Byzantine anonymous folles

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Valentinian, Aug 30, 2018.

  1. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    In 970 A.D. under emperor John I the copper coinage of the Byzantine empire underwent a remarkable change. Until then copper coins had the name and facing bust of the emperor on the obverse. John introduced a series of copper folles with a facing bust of Christ and no imperial name, hence they are "anonymous." Attributing them has occupied scholars for many decades.

    There are twelve types in the series. Some are very common and others rare. For the whole story, see my new site, "Byzantine 'anonymous folles' of the 10th-11th centuries"

    Here is one.

    It is large 32-30 mm anonymous follis of "Class A2" attributed to the reign of Basil II (the Bulgar Slayer) and Constantine VIII, 976-1028. Sear 1813.
    Obverse: A facing bust of Christ with a large halo (nimbus) and
    +EMMA-NOVHA (Emmanuel) around. He holds the Gospels.
    Small IC XC either side (for "Jesus Christus". "X" is a chi in Greek, the first letter of "Christ" in Greek. The "IC to the left of the neck and "C" to the right are visible on this example, but the "X" is barely there.)
    Reverse: A four-line legend:
    +IhSUS (Jesus)
    XRISTUS (Christ)
    bASILEU (King of
    bASILE (kings)

    Class A2 has a variety of decorations in the nimbus and above and below the reverse legend. This example has crosses in all six locations.

    For examples of the other classes and the whole story, see the site.

    Show us some anonymous folles!
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  3. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    A great and informative page.

    Constantine X (1059 - 1067 A.D.)
    O: +EMMA_NOVHA Christ standing facing on footstool, raising hand in benediction and holding Gospels. IC XC across field
    R: EVDKARO +KWNTAK On left, Eudocia standing facing, wearing modified loros with kite-shaped lower panel and crown with cross and pendilia; on right, Constantine standing facing, wearing modified loros and crown with cross and pendilia, both holding labarum with cross-piece on shaft between them, standing on base and three steps, and each places one hand on heart
    DOC 8; SB 1853

    Romanus III (1028-1034 A.D.)
    Æ Follis Class B
    O: IC-XC, Bust of Christ holding book of gospels. EMMA NOVHL
    R: IS-XS BAS-ILE BAS-ILE to left and right above and below cross with dots at the ends, on three steps.
    Constantinople Mint
    SB 1823, Grierson 984
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  4. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter I dig ancient coins...

  5. David@PCC



    Of the ones listed I would say class F is by far the hardest to find in the market and agree A2 is the most common.

    I liked your thorough page on these and am glad to see the DOC referenced as Sear often conflicts with the A series.

    Nicephorus Basilacius
    Thessalonica mint
    Formally class N
    Usurper, 1078
    Obvs: Facing bust of Christ Pantokrator; barred IC XC across fields.
    Revs: Patriarchal cross on base; barred IC XC / NI KA across fields.
    Æ Follis, 26x29mm, 8.93g
    Ref: DOC, p. 706, N.1; P. Grierson, "Nicephorus Bryennius or Nicephorus Basilacius?" NumCirc LXXXIV.1 (January 1976), type a; R. Bland, "A Follis of Nicephorus Basilacius?" NC 1992, pl. 36, B; SB 1903A.
    Note: Over struck on class D, E, or F.

    Also the legitimate Nicephorus III, so there may have been as many as 4 from this period with the same name.
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  6. Justin Lee

    Justin Lee I learn by doing Supporter

    Very nice examples and info, @Valentinian!! Here are mine that I haven't had a reason until today to post up here:

    Basil II "Bulgaroktonos" & Constantine VIII
    AE Class A2 Anonymous Follis, Constantinople Mint, 976-1025 AD
    Obverse: +EMMA - NOVHA / IC - XC, Nimbate bust of Christ holding book of Gospels; IC (overlined) and XC (overlined) on either side of bust; five dots in each arm of nimbus; five dots in center of book of Gospels.
    Reverse: +IhSUS / XRISTUS / bASILEU / bASILE, Legend in four lines; adornments above and below.
    References: Sear 1813

    Romanus III Argyrus
    AE Class B Anonymous Follis, Constantinople Mint, 1028-1034 AD
    Obverse: +EMMA - NOVHA / IC - XC, Bust of Christ facing, wearing nimbus cross, holding the book of Gospels ornamented with five dots. IX-XC in fields.
    Reverse: Cross with pellet at each extremity, on three steps. IS \ XS above limbs, bAS - ILE \ bAS - ILE below limbs. (overstruck)
    References: Sear 1823

    Nicephorus III Botaniates
    AE Follis, Constantinople Mint, 1078-1081 AD
    Obverse: IC - XC, three-quarter length figure of Christ Pantokrator standing facing, wearing nimbus cross, pallium and colobium, and raising right hand in benediction, left hand holds the book of Gospels; between two stars.
    Reverse: C - Φ / N - Δ, legend within quarters of cross with globule at each end; at center, circle containing star of eight rays.
    References: DOC 9, Sear 1888
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  7. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    Current thought is the inclusion of a class A3, Grierson did not agree so he did not separate them in his writings including the DOC catalog.
    The A2 weighs over 15gm,the class A3 is weighing less than that many bellow 10gm. Here is an additional article that gives info on the types. The A3 is most common on the market with true A2's becoming harder to find. If you check V coins you will only find a few heavy weight A2's but many A3's most of those A3's under 10gm.

