Byzantine Imitations

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Tejas, Dec 13, 2019.

  1. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    I have the following two byzantine or late Roman folles: The first one is in the name of Anastasius, the second one is in the name of Justinus I. These two coins are nicely made and in good condition, but they are almost certainly not from the official mint in Constantinople, because of their barbaris style.

    Sometimes these coins get attributed to Germanic peoples such as the Gepids/Gepidae. But these are commercial attributions to increase the coins' attractiveness. I was wondering if anyone here knowns more about the reasons and circumstances in which these coins were produced. My guess is that these coins were produced by provincial towns to alleviate a shortage in small denominations.
    Screenshot 2019-12-13 at 13.28.18.png Screenshot 2019-12-13 at 13.30.51.png
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  3. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    This Justinian may also be from unofficial dies, but the case is not so clear as with the two coins above. The style is crude and the legend is not correct:
    DN IVSTINI - ANVS P AVG (one P is missing)

    Screenshot 2019-12-13 at 14.03.20.png
  4. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    I don't what to distract from my question above, but for comparison here are folles of Anastasius and Justinus I from official dies.
    Screenshot 2019-12-13 at 14.00.52.png Screenshot 2019-12-13 at 14.10.29.png
  5. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    As with most unofficial coins, I often have trouble separating the best work of the 'barbarous' cutters and a bad day trainee product from the official mints. This becomes worse when the official mint in question is a branch not known for orthodoxy in style even on a good day. Those who study one period of coins more than I have may see more clear distinctions than I do. I am more comfortable with Severans but Anastasius and Justinian leave me wondering whether they are one or the other class.
  6. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    I don't know of any serious, experienced dealer or auction house that is attributing barbarous looking coins to "Gepids / Gepidae" to enhance their saleability, although you might see this on institutions like eBay. The British Museum states: "The Coinage of Odovacar and the Ostrogoths, The emissions of Odovacar were minted in Milan, Rome and Ravenna, respecting the authority of Zeno (474-491), the reigning emperor in Constantinople, and the deposed Roman emperor Julius Nepos who remained in exile in Dalmatia from 475 until his death in 480. They were produced in three metals: gold, silver and copper." The same can be said of Theoderic. These barbarian emperors struck coinage because they had control of the Western Empire, they had great wealth, and a need for circulating money to conduct daily commerce. The Visigoths and Vandals also struck coinage in the name of Western emperors although they later began using images and inscriptions of their own monarchs. When Justinian I reconquered the Western Empire briefly, barbarian coinage became less prevalent.

    Trton XXI, Lot 914, 20 mm, 4.48 gm..jpg
    Barbarian solidus of Zeno

    AV Solidus struck by Theodoric for Anastasius at the Rome Mint.jpg
    Barbarian solidus of Anastasius
  7. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    Really? To give you a few examples:

    ... and in fact I have only seen this done by serious, experienced dealers or auction houses and never by people selling on ebay.
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2019
  8. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    Call me crazy, but I think these imitations look better than the originals!
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  9. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    This is not surprising, to call the Solidus in the name of Anastasius above a "barbarian Solidus" is a bit of a misnomer. The coin was minted by the very official and most excellent mint of Rome, which at the time employed the best engravers anywhere to be found. The fact that Rome together with the rest of large parts of the former western Roman Empire was at the time under the rule of the Goths, does not make this coin a "barbarian Solidus".
  10. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    I think the official mints in Constantinopel, Nicomedia, Rome etc. controlled the quality of their dies fairly closely. I don't think that the folles I have shown above can be explained by the work of inexperienced engravers working for the official mints. Again, I think it is more likely that the often prevalent shortage of smaller copper denominations (minting copper was not very profitable) forced smaller communities away from the centers to produce their own coins, which are distinguishable by their barbaric style and often by spelling mistakes in the legends.
  11. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    It is interesting that nearly all the examples you have listed have question marks following the attribution Gepids. There is in fact no real evidence any of these coins were actually made by Gepids. To suggest that the imperial mints were controlling the output of solidi in mints controlled by Goths is also a misnomer. Despite the similarity in appearance between the two coinages, barbarians usually made obvious distinctions on their coins like using the inscription COMOB or CONOR instead of CONOB.
  12. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Interesting. Below are four Justinian Folles showing various degrees of competence in the portraits. I am assuming they are all official - weights and overall fabric seem to conform to the norms. Antioch seems to have the best artists, based on my small sample.

