A unique coin - and it arrived broken

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Roerbakmix, Jan 21, 2021.

  1. Roerbakmix

    Roerbakmix Well-Known Member

    I was thrilled to receive my most recent addition: a Serie E 'plumed bird' sceatta. My collection focus has drifted towards early medieval coinage (the sceatta phase, c. 690-760 AD), minted in current England, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Danmark.

    Typically, sceatta's are categorized in series (Serie A, B, C, etc.), and grouped within these series in subvarieties (e.g. VICO, VERNVS, etc.). In a relatively short period of time, the gold thrysma's (c. 650-690) debased to the silver sceatta, which in turn consists of two phases: the primary phase (c. 690-715/20) and secondary (c. 715/20 - 760), more or less based on hoard evidence. Usually, coins from the primary phase adhere better to the prototype than those minted in the secondary phase.

    Though in this area little is known with certainty, it is more or less accepted that the series E sceatta's, or the "porcupines" were minted on the Continent. In a previous post, I presented a stylistic breakdown of the primary phase sceatta's from this series - and the coin I received in the mail falls in this period. To reiterate, this is what I wrote on the Plumed Bird variety:

    The plumed bird
    The plumed bird is grouped into four subvariations:
    On the obverse, we see a bird-like creature with two claws / legs, and a beak. Under the beak, we se a cross, or a pellet-within annulet. On the reverse, we see a central pellet-within annulet, flanked by a group of three pellets (triangle < > for var J; triangle > < for var K - the only difference in this group). Var L is somewhat different, as it includes pellets-within-annulet on the obverse and reverse; var M is known from only four specimens and includes crosses on the reverse (as the series [not variety!] G from France). So, to summarize:
    • Series E, plumed bird, variety J
      • Obverse: naturalistic body and curved neck. Cross-pommée under beak
      • Reverse: four parallel lines, with triangle of pellets (facing outward)
    • Series E, plumed bird, variety K
      • Obverse: naturalistic body and curved neck. Cross-pommée under beak
      • Reverse: same as variety J, but triangle of pellets facing inwards
    • Series E, plumed bird, variety L
      • Obverse: tubular body, with neck continued as a straight line. Under beak a pellet within annulet
      • Five annulets with pellets inside, in each quadrant triangle of pellets.
    • Series E, plumed bird, variety M
      • Very rare subgroup, obverse largely identical to variety L, but reverse shows four crosses, with central annulet with pellet in side.
    I already have the Plumed bird var J and L (the var K is only a matter of time; and the var M probably unatainable). However, recently, I spotted this specimen:
    ... which is a mule of a plumed bird with a serie E variety E reverse (see comparable example from my collection below):
    At first, I believed it to be unique, however, when looking op Metcalf & Op den Veldes exhaustive die study, I identified another, found in Winchester.
    Interestingly, my coin appears to be a die-match (both obverse and reverse) to their specimen, which in turn was a obverse die-match to another mule (reverse TTO/\ type), which was part of a small hoard found in France. So, though scarce, I was a bit of a bummer to find out it wasn't unique.

    On to the coin that is in fact unique, and the reason for this thread. Only one week later, another seller I regularly buy from offered a rather poor plumed bird variety. With the experience of the last coin, I quickly checked the reverse, only to find out that this was in fact again a mule - this time not reported in any of the standard works. The coin was shipped to me, in a thick bubble-wrapped enveloppe, sealed in tape. However, when I opened the envelope, this was what greeted me:
    On close inspection, the coin turned out to be crystallized. Though I was able to glue it all together, it's such a shame:

    Nonetheless, the coin is of (numismatic) interest, as it combines an unrecorded obverse die with an unrecorded reverse die (probably of series E, var h). Though not die-matched to the two other mules, this is again a combination of a die from the primary phase (690-715) with a reverse die from the secondary phase (715-760). Yet, while the style of the first two (obverse)-die-matched coins could be regarded as imitative, the obverse of the present coin is less crude. Supposing a more or less official mint (if something like that existed in this period), mules like these can offer new insights in the minting process: perhaps the plumed bird types were minted in late-primary phase, or alternatively, the var E, var h and TTo/\-var minted early-secondary. Perhaps this distinction of primary- and secondary phases is not so clear-cut at all.

