(Just added a second 10) My Top 10 Roman Imperial & Greek Coins for 2021 (first of 3 lists)

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by DonnaML, Nov 27, 2021.


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  1. # 1: Aspendos stater

    37 vote(s)
  2. # 2: Titus denarius with elephant

    20 vote(s)
  3. # 3: Nerva denarius with clasped hands

    19 vote(s)
  4. # 4: Trajan denarius with Arabia & camel

    7 vote(s)
  5. # 5 Antoninus Pius denarius with Marcus Aurelius Caesar

    14 vote(s)
  6. # 6: Antoninus Pius dupondius with Pietas (Faustina II) & 3 children

    3 vote(s)
  7. # 7: Faustina II sestertius with 6 children

    13 vote(s)
  8. # 8: Diocletian argenteus with 4 tetrarchs before campgate

    7 vote(s)
  9. # 9: Arcadius solidus with Constantinopolis

    16 vote(s)
  10. # 10: Honorius solidus with Honorius standing over captive

    22 vote(s)
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    I decided a while ago that there's no way I could limit myself to one Top 10 list. Now I realize that I'll need three: this one, Roman Provincial (mostly, but not entirely, from Roman Alexandria), and -- the most difficult of all -- Roman Republican. The last one won't be possible to decide on for a while, because there's one more auction I plan to bid in. (It's not very likely I'll have to amend this first list, but I reserve that right.)

    In chronological order.

    1. Aspendos, Pamphylia, Asia Minor, AR Stater ca. 380/75-330/25 BCE (Tekin, 4th Series). Obv. Two standing wrestlers, naked, grappling with legs spread apart and heads touching; wrestler on left grasps his opponent’s left wrist with his right hand, and left elbow with his left hand; wrestler on right grasps his opponent’s left arm with his right hand; letters “KI” [for name of minting magistrate] in field between wrestlers, below knee level / Rev. Slinger wearing short chiton, standing with trunk in facing position, head and legs in profile facing right, legs held straight with feet apart, left arm extended forward holding sling with left thumb, right arm drawing sling back with elbow bent; triskeles in right field with legs running left; ΕΣΤϜΕΔΙΙΥΣ [adjectival form of city name Estwediius in Pamphylian dialect of Ancient Greek] upwards behind slinger; all contained within square dotted border. SNG Copenhagen 226 [Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Copenhagen, The Royal Collection of Coins and Medals, Danish National Museum, Part 31, Lycia, Pamphylia (Copenhagen 1955)]; SNG Von Aulock II 4557 [Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Deutschland, Sammlung Hans Von Aulock, Vol. 2: Caria, Lydia, Phrygia, Lycia, Pamphylia (Berlin 1962)];.BMC 19 Lycia 45-46 [both with initials “KI” on obv.] [Hill, G.F. A Catalogue of Greek Coins in the British Museum, Lycia, Pamphylia, and Pisidia (London, 1897) at p. 99]; Sear GCV Vol. II 5397 (obv. var. -- diff. magistrate’s initials) [Sear, David, Greek Coins and their Values, Vol. II, Asia & Africa (Seaby 1979) at p. 491], 26 mm., 10.96 g. Purchased from Harlan J. Berk, Ltd., 217th Buy or Bid Sale, 17 Sep. 2021, Lot 132; ex. Spina Collection, purchased by Dr. Spina from Harlan J. Berk, Ltd. on 7 March 2001 at coin show in Baltimore, MD. [Footnote omitted.]

    HJB sale 217 Lot 132 Aspendos stater version 2.jpg

    (If you click the arrows on the bottom right that appear while you're playing the video, you can view it in full screen, which really enables seeing the details of the coin.)

    2. Titus (son of Vespasian) AR Denarius 80 AD, Rome Mint. Obv. Laureate head right, IMP TITVS CAES VESPASIAN AVG P M / Rev. Elephant walking left, TR P IX IMP XV COS VIII P P. RIC II-1 Titus 115 (2007 ed.); RIC II 22a (1926 ed.); RSC II Titus 303; BMCRE 43; Sear RCV I 2512. 18 mm., 3.12 g. [This type is believed to have been issued in celebration of the opening of the Colosseum.]

