Byzantine Class A1 overstruck on Nicephorus I

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Valentinian, Apr 15, 2021.

  1. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    Until 970 Byzantine emperors struck copper coins in their own names. Then, in AD 970 the pious emperor John I Tzimisces make a remarkable change in the copper coins (folles). He issued folles with a facing bust of Christ and the emperor's name omitted (therefore, "anonymous"). It was the first copper type to portray Christ.

    The anonymous types are common and very collectible. My educational web page, "Byzantine 'anonymous folles' of the 10th-11th centuries," introduces them:

    The first "anonymous follis" type is under John I and is called "Class A1." The design is the same as on the extremely common Class A2, but A2 coins are usually larger and heavier. Most (all?) Class A1 coins used earlier coins as flans and many are overstruck on coins of the previous emperor, Nicephorus II (963-969). (The first Class A2 coins did not use earlier coins as flans--Early Class A2 coins were larger than any coins in circulation.) I have wanted a Class A1 coin that had the undertype clear enough to identify, and one came today:


    27 mm. 8.10 grams. Slightly larger in diameter than many Class A1 pieces.
    Facing bust of Christ, nimbate (= with halo) with two dots in each quarter, IC XC (for Jesus Christ) across just outside the nimbus.
    Reverse with four lines:
    +IhSUS (Jesus) [missing]
    XRISTUS (Christ) [some of the middle is visible]
    bASILЄU (King of) [visible]
    bASILЄ (kings) [visible]
    Sear 1793.

    This example has a very clear undertype. On the reverse, slanting at the top from 11:00 to 3:00, we can see parts of three lines of the reverse of a coin of Nicephorus I:
    +ҺICH ... ["H" is a capital eta, a Greek "E"]
    from this type of Nicephorus II:


    Nicephorus II (He spelled it with "F" for our "PH"), 963-969. 23 mm. 6.97grams. Sear 1783.

    Now return to look at the obverse of the top coin, at 5:30. It has the beginning of the clockwise obverse legend of the Nicephorus type:
    +ҺICЄF This begins at 8:00 on the undertype, coin 2.
    Also, slanting from 4:30 part way towards 8:00 on the obverse is a raised line which is the long cross from the undertype.

    The original shows a bit of a third strike. On the reverse from 6:30 to 3:00 you can see the weak remains of a line of legend, possibly part of the word
    which ends the reverse legends of some earlier emperors. That may be related to the lettering on the original obverse from 12:00-1:00, but I am not sure.

    So, the first coin is an example of the first anonymous type, Class A1, overstruck on a type of the previous emperor. It is unusual because the key parts of the legends of the undertype are easily visible on both sides.

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    Last edited: Apr 16, 2021
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  3. Quant.Geek

    Quant.Geek Well-Known Member

    Very nice! I enjoy a good overstrike, especially ones from Byzantine. Here is a cascading attribute:

    Byzantine Empire: Æ Anonymous Class A1 Follis, Constantinople (Sear 1793) - Attributed to John I Tzimisces (969-976)
    Obv: +ЄMMA-NOVHΛ; IC-XC to right and left of bust of Christ facing, holding book of gospels, with nimbus
    Rev: +IҺSЧS / XRISTЧS / ЬASILЄЧ / ЬASILЄ in four lines

    Overstruck on a Constantinople mint follis of Constantine VII (SB 1761)

    Byzantine Empire: Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus (913-959) Æ Follis, Constantinople (Sear 1761; DOC 26)
    Obv: + COҺST ЬASIL ROM; Bust of Constantine VII facing, bearded, wearing modified loros and crown with cross; in left hand, globus cruciger; in right hand, akakia
    Rev: + COҺST / ЄҺ ӨЄO ЬA/SILЄVS R/OMЄOҺ in four lines
    Dim: 26 mm; 5.49 g; 6 h

    Overstruck on a follis of Romanus I Lecapenus minted in Constantinople at 920-944, Sear 1760

    Byzantine Empire: Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus (913-959) Æ Follis, Constantinople (Sear 1760; DOC 25)
    Obv: RWMAN bASILEVS RWM; Crowned, bearded, facing bust of Romanus, wearing chlamys, holding labarum and cross on globe
    Rev: RWMA - N EN QEW bA - SILEVS RW-MAIWN; Legend in four lines
  4. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    My A1 has signs of overstriking but not easily identifiable.
  5. Only a Poor Old Man

    Only a Poor Old Man Well-Known Member

    I love the anonymous series and I think it is an obtainable collecting goal at least on a financial level. Some of them though may take a while to obtain... Here is what I have so far:





    And of course let's not forget my Class D pocket piece :cat:

  6. catadc

    catadc Well-Known Member

    @Valentinian I watched lot 2045 in that auction, because of the clear name for the undertype, but now I believe your coin is better.

    There were some interesting overstrikes lately, and quite a few A1 overstruck on Nicephorus coins.
  7. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

    Jezus Christus Byzantium 8,7 gr Basil II Constantine VIII.jpg Jezus Christus Byzantium 13,3 Basil II Constantine VIII.jpg Jezus Christus Byzantium Michael IV (2).jpg Jezus Christus Byzantium Romanus IV (2).jpg
    no overstrikes as far as I can see.
  8. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    True. I used to think Class A1 was scarce, but I do not think so anymore. Byzantine copper is often in poor condition and not of much value. Dealers had little incentive to offer them before the internet made it so much easier to find buyers for low-level coins.

    My interest in Byzantine overstrikes was not diminished by the OP coin. I got another, however, not so clear.


    Class A1. John I, 969-976.
    Facing bust of Christ, IC XC either side.
    The usual
    +IhSUS (Jesus)
    XRISTUS (Christus = Christ)
    bASILЄU (King of
    bASILЄ (kings)

    Now, for the undertype. Look at the coin above as if the top were at 2:30.

    From this angle you can see a "+" at the top which is the top of the headdress of the head on the undertype. The legend is legible:
    nICIFR b+AS...
    That is for Nicephorus II, on the same undertype as the OP coin had. Byzantine coins are stuck with 6:00 die axis, so it is easy to make the undertype on the other side upright, even when it is almost totally obscured. Here, the bottom line of the Nicephorus II undertype is
    Most is missing, but the "M" part is clear.

    Have I bought my last Class A1, now that I have two showing the undertype? Probably not.
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