Late Byzantine Hoard Analysis and Notes!

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by The Trachy Enjoyer, Feb 19, 2021.

  1. The Trachy Enjoyer

    The Trachy Enjoyer Well-Known Member

    I came across a seller on eBay selling a large quantity of trachys. Their listing price was high but I was able to negotiate down and buy the 55 trachy coin lot at under $2 a coin. I was not sure if this was a lot picked through by the seller but after identifying the coins, there were some rarities included (as well very nice examples of more common specimens). I also was not sure if this was a mixture of different sources but all the trachys have the same Patina/coloring. This leads me to the conclusion that what I bought was a “hoard”, an unchecked lot of coins from the same location. That being said, to what degree these were combined or checked I cannot be certain. I will refer to the lot as a hoard but keep in mind that is not confirmed.


    When I first bought this lot, I knew nothing about trachys. I could not tell heads from tails or even identify a single coin. I wished to identify the hoard, however, and so began the process of identifying them. As any trachy collector can tell you, it was nearly impossible when starting out. Unlike Roman coins, most trachys have no surviving legend and even if present, are in a language most cannot read. Unlike Greek coins, designs are small and often wretched. Mint errors occur at an alarming rate with brockage errors almost being the norm. Coins were struck flat and often show little to no detail.


    Chess has the adagem: Easy to learn, hard to master. I have found with trachys it is the opposite: Hard to learn, easy to master. It is overwhelming to begin with and takes many hours of practice to become proficient (especially post 1204). Once you have a basic understanding, however, it becomes very easy to identify.

    Fast forward a few months after I had received my trachy lot, and I had invested a lot of my time into learning about these coins. I had been dreading identifying all of this hoard since I got it, but decided it was time. Here are my findings:


    POST 1204:

    John Gabalas:
    x1 Sear ----

    Manuel Komenus Ducas:
    x1 sear 2177
    x1 sear 2182

    Theodore I Komenus Ducas:
    x1 Sear 2070

    Latin Empire:
    x29 Sear 2021
    x1 Sear 2023
    x5 Sear 2024
    x2 Sear 2025
    x1 Sear 2034
    x1 Sear 2036
    x1 Sear 2038
    x2 Sear 2055
    x1 Sear 2057

    Bulgarian imitative?:
    x1 Sear 2021 (Latin type)
    x1 Sear 2024 (Latin type)

    PRE 1204:
    Alexius III:
    x3 Sear 2012 (1 of 3 clipped)

    Manuel I:
    x2 Sear 1964 (Both clipped)

    x1 Christ obverse, St Demetrius Reverse?
    A total of 55 trachys
    Notes and Conclusions:

    The coin which most stands out is that of John Gabalas, master of Rhodes and Megas Doux/Sebastokrator of the empire of Nicaea. Coinage in post 1204 “Byzantine” Rhodes is exceedingly scare. The island was first ruled by John's brother Leo, until he himself took over in 1240. In 1248, the island fell to Genoa. Of John Gabalas, only one coin has come up for sale ever in acsearch of coinarchives. I could find next to no information on this rarity except for the single entry in DOC IV. The John coin is sadly about 75% off center, but with such rarity I can hardly complain. This coin also helps to conveniently date the hoard (if it indeed is one or a part of one) to being buried sometime around 1250 or afterwards. The coin is not a trachy but flat AE, aniconic and crude.
    Obv: +ΙWΑ(ΝΝΗC Ο) ΓΑ(ΒΑΛΑC) - John Gabalas
    Rev: (Ο ΑVΘΕΝΤΗC) ΤΗC ΡΟ(ΔΟV) - Master of Rhodes

    Another aspect of note were two trachys of Manuel I Komenus Ducas, Despot of Thessalonica. His coinage is also scarce, with no types being common. I would not have expected to find a single coin of his, yet there were two. Perhaps this can help locate the origin of these coins to Thessalonica or its surrounding region.

    The amount of Theodore I trachys (1) is about what I would expect in a lot/hoard of this size. The style is unusually nice but the flan is missing a chuck in the right field.

    The lot was described as a Latin Empire hoard, so it came as no surprise that the majority of coins were Latin in origin. In post 1204 Byzantium, Latin coinage is by far the most common. A wide variety of types were found in the lot, some of especially nice quality. 29 examples of Sear 2021 stands out, but this type is the most common of the Latin trachys. It is my theory that as the Latin Empire declined in prosperity, these became the sole type of trachy minted. They always appear on smaller flans and of worse style than other Latin types.
    IMG_4611.JPG IMG_4612.JPG IMG_4616.JPG IMG_4617.JPG

    Bulgarian imitative coinage is to be expected. These are pretty common and often resemble the official issues but are much more rounded and the designs are comprised of pellets. I have also seen theories online that Bulgarian imitative coinage could be military in origin, from a Byzantine outpost or camp. This is an interesting idea and could help to explain the wide extent and variety of Bulgarian imitative trachys.

    A few pre 1204 trachys were included in the hoard. Of note, most were clipped, This was probably taken to conform the earlier issues to the later, lighter weight trachy economy.

    I hope you all enjoyed this post!
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    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    @The Trachy Enjoyer, your level of erudition on these is only surpassed by the rapidity with which you got there! Trachea continue to intimidate me, other than in the, Thank you, frankly rare instances where there's enough of the legend to identify the ruler. ...Right, along the lines of 'Coin Greek,' i.e., preponderating to proper names.
    Congratulations on a Fantastic lot! Hope that eventually, your suspicions about it are confirmed.
    You're also encouraging me to look for a copy of Sear, which will be a good enough start for yours truly. Thanks for that, along with the terrific post.
  4. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    Great write up, excellent quote.

