How To Judge Fine Style on Ancients?

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Aethelred, Jun 8, 2022.

  1. Aethelred

    Aethelred The Old Dead King Supporter

    I was having a discussion this morning with a friend (who is just getting into collecting ancient coins) about style and engraving. He was asking for more information on how to judge style and sadly I am not finding a lot of information other than an article on the NGC website. Since I like the "Dogs Playing Poker" paintings my artistic sensibilities may not be the most fine tuned and I want him to get good advice. Can anyone here shed additional light on this topic?
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  3. kazuma78

    kazuma78 Supporter! Supporter

    Honestly, I don't think there is any actual definition of fine style besides the style being more artistic than not. It is subjective and opinion based. I have seen people say fine style for coins I thought were inferior in style and also I have seen coins not noted as fine style that were clearly and obviously fine style in comparison to all other coins of the type. The best way to determine it is look at a LOT of coins and sales until you get a feel for the type and what is exceptional vs average.
  4. Insider

    Insider Talent on loan from...

    I think much of our sense of "style" is developed as we grow up and is influenced by our surroundings. Needless to say that a child growing up in a two room, dirt floor, sharecroppers home will see things differently than the child of the plantation owner. That child will have grown up surrounded by fine "style." That said, I think anyone can develop a "good eye" for style if they try. It is probably not something you can read about because once you learn the basics of what matters about strike, surface condition ,etc. with study, you'll know it when you see it. With ancients, all you need to do is look at the images of the most desirable coins in major auctions.
  5. medoraman

    medoraman Supporter! Supporter

    Yeah, style can be in the eye of the beholder occasionally, but most of the time not. Compare a number of coins in similar grades side by side and you will start to notice style. Lets say its a common standing goddess on the reverse. One may have facial features pleasing, robes flowing correctly, arms three dimensional, etc. Another might be a stick figure with no real face and cartoony robes. Its always about comparisons within identical types, (you cannot compare style between a Syracusan tet and a late roman bronze), and its a fairly advanced topic. Sure, on the high end coins it can make huge differences, but for beginners its a topic to be aware of, to start educating yourself on, etc. It should not make a huge difference in entry level coins. However, if a beginner is aware of it, he may have a chance to pick up a fine style coin for the issue if they know its something to be aware of. If I have a chance, I try to select the highest style of an issue, even at the expense of a slightly lower grade, if I have the chance. Even in late roman bronzes, there were some very talented celators.
  6. benhur767

    benhur767 Sapere aude

    My understanding of fine style is: a more artistically competent example than is typical for the same or similar types from the same historical era and culture.
  7. Terence Cheesman

    Terence Cheesman Well-Known Member

    The question of fine style can be an issue because in essence the answer is; "I know it when I see it". The term "fine style" suggests that the die engraver used his skill to produce an image that is superior to most of the type that are issued from that mint at that time. This is more often seen on Greek coins as the differences in style can be quite dramatic. In way of illustration.
    Kroton Ar Nomos 400-375 BC Obv Head of Hera slightly facing to the right. Rv Herakles reclining left. HN 2167 7.78 grms Photo NAC Auction 82 Lot 30 THIS IS NOT MY COIN NAC 82 Lot 30.jpg As can clearly be seen this coin has a marvelous obverse. The head of Hera is well executed and expression of the face exhibits a level of serenity that very noticeable. The hair is finely detailed and the features on the face are all well executed. Even though the coin does suffer from some issues I would have to say that this coin is an example of "Fine style"
    Less so on this one even though it is my coin. The type is same as above except that the weight is 7.71 grms 20mm Photo by W. Hansen croton6a.jpg
    This coin is very similar to the one pictured above though not quite as successful as the first coin. The mouth is rendered less skillfully than the first coin.
    Following up is this example Again the information is the same however the dates given are 400-325 BC 7.63 grms 21 mm CNG Triton XXII Lot 99 I sure hope I am not stepping on anyone's toes here. CNG Triton XXII Lot 99.jpg THIS IS NOT MY COIN Okay compared to the first coin the engraving on this coin is not as good. The proportions of the head are not ideal and the engraving of the hair is again not as good. Poor Hera looks wall eyed. Now as a caveat I will note that the execution of these 3/4 facing head portraits have to be the most difficult images to execute properly. There are just so many things that needed to be perfectly rendered or else the whole composition ends up looking bad. However I hope with this rather long winded and inadequate explanation I have given some insights into the problem of "Fine Style"
  8. robinjojo

    robinjojo Well-Known Member

    To me fine style means that a portrait or other subject on a coin is rendered in a realistic, expressive (for me) manner that reflects the personality or characteristic of the subject. This is a subjective definition and "fine style" can, and does vary according to the individual using the term.

