Foibles Revisited, More birds of a Feather, and Expanding the Roman Frontiers - 2021 Review

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by robinjojo, Dec 4, 2021.


Vote on your three favorite coins

Poll closed Dec 18, 2021.
  1. Archaic Owl, Seltman Group C

    4 vote(s)
  2. Archaic Owl, Seltman Group M

    2 vote(s)
  3. Archaic Owl, Selman Group H

    13 vote(s)
  4. Lihyan AE Imitation Owl

    3 vote(s)
  5. Macrinus Tetradram, Cyrrhestica

    4 vote(s)
  6. Gallienus Tetradrachm, Sol Reverse, Alexandria

    9 vote(s)
  7. Trajan Denarius, DΛNVVIVS

    12 vote(s)
  8. Antoninus Pius AE Sestertius, Annona Reverse

    4 vote(s)
  9. Æ30 of Henna, Ceres Obverse

    0 vote(s)
  10. Umayyad Caliphate, AE Fals

    1 vote(s)
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    My near infatuation with owls continued this year, unabated. I am not sure if this is a terminal condition, or if the prognosis is more benign; I have not raised this topic with my doctor, who I have actually not seen in about six years.

    This is not to say, as many of you know, that I don't have other areas of interest. I do make the occasional foray into Roman provincial territory, as well as Byzantine and Arab imitations, but my interest in the netherworld of owl imitations and all of the variations thereof keeps drawing me into purchasing more and more owls, the vast majority being of non-Athenian origins. I like to tell myself that this undertaking will have an ultimate, constructive purpose, beside filling up coin boxes, and perhaps that will be the outcome of this grand project of accumulation. Time will tell.

    Okay, so here are some of the coins that crossed the threshold of my humble abode this year. There are a few candidates that have not arrived, so they may show up in next year's list.

    1. An archaic owl of merit

    I have learned over the years to accept a coin's flaws, as well as its attributes. When collecting archaic owls, this approach is essential, unless one has unlimited funds to sink into a flawless example. I am not a member of that club.

    Attica, Athens 482-480 BC
    AR Tetradrachm, archaic style.
    Obverse: Head of Athena facing right, wearing an archaic style helmet.
    Reverse: Owl standing right, eyes slightly left and down, olive sprig to left, ΑΘΕ to right.
    This coin has an exceptional reverse, one of the best I have encountered, with a very appealing, plump owl and a quizzical expression. The obverse has some flaws, along with an apparent worn die.
    Good centering on both sides and no test cuts.
    Seltman Group C
    Good VF

    17.4 grams

    D-Camera Athens arachaic owl, class C, 482 - 480 BC, 17.4 g eBay 2021 11-30-21.jpg
    The compromise with this coin, produced in the years approaching the Persian invasion of 480 BC, is clear. The obverse is rough, primarily due to the coin's deposition, but also due to a worn die. It seems that the obverse dies in particular were used well past their useful lives. Centering is also a problem, as it is with many classical and intermediate owls, with the obverse serving as the anvil die, while the owl side (reverse) was the hammer die. Actually the obverse centering for this coin is decent, and Athena's archaic smile is visible.

    The appeal of this coin is clearly the reverse. I might be a little hyperbolic in the description of the the reverse, but it is very nice and apparently struck with a fairly new die, at least with regards to the owl. There seems to be some erosion of the ethnic.

    2. What's this? Another archaic owl?

    One day, in the late winter as I recall, when I was puttering around the house, Kirk Davis' catalog came through the slot. Normally I put these catalog aside for a month or two, but this time I opened the envelope to look at his small but excellent selection of coins. Boom...there is was, beckoning like a Siren to wreck my coin budget on the shoals of numismatic desire. Unlike Ulysses I succumbed to the call.

    Attica, Athens 500/490 - 485/82 BC
    AR Tetradrachm, archaic style.
    Obverse: Head of Athena facing right, wearing an archaic style helmet, hair style of waves above the forehead.
    Reverse: Owl standing right with over-sized eyes and a wide short body, olive sprig to left pointing downwards, ΑΘΕ to right.
    Seltman Group M
    About VF

    17.23 grams

    D-Camera Athens archaic tetradrachm c. 500-480BC Kirk Davis cat 75 lot 11 abt VF 8-23-21.jpg

    This coin's appeal rests with the somewhat unusual hair treatment, plus the nicely centered owl on the reverse. As I try to collect one owl for each of Seltman's groups, this is my Group M owl.

