[Championship] #4 ancientcoinguru vs #27 Severus Alexander

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Curtisimo, Oct 23, 2018.


Please vote on the coin you think wins in each of the following categories. 3 votes per voter

Poll closed Oct 26, 2018.
  1. Eye appeal (#4 ancientcoinguru)

    32 vote(s)
  2. Best bargain (#4 ancientcoinguru)

    24 vote(s)
  3. Historical or numismatic interest (#4 ancientcoinguru)

    39 vote(s)
  4. Eye appeal (#27 Severus Alexander)

    31 vote(s)
  5. Best bargain (#27 Severus Alexander)

    36 vote(s)
  6. Historical or numismatic interest (#27 Severus Alexander)

    22 vote(s)
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter


    That's right ladies and gentleman... after 31 fantastic head to head matches we are finally ready to set the laurel crown of victory atop the head of our 2018 Imperator!

    If you missed any of the action it's still not too late to get caught up with things over in the master thread.



    #4 @ancientcoinguru

    SKYTHIA, Olbia, Danubian District
    later 5th-4th century BC
    AE 69 - 117.01 gm [cast coinage]
    Obv: Gorgoneion facing, of archaic style, with tongue protruding
    Rev: Sea eagle flying r., dolphin in talons, A-P-I-X around.
    Reference: SNG BM Black Sea-383, Anochin-168, SNG Stancomb-343, Sears 1682.

    Price: $2,800

    Why It is Cool:
    It’s a giant coin minted during the Peloponnesian War era with ties to one of the most famous Greek figures in history -- Perikles.

    Eye Appeal:
    It’s hard to beat the eye appeal of such an immense and artistic coin in hand.

    Olbia in-hand 2.png

    The cast bronze coins of Olbia are immense, and they are THE largest ancient bronze coin ever produced – they are even larger in diameter than the Roman Republican aes grave or the huge Ptolemaic copper coins that came several hundred years later. The first aes grave were about 334 grams, so the aes grave can be heavier than the Olbia bronze – but they were not larger in diameter. The largest Ptolemaic bronzes only have weights as high as 97 grams and diameters as large as 47 mm.

    CT Olbia size comparison.png

    This coin was advertised in the 2016 Harlan Berk Buy or Bid Sale 197, with a buy price of $4,500 and a starting price of $2925. It went unsold, and I saw it at the 2017 FUN show where it’s beauty and artistic design immediately caught my eye. I had never seen such a large Greek bronze! Aaron Berk generously allowed me to take the coin and walk around the show for a while with it (I suspect he knew I would be hookedJ). The feel of this 117-gram coin in-hand is incredible, and I simply could not leave the show without it! It is lovely with a dark green patina, and an obverse that is exceptionally well struck. While I paid about 5% less than the minimum price the dealer was hoping to sell the coin for, I did not get it at a bargain price. But…perhaps I did…I would not sell this coin for $4500, it is certainly worth that much to me! While my ancient coin collection is extensive, this has become one of my favorites.

    Numismatic Interest:
    The early coins of Olbia stand out as very different from the coins being produced in most parts of the Greek world at the time. The archaic dolphin proto-money of Olbia gave way to these equally distinctive huge bronze coins. The Olbians began to produce the large cast bronze coins of about 70 mm in diameter and weight of as much as 130 gm in the latter 5th to 4th century. Each had the same design – a gorgoneion sticking out her tongue on the obverse, and a sea eagle holding a dolphin in its talons on the reverse.

    G.M. Hirst, in “The Cults of Olbia”, feels there is an indication that the gorgoneion on these coins is associated with Athene, the Greek goddess of wisdom and war. In Book 3 of the Odyssey, Athene takes the form of a sea-eagle. Mark Marowitz, in “Metal Monsters: the biggest ancient coins” tells us the ancient Greeks saw a gorgoneion sticking out her tongue as a protective amulet that repelled evil spirits.

    Gorgoneion and Athene

    The renowned Athenian admiral Perikles promoted the ascendancy of democratic governments in various Black Sea cities, Olbia among them, in conjunction with his expedition to the region in 437 BC. The reverse of the present coin clearly shows the influence of Perikles -- Zeus's eagle, associated with democracy, dominates and controls the dolphin of Apollo Delphinos, whose cult was popular among the defeated Olbian oligarchy.

