My top ten for 2020

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Orfew, Nov 30, 2020.

  1. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    Top ten coins of 2020

    It took me a few days to narrow this down to a top 10. It was a very good year for Flavian denarii. In fact among the coins I am leaving off the list include: a rare Judea Capta denarius, a Titus Cistophorus, 2 very rare Domitian denarii with the Aegis portraits, and other rarities which normally would have made my list. Note that there are no Domitian denarii with the Minerva reverse in my top 10. Oh he's there was also that unique Dattari plate coin for Vespasian. This also did not make the cut this year.

    This year has had challenges that we have faced in one way or another. I am sure most have recognized that the prices for collectible ancient coins have been sky rocketing as of late. Some have speculated that this is the result of people having more time to shop online and do the necessary research on these coins. Other have suggested that the current climate has meant that more people are seeking tangible assets. Whatever the reason events have been affecting the sales of ancient coins. Some of the coins below come from unlikely sources where the rapid inflation of prices is not as apparent as it is with the results of the large auction houses.

    Please take a look and let me know what you think of my top ten. Please share any information you may have regarding these coins. Thanks for looking.

    10.Domitian AR Cistophorus 95 CE
    (26mm 6h)
    Obv: laureate head of Domitian right; IMP CAES DOMITIANVS
    Rev: Distyle temple inscribed ROM ET AVG containing figure of Augustus, standing facing, spear in right hand, being crowned with right hand by female figure of Roma (on right), cornucopia in left hand
    RIC 854
    2020 September 9-10 Wednesday & Thursday World & Ancient Coins Weekly Online Auction #232037 Lot #62175

    Well this one was a no brainer. It has to be here because it represents the only cistophorus

    Of Domitian in my collection. It was in fact the second Flavian cisto I purchased this year but the first one was of Titus. The fact that it featured a temple on the reverse made this coin a must buy for me. I have tried a number of times for a temple denarius for Domitian but there has always been someone else willing to pay more. The temple denarii I have tried for have all gone for low four figures. So, a rare coin, a temple reverse, the personification of Roma on a coin, and a big hunk of silver which cost me about the same as 3 common Minerva denarii in fine condition? Oh yes…I could not grab this one fast enough.

    It is hard to believe that this one barely made my top ten for the year.The next coin could also have been ranked higher, but i made the best determinations I could. D854 Heritage.jpg

    9. Vespasian AR denarius, Rome mint, c. 21 Dec 69 - early 70 A.D.;
    Obv: Laureate head right; IMP CAESAR VESPASIANVS AVG,;
    Rev: Judaea or Jewess seated right on ground at foot of palm tree behind her, her hands bound behind and tied to the tree, IVDAEA in exergue;
    RIC 4 (R)
    This coin is part of the Westbury Sub Mendip hoard of 188 Roman silver denari, found during 2016 by a metal detectorist
    Ex: Silbury Coins

    This one ticked many boxes for me as a collector of Flavian silver coins. First, it is a very sought after Judea Capta type. Next, it is not the Judea Capta type one usually finds available in the marketplace in general. RIC 2 which is both a very common and very sought after type can be found in numerous coin auctions month after month. RIC 4 (my coin) cannot. The difference may seem miniscule to some but I really like the rarer type better. Why? RIC 4 features a palm tree instead of a trophy of arms on the reverse. I like the imagery more than that which appears on the common counterpart. However, this coin has something else going for it. It is a documented hoard coin. I find it fascinating that we can trace this coin back to the ground where it had lain for centuries. I also like knowing the story of the detectorist who found the coin hoard. To me the stories are important. I love having the provenance of the coins I collect because it fills in a little more of the story of the coin.

    V4 silbury.jpg
    8. Titus. AR Denarius as Caesar, AD 69-79. Rome, under Vespasian, Struck AD 77/8.

    (19.04 mm, 3.22 g),
    Obv: T CAESAR IMP VESPASIANVS, laureate head of Titus right.
    Rev: COS VI, prow of galley right, sides ornameted with intricate cross-hatch and maeander patterns; above, star with sixteen rays. RIC 950 (R); BMC 226; RSC 68. SRCV I (2000) 2441
    Ex: Numismatik Naumann Auction 88 Lot 656 April 5 2020.
    Ex: Roman coin shop dot com

    A few years ago I was lucky enough to find an example of this coin for a very reasonable price in nice collectible condition. I had been trying to find an upgrade for some years before this one came along. I hope you can tell from the photo that the coin is superb. An amazing portrait, great toning and a very interesting reverse. If you have read any of my threads before you might recall that Vespasian often used the reverses from earlier important figures to legitimize his rule and hearken back to the glory days of the early empire and even back to the republican foundations of Rome. This reverse calls to mind the use of the prow on republican coins and to the coins of Ahenobarbus and Marcus Antonius. I was extremely lucky to grab this one. Our own Jay is now the owner of my first example of this coin. I know it is in good hands.