    Titus - elephant reverse - jpg version.jpg

    3. Nerva AR Denarius, Rome Jan-Sep 97 AD. Obv. Laureate head right, IMP NERVA CAES AVG PM TRP COS III P P / Rev. Two clasped hands in front of legionary eagle left at top of standard resting on prow left, CONCORDIA EXERCITVVM. RIC II Nerva 15, RSC II (Cohen) 29, BMCRE III Nerva 29, cf. Sear RCV II 3021 (COS II, otherwise same). 18 mm., 3.37 g. Purchased from Patrick Guillard Collection, Paris, France, May 2021.

    NEW Nerva clasped hands denarius.jpg

    4. Trajan AR Denarius, 108-110 AD*, Rome mint. Obv. Laureate bust right, drapery over left shoulder, IMP TRAIANO AVG GER DAC P M TR P / Rev. Arabia standing left wearing long hooded cloak, holding branch of myrrh or frankincense with right hand and bundle of cinnamon sticks (or calamus odoratus; see fn.) with left hand; at her feet to left, an entire Arabian (one-humped) camel walking left, COS V P P S P Q R OPTIMO PRINC. RIC II (old) 142), RSC II 89 (ill p. 86). 19 mm., 3.40 g.

    USE combined 4 Trajan Arabia denarius.jpg

    *Trajan’s fifth consulship ran from 103-111 AD, but Arabia was not annexed by Rome until 106 AD after the reign of the Nabataean king Rabel II ended. See Bernhard E. Woytek and Kevin Butcher, The Camel Drachms of Trajan in Context: Old Problems and a New Overstrike, The Numismatic Chronicle Vol. 175 (2015), pp. 117-136 at p. 117. (https://www.jstor.org/stable/43859784). The article narrows down the date of this type further at p. 118:

    "The reverse design of the imperial coins celebrating the annexation of Arabia
    differs markedly from the iconography of the Dacia capta coinage, in a structural
    respect. While the latter shows bound captives or the mourning Dacia as well as
    heaps of arms, the image of Arabia is a peaceful one: she is depicted standing to the
    left, holding a branch of a local plant, probably of the myrrh- or frankincense-tree,
    in the right hand and a bundle of calamus odoratus [a/k/a acorus odoratus; see ttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acorus_calamus] in her left arm . Her attributes,
    local products widely known and used in the Roman world, convey a notion of the
    cultural and economic importance of the newly acquired territory. But the coins also
    depict the region’s iconic animal: to the left of the personification, there is a one humped Arabian camel. This depiction of Arabia and a camel not only occurs on
    imperial coins displaying some abbreviated form of the legend Arabia adquisita in
    the exergue, but also on Trajanic aureus and denarius types where the personification
    is unlabelled. The type seems to have been introduced on these unlabelled issues, which may broadly be dated to the years AD 108‒110, while the coins displaying an explanatory legend in the exergue were issued by the mint of Rome from about AD 111 to 112/113. [In the earlier issues] . . . the entire camel is to be seen to the left of the personification of the new province . . ., while later the animal is always
    partly hidden behind Arabia, and only its forepart (and the two forelegs) are visible." (Emphasis added.)

    5. Antoninus Pius with Marcus Aurelius as Caesar, AR Denarius 140-144 AD Rome Mint. Obv. Laureate head of Antoninus Pius right, ANTONINVS AVG PIVS - P P TR P COS III / Rev. Bare head of young Marcus Aurelius right, beardless, AVRELIVS CAESAR - AVG PII F COS. RIC III Antoninus Pius 417a (p. 78) (1930 ed.); RSC II Antoninus Pius & Marcus Aurelius 15 (p. 190); Sear RCV II 4524 (ill. p. 261) [dated to 141 AD]; BMCRE IV Antoninus Pius 155 (p. 26; ill. Pl 4 No. 11); A. Pangerl, "Vier Jahrzente Portraits des Marcus Aurelius auf römischen Reichsmünzen," 500 Years of Roman Coin Portraits (2d ed. 2017), pp. 318-333 at p. 324 Tabelle 1 (No. 3.04) & p. 326 (No. 4) [dated to 140 AD and classified at p. 439 as “Type 1: round head of a child, no beard, curly hair”]. 19mm, 3.43 gm, 12h. Purchased from Akropolis Ancient Coins, 17 October 2021.

