AncientJoe's Top 10 for 2020

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by AncientJoe, Dec 3, 2020.

  1. AncientJoe

    AncientJoe Supporter! Supporter

    2020 has objectively been one of the most challenging years in recent memory. Coins are a great escape from the daily breaking news alerts and I've been fortunate to cross off a number of long-term wants from my list.

    I'm a minimalist person (and collector) so I tend to focus on adding relatively few pieces over time. My goal every year is to add just one "keeper" piece and I keep saying to myself that "this year will be the year where I only add one and I'll be happy with that".

    Yet, somehow I was fortunate to find and be able to buy 15+ coins this year. Two of my favorites are still en-route and they would fit within this top 10 but I don't trust that they'll arrive within this calendar year so they will fall to next year's list.

    I've greatly enjoyed seeing everyone's "Top 10" lists for this year so far. It shows that while we all have a common interest, we all approach it from different angles and have our unique take on what we want our collections to be.

    #10. Tarentum Nomos. I was disappointingly outbid on this coin last year but was chatting with a dealer who mentioned how surprising it was that a different dealer bought it for stock. That was good news to me! A few weeks later, it found its way home to me.


    CALABRIA. Tarentum. Circa 302 BC. Didrachm or Nomos (Silver, 21 mm, 7.83 g, 11 h), Sa... and Kon..., magistrates. ΣA Nude youth riding horse walking to right, raising his right hand to crown himself; below, Ionic capital. Rev. TAPAΣ / KON Youthful oikist, nude, riding dolphin to left, holding serpent in his right hand and whip in his left. Fischer-Bossert Group 75, 947 (V368/R733). HN Italy 947. Vlasto 657. A spectacular coin of great beauty, sharply struck from fresh dies and arguably the finest known example. Virtually as struck.

    #9. Helios Hekte. There are a wide range of designs on electrum but I've been looking for an example of this type for several years. It's much rarer as a hekte than a stater and personally I prefer the art on the hekte.


    MYSIA. Cyzicus. Ca. 450-350 BC. EL sixth-stater or hecte (11mm, 2.70 gm). ca. 410 BC. Helios, nude, kneeling right in front of foreparts of two horses prancing to left and right; tunny fish right below / Quadripartite mill-sail incuse square punch with stippled interior. Greenwell 23. Jameson 2194. SNG von Aulock 7312. Kraay-Hirmer 715. von Fritze 149. BMC 106.

    The engravers of the Kyzicene coinage drew their ideas from numerous sources, both local and foreign. Here, the inter-connected mythological relationships of Helios to Apollo; and Apollo as father to the city-founder Kyzikos point to an indigenous origin. The symmetrically balanced composition of the sun-god Helios flanked by the horses' foreparts must have been sculptural in inspiration and the observation that the composition is perfectly square (Head, NC, 1877, p. 170 [J.P. Six]) suggests that it has "been copied from a metope of a temple." (Greenwell, p. 59).

    #8. Messana Dilitron. This isn't a particularly rare coin but the engraving quality of the trident made it a coin I couldn't pass up.


    Sicily. Messana. 338-331 BC. Æ Dilitron (14.76g, 9h). Laffaille 59; MAST 42 (this coin). Superb green patina. Perfectly centered and struck. Choice extremely fine. From a European private collection; Ex. Münzen & Medaillen 1997 (85) lot 26, Ex. NAC 9 lot 180 (April 16, 1996)

    #7. Eukratides tetradrachm. This type is listed in the "100 Greatest" book for good reason with its remarkable artistic depiction of Eukratides (who never skipped a gym day). It's my first Bactrian coin and the primary type I had hoped to add from the Kingdom.


    Greco-Baktrian Kingdom. Eukratides I, circa 170-145 BC. Tetradrachm (Silver, 33 mm, 16.95 g, 12 h), early 150s BC. Diademed bust of Eukratides to left, seen from behind, wearing Macedonian helmet adorned with bull's horn and ear, and holding spear with his right hand. Rev. ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΜΕΓΑΛΟΥ ΕΥΚΡΑΤΙΔΟΥ The Dioscouri, each holding palm branch and lance, galloping on horseback to right; below, monogram of ΦΤ. Bopearachchi, 8b. Mitchiner 179a. SNG ANS 485. Lightly toned, very well-centered and struck in high relief. Extremely fine.