    There are other factors that contribute, such as high relief versus low relief, although I hasten to add that low relief engraving can also possess fine style, but high relief certainly adds to the appeal of a coin. Execution of the strike is another important factor. Dies can be finely engraved, but an uneven or severely off center strike can detract.

    Some coins, such as those of Syracuse, have a general reputation for fine style such as these two:

    D-Camera Syracuse Tetradrachm, Deinomenid Tyranny, 480-475 BC, 5-16-20.jpg

    D-Camera Syracuse tetradrachm Agathokles reshoot 317-310BC 17.0g  Berk 4-8-21.jpg

    For Athens, the quality of the owls generally reached the apex during the transitional period towards the mass produced standardized coins of later decades.

    Here are some examples of classical owls from the 5th century BC, moving from the transitional types to standardized owls. Which ones, if any, would you say are "fine style"?

    D-Camera Athens owl circa 465BC Seltman III, 16.95g fine style rare VCoins 4-1-22.jpg

    D-Camera Athens tetradrachm 465-460 BC, Starr group V.A, Roma 72, 17.14 dear one g 12-1-20.jpg

    D-Camera Athens tetradrachm c.450BC early stan classical owl 17.13g 2-2-22.jpg

    D-Camera Athens Tetradrachm, Prefectus, c. 450 BC, reduced image 11-15-20.jpg

    D-Camera Athens  tetradrachm, mint state, c. 454-404 BC 17.23 g, Roma 62, 12-1-20.jpg

    D-Camera Athens tetradrachm , 4t54-404 BC, 17.23g near EF  Roma 68, 302  5-21-21.jpg

    D-Camera Athens tetradrachm near full crest, EF 17.18g Roma 55 lot 168 after 449 BC 4-27-21.jpg

    D-Camera  Athens tetradrachm, after 449 BC, 17.19 grams,  9-25-20.jpg
  9. Insider

    Insider Talent on loan from...

    I know, I know! :spitoutdummy::D
    panzerman, asheland and Aethelred like this.
  10. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Well-Known Member

    I think Terence Chessman said it best "I know it when I see it". Sometimes all it takes is a simple visual comparison to judge "fine style". The two coins pictured below are a good example, provincial tetradrachms of Philip II. The 1st coin has a good portrait, but the 2nd coin has an extraordinary portrait of "fine style".
    Philip II Tet.jpg
    Philip II, Antioch, Syria, McAlee 1054.jpg
  11. panzerman

    panzerman Well-Known Member

    I would consider "fine style" = struck from fresh dies+ finely engraved dies+no wear IMG_0690.JPG IMG_0693.JPG IMG_0701.JPG IMG_0703.JPG IMG_0065.JPG IMG_0067.JPG
  12. ominus1

    ominus1 Supporter! Supporter

    ..i'm of that school meself...:)
    kazuma78 likes this.
  13. Steelers72

    Steelers72 Well-Known Member

    Some collectors tend to identify fine style designations based on the engraver’s artistry or condition of the dies for a given type

    I personally identify fine style based on the realism of the portrait.

    here’s a no brainer:


    here’s one i believe is fine style but others may disagree because of the style of the wig, but I like it for the realism of the facial features.

  14. El Cazador

    El Cazador Well-Known Member

    are these your coins or you use these images for illustration purposes?
  15. Steelers72

    Steelers72 Well-Known Member

  16. El Cazador

    El Cazador Well-Known Member

    These are fantastic, especially Nero’s portrait! Congratulations
    Steelers72 likes this.
  17. Steelers72

    Steelers72 Well-Known Member

  18. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Supporter! Supporter

    I agree with the "you know it when you see it" statement.
    I recognize it for the emotion I feel when I see the right one. However I'm afraid I can't elaborate more, it's really just about a feeling

    panzerman likes this.
  19. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

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  20. The Meat man

    The Meat man Supporter! Supporter

    @Steelers72 That's one of the finest Nero portraits I've ever seen!
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  21. octavius

    octavius Well-Known Member

    Here are what I would consider a nice As and sestertius of Nero...

    9Tfgq6sAR2y4kX3oNRm78QJzJe5Y2Y.jpg pWr2y6Rw5oDMA9ja3nL7eC4Nk8kJiK.jpg

    and here are what I would call fine style As and sestertius....

    4947876l.jpg 3Tnag2iFDPy7E6NbGa4Js8JqZDo59C.jpg
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