    3. An early archaic owl.

    I wasn't sure, initially, if this would be a wise acquisition. This coin is a Seltman group H owl, making it the earlies type in the collection. But I decided to bite the bullet, bought the coin and removed it from the slab.

    Attica, Athens 525/10 - 515/05 BC
    AR Tetradrachm, archaic style.
    Obverse: Archaic head of Athena to right, wearing crested helmet decorated with chevron and dot pattern at base.
    Reverse: Owl standing to right with head facing, small olive sprig behind head, ΑΘΕ before; all within incuse square with flat edges.
    Obverse strike off-center. Crest has dots at the base, and the owl die links this coin to Group H.
    C. Seltman, Athens, Its History and Coinage before the Persian Invasion, group H, cf. 292 page 190; Plate XIII, similar to A192-P238.
    NGC Choice VF, with good quality metal.

    17.46 grams

    D-Camera Athens arachic owl, Group H 17.46g 525-10 - 515-0 BC eBay 2021 11-22-21.jpg

    This is very distinctive coin, with the solid crest and dots running along the base, the high relief portrait and the small owl that is fairly well proportioned. Another feature of the group H owls is the flat edges on the reverse that really frame the design.

    The centering on the obverse could be better, and there are a couple of flan flaw at the bottom, but, were these issues not present and the obverse centering a bit better, I am sure this coin would have been priced well out of my financial means.

    Seltman states that the artistic style of the group H owls is Doric, of high artistic merit, and likely issued during the reign of Hippias in conjunction with the Greater Panathenaic festival.

    4. A Lihyan imitation owl

    For the past few years I have been looking for a nice example of these unusual and abstract owl imitations. I have had not luck obtaining a silver coin, but I was able to snag a nice AE version.

    ARABIA, Northwestern.
    Lihyan. 2nd–1st centuries BC.
    Æ Tetradrachm (21mm, 12.89 g, 3h). Imitating Athens.
    Obverse: Schematic head right, two upward crescents on cheek.
    Reverse: Schematic owl standing right, head facing; olive spray to left.
    Huth, Athenian, fig. 5, d; Huth
    A very nice example of this debased imitation coinage.

    D-Camera Lihyan. Billon 'tetradrachm' owl 2nd-1st cen BC 12.89g 11-8-21.jpg

    5. A flashy tetradrachm of Macrinus, Cyrrhestica

    This coin is part of my on-going, on-again, off-again (more off-again) effort to create a tetradrachm type set of Roman emperors. I like the tetradrachm format, since it provides, much like the large bronzes, a larger canvas for the engraver to demonstrate artistic achievement, or in some cases lack thereof.

    This coin came to me by way of Roma's XXII auction, so it was not cheap by any means, but it fits the type coin role perfectly.

    Roman Empire, Macrinus, 217-218 AD
    BI Tetradrachm of Beroea, Cyrrhestica.
    Obverse: AYT•K•M•OΠ•CЄ•MAKPIN[OC CЄ], laureate, draped and cuirassed bust to right, seen from front.
    Reverse: ΔHMAPX•ЄΞ•YΠATOC•Δ•, eagle standing facing with wings spread and head to left with wreath in beak; B-Є flanking bird standing below.
    Lot 546, Roma XXII
    Prieur 891. 15.00g, 26mm, 12h.
    Extremely Fine; struck in high relief, light cabinet tone over lustrous metal. Rare.
    From a private Dutch collection;
    Ex Roma Numismatics Ltd., Auction X, 27 September 2015, lot 629;
    Ex Belgian collection, Tradart S.A., Auction 5, 16 November 1995, lot 205.

    D-Camera Macrinus tet Cyrrhestica 212-18 AD 15.00g Roma XXII 546 12-2-21.jpg
    I must say, that the bird below the eagle does have a strong resemblance to Big Bird.

    6. An artistic Sol Reverse, and a nice obverse to boot

    This coin came by way of Harlan Berk. I normally do not collect Alexandria tetradrachms, although the series does offer some very interesting reverse themes.

