A Late Republican Cistophorus from "Unknown"

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Sulla80, Feb 23, 2019.

  1. Sulla80

    Sulla80 Supporter! Supporter

    Metcalf.jpg This 2017 ANS book by William E. Metcalf arrived in my mailbox this week. I learned of the book while I was researching a Cistophoric tetradrachm that I bought in 2015. There is a thorough overview of the book here: http://www.bmcreview.org/2018/09/20180934.html.

    ATRA.jpg What drew my attention to the coin, and subsequently the book, was the question of who issued the coins with the monogram shown on the left, and when. There was a potential connection to Marcus Antonius, a supporter of Sulla in the civil war between Marius and Sulla. M Antonius was ultimately was killed while at a dinner party by minions of Marius in 87 MC. He is also one of the main characters in Cicero's dialog De Oratore, and in Brutus, a History of Famous Orators, where Cicero praises him together with L. Licinius Crassus. The evidence doesn't support this connection.

    I am thrilled with this important reference book and commentary, it adds to my understanding and appreciation of the painstaking work that it takes to connect information that I take for granted, from dies, hoards, style assessments and historical records. I also appreciate the carefully curated and printed pictures of >500 coins in 86 plates illustrating die variations. After a lot of squinting, I think my coin matches obverse die O21 seen in two of the coins in the book - with still a healthy level of uncertainly. Features that I crudely see as a “two line lid”, a “duck”, a “mouse” and “two balloons with string” convince me as well as some image overlays that seemed to fit reasonably. And I am less convinced that I have found a match for my reverse die - left for another day. [Edit: RB28 from coin 644 is the match for my reverse die]
    Die Compare.jpg

    On page 166 of “Ancient Greek Coins”, GK Jenkins writes: "the so-called ‘cistophoric’ coins of the cities in the Pergamene kingdom, which started at the time of Eumenes II and which are distinguished only by the most uninspiring of all Greek coins designs (the cista mystica and a bow case with writhing snakes)". This lack of appreciation and some large issues has the upside of making these coins more affordable, in nice condition, than other Greek/Roman silver coins from this time period.

    My coin:
    Cistophoric Tetradrachm Pergamon sm.jpg
    Mysia, Mint: Unknown (Pergamon or Ephesus?), AR Cistophoric Tetradrachm, Unknown Quaestor (?) maybe L. Sempronius Atratinus (?)
    42-39 BC
    Obv: Cista mystica within ivy wreath
    Rev: Bow case between two serpents; monogram above, Q to left, thyrsos to right.
    Size: 12.6g (heavier than the average 12.13g and median 12.25g for this issue as found in the book above), and 25mm

    The images on this coin are connected to the Attalid dynasty started by Philetaerus as he took control of Pergamon in the power struggles that followed the death of Alexander the Great. These tetradrachms were sometimes minted in relatively large numbers from a small number of dies, and had an exchange rate of 1 to 3 with the Roman denarius, and 4 to three for with attic standard tetradrachms. The cista mystica, the grapes and ivy leaf, are references to Dionysus, a deity from whom the Attalids claimed descent. On the reverse, the bow-case refer to Herakles, father of Telephus, the legendary founder of Pergamon, who is also claimed as an ancestor by the Attalids.

    When I purchased the coin, the issuer was described as Lucius Antony, brother of Mark Antony, or Marcus Antonius their grandfather who was a quaestor in Asia in 113/112 BC. However, a note from 2009, by William E Metcalf, summarized in the book, makes a convincing case based on the monogram, shared obverse dies, and hoard evidence that the date range for this coin is 42-39 BC and a possible quaestor is L. Sempronius Atratinus. He notes, ”the monogram contains all the elements of ATPATIN in Greek”. Atratinus was the praetor who struck on behalf of Mark Antony and should have been quaestor before that.

    There is a second coin issued (I don’t have one to show) – which is almost the same except that is has torch on the reverse in place of the thyrsos. A thyrsos is staff of giant fennel topped with a pine cone used in Dionysian rituals. Shared obverse dies across these two coins is convincing evidence that they were minted in one location (not two as is often described).

