and more of either putting the coin out of circulation for good or devaluing it to circulate as a lower denomination?

 

I'm afraid you can't be forgiven for this. It can't be done. Not by me, anyway. But I will say that from the additional information you provide above, about how three of these coins were marked in a similar way, that it sounds like a crude banker's mark, also called a countermark.

 

These markings were made in Owls and other ancient coins primarily for two purposes, to test the integrity of the metal underneath (make sure it was solid all the way through, not plated), and to certify the coin as legal tender in a location other than where it was minted (with very early coins, such as the Lydian trite to the left that I'm using as my avatar here, countermarks are thought to be designations of ownership, with some of these coins today having more than a dozen such marks). Typically, very little metal was lost through this process. The metal, rather than being chipped off, was merely pushed to the sides of the mark. Countermarked coins, like test-cut coins, typically have the same weight as coins not marked in this way.

 

Coins with banker's marks can be quite collectable -- some of the marks themselves can be attractive -- but they typically sell for less than coins not marked. Some people specialized in collecting them.

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I started a topic for Test Cuts.

 

On the subject at hand ...

 

There is a book on medical themes (Medicine on ancient Greek and Roman coins, by R. G. Penn, London : Seaby : B.T. Batsford, 1994.) This is hardly a unique work. Just entering 'MEDICINE' in the ANS library catalog brought over 150 hits. Several books and many articles have been written. Medicina in Nummis is the title of a series -- and there has been at least one conference just on that theme.

 

Ships on coins is a theme not limited to moderns by any stretch. Ancient Greek and Roman coins feature ships, of course, as do Phoenicians, without surprise.

 

Birds on ancients include owls, doves, and eagles, but also peacocks and geese.

 

You can collect a zooful of animals, real and mythical.

 

Celator publisher Kerry Wetterstrom achieved some notariety for his complete set on "The Twelve Labors of Heracles."

 

Christians will look for the Widow's Mites, a shekel of Tyre ("30 pieces of silver"), a stater of any kind, an appropriate denarius of some kind (Tribute Penny). David Hendin's Guide to Biblical Coins is in its fourth edition and is an invaluable reference. Personally, I doubt the authenicity of most of the widow's mites being offered today: I don't think we know what a real one looks like. The Tribute Penny is a problem in itself. (See: "Six Caesars of the Tribute Penny" at www.coin-newbies.com/articles/caesars.html). "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Heb 11:1) I recommend the travels of Paul and Luke as a collecting theme. One coin from each town would be an excellent choice because it can be met with bronze coins normally overlooked by most collectors. The Seven Churches of Asia would be a good set, finite and easy to achieve while being patient for quality.

 

("What village was that?") If you happen to be Jewish, Italian, Greek or Celtic then you have the family angle for collecting -- and in my family, I think we are batting a thousand, when you count the in-laws.

 

Headgear. Crowns, tiaras, diadems, veils, stephane, laurels,...

 

Towns. Your normal, every day, village that's 3000 years old can offer you have some opportunities to collect by a very well-defined and perhaps challenging theme, Smyrna comes to mind, but there must be a thousand others.

 

Metals. Electrum, gold, silver, copper, bronze, orichulcum, iron, and lead, are the openers. (As important as bronze was, it is curious that tin was never coined...)

 

Electrum. It was issued for over 1000 years -- still being minted today, actually. It can be pricey or cheap, depending on your standards and your patience. (I wrote an article about "Electrum" for The Celator (August 2003)

 

Astronomy. There is no shortage of stars, moon, suns, and things. You can collect the attributes associated with constellations, chief of which would be the Zodiac. Michael R. Molnar has written more than a few articles about "the Christmas star" and pursuing that, I almost began a collection of these coins from ancient Antioch. Ancient coins of Uraniopolis in Macedonia celebrate Aphrodite Urania.

 

Musical Instruments. The lyre is pretty easy. The kithera can be found. Trumpets are known.

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  • 6 months later...

I came upon this thread scanning through old posts. The nice thing about archives is that the threads never really die. Then again, maybe no one will notice I've even added to thread, but here goes.

 

I started with a gros of Philip le Bel, purchased to see if I had any interest in medieval France. It was okay, but still lacking something. My next purchase was a temple denier of Louis the Pious. Now I was getting interested. I knew I wanted to collect something French (the reasons had nothing to do with coins), so I defined a broad topic of Celtic Gaul through Medieval France. I supposed I would expand it into the present, so I thought I would focus on representative coins of rulers, periods, emperors, etc. As I began acquiring pieces, my interests became more refined.

 

Because of my archaeological research interests in prehistoric art and its role in religon, I decided to concentrate on coins with temples. That led me to a temple image on a Celtic coin of the Chartres region with the inscription PIXTILOS. I had already acquired a magnificient PIXTILOS coin with a bird eating berries out of a disembodied hand. Now I had two and an interest in who PIXTILOS might be. Lo and behold, Scheers had written an article on the 10 PIXTILOS varieties and their Republican Roman inspirations. Now I had a reason to add republican coins to the collection.

 

So, my themes emerged:

 

Celtic Gaul with an emphasis on the Carnutes region, specifically PIXTILOS varieties. Anything interesting (for my tastes) and well preserved.

 

Roman Republican models for Celtic coins in my collection and republican coins with Celtic themes (heads, armor, trophies, etc.).

 

Roman Empire coins minted in Gaul by emperor. Emphasis on temples or other religious themes such as altars, the chi-rho, Gallic wars, etc.

 

Merovingian and related representative coins.

 

Carolingian by type and emperor. Edict of Pitres cities for Charles the Bald.

 

Medieval coins of the region of Blois and Chartres with an abstract portrait dating to the period between 950 and about 1350.

 

I'm sure other interests will arise as time goes by, such as the coins of the period around the Blois-Chartres region, the royal coins of the same period, and the precursor types and types that immediately follow the bléso-chartraine period.

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Medieval coins of the region of Blois and Chartres with an abstract portrait dating to the period between 950 and about 1350.

 

I'm sure other interests will arise as time goes by, such as the coins of the period around the Blois-Chartres region, the royal coins of the same period, and the precursor types and types that immediately follow the bléso-chartraine period.

 

 

Did Count Stephen Henry or Count Theobald IV of Blois have any coinage? I definately need to get some coinage of that era especially for such a distingushed family. I also need to get down to Winchester Cathedral to pay a visit to a certain someone.

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Did Count Stephen Henry or Count Theobald IV of Blois have any coinage? I definately need to get some coinage of that era especially for such a distingushed family. I also need to get down to Winchester Cathedral to pay a visit to a certain someone.

 

Count Theobald IV of Blois is likely represented by the coins of Châteaudun, specifically Poey d'Avant 1829, Caron 116, Caron 119 or one of the many varieties of deniers or obols of this type. The coins are issued without legend as to ruler, so the attribution is determined by the proposed date of the type (based on hoards) and who was count at the time. I've include an obverse image of a denier below.

 

Dup_477_obv.jpg

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