How do I get started?

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Abramthegreat, Dec 6, 2022.

  1. Abramthegreat

    Abramthegreat Well-Known Member

    Last edited: Dec 6, 2022
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  3. Cherd

    Cherd Junior Member Supporter

    I'd suggest exposing yourself to a large variety of ancients by perusing auction listings, forum threads, and podcasts to see what might catch your fancy. Once you've narrowed some potentials then you can scour the information that is available online to see what peaks your interest. At that point, people making suggestions about resources and so forth would probably be more effective.

    Things you should figure out beforehand....

    You happier with quality or quantity? (500 coins or 20?)

    Prefer coins with real people on them? Or gods/mythology? Other?

    Do the coins that you are after need to be available often? Or are you content to wait for sparse opportunities?

    What kind of budget are you working with and what is your minimum criteria for condition/quality?

    And, of course, many others. But this should provide an idea about the factors.
  4. sand

    sand Well-Known Member

    Hello @Abramthegreat. Welcome to the world of ancient coins.
    Here's a good place, to shop for ancient coins, and medieval coins. Most of the sellers are reputable, although some bronze coins may have fake patinas, and there may be some tooled coins (but I'm not sure about that, it's just my suspicion). At least, you can look around there, and see what's out there :
    Many ancient coins cost less than $50.
    Key word searches on CoinTalk will help you, to learn about ancient coins.
    Some ancients collectors like to buy books about ancient coins. I'm one of those collectors who likes coin books. You can find recommended coin books, by doing key word searches on CoinTalk.
    Other ancients collectors like to rely on free sources of information, such as web sites, and coin forums such as CoinTalk. You can do key word searches on CoinTalk, to find recommended web sites.
    One web site I use a lot, to search for examples of a particular coin type, which have been sold at past auctions : You may have to create an account, in order to view the high resolution photos of the coins, but it's free, unless you want to view hammer prices.
    This web site has a lot of information : Especially useful is a list of fake coins, which you can access by clicking on Search : Fake Coin Reports. You may have to create an account, in order to search the fake coin reports, but it's free.
    Here's a nice web site, for learning about ancient coins, run by one of our fellow ancient coin collectors, @Valentinian :
    Here's a web page, which someone recommended, which seems to have a large number of free online books about ancient coins. I haven't tried it, but it looks interesting : of Ancient Coinage
    I would advise anyone, who is new to ancient coins, to avoid buying any expensive coins on Ebay, because there seem to be a large number of fakes on Ebay, especially for the expensive coins. There are also cheap fakes on Ebay. However, there are some reputable ancients coin dealers on Ebay.
    In fact, I would advise anyone, who is new to ancient coins, to avoid buying any expensive coins anywhere, until you have learned more about ancient coins. This will help you avoid expensive fakes, and other expensive mistakes. I have made mistakes, and I have bought at least 1 fake Byzantine coin, and probably other fake ancient coins (I am suspicious of a few of my coins). I think almost every ancients coin collector has made mistakes, and has bought a few fake ancient coins. Or, has bought a few coins, which they later decide, they no longer want to keep, and they may eventually sell those coins, or auction them, or give them to other collectors.
    And feel free to ask questions, on the CoinTalk ancients forum. Your initial question is a good start. Many members are happy to answer questions, although it may take a few days, or even up to a week or so, for them to do so.
    "All journeys start with one step."
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2022
  5. Randy Abercrombie

    Randy Abercrombie Supporter! Supporter

    I am a die hard US collector and been that way for fifty years. I was at a coin show and mingled at a dealers display of ancient coins some years back. One depicted a striking image of Jesus so I bought the piece for $75.00 that is below. I came home and posted a photo here for all our ancient friends to comment on and found that I had bought a Byzantine piece. And further was one of the better they had seen as the face and nose were complete.... That sent me down a rabbit hole learning about the Byzantine era and have purchased a number of others since..... I think it just comes finding an era of history that appeals to you and going from there.

  6. Mr.MonkeySwag96

    Mr.MonkeySwag96 Well-Known Member

    You got a gold Solidus of emperor Justinian II? His gold solidii were the first coins in history to depict Jesus’s portrait. Justinian II’s solidii had two different portraits. The first type depicts Jesus with the stereotypical long hair and beard. The second type depicts Jesus as a Syrian man with a short beard & curly locks.
  7. Randy Abercrombie

    Randy Abercrombie Supporter! Supporter

    No!! That will have to wait until my next lottery winnings!
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  8. Nicholas Molinari

    Nicholas Molinari Well-Known Member

    That is a great example--I've seen similar go for $250+
  9. Nicholas Molinari

    Nicholas Molinari Well-Known Member

    Sixbid is a great resource for all the major auction listings. Vcoins is good too. Avoid eBay for now. As others have said, browse around and see what interests you the most. My recommendations for books would depend on where your interests lie--Greek, Roman, Byzantine, everything, etc.
  10. The Meat man

    The Meat man Well-Known Member

    Welcome to the fascinating world of ancient coins, @Abramthegreat !

