How doable is a complete set of imperial silver denarii?

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Volante, Feb 15, 2023.

  1. Volante

    Volante Well-Known Member

    I've been thinking it would be a fun challenge to complete an entire set of imperial denarii by emperor. Anybody completed that set before and/or can speak to the difficulty/expense of it? I would limit myself to senior emperors only, so no Aelius for instance. I would target at least VF condition throughout (XF for the common emperors). And I wouldn't include any of the post-Gordian bronze denarii, but would limit myself to the standard silver issues.

    Going from memory, this is the list I have - any I'm missing? I'm thinking maybe <$10k for all (assuming I start from scratch), with Gordian I/II and Caligula accounting for 2/3rd of that - do you think that's a reasonable budget?

    Antoninus Pius
    Marcus Aurelius
    Lucius Verus
    Didius Julianus
    Septimius Severus
    Severus Alexander
    Maximinus Thrax
    Gordian I
    Gordian II
    Gordian III
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  3. tibor

    tibor Supporter! Supporter

    Quite the list. I know Pupienus and Balbinus will be a challenge. Keep us up-to-date.
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  4. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    From that list, it can be done. Hopefully, price isn't going to be an issue, because a few are heavy wallet hitters, compared to snores like Gordian III.
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  5. The Meat man

    The Meat man Supporter! Supporter

    Claudius will be pretty expensive too.
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  6. lordmarcovan

    lordmarcovan Eclectic & Eccentric Moderator

    Pertinax, Didius Julianus, Gordian I, Gordian II, Pupienus, Balbinus... Toughies, all!
  7. Volante

    Volante Well-Known Member

    Yeah, have been checking through coinarchives and realizing some of these would be a bit more expensive than I thought (in VF). I think they can be divided into roughly 4 groups, based on price range:

    Group 1 (<$100): Vespasian, Domitian, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius, Lucius Verus, Commodus, Septimius Severus, Caracalla, Geta, Macrinus (might be tough), Elagabalus, Severus Alexander, Maximinus Thrax, Gordian III
    Group 2 ($100-500): Augustus, Tiberius, Nero, Galba, Vitellius (might be tough), Titus, Nerva, Pupienus, Balbinus
    Group 3 ($500-1000): Otho, Pertinax, Didius Julianus, Pescennius Niger
    Group 4 ($1000-5000): Caligula, Claudius, Gordian I (seems to be rarely for sale), Gordian II

    <$10k might be unrealistic, maybe more like $15-20k...
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  8. lordmarcovan

    lordmarcovan Eclectic & Eccentric Moderator

    I'd slide Pupienus and Balbinus into Group 3. I think you'd be lucky to achieve those in the Group 2 price tier.
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  9. mrbreeze

    mrbreeze Well-Known Member

    The only way to know what the potential cost is would be to know your minimum standards. I know you said VF but there is still a great deal of variability in “VF.” Centered coins with good portraits, no issues and all of the legends visible would be significantly more than 10 grand. I’m doing a set that includes 160 different people. I don’t have a Caligula or either of the Gordians. One, Caligula coins aren’t always that great and the decent ones are super expensive. Gordian I and II actually come decent almost always but command a significant premium that seems to go up at each auction. Gordian I and II and Caligula will be 10 grand for anything that is decent. But, you can take solace in the fact that you are only doing denarii. If you get to the last few emperors, you’ll pay several hundred dollars for a small bronze, with a visible monogram being the only reason for purchase. LOL.
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2023
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  10. Volante

    Volante Well-Known Member

    That's fair - I saw a couple recent auction results <$500, but most above it.

    All very true! I'll be looking for VF coins with at least decent eye appeal, not harshly cleaned, no grafitto, and reasonably well-centered. So even $15k may be a pipe dream.

    And yeah, a big part of the reason I'm sticking to denarii is because the coins actually look pretty nice for the most part. If I ever finish this, maybe I'll do an add-on of the silver/billon antoninianus, the argenteus and the siliqua.
  11. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    The Caligula denarius is a bear. I have seen five or six of them at the shows since I have been looking. I have a fairly low grade AS in that spot. The cheapest one was something like $3,200. I remember one that was marked $5,000 which had been cleaned in a way that I didn't like for an ancient coin. Another was $6,000, and it didn't do anything for me for the money.

