An Affordable Hobby: 2019 Favorites under $25

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Orielensis, Dec 13, 2019.

  1. Orielensis

    Orielensis Well-Known Member

    Unfortunately, many modern collectors and beginners wrongly assume that ancient and medieval coin collecting has to be prohibitively expensive. As a matter of fact, most “year end favorite lists” we saw so far in this forum contain quite pricy coins and might even support such impressions. Therefore, following @Valentinian 's and @Curtisimo ’s leads here and here, I thought it a good idea to do an alternative 2019 favorite list showing that it's possible to collect premodern coins on a budget. Below are my favorite 2019 acquisitions below $25 in chronological order.

    Since this list is meant to illustrate the affordability of the hobby, I felt it necessary to violate the ‘never talk about money’-rule of polite conversation and have mentioned prices below. All prices are converted to US dollars if necessary and include buyer’s premium. Shipping is not factored in, though, since it would have been somewhat distortive. Due to some extensive travels, my coins were mailed to different countries. Also, I usually did combined shipment for multiple coins.

    Please let me know your favorites and, even better, post your own favorite sub $25 ancients of 2019!

    1. This one should have been more expensive but illustrates how watching auctions for bargains can sometimes pay out.
    Magna Graecia – Phokis, Liga, Triobol.png

    Phokis, Federal Coinage, triobol, ca. 490–485 BC. Obv: frontal bull's head. Rev: head of Artemis r. set diagonally in incuse square, Φ-O[-K-I] around. 13mm, 2.63g. Ref: see BCD Lokris–Phokis 189; see Williams 1972, no. 17. Ex Savoca London, 2nd Blue Auction, lot 105. Price: $22.

    2. Due to an enormous hoard, Lycian ⅙ staters can currently be found for very little money. If you want one, the time to buy is now. I have another one with a slightly better obverse, but this one was added because of the nice dolphin control mark.
    Magna Graecia – Lykien, Dynast Mithrapata, 1:6 Stater, Delfin.png
    Dynasts of Lycia, Mithrapata, AR 1/6 stater, ca. 390–370 BC: Obv: Lion scalp facing. Rev: METRAPA[T]A in Lycian script; triskele; in field, dolphin. 13mm, 1.13g. Ref: SNG Copenhagen Suppl. 476 var. Ex Redoubt Numismatics, TX. Price: $22.50.

    3. A nice Carthaginian bargain from a trustworthy ebay-seller:
    Karthago – AE20, Tanit und Pferdekopf.png
    Zeugitania, Carthage, AE 18 (Shekel?), ca. 300–264 BC, mint on Sicily or Sardinia (?). Obv: head of Tanit l. Rev: head of horse r.; Punic letter (crescent-shaped) before. 18mm, 4.43g. Ref: SNG Copenhagen 151. Ex André Cichos (“cichosgladiator11” on ebay). Price: $24.

    4. This one I picked up from Ken Dorney’s pick bin at the last Santa Clara coin show. Honestly speaking, the price was low due to Ken being nice. $5–$10 more would still have been a good deal in my eyes. It would have made this list nonetheless, though. (The green spots are rock hard and stabile.)
    Magna Graecia – Pontos, Amisos, AE, Aegis und Nike.png
    Pontos, Amisos (Kingdom of Pontos under Mithridates VI Eupator), AE 21, ca. 105–85 BC. Obv: Gorgoneion in aegis. Rev: [A]MI-ΣΟ[Υ]; Nike advancing r. with palm branch; in fields, monograms. 21mm, 7.40g. Ref: SNG BM Black Sea 1177–1191. Ex Ken Dorney. Price: $10. (Ceterum censeo Kynetum esse referendum!)

    5. Attractively worn denarii of the adoptive emperors can often be found for a good price. This is an example. The green mineral deposits likely stem from the coin getting cozy with a bronze item it was buried with together. I will not remove them.
    Rom – Antoninus Pius, Denar, Annona mit Bug.png

    Antoninus Pius, Roman Empire, denarius, 155–156 AD, Rome mint. Obv: [ANTO]NINVS AVG PIVS PP [IMP II], head of Antoninus Pius, laureate, r. Rev: TR POT XIX [CO]S III, Annona standing l., holding corn ears, resting l. hand on modius standing on prow with rudder leaning on it. 18mm, 3.27g. Ref: RIC III Antoninus Pius 249. Ex C.K. (“sesterzensammler” on ebay Germany). Price: $22.

