A curious and rather controversial trachion of the Palaiologoi

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by seth77, Nov 11, 2019.

  1. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    This autumn, quite unexpectedly, a rather wild trachion appeared at an auction from a well-known German dealer:

    AE24mm, 3.25g, copper stamenon/trachion, Constantinople(?) or Magnesia(?) or Philadelphia(?) mint, cca. 1295-1300 or 1315/1316-1320s(?).
    MP - ΘV; Half figure of the Virgin orans.
    + ANΔ[ΡΟΝΙK] ... П...ΛOVNA...ЄN...; Half-length facing busts of the emperors each holding a trifurcate sceptre, supporting between them a large cross.
    Sear 2464, DOC 623 Class XX, PCPC 189, LPC 110.

    This is a very rare and strange issue, possibly influenced in its design by Western coinage. DOC (p. 154) has the type assigned to the metropolitan mint under the joint rule of Andronikos II and Andronikos III (1325-1328), but other finds coming from Pergamum/Miletos in Asia Minor could hint to an earlier unknown issue under Andronikos II and Michael IX from an Asian mint -- perhaps Magnesia -- from cca. 1295-1300, a discussion raised by Ross Glanfield in his note about the type.

    The legend is not really helpful in resolving the identification issue, the few known examples have usually fragmentary legends, as seen on this specimen too. All that is certain is that one of the emperors (and perhaps both) is called Andronikos.

    On the other hand, a possible assignation to the period around 1315/6 (when Michael IX crowned Andronikos III) or the early 1320s (by Andronikos III, before Andronikos II accepted his accession) might be in the cards, according to Bendall (N. Circ. Apr. 2008, p. 61-2), despite the fact that by the 1320s almost all of Asia Minor had been overrun by the Ottomans.

    The dimensions of this spec could account for an earlier Andronikos II and Michael IX identification, while the DOC specimen (DOC 623) is smaller and lighter, both characteristics of a later date. Simply put, this spec at 3.25g and over 24mm is too large and heavy for the regular trachea of the 1310s and 1320s. The weight is big even for the mid 1290s, when it should be dating if it's an issue of Andronikos II and Michael IX.

    Could this be a vital clue in solving the question of the assignment of this issue?

    The desert patina is an indication of an Asian provenance, although this does not necessarily mean an Asian mint.

    A specimen in the Despot Collection was advertised, although not pictured, here.

    I know most of our colleagues here on the boards are not really into these late, strange and mostly obscure trachea, but as a fellow numismatist mentioned, this field is one of the last jungles of uncharted material, one that we can help sort out and bring order to.
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2019
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  3. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    Aha! So that's where that coin went! I was your underbidder. :bucktooth::D When I saw it misidentified in the catalogue I thought I could maybe get it super-duper cheap. Afterwards I thought I should have gone higher, but now I'm glad I didn't. It went to CoinTalk family and no doubt you were prepared to push it to the max! I would have just cost you a good deal.

    But hrmm.... I'm thinking you are one of the reasons why it is becoming harder to cherrypick Byzantine material at this auction house! :shifty: (No worries, all in good fun! ;))

    It is an incredibly odd coin; when I first saw it I wondered if it was some sort of coronation issue. Your point about the weight is well taken. Michael IX was crowned in 1294...

    I did pick up a scarce trachy from a few lots later:

    I love it that Michael VIII, who recovered Constantinople and founded the Palaeologan dynasty, is shown holding the city itself. Despite the double strike, the city is very clear on this example.
  4. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    They have had a very interesting selection of late Byzantines and Greek Frankokratia coinage this autumn.

    The coin in OP is the first I have ever seen of the type being offered for sale and I honestly thought it would go unnoticed too.

    Yours is an interesting type too and I remember looking it up. The iconography with Emperor holding the city endured in Orthodox Christianity and is still used today in church painting.
    Severus Alexander likes this.
  5. JohnnyC

    JohnnyC Member

    Hi Seth.

    S.2464 is certainly a rare and intriguing type.

    My guess is that it is an issue of a provincial mint from the period of the dispute between Andronicus III and his grandfather Andronicus III, and that the issuing city deliberately blundered the name of the second ruler because it didn’t want to be seen to recognise Andronicus III. But that’s just a guess.

    Including the Despot coin this is the fifth example of this type that I have seen offered (including two on Ebay).

    Regarding the weight this is by far the heaviest specimen that I know of - the others all seem to have normal weights for the period.
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2019
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  6. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    To me this assignment raises two very important questions:

    1. What Asia Minor city was prominent enough to mint local/provincial coinage after 1270/1290 and was still under de facto (or at least de jure) Byzantine rule in the 1320s when the dispute between Andronikos II and III took place?

    2. Is it possible that we are facing a situation similar to the Latin trachea and the Greek states that operated in the 13th century where there were two (possibly simultaneous or at least closely related) denominations -- the large modules and the small modules? Such large discrepancy in weight and die size seems to suggest this.
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2019
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  7. JohnnyC

    JohnnyC Member

    1. Philadelphia didn't fall to the Turks until the middle of the 14th century, and had been issuing it's own coins since the time of Michael VIII & Andronicus II. Magnesia fell in 1316.

    2. I don't think the Palaeologans were ever into dual modules. John III had killed off small modules when he retook Thessalonica in 1237.
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