    Akropolis coins no. 100 Ant. Pius - Marcus Aurelius Caesar.jpg

    6. Antoninus Pius Æ Dupondius, Rome, ca. 159- 160 AD, Rome Mint. Obv. Radiate head right, ANTONINVS AVG PIVS P P TR P XXIII / Rev. Pietas [representing Faustina II] standing left, holding globe in extended right hand and infant in left arm, two children standing at her feet, one on each side, each raising one arm [probably representing the Emperor’s three granddaughters then living, namely Marcus Aurelius’s and Faustina II’s daughters Annia Faustina (a/k/a Faustina III), Lucilla, and Fadilla; issued before birth of Cornificia in Aug. 160], PIET-ATI - AVG COS IIII, S-C across fields. RIC III 1035, Sear RCV II 4280 (ill.), Cohen 625. 25.5 mm., 15.57 g. [Ex. Naville Numismatics, Auction 28, Jan. 22, 2017, Lot 611, previously in Italian collection (with old ticket in Italian in name of “Antonino Pio”).]


    7. Faustina II (wife of Marcus Aurelius & daughter of Antoninus Pius), AE Sestertius, ca. 161 AD, Rome Mint. Obv. Draped bust right, low chignon at back of head, FAVSTINA AVGVSTA / Rev. Felicitas (or Faustina as Fecunditas) standing left, between four girls (two standing at each side), holding two infants in her arms, each with a star over its head (representing the Dioscuri?), TEMPOR FELIC [-IC almost entirely worn off], S - C across fields. RIC III 1673 (at p. 147), var. [no stars above infants’ heads]; BMCRE MA 949 var [same]; Cohen 222; Dinsdale 006760 & n. 1 [Dinsdale, Paul H., The Imperial Coinage of the Middle Antonines: Marcus Aurelius with Lucius Verus and Commodus, Ch. 4, Faustina II - Undated, 158-176 (http://romanpaulus.x10host.com/Marcus/04 - Faustina II - Undated, 158-176 (med_res).pdf) at p. 70] (“Minor rev. variation: sometimes each infant held in arms has star above head”). 31 mm., 24 gm. Purchased from Victor’s Imperial Coins, March 2021. Ex. CNG E-Auction 476, 9/09/2020, part of Lot 762; ex. BLS Collection.*

    Faustina II sestertius - Felicitas & six children.jpg

    *This variation of RIC III 1673 (with stars above the two infants’ heads) is unlisted in RIC or BMCRE, and appears to be mentioned only in the footnote to Dinsdale 006760. (RIC III 1677 does have stars above the infants’ heads, but is an as, not a sestertius.) Of the 14 other examples found on acsearch of RIC 1673 and 1674 (the same design as 1673 but with a diadem on Faustina’s head; see Sear RCV II 5284), only one other example (of RIC 1673) has the stars above the infants’ heads. See https://www.acsearch.info/image.html?id=6215913 (Numismatik Naumann, Auction 80, Lot 568, 4 Aug 2019).

    The four girls standing on either side of Felicitas on the reverse of this type have been identified as Marcus Aurelius’s and Faustina II’s daughters Annia Faustina (a/k/a Faustina III), Lucilla, Fadilla, and Cornificia -- the last of whom was born in 160 AD. The two infants held in her arms have been identified as Faustina II’s twin sons b. 31 Aug 161 AD: Titus Aurelius Fulvus Antoninus (the older twin, d. 165 AD) and Commodus, the ninth and tenth children of the royal couple. See Foss, Roman Historical Coins.

    8. Diocletian, AR Argenteus, ca. AD 295, Heraclea Mint (1st Officina). Obv. Laureate head right, DIOCLETI-ANVS AVG / Rev. The four tetrarchs [the Augusti Diocletian and Maximian, and the Caesars Constantius Chlorus and Galerius], draped, sacrificing over a tripod altar, two of them on each side, before military camp gate with six turrets (four in front and two in rear), VICTORIA-SARMAT [referring to victories over the Sarmatians*]; in exergue, H A [Heraclea, 1st Officina]. RIC VI Heraclea 6 [see http://numismatics.org/ocre/id/ric.6.her.6], RSC V Diocletian 488j, Sear RCV IV 12612. Purchased from Kenneth W. Dorney, Oct. 2021. Ex. Ira & Larry Goldberg Auction 90, 2 Feb. 2016, Lot 3274. 19 mm., 2.70 g.