    6. Antoniniani of Gordian III come in many varieties, often are very attractive, and don’t cost a fortune.
    Rom – Gordian III, Antoninian, Romae aeternae (klein).png
    Gordian III, Roman Empire, Ar antoninianus, 240 AD, Rome mint. Obv: IMP GORDIANVS PIVS FEL AVG; bust of Gordian III, radiate, draped, cuirassed, r. Rev: ROMAE AETERNAE; Roma, helmeted, seated l. on shield, holding Victory in extended r. hand and spear in l. hand. 22.5mm, 4.65g. Ref: RIC IV Gordian III 70. Ex Silicua, auction 1, lot 121. Price: $25.

    7. Many ancient collectors, including myself, started with late Roman bronze coins: they come in many types, are easily attributable and in ample supply, and don’t break the bank. Often, extremely attractive examples of the more common types can be found for little money:
    Rom – Konstantin der Große, AE3, Sol, Rom.jpg
    Constantine I, Roman Empire, AE3, 312–313 AD, Rome mint. Obv: IMP CONSTANTINVS P F AVG; bust of Constantine I, laureate, draped, cuirassed, r. Rev: SOLI INVICTO COMITI; Sol, chlamys hanging behind, standing l., raising r. hand and holding up globe in l. hand. 20mm, 2.96g. Ref: RIC VI Rom 323a. Ex AMCC 2, lot 244 (their picture). Price: $21.

    8. Another very attractive late Roman. Note the quality of the Trier mint portraiture.
    Rom – Constantinus II Junior, AE 3, Lagertor, Trier.png
    Constantine II, Roman Empire, AE3, 326AD, Trier. Obv: CONSTANTINVS IVN NOB C, bust of Constantine II, laureate, draped, cuirassed, l. Rev: PROVIDENTIAE CAESS, globe on altar inscribed VOT/IS/XX; camp gate with two turrets, star above; in exergue, STR crescent. 19mm, 3.01g. Ref: RIC VII Treveri 479. Ex Tauler y Fau, Auction 34, lot 4519. Price: $25.

    9. Finding affordable yet interesting medieval coins can be hard. “Friesach pfennige” do not only have a fascinating history, they are also accessible for collectors on a budget.
    MA – Erzbistum Salzburg, Friesacher Pfennig, Adalbert.png
    Adalbert III of Bohemia, Prince–Archbishopric of Salzburg, Friesach pfennig, ca. 1170–1200 AD, Friesach mint. Obv: E[R]IAC[EN]SIS (retrograde), bishop standing facing, holding crosier and book. Rev: church building with two towers, cross above pediment, four ringlets (windows?) below. 19mm, 0.97g. Ref: CNA, Ca9. Ex Minerva Moneta. Price: $20.35.

    10. The same is true for “hand hellers.” The type is very common and only very few collectors specialize on these. The obverse shows a glove, symbolizing the right of a town to have a market and a mint (see my write-up on the type).
    MA – Heller 1.png
    Schwäbisch Hall, imperial mint, heller, mid-13th c. Obv: Hand in line border, remains of blundered legend (HALLA-type). Rev: Cross with forked ends and pellet in each end in lined border, remains of blundered legend. 17.6mm, 0.55g. Ref: Raff 8 or 9. Ex Enjoy Treasure (“enjoytreasure” on ebay). Price: $16.50.
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2019
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  3. CoinBlazer

    CoinBlazer Numismatic Enthusiast

    Excellent portrait on the Constantine I, however, I notice the flan is a bit damaged. In my opinion, I would find that to be an acceptable trade-off.
    Orielensis likes this.
  4. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    That is a great group. I tried something similar with my thread on "inexpensive beauties". Coin collecting doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg and attractive historical pieces can be found at surprisingly low prices, especially if one is willing to compromise somewhat on condition.
    Orielensis likes this.
  5. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Well-Known Member

    In the past couple of months alone I purchased these. Each was less than $25 US:

    Gallienus AETERNITAS AVG Saturn antoninianus Antioch.jpg
    Constantius I IOVI ET HERCVLI CONS CAES antoninianus.jpg
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  6. furryfrog02

    furryfrog02 Well-Known Member

    Dang those are some awesome coins for a great price!
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  7. Deacon Ray

    Deacon Ray Artist & Historian Supporter

    Great post @Orielensis ! YES—it’s definitely possible to collect ancient coins on a modest budget. My entire Nabataean collection cost less than $500.


