Aes grave semis: cleaning and provenance questions

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by scarborough, Oct 20, 2019.

  1. scarborough

    scarborough Active Member

    semis horse before and after.jpg

    Aes grave semis, Roman Republic, c 275 - 270 BC (55mm, 161.24g). obv: Pegasus flying right, S underneath (mark of value), rev: Pegasus flying left, S underneath (mark of value). Cr 18/2, Syd 16, BMC Italy 7.

    Hello! I'm writing to ask for a bit of help with two sets of questions, one about cleaning and the other about provenance.

    First about cleaning

    When I purchased the semis (top photo) it had a covering of verdigris. I wanted to remove as much as possible without causing damage. The picture below is after I’ve tried a number of techniques such as ultrasonic cleaning, light brushing after soaking in acetone and verdicare. The remaining verdigris is solid. Short of cutting it out and probably damaging the coin, I cannot figure out how to remove the rest.

    I’d appreciate hearing from the group as to what else – if anything – you’d suggest.

    nauman 19 10 20 lubich tag reduced.jpg

    The second question is about provenance. I purchased the coin from Naumann’s auction 80 earlier this year as lot 496. It came with a modern tag (photo above) which I translate as

    Ex Lubich collection

    Purchased from Swiss Creditanstalt in 1985 for 1 000 DM

    I think the writing underneath means this coin might have been lot 11 in list D19

    Please help

    a) Assuming the above interpretation is correct, is anyone aware of any resource where I can confirm the ticket?

    b) Does anyone know where I can find out anything more about Lubich or this coin? The most I can gather is that Lubich purchased from mostly German dealers from the 80s to about 2000

    Many thanks for your consideration.

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  3. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    My suggestion:

  4. Ryro

    Ryro You'll never be lovelier than you are now... Supporter

    Lovely coin and honest questions. A coin type I've long sought but is simply not attainable at this time.
    IMHO, the original pic is far superior. I wouldn't recommend inflicting any more damage upon the coin.
  5. abc123

    abc123 Member

    In the future ask before trying to "improve" any more coins. There were no issues with this coin until after you cleaned it.
    Nicholas Molinari and tibor like this.
  6. scarborough

    scarborough Active Member

    Please don't assume I have regrets.
  7. abc123

    abc123 Member

    My heart literally dropped when I first viewed the before and after photos. Your response scares me even more implying you will inflict harm on additional coins that are perfectly fine the way they are.
    Kentucky and Nicholas Molinari like this.
  8. dadams

    dadams Supporter! Supporter

    I too am in the before camp. Had it come my way as in the first set of pictures I’d be a buyer and I’d be a pass if presented the coin in the second set. :(
    Nicholas Molinari and tibor like this.
  9. Andrew McCabe

    Andrew McCabe Well-Known Member

    In 1985 there were two Credit Suisse/ Swiss Kreditinstalt auctions and one fixed price list.

    Auction 4 has a lot of aes grave, about 60 coins. For Crawford 18 (this is an 18/2 semis) it shows the following: As, Triens and Uncia but not a Pegasus semis.

    I suspect your coin belonged to this large collection but was sold at retail rather than in the auction. But keeping the ticket, and whatever auction / retail information you bought it from that said it was bought there, is important and probably sufficient. I'm not aware of Lubich but it might have been his collection or might have been bought by him. Not mentioned in Auction 4 catalogue. Curiously the sale was done in conjunction with Herb Kreindler. There is an outside chance Herb has some vague recollection of an aes grave collection in a mid 1980s Credit Suisse sale.