    Most ancient collectors are familiar with the monster bronze coins of antiquity - the Greek Olbia AE, the Roman Republican aes grave, and the Ptolemaic bronze. But monster coins were also produced in gold and silver. The largest of these are not available for purchase to collectors, like the bronze monster coins of antiquity are.

    Gold: King Eucratides of Baktria (171-145 BC) struck the largest gold coin: a 20-stater piece, 58mm and 169.2gm. This unique piece can be viewed the next time you are in Paris at the Bibliotheque Nationale.

    Silver: The largest silver coin in antiquity was produced by Valentinian I (364-375), but it is thought to be an imperial presentation piece, not a coin designed for circulation. This unique piece weighed 104.3 gm, 66 mm and sold in 2009 to a private collector. The Baktrian king Amyntas (1st century BCE) struck some of the largest silver coins, a double-dekadrachm 60 mm, 85 gm. Only six of these coins have survived, and they reside in the Afghan National Museum.​

    For those wishing to own a monster ancient gold or silver coin, plan on spending at least $5000. You can purchase gold oktadrachms (28 gm) minted for several generations by the Ptolemies, or silver dekadrachms (35 gm) issued by Ptolemy II and III. Another choice would be a silver dodekadrachms (30-40gm) issued by the Derrones, a Thracian tribe from Paeonia.

    Olbia was a Greek colony located on the northern shore of the Black Sea at the mouth of what is now called the Bug River in Ukraine. While the land was not conducive to the growing of olives and grapes, Olbia became wealthy producing grain for export. Due to its strategic location, Olbia became a major trade center between Greeks in the Mediterranean and Asia Minor and Scythians north of the Black Sea.

    Greek and Phoenician Colonies and Trade Routes

    With limited farmland, the Greeks relied on imported grain. The fact that Olbia controlled such a great source of grain meant that the growing population of Athens took special interest in the city. In 437 BC, Perikles led a navel expedition to the Black Sea to secure trade relations for the grain needed to feed the Athenian population. He promoted democracy during his travels throughout the Black Sea cities, Olbia among them. It is the historic expedition of Perikles and the rise of democracy that is referenced on the reverse of this coin.


    #27 @Severus Alexander

    rhodes tetradrachm.jpg
    Rhodes, AR Tetradrachm, c. 205-190 BCE. In the name and types of Alexander III of Macedon, obverse die signed by ‘Dan…’ (Danaos).
    Obv: Head of Herakles right, wearing lion skin headdress signed ΔΑΝ on the lip.
    Rev: ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΥ, Zeus Aëtophoros enthroned left, holding eagle on extended right hand and sceptre in left; PO beneath throne, monogram (magistrate Ainetor) above Rhodian rose in left field. Price 2513.
    16.82g, 32.5mm

    Price: $465

    Why It's Cool:
    “Tetradrachm in the name and types of Alexander the Great.” We’ve all seen hundreds of them, and most of us have seen thousands. This one, however, is very special indeed.

    Eye appeal:
    I would first ask you to appreciate the incredible artistry of the engraving. The magnificent and powerful depiction of Alexander as Herakles is also highly unusual, with its broad, exquisitely modeled face, expressive eyes, and finely detailed lion’s scalp. Zeus on the reverse is equally powerful, with musculature drawn from the best of classical sculpture; note also the Rhodian rose in the lower left field, the delicate throne, and the carefully rendered legend. Both sides of the large 32.5 mm flan are struck in high relief. When I saw this coin in the auction catalogue, I couldn’t take my eyes off of it!

    Bargain and numismatic interest:
    The coin appeared in a firm’s first auction, with an opening price of 350 euros. It was listed as Price 2512, but as I was doing my research, it gradually dawned on me that the auctioneer had misidentified it. Instead, the artistry matched the rare and special Price 2513 and 2514… which sell for well over $1000 in this quality! :jawdrop:

    In the Hellenistic period, Rhodian artists were regarded as among the finest in the Greek world, and the engraver of this coin was one of them. His name was Danaos (otherwise attested in Rhodian numismatics), and he actually signed the coin: ΔAN on the lip of the lion skin. Signed coins are of course of special numismatic interest; this is, in part, what explains the high prices fetched by the type.

