Featured Bracing for an Alexandrian Bidding War

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Sulla80, May 30, 2020.

  1. Sulla80

    Sulla80 Supporter! Supporter

    The Humiliation of Valerian by Shapur I, French 15th Century
    Digital image courtesy of the Getty's Open Content Program

    When I first noticed the coin, I knew it wouldn’t fit my definition of “inexpensive” and that I might have to wait a bit for another one to show up:
    • None have shown up in ACSearch so far this year
    • <50 on ACSearch since 2002, 2-3 per year
    • Prices range from a low of 100 to a high of 600
    • This coin in nice condition, maybe not as flawless as the highest end
    Why I was interested
    There are many ways to bring a set of coins together to tell a story, and I like to have sets of a few coins that connect to each other by history, theme, time period, or other numismatic characteristics e.g. this set of Parthian “Victory Drachms” inspired by a David Sellwood article or a set of the various rulers engaged in the Mithridatic Wars.

    Alexandrian tetradrachms have been a growing side interest recently. Researching these two coins from the reign of Gallienus brought me to AD 260-263. AD 260 the year than Valerian was defeated and captured by Sassanian King Shapur I, as depicted in the opening image, and Gallienus began his sole reign.
    Gallienus Tetradrachm.jpg
    Gallienus, AD 253-268 AD, BI Tetradrachm, Egypt, Alexandria, dated year 9 (261-262)
    Obv: AVT K P LIK ΓAΛΛIHNOC CEB, Laureate and cuirassed bust to right
    Rev: ENATOY, Eagle standing left, holding wreath in beak; palm over shoulder, L in right field
    Ref: Dattari 5286; Geissen 2908

    Gallienus Alex Tet Dattari.jpg
    Egypt, Alexandria, Gallienus, 253-268 Tetradrachm circa 262-263 (year 10)
    Size: 23mm, 10.63g
    Obv: Laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right
    Rev: ΔЄKA/ЄTHPI/CKV/PIOV in four lines within laurel wreath; below, L I
    Ref: Geissen 2915 (this coin cited) Dattari-Savio Pl. 272, 5273 (this coin);
    Previous CT Post

    The Revolt of Macrianus

    The coin I was looking for is connected to one of Valerian’s generals, Macrianus, a usurper in the East during the reign of Gallienus.

    “We have seen that the mint at Alexandria started coining in the name of the usurpers in September 260. But before the end of August 261 it was issuing coins in the name of Gallienus. Nevertheless some parts of Egypt remained loyal to Quietus until his death.
    - J Bray (1997), “Gallienus: A Study in Reformist and Sexual Politics”

    And an interesting paper on this revolt describes:

    "Further, the much-discussed papyrus POxy 1411 discusses the refusal of bankers to accept τό θείόν των σεβασιών νόμίσμα, 'the sacred coin of the emperors', referring to Macrianus and Quietus, and is dated to Hathyr 28 (25 November 260). Why the bankers did not accept the coins is unclear. They may have objected to the weight standard of the new coins, which average about a quarter of a gram lighter than those of Valerian's year 7 (29 August 259-28 August 260)."
    - Legutko, P. (2002). The Revolt of Macrianus and Quietus and its effect on Alexandrian Coinage, AD 260-263. The Numismatic Chronicle (1966-), 162, 135-168.

    Auction Day
    I braced myself for the bidding war, put in my live proxy bid, and watched. I’ve seen prices going far beyond my “willingness to pay” in several recent auctions. My non-coin friends (and perhaps coin friends too) think my “flight to quality assets and stores of value” theory is comical – although bonds with negative yield seem to provide some support for the argument.

    As the auction progressed, coins ahead of my coin of interest were going for high prices – even uninteresting coins, from my perspective, going for more than I would expect. Being willing to walk away, wallet intact, to bid on the next coin is a discipline that has served me well. With a lot of high bidding, I lost hope. It seemed unlikely that I would get the coin this time. “Another one will come up in the near future”, I thought.

    Then it came up – the digital countdown – the BID button greyed out with my bid on top at opening price. Going once…going twice…fair warning…SOLD. I have to admit – my first reaction was, “that was too fast” – what happened? Then it sank in – I got the coin!