    Here is another article breaking down the classes including A3 Follis

    And another breaking A2 from A3 Byzantine Class A Folles

    Here is my only A2 , its 18 gm , I have several A3's b4.jpg
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  8. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    Scholars seem to agree that Class A2 began with large coins. My page on Class A types:

    has two near 20 grams and then others of various weight down to 8.48 grams, and that is just a small selection of A2 coins. It seems like there is a continuum of weights, and the time interval of Class A2 production is more than 50 years, so one would expect the weights of the copper coins to decline over time, possibly gradually. Under Justinian the dates on his coins make it easy to see the decline in sizes over time. Coins from year 35 are much smaller than coins from year 12. A decline does not necessarily mean the smaller ones belong in a new category.

    I see the link Byzantine Class A Folles
    which discusses Metcalf's work. Yes, some coins are of different styles and some ornaments found more in one region than another. So? Over 50 years you would expect some differences by accident. I see sentences on that site like this one, "and this group, also, may bridge A-2 and A-3." This suggests to me there is a continuum.

    So, I wonder if there is any meaningful distinction between A2 and the proposed A3 coins?
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  9. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    Weight is really the only main criteria that differentiates the break down. However I personally believe that they are two different classes. Grierson did not , Metcalf did.

    In hand to me It feels like a totally different coin, not just weight but size too. This is not my main focus of collecting but I do have a nice collection of the anonymous follis.
    I actively look for new nice ones to add to my collection but I always ask the seller the weight if they have listed it as an A2. If it is not of the average weight, I skip it because I have several A3's. You might be right they all might be the same coin but for me I respectfully disagree.
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  10. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    The fact that there are three class A coins points to the fact that this is a bit of an artificial division for the sake of collectors/students. There are many minor variations of details on the A coins but has anyone established that certain details go with larger coin and others go with smaller ones? The number sequence suggests that the early A coins were lighter and lack ornaments (A1) followed by heavier (A2) and back to lighter (A3) but I have not read the evidence supporting this. Has anyone here? Terms like A2 and A3 allow us to refer to coins more professionally than saying 'big' or 'little' but the ranges seems to suggest we could have a continuous range rather than coins having to be one or the other.

    My well worn 15.7g coin would seem to qualify as an A2 assuming the wear lowered it a bit. My question is how great is the range of weights for this particular set of ornaments. Can the ornament variations be placed in a sequence by weight or are there coins like this that weigh 10g? This seems to be #1 on the chart linked below. Byzantine Class A Folles

    Obviously you have to see my A3 but being overstruck on an as of Gordian III (10.88g so an A3) makes it hard to assign (42b???).

    17.0g (A2) I'd guess it is some 40 version on the chart??? Small flan loses needed details on the Book.

    Finally this A3 at 11.1g may be #31 but I really need help on this one. While lighter, it has larger diameter. is that significant or is it just an accident of striking.
    Proper study of things like this would require dozens of coins from each of the 51 types (I assume there are others?) leaving people like me with more questions than answers. Only 47 more and I will have the set??? I may have to start buying worn coins with clear ornaments rather than looking for eyes and noses on the portraits.
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  11. David@PCC


    Personally I would redo the whole classification of these. Numismatics just like any other field should grow when new information is introduced, and these classifications are approaching 100 years old. The ones that are associated to a ruler should be put into those catalog numbers under their respective reigns, and the A's need to be reworked I feel. By definition of some in this thread, this is my only A2 weighing in at 15.4g.
    Does that mean this 14.2g example is an A3? If not where is the cutoff.

    Most that see this one automatically put it into the A1 category, but DOC clearly only lists A1's as having no ornaments where this one has a pellet above and below (not as visible) making it an A2 var 5 in volume 3.
  12. gsimonel

    gsimonel Supporter! Supporter

    I don't often see this type (the OP coin) with a cross on the bible. Nice score.
  13. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

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  14. gogili1977

    gogili1977 Well-Known Member

  15. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    What a terrific post and linked website – many thanks Valentinian for all that information in such a well-thought-out, pleasing format. Not only informative, but your website is a pleasure to read as well. I also enjoyed other members’ comments on the problems associated with classifying Byzantine anonymous folli. Like Doug, I have several Byzantine coins that do not seem to correspond with established weights – not just the anonymous stuff, but some Justin II issues that varied in weight (according to Grierson). Anyway, this is all interesting stuff – Coin Talk at its best.

