Byzantine anonymous folles

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

  1. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    Metcalf introduced it in 1970 in

    Metcalf, D. M. "Interpretation of the Byzantine Rex Regnantium folles of Class A" in Numismatic Chronicle 1970, pages 199-219.

    Not everyone found his evidence for the distinction convincing.
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  3. Justin Lee

    Justin Lee I learn by doing Supporter

    I was just delivered 2 anonymous folles today. The first one, Class C, I had seen @BenSi's and just had to find one, and this one was nice and colorful:

    Michael IV
    AE Class C Anonymous Follis, Constantinople Mint, 1034-1041 AD
    +EMMA-NOVH L, Three-quarter length figure of Christ standing, facing, holding up his right hand in benediction. The book of Gospels in his left hand. IC - XC in fields.
    Reverse: IC - XC / NI - KA, Jeweled cross, with pellet at each extremity.
    References: Sear 1825
    Size: 29.5mm x 24mm, 6.7g

    Then I really liked the reverse on this Class I type:
    Nicephorus III Botaniates
    AE Class I Anonymous Follis, Constantinople Mint, 1078-1081 AD
    Facing bust of Christ, with decorated nimbus, wearing pallium and colobium , holding Book of Gospels with both hands. IC – XC in fields.
    Reverse: Latin cross with X at centre, globe and two dots at the ends of each arm, crescent at top left and right, floral ornaments at lower left and right.
    References: Sear 1889
    Size: 23mm, 3.7g
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  4. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I am interested in hearing what features of a Class I reverse make one coin better than another. It is rare to find any of the types completely clear so we have to pick and choose which details are most important. That usually results in me keeping more than one coin that favor different features.
    rz0560bb2033.jpg rz0570bb2289.jpg
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  5. Justin Lee

    Justin Lee I learn by doing Supporter

    For me, it was the floral ornaments, reminiscent to me of an early type of fleur de lis. It just feels regal.

    I can totally see that being the situation one might end up with these! :)
    BenSi likes this.
  6. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    True but the last two catalogs that had easy access for collectors did include them. David Sears Byzantine Coins and their values and Sommers catalog printed in 2010 do ( This catalog is in German, not as popular here in the USA.)

    The DOC catalogs are now free online but not well known to new collectors.

    I really wish Grierson had directly stated why he disagreed ( If you know of a rebuttal article I would love to read it.), I know from my work on my own collection Grierson was not helpful with smaller denominations. I really did not think they had his enthusiasm. However this is an interesting subject I am glad we discussed it, I shoved a lot of new information in my head.

    Nice new coins Justin. I do not have a class I yet, I am waiting for the right one to hit the market.
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  7. Quant.Geek

    Quant.Geek Well-Known Member

    Sorry for joining late, but everyone has some nice coins here! The Classes H, I, and J are difficult to find in good condition where majority of the features are still present. So, you do end up with multiple versions of the same coin type. I was lucky to pick up this class H follis in my first try and its one of the best I have seen. I ended up getting multiple Class I and Class J folles. The order of condition of most specimens found are Class I, Class H, Class J ranked from better to worse. Class J is the worst in condition where most specimens are extremely worn...

    Byzantine Empire: Æ Anonymous Class H Follis, Attributed to Michael VII (1071-1078), Constantinople Mint (Sear-1880; DOC H.5)

    Obv: Facing bust of Christ Pantokrator
    Rev: Patriarchal cross with globule and pellets at extremities, set on floral ornament


    Byzantine Empire: Æ Anonymous Class I Follis, Attributed to Nicephorus III (Sear-1889, DOC I.1-64)

    Obv: Facing bust of Christ Pantokrator
    Rev: Latin cross with central X and globus and two pellets at the end of each extremity; crescents to upper left and right, floral scroll below


    Byzantine Empire: Æ Anonymous Class J Follis, Attributed to Alexius I Comnenus (Sear-1900; DOC J.1)

    Obv: Bust of Christ Pantocrator facing, bearded, with cross behind head, wearing tunic and himation; right hand raised in blessing in sling of cloak, left clasps book to breast. In upper angles of cross, two crescents. In field, IC - XC.
    Rev: Latin cross with large pellets at each extremity. Beneath the cross, large crescent. To left and right, above and below, large pellets surrounded by small pellets.

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  8. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    I was reading the 1966-1971 Survey of Numismatic Research and found Grierson's comment on Metcalf's work which included creating a Class A3.

    "Metcalf has studied Class A of the Anonymous Folles, once again extending our knowledge of the find material but leaving the reader in doubt about the acceptability of his conclusions. Where he sees dispersal in space, with a plurality of mints, other scholars might be inclined to see dispersal in the other dimension, and a larger time spread."

    I think this means that without some clear distinction between A2 and A3, we might attribute finding somewhat different hoard compositions in the Balkans and Greece, not to the coins being from different mints, but from different times. After all, Class A was minted for 50 years at least and over 50+ years we would expect changes, even at a single mint, Constantinople, intending to produce a single type, Class A2.
    Marsyas Mike, Ryro and BenSi like this.
  9. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    Thank you Valentinian, I appreciate you sharing.