    The Coin
    Macrianus Alex Tet Blu.jpg Egypt, Alexandria, Macrianus, 260-261 AD, BI Tetradrachm , Dated RY 1 (260/1 AD); of September 260-May 261 AD
    Obv: AK T Φ IOΥN MAKΡIANOC E CEB Laureate and cuirassed bust right
    Rev: Eagle standing left, wreath in beak; LA (date) in left field
    Ref: Dattari 5380 plate 275
    Obv Latin Equivalent: IMP Titus Fulvius Junius Macrianus E? AVG

    The History
    This coin is not from Macrinus, the emperor between Caracalla and Elagabalus from April 217 to 8 June 218. It is also not Macrianus Major, who served as a general under Valerian. It is a coin of Macrianus’ son. Macrianus Major and his two sons Macrianus Minor and Quietus fought in the Roman army under Valerian when he was captured by Shapur I (AD 258-259). After the capture of Valerian, Macrianus and Callistus attacked Shapur causing him to retreat beyond the Euphrates River. His soldiers acclaimed him as emperor, however Macrianus was lame and old and instead proclaimed his sons Macrianus Minor and Quietus as joint emperors.

    “In 260, Macrianus commanded the remnants of Rome’s army in the east, following the emperor’s capture and eventual death at the hands of the Persians. Titus Flavius Macrianus was a lame soldier who nevertheless secured the ranks of praepositus annonae expeditionalis and procurator arcae expeditionalis from Valerian and thus was quartermaster general in the ill-fated Persian campaign. When word arrived of the Persian victory, Fulviaus Macrianus and a general named Callistus (nicknamed Ballista) initiated a counterattack from the base at Samosata. Ballista defeated Shapur I at Corycus in Cilicia, driving the Persians back to the Euphrates. Roman army having been avenged and the East temporarily saved, both Fulvius Macrianus and Ballista split from Gallienus”
    - Matthew Bunson (2002) - Encyclopedia of the Roman Empire

    And another version:

    “When Valerian undertook the Persian war, he committed the chief command to Macrianus, whose valor had been proved as a boy in Italy, as a youth in Thrace, as a man in Africa, and when stricken in years in Illyria and Dalmatia. In consequence, it is said, of his incapacity or treachery, the campaign terminated in the capture of the emperor, after which, Macrianus and Balista having collected the scattered remnants of the Roman army, it was determined in solemn conference, that, neglecting the claim of the effeminate Gallienus, the former should assume the purple. Having assigned the management of affairs in the East to one of his sons, Quietus, he set out with the other for Italy. They were encountered by Aureolus on the confines of Thrace and Illyria, defeated and slain, AD 262.”
    - Historia Augusta

    Macrianus and his older son, Macrianus Minor, marched east to take on Gallienus, and they didn’t last long, in the end Macrianus, his sons, and Callistus were all put to death. I don't have a coin of Quietus, or a Gallienus or Valerian from year 8, and this was not the end of unrest in Alexandria as the prefect Aemilianus was next to take the role of "usurper"...maybe this "set" is not complete...

    Comments, corrections and additional information are always appreciated. Post coins you were surprised to win, coins of Macrianus, Gallienus or anything that you find interesting or entertaining.
    Last edited: May 30, 2020
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  3. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    Congrats on the win, they're all nice coins.

    I have many coins of Gallienus, here's the Tets.

    My Macrianus is the last coin.

    Gallienus ( 253 - 268 A.D.)
    Egypt, Alexandria
    Billon Tetradrachm
    O: A K Π ΛI OY ΓAΛΛIANOC EY EY C, bearded, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right.
    R: Nike (Victory) walking right, wreath extended in right, palm frond over shoulder in left, L - S flanking across field.
    Alexandria Mint 258 -259 A.D.
    Savio pl. 271, 10525 (same dies); BMC Alexandria p. 286, 2194; Milne 3995; SNG Cop 768; Kampmann 90.31; Emmett 3736 (R2)

    Published on Wildwinds!

    Silver ?Lead? No clue, interesting metal.

