Curtisimo’s Top 5 of 2020

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Curtisimo, Dec 19, 2020.


Pick your 2 favorites!

  1. 5. Caracalla Berytus Tetradrachm

  2. 4. Maximinus Daia Follis

  3. 3. Cyrene / Silphium Didrachm

  4. 2. Themistokles Hemiobol

  5. 1. Lucius Verus Denarius

Multiple votes are allowed.
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  1. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    2020 was not a good year for my collection and I was not able to add very many coins this year. Therefore, I’ve had to scale back my typical Top 10 because I didn’t purchase 10 coins. However, because I was forced to be more frugal, I can say that each of these coins was purchased very deliberately and with an eye for unique interest. There is not a lot of high grade stuff but from a pure numismatic and historical interest perspective I would put my top 3 this year up against the coins from any of my previous lists.

    With that I hope you will all enjoy looking through my top coins of 2020.

    5 An Iconic Ugly Mug
    PHOENICIA, Berytus.
    Caracalla (AD 197-217)
    AR Tetradrachm, Berytus mint, struck AD 215-217.
    Dia.: 28 mm
    Wt.: 13.0 g
    Obv.: AVT KAI ANTWNINOC CЄB; Laureate bust right.
    Rev.: ΔHMAPΧ EΞ YΠATO Δ; Eagle with spread wings standing facing, head left wreath in beak; between legs, prow left.
    Reference: Prieur 1292
    From the DePew Collection.

    Write up: In Honor of an Iconic Scowl, Please Post your Ugliest Mugs!

    Why I Like it: Caracalla is well known for having some of the scowly-est most angry looking portraits in all of coinage. I saw this coin in one of JA’s private auctions and really enjoyed the particularly unpleasant look on Caracalla’s face in this example. Some other points of interest;
    • It was struck in Berytus (modern Beruit) which is a mint that I did not have a coin from.
    • At 28 mm and 13 grams this coin feels and looks great in hand.
    • It came with a provenance from a fellow CoinTalker which is always as plus.
    • Did I mention the scowl?

    4 The Previous Guy Had an Oil Painting so it Must be Cool
    Roman Empire
    Maximinus II Daia As Caesar
    Æ Follis, Alexandria mint, 5th officina. Struck late AD 308-309.
    Wt.: 7.12g
    Obv.: Laureate head right
    Rev.: Genius standing left, holding patera from which liquor flows, and cornucopia; K-E/P//ALE.
    Ref.: RIC VI 100a.

    Ex Dr. Louis Naegeli Collection, Ex W. F. Stoecklin Collection. Obolos 9, March 25, 2018, Lot 437.

    Tag from the Stoecklin Collection

    Write up: From the Stoeklin and Naegeli Collections

    Why I Like it: This is the 4th year in a row that a Stoecklin Collection coin has made my top 5. I am not doing it on purpose and this one would definitely rank 4th of the 4 but I still like it a great deal. This was one of the coins that Dr. Stoecklin acquired directly from the collection of Dr. Naegeli who was a prominent Ophthalmologist (and oil painting enthusiast) who lived in Switzerland in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

    I like the overall detail and patina on this coin and I like that you can actually see the libation pouring out of the patera on the reverse. The portrait is also interesting and it even looks a bit like Maximinus might be making an attempt to rock the dreadlock hairstyle on this coin. These larger size folles feel nice in hand and are really easy on the wallet in a year where that was important.


    3 The Ancient Cialis?
    Cyrene AR didrachm, struck ca. 308-277 BC
    Magas as Ptolemaic governor
    Dia.: 20 mm
    Wt.: 7.62 g
    Obv.: Bare head of Apollo-Carneius right, with horn
    Rev.: K-Y / P-A, silphium plant, cornucopia in inner right field
    Ref.: SNG Copenhagen 1234; BMC 228

    Write up: Apollo / Silphium: Greek Silver that Looks Great in a Low Grade

    Why I Like it: This large piece of Greek silver shows the famously extinct silphium plant. The economy of the ancient city of Cyrene was based on this plant which was said to be a treatment for everything from dog bites, to asthma to, ummm… bedroom difficulties. Nero is said to have eaten the very last silphium plant known to have existed. History doesn’t tell us how his night went from there. Based on the reputation of Nero and of the plant in question Nero could have been primed for a dog fight, a marathon or perhaps even a family reunion.