    Share your later republican cistophoric tetradrachms and any information or other coins that might be relevant.

    Last edited: Feb 23, 2019
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  3. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

    Thats great info Sulla , thanks.

  4. TIF

    TIF Always learning.

    What an interesting post! It makes me appreciate these a little more. I have just one from one of the first mixed lots I bought in 2013:

    MYSIA, Pergamon
    76 BCE
    12.4 gm
    Obv: cista mystica with serpent; all within ivy wreath
    Rev: bow-case with serpents; snake-entwined staff to the right; monogram left; AΠ above; monogram & star above
    Ref: Kleiner, Pergamum 25; Pinder 122 (attributions copied from similar coins in archives but could be wrong)
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  5. Sulla80

    Sulla80 Supporter! Supporter

    Thank you for the reply and for posting your cistophorus - especially nice reverse and toning! FYI - you might pick up a narrower date window and SNG#s from similar in ACSearch including this one which looks like it is your coin:
    https://www.acsearch.info/search.html?id=2801554. Also this one from CNG Archives: https://cngcoins.com/Coin.aspx?CoinID=288438

    Thanks @TIF - for a second opinion, your attribution looks right to me looking here; and at Kleiner 1978:
    Pergamum 25 Kleiner.JPG with some others that I think you could add: SNG BN 1726-7, Pinder 122.
  6. Sulla80

    Sulla80 Supporter! Supporter

    Addendum: here's a picture of the die match from the Reverse:
    Reverse die.jpg
  7. Sulla80

    Sulla80 Supporter! Supporter

    Updating this thread with an example of a "dated" cistophoric tetradrachm. For more on this series see Kleiner 1972 ANS Museum Notes 18. Mine for CY=64 or AD 71/70.

    Attalus III of Pergamum, a close ally of Rome, bequeathed Pergamum to the Roman republic on his death in 133. These coins are dated from the formation of the province of Asia in 134/133. Kleiner notes:
    "It is interesting that Ephesus is the only city to place provincial era dates on its cistophori, a decision which possibly reflects a readier acceptance of Roman rule than in the other Attalid cities."

    Cistophoric Tet Ephesus 70.jpg
    Ionia, Ephesos, circa 180-67 BC, AR - early cistophoroi, Cistophoric Tetradrachm, CY ΞΔ = 71/70 BC
    Obv: Serpent crawling out of cista mystica; all within ivy wreath
    Rev: ΞΔ/EΦΕ, bow-case with two confronted serpents, krater above; to right flaming torch.
    Size: 26 mm. 12,33
    Ref: Kleiner, Dated 62, SNG Copenhagen 332-3
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2020
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  8. NewStyleKing

    NewStyleKing Beware of Greeks bearing wreaths

    The chronology of Ephesos revisited Autor(en): Müller, Jörg W. Objekttyp: Article Zeitschrift: Schweizerische numismatische Rundschau = Revue suisse de numismatique = Rivista svizzera di numismatica Band (Jahr): 77 (1998)

    I'm for it, deCallatay not!
    AJN Second Series 23 (2011) pp. 55–86 © 2011 The American Numismatic Society More than it would seem; De callatay

    Once in my collection.
    SOLD Ionia Ephesos Cistophoric Tetradrachm Attalos lll 138/7 BC SOLD
    SOLD OBV:Snake sliding out of basket- Cista Mystica
    Surrounded by ivy wreath
    12.68 g 30mm
    REV:2 snakes entwined around bow case decorated with aplustra
    LF- ΕΦΕ= Ephesos
    RF - high hatted facing bust of Artemis Ephesia
    above, B year 2 of Attalos 111 of Pergamon 138/7 BC SOLD
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2020
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  9. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member

    I'm no expert but when I am looking at a monogram, I try to account for why someone included each element. Here we have a P and what appears to be two A's side by side which could include an M or N but the fact that both A's are crossed I expect there to be two of that letter in the name. What name includes a T, P and 2 A's with or without M, N or other letters?
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  10. Sulla80

    Sulla80 Supporter! Supporter

    I like Metcalf's hypothesis, ”the monogram contains all the elements of ATPATIN in Greek” or L. Sempronius Atratinus.
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  11. NewStyleKing

