Better Late Than Never 'Grail' Coin

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by David Atherton, Apr 10, 2021.

  1. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    I have known of this coin for over 6 years. It has resided in CGB's online store all that time, with me occasionally checking in to see if it was still available. I believe the piece was overlooked by other collectors. Last week I finally pulled the trigger and purchased it ... I'm not sure why I waited so long nor why it went unsold! It's such a landmark coin and will be a cornerstone in the provincial section of my collection.

    AR Tetradrachm, 11.99g
    Antioch mint, 70-71 AD
    Obv: ΑΥΤΟΚ ΚΑΙΣ ΣΕΒΑ ΟΥΕΣΠΑΣΙΑΝΟΥ, LΓ (in right field); Head of Vespasian, laureate, r.
    Rev: ΕΤΟΥΣ Γ ΙΕΡΟΥ; Eagle standing, l., on club; in field, palm branch
    RPC 1949 (0 spec.). Prieur 115 (this coin).
    Acquired from, April 2021. Ex Banias Hoard.

    A most remarkable regnal year 3 Antiochene hybrid tetradrachm struck with an obverse die intended for an Alexandrian tetradrachm. The regnal year on the obverse combined with the Alexandrian legend and style is proof beyond doubt that this obverse die was intended for an Alexandrian billon tetradrachm, but how could this be? The RPC Antiochene groups 1-3 tetradrachms are all struck in 'Alexandrian' style. Many scholarly theories abound as to why: either the coins were struck at the Alexandria mint and then sent to Syria for circulation or, at the very least, the dies were engraved there. It's also possible (but unlikely) that Alexandrian mint workers were sent to Antioch to help set up the mint or bolster its production. This Alexandrian/Antiochene hybrid strongly hints that these Alexandrian style coins were indeed struck at Alexandria. In this case a die intended for a domestic tetradrachm somehow got mixed up with their Syrian work order. It must be said however that Antiochene silver is of a different composition than that used at Alexandria, so it is possible the dies were engraved in Alexandria and then shipped to the Antioch mint, in which case an Alexandrian die got mixed up with the shipment. Only two specimens have been recorded of this rare hybrid, surprisingly both are from different die pairs. This example is illustrated in Michel and Karin Prieur's type corpus The Syro-Phoenician Tetradrachms.

    Is this coin the Rosetta Stone needed to solve the complicated questions surrounding the mintage of these Vespasianic tetradrachms? Perhaps, but I fear it raises more questions than answers. A fascinating coin nonetheless!

    For comparison, here is a contemporary Alexandrian billon tetradrachm from the same issue the obverse die originated from.

    RPC2424.jpg Vespasian
    AR Tetradrachm, 12.17g
    Alexandria mint, 70-71 AD
    Obv: AYTOK KAIΣ ΣEBA OYVEΣΠAΣIANOY; Head of Vespasian, laurerate, r., date LΓ before neck
    Rev: PΩ-MH; Roma standing l., with spear and shield
    RPC 2424 (0 spec.).
    Ex eBay, 7 March 2018.

    The coin also inspired me to purchase the Prieur catalogue in which it is featured.


    Feel free to post your 'better late than never' coins.
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2021
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  3. Only a Poor Old Man

    Only a Poor Old Man Well-Known Member

    It always feels great to finally pull the trigger on a grail coin. More than often though the feeling of misery prevails when somebody else beats you to it...

    The following one is one of my favourites and it was bookmarked for about 4 months before I could pull the trigger. It is a pricy coin so I couldn't buy it the minute I first saw it... Everyday I would visit the link hoping that it is still there! One day I think that the seller recycled the listing and it appeared in the 'new' section, so I had to pull the trigger as I was afraid that somebody else would spot it. Was so happy when the postman arrived with it in his bag :woot:

    Jay GT4, galba68, Curtisimo and 17 others like this.
  4. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Great score David :jawdrop:! Pictured below for comparison is an Antioch Tet struck in year 2 that I sold at a Heritage auction 10 years ago. The portrait on this coin also has the appearance of Alexandrian engraving. I sold the coin because of the die shift on the reverse, however, I haven't seen a better example for sale since then :(.

    Ves. Tet, obv..jpg Vespasian Year 2 Tet.jpg
    Jay GT4, galba68, Curtisimo and 12 others like this.
  5. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Wow, @David Atherton! Nice addition to your collection. I'd rush out and get the Prieur catalog in which it was featured, too!

    Do you know anything about the Banias Hoard? I'm not getting much other than "Did you mean Banana Hoard?" when I do a cursory Google search.
  6. Nemo

    Nemo Well-Known Member

    That is an amazing coin, had I seen it, it would definitely have found a place in my collection!
    David Atherton likes this.
  7. Shea19

    Shea19 Supporter! Supporter

    Wow, that is an amazing coin David, congrats! Definitely a “grail” coin.

    Here’s a year 2 tetradrachm of Vespasian from Alexandria with the same obverse style.
    Vespasian, Alexandria,BI Tetradrachm circa 69-70 AD(year 2), (24.1mm., 12.17g.) Laureate head of Vespasian r., in front, LB./ Rev. Nike advancing l. holding wreath and palm. RPC 2412
    Jay GT4, Curtisimo, Ryro and 9 others like this.
  8. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Basileus Megalos

    Great new coin and a nice addition to your collection!
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  9. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist Supporter

    Nice catch! Very interesting coin
    David Atherton likes this.
  10. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    It's mentioned of course in Prieur and a few times in RPC, but other than that I have no other reference to it. Prieur states it was over 3000 coins (presumably tetradrachms?) ranging from Nero to Commodus.
    Roman Collector likes this.
  11. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    Wow David, that is an important acquisition that could challenge some of the assumptions concerning this coinage.
  12. IMP Shogun

    IMP Shogun Well-Known Member

    I do have this better late than never "first tet" that fits the theme:

    Vespasian 69–79 A.D. AR Tetradrachm
    69-70 Antioch, Syria
    Eagle standing left on club, with wings spread and palm frond in left field
    RPC II 1945; McAlee 334; Prieur 112
  13. medoraman

    medoraman Supporter! Supporter

    Nice to catch one of your grails. I have one, kind of a coin, that I haven't seen for sale for well over a decade come up recently. I don't want to talk about it yet for fear of tipping anyone else off.
    Orfew likes this.
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