    Screen Shot 2020-10-31 at 1.32.01 PM.png
    7.Domitian. AD 81-96. AR Denarius
    (17.5mm, 3.47 g, 6h). Rome mint.
    Struck 13 September-31 December AD 81.
    Obv: Laureate head right; IMP CAESAR DOMITANVS AVG
    Rev: Pulvinar (throne) of Jupiter and Juno: square seat, draped, with tassels: it has a triangular frame on it, on which are three vertical bars on each side and one palmette in center, there is a lituus under the triangular frame; TR P COS VII.
    RIC II.1 3 (Var), RSC 554a (var).
    Light tone over hairlined surfaces. Good VF.
    From the Benito Collection.
    CNG electronic auction 468 Lot 411

    When I saw this I knew I had to have it. I already had one in my collection. In fact the newer coin is a double die match to the one I bought a few years ago. What is the big deal? First it does not feature Miinerva on the reverse. The reverse carries over a design from the reign of Titus. The first one I bought was published in KOINON 1. This particular variant is not in the current RIC. The difference is the implement under the triangular frame. Though many have called it a Lituus, others have said that it certainly does not look like one. I do not know what the object actually is. I do know that it rarely makes an appearance on coins of this type. This coin was once the property of a diplomat. He passed and CNG was selling off his collection. Many of his coins are in really nice condition. This collector certainly had an eye for quality coins. This is a coin I never thought I would be able to upgrade. Fortunately, I was able to capture this one.

    d3 var cng.jpg
    6. Vespasian 69-70 CE AR Denarius Uncertain Spanish mint.
    (18 mm 3.10 g,)
    Obv: Head laureate left; IMP CAESAR VESPASIANUS AVG
    Rev: Victory stg left on globe holding palm; VICTORIA IMP VESPASIANI
    RIC 1340 (R); BMC 362; RSC 630
    Ex: Zeus Numismatics Budget Auction 9 June 20 2020, Lot 655

    While not the rarest of my coins this is a very difficult coin to find if you are are looking for one. There are only 2 known denarii for Vespasian which have this reverse legend. The victory on globe is also a rare reverse for Vespasian. When I see this reverse I am reminded of a reverse on the denarii of Augustus. Of course I also love the obverse portrait. The style of the portrait tells me that this coin was likely struck at a Spanish mint. Which one is still a mystery.
    Vespasian RIC 1340.jpg

    5.Vespasian AR Denarius. Lugdunum. 70 CE
    (16.5mm 3.04g)
    Obv: Head laureate right; IMP CAESAR VESPASIAVS AVG TR P.
    Rev: Palm tree; to left Judea standing left; hands bound in front; IVDEA DEVICTA
    RIC 1120; BMC 388; RSC 243
    Purchased from INumis August 3, 2020.

    I simply could not believe it when I saw this one become available. I had been looking for one for some time. Though not strictly counted as rare, these rarely become available in the market. First there is the reference to a defeated personification of Judea that is also seen on the Judea Capta coins. In fact, it is the connection to Judea which makes this coin type so sought after. Of course it is also sought after because it is Judea Devicta and not Judea Capta. I find that the depiction of Judea on this coin strikes me as being more mournful than the other depictions on Vespasian denarii. There are mysteries here as well. Why was this coin struck at a non Rome mint. In many cases denarii types for Vespasian were struck at both Roman and non Roman mints. However this coin was not struck in Rome at all (not that we know of anyway). Why not? An other mystery concerns the fact that most of these that survive are actually fourrees and not solid silver. I have not happened upon any reasonable explanation for this. While this coin is certainly not in top condition I had to buy it because I did not know when I would have the opportunity to buy one again.

    V1120 new copy.jpg

    4. Vespasian, 69-79. Denarius Ephesus, 71
    (17 mm, 2.65 g 7h)
    Obv: Laureate head of Vespasian to right; IMP CAESAR VESPAS AVG COS III TR P P P
    Rev: Φ within wreath. AVG
    RIC 1422AA (not in current RIC)
    Ex: Leu Numismatik Web Auction 13 Lot 1139 August 16, 2020
    Coin depicted on the database.

    This one was listed as RIC 1414 by the auction house. It is not RIC 1414, in fact it is not listed in RIC or any other major reference at all. RIC 1414 has COS II in the obverse legend. This coin has COS III. When one looks at the COS III types this one is not listed at all. The AVG in wreath type is known for other Ephesian types. It has been given the designation 1422AA. This is the attribution that will be used in the forthcoming RIC addenda. It is of course extremely rare. I know of only one other and that one is owned by @David Atherton.


