How to identify Byzantine trachys?

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by hotwheelsearl, Jan 1, 2021.

  1. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    So, how does one identify and attribute Byzantine trachys?

    Most of them tend not to have any legends, just a figure or two. And of course, Byzantine figures all sort of look the same.

    Is there a method, or do you just really need to be familiar with specific figural styles?

    This one has two guys on the front and two guys on the back. I have no idea where to even start.
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  3. BenSi

    BenSi Well-Known Member

    The easiest ones to do were the original official 12th century coinage, they are large ,double stuck coins. The coins became difficult after 1204AD, Latin rule coinage and then even more difficult Palaeologan coins. Those coins are rarley nicely struck even on one side, It was also believed the process of creating them became easier because they were only struck once. To add to the confusion we also have Bulgarian imitations ( I believe they were military minted coins, not Bulgarian.)

    If you are working with a group, you need to separate them.
    To start , size the coin, larger coins tend to be 12th century. Also the coin was originally a billion denomination so those coins could show traces of silvering and of course some silver in the metal.

    One of the best books to assist you to Catalogue of the Late Byzantine Coins. Volume I ( II never happened .) by Valentin Marchev and Robert Watcher. It is filled with line drawings making the process much easier.

    Your coin depending on size has two figures on Reverse , one the ruler the other a Saint, You know it is a saint or higher because it is nimbate. If it was large sized that would bring me to Alexius III with Saint Constantine. In this case I think it is a smaller coin and that would lead me to post 1204.

    Here is an Alexius III , not in awesome condition but a great Patina. It is larger size 29mm
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2021
  4. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    Thanks so much for the guidance! The coin is smaller 20mm.
    BenSi likes this.
  5. BenSi

    BenSi Well-Known Member

    Check out this site. They do not give sizes but you can try to find a match with what ever you can see.

    Catalog (

    Now 12th century Official issues and Bulgarian were around 25 to 30mm

    Most Latin 25mm or smaller.

    Once you get the hang of what are 12th century issues, Alexius I , John II, Manuel I, Andronicus, Isaac II and Alexius III, then you will go to the next level of Latin and Bulgarian coinage.
    +VGO.DVCKS and Bradley Trotter like this.
  6. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    About ten years ago I was troubled by this exact question. I bought a then relatively new book Late Byzantine Coins 1204-1453 by Lianta. It has hundreds of photos from the Ashmolean Museum collection. I proved too dense to understand the material provided and still have no skills whatsoever when it comes to the Latin and later cup shaped coins (the reason I bought the book). I believe good line drawings would be more helpful than those photos. At that time I only had two coins from the questionable groups and I bought them thinking they had enough better detail that they would be easy. I was wrong. My answer was to buy no more coins which I had doubts as to the ID provided by the seller. That is not a good answer but it is my unfortunate position still.

    rz0655bb2915.jpg rz0657bb2914.jpg
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  7. BenSi

    BenSi Well-Known Member

    You are correct Doug, it is difficult, many of the coins for sale are misattributed or sold in group lots. The whole time period was put into logical format only 51 years ago, since that original work by Michael Hendy. Since then people have tried to add and build in the knowledge of the time period . So as ancient collecting goes this field is still in its infant phase.
    Most people who get in to this time period do so because of the challenges and the new discoveries.
    Personally , I stick to pre 1204, but when I am feeling up to the challenge I do venture in to the 13th and 14th centuries.

    Here is one in above average condition , Latin Rule SBCV-NL CLBC 11.15.1
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  8. DiomedesofArgos

    DiomedesofArgos Well-Known Member

    Although I have not reached the point where I am identifying unknown coins, I agree that the Catalogue of the Late Byzantine Coins, Volume I is excellent. There is also a much older book, Later Palaeologan Coinage, 1282-1453, that also contain line drawings for the period after the CLBC. The drawings aren't nearly as nice, but you may still find it valuable.
    BenSi likes this.
  9. dltsrq

    dltsrq Grumpy Old Man

    The Dumbarton Oaks catalogues are now free to download at the museum's website. I believe the Hendy volume mentioned above is one of them.
    NewStyleKing likes this.
  10. otlichnik

    otlichnik Well-Known Member

    I have several dozen of the small post-1204 trachys. I have identified no more than two or three.

    It would be nice if there was some sort of sorting guide based on the basics of the design - i.e. one standing figure start with these, one seated figure, two standing figures, cross, etc.

    Sort of a Bruck-like guide for Trachys.

  11. BenSi

    BenSi Well-Known Member

    The problem is this information is spread between multiple books,

    SC the book that @DiomedesofArgos mentioned has exactly that type of Key you asked for SC , problem is the book starts at 1282 AD, that misses Latin rule coinage and Bulgarian imitations. Those are covered in CLBC but neither book seems complete, Palaeologan coinage was printed in 1979 and CLBC was a bit rushed, in the later chapters.
  12. BenSi

    BenSi Well-Known Member

    Another book to consider is on very few book shelves, it is by Konstantin Douchev,

    Again it has limitations because it based on only coins found in the Bulgarian Kingdom 1259-1396 AD. It has pictures and line drawings and his catalog is bilingual, English.

    The Index for Simon Bendall LPC 1282-1453

    And a pic of a random page in Douchev"s book.
    +VGO.DVCKS likes this.
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