    #6. Noah's Ark Pentassarion. This was again a case where I was the underbidder on a coin and came across the dealer who bought it for stock. Pictures don't really do this coin justice as the metal looks terrible when photographed but these coins are always frought with problems (or they cost 30x more like an example that sold at Leu this year).


    PHRYGIA. Apameia. Philip I, 244-249. Pentassarion (Orichalcum, 34 mm, 18.56 g, 7 h), Aur. Alexander, archon for the second time. •AYT•K•IOYΛ•ΦIΛIΠΠOC•AVΓ• Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Philip I to right, seen from behind. Rev. ЄΠ M AYP AΛЄΞANΔP//OY B APXI AΠ/AMЄΩN The story of Noah: on the right, half-length figures of Noah and his wife, in tunic and stola, standing left in square chest representing the Ark, inscribed NΩЄ and floating on waves; above to right, a seated bird; on the left, Noah and his wife standing left upon dry land, raising hands in supplication; above, a bird returning from land with olive branch in its talons. BMC 182. SNG von Aulock 3510 (same dies). Extremely rare, one of a very few known examples. Rough but with very clear details.

    #5. Larissa stater. This was a complete impulse buy and yet managed to be one of my favorite coins for the year. I knew the coin well: it received a full-page spread in the famous Hunt Collection's first catalog where it was shown alongside some other-worldly pieces. When it was about to close for the opening price, I couldn't let it go. Toning is a transient attribute of coins but in this case, it is visually unchanged since it was photographed in 1990 which indicates that it's been stored carefully for the last 30 years.


    THESSALY. Larissa. Ca. mid-4th century BC. AR stater or didrachm (26mm, 12.32 gm, 4h). Head of nymph Larissa facing, turned slightly left, hair in ampyx, wearing pendant earrings and necklace / ΛΑΡΙ-Σ-ΑΙΩΝ, bridled horse prancing right on ground line. HGC 4, 409. BCD Thessaly I 306-311. BCD Thessaly II 1160.

    Ex Nelson Bunker Hunt Collection (Sotheby's New York, 19 June 1990), lot 93

    #4. Armenia Capta denarius. I spend an inordinate amount of time strategizing potential future purchases to see which coins would best fit my collection. In this case, this type is much harder to find in nice condition than the Eid Mar. It was this precise coin that I identified a number of years ago as the one I'd like to find and I was pleasantly surprised to see it come back around for sale.


    I spend an inordinate amount of time strategizing wantlists to determine appropriate coins for my collection. It's always validating when the precise coin I selected from a type happens to find its way to me as was the case with this denarius.

    Ever since 53 B.C., when the Parthians massacred the legions of Crassus near Carrhae, Romans had a keen awareness of their ancient enemy in the East, and of the territories that separated their two worlds. Armenia was the most important of these buffer states, and throughout the confrontational history of Rome with the Parthians or Sasanians, it was an important land to control. Typically, this did not mean large garrisons and full occupation, but control through a sympathetic ruler.

    Octavian gained control of the Roman East after defeating Mark Antony and Cleopatra in 31 B.C., and then began preparing to secure Armenia, and to recover from Parthia the military standards that had been lost by Crassus in 53, Decidus Saxa in 40 and Antony in 36. His chance arrived in 20, amid civil unrest in Armenia when an embassy beseeched Augustus to replace their current king, Artaxias, with his brother Tigranes.

    Augustus entrusted his eldest stepson, Tiberius, to raise an army and lead it and Tigranes to Armenia, and to install him as the new king. Tiberius achieved this without much difficulty — a remarkable task for a 21-year-old; but then, we must remember what his step-father had achieved while he was younger still.

    The Parthian king Phraates, awed by the convincing actions of Augustus, accepted the appointment of the new Armenian king and handed over all of the captured Roman standards in a bloodless victory and a diplomatic coup.