    Edit: I now realise that I don't have a complete run of the FPLs so there's a chance it appears in other 1985 FPLS. I show #43 (Spring 1985), #42 is 1984 and #45 is 1986. #44 which I don't have might be a source

    I echo all comments made on cleaning. I wouldn't clean old provenance aes grave, and there shouldn't be any young provenance aes grave around since none are supposed to have come from Italy since before 2011. Lightish green with turquoise is good. Blackish dark green is also good which usually comes from having been cleaned 100 years ago and then handled a lot by greasy fingers or sometimes waxed a long time ago. A recently cleaned looking light brown is not ideal as it'll make people suspect its provenance isn't so old. I won't say don't touch it, as handling it a lot over a long time may gradually help.
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2019
  10. octavius

    octavius Well-Known Member

    As a long time collector of Aes Grave, we cherish the natural patina on these cast coins. Verdigris is usually copper carbonate that is considered to be part of the patina of the coin and enhances it.
    If I were to attempt to "clean" these coins, most collectors of Aes Grave would say that I would have ruined them. I would not attempt any further manipulation of your very beautiful and historic coin.

    13234_0.jpg 1969554l.jpg
  11. Andrew McCabe

    Andrew McCabe Well-Known Member

    Beautiful. The semis, without club symbol, is very rare. I do not have one.
    octavius likes this.
  12. Roerbakmix

    Roerbakmix Well-Known Member

    My advice would be to stop at this point. I do not mean to sound condescending, but this coin would have been better left alone. Although I regularly clean ancient silver coins, I stay away from bronze as it's incredible difficult to clean without doing harm, at least, in my opinion.

    It's your property, as you've bought it. Some here might regret it, probably.

    Cleaning coins can give a nice dimension to the hobby. I fail to see however why you wanted to clean this coin in the first place. Unless you have some experience restoring bronze coins, it would be difficult to predict the outcome.
  13. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    Perhaps you will when you try to sell the coin. I see the 'after' item worth much, much less than 'before'. I am not a specialist in aes grave but would enjoy adding a piece or two to my general collection. Not that one.
  14. Barry Murphy

    Barry Murphy Well-Known Member

    Assuming the light on your photos is correct, I echo the other comments above. This was a pretty coin in the before photo, now it's rather unattractive an unnatural looking. I wouldn't say it's ruined but it has been significantly devalued.

    Barry Murphy
  15. Alegandron

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

    Personally, I do not clean any of my coins. If I do not like the coin, I do not buy it. I consider a coin's patina an intregal part of its history, so I will not remove it (patina).

    For every rule, there is always an exception: Another very trusted member of this forum offered to clean a low-cost coin of mine. I allowed it because: he was a well known cleaner of coins; it was a very low cost coin for me; he cleaned it for free; it was not a critical or rare coin; it was a silver based coin. I was very anxious and second-guessing my decision when I sent the coin to him. However, upon return the cleaning was well done. I would probably not do it again per my explaination in my above paragraph.

    Personally, I have several Roman Republic Aes Grave coins. I have all their various denominations, except for the Semis and above denominations. My next Target is a Semis. If I would had seen your Semis on the market; I would had considered purchasing the Semis in your first pic. However, if I saw it as you list in your second pic; I would not purchase it and would look for alternative Aes Grave Semis.
    Stevearino and galba68 like this.
  16. red_spork

    red_spork Triumvir monetalis Supporter

    As a budding collector of aes grave and other early Italian cast pieces I'll offer some insight into why I think invasively cleaning such a piece (or a piece of aes rude, aes signatum, etc) is usually a mistake, outside of eye appeal alone. As collectors of these pieces the odds are completely against us in some ways. We're authenticating pieces that were cast in antiquity so a lot of the normal things we'd look for, signs of striking, etc aren't there. A natural patina thus plays a more important role in allowing us to authenticate them. Whereas with a struck prow bronze I don't always mind a coin that's been partially or completely stripped and had the usual sulpur darkening(more common than most realize) if it's otherwise attractive and hasn't been tooled, I wouldn't touch an aes grave with any significant patina manipulation including stripping at any price. I've heard the sentiment echoed by other collectors of these pieces. Even though it's got a seemingly good provenance and might have been previously sold by good dealers, it's been irrevocably changed at this point.

    When it comes to cleaning any coin more significant than the average "uncleaned lot" LRB, it's worth pausing to think whether or not you should actually clean it and maybe consulting an expert. I always consult at least a couple people who know a lot more about the coins I collect than I do before I clean or pay anyone to clean one of my coins.
    Stevearino, TIF, Carausius and 2 others like this.
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