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? Cyrenaica 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.