    I found Metcalf's finding especially interesting after reading his insights in the 1979 version of the book regarding his work with hoards, he had added additional findings supporting his findings since his 1970 article namely the Reka Deva Hoard. He has A1, A2 and A3 all being minted in different time periods and not concurrently. His work is meticulous and to me very convincing.

    However. this clouds the original question, is A3 a different coin from the A2 or just a lowered weight? I am no longer certain, to me they look and feel different, but the design is essentially the same. The concept of different weights dividing them solely is compromised with coins that are added from regional mints, the markings are the way Metcalf separated those.

    Coin catalogs have cemented the A3 in to our hobby, they allow collectors to communicate about known coins, but it is very difficult to change the information once published and used as widely as Sear and Sommers’ work. (Even this whole subject, we know who minted the Anonymous follis series, but we still go by the letter assigned by Margaret Thompson 70 years ago, it’s easier.)

    I like your web site, I still think you should acknowledge A3, stating you don’t agree, it would be enlightening for a new collector.
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2018
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  10. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    One nice thing about websites is they are easy to change. I added a note about Class A3 as a footnote to the main table of types. I have Metcalf's book you mention and will, sometime, read it to see what he says about Class A3 there and incorporate it if it seems useful.
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  11. Pavlos

    Pavlos You pick out the big men. I'll make them brave!

    I think class A2 gradually declined weight over time to something we now call "Class A3". From Class A2/A3 I see a lot of variety in weight, some are 8-9 grams, others around 11-12 grams, others again 13-14 grams etc. I mean, where can we cross the line between A2 and A3? It just doesn't make sense to make them separate.

    When I have time tonight I will post my anonymous follis collection, I am still a starter but I am kind of obsessed to get a complete set of all the classes.
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  12. medoraman

    medoraman Supporter! Supporter

    I wrote in my little guide on the series F, H, and J are the toughest, so I agree generally. For some reason I found J the hardest personally, owning only one example. I believe I have 3 F's, though your example is exemplary.
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  13. David@PCC

    David@PCC Well-Known Member

    Those would be harder to find than others. It could change at any time, but right now there are more H and J's in the market. This year I had 5 H's (sold 4), 3 J's (sold 1), and only 1 F.
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  14. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    I agree with this completely, coins seem to enter the market in groups, if you are patient it will eventually come to market. I find it very hard to list their rarity based on current market availability.

    I think the best way to note rarity is on the published hoard finds and published stray coin finds. I know this will always have its exceptions but it has proven to me the best way to determine rarity. The catalogs ( Sear or CLBC ) that list rarity or prices seem to get dated quickly.
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  15. medoraman

    medoraman Supporter! Supporter

    I come and go on the set, sometimes being in the mood to buy more other times not. For some reason an F can always tempt me though, and I always look for them. Maybe that is why I have 3 of them.

    Everyone wanting a complete set of these, (personally I do not count the L-N as real members of the set) should always concentrate on the F, H and J issues. All others are pretty readily available even in nice condition.

    Someone above commented on the I issues. This must have been an enormous issue, since there is an entire book that could be written on the reverse variations on these. It actually would be a fantastic collection to start if you like the coins since most do not differentiate between reverses, the coins are pretty common and inexpensive. I have thought about it but have many other subspecialties going on right now. It is a pretty coin though IMHO, maybe the prettiest Anonymous Bronze.
    Marsyas Mike likes this.
  16. Pavlos

    Pavlos You pick out the big men. I'll make them brave!

    Just wanted to share my starting Anonymous follis collection, it is not so great at the moment, I want to have a complete set of all classes include some double ones, for some classes I want to have very detailed coins but I am a bit focusing more on Ancient Greek coins at the moment.

    Anonymous Follis Class A3 Jesus Christ Basil II and Constantine VIII (976 A.D. – 1028 A.D.)
    Obverse: Facing bust of Christ, wears nimbus cruciger ornamented in each limb of cross, pallium and colobium, Gospels in both hands, to left IC, to right XC.
    Reverse: IhSuS / XRISTuS / bASILEu / bASILE (Jesus Christ King of Kings), ornamentation above and below.
    Weight: 8,20g
    Size: 27mm

    I really like this Class A3 because of the cross on the gospel.