    Gordian I and II can cost you even more. They were only a office for about two weeks. Their coins were issued for longer than that, but they are still very tough.

    Here is a nice Gordian I who has hair.

    Gordian I Africa DE All.jpg

    Here is a super nice Gordian II who is bald.

    Gordian II Africanus All.jpg

    I have heard from the dealers that all of the 12 caesars are selling very well now. They can't keep them in stock.

    Attached Files:

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  12. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    I filled the Claudius spot with these two. This Cistophoric Tetradrahm featured Claudius and his lovely wife, Agripina who murdered him to get her son, Nero, on the throne.

    Claudius & Agr All.jpg

    And I found this nice Claudius AS later. It's hard to sell ancient copper coins to me because I don't like green copper. I know that opinion does not reflect good taste, but if you have collected U.S. coins for years, avoiding green copper is a hard habit to break.

    Claudius AS All.jpg
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  13. LukeGob

    LukeGob Well-Known Member

    Doable, sure. Greek silver could bring the cost down a bit on some, if that's an acceptable substitute for a Denarius. But, yeah, I think very doable (& fun!). Little patience & vigilance. I think you'll be able to find Claudius cheaper than that. Good luck!
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  14. Limes

    Limes Well-Known Member

    If you manage to acquire the mentioned emperors in silver, in minimum VF quality, and without exceeding your budget, you'd set a record. Especially in the current market!
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  15. rg3

    rg3 Well-Known Member

    I've picked up 32 such denarii (your first 27 (through Maximinus Thrax) plus Julius Caesar, Diadumenian, Pescennius Niger, Clodius Albinus, and Aelius) over the past 5 years or so. Not all VF, but I am happy with them. You can see the lot here:

    Also picked up a Vindex last year. Agree with folks here ... the Gordian I and II's are non trivial. Good luck with your journey.
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  16. Volante

    Volante Well-Known Member

    Yeah, may be quite the challenge - but I don't mind taking some time to complete it! I'll have to broaden my numisbids searching beyond the auction houses I usually focus on.

    Very nice! Got some nice sharp portraits on that Caligula. Any idea how much you may have spent in total on your set?
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  17. Limes

    Limes Well-Known Member

    Yes, there are deals out there if you search long enough. Below two of the 'rare' 12 caesars in silver. Not in VF condition, but together less then 900 EUR. It's the question how much you want to pay for better quality.


  18. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    ^Wow, that was a good deal.
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  19. Valentinian

    Valentinian Well-Known Member

    You have gotten many good replies. Every one of those emperors is quite available, if you are willing to pay the price which can be high. I recommend you pay attention to the many auction consolidators:
    and use their search engines.
    If you start with the easier, less expensive, ones and find coins in conditions that please you, you may find that you are confronted with the problem every collector runs up against, either
    buying the rarer ones in pleasing condition for more than you wanted to pay, or
    buying the rarer ones for the price you wanted to pay and not liking the condition as much.
    For that goal I think you are likely to go over 10k, but you don't need to decide that now. Buy coins you like in conditions you like and by the time you have only ten left on your want list you may have decided you'd rather buy something else from a different wantlist. That's fine. I'd wager most of us have several wantlists going at once, and many of us have decided the prices of the expensive ones are not worth completing that list because so many other interesting ancient coins can be acquired instead.
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  20. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    I found that some of emperors who are supposed to be “easy” are not that way if you are looking for coins with all or most of the lettering visible. Vitellius was one. His long name often seemed to run off the coin. I had a chance to buy one that a wonderful portrait with good color and surfaces, but hardly a letter in sight. I passed with urging of the dealer who could have sold it to me told me I could do better. I did but getting one with every letter visible, but it was not cheap.
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  21. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    Your are missing Pescennius Niger and Clodius Albinus from your list.
    Anyway, even in VF, I think you are more likely to look at 20K+ for this project.
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