    My favorite of your posted coins is the Hand Heller.
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  8. Alegandron

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

    Fantastic collection, @Orielensis ! Wonderful coins and great prices. That is what I enjoy... can capture some great historical pieces, and still being able to eat!
    ominus1, Deacon Ray and Orielensis like this.
  9. nicholasz219

    nicholasz219 Well-Known Member

    @Orielensis Very nice coins and write up. The last few years before my wife and I got married, I had to do some catching up, i.e., get my crap together so she would marry me. That meant dealing with some finance stuff that meant I had a very limited budget.

    Ebay of course has a lot of people to watch out for but also some really great sellers, usually the online arm of good dealer shops. If you a) mind the shipping costs and try to ensure that the seller combines shipping at a reasonable rate; b) keep a list of people recommended by friends on here and c) spend some time sorting through you can create a really
    fun collection around $10 per coin.

    You might have to pass on the Caesar denarii, aureii of the Severans and Athenian tets but you can get a lot of fun and learning in which gets you ready for the big stuff when you can afford to collect it without guilt...or living under a bridge.
    BenSi, dadams, rrdenarius and 4 others like this.
  10. Sallent

    Sallent Live long and prosper

    It's easy to collect Roman coins for $25 and under especially if you don't mind the bulk of your collection being from 240 CE - 400 CE and 96% bronze/copper/billon.

    It's a lot harder to do if you want Greek coins. For that a budget of $50 per coin is probably more realistic for the budget conscious, and at that price expect 98% of your collection to be bronze, but there's some real beauties to be had for that $50 and under.

    If you add Indian and Chinese, $50 budget will get you quite a few medieval Indian silver coins, maybe a few ancients too, and $50 alone will get you a handful of ancient Chinese cash coins.
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2019
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  11. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana

    I’ve always felt was an important point of fact that collecting ancients can be both deep and rewarding even when one is on a tight budget. I think your excellent list of coins illustrates this perfectly. My favourites are the Phokis and the Trier mint Constantine II, but really, I think all of them are awesome.
  12. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    I think collecting inexpensive coins is very rewarding, but there are of course drawbacks. As I said before, as a rule you will have to compromise on condition. Yet, condition is everything. If you buy a 25 dollar-coin today, chances are that it will still cost 25 dollars in 10 or 20 years time, if you can even sell it at that price. If you go for high quality coins with exceptional styles, chances are that the value of your coins is going up over time. At least this is my experience.
    Orielensis likes this.
  13. Sallent

    Sallent Live long and prosper

    Not necessarily. Some collectors don't care as much about XF or AU as you think, and they are happy with a VF or a F as long as the style is nice and the legends are readable. I know quite a few here who fit into that category, and it's not because they are in a super tight budget or anything. They just like coins a lot, and don't necessarily want to spend a fortune.

    True, but if you don't plan on selling and this is not an investment for you, but rather a hobby, who cares whether your coin is still $40 in 20 years or went up to $80? Most people don't really do a hobby to make money, but rather to have fun. Once you start making money you are no longer a collector but rather a dealer selling for profit (which sucks some of the charm out of the hobby as its no longer a thing you do just for fun.)
  14. gogili1977

    gogili1977 Well-Known Member

    All coins are very nice. My favorite is Constantine II.
    Orielensis likes this.
  15. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish)

    You took it a step farther with a $25 limit and still managed to show us 10 winners. Well done @Orielensis !

    My favorites:

    #1 - A nice worn beauty. Landing a pre-Persian War Greek is always rewarding. A well centered silver for less than $25 is fantastic.

    #6 - Nice detail on a good size coin for a great price. A pretty roach ;)

    #8 - I agree that the portrait is great. I like the camp gate types.
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2019
  16. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Great thread! I live for "affordable" ancients.