    #3. Apostolo Zeno aureus. I've wanted any coin from Apostolo Zeno (1668-1750) since I started collecting and this purchase was made even better by it being a type I wanted in nice condition.


    Vespasianus, 69-79. AV-Aureus, 73, Rome; 7.27 g. Head r. with laurel wreath // Vesta temple between the statues of two goddesses, inside a statue of Vesta. BMC 109; Calico 691; Coh. 578; RIC² 549.

    #2. Euth/Eumenes signed tetradrachm. This is the fourth time I've tried to acquire an example of this type and it was finally my turn to take one home. I purchased an example of a closely related type also within 2020 but I'll be selling that coin as this is nicer in every way.


    SICILY, Syracuse. Second Democracy. 466-405 BC. AR Tetradrachm (28mm, 16.96 g, 1h). Dies signed by Euth- and Eumenes. Struck circa 415-405 BC. Nike as charioteer, holding reins in both hands, driving fast quadriga right; above, Nike flying left, crowning charioteer with wreath; in exergue, Skylla, holding trident, swimming right; behind her, dolphin swimming right; EVΘ before / Head of Arethusa left, wearing wreath of grain ears, and necklace with lion head ornament; EVM below neck; four dolphins and [ΣV]PAKO-ΣIΩИ around. Tudeer 46 (V15/R28); SNG ANS 273; BMC 153; Rizzo pl. XLIII, 11; Basel 460; Gulbenkian 279; Jameson 796; McClean 2714; Hunterian 45 (all from the same dies). Near EF, toned. A Classical Greek masterwork.

    At Syracuse, these artists infused the standard typology - the victorious charioteer and the head of Arethusa - with a vigorous lifelike quality that stands among the finest works of numismatic art. The chariot scene was transformed from a two-dimensional view to a dynamic three-dimensional perspective, with the horses arrayed in a manner to give the viewer the impression that the horses are emerging from the field. On the reverse, the previously stoic and sedate profile of Arethusa was now imbued with an individuality. Although her adornments varied in the way her hair was kept and the kind of earrings she wore, the vitality of her countenance now offered a radiant immortality.

    #1. Eid Mar denarius. My top coin for this year is probably not a surprising choice. It's certainly not my rarest or the most beautiful from the year but it's a type that is remarkable for its palpable connection to a key turning point in history. I'd classify the type specifically as "annoyingly expensive" but cost is ultimately defined by supply and demand.

    I've been looking for a replacement Eid Mar since selling mine in 2016 and this coin finally fit the bill. I certainly wouldn't turn down an even longer pedigreed example at some point but this coin represents a significant upgrade over the one I owned.


    Marcus Junius Brutus and L. Plaetorius Caestianus. Denarius, Northern Greece 43-42 BC, AR 3.45 g. BRVT IMP L·PLAET·CEST Bare head of Brutus r. Rev. EID·MAR Pileus between two daggers. Babelon Junia 52 and Plaetoria 13. C 15. Sydenham 1301. Sear Imperators 216. Kent-Hirmer pl. 27, 98. Cahn, EIDibus MARtiis, Q. Tic. 18, 1989, 22d (these dies). RBW –. Crawford 508/3. Very rare and in unusually fine condition for this issue of great historical importance and fascination. Struck on a very broad flan and lightly toned, minor areas of porosity, otherwise extremely fine

    Ex Triton IX, 2006, 1356 and NAC 62, 2011, Markoff, 2005 sales.

    On the Ides of March, 44 BC, in the House of the Senate, Julius Caesar was murdered, dramatically changing the course of Western history.

    The “Eid Mar” denarius was minted by the assassin himself, Marcus Junius Brutus, to commemorate the date. It marked the final chapter of the Roman Republic, leading to its replacement by an empire which lasted for nearly 1500 years and whose influence and legacy shapes our world today. Had Caesar not been killed, the ramifications would have likely resulted in a dramatically different history of the modern world.

    It is the only Roman coin which mentions a specific date (EID MAR) and loudly proclaims that the tyrant Julius Caesar is dead and that the deed was done in the name of liberty, as Brutus considered his assassination of Caesar to be an act of patriotism.