    @sand has a lot of good suggestions.

    For buying, I mainly use VCoins and MA-shops, as well as auctions such as CNG, Savoca (on biddr).

    As you're aware, ancients are a lot different from modern coins in that there are no generally accepted price guides, and grading can be a bit more difficult. So it's important to research any coin you're interested in and look at past sales to get an idea of how much it's worth.

    Speaking as a beginner myself, I would recommend spending a little more on an ordinary coin of higher quality, than going in for a "rare" coin in poor shape. As someone has said before, there's nothing more common than a rare ancient coin. But that is just my personal opinion.

    As for books, the Ancient Coin Collecting series by Wayne G Sayles is a great resource. Also I recommend Sear's Roman Coins and their Values as about the most affordable extensive reference for Roman coins.

    Harlan J Berk's 100 Greatest Ancient Coins is a fascinating book as well and definitely worth picking up!
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2022
  11. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    Do what I did more than 60 years ago. Buy a few good books (google " books an Ancient Greek and Roman Coins", find a shop that has ancient coins or go to a show or two where some dealers will have them, then sit down with a magnifying glass, study them carefully, buy a few and learn every blessed thing you can find out about those coins. Run into a problem? Post its image here and ask.
  12. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    This little book for Whitman might help you get started. It provides an overview of Greek and Roman imperial coins. It lists for $14.95.

    I had a copy of the original Klawans book on Roman coins when I was in high school. It stimulated my interest to a point although I was committed to U.S. coins at that time.

    Guide Book.jpg
  13. Inspector43

    Inspector43 Celebrating 75 Years Active Collecting Supporter

    After collecting US coins for more than 70 years I thought I would try ancient coins. I elected to buy uncleaned lots. I would clean, identify, photograph, catalog and store them. I started with a goal of 100. I now have about 150. I don't try to focus on any subject. I learned more about them by doing that. After over two years of that process, I feel like I could collect finished coins with some confidence.
  14. Inspector43

    Inspector43 Celebrating 75 Years Active Collecting Supporter

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  15. Abramthegreat

    Abramthegreat Well-Known Member

    Thank you! You all have ben most helpful! :happy:
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  16. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    I collect by Roman emperor, starting with Julius Caesar, who was actually a dictator, not an emperor. I maintain a notebook which contains information about each of the emperors with bullet points.

    Here are a couple of sample pages for the emperor, Otho, who was in office for less than three months. Otho coins are scarce and expensive because his brief tenure, and he gets fewer "bullets" as a result.

    Otho ALL.jpg

    Denarius of Otho Obverse IMP M OTHO CAESAR AVG TR P “Emperor Otho caesar augustus tribunician potestate (representative of the Roman people in the government)” Reverse: SECURITAS (Personification of security, confidence) standing left holding wreath and scepter

    Shown above is a denarius of Otho, minted between January 15 and March 8, 69. The reverse features Securitas standing left, holding a wreath and scepter. Weight—3.37 grams. Sear—2163

    · Marcus Salvius Otho was born in 32 AD from a family that had only recently come to social prominence. His grandfather had served in a Senate under Augustus, and Claudius gave his father patrician rank.

    · He was close friends with the Emperor Nero who was five years younger than Otho.

    · Nero was attracted to Otho’s wife, Poppaea. Nero posted Otho to govern Lusitania (Portugal and western Spain) apparently to get him out of the way so that Nero could have Otho’s wife to himself. Otho at 26 was quite young for such an assignment.

    · Nero continued his affair with Poppaea and eventually made her is second wife.

    · Poppaea died after Nero kicked her in the stomach while she was pregnant. This made Otho his enemy.

    · When Galba rose against Nero in 68, Otho was the first man to join his cause.

    · Galba overthrew Nero, but when Galba chose to pick Piso Licinianus as his son and successor, Otho was quite displeased.

    · Working with the praetorian officers and guardsmen, Otho had Galba and Licinianus assassinated on January 15, 69.

    · Otho became emperor at age 37. His short reign displayed moderation, but Aulus Vitellius, governor of lower Germany, arose as a rival emperor.

    · Vitellius’ generals, Valens and Caecina moved south. Deciding not to wait for reinforcements, Otho ordered and attack.

    · At the First Battle of Bedriacum, Otho’s army was totally defeated. Otho’s praetorian guard wanted to continue the struggle, but Otho decided otherwise. He committed suicide on April 16 after a reign of only three months.

