I found the provenance (sort of) of this Didia Clara sestertius

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Roman Collector, Apr 15, 2018.

  1. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    I purchased this coin at a coin show late in October, 2002 and it came with a Pegasi tag in the flip.

    Since I'm a hoarder of sorts, I still had several catalogs from Pegasi going back to 2000. I decided last night to look through some of them, not specifically to find this coin, but for entertainment. If you've never looked through old auction catalogs like this, you should try it -- it's surprisingly entertaining and informative.

    When I looked through the catalog from their Auction VI from April 8, 2002, I noticed a coin therein which looked familiar:

    Didia Clara Pegasi Auction VI 4-8-02.jpg

    Here's my coin; it's obviously the same one. Photographed in natural sunlight:

    Didia Clara Sestertius.jpg

    Photographed in artificial light:
    Didia Clara HILAR TEMPOR sestertius.jpg
    Didia Clara, daughter of Didius Julianus and Manlia Scantilla, Augusta, AD 193.
    Roman Æ Sestertius, 21.16 g, 30.5 mm, 6 h.
    Rome, AD 193.
    Obv: DIDIA CLARA AVG, bare-headed and draped bust right.
    Rev: HILARITAS SC, Hilaritas standing, head left, holding palm branch and cornucopiae.
    Refs: RIC 20; BMCRE 38-41; RCV 6087.
    Notes: obverse die 3, reverse die H, Woodward, "The Coinage of Didius Julianus and His Family." Num Chron. 121:71, 1961. Reverse die-match to BMC 40 and BMC 41 in the British Museum collection.

    Some remarks about the experience:

    --I bought this from another dealer for much less than the original estimate about 6 months after it first appeared at auction. I suspect this involved a dealer-to-dealer deal, perhaps even during the coin show I attended.

    --My scale weighed the coin slightly less than Pegasi's scale; I have my doubts about whether these scales are accurate to less than 1/10 of a gram.

    --Look at how different the coin appears in full-color in natural sunlight -- or even my photo using an artificial light source -- than the black and white photo in the auction catalog.

    Anyway, post whatever you feel is relevant!
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018
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  3. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Good eye!

    Different lighting, color vs black and white, image resolution, and other factors can make matching old pictures to an in-hand coin very tricky! Some old images are of casts, introducing another variable.

    Even more extreme are the Dattari plate images vs. real life. The Dattari images are pencil rubbings so many details, including key things which are very helpful in matching a coin (the coin's outline, for instance), may not be visible or may be misleading.

    Some examples:

    EGYPT, Alexandria. Tiberius
    Year 5, CE 18/9
    AE obol, 20 mm, 4.45 gm
    Obv: bare head right
    Rev: hippopotamus right; TIBEPIoY above; [L] E in exergue
    Ref: Emmett 62.5, R1; Geissen 47; Dattari-Savio 102 (this coin); RPC 5082
    ex Dattari collection (Giovanni Dattari, 1858-1923)

    EGYPT, Alexandria. Marcus Aurelius
    year 12, CE 171/2
    AE diobol, 22 mm, 7.53 gm
    Obv: [MAV]PHΛIOC ANTω[ΝΙΝΟCCE]; laureate bust right
    Rev: Uraeus serpent erect left, wearing headdress; "holding" sistrum and grain ear; LI - B across upper fields
    Ref: Dattari 3605 and Pl. XXXII, 3605 (this coin). Dattari-Savio Pl. 193, 3605 (this coin); Geissen --; Emmett 2260.12, R5
    ex Dattari collection (Giovanni Dattari, 1858-1923)
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018
  4. ancientcoinguru

    ancientcoinguru Supporter! Supporter

    I like your 3 photos, very interesting to see the same coin photographed in various ways.

    Mine is a bit rough, but I also have that sestertius.
    Didia Clara.png
    AE sestertius 17.42gm - 29 mm
  5. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Cool coins, as usual, TIF! Gadzooks, it must be hard to match up the coin in hand to plate coins of such poor image quality!

    That's very cool. I think our coins are reverse die-matches.

    Here are our two coins, for comparison:
    Didia Clara HILAR TEMPOR sestertius.jpg

    They also match the reverses on BMC 41 and BMC 40 in the British Museum collection (Woodward reverse die H. However, mine is not an obverse die match to either, but rather to Woodward obverse die 3; yours may well be an obverse die-match to 40 (bottom):

    Didia Clara sestertius BMC 39.jpg
    Didia Clara sestertius BMC 40.jpg
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018
  6. ancientcoinguru

    ancientcoinguru Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks @Roman Collector, that is so cool! I really appreciate your research. And I agree with your conclusions about the die-matches. Might I ask where you got the British Museum Collection photos?
    Roman Collector likes this.
  7. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    You can search the British Museum for anything. In this case, I used the search term "Didia Clara Sestertius" and it found BMCRE 39, 40, 41, and 42.

