Featured Michael VIII Sear 2310 - On the Stamenon Denomination Attribution - Near Complete Reverse Legend

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by The Trachy Enjoyer, Apr 2, 2021.

  1. The Trachy Enjoyer

    The Trachy Enjoyer Well-Known Member

    MICHAEL VIII PALAEOLOGOS (1261-1282). Stamenon/Trachy. Thessalonica.
    Obv: MP - ΘV / Half-length facing bust of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary) orans.
    Rev: ΔΠT ΠT - *OAΓ ΓANMC / Half-length busts of Michael and St. Demetrios, who holds a spear, holding patriarchal cross between them; above, star in center of firmament.
    Sear 2310. Weight: 2.59 g. Diameter: 27 mm.

    IMG_6474_scrubbed.png IMG_6475_scrubbed.png IMG_6473_scrubbed.png

    This Stamenon, although already pretty rare, really stuck out to me due to the near complete reverse legend surviving on the coin (much more complete than the examples in DOC, LBC and the Billon Trachea of Michael VIII)! The first part of the reverse legend, ΔΠT ΠT, appears to be the result of an overstrike. The would leave ΔΠT on the legend, most likely the fragmentary remains of some form of XMIΔECΔΠTI. This would Translate to Michael and some form of Family name or titles.

    The rest of the reverse legend contains *OAΓ ΓANMC. The *OAΓ translates to holy or holy saint (depending on the interpretation of the letters). The ΓANMC section was harder to see but is some form of Demetrius either poorly spelled or poorly struck (or both).

    The attribution of this coin is contested. Eleni Lianta describes it as a stamenon where as Philip Grierson describes it as a normal trachy. From my understanding, there is no clear distinction between the two. Stamenon tend to be flatter and heavier where as the trachy has more curvature yet weighs less. (And to add to confusion, earlier trachys are indentified as Trachy Stamenon:shifty:)Assuming this is indeed the way stamenon are attributed (clarrifcation on this topic would be appriciated), then this coin would indeed be a stamenon due to an interesting feature...it is curved the wrong way! Its subtle yet clearly curves inwards on the obverse whereas trachys are the opposite. The method of striking trachys involved using dies with matched curvature, making an invertedly stuck coin almost impossible (of course, PMD is always possible) IMG_6658.jpg
    A flat struck coin (especially with dies a bit too small) would make a slight inversion the other way possible. Thoughts? This obverse curve seems to indicate that sear 2310 is indeed a stamenon, as I don't think a trachy could possibly be minted with inverted curvature (I have never seen one).
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2021
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  3. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    I think the late time period has a lot less uniformity in the names of denominations. Different Authors , different names for a multitude of reasons.

    I posted a similar question in 2002 on Yahoo Groups and Forum Ancient Coins.

    The best response I got was from a Great Byzantine Collector who ended up aiding me on several of my questions.

    Tornese, assiarion ,follaro, stamenon, are they concaved coins?
    What is the aprox size for each?
    Was the Assiaron just a name change for the tetarteron or was it a totally different coin?


    The best reply.

    The coins that David Sear calls assarion are called tetarteron by Simon
    Bendall. The word assarion means "smallest," so it appears to be a
    nickname for the tetarteron. The assaria and tetartera that I have seen
    are flat coins, not scyphate.

    Tornese appears to be a French name for a billon coin that was applied
    to low denomination Byzantine coins whose name in that culture we are
    not sure of. It appears that Tornese are billon, where tetartera are

    The AE stamenon appears to be a word applied to billon and copper
    trachea. These coins are scyphate (the word scyphate, btw, is a
    descriptive word for cup shaped coins).

    The follaro was the Byzantine Empire's last copper coin, struck after
    the other coins were no longer minted. The follaro is too tiny and to
    thin a coin to be scyphate. Its name is also an Italian word for a coin
    whose actual name in the Byzantine culture we do not know, but I suspect
    that the Byzantines called it a follis, even though this tiny crude coin
    was a far cry from the follis coins of the early empire.

    --Chris Connell
  4. The Trachy Enjoyer

    The Trachy Enjoyer Well-Known Member

    That is helpful, thanks for this clarification! :D:D
    +VGO.DVCKS and BenSi like this.
  5. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    All other denominations mentioned by @BenSi are post-1300, while "stamenon" comes from the older 'histamenon nomisma' used in the 11th century for the full-weight gold coin of the Empire. ιστάμενον means 'standard' which conveyed that a coinage is of the old weight and purity (so the standard coin) in an era that saw some innovations in terms of currency and denominations at Constantinople. Probably the term stuck to the concave coinages after the 11th century because the full weight solidus (the histamenon nomisma) was itself concave, although by the 13th century it would've been meaningless as most documents refer to the 'perperi' or 'bezanti' (the hyperpyron) as the Imperial gold coin and the 'billon' trachea was by this time all over the place in terms of both composition and weight -- so nothing standard about it. For the Latins that used the term 'stamenon' for the base metal trachy it was possibly with its meaning as the most common of the coinages, so a petty coin, rather than what it had previously meant: a stable coinage of standard characteristics (like the 'stater' of the Archaic and Classical Greece, also a ιστάμενον in its own right).
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2021
  6. The Trachy Enjoyer

    The Trachy Enjoyer Well-Known Member

    Interesting, I wonder why the author of LBC has made that distinction. I will have to reread and see if any reasons are given...it seems like a peculiar term that DOC is not using for the same coin types (rather referring to them as trachys)
  7. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    It is interesting that as our knowledge increases we add more names for the coins, the academic books are quick to change and add , the coin collectors catalogs are not.

    The real name for a Electrum Aspron Trachy is trikephalon, that is what the people of the time period called them. No coin catalog gives that name.
  8. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    I think this is to be expected as most collectors are not also numismatists and are not prone to follow the new research (or are even aware of new research). If the catalog that they use says aspron trachy then that's what the coin will always be.

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    The only qualification I would make to that is that some series --for instance, sceattas, or late Byzantine-- are almost inherently more arcane than others. At this level, you effectively have to be a numismatist, at least at an amateur level, in order to collect them. ...Why, for instance, some of us don't, and can only admire the ones who do!
    The Trachy Enjoyer likes this.
  10. The Trachy Enjoyer

    The Trachy Enjoyer Well-Known Member

    Hopefully the field becomes more accessible! That is my goal when I ever I post a coin or writeup
    +VGO.DVCKS likes this.
  11. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    I learn something every time you do!!! Thanks, by the way.
    The Trachy Enjoyer likes this.
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