Always Read the Fine Print...

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by -monolith-, Nov 28, 2023.

  1. -monolith-

    -monolith- Supporter! Supporter

    Auction photos can be quite deceiving so always read the fine print; or at least have some idea about the actual size of a coin. Some very tiny new additions to my collection. I knew they were small, I just didn't realize how small.

    LOT 201.jpg
    Actual Size (7 mm, 0.38g)
    LOT 201.jpg
    Auction Photo

    LOT 221.jpg
    Actual Size (5 mm, 0.25g)
    LOT 221.jpg
    Auction Photo
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2023
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  3. robinjojo

    robinjojo Well-Known Member

    Those are nice examples, especially the first coin. The obverse ram is well done.

    Yes, going just by the photos can be risky - always check the denomination, diameter and weight.

    Really small ancient coins, obol and below, are a collecting specialty on their own. I don't collect them because of this, plus the fact that my eyesight isn't all that good, without the help of high magnification, to view and admire these small works of art.

    I only have one obol, given to me as a "thank you" gift by a seller from whom I purchased a tetradrachm.

    Bactria, Eucratides I, 171-135 BC, AR obol.
    MIG 181a; Bop 9C.
    .69 grams

    Obverse Helmeted bust of king right
    Reverse Palms and caps of Dioscuri, Greek legend on left and right: BAΣIΛEΩΣ / EYKPATIΔOY, monogram below

    D-Camera Bactria, Eucratides I, AR obol, .69 grams, MIG 181a, Bop 9C, 12-29-20.jpg
    Carl Wilmont, galba68, Curtis and 5 others like this.

    SEGESTIUS Member

    I always avoid the hemitetartemorions. They can be as small as 3mm and .05 grams. Microscope would be required.

    I also avoid sellers who neglect to add diameters and weights to their coins, as these are critical elements for ancient coins.
  5. Homer2

    Homer2 Well-Known Member


    Love the wolf. I have hounds.

    Lycania - Laranda
    Baal / Wolf 324/3BC
    8.2mm .4g
    Obv. Baaltars seated left, holding grain ear, grapes, and sceptre
    Rev. Forepart Wolf

    Must admit, great detail on the coin. Was little smaller than I at first gauged while bidding.
  6. -monolith-

    -monolith- Supporter! Supporter

    These were purchased from an old collection and were shipped in the original old style paper envelopes. So when I opened them I thought "where is the coin". I don't know how the engravers were able to achieve such detail with primitive tools, lighting and no magnification.
    Mikenwuf and paschka like this.
  7. robinjojo

    robinjojo Well-Known Member

    I think they had a form of magnification back then, but it probably wasn't very sophisticated.

    So your two coins are hemitetartemorions, as noted earlier, based on the diameter information. What do they weigh?
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2023
  8. JayAg47

    JayAg47 Well-Known Member

    The first time I've ever held a denarius after buying it from online, I was so disappointed, not because it was fake, but it was so tiny! it's just an ancient dime! and I payed nearly what 1oz worth of silver cost. Back then i was into bullion, so the premiums felt very worng.
    sand likes this.
  9. robinjojo

    robinjojo Well-Known Member

    Carl Wilmont, philologus_1 and Curtis like this.
  10. -monolith-

    -monolith- Supporter! Supporter

    I updated the photos with the weights.
  11. Curtis

    Curtis Well-Known Member

    As someone who collects Greek fractions, that first coin is very nice for the size. (But is it possible you switched the weights? 0.38 would be more typical of the top/Kasolaba type & 0.25 for the lower, Mylasa/Miletos type.)

    Below is a similar variety of Hemitetartmorion (my particular type now attributed to the Satrap Hekatomnus by Konuk). The OP coin should be a Kasolaba Hemiobol (= 2 Tetartemoria = 4x larger)?

    This one is 4mm, 0.12g:
    Hekatomnos Hemitetartemorion.jpg
    Caria, Satraps, Hekatomnos AR Hemitetartemorion Ex-Clain-Stefanelli.jpg
    Ex Elvira Clain-Stefanelli Collection = HN Online 1922 (specimen 3 = this coin)​

    If you look to the right of the bust, there is an inscription, EK (unlike the OP coin, which has Carian script, probably for Casolaba). This cannot be seen with the naked eye (and went unnoticed by numismatists until recent years). It is not only a mystery that they were able to engrave so finely, but that they would do it all, since the result was essentially invisible.