    I have edited my reply, above, because I erred; my coin is a match to BMCRE 41 and yours is a match to 40.
    ancientcoinguru likes this.
  8. rrdenarius

    rrdenarius non omnibus dormio Supporter

    Interesting coin sleuthing! I have a couple of coins from Pegasi. Both were purchased at a coin show and previously offered in an auction catalog.
    My pics:
    The red dots on the cards indicate the coins were offered in a sale or auction.
    I would like to say the Memmi (left) coin looks better in hand, but that is not true. Someone cleaned the coin and did a job on the surfaces.
    The catalog pic.
    Roman Republic
    C. MEMMI.C.F, 57 BC. AR Denarius.
    Obv - Bust of Ceres
    Rev - Captive kneeling before trophy
    3.43 gm
    Toned VF+, well centered, good strike, surface irregularities (pictures look worse than coin), scarce
    Lot 421 of Pegasi Mail Bid Sale XXXVII, unsold
    dlhill132, TIF, ominus1 and 11 others like this.
  9. Carausius

    Carausius Brother, can you spare a sestertius?

    Provenancing coins is practically my second hobby. I've gradually built-up a library of old auction catalogues for this activity, largely focused on Roman Republic. The library is also useful for matching dies, styles etc. For those interested in this pursuit, I highly recommend John Spring's Ancient Coin Auction Catalogues 1880-1980 book which lists catalogues with plate counts broken down by Greek, Roman Republic, Imperial and Byzantine (and some other specialist counts like Aes Grave and Great Migration). These counts help you focus on buying old catalogues most useful to your specialty.
    TIF, Alegandron, ominus1 and 6 others like this.
  10. ancientcoinguru

    ancientcoinguru Supporter! Supporter

  11. Gavin Richardson

    Gavin Richardson Well-Known Member

    I recently bought what was, for me, an expensive coin—about $650. It’s a much sought after and desirable type. I will be less cryptic in December when I reveal my top 10.

    But the particular coin doesn’t really matter to my query. I bought it from the German dealer Dr. Busso Peus and co. The coin did not come with any provenance information—not even its previous owner.

    Is it accepted practice to contact a dealer and inquire about provenance for coins already purchased, or is the assumption that if the dealer wanted to share provenance information, he or she would’ve already done so?
    Orfew and Roman Collector like this.
  12. ancientcoinguru

    ancientcoinguru Supporter! Supporter

    Since provenance often helps sell the coin, if the dealer has the information, he would usually already have included it in the description. But that would not stop me from inquiring about a $650 purchase (also expensive for me). Last year I bought a cuneiform tablet, and after the purchase, asked the dealer if they could provide some guidance on how to transcribe the inscription. Turns out someone had already partially transcribed the tablet, and they had forgotten. So they called the person, and arranged for him to sent me the info.

    So it never hurts to ask.
    rrdenarius likes this.
  13. randygeki

    randygeki Coin Collector

  14. Voulgaroktonou

    Voulgaroktonou Well-Known Member

    Wonderful reading above, from all posters. Establishing provenance when known is such a rewarding exercise. Attached is a photo of a well worn, but much loved sestertius of Nerva having the oldest provenance in my collection . Before I became its next caretaker, it was in Triskeles Auction 7, 12 Sept. 2013, lot 167. It has an old ticket stating "lot 134 United Services Institution Collection, Sotheby Sale 1895". In the left field is an inlaid small silver eagle, formerly thought to have been an ownership mark of the d'Este family, but now regarded as the badge of another Italian Renaissance family, the Gonzaga.
    2013.023a.JPG 2013.023b.JPG
  15. red_spork

    red_spork Triumvir monetalis

    I do it all the time, both with professional dealers and private collectors and I don't think there's any problem with it but I don't get offended if a dealer refuses to divulge that information. I always word these requests something like:

    "Hi [dealer],
    I'm updating my provenance notes for this coin and wondering if you remember where you purchased it and if so if any additional provenance was given"

    Most of the time this works out and most dealers are willing to give me an auction and lot number or a dealer's name where they bought it.
  16. Bert Gedin

    Bert Gedin Well-Known Member

    To start with, I know very little about values of ancient coins. But it is difficult to evaluate who, if anyone has been overcharged or undercharged, as you don't mention any payment details. Nor do you say anything about the coin's value. I would have thought that once the coin has been sold, by mutual agreement, then you have no say in anything wrong about the transaction. Unless you can prove something illegal - which appears unlikely, in this case. As an afterthought, perhaps Roman Collector could have researched the approximate value of this coin.
  17. akeady

    akeady Well-Known Member

    Alegandron and ominus1 like this.
  18. Gavin Richardson

    Gavin Richardson Well-Known Member

    I don’t think anyone in this thread is alleging that anything improper has occurred. I think we are all just commenting upon how nice it would be to know the provenance of certain of our coins, with some reporting on how they’ve gone about doing so.
    TIF, Roman Collector and ominus1 like this.
  19. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    ..thank the gods we have(and are) hoarders...keepers of precious artifacts and information old and ancient RC..:)
    Alegandron likes this.
  20. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    I'm very familiar with the value of this coin. But, as @Gavin Richardson says, I didn't post this because I thought anybody had been mistreated, but only in the sense of "Isn't this cool? I found a provenance for this coin!"
    TIF, Gavin Richardson and ominus1 like this.
  21. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    haha! ole Bert must have a guilt complex or something...maybe just a growly old man:oldman:..or maybe he just misunderstood...
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