    3.Vespasian AR Denarius. Uncertain mint. 69-70 CE
    (17.5mm 3.3g 7h)
    Obv: Head laureate right, globe at neck truncation; IMP CAESAR VESPASIANVS AVG
    Rev: Titus and Domitian on curule chair; both holding Laurel branches; TITVS ET DOMITIANVS PRIN IV
    RIC: 1363A (Not in current RIC) One of 2 known examples
    Purchased from on August 21 2020.
    Coin depicted on the database

    I bought this coin thinking it was RIC 1363 which is a very rare coin. Thanks to @David Atherton I found out that it was instead an unpublished denarius. I originally wanted this coin because of the fantastic and unusual; portrait and for the excellent reverse. The reverse legend is very rare but I was very attracted to the dynastic figures on the reverse. I love the dynastic reverses for Vespasian. I find them both attractive and interesting. As well of course they send an important message concerning the succession and therefore continuation of the Flavian dynasty. After I bought the coin David informed me that the coin was not 1363 but was instead a currently unpublished variety. The coin is named 1363A because that is how it will be catalogued in the upcoming RIC addenda. The globe at the end of the neck truncation on the obverse portrait is what makes this the unpublished variety.
    V1363A-removebg-preview copy.jpg

    2. Titus Silver denarius, 74 CE Rome
    (3.160g, maximum diameter 19.3mm, die axis 180o )
    Obv: T CAESAR IMP VESP counter-clockwise from lower right, laureate head right;
    Rev: PONTIF TR POT (priest, holder of Tribunitian power) counter-clockwise from lower right, Titus seated right on curule chair, long scepter vertical in right hand, palm branch in extended left hand;
    RIC II-2 695 [VESP] (R3, this coin and this coin illustrated in the plates),
    This is the RIC plate coin! no recorded sales of the type on Coin Archives for the last two decades; extremely rare
    Ex Stack’s Bowers Galleries January 2019 NYINC Auction 11-12 January 2019 Lot 41006 (part of a large lot)
    Purchased from Forvm Ancient Coins on Jan 12, 2020
    Coin depicted in the database.

    This coin was one of my first purchases of 2020. There are exactly 2 of these known. So yes this coin is special because of its rarity, but there are other reasons as well. The short legends is another reason it is rare. What makes this coin important is the fact that this coin is the RIC plate coin. Most RIC plate coins are in Museums or other important collections. I feel very lucky to have added this coin to my collection. This coin is a real catch for a collector of Flavian rarities. BTW this coin was once in the possession of a fellow ct member.
    Titus RIC 695.jpg

    1.Domitian, as Augustus (AD 81-96). AR denarius
    (19mm, 3.54 gm, 6h). NGC VF 5/5 - 4/5.
    Rome, 3rd issue, AD 88.
    Obv: IMP CAES DOMIT AVG GERM P M TR P VIII, laureate head of Domitian left
    Rev: COS XIIII-LVD SAEC / FEC, herald advancing left, wearing feathered cap, wand outward in right hand, round shield in left.
    RIC II.1 597. Extremely rare with left facing portrait.
    Ex: Harlan Berk Vcoins 2005 cc50283. This coin was sold to Phil Peck in May 2007. Morris collection is the Heritage Auctions name for the Phil Peck collection.
    2020 January 26 Ancient Coin Selections from the Morris Collection, Part III World Coins Monthly Online Auction #61151 Lot #97225.

    Now this had to be my #1 pick for the year and I believe it was my first numismatic purchase of the year as well. I should have known it would all be downhill from here LOL. I bought it for several reasons. First it is a secular games issue which means no Minerva on the reverse. Instead, Domitian copied designs from the rule of Augustus on this series of denarii. The fact that the games were previously celebrated by Augustus may have had something to do with the choice, but I also believe that Domitian was copying his father’s use of earlier reverse motifs to refer back to a very prosperous and celebrated time in the history of the empire. They wanted to link previous successes to their turns as emperors. Secondly, it has a lovely portrait. Next was the fact that the portrait is left facing. No one understands why both Titus and Vespasian had left facing portraits on their denarii with some regularity while they are truly the exceptions for Domitian. Another reason I wanted this coin was the provenance. It was part of the “Morris” collection. Morris was a pseudonym for a New York collector. His collection was important and impressive. An extra bonus was the pedigree that came with the coin. This will prove important for a discovery made after I received the coin. This coin had to be my #1 because thanks to the help of Curtis Clay, David Atherton and Jay Grande I discovered that this coin was the RIC (2007) plate coin. After buying the coin I was curious about the RIC example. I saw the photo and almost fell off my chair. I thought it had a really good chance of being the coin I had just purchased. After consulting with the 3 persons mentioned above we all agreed it was the plate coin. In fact, Curtis Clay had written the information on the coin tag which served as part of the pedigree for the coin. I will cherish this coin until I cease to own it. Directions are already are a part of my will which specify what will happen to this coin when I am gone. I never want this coin to be separated from its history or documentation thereof.