    2 The Hero of Salamis and the Savior of Greece
    IONIA, Magnesia ad Maeandrum
    Themistokles, AR Hemiobol, struck ca. 465-459 BC
    Dia.: 8 mm
    Wt.: 0.24 g
    Obv.: Head of Hephaistos right, wearing laureate pilos; Θ-E flanking /
    Rev.: ΘE monogram in dotted square border within incuse square.
    Ref.: Nollé & Wenninger 5a; Cahn & Gerin 8 = SNG München 585; SNG Copenhagen;
    Very rare.

    Why I Like it: This one is not technically in my possession yet (being in the dreaded purgatory of the USPS) so I might be tempting fate by posting it here but I am excited enough by this coin I wanted to include it on my top list. I think most people are familiar with Themistolkles and his legendary exploits during the Greco-Persian Wars. Plutarch describes him as “the man most instrumental in achieving the salvation of Greece." After Themistokles was ostracized by the Athenians and fled Greece he went to seek refuge with the Great King of Persia. He was welcomed at the Persian court and was given possession of 5 cities in Ionia. He chose Magnesia on the Maeander as his capital. There he struck coins from didrachms all the way down to these little fractionals. All of his coins are very rare.

    I felt fortunate to win this one from an auction that featured a collection of Ionian coins that included 3 different types of Themistokles with the other two getting more attention from bidders than this one. That worked out well for me because, of the fractional types, I find this particular one the most interesting. It is the only one with Θ-E on the obverse next to the portrait. Some have speculated that this means the portrait is of Themistokles himself,, which would make this the earliest portrait coin in history! I tend to give more credit to the argument that it is Hephaistos but the primary references on this topic are in German so I have had some fun translating and researching so I will post a full write up when I have the coin in hand along with a handy guide to attributing these cool little coins.

    This coin is not beautiful but almost none of the Themistokles fractionals are so one must take what one can get… especially this year.

    These are ostracon (broken pieces of pottery) that were found in a well in Athens and are inscribed Themistokles (son of) Neokleos. These are the actual original shards left over from the ostracism of Themistokles in ca. 472 BC! The fact that many of them appear to be inscribed by the same hand shows that the enemies of Themistokles probably had these made up ahead of the vote and handed them out to citizens as they gathered for the assembly. I took this photo in the Painted Stoa in the Agora of Athens where a small museum is set up to house some of the most fascinating objects in history. Believe it or not these weren’t even the coolest things in there.


    1 Why work hard when your brother will do all the hard stuff for you?
    Roman Empire
    Lucius Verus (AD 161-169)
    AR Denarius, Rome mint, struck ca. AD 165-166
    Dia.: 18 mm
    Wt.: 3.30 g
    Obv.: L VERVS AVG ARM PARTH MAX; Laureate bust right
    Rev.: TR P VI IMP IIII COS II; Victory standing right holding palm branch and placing a shield inscribed VIC PAR on a palm tree
    Ref.: RIC 566

    Write up: Nerva-Antonines: A Huge Milestone for my Collection

    Why I like it: Contrary to my tongue-in-cheek heading above I think that Lucius Verus gets a rough treatment in history. When he was called upon to serve a function on behalf of the state (and his adoptive brother) he did so competently. A prime example of this is his successful completion of a war against Persia that is referenced by the reverse of this coin. It is really interesting that this reverse type is more often seen for Marcus Aurelius than for Lucius Verus. This is because as co-emperors a victory for one was a victory for the other. However, I think it also shows another positive aspect of Lucius Verus’s personality that gets overlooked: He didn’t mind standing in the shadow of his harder working brother. History has lots of examples of co-rule failing but the fact that it worked for Marcus and Lucius is a testament to both men. Lucius Verus was well known for enjoying the high life. For example, when fighting Parthia he had regular dispatches from Rome to keep him up to date on his favorite chariot team. He would probably not have been as effective a leader as a sole emperor but was a good co-emperor in most ways that counted.

    This coin makes the number one on my 2020 list because I think it is a good coin and I am happy to have it. To be honest however, part of what enhances this coin in my esteem is that it was the last of the male members of the Nerva-Antonine Dynasty in Imperial Silver that I needed for a sub-collection I have been working on for several years. That allowed me to pass at least one collection milestone in 2020 and that alone is worth a top spot IMO.

    I took these photos of a bust of Lucius Verus at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence in 2018. A good portion of my imperial sculpture/bust photos are from this museum. It is well worth the visit.


