Orielensis' Top 10 of 2019

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Orielensis, Dec 5, 2019.

  1. Orielensis

    Orielensis Well-Known Member

    It seems to be that time of year, so here are my top ten of 2019 in chronological order. Since I personally always like to hear why others include specific coins in their own lists, I gave a brief explanation with each coin.

    Let me know which one(s) you like best, and please feel free to post anything related!

    1. It almost feels bad to start with this one. It is a type that all of you will have seen a zillion times, but it is representative of a trend in my collecting: although I often and with much joy handle my Greek collection, I didn’t add many coins to it this year. It has reached a size I am generally happy with. While I am thus not doing a lot of shopping around for Greek curiosities anymore, there are a few iconic coin types I feel are still missing. The Athenian tetradrachm filled the largest of these gaps. Since I didn’t like the idea of spending a small fortune on an immaculate example, I decided to search for one with enough historical wear to at the same time drop the price and imbue it with a layer of fascination apart from being “an owl.” This one fit both the bill and my expectations, and I simply love the chunkiness of it.
    Magna Graecia – Attica, Athen, tetradrachme.png
    Attica, Athens, AR tetradrachm, ca. 440s–430s BC. Obv: head of Athena to right, wearing crested Attic helmet decorated with three olive leaves and palmette. Rev: AΘE; Owl standing right, head facing; to left, olive sprig and crescent; all within incuse square. 24mm, 17.14g. Ref: Kroll 8. Ex Leu, Webauktion 8, lot 232.

    2. This denarius, a favorite haul from AMCC 1, deserves more research and a proper writeup at some point. At this point, I have a lot of semi-answered questions:
    Why is there a Macedonian king on a Roman coin? (It has something to do with the moneyer’s cognomen being based on an ancestor’s connection to Philip V of Macedon mentioned by Livy, History of Rome, 42.38.8–9 , but the exact relation is unclear.)
    Why are there goat’s horns on Philip’s helmet? (Hint: read your Livy closely or see this wonderful blog.)
    Could there be a connection between the equestrian statue on the reverse and the rider on many common Macedonian coins? (The resemblance at least seems striking.)
    What the heck is the “flower” beneath the horse? (Theories range from a support structure preventing the statue from tipping over to a mythological reference to the conception of Mars.)
    Questions over questions. I’ll have to do some more reading over the holidays to better understand this coin, but it definitely makes my list. In my eyes, the denarius also gets bonus points for the almost monogram-like ligatured ROMA on the obverse.
    Römische Republik – Denar, L. Marcius Philippus, Philip V Reiterstatue.jpg
    Roman Republic, moneyer: L. Philippus, AR denarius, 113-112 BC, Rome mint. Obv: ROMA (heavily ligated); head of Philip V of Macedon r., wearing helmet decorated with goats' horns and skin; below, Φ. Rev: L·PHILIPPVS; equestrian statue: horseman carries laurel- or palm-branch; below horse, flower (?); below, tablet with inscription and crossed X. 19mm, 3.86g. Ref: RRC 293/1. Ex Calgary Coin (2006); ex JB collection; ex AMCC 2, lot 98.

    3. This one made my list because of the somewhat mysterious reverse: since the ploughman doesn’t wear priestly garments, it’s not quite clear whether the coin shows the drawing of a pomerium or is an agricultural reference. Crawford suspects the latter: “The reverse type now seems to me merely to complement the bust of Ceres on the obverse [...]; I do not believe that there is any reference to Sulla's colonies or to his enlargement of the pomerium” (RRC, p. 392).
    Another fascinating feature of this coin is the clear and quite accurate rendering of a wheelless Roman plough or aratrum.
    Crawford couldn’t identify the control-mark on this particular obverse die, but after close comparison with some Republican coins showing deities in chariots holding whips, I’m pretty convinced it is a whip.
    Römische Republik – Denar, Marius Capito, Ceres, Ochsengespann.png
    Roman Republic, moneyer: C. Marius C. f. Capito, AR denarius serratus, 81 BC, Rome mint. Obv: CAPIT; head of Ceres, diademed, r., control number CV; control mark (whip?) before. Rev: C. MARI. C. F. / S. C; ploughman with two oxen l.; above, control number CV. 18mm, 3.88g. Ref: RRC 378/1c. Ex Numismatik Naumann, Auktion 49, lot 518; ex private collection.

