Coins that are out of your comfort zone!

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by JayAg47, Dec 24, 2020.

  1. panzerman

    panzerman Well-Known Member

    I would never collect Chinese coins/ esp. with their track record of producing fakes. I also do not collect modernistic themed coins. I do like the 1/4 to AV 5 Pounds designs from UK/ since they kept their 1817 Pistrucci artwork. When you go after coinage from all 27 centuries/ you pick and choose/ what really tickles your fancy. Seems when you gloss thru most auctions on sixbid/ there are thousands of things you crave/ but your empty wallet tells you, "In your dreams":(
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  3. robinjojo

    robinjojo Well-Known Member

    I really don't think of coins being out of my comfort zone, unless we're talking about a coin whose high valuation, and known record of fakes, as being out my comfort zone.

    I don't conflate lack of knowledge of a given area of numismatics with feelings of anxiety or discomfort. Knowledge can be gained, and that is one of the wonderful aspects of coin collecting regardless of area of interest. This is one way, at least for me, to expand my understanding, at least within the limited parameters of my cognitive capabilities.

    The coins that we collect reflect this history of their times, it goes without saying. I know that I will never be able to decipher the legends of an Islamic coin; I rely on others expert in this field. But, I do appreciate the beauty of Islamic coinage, in all of its variety and richness.

    Persia, 1668-1694
    20 Shahi
    Suleyman I
    36.3 grams

    D-Camera Iran 20 shahi, AH 1079-1094, 1668-94, Isfahan mint, 36.3 g 12-24-20.jpg
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2020
  4. Gallienus


    Stone the Blasphmemer!!!!

    I love late Roman. Normally I like variety and I'll admit that late Roman coinage is somewhat more uniform as they were having issues with the stability of the Empire.

    The thing about late Roman is once you get away from Honorius and a couple of others whose coinage comprises ~95% of all late Roman it's quite interesting historically as well as sometimes rare.

    Here are a few of mine:
    Jovinus, failed usurper, 411-413 AD, silver siliqua

    Julian, the Greek Philosopher, called by Nazarenes as "the Apostate",
    360 - 363 AD, bronze nummus

    Julius Nepos, the last Western legitimate Emperor, said by some authorities to be the last Emperor of the West.
    474 - 475 AD, d. 480 AD, gold tremissis

    But the thread is about things that we're not crazy about. I tend to like variety and will go for virtually anything that doesn't move too quickly...

    I guess I don't collect Persian/ Islamic dirhems silver or gold. You know the ones that just have writing on both sides and look the same whether they were made in 750 AD or in 1750. And to think of all the neat Roman & Greek gold and silver coins they must've melted down to make those suckers...
  5. KSorbo

    KSorbo Well-Known Member

    Since I’m very much a novice when it comes to ancients, I tend to gravitate toward things like early imperial Roman that are interesting even to non-ancient collectors. Like others on this thread, I’m less keen on Islamic and East Asian simply because I don’t understand the alphabets and am not very familiar with the history. That’s not to say I wouldn’t enjoy learning. Last year I went to a coin shop in Tokyo that had bins of cheap pre-Meiji bronzes identified by date and type. I’m still kicking myself for not buying a few of them and putting them in envelopes with notes. I would trust that coins sold in Japan are not fake, unlike that type of material on EBay which I assume is widely faked.
    Paul M. and JayAg47 like this.
  6. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member

    I disagree with most of the negative comments posted here but believe the two above sum up my feelings best. I have seen relatively few boring coins compared to boring collectors. If any coins give you joy to own, to hold, to study then those coins are good. Those that do not can be ignored leaving more for others who see them in different light. My favorites are Severans but if there were no Severans I could find a dozen other specialties as consolation. I do believe that most people who feel certain coins to be beneath their notice generally do not know anything about those coins. A dealer who thought he knew everything once told me that the only Severan coins that were collectable were those from Rome and the other mints were rubbish. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not to their own facts.
    I must admit that I am guilty of being uncomfortable in these areas also. If I do not see and believe a coin is worth the price or the risk, I am not comfortable with the purchase. For many of us it is not a matter of being able to buy everything we find interesting but more having to select from what we can find and afford. That makes me more comfortable with those coins and enjoying my hobby is easier when I stick to things that make me comfortable.
    svessien, BenSi, robinjojo and 4 others like this.
  7. robinjojo

    robinjojo Well-Known Member

    I agree. Unless you're a high roller, willing to pay the price for a high end coin that you're not familiar with, out of sheer impulse, comfort zone applies to the rest of us who must collect under the constraints of a budget.
  8. Paul M.