    NewStyleKing Beware of Greeks bearing wreaths

    As far as I know they have been tentatively attributed to Atratinus in a large number that appeared on ebay about 8 years ago from the USA.
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  12. Sulla80

    Sulla80 Supporter! Supporter

    Nothing to say but WOW to that coin - it is the detail of the leaves on the obverse that I find most surprising. Thanks for the references - I had read the
    1998 Jörg Müller article suggesting that the series should be split into two groups and the first group shifted by ~5 years later but had not seen De Catalay's article:
    De Callataÿ, F. (2011). More Than It Would Seem: The Use of Coinage by the Romans in Late Hellenistic Asia Minor (133-63 BC). American Journal of Numismatics (1989-), 23, 55-86.
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  13. NewStyleKing

    NewStyleKing Beware of Greeks bearing wreaths

    Headdress of Isis-Revisited

    The Impact of Jorge W. Muller’s re-dating of the Ephesian cistophori brings its Isiac symbols to a post-Rhodian epiphany date.

    My short paper on academia. edu under my name John Arnold Nisbet on the signifiucance of Isiac symbols as a pro-Roman symbol during and after the 1st Mithradatic wars.
    Extends the work by Ashton on Rhodian Bronze coinage.
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  14. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE


    Mysia Pergamon Tetradrachm 12.4g 26mm Cisto mystica with serpents - snakes KP 85-76 BCE
  15. NewStyleKing

    NewStyleKing Beware of Greeks bearing wreaths

    The Ugly cistophorus is an intriguing coin series and is much speculated on.The dating on the first issues is controversial and any dates from 180's to mid 160's is proposed for it inception. It is an non- royal coin of the Attalid Empire at a non attic weight standard of c 12.6 gm per tetradrachm. At the time the standard royal Attic weight coinage was the Philoterai apparently systemized by Westermark. These are deemed the international coinage while the cistaphori formed a closed currency system similar to the Ptolemaic attempt to stem the bleed of silver out of egypt. The main mints appear to be Pergamum and Ephesos, but several others are known like Nysa,Adremyton,Apamia & Tralleis etc. The latter are much smaller mints and are much more internal .
    Some like Ephesos are dated, but, whilst Muller favours 2 distinct periods the first known period starts with the closing years of Attalos ll and then goes on to the years of Attalos lll. It is after that Muller breaks the dating into 2 distinct time frames and I think he is right. Cistophoric coins of the rebel Aristonicus with B A and a regnal date
    (Not that rare) appear to be his coins and the transfer of the kingdom to the Romans did not probably occur to 5 years later and the dating restarted from that. A couple of other mints had dated coins but what era is not known.
    However during Roman times some had well known persons sign coins,Fimbria ( Rare),Clodius,Atratinus and most collectable M Tullius. Our old friend Marcus Tullius Cicero put his name on a coin when he was a Governor in Cicilia ( Very rare also). He had a small military victory and signed himself IMP and he expected to get a triumph when he got home..it never happened-the world of Rome was changing. He also despised the Cistophorus because he was paid in it and worried that the conversion to denarii would cost him too much!
    Later Mark Anthony with or without Octavia minted their type of Cistophori and after defeat it became a Roman eastern coin. Late cistaphori were recovered from the Antikythera wreck from which the famous mechanism was partially recovered.
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2020
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  16. Sulla80

    Sulla80 Supporter! Supporter

    “The cistophorus, with its writhing serpents and over-elaborate ornamentation, is perhaps the ugliest coin in the Greek series. Collectors have tended to pass it by, and, maybe in consequence, it has not yet yielded to the historian all the nourishment which he might extract from it.”
    -Robinson, E. (1954). CISTOPHORI IN THE NAME OF KING EUMENES. The Numismatic Chronicle and Journal of the Royal Numismatic Society, 14(44), 1-8.

