On the Dark Side

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by kevin McGonigal, Aug 8, 2021.

  1. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    In going through my collection recently I noticed that some of my silver is dark, very dark. Now I don't think what I have is the normal "cabinet toning" which tends to the dark gray. I have several coins which are a dark blue shaded almost black in appearance, metal surface and I got to wondering why some are so very dark. In doing some on-line research I found out a bit about "argentites" where coins have been exposed to silver sulfide or hydrogen sulfide or Sulphur hydroxide (disclaimer: I am no chemist) causing coins to darkly tone, especially in the presence of the decay of organic matter. That brought all kinds of images to mind which I mused on for a while. Ancient coins winding up in a trash dump or midden in a sea of decaying garbage. Ancient coins buried in a grave site or maybe a "Charon's coin" left to pay the ferryman. Anyway, with silver coins this dark, I wonder if something more than just time is involved here. Or am I wrong, that ALL silver coins being found in every original site come to us dark and, as most original coin finds are very dark, most are cleaned before being marketed. I ask readers if they know anything about such very darkly toned silver coins and how they may have arrived as very darkly toned.

    Something else I was wondering about in my musings. When silver coins are this dark does this affect, aesthetically speaking, their appeal? Their value? Generally I prefer my silver (and brass) to be lighter in tone as my students never spent much time looking at a coin that is too dark. Also I associate dark coins with corrosion and roughness (the three below are actually smooth as glass) but this may just my limited anecdotal observations and nothing more. if readers have some very darkly toned silver coins could they post them and tell us how they feel about them, whether they ever wonder how they got to be so dark and how they feel about coins being this dark.

    And now the coins. From the left, a Corinthian stater, Sear 2626, Ravel 384, Pegasi 126 and 8.6 grams. In the middle a siliqua of Julian II (the Apostate) from the Harptree hoard where quite a number of these coins are found very dark and are still on the market as such. It weighs in at 2.6 grams and is Sear 4071. The third is a silver drachma from the Caesarea Mint of Lucius Verus and is almost obsidian black on the reverse. These coins are abot 80% silver. RPCIV 3, Syd. 354 at 6.1 grams. So please post any of your very dark silver coinage and tell us what you think of such dark silver coins.

    IMG_2077Toning obverse.jpg IMG_2078Toning rev..jpg
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2021
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  3. Ryro

    Ryro Trying to remove supporter status Supporter

    Great coins and questions:wideyed::bookworm: I don't know what might do this victory an old cabinet.
    I too really enjoy a nicely toned coin. These two come to mind:
    49E08591-EE30-4F06-B2C1-A5D078E82C2B(1).jpg Collage_2021-01-21_11_39_41_2-removebg-preview.png

    But then there are coins that are so dark they look black.
    This one comes to mind as I just won it yesterday. I think the reason that I got it for so cheap (same coin in worse condition sell time and again on CNG in the hundreds) is that it almost looks bronze and not silver!
    CILICIA, Tarsos. Circa 370 BC. AR Obol. Female kneeling left, casting astragaloi / Youthful male head right.

    Condition: Very Fine

    Weight: 0,4 gr
    Diameter: 10 mm

    But I like it and will certainly not attempt to make it another shiny piece of ancient silver
  4. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    Nice coins!

    Ancient coins that we have today reflect the conditions that they came from. I think it is safe to say that the vast majority of coins on the market and in collections are from hoards or individual finds. As such, the environmental conditions of their deposition have a direct effect on whether they are heavily toned, or encrusted, or corroded.

    Water and air exposure and chemical composition of the soil can result in a coin with "hoard" patina, as with this imitative owl. I think, when it first came out of the ground, it was uniformly coated with a brown crust, and was cleaned to highlight the design, much the same way as with many bronze coins with earthen deposits, whose green or brown design elements often provide dramatic contrast.

    17.4 grams
    D-Camera Athens tetradrachm, possible imitation, eBay,  17.4 grams,  8-19-20.jpg

    As far as appeal, that's in the eye of the beholder. This coin is obviously not in "MS" condition, but it does have its own historical appeal. Still, it is probably not to the taste of a large number of collectors, so it is worth less than a cleaned (judiciously) comparable example.
  5. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Supporter! Supporter

    I'm not bothered with the dark toning on some of my coins : they live their coin life, and I'm quite happy with how they look !!!





  6. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    Ah, they are, indeed, pleasant to look at and wonder.
    Ryro likes this.
  7. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    Is your coin silver. It's weight is correct for silver but I probably, at first sight would have thought it a bronze. Where has it been the last couple thousand years?
    robinjojo likes this.
  8. ominus1

    ominus1 Supporter! Supporter

    ...chocolate is the last color of a toning silver coin...i thought this a limes denarius till i reopened a test cut:) IMG_0558.JPG IMG_0559.JPG
  9. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    It is silver. If I were to scratch it, bright silver would appear. This is a tetradrachm that was struck to the Attic standard of 17.3 grams per tetradrachm.