    Though unsure to draw a conclusion, possessing a unique coin (even one that's damaged) is fun and encourages me to keep looking for unrecognized rarities. Please, post anything you find relevant!
    Stevearino, Factor, TTerrier and 40 others like this.
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  3. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Enrich the soldiers...ignore all others

    Cool coin glad that you were able to cement the two pieces together.
    TonkawaBill, Roerbakmix and 7Calbrey like this.
  4. ambr0zie

    ambr0zie Dacian Taraboste

    Nice repair, I don't think you could have obtained a better result.
  5. CaptHenway

    CaptHenway Survivor

    Many years ago while I was working at ANACS I took a fairly decent Denarius of Julius Caesar out of a flip, and it fell in two right down the middle onto the pad. Old crystalized fault line had failed in the mail. Though it was not our fault we offered the submittor his declared value, $800, and after asking us to send it back to him for a looksee he sent it back and took the offer. We gave it to the ANA Museum Curator and he glued it back together. It has been on display in the Museum off and on over the years.
  6. Deacon Ray

    Deacon Ray Denarios Sancti Terram Supporter

    That’s a remarkable coin and of a type that I was completely unaware before your excellent post. Thank you for sharing your experience which illustrates the effects of time and the environment on ancient silver. I have new appreciation for coins that have survived the centuries.
  7. thejewk

    thejewk Well-Known Member

    Bummer about the break, but still of great numismatic value and it has repaired nicely.
    TonkawaBill, Theodosius and 7Calbrey like this.
  8. Jim Dale

    Jim Dale Well-Known Member

    I am not a collector of coins of that era. Without doing a great deal of research, what are those coins made of that they could "break?"
    Stevearino and TonkawaBill like this.
  9. thejewk

    thejewk Well-Known Member

    Silver crystalizes over time, and it's not uncommon for ancient silver coins to become very brittle. Sometimes the surface looks fine, but internally there has been enough change that too much pressure will just snap the coin.
  10. Jim Dale

    Jim Dale Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the info.
    TonkawaBill likes this.
  11. Mike Thorne

    Mike Thorne Well-Known Member

    This is not at all of relevance to my collecting, but the post and responses are fascinating. I certainly didn't know that about silver crystallizing and turning brittle.
    TonkawaBill likes this.
  12. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    Thankfully I have never had a coin arrive broke, if one did, I would send it back no matter the coin, but that's just me.

    Nice coin either way. I haven't jumped into sceattas as I know I would start collecting them ontop of all the others I side collect *looking as you Parthia*
    TonkawaBill and Theodosius like this.
  13. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    @Roerbakmix, of all people, you are The Wrong One for this to happen to!
    Congratulations on the brilliant repair, though. And an unpublished variety! ...Your posts are so well done, even I'm learning something --effectively starting from 'ground zero'! I have to wonder if teaching is anywhere in your background.
    TonkawaBill likes this.
  14. Alegandron

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

  15. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Dombes collector Supporter

    Excellent coin despite the break

    TonkawaBill likes this.
  16. svessien

    svessien Senior Member Supporter

    Hats off for the repair. Well done indeed!
    TonkawaBill and +VGO.DVCKS like this.
  17. Roerbakmix

    Roerbakmix Well-Known Member

    Thanks all for the kind comments!

    That's what I like about this hobby: the total liberty to collect whatever area interests you. If budget is an issue, and you're just looking for a representative type, I would suggest a series E (continental, minted in Frisia). They usually go for between 100-300€, depending on condition and type.
  18. Limes

    Limes Supporter! Supporter

    Congrulations with a unique coin! That is thrilling indeed. Just so sad that it broke. You did a good job on glueing it back, looks good.

    Now, I do find the images on sceatta's very puzzling, but i did recognize the bird immediately and without any help. Job well done, die engraver! :)
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