    I recently got these two Gordian III antoniniani - the one on the left is RIC 1. They were $25 for the pair. I thought the differences in flan size was interesting:

    Gordian III - Ant. Lot of 2 Nov 2019 (0).jpg
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  17. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist

    While I knew the handhellers could be found for cheap, it certainly isn’t easy finding medieval coins for under $25! I think the only sub $25 coin I bought this year was the Kushan coin I recently posted (and I may have overpaid for it):

    Kushan Empire
    Huvishka, r. 155-189 A.D.
    AE Tetradrachm, 25.48 mm x 13.8 grams
    Obv.: Huvishka seated facing cross-legged, holding ankuśa (elephant goad) and scepter; trace of clouds below
    Rev.: Solar deity Mithra standing left, extending hand in benediction and holding hilt of sword; tamgha to left

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  18. Sulla80

    Sulla80 Supporter! Supporter

    It is certainly true that you are unlikely to find an interesting ancient coin, in good condition, in change from your local supermarket and vcoins has 10X the number of World Coins <$5 as it does Ancient....on the other hand, maybe a silly "ancient v. modern" comparison: this nice ancient decadrachm is 1/10th the price of this nice modern 1913 Liberty Head V Nickle.

    That said, there are some interesting ancients that are very affordable - here are two favorites from this year both <$10 :

    The first I posted recently as "A small AE from Arados"(<$10)
    Phoenicia Arados Aphlaston.jpg
    Phoenicia, Arados 142 - 146 BC
    AE 12x10mm 1.15g, Hemichalkous
    Obv: Turreted head of Tyche right, chignon & braided ponytail, palm frond behind.
    Rev: Aphlaston (Aplustre), Phoenician letters in left field, Aradian era date right

    and the second <$5
    Arab-Byzantine Constans II.jpg
    Anonymous, Umayyad (=Mu'Awiya?) Caliphate AD 660-680 (date listed in C. Foss)
    Obv: KA/Λ/ON (good or passes) in left field, "bi-Hims" (Emesa in Arabic) in right field with star below, facing bust, beardless, wearing cuirass and paludamentum (military cape), with cross on diadem, holding globus cruciger in right hand
    Rev: Large m, E/M/I in left field, o*o above, C/H/C in right field, "tayyib" (Arabic for "good") in exergue
    Mint: Hims (Emesa)
    Size: 20.5mm, 3.90g, die axis 6 (ref: C.Foss catalog #65 which is 21mm and 3.93g)
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  19. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    Sure, there are always collectors who go for the lesser conditions and that is absolutely fine. If you are assembling a specialist types collection, there is often no other way.

    Nevertheless, for the coin market as a whole price developments speaks a different language. Common coins of lower quality are inexpensive, because they are common and they will usually remain common and inexpensive in the future. Common coins of high quality are in fact not so common and they tend to go up in value over time, because they are sought after.

    So clearly, for someone who does not care about valuation gain or even value preservation, condition is not so important, but the price development shows that for the bulk of collectors "condition is everything", because condition often determines rarity and value.

    A common Gordian Antoninian in average or below average condition can be bought for USD 25,- but it will probably remain at this value or even decline, depending on supply and preferences. A high quality Gordian Antoninian of exceptional style may be bought for USD 125,-, but chances are that the coin will cost twice that in 10 or 20 years (I made up those numbers). I think this is a bit the choice (or dilemma) that every collector faces.
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2019
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  20. Sallent

    Sallent Live long and prosper

    That's your personal opinion, which is wrong, and what I gave you was my personal opinion which is equally as invalid. If there's one thing I've learned with the ancients crowd is that we are the wild wild west here. Everyone has a unique philosophy as to what is collectable and what they are willing to buy and spend. We are not like the US only collectors that live in a standardized world of plastic slabs and numbers, and with guides telling them what to buy. Collecting ancients is like the Oregon Trail circa 1850...the wild frontier. Except catching ancient coins is a lot more interesting than catching dysentery (maybe this wasn't the best example :eek:)

    Last edited: Dec 13, 2019
  21. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    Yeah ok, I have no idea what that is supposed to mean.
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