    Gallienus (253 - 268 A.D.)
    Egypt, Alexandria
    Billon Tetradrachm
    O:ΑΥΤ Κ Π ΛΙΚ ΓΑΛΛΙΗΝΟC CΕΒ. Laureate, and cuirassed bust right.
    R: Homonoia standing left, holding double cornucopia and raising hand; palm in right field, to left, date ΛΙΔ
    Dattari 3816

    Gallienus (253 - 268 A.D.)
    Egypt, Alexandria
    Billon Tetradrachm
    O: AVT K Π ΛIK ΓAΛΛIHNOC CЄB, laureate and cuirassed bust right
    R: Homonoia seated left, right hand raised, left holding double cornucopia; IB/L to left, palm frond to right.Dated RY 12 (AD 264/265).
    Köln 2923; Dattari (Savio) 5249; K&G 90.80; Emmett 3817.12.

    Pending Wildwinds Publishing

    Gallienus (253 - 268 A.D.)
    Billon Tetradrachm
    O: AVT K Π ΛIK ΓAΛΛIHNOC CЄB, laureate and cuirassed bust right.
    R: Athena Nikephoros seated left on cuirass, holding a scepter with her left hand and crowning Nike in her extended right hand; L IA (date) to left to left, palm frond to right. Dated RY 14 of Gallienus (AD 263/4)
    Emmett 3797.14

    Pending Wildwinds Publishing

    Macrianus (260 - 261 A.D.)
    Egypt, Alexandria
    Potin Tetradrachm
    O: A K T ΦIOVΛ MAKPIANOC E CEB, laureate and cuirassed bust right.
    R: Eagle standing left, wreath in its beak.L A (regnal year = 1)
    Alexandria Milne 4056, Köln 3011, Dattari 5380, Emmett 3785; Sear 10816.
  4. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Well-Known Member

    Wow, @Sulla80 , that's quite a pick-up! Kudos!

    A tet of Gallienus. Let's just say I didn't purchase it for the reverse ...

    Gallienus Alexandrian tetradrachm.jpg
  5. Sulla80

    Sulla80 Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks, @Mat, great Macrianus, and I particularly like the style and coloring of that RY-6 Gallienus (first coin).

    I can see why you did get it, the portrait is surprisingly regal and detailed on your RY-14.
    Roman Collector and Broucheion like this.
  6. Alegandron

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

    What a great capture, @Sulla80 ! Great history write-up. I am really starting to appreciate these Egyptian Tets... interesting coins. It is an awesome feeling when you see the bidding button go gray, and it is yours! Well done.


    Roman Empire
    Macrianus, Roman emperor (usurper), summer 260 - early summer 261. Rare!
    Base AR 22. 6:00. 4.42 grams.
    * in field left
    Struck at an uncertain Eastern mint. Typical surfaces. (In this period the metal is rarely better than this.)
    Sear 3.10811. RIC 13, page 581, "R2" (very rare).
    Ex: @Valentinian
    Last edited: May 30, 2020
  7. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    Macrianus, A.D. 260-261

    Type: AE antoninianus, 22 mm 3.1 grams, Antioch mint.

    Obverse: IMP C FVL MACRIANVS P F AVG, radiate cuirassed bust right

    Reverse: APOLINI CONSERVA, Apollo standing left holding branch and resting hand on lyre set on a low column.

    Reference: RIC 6; RSC 2; Sear 10799.


  8. svessien

    svessien Senior Member

    That’s great to hear @Sulla80 !

    I recognize the feeling. Nothing better than when the pre-bid holds. I haven’t engaged in the Alexandrian adventure (yet), but they look like very interesting coins.
    I like the description of following the auction and keeping your discipline to keep your powder dry for the coin you really wanted. And what a relief when the bidding war didn’t happen! :)

    Today I went climbing instead of staying home watching the Artemide auction. I left 3 low pre-bids, just over starting price. I didn’t believe any of them would hold, but when I checked, I was the high bidder on one of them, even the one I liked the most. It’s not as rare as yours, but you don’t see it too often either:


    Greek Italy. Bruttium, The Brettii. AR Drachm, 216-214 BC. D/ Head of Hera Lakinia right, diademed, veiled; behind, helmet. R/ Zeus standing left, right foot on Ionic capital, holding scepter; before, crab. HN Italy 1969. AR. g. 4.02 mm. 18.00 Toned. VF/About VF.