    Roman Empire, dated RY 14, 266/67
    AR tetradrachm, Alexandria
    Obverse: Laureate, cuirassed bust of emperor right.
    Reverse: Radiate and draped bust of Helios right; palm frond before, L I? (date) across field.
    Dattari-5239, Emmett-3813.
    Ex CNG VI, lot 340, 1989.

    10.22 grams

    D-Camera Gallienus Tet;  253-268 AD, Alexandria, RY 14 266-267 AD, 10.22g HJB 7-2021 9-18-21.jpg

    For an Alexandrian tetradrachm for this period, the quality of the die work is really nice, and the metal quality is above average, although I am not sure what the silver content actually is.

    7. Lounging by the Danube

    Sometimes a nice type coin comes along with an interesting and historical reverse. I came across this denarius of Trajan while viewing the offerings of a seller that I have done much business with on eBay.

    Roman Empire 107-108 AD
    AR Denarius (3.57 gm, 18mm)
    Rome mint
    Obverse: Laureate bust right, slight drapery.
    Reverse: DΛNVVIVS in exergue, Danube reclining left on rocks, head right, cloak floating above, hand on prow of ship and resting arm on urn.
    RIC II 100; Woytek 277b; RSC 136.
    Lightly toned good VF.

    Very scarce.

    D-Camera Trajan AR denariua 107-8 AD DΛNVVIVS rev. 3.57g eBay Israel 2021 12-2-21.jpg

    8. An appealing Annona reverse

    Roman Empire 156-157 AD
    Antoninus Pius
    AE Sestertius
    Obverse: ANTONINVS AVG PIVS P P IMP II, Laureate head right, drapery on shoulder.
    Reverse: TR POT XX COS IIII, Annona standing right, holding rudder, left foot on prow.
    RIC 980 Rome
    Exceptional light/dark green patina, excellent portrait and overall grade.
    Good EF
    31.1 mm., 25.4 grams

    D-Camera Antoninus Pius sestertius Rome Anona Standing 156-57 AD RIC 980 Rome 25.4g 3-7-21.jpg

    9. An unusual bronze from Henna

    A bit off the beaten track with this one, for me, but I was attracted by the portrait of Ceres, as well as the quadriga on the reverse.

    Roman Republic 44-36 BC
    L. Cestius and L. Munatius (duoviri)
    Æ30 of Henna, Sicily
    Obverse: L MVNATIVS M CESTIVS, veiled head of Ceres left, wearing grain ear wreath; torch behind.
    Reverse: Pluto and Proserpina driving quadriga right; MVN HENNAE above. RPC 661; Calciati 12; SNG ANS -. 16.17g, 30mm, 12h.

    Very Fine.

    From a private European collection, acquired from Bertolami Fine Arts - ACR Auctions.

    D-Camera Roman Rep AE 30 Henna 44-36BC 16.17g RPC 661 Roma 72 705 10-2-21.jpg

    10. An interesting Byzantine/Arab fals

    This coin was part of a group lot of Byzantine/Arab coins.

    Umayyad Caliphate
    Uncertain period (pre-reform) AH 41-77 / AD 661-697.
    Æ Fals (follis) Arab-Byzantine type.
    Dimashq (Damascus) mint.
    Struck circa AD 685-693.
    Obverse: Byzantine-style emperor seated facing on throne, wearing crown and holding cruciform scepter and globus cruciger; to left, bird standing right on T; Λ/Є/O to right.
    Reverse: Large M; above, staurogram set on crescent; A/N/O X/Ч/II across field, Δ below M; ΔAMI.
    SICA I -; DOCAB -; Khalili 19; Walker, Arab-Byzantine 4; Album 100.
    Good VF, Great strike. Earthen Patina. Rare
    From Jordan.

    4.49 grams

    D-Camera Byzantine-Arab imitation follis 4.49 g  Constans type eagle Isreal 10-21 10-23-21.jpg
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2021
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  3. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    Between the very early owl and the Arab-Byzantine, I chose the Arab-Byzantine.
    robinjojo likes this.
  4. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Only one vote seems to be allowed? So I voted for the beautiful Trajan.
  5. John Anthony

    John Anthony Ultracrepidarian Supporter Dealer

    Only one vote is allowed, but I would have voted for the three owls, simply because the idea of exploring many variations of a single type appeals to my obsessive nature.