    Paul M. Well-Known Member

    It sounds like you might need a book to get you going on cash coins, should you have literally any interest in the Imperial period of China. I have one that will get you started. I believe there's even a pronunciation guide, but, if not, they do Romanize the names of the characters for you.

    For hammered medieval coinage, my big deal here is that they're often made of quite bad silver, and, until you get rather late into the period, portraits are more iconic (read: borderline cartoonish) than representational. Many lack dates, and inscriptions tend to be quite difficult for me to read. It's just not an enjoyable period for me, beyond having the requisite couple of examples I want for historical purposes.

    For Hellenistic Greek coinage, I don't profess any specialty in these, really, but I try to collect some of the more famous and iconic pieces, such as the Athenian Owl and its variants, the Aegean turtle stater, Taras dolphin rider stater, Alexander tetradrachm, and the like. I think Greek coins make a pleasing tray display, and there's plenty of historical context you can put behind them, despite not wanting to dip too deeply into them.

    These coins are all exceptional, especially Julius Nepos!

    And, it's funny you should mention Honorius specifically, because he's one of the late Roman emperors whose reign I definitely want to have a nice looking piece from. Imagine him looking over the 7 hills of Rome as the Visigoths come to take the city, and you've got the reason I want one of his coins. :)
    Gallienus likes this.
  9. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    Still won't get me into them. There are just some things I know I will never have an interest in. You can't fathom how much my dad pushed me to get into classic cars and such growing up & has some resentment towards it, it's just one of the many things that give us our strained relationship.

    Thanks for the offer but maybe someone else would get use of it instead of being wasted on me.
    Paul M. likes this.
  10. DiomedesofArgos

    DiomedesofArgos Well-Known Member

    This is a really nice explanation of how Chinese coins could appeal to collectors without heritage relating to this area of the world.
    Paul M. likes this.
  11. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member

    Please tell us what it is. I have Hartill (and two older works) and have identified a couple hundred cash (mostly Northern Song but a few other common ones). I see listings for the various periods and see how that works. I see minor variations usually being a shape or spacing variation in one character or another. What I do not see is a hint on why I should care about these flyspecks any more than I care about a Roman coin that splits the legend in a different place, adds a dot here or there or shows the ruler wearing something slightly different. A book that identifies coins and provides a catalog number is not the same thing as a book that imparts understanding on what, why and how these flyspecks are worth seeking other than they are unusual or rare. I find Chinese history interesting and I would be interested in knowing what caused the change of period names in the middle of a reign or why some coins were made to serve some special purpose. I know there are books that talk about such things but I do not and will not be learning to read Chinese. Based on owning Hartill and a few hundred cash, I need to see why I should go further.
  12. Gallienus


    I'm going to definitely change the background of my late Roman page to this after your comment. Painted in 1883 yet so classical it's called "The Favorites of Honorius" and depicts perfectly the negligent attitude of the 5th century Emperor.

    The Favorites of Honorius, 1883, John Waterhouse

    Thanks for the comments on the Julius Nepos. I was very lucky to get that piece: it was on a fixed price list by Ed Waddell; some years ago just before rarer Roman gold became more expensive.

    I should mention that if you're careful, you should be able to pick out a nice mint state Honorius gold solidus at a reasonable price in one of the European auctions. May also pay to wait until after the vaccine's out and the gold rush goes away.
  13. svessien

    svessien Senior Member

    Thank you for posting the Waterhouse painting, @Gallienus
    I have never seen it before, but now I did and it’s great.

