Attributing a group lot of Byzantine tetartera! 12th century coinage.

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by BenSi, Mar 26, 2020.

  1. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    Since we are all at home or should be I thought I would share with my captive audience a group lot of Byzantine Tetartera that I acquired a few months ago. This is a group lot I have not gone through yet. I will share the process step by step on attributing these coins.

    To start, I am not a beginner, I have dealt with tetartera for twenty years. They are small coins, successors the follis. Most Catalogs divide them into two different sizes, the full and the half.

    Now this denomination is common, money was abundant in the 12th century especially copper. Tetartera minted in Thessalonica were the low end of the coinage system but one of these coins could have bought you lunch. Not a great lunch, more like a bread and water lunch.

    The first tetarteron was created by Alexius I in the coin reform of 1092. The coin was minted in large qualities until the fall of Constantinople to the Crusaders in 1203, they were invited as guests and well the chose not to leave. The coin was minted after 1203 but are much rarer to be found.

    This group is in aVF condition, a good mix of full and half tetartera. We have 49 coins in the lot. zzz1.jpg
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  3. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    My first step, divide coins by ruler.

    The 12th century had 6 rulers who created the most common tetartera. Alexius I, John II, Manuel, Andronicus, Isaac II and Alexius III. We do have a usurper Isaac of Cyprus who also created tetartera but I really doubt if he will be in this group. This is not a hoard it is a group lot from a German auction and odds are someone took a quick glance that anything super rare would be caught.

    Also Tetartera was rarely hoarded, these coins are mostly found as stay finds, simple everyday losses from the common man, the less the value of the coin the more inclined it was to be lost with fuss.

    This group breaks down to 5 of the rulers, Alexius -2 coins , John II 4 coins, Manuel 34 coins, Andronicus 5 coins and Isaac II 2 coins, no coins from Alexius iii in this group. It appears I am two short of 49. Bastards.
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2020
  4. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    The first coins are Alexius half tetarterons , not rare, in fact if you follow site finds or Corinth and Athens this was the most produced coin of the empire of that time, they have been found in the 1000's
    Some Joker a few years back said they were rare on ebay, sold them $100.00 a go.

    Nice ones are rare because of their size and mass creation rarely will you find anything to line up. These two are fine.

    I will do proper photos tomorrow, The phone does not do them justice or the fact I have had a few night caps has impaired my photography skills. To be continued.
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  5. dadams

    dadams Supporter! Supporter

    Way out of my wheelhouse, but I’m looking forward to seeing/learning more.
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  6. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    Well here are the two coins from Alexius. As I stated before they very common, the Sear number for these coins is SBCV-1932

    This coin is listed as an uncertain mint or mints. To add to the confusion this coin was imitated until the 13th century. So it is extremely difficult to determine what was an official coin or a coin that was minted by locals to make up for a shortage in coinage. The tetarteron circulated for decades, never being recalled to be restruck. When it came time for imitators to create new coins, they chose tetartera with the simplest of designs. Mostly of Alexius and Manuel coinage. That’s what made this coin a favorite with imitators.

    SBCV-1932 is found with weights of .60gm to 3.22gm. Sizes from 12mm to 17mm

    These two are 14mm and 12mm with weights of 1.1gm and .8gm, because they are such low weight and variation in design, they might be imitations.


    Additional note regarding the modern history of tetartera, the coins had little written about then until 1969. When Michael Hendy wrote the first work that analyzed the coin and began theory’s on where they were minted. That book is called “Coinage and Money in the Byzantine Empire 1081-1261. He went on to write Dumbarton Oakes catalog IV 20 years later. The DOC IV is available for free online.

    The imitation coinage was proven much later in the 2000’s, that really messed up weights of the previous finds, the weights of the imitations were most likely included in the previous finds. Most imitations were always underweight.
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  7. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    John II Comnenus is next. The group included 4 of these half tetartera by him.

    John II was the son of Alexius; he was born into the purple. As history goes, he was one of the best rulers the empire ever had but he is rarely mentioned. His nickname was John the Beautiful, this was not because of his looks it was said he was a very unattractive man. A great book about him is “John II Konnenus Byzantine Emperor In the shadow of Father and Son.”

    This coin is SBCV – 1954, found in sizes 15-19mm with weights 1.16 to 2.52gm

    I chose one example to photograph, descent example of this coin.

    2.3gm and 16.64mm


    His copper coinage was rarely if ever imitated. No known tetartera copies but one trachy type has a imitation. However, his gold coinage from Thessalonica was copied by John III, to the point we cannot tell the difference visually on who created the coin. Why he did this is uncertain, but john II kept his coinage at the high levels of purity. Coinage after him by his son Manuel became debased a little and it proceeded to decline on all rulers after that until time the Crusaders overtook the capital in 1203 and gold coinage had temporarily ceased to be minted.

    Next part of the group is Manuel, his coins are abundant in the collector’s world and in this group.
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  8. catadc

    catadc Well-Known Member

    Your captive audience wants more of this story. There are 40 more coins to share...
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  9. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    Tomorrow Morning, I will do Manuel. The majority of the coins.
  10. TheRed

    TheRed Supporter! Supporter

    I have really enjoyed your posts in this thread @BenSi. I find these 11th-13th century Byzantine coins fascinating and would love to actively collect them. Thanks for such great posts. One of these days I need to trek up to Dumbarton Oaks.
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2020 at 10:14 PM
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  11. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    Manuel Ruled for 37 years 1143-1180, his coinage for the 12th century is by far the most abundant.