    The lot was sold around this moment today. I remember thinking «maybe I can log on to the auction on the phone when I get down». I chose to let it be, and just enjoy a grand day out.
  9. Sulla80

    Sulla80 Supporter! Supporter

    You can't beat that - a climb (thanks for the fun photo) and a nice coin of Bruttium...sounds like a grand day. Nice weather here too, much tamer, flat, bike ride.
    svessien likes this.
  10. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana

    Cool score, @Sulla80, congrats. My only Macrianus is this one from Nicaea. I remember thinking at the time I won it that I paid too much, but now that I have one of these, I no longer have to look at comparables and be bothered one way or the other. :D

    Macrianus - Nicaea Citywalls 2538.jpg MACRIANUS
    AE24. 7.36g, 24.5mm. BITHYNIA, Nicaea, AD 260-261. Rec Gen 867; SNG von Aulock 733; SNG Cop 543. O: ΤΙ ΦΟΥΛ ΙΟΥ ΜΑΚΡΙΑΝΟΣ ΣΕΒ, radiate, draped and cuirassed bust right. R: ΝΙΚΑΙΕΩΝ, aerial view of the city-walls in the shape of an octagon; arched central gateways above and below.
  11. lordmarcovan

    lordmarcovan Eclectic & Eccentric Moderator

    *Featured Article- congrats!

    Here's one I was surprised but pleased to win. Just today, in fact. (Beware - it's not ancient - but at least it IS old, and made of that nice shiny yellow stuff, with the handsome orange toning I like on my little discs made of old, shiny yellow stuff.)


    And then there's Valerian. That whole "human footstool" story (and the mystery of said human footstool's final fate) is fascinating. Here's a Valerian from my first novice Roman collection of 2007-08. I bought a lot of that collection, including this coin, from Steve McBride of Incitatus Coins.


    I was seeing how far I could go with an "emperors and empresses" portrait set (A to Z - Augustus to Zeno), and managed to acquire over a hundred different personalities (108-110-ish, I think) in the year or so I worked on that collection (before my layoff in the 2008 recession forced me to sell it all). It was a frenzy, because I was having fun with it and was very enthusiastic, if not yet very selective.

    And then Gallienus. This coin was also from that early collection of mine. It appeared to be made of good silver, or at least the very best silvering I've seen on an Æ antoninanus, anyway. It was quite bright and had nice light orangish toning. It was cheap, too- like $45-ish in 2007, if I remember correctly. The old image (from a flatbed scanner) does it no justice.

  12. lordmarcovan

    lordmarcovan Eclectic & Eccentric Moderator

    What a great design! It rather reminds me of this much later (18th C.) one from Holland:


    Image source: NGC
  13. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Well-Known Member

    Sulla80, Thanks for an enjoyable article & congratulations on your scores :D! The coin pictured below I've posted a number of times, but am posting it again since it fits well with the content of your thread. The coin was struck early in Valerian's Persian campaign & pictures father & son on the reverse. This is one of the few coins I had to remove from its NGC slab ;).

    IMG_8205.JPG IMG_8214.JPG
  14. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member

    Somewhere this thread on Alexandria became one on Macrianus (who for some reason interests me less that just about anyone who made coins). I also have one, also Nicaea, but I bought it for the fish traps or whatever those 'torches' really are and for an example of a coin issued jointly by two cities (Nicaea and Byzantium).
    Image replaced to correct inverted reverse.
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2020
  15. Sulla80

    Sulla80 Supporter! Supporter

    Nice shiny, yellow, disc :) and this thread was overdue for a Valerian to be added - especially like the Valerian & Gallienus Pietas .
    Another great father and son coin! and very relevant, Thanks.
    Upside down or right, I do like the fish traps, wicker baskets, torches with corn, prize urns, ...there's a lot going on on that coin and insight into some element of life or festival in Byzantion. I've been reading recently about the punishment imposed by Septimius Severus on Nicaea and Byzantion for supporting Niger and the coin(s) that Nicaea issued showing a bit of defiance...
    Last edited: May 31, 2020
    lordmarcovan likes this.
  16. Sulla80

    Sulla80 Supporter! Supporter

    Addendum: a coin of the other, usurping brother, "Kouetos"
    Quietus Alexandria.jpg
    Egypt, Alexandria, Quietus, Usurper, AD 260-261, Potin Tetradrachm, dated RY 1 Obv: Α Κ Τ Φ ΙΟVΝ ΚΟVΗΤΟC Є CЄB Laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right
    Rev: Eagle standing left, wings spread, holding wreath in beak; L A (date) to lower left
    Ref: Dattari (Savio) 5382
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