    Even though 2020 was a slow year I can already see the light at the end of the tunnel and 2021 is looking to be a better year all around. My hope is that it will be for everyone here. Thanks for reading.
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2020
    TIF, thejewk, PlanoSteve and 50 others like this.
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  3. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I like them all! I'm looking for a silver Silphium (but not hard enough to find one under the circumstances today). I was not aware of that hemiobol but would like one of them, too.
  4. Alegandron

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

    Like them all, @Curtisimo . Excellent. I agree with Doug, looking for an AR Silphium, also. I also really like your Themistokles.
    rrdenarius and Curtisimo like this.
  5. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    ...all kool koins Curtisimo...and man, wouldn't it be kool to have one o does osctras..but that coins just a kool! :)
    Curtisimo likes this.

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    The one that leaps out at me is the hemiobol. Maximum historical significance in a minimum of space. But they're all cool. The reverse of the Lucius Verus is great, and the provenance of the Maximinus Daia is (why lie?) very impressive. ...No, No, Wait, Wait, the ostracon are Crazy. The specificity of the context is Mind-blowing.
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2020
    Curtisimo likes this.
  7. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    Nice coins. I like the Cyrene AR didrachm the best mainly because of the plant on the reverse. The second choice was the Maximinus because of the portrait and the provenance.
    rrdenarius and Curtisimo like this.
  8. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    I vote viagra
    Curtisimo likes this.
  9. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Really nice acquisitions for your collection, @Curtisimo! My favorites are the Silphium, the scowling Caracalla, and the Lucius Verus denarius.
    One of the reasons Szaivert (MIR) is so helpful is that it lays out the issues of Marcus and Lucius side-by-side, so their coins can be seen in context. They both issued aurei and denarii of this reverse type that year, as well as denarii with the same reverse legend but featuring Pax.
    Curtisimo, Spaniard and +VGO.DVCKS like this.
  10. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    With reference to @Curtisimo, my one and only sestertius is of Aurelius, and is one of the ones commemorating the victories in Parthia.
    (Hmmm. Kind of like recent corporate practice; why bother competing when you can just buy the competition? Smells like 'appropriation' on a similar scale, if not by the same means.)
    Roman Collector and Curtisimo like this.
  11. Shea19

    Shea19 Supporter! Supporter

    Nice group! The Caracalla tet from Berytus is my favorite, but I like all 5.
    Curtisimo likes this.
  12. Nicholas Molinari

    Nicholas Molinari Well-Known Member

    No. 3 all the way!
    Curtisimo likes this.
  13. Ryro

    Ryro They call me the 13th Caesar Supporter

    Freaking Themistokles:pompous::cigar::jawdrop:. Are you kidding me:confused:
    The man that nearly single handedly saved Athens and much of Greece (aaand by extension western civilization:bookworm:).
    No. Im not jealous:shifty:
    Fantastic five. I went with two and three.
    Boss move finding and sharing images of the actual ostracon. I knew they'd been found but never seem them:snaphappy:
    Curtisimo likes this.
  14. Ancient Aussie

    Ancient Aussie Supporter! Supporter

    All nice coins Curtis, but WOW I love that "Roman Nose" on your Maximinus great eye appeal. Hope you have a great year of collecting in 2021.
    Curtisimo likes this.
  15. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    Thanks Doug! I know what you mean about the current market. I busted this one out of a slab with a lower grade so I think that helped with keeping the competition down. This is one of those coins I think would have gotten more attention at auction if it wasn't slabbed.

    Thanks Brian!
    Theodosius likes this.
  16. Fugio1

    Fugio1 Supporter! Supporter

    @Curtisimo, Great writeups on all and great variety of selections in a trying year. I learned a lot that I didn't know about Themistokles so the small fractional of Magnesia ad Maeandrum is my favorite.
    Curtisimo likes this.
  17. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic Supporter

    A short but fantastic list! #3 is my personal favourite.
    Curtisimo likes this.
  18. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    My favorites were the Silphium (I would love to have a coin like that) and the Lucius Verus denarius. Regarding that bust in the Uffizi Gallery, is the coloring of the hair and beard original, or has it been restored? One doesn't see a great many ancient busts that look like that.
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2020
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  19. AncientJoe

    AncientJoe Supporter! Supporter

    Definitely #3, the Silphium!
    Curtisimo likes this.
  20. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    I don’t recall seeing it noted on the description in the museum if there was any color restoration on the busts. I wonder if it is just a function of the incredibly detailed hair with lots of contrast and depth.

    For reference here are a few more of the bust photos I took. I don't see anything that might look like color restoration on any of these so my guess is that the Lucius Verus is original... at least as far as the color. I could go on all day posting the photos I took from front and side of the various imperial busts in the museum. People looked at me funny and my wife got annoyed at how much time I wanted to spend looking at the portrait busts. :oops:

  21. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks. I realized after posting my question that of course it's two views of one bust, not two different busts!
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