    In this group 33 coins belong to him. Even though this is not a hoard but just a group lot it is actually a good representation on how common his coins are for the 12th century.

    ( Note, my average weights and sizes for coins in this post is taken from the Dumbarton Oakes Collection.)

    Now the majority of his coins in this group are ½ tetartera however that term might not be actually true. When Michel Hendy began his catalog, he noticed tetartera were different sizes, so he separated them to be full tetartera and half tetartera, he based this not on size but average weight, it was the simplest solution. However, this problem gets very confusing. Several of todays scholars think the coin had an involuntary value so one coin was worth the same as the other coin regardless of size or weight, I do not agree, it goes against human nature. Bigger coin worth more than smaller coin.

    Also for the first time in the history of the tetarteron it was one coin type minted in different sizes. A big version then a smaller version of the type, his fathers and grandfathers coinage minted ½ tetartera as different types of coins, creating a new design.

    Here is SBCV tetarteron with St George SBCV -1975 , this group lot had just two. St George is an interesting figure because he was a Saint that fought. Like the early days before the empire became Christian gods were used to send different messages, the same is true in the late empire but Gods were replaced with Saints.

    The coins weights range from 2.78gm to 7.16gm sizes from 19mm to 24mm

    This example is not awesome but above average.

    Size 21.42

    Weight. 3.0gm

    Now for its ½ version , this lot had 14 examples.

    Average size and weight for these coins is .91gm to 2.26gm from 14mm to 17mm

    I took this one out of my group. Off center obverse but it was my pick from all of them.

    Size 17.47mm

    Weight. 1.9gm

    Now SBCV – 1976 , the lot had 5 examples.

    Average weights 2.55 to 6.54gm and size 18-25 mm

    My best example from this lot.


    Size 24.22mm

    Weight 6.0gm

    The half tetarteron of this coin. The lot had 6 examples. ( average s weight 1.26-2.24gm and size 16to 19mm)


    Size 16.41mm

    weight 1.2gm

    The Monogram, Many of you have seen these before , Manuel had two monograms, this lot only had 5 examples of the most common monogram SBCV-1979 (Average weight 1.10 to 2.96 gm and sizes 14 to 18mm)

    Here is an example from the group

    Size 15.36mm

    Weight 1.6gm

    The last coin was in very bad shape, I did not photograph it was a SBCV- 1981. In David Sear catalog he notes two versions of the same coin because of Hendy's work with the coin, I think it was a mistake, no visual difference ( originally Christs Bust had a beard in one version in Hendy's 1969 book but by the time he wrote DOC IV he separated them only by weights.)

    The next emperor we will visit in the lot is Andronicus, a real evil fellow. Manuel did have a son Alexius II who ruled but no coins are known during his short two year reign, it is believed his fathers coins were continued to be minted. He was very young, several coins in the past have been attributed to him but they have been reattributed to other rulers since then.

    Attached Files:

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  12. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    Now the lot gets interesting! 5 coins of Andronicus

    4 coins of SBCV-1987

    Here is my favorite, none are in great condition but the Obverse on this one was well struck.

    Weight 3.1gm

    Size 19.91mm

    Okay this one coin basically pays for the whole lot. It is rare and in very nice condition. This is a Andronicus ½ tetarteron. Very Rare and they sell for around $200.00


    size 16.1 mm

    weight 1.4gm

    I will need to use some verdicare on this one. She should have Christ nimbate at her waist and that is not at all clear. Andronicus is the first to start the split beard trend. His clothes also match. If she has no child then in is an unlisted variety and that will add to its value.

    This coin exists in three different die sizes. 18mm, 15mm and 12mm. The above found in the lot is 12mm die size.

    Here is a pic taken from pieces in my collection that show all three side by side.
    Well the last two coins from the lot are next, both Isaac II . I am still a bit blown away with this Andronicus find.
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  13. catadc

    catadc Well-Known Member

    Was the one at the very right of the picture of the lot, third row from the top? Probably saw it as Andronicus at the time, but for sure did not realize it was rare.
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  14. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    The half tetartera for Andronicus are very rare. You rarely see them offered at auctions or shops.
    If you have CLBC he lists them at 15mm die, they are a 12mm die. My group pic in the Andronicus post shows the difference.
  15. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    After checking before any additional cleaning I saw the baby at her Waist. So the coin is the normal variety.
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  16. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    So just to finish this up from the lot, we will end on a high note. Two interesting Tetartera

    Isaac II Thessalonica Tetarteron SBCV-2005

    (Average weight 3.21-5.60gm average size 19-23mm)

    This was the better of the two.


    Size 20.48mm

    Weight 3.8gm

    It is also a rarer and pleasing coin, not as rare as the ½ Andy from the last post but an interesting coin , it depicts another waring figure Michael the Archangel, he is famous in old testament and as as the leader against the fight against Satan in Revelations.

    That puts an end to this lot, as I said in an earlier post one coin was worth the purchase price, the rest are just gravy. I am not sure if any examples will replace or go aside with my main collection I will decide that in the future.

    If you are interested in learning more feel free to ask. Here is the link to my complete collection with many different types that were not included here.

    Hope you were entertained with this little project.

    Regardless of your taste in coins , I hope you all stay Safe and Healthy! Hopefully this will be over soon.
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2020 at 5:28 PM
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  17. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    The half tetarteron of Andy has been cleaned and re photographed. Really a nice example. I can clean this a little more with a tooth pick , not much more to be shown.
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