Commagene Tiberius Dupondius - Countermark Harpa (maybe)

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Marsyas Mike, Nov 8, 2019.

  1. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Another addition to my countermark collection, I bought this one without any idea what it was - eBay seller said it was Philip I from Syria. But figuring them out is half the fun - actually it is a Commagene dupondius struck for Tiberius. So why does this coin have an RIC number? Isn't it provincial?

    I saw an interesting post by David Atherton on coins struck at Rome for the East, but for Vespasian:

    The countermark I only figured out when I blundered upon a CGN auction via acsearch ( It is Howgego 500 - a sort of mystery as to what is shown. Wildwinds lists it as a "shark" which is pretty funny. Howgego guesses a harpa or a trophy, or, rather mysteriously, "birth of Malakbel from a cypress tree" which sounds like something Jochen would know about. To me it looks like a Patrick Star from SpongeBob Squarepants sitting right on a Wellington boot, but this seems unlikely.

    And so the ancient countermark journey continues:

    CM - Commagene Tiberius Harpa Oct 2019 (0).jpg

    My photos below make the cm look incuse - it is not:

    CM - Commagene Tiberius Harpa Oct 2019 (0 det1) - Copy.jpg
    Tiberius Dupondius
    (19-20 A.D.)
    Uncertain Commagene Mint

    [III IMP VII TR POT XXI(I)], caduceus between crossed cornucopiae
    RIC 89 (XXI) or 90 (XXII).
    (11.59 grams / 27 mm)

    Countermark: Π Δ T around uncertain object (harpa?) in 8 x 6 mm oval. Howgego 500. "Howgego is unable to fully explain the types and legends of this countermark, suggesting that the legend may be a date in an uncertain era, and the type may be a trophy or the birth of Malakbel from a cypress tree."
    Richard Baker Collection, via CNG Ele. Auct. 439; Lot 267
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  3. Ed Snible

    Ed Snible Well-Known Member

    It does look like a harpa. Although it could be a prow or stern.

    Here is a coin that also has an uncertain harpa counterstamp. I have been unable to research it further. It seems to have similar size/weight to yours.

    Uncertain. Harpa (?) counterstamp. 28mm, 10.4g. 2nd century AD?

    Marc Breitsprecher described this as "An interesting bronze with clear harpa counterstamp". It seems likely but uncertain. Probably I could take a better picture now. The uncertain 2nd century attribution is Marc's as well.
    Alegandron, ominus1 and Marsyas Mike like this.
  4. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Thanks for sharing that, Ed - it's interesting. If you can see the letters it could be Howgego 500 like mine. I'd be interested to see what you find out.
  5. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    kool coin M Mike.:)
    Marsyas Mike likes this.
  6. Ed Snible

    Ed Snible Well-Known Member

    I attempted to reshoot mine. No trace of letters. The harpa hook has the opposite orientation as yours.


    Congrats on your dupondius. Wish I had seen it. I wanted a harpa counterstamp for my Perseus and Medusa collection and spent $14 on this, which is probably the worst graded coin in my collection (host coin fair, counterstamp poor).

    I don't know if you have Howgego. CNG just says "birth of Malakbel from a cypress tree". Howgego suggests the letters are "probably" the date 383-4, perhaps of the Seleucid era. For the "birth of Malakbēl", Howgego cites H. Drijvers, The Religion of Palmyra (1975), p. 17 pl. 86). "Malakbēl" means the angel of Ba'al.
    Alegandron and Marsyas Mike like this.
  7. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Except for the opposite orientation, your harpa looks a lot like mine. From what I can tell from poking around online, coins from Commagene were countermarked extensively, so yours may well be from there.

    As for condition, my already-low standards get lower for countermarks. Many of mine from ancient times have host coins worn slick - but so long as I can see the countermark, I'm pretty happy. The OP is an example of this - virtually all the legend is missing, for one thing.

    I do not have a copy of Howgego, and I really need to do so. Thanks for providing information on the possible Seleucid-era dating - that information was not on the CNG auction I found. Every little bit helps!
  8. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    That's a fascinating countermark, @Marsyas Mike , and great research. It looks like a harpa to me, too.
    Marsyas Mike and David Atherton like this.
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