    By far the best I have:

    Byz Justinian I - Follis, Antioch $9.99 Dec 13x.jpg

    Not too bad:

    Byz - Justinian I Follis Antioch (0).jpg

    A bit iffy:

    Byz - Justinian I follis Const. Dec 2019 (0).jpg

    Yikes! - should I blame it on the Gepids?

    Byzantine - Justinian Follis Jan 18 (0).jpg
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  13. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    The whole attribution is bogus - question mark or not. The Gepids never minted bronze or copper coins and such coins have never been found in or around Sirmium, i.e. the Gepidic capital. As I said before, some serious and experienced dealers and auction houses make these attributions to enhance the attractiveness of these coins. In fact, they also do this with other imitative or inofficial coins. Stick the lablel "unidentified Germanic tribe" to a coin and the price goes up.
  14. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Mike, We all know that quality of engraving can vary dramatically with Byzantine coinage, especially bronze. # 1 & 2 look solid for Antioch, the 3 crosses on the reverse of #3 make it suspicious :shifty:, & #4 to be safe should be labeled Barbarous ? Just my opinion of course :meh:.
    Marsyas Mike likes this.
  15. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    This is not what I wrote. The mints of Rome, Ravenna and Milan had seized to be imperial mints at the moment when the Goths took over. They were turned into royal Gothic mints, even if the Emperor never gave up his claim to Italy. Nonetheless, they continued to operate much like they had before, with their excellent Roman engravers and mint workers.
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2019
  16. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Despite being crusty I'm confident this one came from the Constantinople Mint :D.
    Sear 19, obv..JPG Sear 19, rev..JPG
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  17. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    The mint marks COMOB (or rarely CONOR) are not distinctions of "barbarian" mints. These are the official mint marks of Rome. Hence, a solidus minted in Rome for a regular Roman Emperor like Marcian or Valentinian III, naturally has the mintmark COMOB. Under the Goths these mint marks were simply continued. It has nothing to do with them being barbarians, it is just the normal imperial practice.

    Also, the Emperor in Constantinople kept control over the appearance of gold coins minted in Italy even after the arrival of the Goths. Hence, until AD 497 Theoderic had Solidi made with his own monogram. In the agreement of AD 497, Anastasius ordered him to stop this practice and to observe the Emperor's exclusive right to have his name on gold coins.

    Here is a recent acquisition of mine. It is a solidus minted in Rome for Anastasius, but with the Latin monogram of Theoderic instead of an officin number plus a monogram for Rome. These coins are extremely rare, because they were withdrawn and melted down after AD 497.

    Screenshot 2019-12-13 at 21.12.04.png
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2019
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  18. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Suggesting a coin might be Gepid by adding a question mark & actually stating it is Gepid are two different things. "Buyer beware". I think the label Barbarous is much safer & hard to argue with. Many German & central Europeans are proud of their barbarian heritage, & I believe this pride compels them to try & be more specific attributing these questionable coins. After all the hoards of barbarians did have a big impact on the fall of Rome.
  19. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    ... also some "barbarians" used the CONOB mintmark instead of Rome's COMOB. Below is the picture of another solidus from my collection (I have to make a better picture, but it is in the bank vault). The coin was minted under the Frankish king Theodebert I, possibly at Metz or Reims, but it uses the CONOB mintmark.

    Screenshot 2019-12-13 at 21.29.24.png
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  20. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    I suggest you read the following link below :).
  21. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    The question mark makes no difference. The bogus attribution is made to raise the coins' attractiveness and the question mark is added to cover their backs. In reality there is not a shred of evidence for this attribution. Instead, there is evidence against this attribution.

    BTW, on Gepidic coins I reommend my recent article in KOINON Vol. 2 on the "Sirmium group"

    Anyway, this is not the point. The point is only that you said that you never heard of a dealer or auction house attributing these coins to Gepids, and now you know that they do.
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2019
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