    Diocletian argenteus Ken Dorney - Heraclea RIC 6.jpg

    *See Stephen Williams, Diocletian and the Roman Recovery (Routledge, 2000) at p. 76 (preview at Google Books): “In 294 Diocletian launced a fresh offensive against the main body of the Sarmatians. . . . By the latter half of 294 they [the Sarmatians] had sustained such a defeat that they ceased to be a threat for many more years. Sarmatian warriors were taken into the Roman armies in large numbers, either as mercenaries or under treaty, and later fought well under Galerius against the Persians.”

    [As I mentioned when I first posted this coin, the black spots on the obverse are not at all noticeable in hand without magnification, so please try not to let them prejudice you in considering your vote!]

    9. Eastern Roman Empire, Arcadius (son of Theodosius I and older brother of Honorius), 383-408 AD, AV Solidus 397-402 AD, Constantinople Mint (9th Officina). Obv. Helmeted and cuirassed bust facing three-quarters right, holding spear over right shoulder and shield on left arm bearing image of horseman right; D N ARCADI-VS P F AVG / Rev. Helmeted Constantinopolis seated facing on throne, head right, with right knee bare and right foot resting on prow, holding long scepter with right hand and, on left hand, Victory with wreath standing on globe; CONCORDI-A AVGG Θ [Theta, for 9th Officina]; in exergue, CONOB [for Constantinople Mint]. RIC X 7 at. p. 240 (1994); Dumberton Oaks Catalogue, Late Roman 207-217 (217 = 9th Officina) and Plate 8 [P. Griessen. & M. Mays, Catalogue of Late Roman Coins in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection, etc. (1992)]; Sear RCV V 20706 (ill. p. 431) (1994). 20 mm., 4.44 g. Purchased from Dr. Busso Peus Nachf., Frankfurt, Germany, 1 April 2021. Ex. Auktionen Münzhandlung Sonntag Auktion 33 Lot 36 (23.11. 2020); ex. Auktion 116 München Münzhandlung Karl Kreß [Kress](Otto Helbing Nachfolger), Lot 729 (28.10.1960).

    Arcadius solidus photo Dr. Busso Peuss jpg version from MA-Shops.jpg

    10. Western Roman Empire, Honorius (son of Theodosius I and younger brother of Arcadius), 393-423 AD, AV Solidus, ca. 402-408 AD. Ravenna Mint. [Note that the capital was moved from Milan to Ravenna in 402 AD.] Obv. Pearl-diademed, draped, and cuirassed bust right [“slender bust” type; see Sear RCV V 20919 at p. 453], D N HONORI-VS P F AVG / Rev. Honorius in military attire, standing right, holding a plain military standard (a signum in the form of a vexillum, i.e., a banner draped vertically from a horizontal cross-bar attached to a pole) in right hand, and Victory on globe in left hand, his left foot set on (RIC: “spurning”) a bound barbarian captive seated left on ground with both legs visible and sharply bent at knees (bent right leg is raised upright; bent left leg lies flat on ground with left knee extending below exergue line and left foot resting against right leg*), VICTORI-A AVGGG, R-V [Ravenna] across fields and COMOB [Comitatus Obryziacum **] in exergue. RIC X 1287 at p. 328 (1994), Sear RCV V 20919 (2014), Dumberton Oaks Catalogue, Late Roman 735-736 & Plate 28 [P. Griessen. & M. Mays, Catalogue of Late Roman Coins in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection, etc. (1992); see https://archive.org/details/docoins-late-roman/page/432/mode/1up and https://archive.org/details/docoins-late-roman/page/430/mode/1up ], Cohen 44. 21 mm., 4.45 g. Ex. Collection of Egon Gerson [b. 1921; d. 2021]; David R. Sear A.C.C.S. Certificate of Authenticity dated Dec. 16, 1998, issued to Egon Gerson, No. 50AB/RI/CO/CN (“almost EF, flan slightly bent”). [Footnote omitted.]