    Here's a cistophoric Tetradrachm from Apameia. I'd like to find a copy of Kleiner's article on the cistophori of Apameia for additional info on this coin. Is this the same Kokos (ΚΩΚΟY) from Apameia who struck in bronze and is associated with A P Pulcher 53-51 BC?
    Cistophoric Tet KΩKOY Apamea.jpg
    Phrygia, Apameia circa 88-67 BC. ΚΩΚΟY (Kokos), magistrate
    Cistophoric Tetradrachm AR.
  17. NewStyleKing

    NewStyleKing Beware of Greeks bearing wreaths

    I'd like to find a copy of Kleiner's article on the cistophori of Apameia for additional info on this coin. Is this the same Kokos (ΚΩΚΟY) from Apameia who struck in bronze and is associated with A P Pulcher 53-51 BC?---Possibly! @Sulla80

    Essays in honor of Margaret Thompson 1979 I cannot access it but is it available on hathitrust?

    I would like to read it too.

    Here for fun is something related

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  18. DonnaML

    DonnaML Well-Known Member

    @Sulla80, I have a question regarding Kleiner's statement that you quoted, namely that "Ephesus is the only city to place provincial era dates on its cistophori, a decision which possibly reflects a readier acceptance of Roman rule than in the other Attalid cities."

    But if that's the case, then what is the dating system used on the post-Attalid cistophori of Tralleis? The system in Tralleis was traditionally thought to begin with Year 1 in 133 BCE (see below), but has it since been moved forward five years like that of Ephesus? Is there any literature addressing the dating system in Tralleis?

    Here's my example from Tralleis:

    Lydia, Tralleis/Tralles, AR Cistophoric Tetradrachm, 127/126 BCE[?], Magistrate Ptol-. Obv. Cista mystica with lid ajar and serpent emerging; all within ivy wreath / Rev. Bowcase (gorytos) with two serpents (one to left and one to right, heads at top); H [= date = Year 8 = (traditionally) 127/126 BCE] over ΠTOΛ [PTOL] above, between serpents’ heads, TPAΛ [TRAL] in left field; to right, Dionysos in short chiton standing facing, head left, holding thyrsos in right hand and mask of Silenos in left hand. SNG Copenhagen 662-663 var. [different year]; BMC 22 Lydia 48 (p. 333) var. [different year] [Head, B.V., A Catalogue of Greek Coins in the British Museum, Vol. 22, Lydia (London, 1901); SNG von Aulock 3262-3264 var. [different year]; Pinder 159 [same year -- “H”]; see also id. 157-158 [different years] [Pinder, M., Über die Cistophoren und über die kaiserlichen Silbermedaillons der Römischen Provinz Asien (Berlin, 1856) at pp. 565-566]. 24 mm., 12.64 g. [probably = 3 drachms, not 4], 1 h. Ex: CNG Auction 225 (13 Jan. 2010), Lot 144.

    Lydia, Tralleis. AR Cistophoric Tetradrachm. jpg version.jpg

    For the traditional interpretation of the Tralleis dating system, see BMC 22 Lydia at p. cxxxvii. According to the explanation there, the date on my coin should be Year 8 since 133 BCE, when the Pergamene kingdom passed by bequest to the Roman Republic upon the death of Attalus III, and became part of the Province of Asia. No coins minted in Tralleis had been found (as of 1901) bearing dates later than Year 8. The author suggests that after Tralleis participated in the unsuccessful revolt against Roman rule by Aristonicus (a/k/a Eumenes III), who claimed to be the illegitimate son of Attalus III’s father Eumenes II, the Romans may have punished the city by depriving it of various privileges, including the privilege of minting silver coins.

    But it's my understanding that the more modern sources state that this rebellion had been suppressed by 129 BCE, making this explanation seem unlikely.