    Also, the ultimate, constructive purpose of life IS filling up coin boxes. You need search no further.
  6. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Wow! That is quite the parliament of owls, @robinjojo! I like the archaic owl with the very quizzical expression, the Trajan Danube denarius, and -- the one I voted for -- the lovely AP Annona sestertius.
    robinjojo likes this.
  7. Ryro

    Ryro The last of the Diadochi Supporter

    WoWiE!!! I love all your owls and their history:woot::bookworm:! But for sheer beauty I did go with Trajan:artist: That coin is a dazzler:wideyed: But so were all your coins in the top ten.
    I too purchased an owl this year. It probably makes my top ten, but this year was competitive :shy: so we'll see:
  8. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    I'd love to have an archaic owl! My favorite of the three shown is #3, and that's my overall favorite. Rounding out the top three are the Lihyan imitation owl (interesting!!) and the Trajan denarius because of its documentation of history and sheer eye appeal. Good year!! :)
    robinjojo likes this.
  9. happy_collector

    happy_collector Well-Known Member

    Wonderful selections, @robinjojo. :)

    I love your archaic owls. I totally agree that some sort of sacrifice has to be made on these coins, unless one has an unlimited budget. For me, I prefer a fine archaic Athena portrait, so I usually sacrificed the owl...

    Your Lihyan imitation owl is very nice also.
    robinjojo likes this.
  10. Pavlos

    Pavlos You pick out the big men. I'll make them brave!

    Lovely accusations @robinjojo! My favorites are ofcourse the archaic owls, really excellent examples. Nr 3 is wonderful, very nicely centered and all the details there. The Lihyan owl is very interesting as well.
  11. Deacon Ray

    Deacon Ray Ancient Kingdoms Supporter

    Owls are wonderful and your coins are great @robinjojo . I loved Bubo the mechanical owl from the eighties version of Clash of the Titans.

    Here’s my Seleukid owl.


  12. Spaniard

    Spaniard Supporter! Supporter

    Very nice!....Went for #6, #7 and #8......Lovely coins!
    robinjojo likes this.
  13. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    Sorry! It was late last night, and I didn't change the number of votes allowed from one to three.

    I made that change just now, so I hope it works.
    DonnaML and TIF like this.
  14. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    I goofed. I edited the form to allow up to three votes.
    DonnaML likes this.
  15. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    Thank you all for letting me know about the survey problem. This is the first time that I set up a survey, and I was running on negative power mentally when it came time to create the form. It should work now for 3 votes max.

    Since my OP was limited to 10 coins, I thought I would post a few "honorable mention" coins. I really don't rank my coins in terms of personal preference, since each has its own appeal.

    Roman Empire 63-68 AD
    AR Tetradrachm
    Antioch, Seleucis and Pieria
    NERO CLAVD DIVI CLAVD F CAESAR AVG GER, laureate head of Nero to right; behind head, above the wreath ties, ivy leaf / DIVOS CLAVD AVG GERMANIC PATER AVG, laureate head of the deified Claudius.
    RPC 4122 var.; McAlee 269; Prieur 47
    VF with fairly complete legends on both sides. Slightly soft wreath detail, both sides.
    Purchased from an Israeli seller in 2021.

    14.49 grams

    D-Camera Nero AR tet Antioch Claudius Divus 63-68AD 14.40g eBay Israel 2021 12-2-21.jpg

    Kings of Persis, Vādfradād (Autophradates)
    AR Tetradrachm. Istakhr (Persepolis) mint, circa 3rd century BC. Diademed head to right, with luxuriant moustache and jutting beard; wearing kyrbasia or satrapal hat, with flap down to form a visor, and pendant earring / Fire Temple of Ahura-Mazda; to left, Vādfradād standing to right, bow set on ground before; standard to right; above, half-length figure Ahura-Mazda.
    For type, cf. K&M 2/17, Alram 533, De Morgan 12a and pl. XXVII, 19 & BMC 1; Sunrise -. 15.86g, 31mm, 11h.
    Good Very Fine; traces of overstriking.
    Lot 634, Roma E-Sale 89
    From the collection of Dr. Gholam Reza Assar.