    Honorius Solidus (example with Sear Certificate) high contrast.jpg
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2021
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  3. akeady

    akeady Well-Known Member

    Nice selection, Donna! - I voted for 1, 7 & 10, but all are great.


    P.S. - I look forward to the other lists.
  4. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks, Aidan. I may have loaded the dice a little bit with the video of the Aspendos stater from HJB, but I just don't think the still photo by itself captures it as well.
    galba68 and panzerman like this.
  5. akeady

    akeady Well-Known Member

    Earlier today, after watching some videos of coins in an upcoming auction, I resolved to make little video clips of my coins from now on. They mostly won't be up to the Aspendos standard, for the coins or the videography, I fear :D

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  6. panzerman

    panzerman Well-Known Member

    Gorgeous coins/ really enlightening writeups to promote their history:D All are really nice/ but 4/6/10 are my picks. Thanks for posting your new additions.:)
    7Calbrey and DonnaML like this.
  7. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    I only wish I were capable of doing that!
  8. ambr0zie

    ambr0zie Dacian Taraboste

    What can I say? yesterday night (2 AM here now), a joke that flew right above my head.
    Tonight, 10 mindblowing coins.
    I chose the Aspendos stater, the Titus denarius with the elephant and the denarius with Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius as these are coin types I would also prefer, but all 10 are great.
    DonnaML likes this.
  9. kazuma78

    kazuma78 Supporter! Supporter

    Great additions @DonnaML ! That Aspendos is particularly lovely. I Look forward to seeing your other lists!
    DonnaML likes this.
  10. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    Aspendos is #1 to me. I have never had one without countermarks.
    DonnaML likes this.
  11. El Cazador

    El Cazador Well-Known Member

    Nerva and Titus are winners for me.

    Congratulations on a wonderful year!!
    DonnaML likes this.
  12. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Does anyone have an opinion on whether the obverse of # 4 (the Trajan) could properly be described as "laureate bust right, slight drapery on far shoulder," or "laureate bust right, aegis on far shoulder, with bare chest showing"? Of the seven varieties of the obverse for this issue listed in RSC -- which almost always records far more minute differences than RIC or BMCRR (never mind Sear RCV, which doesn't list this type at all) -- those are the only two that seem to me like they might fit. Thanks.
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2021
  13. Ryro

    Ryro The last of the Diadochi Supporter

    That stater is a stone cold showstopper:wideyed:
    And that toning:singing:
    You don't usually see uncirculated coins of this type. Led alone being able to see the athletes ribcage, as on your example.
    Mine was circulated and from worn dies:

    Hard not to love your Ant Pius Marcus A... though I recently won one of my own. But that'll have to wait for my year end list:D
    The patina on your Faustina II checks all my boxes. And the adorable reverse being complimented by that portrait:cigar:
    Those are my three favorites out of a VERY competitive field. Cannot wait to see your other two lists :)
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2021
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  14. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks, @Ryro. Looking forward to your list, including your own Ant. Pius/M. Aurelius.
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2021
    Ryro likes this.
  15. rrdenarius

    rrdenarius non omnibus dormio Supporter

    great coins!
    The Aspendos Stater is my favorite by far. Trajan looks like a good ole country boy chewing on a piece of straw.
    DonnaML likes this.
  16. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I'd call your a slight drapery. Below is what I'm guessing to be "laureate bust right, aegis on far shoulder, with bare chest showing".
  17. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

  18. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Lovely coins, @DonnaML! Of course, I am partial to the ones depicting Faustina's children. I also like the Titus elephant denarius.
    DonnaML likes this.
  19. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    Beautiful coins Donna, nice additions.
    DonnaML likes this.
  20. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Donna, I voted for #1, the superb Aspendos stater :happy:, & #9 & 10, the pair of handsome solidi of two grossly incompetent emperors :p.
    DonnaML likes this.
  21. happy_collector

    happy_collector Well-Known Member

    All beautiful coins, @DonnaML! :)

    I like your Titus denarius. The elephant design is very cool. Your #5 denarius is a beauty as well. I like it showing young Marcus Aurelius portrait.

    Your #9 and #10 are my top favorites. I enjoying reading your earlier post about the various captive bending legs design. Like that so much I picked up one as well. Will surely be in my upcoming top 10 list. :happy:
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2021
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