    In terms of the dating of coins in the Province of Asia, I gather that the more recent scholarship such as Noe/Kleiner [Noe, Sydney P. & Fred S. Kleiner, Early Cistophoric Coinage (ANS, 1977), available at http://numismatics.org/digitallibrary/ark:/53695/nnan30795], Rigsby [Rigsby, K., The Era of the Province of Asia, Phoenix (1979), at pp. 33(1), 39-47, available at https://www.jstor.org/stable/1087850?seq=1], and Müller [Müller, Jörg W., The Chronology of Ephesos Revisited, Schweizerische numismatische Rundschau (Revue suisse de numismatique) (1998) at pp. 73-80, available at https://www.e-periodica.ch/digbib/view?pid=snr-003:1998:77#86], has posited a shift of the era forward by approximately five years. As I understand it, these authorities reject the idea that these cities had the time (or the inclination) to start issuing coins dated by a new Roman era as soon as Attalus's will became public, particularly given the immediate rebellion of Aristonicus. So according to their reasoning, the dating system should actually begin with approximately 128 BCE, after the suppression of the rebellion, so that Year 8 would be approximately 121 BCE.

    But I didn't see anything specifically addressing or explaining Tralleis's dating system in these sources. And Kleiner's statement that you quoted appears to assert that Ephesus was the only city to use the provincial era (regardless of when Year 1 was) as the basis for its dating system. If so, then what's the basis for the dating system used in Tralleis?
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2020
  19. Sulla80

    Sulla80 Supporter! Supporter

    It is an interesting question that I have been pondering from your earlier post. Disclaimer: I am, over time, absorbing some of the publications and periodically wander back to these coins of the Roman republic and Asia minor. The trigger is usually acquiring another tetradrachm. However, I am a long way from "expert".

    Why do I wander back to these "ugly" and "uninteresting" coins: the Roman republican and Sulla connections, the concept of a "closed" monetary system and stories of Asia minor-Roman integration (avoiding: Romanization). On the quote from Kleiner, I also think it is reasonable to ask: were these dates of formation of a Roman province or dates of Ephesus city granted autonomy which could both be connected with the death of Attalus III? the latter seems more likely to me.

    From the Treaty of Apameia, 188 BC, Tralles was under Attalid rule.
    "As to king Eumenes and his brothers, not content with the liberal provision made for them in their treaty with Antiochus, they [Rome] now assigned him in addition the Chersonese, Lysimacheia, and the castles on the borders of these districts, and such country as had been subject to Antiochus in Europe; and in Asia, Phrygia on the Hellespont, Great Phrygia, so much of Mysia as he had before subjugated, Lycaonia, Milyas, Lydia, Tralles, Ephesus, and Telmissus: all these they gave to Eumenes."
    - Polybius, Histories 21.48

    Tralles dates
    : Here's a bit of a meandering answer. Perhaps there is a date when Tralles became "autonomous" during war with Aristonicus/Eumenes III? or later?

    Could the use of Macedonian months at the Tralles mint be relevant - I am not sure what to do with it:
    - ASHTON, R., & KINNS, P. (2003). Opuscula Anatolica II. The Numismatic Chronicle (1966-), 163, 41-47. Cistophoric coins from Tralles with "Tyche holding a cornucopia": "the initials, as transcribed by Kleiner and Noe, are ATT, 'AV', AA, AAI, ZAN, TTE, 'OA', YTT, and YTT above EN. It is not difficult to detect in them the Macedonian months Apellaios, Audnaios, Daisios..."

    Was there a "Sullan era"? I am not sure what is intended by "inaugurating a new era" in this reference and I would like to find the underlying paper:
    "Regling, Frankfurter Münzzeitung n.F. 3 (1932) 506-10, showed, on the basis of the Karacabey hoard (IGCH 1358), that Tralles continued cistophoric coinage after Sulla, inaugurating a new era in 85/84" *
    - Hegemony to Empire (1996)