    D-Camera Persis, Vadradad tetradrachm Istakhr 3rd cen BC 15.86 g Roma 89 634 11-22-21.jpg

    Levant, Late 5th-mid 4th centuries BC
    Tetradrachm in the form of Athens
    Obverse: Head of Athena right.
    Reverse: Owl facing forward, leaning right, olive branch to the left and AOE to the right.
    The style of this coin suggests an origin in the Levant, more specifically, Philista.
    Purchased from an Israeli seller in early 2021.
    VF, with dark patina and some adhering dirt.
    Very scarce.

    16.80 grams

    D-Camera Athens Philistia owl, dealer's photo, 16.8 grams 8-23-21.jpg

    Arabia, Southern, Late 4th-3rd centuries BC
    AR tetradrachm, imitating Athens
    Obverse: Athena facing right.
    Reverse: Owl standing right, olive sprig to left, AΘΗ to right.
    Struck on a wide flan for this type. Good centering.
    Munro-Hay 1.0.4
    Very scarce

    16.90 grams

    D-Camera  Qataban South Arabia tetradrachm, imiation owl, 4-3 cen BC, 16.9 grams Vcoins 7-3-21.jpg

    While this example does have some light corrosion on the obverse, the wide flan allows for most design details to be visible.

    Lucania, Thourioi, Circa 400-350 BC
    AR Stater
    Head of Athena to right, wearing crested Attic helmet decorated with Skylla holding oar and scanning; palmette on helmet flap. / Bull charging to right; ΘΟΥΡΙΩΝ above, above ethnic(?), fish to right in exergue.
    SNG ANS 1052 (same obv. die, I above ethnic but off the flan); HN Italy -.
    7.55g, 21mm, 9h.
    A nice example, with a very nice bull on reverse. Some signs of die wear/deterioration. Some horn silver.
    Lot 19, Roma E-Sale 89
    Very Fine. Very Rare.
    From the collection of Z.P., Austria.

    D-Camera Lucania, Thourioi stater  Circa 400-350 BC 7.55g , Roma 89 19 12-4-21.jpg

    This coin has obvious wear and horn silver/corrosion, but at least it is a start on my part with the beautiful coinage from Lucania, Thourioi featuring Skylla on the helmet of Athena.

    The bull is quite nicely modeled:

    D-Camera Lucania, Thourioi stater bull detail  Roma 89 19 12-4-21.jpg
  16. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    It works! I voted for the early archaic owl and the Gallienus tet in addition to the Trajan.
    robinjojo likes this.
  17. kirispupis

    kirispupis Supporter! Supporter

    Those owls are fascinating! I voted for the oldest one, as I can't recall seeing too many of that age up for auction.

    Here's my owl, of the Walmart variety.
    ATTICA, Athens
    AR Tetradrachm 22.5mm, 17.18g, 1h
    Circa 454-404 BCE
    Kroll 8; HGC 4, 1597
    Ex CNG inventory June 2004
    Ex CNG January 2021
  18. singig

    singig Well-Known Member

    I can't choose the winner between the Trajan Danubius and the Gallienus tetradrachm , both are very nice. Congratulations !
    robinjojo likes this.
  19. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    That's a very nice classical owl. The quality is very good and I think it would easily grade as a nice EF, if not higher. The strike is excellent, the metal good and style very good for a mass production owl.

    Do you plan on getting an archaic, intermediate and new style owl? Getting a nice intermediate owl is challenging, given the generally "dumpy" nature of the flans, I usually compromise on having part of the ethnic on the reverse off the flan, if other elements are visible. A slightly off center obverse isn't a big issue either, since a full crest on an intermediate owl is a very rare occurrence.

    Roma has been featuring a lot of classical owls. I think it is a good opportunity for collectors to pick up a type example at fairly reasonable prices, especially compared to what dealers are asking for them.

    While the market has been awash in classical owls over recent years, nothing lasts forever. I have seen the impacts of various hoards on markets before, and eventually what was quite common becomes scarce or rare. Also, the expanding collector base for these coins seems to be sustaining the current high prices. Barring a major economic downturn, this trend should continue.
    PeteB likes this.
  20. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter


    Both coins are generally outside my collecting fields, but if I like a coin, and I won't need to take a loan out against the house, I'll probably buy it, budget allowing.
    singig likes this.
  21. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    Thank you for helping with the survey setup, Donna.

    I'll try to remember next year, assuming that I still have a memory at that point.
    DonnaML likes this.
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