    This coin was purchased from an Israeli dealer, so it must have come from somewhere in that region. The problem with attributing the exact location with this and so many other ancients on the market is the reticence of sellers divulging the hoard locations. In the past, at best, I was able to attribute coins as coming from "around Jericho" or "Jordan" or "near Nablus" or "Gaza". This information is only useful to a limited degree; it does not really say anything about a hoard location. These coins could very well have come from elsewhere, through intermediaries.

    It is now thought that these imitations came from five or more mints in Philistia and Phoenicia, many of which were struck to more local weight standards.

    Here are some examples. All three have been cleaned.

    The weights are, from left to right, 15.0, 15.5 and 15.5 grams

    D-Camera Athens 3 imitation owls, Levant, 15, 15.5, 15.5g 4th cen BCE 6-27-21.jpg
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2021
  10. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member

    I bought this denarius (Postumia 7, Cr322/1) from NFA in 1988 where it was billed as ex Brauer collection. Today as on the day it arrived, it is stark white bright. Other coins I have had along the way have toned; some have toned more than others. All have been kept together. I assume this coin was 'treated' in some way to keep it bright but I have detected no coating residue. Certainly I could soak it in acetone or some such but really see no reason to mess with it.
  11. Mammothtooth

    Mammothtooth Stand up Philosopher, Vodka Taster

    I want Lego IV……
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  12. Mammothtooth

    Mammothtooth Stand up Philosopher, Vodka Taster

    Wonderful Lego IV plus the others
    Cucumbor likes this.
  13. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    I had no idea about the terminal chocolate.
    ominus1 likes this.
  14. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    Thanks for that post. I did not know about those tetras appearing like this. I am only familiar with those from the Athenian mints.
  15. DonnaML

    DonnaML Well-Known Member

    A few of my darker silver coins:


    Tiberius denarius jpg version.jpg

    Septimius Severus

    Septimius Severus, Indulgentia, Dea Caelestis & lion - jpg version.jpg

    Lucius Verus denarius:

    Lucius Verus AR Denarius.jpg

    Lucius Verus didrachm, Cappadocia:

    Lucius Verus Didrachm, Cappadocia (Caesarea), Mt. Argaeus rev., LAC.jpg

    Trajan/Melqart, Tyre:

    Version 2 Trajan-Melqart Tyre, Phoenicia 100 AD jpg.jpg
    Andres2, Cucumbor, Hrefn and 8 others like this.
  16. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Paint it black!!

    Faustina II, AD 147-175.
    Roman AR denarius, 3.41 g, 18.7 mm, 11 h.
    Rome, AD 161-164.
    Obv: FAVSTINA AVGVSTA, draped bust right, wearing stephane.
    Rev: LAETITIA, Laetitia standing facing, head left, holding wreath and scepter.
    Refs: RIC 701; BMCRE 129-131; Cohen 148; RCV --; MIR 21-4/10b diad.; CRE 198.

    Volusian IVNO MARTIALIS antoninianus Antioch.jpg
    Volusian, AD 251-253.
    Roman AR antoninianus, 4.00 g, 23.1 mm, 11 h.
    Antiochia, 3rd officina, 3rd issue, AD 252-253.
    Obv: IMP C C VIB VOLVSIANVS AVG, radiate, draped and cuirassed bust, right; ••• below.
    Rev: IVNO MARTIALIS, Juno seated left, holding corn-ears(?) and scepter; ••• in exergue.
    Refs: RIC 218; RSC 38B; RCV --.
    Ex-Richard McAlee collection.
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  17. DonnaML

    DonnaML Well-Known Member

    By the time of Volusian, how much silver was really in the antoniniani? That question made me reluctant to consider anything after, say, the first half of the 3rd century as really being "dark silver"?
  18. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    From Antioch?? 18.9%, whereas those issued in Rome were less debased (30.9%), with the least debased being the unknown branch mint previously believed to have been Mediolanum (37.9% silver)!

    See table 3 in Pannekeet, Cornelis GJ. "A Theory on How the Denarius Disappeared and the Debasement of the Antoninianus." Academia.edu, www.academia.edu/3784962/A_theory_on_how_the_denarius_disappeared_and_the_debasement_of_the_antoninianus?auto=download.
  19. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member

    After chocolate comes black. This is a drachm for Caracalla from Caesarea.

    This Julia Domna is also year 5 (E) but was cleaned sometime along the way. Remember there are ancient coins that were cleaned and in collections before the first US coins were struck so it is quite possible that a coin could have 200+ years of retoning. Some ancient coins were dug up today; some have been around and above ground for centuries.
  20. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

  21. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    You have a good eye for quality coinage.
    DonnaML likes this.
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