    I find late Roman coins very fascinating. What I find less fascinating are collecting areas where I get a strong sense of a racket going on. Modern date collecting gives me that feeling, both with Norwegian and US coins; areas that I’ve been collecting in the past. I don’t like the feeling that I as a collector am a «mark». I get that feeling if prices never fluctuate; that these coins somehow only rise in value, and at a fantastic yearly 10% rate. I have paused collecting Norwegian coins since 2013 now, because I have lost confidence in the market. I hope it will return eventually.

    Here’s a coin to go with the painting:
    Sear 20899 Honorius solidus.jpg
  14. Paul M.

    Paul M. Well-Known Member

    You're quite welcome for the compliment on your coin. And, yes, that is an excellent painting.

    Honorius gets a little bit of a bad rap, but you have to remember he became emperor at 10 years old. He wasn't ready to lead the Empire, and it wasn't really his fault that he was exactly what the Empire didn't need at that time.

    I've definitely seen those solidii around, and, yes, they're fairly affordable for a gold coin of their size. But, I've been thinking about going for a siliqua, just because they seem to be a little more rare overall than either his bronzes or his gold issues, especially in reasonable condition with good eye appeal. Given his legacy, it might also be oddly appropriate to pick up a barbarous coin depicting him. :)
    Gallienus and hotwheelsearl like this.
  15. otlichnik

    otlichnik Well-Known Member


    There are two steps to the detailed identification of Chinese cash.

    Sorting by minor details - the flyspecks you speak of - has been undertaken, especially by Japanese numismatists, since the 17th century. You are right though that without further work it is just a catalogue of what we see - a blank taxonomy.

    However, that can then be compared to archaeological reports and even existing records to understand what the variety means. The work is just starting in Chinese numismatics and will hopefully continue for a long time.

    Sadly though this is limited for now. For example, Japanese authors have been able to identify copies made in Japan by style. Thierry, and Doo, have done a great start on the Kia Yuan Tong Bao using archaeological records as have Fishman & Gratzer for Wu Zhu. Though both are only starts.

    Hartill was able to dig up the actual mint records of the Qing, after decades of work, and so his RNS/Spink "Qing Cash" explains what all the variety means. An historical work very different from his wider guidebooks.

    In terms of gaining a much richer and deeper understanding of Chinese coinage you have two options:

    Francois Thierry, Monnaies de la Chine ancienne (Les): Des origines à la fin de l'Empire, 2017, (if you read French).

    Ping Xinwei (aka Peng Hsin-wei). A Monetary History of China, Volumes One and Two (Zhongguo Huobi Shi). In English and can be found online as it was published by Western Washington University.

    Both are very detailed, several hundred page studies that combine historical records, archaeological evidence and numismatic data from the coins themselves.

  16. Gallienus


    Yes I know what you mean. Recently I've also tried to buy some USA coins which I'd given up collecting 20 years ago in order to collect certain world {like Polish talers} & Ancients. A lot of the classic US types look like they've been run over by Tiger Tanks even in MS-63 and 64 slabs. Finally I find a nice MS-62 or 63 that I like and I bid on it. I always get outbid and then find, one month later, the coin always reappears at auction but graded in the next higher slab at 2X or 3X the price.

    I don't know the Norwegian market at all but that also makes me lose interest in a collecting field.

    Well the siliqua are very interesting coins and aside from the issues around the time of Galerius (late 3rd century -- not late) are not very common. The bronze of Honorius seems to follow usually the small AE3/4 pattern. Both types are quite available but are very uncommon in high grades apparently.

    As mentioned previously my only Ancients purchase in all of 2020 was a barbarous {here Germanic} copy of a Roman aureus. The engraver deviated a bit tho and featured the 8 legged horse: Sleipnir of Nordic legend, rather than a truer copy of a standard Roman reverse.

    Germanic copy of a 3rd century aureus but featuring Sleipnir, the 8 legged horse of Odin, reverse. Sometime soon after ca. 270 AD.
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