    I have quite a lot of Greek AR fractions that small or even smaller.
    A few more from a group lot from the H.A. Cahn Collection (not even the smallest of them, which didn't show any detail at that distance). There's a considerable difference in size between the small coins in the top row and the tiny coins in the bottom:
    Cahn Kleinsilbermunzen Fractions Asia Minor Screenshot 2022-09-21 184709.png

    Honestly, it never occurred to me that the physical measurements could be considered the "fine print" or that people bid without checking it. Even if I'm very familiar with a type and bidding on dozens or more coins in an auction, I always look at the measurements, if nothing else (e.g., to know if it's small or large for type).

    Aside from the photo and the provenance, that's the only information the seller has that you can't know independently (unless you recognize that specimen), so I consider it the most important.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2023
  12. Curtis

    Curtis Well-Known Member

    So, I think my hunch in the comment above was right, that the lion coin (Mylasa/Miletos) was actually the one that weighed 0.25g and not the ram coin (Kasolaba). Here is a prior (I'm assuming) sale from 2016 for that coin (different photo but definitely the same specimen):
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2023
    Carl Wilmont and Bing like this.
  13. Silphium Addict

    Silphium Addict Well-Known Member

    @-monolith- Even though the "standardized image size" of online auctions can be deceiving, you obtained two excellent miniature works of art!
    @robinjojo, @JayAg47, @Homer2 and @Curtis - great tiny coins.
    The detail can be exceptional. In addition to small AR fractions, gold fractions like obols and litrae are very small diameter. I have several obols/litrae from Kyrene, but here are the smallest:
    Kyrene AV hemiobol 300-275 BC
    0.43 g, 5.5 mm, 4h
    O: ship prow right
    R: silphium plant
    BMC Cyrenaica 224a

    Barke AV hemiobol 435-331 BC
    0.43 g, 6 mm, 4h
    O: horse head right
    R: ram head right
    Naville 261

    Here is my previous post with some of my smallest AR coins:

    Safe storage and handling of small coins can be an issue, especially if you have ever dropped one! I used folded polyethylene envelopes inside a non-PVC flip but couldn't see both sides of the coin well without removing. Usually the smallest acrylic coin capsule is 14 mm internal diameter but I recently found 10 mm acrylic coin capsules (10 x 2 mm internal 14 x 5 mm external) on eBay from Armour Coin Capsules. The problem with the capsules is that smaller coins can "rattle" around. How do others store these tiny treasures?
  14. Curtis

    Curtis Well-Known Member

    I don't have one single method, but I usually have them in two containers. (Or in big groups inside bags/boxes for ones I don't consider individually important.)
    I happened to have a few on my desk when you commented. Three of these 9 are in capsules inside flips, 2 of them with fitted gaskets I trimmed, one a "rattler." One is in a small flip in a big. A few are inside thin archival pouches for cards (or stamps) folded over, one then inside a flip. A couple are just in regular plastic flips.

    (I usually don't leave really small ones loose in trays. A few weeks ago I dropped the middle left one above on the carpet & spent hours literally with a comb to find it!)
  15. -monolith-

    -monolith- Supporter! Supporter

    Yes, the auction sheet had the sizes and weights mixed up. I just received these and haven't had time to catalogue them yet (to verify auction information).
    Curtis likes this.
  16. -monolith-

    -monolith- Supporter! Supporter

    I guess my "Title" was a "little" misunderstood. I'm not complaining about the purchase, nor that I was unaware of what I was purchasing, or stating that it was deceiving. I'm just amazed that the auction house was able to photograph with great detail such small coins; the "Title" is simply a lyrical expression of this. I'm very pleased with the purchases. I have slowly been adding to my small fractions collection and purchase them whenever available. I have noticed quite a few of both types (Kasolaba, Caria and Ionia, Miletos) on the market lately. Someone must have found some recent hoards. I also picked up these fractions over the past several months:

    LOT 245.jpg
    lot 124.jpg
    lot 123.jpg
    lot 137.jpg
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2023
  17. GinoLR

    GinoLR Well-Known Member

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