    Correlation between Ephesus dates and Tralles dates? a lead, with this Columbia thesis (2016) from Lucia Carbone, whose ANS articles I have read with interest. I liked this note: "It is quite striking to notice how M. Aquilius’ road connected the six cities (Adramyteum, Pergamum, Sardis, Ephesus, Tralles and Laodicea) that are known as cistophoric mints and have also operated as conventus centers."
    and she cites:
    CALLATAY, "L’Histoire des Guerres Mithridatiques vue par les Monnaies, Louvain-la-Neuve", 1997, p.178. This hoard, buried in ca.75 BC, enabled the chronological correlation between dated Ephesian cistophori (up to year 56) and the Tralles ΠΤΟΛ ones (up to year 9).
    and...p 170-173
    "Moreover, a fourth hoard, IGCH 1358, dated to 75 BC, enables us to determine the presence of a Sullan age in Tralles, and allows a precise dating of the ΠΤΟΛ issues to 85-77 BC, which corresponds roughly to Lucullus’ power in the province and to the exceptional issues caused by Sulla's command that taxes be paid in arrears, proving a further element of Roman involvement in the cistophoric issues."
    and p.173
    ΠΤΟΛ: The first issue with no dating, then Β to Θ, for a total of 8 issues. The presence of Lucullus is important for the cistophoric production of the cities of Asia and the end of the production of the cistophori of Ephesus is tightly linked to the end of ‘the Lucullus era’ in Asia (App. Mith. 12, 13.90; Dio 36.15.3; Plut. Vit. Luc. 35.3-8; Livy 98.9).

    and finally,
    this article of Andrew Meadows on p.83 : "Ephesus to year 56 (79/8 BC); Tralles to year 9 (probably 77/6 BC). For discussion the hoard and the likely era of Tralles see Leschhorn 1993: 208–212."

    Your coin, year H (8), has a "likely" date of 76/5 78/7 BC
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2020
  20. DonnaML

    DonnaML Well-Known Member

    Wow, this is utterly fascinating, @Sulla80. Thank you so much! How did you manage to find all this? I have to read what you wrote again more carefully, and look at the sources available online. But as I understand things from my first reading, it now appears that if Carbone and Meadows are correct, the beginning of the dating system in Tralleis had nothing to do with the foundation of the Province of Asia (whether in 133 or five years later), but took place 50 years later. (I think you have a typo at the end, by the way: if Year 9 was 77/76 BCE, then Year 8 should be 78/77, not 76/75.) So the theory in BMC Lydia was totally wrong.

    It's interesting that since BMC was published in 1901, exactly one more dated year of BMC coins has been discovered: Year 9.

    I also find it interesting, and rather ironic, that after presenting the traditional dating theory for Tralleis, the author of BMC Lydia (Barclay V. Head, then Keeper of the British Museum's Dept. of Coins and Medals) actually considers the possibility that Tralles could have minted cistophori beginning circa 84 BCE after the end of the Mithraditic revolt (apparently the current theory), but expressly rejects it. See these three excerpts from the Introduction to BMC Lydia, at pp. cxxxvii and cxxxix (available at https://www.forumancientcoins.com/numiswiki/BMC/BMC_Lydia.pdf):

    BMC Lydia p. cxxxvii re Tralles excerpt 1.jpg
    . . . .
    BMC Lydia p. cxxxvii re Tralles excerpt 2.jpg
    . . . .
    BMC Lydia p. cxxxix re Tralles excerpt 3.jpg

    It seems that Head ignores the power of Lucullus in the province to cause the minting of silver coins to pay taxes in arrears, as an explanation for the series. (If the current theory is correct.)

    Now, or tomorrow, I'll go read your sources.

    Thanks again.
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2020
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  21. DonnaML

    DonnaML Well-Known Member

    PS to @Sulla80: I knew that the 1932 Regling article you wish you could obtain looked familiar to me: it's mentioned at fn. 14 of the Noe/Kleiner article on Early Cistophoric Coinage, published in 1977, available from the ANS Digital Library:

    "However attractive, the traditional view, which associates the Dionysus of Tralles, the flutes of Apameia, etc., with the reorganization of the Attalid cities by the Romans upon the formation of the Province of Asia,14 is negated by the abundant evidence to the contrary.

    14 For example BMC Lydia cxxxvii. The misdating of the Tralles pieces with ΠTOΛ and dates A to H was corrected by Regling, Frankfurter Münzzeitung 1932, pp. 506-7, 509-10."

    When I saw the reference, I tried to find it online but couldn't, and then completely forgot about it until I saw your post. It's rather hard to believe that the inaccuracy of the "traditional view" has been known since 1932, and was reiterated in 1977, and yet the Tralles cistophori for "Years 1-8" are still commonly dated by dealers in accordance with that traditional view.
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