    This was so remarkable that it became one of the few coin types to be mentioned by a contemporary historian. The ancient scholar Dio Cassius spoke of it in his History of Rome: “Brutus stamped upon the coins which were being minted his own likeness and a cap and two daggers, indicating by this and by the inscription that he and Cassius had liberated the fatherland.” (XLVII.25)

    I hope everyone has a safe and healthy final month of 2020: here's to a hopeful return to normalcy in 2021!
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  3. Pickin and Grinin

    Pickin and Grinin Well-Known Member

    Wow! Fantastic top 10 Joe.
    AncientJoe likes this.
  4. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Dombes collector Supporter

    Sorry for my other coinfriends here at CT, but your top ten is the only one worthy of ticking ten cases, should there be a poll

    My eyes are rolling, I don't know where to look first...Exceptionnal in every way !

    AncientJoe likes this.
  5. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    I'll take one of each! Great coins as always @AncientJoe
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  6. thejewk

    thejewk Well-Known Member

    Mind blowing, Joe.
    AncientJoe likes this.
  7. Alegandron

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

    Excellent coins, @AncientJoe . Really enjoy the history behind them. I enjoy them all, each of them.
    AncientJoe likes this.
  8. kazuma78

    kazuma78 Supporter! Supporter

    Great list! I believe the helios hekte, the larissa drachm and the tarentum stater are my favorites. The EID MAR is obviously incredible for historical and iconic context but I think the other 3 win me over for artistry.
    AncientJoe likes this.
  9. TheRed

    TheRed Supporter! Supporter

    Amazing coins! I'm probably in the minority because my favorite is the Eukratides tetradrachm. I love the bust of Eukratides, one of my favorite Hellenistic coins.
  10. Ryro

    Ryro They call me the 13th Caesar Supporter

    Wonderful things! I don't know how you can possibly list a coin above a signed Eumenes Tet:cigar:...oh, wait. That's how. With a stunning Eid Mar denarius:artist:
    Thanks so much for sharing these.:D
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  11. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist Supporter

    We are always in for a treat with your top 10 Joe - well done!
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  12. FrizzyAntoine

    FrizzyAntoine Active Member

    As always, a truly breathtakingly beautiful selection, and all very interesting types. #2, 5, and 7 are my favourites, with 4 and 10 close behind. Can't wait to see the ones on the way!
    AncientJoe likes this.
  13. 1934 Wreath Crown

    1934 Wreath Crown Well-Known Member

    Didn't like any of your top 10 Joe.....loved them ALL. Of course an Eid Mar is everyone's dream coin but for me that Bactrian Tetradrachm is breathtaking. Wonderful haul:)
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  14. Pishpash

    Pishpash Supporter! Supporter

    As expected, socks completely blown off :D
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  15. Cicero12

    Cicero12 Supporter! Supporter

    Lovely coins as expected! I love #7 in particular. Remarkable style and an incredibly interesting heroic type.
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  16. PeteB

    PeteB Well-Known Member

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  17. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    ...each of those deserves an hour long documentary on PBS, along with a frame...i concur with all me above peeps adjectives of description :)
    AncientJoe likes this.
  18. Julius Germanicus

    Julius Germanicus Well-Known Member


    Sitting here with my mouth open, unable to add anything to that.
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  19. jamesicus

    jamesicus Supporter! Supporter

    As always, your coins are superb, Joe - their condition, artistry, and historical associations are wonderful. I also greatly admire your narratives which add so much to your presentations.
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  20. PlanoSteve

    PlanoSteve Supporter! Supporter

    What more can be said that hasn't already been posted by responders. We (collectively) continue to be awed by your spectacular "eye" & highly descriptive & thoughtful analysis of your acquisitions! :singing::singing::singing:;):happy:

    As for: seems that you are right on track...I estimate you are now working on the year 2036 or so...:joyful::joyful::joyful:;)
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  21. Ancient Aussie

    Ancient Aussie Supporter! Supporter

    All top notch coins, but I love the Vespasian Vesta temple, absolutely fantastic piece. Congrats.
    AncientJoe likes this.
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