    I was pleasantly surprised to see a “junk” coin I recently obtained is actually a rare Class E follis. I call it “junk” because it was a byproduct from an eBay lot I bid on in order to get a couple of interesting-looking Greek bronzes that went with it. The follis I wrote off as a common Class A2 or some such, on a smallish flan in horrible condition and I paid little attention to it. It was not the reason I bid on the lot.

    When it showed up I was going to consign it to my “hopeless” box, given its ugliness and the nearly obliterated Christ on the obverse. But I decided to try and attribute it for practice since it was quite a bit smaller than the other, similar anonymous pieces I own – it seemed weird to me. After a little digging I came up with Class E, a type I did not have. Junk no more! I wrote up an attribution slip and put it in a flip.

    Now, a week later this wonderful post not only confirms my attribution (I think – please correct me if I’m wrong), but also that it is a rare one to boot. (Please note, I understand that rare in this case does not translate to monetarily value – I am well aware of its wretched condition; but I’m pretty sure it was worth the $3.80 I paid for it.)

    Byzantine Anonymous E Aug 2018 (1a).JPG

    Anonymous Follis Class E
    Constantine X
    (c. 1059-1067 A.D.)
    Constantinople Mint

    Facing bust of Christ nimbate, ICXC to left and right holding book of Gospels / IS XS bAS-ILE bAS-ILE [-+- above] -crescent- below.
    DO 9; SB 1855.
    (6.38 grams / 22 mm)
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  16. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    One of the interesting things about collecting Byzantine AE is the real possibility that you can find a decent example (in 'for these' grade) of an extreme rarity in a junk box for a fraction of the price of a common coin in high grade. There are types that just do not exist in fleur de coin. If you can't deal with that, you can collect Byzantine gold. It is hard to understand how the same mint made both.
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  17. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    Interesting you say that Doug, most copper coinage was used in everyday transactions, gold was not. In Hendy's " Studies in the Byzantine Monetary Economy" book he mentions the gold coinage being sealed in purses controlled by the state, it is the reason many hoards are found with denominations from the same die. The sealed purse was not necessarily gold coins but for larger sums of money. I am over simplifying this but it is an interesting read. Pg. 338-363 Sealed and Loose coin.

    That's why any copper coins found in excellent condition are such a rarity, they were used on a daily basis.
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  18. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    I just got another to add to my collection A beautiful Class D 9.34gm and 27.6.. f3.jpg
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  19. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I know nothing about Byzantine hoards. Are there finds that consist of large quantities of base metal coins as there are Romans? The reduced role of silver make it hard to imagine how the average person saved whatever money he might accumulate. In what form did a Byzantine soldier receive his pay? He may have earned a solidus but what was that in coins you could spend downtown? What did a merchant downtown do with all those folles before they went back to the mint to be restruck?
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  20. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    Yes, their are many hoards. In the 12th century after the coin reform most hoards were copper or billion trachea. The gold hoards found seem to be only gold Hyperpyra.

    Most of the information regarding the economy of the eastern Roman empire ( Byzantine) is fragmented , one of the best sources for insight is "The book of the Prefect." It goes through many rules and regulations regarding coinage , requiring payment of taxes with older coins when in possession of the owner and it also forbids the hoarding of gold. ( interesting taxes had to be paid in gold , aspron billion, billion and copper forcing the use of all types of metal)

    It was only in the City itself that all denominations of the 12th century circulated. Hyperpyron, Aspron Trachea, Billion Trachea, Billion tetarteron and copper tetarteron. Outside of the city the smallest denomination of copper tetartera dominated the Greek peninsula and the trachea circulated in Bulgaria and Anatolia. It is a strange problem because either items cost much more in Anatolia or they used a form of credit, we are still uncertain, but those denominations outside the city did not coexist until after 1203.

    So hoards found tend to be mostly of one denomination, Not necessarily the same die or even ruler.

    I would suspect a gold coin in circulation would be recycled by the next ruler, melted down in to the purity his reign used.
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  21. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    A follow up to this conversation , I had spent the last few weeks revisiting many of the books I have on Eastern Roman coinage, I had a few questions I needed answered and this was one of them. When did the Anonymous follis class of the A3 become involved. This is what I found.

    The A3 class became into existence before 1979, I find it first mentioned in Metcalf's book " Coinage in South Eastern Europe 820-1396 " In it he mentions the A3 rests essentially on hoard evidence. What was deduced, the A2's were withdrawn from circulation when A3's were introduced, the A class was minted for 60 years on its own but the A3 class was minted alongside classes B, C and D.

    The book is a reworking of his earlier publication" Coinage in the Balkan's" published in 1965, it that book he makes no mention of an A3.

    Since Grierson's book Byzantine coins was published three years later as he does not address the findings so he must not have agreed.

    I did not find any other information more current than their writings except Michael Hendy, he contradicts himself in his own works, he states in in 1985 book, the coins started at 13g went up to 18g and then back down bellow 10gm, however in his brief mention of them in DOC IV he says the weights went from high to low ( 1994, printed 1999)
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