    Your previous posts have rekindled my interest in post 1204 coinage, through the years I acquired group lots I have just started to look through as time permits.
  5. The Trachy Enjoyer

    The Trachy Enjoyer Well-Known Member

    Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine catalouges are all free online! DOC to Byzantine is what RIC is to Roman, except DOC is almost complete (with every Byzantine coin ever minted unlike RIC). I would recommend using DOC over Sear for identification (but Sear numbers are great for standardization).

    Also, Late Byzantine Coins in the Ashmolean Museum is my go-to reference work for 1204-1061 trachys. DOC for Michael VIII onwards...both are great though. The only issue with sear is that there are hardly any plates...
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2021
    DonnaML, Inspector43, BenSi and 4 others like this.
  6. The Trachy Enjoyer

    The Trachy Enjoyer Well-Known Member

    DOC IV (1081-1261) both parts

    DOC V (1258-1453) both parts
  7. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    Very nice write-up and I am sure you had some fun identifying these trachys. Superb job of organizing and presenting them as well. I only have two trachys which I have not identified yet that came in a bulk lot of mostly late roman AE3's and AE4's along with one Follis of Maurice Tiberius, which had a case of the bronze disease and has since been quarantined.
  8. The Trachy Enjoyer

    The Trachy Enjoyer Well-Known Member

    Thanks! Also, I can help with your trachys if you would like.
  9. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    If you’re offering...
    The obverse is clear but the reverse could be just about anything. No clue where to even start
  10. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    I have only photographed one of them so far, and the photo is a few years old when I was just starting out. But I will take you up on your offer!


  11. The Trachy Enjoyer

    The Trachy Enjoyer Well-Known Member

    Looks to be Alexius III (type with St Constantine). Its hard to say with reverse. Any chance you can get that dirt off of the trachy?
    Inspector43, BenSi and +VGO.DVCKS like this.
  12. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    Thank you. I'll see what I can do.

    In the interim, Alexius III Angelos seems to have been a tough character...

    "Alexios III Angelos was Byzantine Emperor from March 1195 to 17/18 July 1203. A member of the extended imperial family, Alexios came to throne after deposing, blinding and imprisoning his younger brother Isaac II Angelos."
  13. The Trachy Enjoyer

    The Trachy Enjoyer Well-Known Member

    Interesting. Perhaps a double struck (covering the center) of:

    John III Ducas (Vatatzes). Emperor of Nicaea, 1222-1254. BI Trachy (25mm, 2.65 g, 6h). Thessalonica mint. Facing half-length bust of St. George, holding spear and shield / Facing half-length busts of John and St. Demetrius, holding between them staff surmounted by cross in circle. DOC 11; SB 2131

    The style is also somewhat unusual. Either its an imitation sear 2131 or...a great style sear 2034

    Obv: MP ΘV.
    Three-quarter length figure of the Virgin orans, nimbate.
    Rev: Emperor and St. George standing facing, holding between them a patriarchal cross.
    Sear 2034.
  14. Milesofwho

    Milesofwho Omnivorous collector

    Very interesting! I had never even heard of Gabalas before! Do you have a better picture of it? Also, what is a noticeable difference between Latin issues and Bulgarian imitations? Here is my Latin trachy. 078467EF-1C64-4810-B816-8400B88B3CF6.jpeg 20A1DB8B-9978-4FDC-AA9E-7EF91A269C34.jpeg Unfortunately double struck, but I haven’t really seen a clearer image of Michael and the MX.
  15. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    @The Trachy Enjoyer, Many thanks for the links to Dumbarton Oaks!!! Near as I can reconstruct, it was @dltsrq who first pointed this out, in this thread --with which I hope you're already familiar:
    ...Sadly, my aging desktop had trouble with downloading the biggest file, possibly the one that ran to the Latin interval and later. It's sounding as if the website itself could have been upgraded since that point. It definitely warrants another look!
  16. The Trachy Enjoyer

    The Trachy Enjoyer Well-Known Member

  17. The Trachy Enjoyer

    The Trachy Enjoyer Well-Known Member

  18. otlichnik

    otlichnik Well-Known Member

    Great write up TTE. I have identified my two nice trachys, but have a "hoard" of about 60 smaller ones - I assume possibly Bulgarian imitations but I don't know - to ID one day.

    Is "Late Byzantine Coins in the Ashmolean Museum" online or only in book form? I have the DOC pdfs but find they are not ideal for identifying worn coins.

  19. The Trachy Enjoyer

    The Trachy Enjoyer Well-Known Member

    LBC is only in print as far as I am aware. Its a great resource though
    Inspector43 and +VGO.DVCKS like this.
  20. Inspector43

    Inspector43 73 Year Collector Supporter

    I have one that I know of. I need to follow you guys and see if I can learn more about them.
    +VGO.DVCKS likes this.
  21. The Trachy Enjoyer

    The Trachy Enjoyer Well-Known Member

    Latin kingdom Sear 2036! Sorry, I didnt see the bottom part of this message. Bulgarian imitations usually just look...awful. They are basically abstract interpretations of the original design. Most are comprised of pellets with crude designs.

    Latin empire has crude style but is recognizable. They have certain types they stick to and certain stylistic features that carry across most issues
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