    · Otho issued only gold and silver coins during his short reign. They were what he needed to pay his soldiers. Previous emperors had issued enough copper coins to cover the need for them at the time.
  17. sand

    sand Well-Known Member

    A couple more tips.
    1. For long term storage, don't keep your coins in PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride) plastic flips. Those are the soft, transparent, squares of plastic, often smelling like a brand new plastic shower curtain, which are sometimes still used, when a dealer ships a coin to a buyer. PVC flips have been known to cause bronze disease (BD) on bronze coins, which is a corrosive light green powdery substance which destroys the coins (bronze disease is different than hard, dark green patina which is benign and even attractive sometimes). PVC flips have also been known to cause green slime, or sometimes clear slime, on silver coins, which also damages the coins. If you want to use square plastic holders, be sure that they are PVC free (PVC free holders are usually hard plastic). In fact, I am wary of keeping coins in any sort of plastic, although I still keep my Lincoln cent collection in blue Whitman folders, which have hard plastic slide covers. The most popular brand of PVC free plastic flips, are the SAFLIP brand.
    2. Every ancients coin collector has a different theory, about the best way to store ancient coins. And it may depend on personal preference. My method, is to use Abafil velvet coin trays, which are stored in Abafil coin cases. I have purchased all of my Abafil trays and cases from this person, who is the main Abafil seller in the US : He also sells high end ancient coins. You can also purchase Abafil trays and cases directly from the manufacturer in Italy, but I've never done that.
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2022
  18. Abramthegreat

    Abramthegreat Well-Known Member

    Are there any Ebay sellers you would recommend?
  19. Nicholas Molinari

    Nicholas Molinari Well-Known Member

    Fewer fakes on German eBay but I would just look for budget items on vcoins. You're much better off that way.
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  20. Abramthegreat

    Abramthegreat Well-Known Member

    Thank you!
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  21. Mr.MonkeySwag96

    Mr.MonkeySwag96 Well-Known Member

    I was collecting US coins for over a decade before I got into ancients. Reading about ancient history was one of my main hobbies. It was easy for me to transition from US coins to ancient coins due to my prior knowledge of Greco-Roman history.

    I suggest studying classical history to aid in collecting ancient coins. By knowing the historical context, you can understand why some coins are scarce or common. For example, the emperor Otho reigned for only a few months so his coins are quite scarce. In contrast, emperor Septimius Severus reigned for nearly two decades so his coins are among the most common. Roman Imperial coins often list an emperor’s titles & political offices, such as “consul”, “imperator”, “tribune”, “censor”, “augustus” etc. It’s useful to know these Latin terms to understand what message is expressed on your coin. In particular, Roman Imperial coins can be dated according to how many terms the emperor served as consul.

    There are many different categories of ancient coins. These categories are:

    Greek: Greek coins are subdivided into different time periods such as Archaic, Classical, & Hellenistic. Archaic era coins include the earliest coins ever minted. Classical era coins represent the peak of ancient coin artistry. Hellenistic era coins are those minted by Alexander the Great & his successors.

    Roman Republic: Rome was a Republic before it became an Empire. Republican coins include the earliest Roman coins. Republican era coinage circulated during the Punic Wars, Spartacus’s revolt, & Julius Caesar’s dictatorship.

    Roman Imperial: These are the coins of the Roman Empire. Roman Imperial coinage began when Augustus became Rome’s first emperor. Roman Imperial coinage is subdivided into “Early Imperial” & “Late Imperial”. Early Imperial coinage is based upon the monetary system established by Augustus and lasts from the 1st-3rd centuries AD. Late Imperial coinage was established by emperor Diocletian, who reformed the monetary system after the “Crisis of the 3rd Century”. Late Imperial coinage extends from the 4th-5th centuries AD. Early Imperial coinage & Late Imperial coinage are distinguished by their differing denominations.

    Roman Provincial: The Roman emperors often granted permission to cities & towns to strike their own coinage for local circulation. Thus, Provincial coins only circulated within the confines of a particular city or region. Most Provincial coinage were minted in the Greek speaking provinces. Roman Provincial coins often have Greek legends, in contrast to Roman Imperial coins which always have Latin legends. For this reason, Roman Provincial coins are alternately known as “Greek Imperial” coins. Most Provincial coins are made of bronze, however major cities such as Antioch & Alexandria were permitted to strike silver tetradrachms.

    Byzantine: The “Byzantine Empire” was the surviving Eastern remnant of the Roman Empire. Thus, the citizens of Byzantium identified themselves as Romans. However, the Byzantine empire’s official language was Greek. Early Byzantine coins initially have Latin legends. Over time, the legends evolved to consist of Greek words written in Latin script. Although Byzantine coins are collected as “ancient coins”, technically Byzantine coins are medieval coins as the empire collapsed in 1453, forty years before Columbus discovered the New World.

    Oriental: this category consists of miscellaneous Eastern civilizations such as Ancient China, Indian empires (Maurya, Kushan, Gupta), Parthian Empire, and Sassanid Empire.

    The best online guide for beginners is this website run by Doug Smith, a CoinTalk member:

    The Classical Numismatics YouTube channel has a playlist of informative videos about the basics of ancient coin collecting:
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2022
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