Featured Imitative Parthian drachm with false "countermark"

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Sulla80, Aug 5, 2020.

  1. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    Perhaps demonstrating my opportunistic approach to ancient coins, I recently added this coin to my Parthians. This is an unusual coin (see below). This coin is not countermarked and is not a drachm of Phraates IV.
    Phraates IV imitation ctmk.jpg
    Indo-Parthian, Margiana or Sogdiana, Unknown king, circa late 1st century BC - early 1st century AD, imitation countermarked Parthian AR Drachm of Phraates IV
    Obv: Diademed bust left; "countermark": helmeted bust right; to right, eagle left, holding wreath in beak
    Rev: Archer seated right on throne, holding bow
    Ref: Sellwood 91.13; Shore 473

    Although the legends are garbled, they do seem to have some resemblance to the coin they imitate. Here is the drachm of Phraates IV that could be the model:
    Phraates IV bird.jpg
    Phraates IV 38-2 BC. AR Drachm
    Mint: Rhagae
    Obv: Diademed bust left, wart on forehead, wearing segmented necklet; to right, eagle left, holding wreath in beak
    Rev: Arsakes I seated right on throne, holding bow; monogram below bow

    This coin is described as coming from Sogdiana or Margiana, eastern Parthia. The people of this region appear to have countermarked Parthian coins AND minted imitative coins like the one above with the "countermark" engraved in the die. Perhaps also interesting to note that the countermarks, both real and false, all are careful to avoid defacing the portrait of the Parthian king (coincidence? or some sign of cautious respect?). This area also became a part of the Indo-Parthian kingdom that was founded in AD 19 by Gondophares declaring independance from Parthia. At its peak the territory included parts of what are today Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and northwestern India.

    I have seen the countermark on this coin described as "Eukratides-style helmeted bust" which is perhaps understandable when you see this small Bactrian obol:
    Eukratides I Obol.jpg
    Greco-Baktrian Kingdom. Eukratides I, circa 170-145 BC, obol, later 160s BC
    Obv: Diademed and draped bust of Eukratides to right, wearing Macedonian helmet adorned with bull's horn and ear
    Rev: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ / ΕΥΚΡΑΤΙΔΟΥ, the two caps of the Diokouroi, each with a palm branch beside it; below, monogram of ΗΜΑ

    A key question for me on the "pseudo-countermark", why go to the trouble? Is there some reason to not issue your own independent coinage and instead imitate a familiar currency with false countermark? This paper comments:

    "Countermarked drachms of Phraates IV that circulated in northern Bactria (Sellwood, 91.12) were all of Margiana mintage. Series of imitations, struck from obverse dies with "false countermarks" engraved on them, demonstrate how familiar these coins became to the inhabitants of what is now northern Afghanistan and southern Tajikistan. They all have the mint mark of Margiana—Π—reproduced on them."
    - Longinov, S., & Nikitin, A. (1996). Parthian Coins from Margiana: Numismatics and History. Bulletin of the Asia Institute, 10, new series, 39-51.

    What other groups have issued false-countermarks? I have a Cimmerian coin with a countermark that I think is engraved into the die.

    Any corrections, additions, relevant references and comments are much appreciated. Share any coins with false countermarks, countermarked Parthian coins or coins imitating Parthian Drachms, or anything else you find interesting or entertaining.
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2020
    Marsyas Mike, PeteB, DBDc80 and 15 others like this.
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  3. Parthicus

    Parthicus Well-Known Member

    A very nice coin @Sulla80 and excellent write-up. I also have an Indo-Parthian drachm, but the countermark is real (and resembles Phraates IV):
    Indo-Parthians in Margiana or Sogdiana. 1st century AD. AR drachm. Obverse: Imitation of portrait of the Parthian king Vardanes I (40-45 AD), c/m of a different bearded bust left (resembles Phraates IV on a bad day?). Reverse: Imitation of standard Parthian seated archer reverse with blundered pseudo-legend, some flatness due to c/m on other side. Sellwood 91.14. VAuctions Sale 328 (Triskeles 22), lot 203.
    Marsyas Mike, DBDc80, ominus1 and 6 others like this.
  4. medoraman

    medoraman Supporter! Supporter

    Yep, interesting series that started as Parthian coins, then a countermark was applied, then they imitated the Parthian coins and applied a countermark, then said heck with it and put the "countermark" right onto the die to fake the Parthian coin. I have one of each laying around here somewhere, (actually more than 1 each), but suck at photographs.

    The ones where they engraved the "countermark" into the coin directly is my favorite. :)
    DBDc80 and Sulla80 like this.
  5. Alwin

    Alwin Supporter! Supporter

    It is a very interesting coinage and about which little is known.
    Your drachm is inspired by this one:


    Phraates IV, drachm
    S.52.19 - 3.43 g - 19 mm

    A few lines, countermarks and coins:
  6. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    Thanks for sharing the reference coin of Margiane and the excellent page with photos on your parthika.fr site.
  7. Orielensis

    Orielensis Well-Known Member

    That's a truly interesting imitation! Thanks both for showing it and for your very informative write-up.

    All I can add is this much later Sogdian coin, which, if I see correctly, is usually considered an imitation of an unspecified and unidentified Seleucid type. Yet, my non-expert mind wonders whether the combination of royal bust and archer on my coin, as well as the evidence for earlier Sogdian imitations of Parthian drachms that you showed, could justify the hypothesis that this type is a heavily blundered imitation of a Parthian rather than a Seleucid model. Any thoughts on this?

    Orient, Antike – Sogdien, Samarkand, Porträt und Schütze, 300–500 n. Chr..png
    Sogdia, Samarqand, AR "obol," 4th–5th c. AD. Obv: stylized bust l. Rev: archer standing (or sitting?) r. 9mm, 0.3g. Ref: Senior A8.7i; HGC 12, 512.
    Johndakerftw and Parthicus like this.
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