    As I recounted in my entry for Curtisimo’s “Guess The Owner” game, I assumed I had no chance of landing the coin, but as it turned out, nobody else noticed the mistake (or had sufficient appreciation for the artistry) and I got it for a song. Proof: In order of increasing quality, here is how mine ranks with all 8 examples of Price 2513 and 2514 (the signed types) on acsearch, each given in USD without fees: $230 (miserable reverse!), $900, $3100, $1800, $2000, $1250, mine, $2600, $5800. In other words, mine is easily a $1500-2000 coin! (The one for $230 sold at Heritage earlier this year. While the reverse is a total mess, I still think it was also a great bargain.)

    I later confirmed my identification with a die match to the Ashmolean’s Price 2513. This die shares with the British Museum’s example a fainter signature; see fig. 1 for a bolder one near the top end of the price range. (Perhaps the hubristic engraver was asked to tone it down a bit? ;))

    A side-note on the name “Danaos”
    Danaos was the mythical founder of a dynasty of kings in Argos, thus Homer’s reference to the Mycenaean Greeks as “Danaans,” as well as “Argives.” The unique prevalence of this name in Rhodes and the similarity of Rhodian religious institutions to those found at Argos are thought to indicate that Rhodes actually received an early Myceanaen colony. In my book, any link with the time of Homer is a very cool added bonus.

    fig 1 & 2.jpg

    Historical significance:
    The great power shift
    At the time this coin was minted, Dænerys and her dragons (i.e. Rome) were coming to the eastern Mediterranean (fig. 2)….

    The 3rd century BCE was a death struggle among Alexander’s successors: the Antigonids in Macedon, the Seleucids in greater Syria, and the Ptolemies in Egypt. The Rhodian democracy was stuck in the middle, but it played the Game of Thrones extremely well, using its dominant navy to maintain the balance of power among the three big kids on the block, thereby preserving its independence.

    In 205, however, Egypt was on the wane, and the young and ambitious kings of Macedon (Philip V) and Syria (Antiochus III) were moving in for the kill, targeting Rhodes as well. Rhodes successfully countered Philip’s navy in the Cretan War (205-200 BCE), but desperately needed a powerful ally on land. In 201, she turned to Rome. :eek:

    Despite the devastation they had just experienced in the Second Punic War, the Senate decided to answer the Rhodian call. Rome helped secure victory against Philip (“The Second Macedonian War,” 200-196 BCE), but it turned out that Antiochus had only been waiting for his chance. With the great Hannibal on his staff and an enemy even more exhausted than five years previously, he pounced!

    It took a Herculean effort, but Rhodes and Rome together defeated Antiochus at sea, with Rhodian fire ships playing a starring role (Tyrion's "wildfire"?). Meanwhile the indomitable Rome ultimately triumphed on land, at Thermopylae (191) (yes, that Thermopylae) and Magnesia (190), even penetrating into Asia Minor and forcing the Seleucids to renounce their claim to most of it under the Treaty of Apamea in 188. Who benefited most? Rome’s new buddy, Rhodes. Not only did it keep its highly prized independence, it received the entirety of Lycia and Caria (fig. 3). As I said, the Rhodians were masters of The Game.

    That fateful Rhodian appeal for Roman help in 201 BCE is widely regarded as a key turning point in history. Rome was brought decisively into the domain of the great Hellenistic powers… and we all know how that ended. While this coin’s design looks to the Hellenistic past with its magnificent interpretation of Alexander’s tetradrachm, the war that it helped fund would usher in an utterly different future, not just for Rhodes, but for the entire Mediterranean world.

    figs 3 & 4.jpg

    The Colossus
    The famous Colossus of Rhodes was erected using the proceeds from the sale of Demetrius Poliorcetes’ equipment, including a 180 foot long battering ram and a 125 foot tall seige tower, after a failed seige in 304 BCE. Of course, the money could have fed the poor, but the Rhodians figured it would be a much better idea to erect a 108 foot statue of Helios. :meh: (That’s just a couple feet shorter than the Statue of Liberty!) It was completed in 280 BCE, but unfortunately it fell in an earthquake just 54 years later, not long before my coin was issued. Still, for eight centuries admirers would marvel at it, getting up close and personal, and trying in vain to wrap their arms around a finger.