    Domitian ric 597 Heritage.jpg
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  3. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    Some handsome coins. Nice selection. I like 10, 8, 6, & 3 best.
    Orfew likes this.
  4. Quant.Geek

    Quant.Geek Well-Known Member

    Those are all lovely, but 10, 7, and 4 are my favorites. The Domitian has an overall appeal on both the obverse and reverse! Congrats and hope next year brings you even more success in your collecting ventures...
    Orfew likes this.
  5. Jay GT4

    Jay GT4 Well-Known Member

    Fantastic 10 Andrew. It would be tough to rank any of these in order but my favorite would be the Spanish mint Victory on globe. A real beauty. And yes, thanks for your prow reverse denarius, it now has a place of honor in my collection. I'm just glad David has most of these types already or else we wouldn't stand a chance! :)
    I have a few more coming in before I can make up a list but they will also be all Flavians!
    Orfew likes this.
  6. happy_collector

    happy_collector Well-Known Member

    Lovely coins. Personal preference are #7, 8 and 10. Like the reverses of these 3.
    Orfew likes this.
  7. AncientJoe

    AncientJoe Supporter! Supporter

    Your Ephesus #4 is my favorite. The portrait is absolutely superb.
    Orfew likes this.
  8. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

  9. akeady

    akeady Well-Known Member

    Super coins, Orfew - whatever about the rest of the year, the coiny part certainly has gone well!

  10. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    That's an excellent group. #4 from Ephesus is my favorite. It has both a fabulous portrait and an elegant reverse. (The rarity doesn't hurt, either, but it not, to me, a critical factor.)
    Orfew likes this.
  11. thejewk

    thejewk Well-Known Member

    A good year Orfew.
  12. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Dombes collector Supporter

    Fabulous series, I would be hard pressed to choose just one among them. Well, OK, two : the cistophorus and the Ephesus have my preference

    Thanks for sharing
    Orfew likes this.
  13. gogili1977

    gogili1977 Well-Known Member

    Beautiful, rare, historically interesting...denarii. Congratulations!!! My favorites are 1, 4, and 10.
    Orfew likes this.
  14. Limes

    Limes Supporter! Supporter

    Great coins, and short write-ups. You managed to catch a lot of rarities. Owning 1 (or 2 :)) RIC plate coins is just amazing. My favorite is your no. 1.
  15. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic Supporter

    I think the interesting part of year end Top Ten Lists is seeing what makes other collectors tick - especially ones that operate within my own wheelhouse.

    Andrew, you had quite an exceptional year and the list reflects that! Knowing what you acquired this year I would be hard pressed to put together a definitive Top Ten group. That being said, my picks and their order would be vastly different! For instance the Titus cistophorus would've been on the list, #10 would've made the top 5 (but then again I love architectural reverses), and #3 would be #1.

    But that's what makes this Flavian speciality so interesting, no two Flavian fanatics are the same.

    Congrats on a phenomenal year and wishing you the best for 2021!
    Jay GT4 and Orfew like this.
  16. Spaniard

    Spaniard Well-Known Member

    Wow!....Great looking ten.....#8, #6 and #4 for me, but all are pretty exceptional coins!......Really enjoyed your reasons for acquiring them..Congrats on a good year.
    Orfew likes this.
  17. svessien

    svessien Senior Member Supporter

    Wow. You have really done well this year, just wow. They’re all great.
    Orfew likes this.
  18. Ryro

    Ryro They call me the 13th Caesar Supporter

    I LOVE the specialist lists! And yours is a perfect example to show just how diverse a "specialist" collectors collection can be!
    Thoroughly enjoyed your reasons. Some beautiful portraits on 8,7,3 & 1. And amazing rarity on your #1!
    Orfew likes this.
  19. Clavdivs

    Clavdivs Supporter! Supporter

    Excellent coins all... my favorite is #3..
    Orfew likes this.
  20. Ancient Aussie

    Ancient Aussie Supporter! Supporter

    Fantastic Flavians, all superb but for eye appeal I can't go past your Ephesus Vespasian absolutely beautiful portrait and toning. Congrats on a great year of collecting.
    Orfew likes this.
  21. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    Your year has been SLAMMIN’, Andrew. They are all awesome, because I know how these REALLY fit into your collecting passion! I can’t or won’t pick the best. They all are.
    Orfew likes this.
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