    Anonymous Follis Class C Jesus Christ Michael IV (1034 A.D. – 1041 A.D.)
    Obverse: EMMANOVHL, three-quarter length figure of Christ standing facing, wearing nimbus cruciger, pallium and colobium, raising right in benediction, Gospels in left, IC-XC.
    Reverse: Jeweled cross with pellet at each extremity, in the angles IC - XC / NI-KA (May Jesus Christ Conquer).
    Weight: 6,73g
    Size: 27mm

    Anonymous Follis Class D Jesus Christ Constantine IX Monomachos (1042 A.D. – 1055 A.D.)
    Obverse: Christ seated facing on throne with back, wearing nimbus cruciger, pallium and colobium, and holding gospels with both hands, to left IC, to right XC.
    Reverse: IS XS / bASILE / bASIL (Jesus Christ King of Kings), lines and cross above, ornamental lines and crescent below.
    Weight: 4,47g
    Size: 23mm

    Anonymous Follis Class G Jesus Christ Romanus IV (1068 A.D. – 1071 A.D.)
    Obverse: Facing bust of the Virgin Orans, nimbate and wearing pallium and maphorium, to left MP, to right ΘV; border of large pellets.
    Reverse: Bust of Christ facing, wearing nimbus cruciger, pallium and colobium, raising right in benediction, scroll in left hand, to left IC, to right XC, border of large pellets.
    Weight: 7,90g
    Size: 25mm

    Anonymous Follis Class I Jesus Christ Nicephorus III Botaneiates (1078 A.D. – 1081 A.D.)
    Obverse: Christ bust facing, wearing nimbus cruciger, pallium and colobium, raising right in benediction, gospels in left. IC-XC.
    Reverse: Latin cross with X at center, globule and two pellets at each extremity, floral ornaments in lower fields, crescents in upper fields.
    Weight: 3,22g
    Size: 23mm
  17. KParsons

    KParsons Member

    What an awesome website! Thanks for pulling this together, Valentinian! Looks like a lot of work, but it is hugely valuable, so thank you.

    I got really serious about this amazing series in the last couple years and started asking questions like the ones posed here. Great questions, but it seems that the answers aren't out there. You've identified 2 great ones here:
    • Relative frequency (or relative rarity) between the Anonymous Follis Classes
    • Assignment of Class B, C, and D to particular rulers
    I love the table you pulled together, attempting to answer the first question. I think museums/collections are certainly one way the attempt to answer the question of relative frequency. On your webpage, you did reference the drawback of this approach: " collections have some goals that cause their collections to inaccurately reflect the numbers of each type extant. They work hard (as do collectors) to get rarities, which may be overrepresented. They may no longer seek a type when they have a few good examples, even if many more are available."

    In my opinion, excavation finds are the best source of this information. The more, the better. My favorite resource for this series has a section that documents many excavation finds (including Corinth and Athens - more than 9300 anonymous coins in all). It is called "Byzantine Monetary Affairs During the 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th Centuries" and is a >400 page PhD thesis from Oxford University by Vassiliki Athanassopoulou-Pennas. His thesis advisor - David Metcalf. I found it on the web, but I have never seen referenced by anyone else. You can download it at Oxford University's research archive:

    The thesis above covers mostly sites in modern day Greece. In 2016, Serkan KILIÇ wrote a paper titled "Byzantine Anonymous Folles in the Bolu Museum" in which he compared the Bolu museum anonymous follis collection to 1) other museum collections throughout modern day Turkey and 2) 12 different excavations across modern day Turkey! This is an extremely valuable resource. The file can be found at both the following locations:

    I've summarized all of these resources into a table similar to the one presented on this website. I'll share that in a future post.

    Again - thanks for starting the website and the thread!

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  18. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    I could not agree with you more KP but as a collector it took me a long time to realize this, markets are motivated by buyers not necessarily availability.

    While checking out one of the links you listed I ran across this article, it adds to the conversation regarding the study of a hoard from its initial find.ı-Istanbul_
  19. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    Thank you for locating those sources. I hope to find time to look at them.

    Of course, even scholars can only study what comes to light. What comes out of central Greece might not be the same as what comes out of Constantinople, or the north, or anywhere else in the empire. Also, collectors don't care so much what was originally minted, rather what is available to collect in good condition. If we discovered Class H's were originally far more common than we thought it would not matter much to the market. For collectors they are still rare in good condition.

    That one sounds important.

    Okay. I did, on two pages, the main page and the Class A page. The first is as a footnote to the table of types.

    Like I wrote, it is easy to change web sites. If I read enough to convince me there is reason to distinguish Class A3, I could change the site to do so. Of course, there are already more than 60 varieties of ornamental symbols for Class A2 and they include all the ones that might be Class A3, so for now I am content to distinguish Class A1 from Class A2 and let those who want to go deeper collect the varieties of Class A2.
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  20. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

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  21. KParsons

    KParsons Member

    I'm glad you were able to find those resources, Valentinian.

    A couple notes on those to focus your energies:
    • On the Kilic paper, the tables with the data are on page 5 (it is labeled p 319 on his paper)
    • The Pennas thesis is mostly focused on the issue of Classes A1, A2, and A3. He looks at hoard evidence and comes up with a potential chronological order of the varieties of A2/A3 - the only person I've seen who has taken a shot at this. He also debunks Metcalf's provincial mint theory (his thesis advisor!) based on hoard evidence (which covers more than Greece - it also covers Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Romania). These discussions are covered in the following pages:
      • Volume 1 - pages 227 to 248
      • Volume 2 - pages 364 to 369
    I've summarized the hoard and "stray find" evidence from these resources. I'll check my numbers again to see if they are correct and try to post them tomorrow.

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