    What does this have to do with my coin? Quite a lot, as it turns out. It is more than likely that it shows the face of the Colossus itself.

    The Colossus was a representation of Helios, and its face is thought to have resembled the Helios on Rhodian coins (fig. 4); these depictions are somewhat variable, however. Ancient tradition states that the statue’s features also mirrored those of Alexander the Great. As you know, some posthumous Herakles/Zeus type tetradrachms are thought to portray Alexander, especially when sporting a “protruding brow, long and narrow nose, pursing upper lip, strong jaw, thick neck, and fiery eyes.” As you can see, the portrait on my coin has those characteristics; it also resembles the earliest known portraits of Alexander, placed by Ptolemy I on the elephant headdress tetradrachms (fig. 4).

    So consider the following facts: 1) The Danaos tetradrachms maintain a very exact depiction of Alexander-cum-Herakles across dies. This extends to the unsigned types of somewhat inferior artistry issued around the same time, apparently emulating Danaos’s work. 2) The depiction resembles both the classic Rhodian Helios and the early Ptolemaic portraits of Alexander (see fig. 4), and there is historical evidence that both of these were reflected in the facial features of the Colossus. 3) A great Rhodian engraver is more than likely to look to the Colossus for inspiration in designing his portrait of Alexander for a coin that represents his city, and 4) Only the best engravers could have successfully captured this likeness. 5) Finally, all of this would help explain why Danaos was proud enough to sign the die.

    So... you may very well be looking into the face of the great Colossus of Rhodes!

    A beauty, a hinge of history, a very special view into ancient art and possibly even the Colossus, plus a fantastic bargain besides. And please note that I got through this entire writeup without mentioning Canada once!! (Erm… whoops. :sorry:)
    Ryro, Loong Siew, dlhill132 and 13 others like this.
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  3. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist Supporter

    Man... why do you guys have to make this so hard? Awesome coins, both.
  4. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    I vote but never comment, but this does. What a Gorgon!
    furryfrog02 and Curtisimo like this.
  5. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    ...and yes, for a matter of fact, I did just vote for a $2800 coin as a bargain. It is a good thing I got knocked out of the competition long ago. If I were still in it, the coin I would have entered cost $20.94 much of which value was the accompanying certification. I would have been embarrassed to have been out bargained by a $2800 coin.
  6. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    How could you do this to your Secret Saturn, acg?!? :blackeye: Was it my stereotype and quip about librarians in the last round? :sorry::bag:

    I am thankful I didn't play my Ptolemaic hockey puck this round. :D Themistokles would have been funny.

    Hmmm. I would definitely sell it for $4500, because then I could buy 2 more, sell one, and keep the other for free. :troll:

    Totally incredible coin, acg, one I would LOVE to own. Someday...
  7. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Basileus Megalos

    Beautiful coins both!
    Curtisimo likes this.
  8. Ryro

    Ryro They call me the 13th Caesar Supporter

    WoWiE!!! Talk about a matchup fitting of all the hyperbole of this grandest of cointests!
    One of the greatest Alexander the great's that I've ever seen vs the most gargantuan Gorgon that I've ever seen. Beauty vs beast, good vs evil, AR vs AE:eek::confused:!
    How will everyone vote???
  9. Theodosius

    Theodosius Fine Style Seeker Supporter

    I never even knew of the Giant Gorgon before...Wow.

    The Alexander portrait is phenomenal though too.

    Both coins were super bargains for what you got.

    Tough contest. :)

    Severus Alexander, ycon and Curtisimo like this.
  10. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    @Severus Alexander, that Rhodian AtG tet is both spectacular and special (and, according to popular opinion in Curtisimo's “Guess The Owner” game, it ought to be mine :D). Seriously, I think you scored it for an absolute song and I can see why you saved it for your last match. As usual, your writeup is fantastic and does Danaos's exemplary work on that die proud.

    @ancientcoinguru... remind me not to mess with you! :wideyed: That Olbian cast monster somehow manages the difficult trick of being beautiful and awesomely terrifying at the same time. Kind of like scary Galadriel in that LoTR scene...

