Featured How to attribute an unpublished coin: a 13-step program!

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Roman Collector, Jun 5, 2020.

  1. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Step 1: Have a friend such as @Spaniard PM you about the existence of a coin he thinks you'd be interested in.

    Step 2: Look at the seller's photo and say to yourself, "I've never seen anything like that!"

    Faustina Jr Apamea seller's photo..jpg

    Step 3: Have a healthy skepticism about the seller/previous collector's attribution, which attributes it to the city of Poroselene in Aeolis.

    Faustina Jr Apamea collector's tag.JPG

    Step 4: Investigate possible matches to coins in Poroselene and find one with a youth riding dolphin reverse, RPC IV.2 10103, but notice that the dolphin is swimming right and the style is very different.


    Moreover, the reverse inscription on that coin reads ΠΟΡΟϹƐΛΗΝƐΙΤΩΝ, which is incompatible with the few letters on the reverse of the unknown coin. Search for "Poroselene" at RPC to see if the reverse appeared on other coins of this city, but notice there are no others.

    Step 5: Recognize that the inscription is probably in Latin and not Greek. Post what you know about the coin and ask other members of CT for help.

    Step 6: Get help from @zumbly , who recognizes that the reverse possibly reads [C] I C A for Colonia Iulia Concordia Apamea. He notes that RPC Online doesn't yield anything for Faustina with a dolphin from that city, but found a similar coin of Commodus with Venus seated on a dolphin: https://rpc.ashmus.ox.ac.uk/coins/4/4735

    Apamea Venus and Dolphin RPC Commodus.JPG

    Step 7: Search the listing of Antonine coins of Apamea in BMC 13, pp. 112-13. While the British Museum collection has nothing with a dolphin, you note the inscriptions read C I C A D D. You notice that the two duplicated letters below the dolphin's head (that look like d d or p p, depending on if they are upside down or not) and may well be D D (for Decurionum Decreto, meaning by decree of the decuriones, the local councillors of the municipality).


    Step 8: You note another coin from Apamea of Geta with a similar reverse when you do a search at acsearchinfo:

    Apamea Venus and Dolphin Themis Geta.JPG

    Step 9: Now that you're pretty sure the coin is from Apamea in Bithynia-Pontus, search RPC and find four coins of Faustina from Apamea in RPC IV, and notice the existence of one (RPC IV.1 4729) where the authors note that the V in Faustina as well as in the reverse legend are rendered as a U. You suspect that the coin is an obverse die match to the coin in question, even though the reverse features Neptune.


    Step 10: You note that RPC cites cites Waddington, Recueil Général 55, p. XXXIX.1, which is available online. Here's the plate coin:


    Step 11: Note two things: a) the DD on the reverse of that coin has CICA DD rendered as CICA dd, just as on the coin in question, and b) doing a little photo processing, rotating the obverse and putting it side-by-side with the coin in question yields -- BINGO! A die-match!

    Faustina Jr Apamea die match to Waddington.jpg

    Step 12: Now that you've identified the coin with certainty as coming from Apameia, you can reconstruct the obverse legend exactly and, failing to find other examples in RPC (which is very comprehensive, citing almost all the museum collections and references of importance), on acsearchinfo, wildwinds or other databases, you conclude it's unpublished and attempt to reconstruct the reverse legend and describe the devices on the reverse, which are not entirely clear on the coin in question. You find other coins from Apamea with a similar reverse type in Mionnet Supplement 5, of all places, and compare.

    Apamea Venus and Dolphin Mionnet Commodus.JPG
    Apamea Venus and Dolphin Mionnet Domna.JPG
    Apamea Venus and Dolphin Mionnet Geta.JPG

    You compare the legend on the companion coin with the Neptune reverse from Waddington's RG and cited in RPC.

    Step 13: You photograph your coin and write up your findings for the world.

    Faustina Jr Apamea.jpg
    Faustina II, AD 147-175.
    Roman provincial Æ 5.84 g, 22.0 mm, 7 h.
    Bithynia-Pontus, Apamea.
    Obv: FAUST[INAC AUG], draped bust of Faustina II, right.
    Rev: UЄNU[S ... C]ICA dd, Venus seated right, head left, on dolphin swimming left, resting right arm on dolphin, uncertain object in left hand.
    Refs: RPC --; Waddington RG --; BMC --; Sear --; Mionnet Suppl 5 --; Lindgren --; Wiczay --.
    Notes: Apparently unpublished. Obverse die match to RPC IV.1 4729.
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2020
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  3. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    Nice detective work. I love doing this type of research it is so much fun.
  4. TIF

    TIF Well that didn't last long :D Supporter

    Cool coin and great detective work, as usual! :)
    Carl Wilmont and Roman Collector like this.
  5. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    Coin collecting is easier if you only buy high grade coins from full service sources that don't make ID mistakes. I said 'easier', not more rewarding. Congratulations.
  6. ancientone

    ancientone Well-Known Member

    If not for guests and a few bourbons you might have had a little more competition on this one. I had already made it half way through your step 5 but lost track of time and missed it.

    You forgot step 14. Publish to RPC. Here's the link if you don't have it.

    Awesome coin and I'm glad you won!
    Broucheion and Roman Collector like this.
  7. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Well played, RC. And a lovely coin too.

    This is exactly why I like getting unattributed coins rather than ones pre-figured out. I've never done such a deep dive as you have done here, but it is inspirational.

    Here is one I just figured out. My sloppy process went something like this:

    1. Do a Google Image search for "forepart of a horse" and "AE." This works out a lot, surprising to say. I immediately found a catawiki post:


    2. If #1 works out, check out Wildwinds, OCRE, Vcoins, FORVM, acsearch, etc. for more matches. Try to figure out an agreement between attributions.

    This doesn't qualify as first-hand research, because I am relying on others' work - and auctions are rife with errors, I am coming to find. But it serves my low-grade collection purposes.

    The coin in question - a teensy AE from Sicily, $3.25 off eBay, described only as "Greek":

    Panormos Sicily - AE Apollo & Horse June 2020 (0).jpg
    Panormos (Ziz), Punic Sicily
    Æ 12
    (c. 336-330 B.C.)
    Panormus (Palermo) mint

    Laureate head of Apollo left / Forepart of horse right, dolphin below.
    CNS I, 12H (Panormos-Ziz);
    Lindgen II 503;
    Calciati I, p. 272, Em. 12.
    (1.94 grams / 12 mm)

    What I haven't done is research the history behind it - the whole Punic-Sicily-Greek situation is still confusing to me and I'm not sure where this one fits in. I like the idea that there was a town called "Ziz." Sounds like a NYC nightclub - the coolest town name in antiquity.
  8. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Very cool coin, and especially so for the fact that it can now be recorded for posterity and add to our knowledge of Apamea’s coinage. Glad I was able to help with it!
    Roman Collector likes this.
  9. Spaniard

    Spaniard Well-Known Member

    @Roman Collector......Glad that something came of this...
    Impressive work!....Really interesting to see the breakdown of your sleuthing....
    Fits nicely into your collection.....Congrats....Paul
    Roman Collector and Carl Wilmont like this.
  10. thejewk

    thejewk Well-Known Member

    Bravo! And thanks for sharing your method.
    Roman Collector likes this.
  11. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    ..RC is the Sherlock Homes of ancient imperial coins...:) sherlock holmes.jpg
    Roman Collector likes this.
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