First 2022 Coin

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Mat, Jan 18, 2022.

  1. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    Late last year I had bid two different times on one of these tetradrachms and they ended up going past my limit.

    I've been hoarding my $ for something big in my autograph collecting but thanks to a tip from another collector here on CT I had seen two of these listed & decided to act since he confirmed the prices have been going up and the price was too good to ignore even though I didn't want to tap into my money.

    So here we are, my first coin for 2022.

    They are normally listed as Elymais, Kamnasires V, but more recently it's Uncertain Early Arsacid Kings.

    Uncertain Early Arsacid Kings
    Late 1st century B.C. - early 2nd century A.D.
    Billon Tetradrachm
    O: Crude bust left with long, pointed beard and curly hair dressed in a curved pattern from forehead to the nape of the neck, topped by a tuft of hair bound with a diadem, its ties falling behind, star in crescent above anchor with two crossbars, pellet to left of anchor.
    R: Diademed, bearded head left (degenerated), degraded legend around, forming square frame around the head.
    van't Haaff 10.3.1-1B, subtype b.
    Egry, ancientone, BenSi and 22 others like this.
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  3. sand

    sand Well-Known Member

    Very interesting, and a nice looking coin. Do you know the diameter and weight?
  4. Bob L.

    Bob L. Well-Known Member

    A good start to 2022, Mat. One of the interesting things about this sub series in Elymaean numismatics is the degeneration of the reverse bust over a number of decades, during which time the obverse busts remain intact and comprehensible. The reverse portrait is pretty far gone by the time of your coin’s minting. The gradual degeneration can only be an intentional, slowly performed erasure done by the new Arsacid Dynasty which replaced the previous Kamnaskires Dynasty. The reverse portrait was a carryover from coins of the so-called Later Kamnaskirid Dynasty, and I believe it may well have represented the progenitor of that family, Kamnaskires I, the first ruler of Elymais. Regarding the purposeful, progressive degeneration of the reverse by the Arsacids, van’t Haaff states, “the issuers of these coins wanted to change the iconography to break with the previous kings, but they were sensitive to the fact that abruptly changing the iconography would hinder the acceptance of the coinage in local trade.” So, I think we can view the Arsacids’ slow physical erasure of that portrait as an attempt to methodically eliminate the Kamnaskirids from the collective memory.
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2022
  5. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic



    Didn't know that and would explain why the reverses on these are not great.
    panzerman and sand like this.
  6. GinoLR

    GinoLR Well-Known Member

    A Billon or Bronze tetradrachm like yours. Elymais, probably 2nd c AD. The obv. type is a portrait of a king Kamnaskires of the 1st c. BC or AD, but it was immobilized. The rev. is a stylized bust of the Elymais Herakles (?) with lines imitating roughly a Greek legend.
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  7. panzerman

    panzerman Well-Known Member

    Nice way to start 2022/ Mat:)

    I think we are all in the same boat/ most coins we bid on in 2022 will be way more $$$ then in 2021:(
  8. John Anthony

    John Anthony Ultracrepidarian Supporter Dealer

    This is very interesting indeed. Is it a singular event? Is there any other example of a change in numismatic iconography by gradual degradation? I can't think of any examples in Western coinage.
  9. GinoLR

    GinoLR Well-Known Member

    There is the gradual transformation of the types of the Macedonian Philip II tetradachm by Danubian Celts, then by Gauls... In the end, one could not recognize the original design.

    (not my coins! )

    celts tranformations.jpg
    from Philip II tetradrachm (4th c. BC) to the Helvetii (1st c. BC), via Danubian Celts (3rd-2nd c. BC).
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2022
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  10. John Anthony

    John Anthony Ultracrepidarian Supporter Dealer

    Yes of course. I should have clarified the question though. I meant within one civilization.
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  11. Bob L.

    Bob L. Well-Known Member


    I don’t know of any direct parallel. This is a stretch, but the only analogous, extended-time visual transformation conducted for – perhaps – political expediency that I can think of, might be the sequence on Parthian drachm reverses, from about the first century AD onwards during the so-called Iranian Revival. We see there, initially, (1) Parthian script starting to appear alongside Greek legends on some coins, followed by (2) the elimination of the epithet “philhellene” (ΦΙΛΕΛΛΗΝΟΣ – meaning Greek-loving) on Parthian coins, then (3) Greek legends becoming garbled to the point of meaninglessness, and (4) depictions of Parthian kings becoming more and more “Iranian” (baggy trousers, long beards, eastern regalia, triparte hairstyles, etc.), along with the move away from Greek naturalism in the depictions.

    My speculation that the reverse portrait might be the Kamnaskirid Dynasty’s progenitor is perhaps on shaky ground – but it sure makes sense given the visual evidence of extended erasure, doesn’t it? On the other hand, even if, as some believe, the reverse image is that of Herakles, Zeus, Belos, or other mythological figure, I think that the Arsacids must have been threatened by its association with Kamnaskirid rule. Perhaps the god/hero (if that's what he is) was a visual statement about the legitimacy of Kamnaskirid rule? I believe that the accompanying reverse legends, that along with the bust gets degenerated over time, was a carryover from the reverses of the last coins of the Kamnaskirids, and it read" ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ / ΚΑΜΝΑΣΚΙΡΟΥ / ΤΟΥ ΕΓ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ / ΚΑΜΝΑΣΚΙΡΟΥ, usually interpreted (according to van't Haaff) as "King Kamnaskires, grandson of King Kamnaskires." So, the bust, whether a mythological hero or flesh-and-blood progenitor of the dynasty, seems to have been connected with the lineage of the Kamnaskirids and the legitimacy of their rule. And thus it became a target of the Arsacids, who might well have feared repercussions if they eliminated it immediately upon wresting control of Elymais.

    Some of my own coins from the Early Arsacid Dynasty in Elymais have reverses that are too worn to tell where they might fall into a possible sequence of degeneration:
    unknown king degen worn.jpg

    Others from my collection, though, are clear enough to imagine a minted order based on the progressive reverse degeneration. This is totally speculative – and, to be clear, I have zero proof of the minting sequence of the tets and drachms I present below. But it’s fun to pretend!
    unknown king degen group.jpg
  12. John Anthony

    John Anthony Ultracrepidarian Supporter Dealer

    You know, looking at all of those examples makes me wonder if the intention wasn't to caricature the previous dynasty. To me they seem to say that the new king is worthy of careful aesthetic rendition, and the old one isn't. It's kind of a slow-motion damnatio memoriae.
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