    What a treat of a finals match!! Great work, guys, and thanks, @Curtisimo!
  11. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    I love both of these coins... so I shall nerd out for a bit :) The Peloponnesian War tie in is especially cool!

    Also, I find depictions of Medusa over time really fascinating. Archaic and early classical styles like acg's coin show Medusa as an ugly monster. By the Hellenistic period Medusa was being shown as a beautiful woman to better reflect the story of her being lusted after by Poseidon and cursed by Athena for it (not cool Athena).

    After Perseus cut off her head, in some myths Athena used it as an ornament on her Aegis (talk about insult to injury). Here is my newest example of a coin showing Medusa's head as that of a human woman as part of the Aegis.


    Here is a neat painting by Caravaggio I saw recently at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence (again showing Medusa as a woman).



    As for @Severus Alexander 's fine finale all I can say is great coin and great eye. Between this and Themistocles you have shown you have a real knack for finding these gems that are missed even by the auction houses... great bargain, great eye appeal.

    I really love coins that have been signed by the die engraver. As of now this Delta signed tetradrachm of Ptolemy I is my only signed example.

    Ptolemaic Kings of Egypt
    Ptolemy I Soter, (305-282 BC)
    AR Tetradrachm, Alexandria mint, struck ca. 300-285 BC
    Dia.: 26 mm
    Wt.: 14.13 g
    Obv.: Diademed head of Ptolemy I right, wearing aegis around neck. Δ behind ear
    Rev.: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΠΟΛΕΜΑΙΟΥ eagle with closed wings standing on thunderbolt. P above monogram ΠΑΡ
    Ref.: Noesje 41-42. SNG Copenhagen 70-71. Svoronos 255
    Ex W.F. Stoecklin, Ex Karl Steiner (1940s), signed by Delta
  12. TypeCoin971793

    TypeCoin971793 Just a random guy on the internet

    What magnificent pieces! :eek: Both have graced themselves on my want list, though the giant Olbia bronze in much higher on the list.

    If we are going by diameter...

    Mine is still bigger. :D


    Could you elaborate on this arrangement?
  13. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Mine's bigger and it has a beautiful patina.
    ;) :D

    @ancientcoinguru, that is a magnificent manhole cover! Wow!! Such crisp devices too.

    @Severus Alexander, it has been a great ride. You've set a new high standard for coin writeups. This final entry is a fantastic coin.
  14. Alegandron

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

    Severus Alexander and Curtisimo like this.
  15. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

  16. Brian Bucklan

    Brian Bucklan Well-Known Member

    After seeing the coin, and reading the write-up, of ancientcoinguru I thought there was absolutely no way anyone could beat that ........ then Severus Alexander presented his coin. Can we just call this a tie?
    Severus Alexander, TIF and Curtisimo like this.
  17. Ancient Aussie

    Ancient Aussie Supporter! Supporter

    Both absolutely Jaw dropping coins, never seen an Olbia coin of that type and what a beauty it is, and Sev's Tet is one of the most beautiful I have seen and at a bargain price. Well done both of you for making this such a marvellous contest, it is shame there can only be one winner.
    Severus Alexander, TIF and Curtisimo like this.
  18. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Dombes collector Supporter

    I'm glad I've been kicked off in semi final round, I would have been in great trouble to match up against any of those two marvelous coins.

    I have nothing relevant to show apart from a bin lid that would be an offense to acg's 69 mm gorgoneion :D

    Instead here's the missing link between @Severus Alexander and his tetradrachm :

    Severus Alexander, Denarius - Rome mint, AD 225
    IMP C M AVR SEV ALEXAND AVG, Laureate head of Severus Alexander right
    IOVI VLTORI, Jupiter seated left holding victory and spear
    3.26 gr
    Ref : RCV #7873 (75), Cohen #97

    Well done both, I'm blown away !!!

  19. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Nah, I've got plenty already. Aes signata are the perfect size and material for a cooktop backsplash. They're durable and clean up quite nicely with steel wool and vinegar.


    ;) :D
    Lueds, rrdenarius, chrsmat71 and 18 others like this.
  20. Alegandron

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

  21. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    And you thought that cooktop was expensive???
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