    4. Caesar’s elephant needs no long introduction. @Severus Alexander recently came up with a plausible theory on this type in a splendid write-up. After reading his thoughts on the elephant denarius in last year’s Imperator Tournament, I had badly wanted one and finally pulled the trigger on this example. It is not centered well, but I like the golden-ish toning and the way the elephant seems to emerge from the fog. Note the large number of banker’s marks and graffiti, which for me add some additional interest.
    Römische Republik – Denar, Julius Caesar, Elephant.png
    Roman Republic, Imperatorial Coinage, Julius Caesar, AR denarius, 49–48 BC, military mint moving with Caesar. Obv: [CA]ESAR; elephant walking r., trampling snake. Rev: priestly implements: culullus, aspergillum, axe, apex. 20mm, 3.70g. Ref: RRC 443/1. Ex Artemide, eLive Auktion 8, lot 208.

    5. Many might say that this denarius is nothing special. Yet, I consider it a truly exceptional portrait and will leave it there. As the great philosopher emperor himself wrote: “Everything which is in any way beautiful is beautiful in itself, and terminates in itself, not having praise as part of itself. Neither worse then nor better is a thing made by being praised.” (Meditations IV,20)
    Rom – Marcus Aurelius, Denar, Iuventas.png
    Marcus Aurelius (as Caesar), Roman Empire, denarius, 140–144 AD, Rome mint. Obv: AVRELIVS CAESAR AVG PII F COS; head of Marcus Aurelius, bare, r. Rev: IVVENTAS, Iuventas (youth) standing l., dropping incense in candelabrum and holding patera. 17.5mm, 3.16g. Ref: RIC III Antoninus Pius 423a. Ex CNG.

    6. Though not a rare type, this Cologne obol isn’t found in fully struck and attractive condition that often. There is a specific reason I wanted an outstanding example. The standard catalogues describe the reverse as a church building with three archways. Yet, comparing the coin to other Cologne pfennige showing church buildings makes me suspect that the three “archways” actually represent the sarcophagi of the three Biblical Magi, whose relics the issuer of this coin, Bishop Rainald von Dassel, brought to Cologne Cathedral in 1164. A letter by Rainald von Dassel with details of his acquisition of the relics and instructions for their transportation and display in Cologne survives. I plan to at some point write a longer piece about relics on coins as a form of episcopal and civic self-representation as well as “pilgrimage advertising” in the German Middle Ages. This project might have to wait a little while, though.
    MA – Köln, Rainald von Dassel, Bischof und Gebäude mit Sarkophagen, Obol.png
    Archbishopric of Cologne, under Rainald von Dassel, AR obol, ca. 1159–1167 (or: 1164–1167?). Obv: Bishop facing, holding crosier and book. Rev: church building with three towers, inside, three sarcophagi (?). 14 mm, 0.53g. Ref: Hävernick 498. Ex Teutoburger Münzauktionen, Auction 123, lot 3104.

    7. Only few large bronze and copper coins were issued in medieval western Europe. The coinage of the Norman Kingdom of Sicily is quite exceptional in this regard. On the obverse of this anepigraphic trifollaro you can see the lion commonly used in Norman heraldry. It eventually even found its way into the Royal Arms of England. The reverse shows a date palm which might represent Sicily or, according to another interpretation, the tree of life. In any case, lions with date palms feature prominently in the iconography of Norman Sicily. This motif can be found in mosaics at the royal palace in Palermo and, most prominently, on the royal mantle of Roger II. Arguably the most splendid surviving textile object from the High Middle Ages, the mantle was later used as part of the Imperial Insignia of the Holy Roman Empire. From 1194 to 1806, the German emperors were crowned wearing a garment showing the motifs on this coin.
    MA – Italien, Sicily, William II trifollaro.png
    Norman Kingdom of Sicily, under William II "the Good," AE trifollaro, 1166–1189 AD, Messina mint. Obv: lion's head facing. Rev: palm tree. 26mm, 10.27g. Ref: Spahr 117; Biaggi 1231. Ex Savoca, White Auction 1, lot 15.

    8. Bracteates are probably my main collecting focus, and earlier on this year, I have done a little write-up and shown many of my bracteates in a featured thread. This coin is a true highlight of my bracteate collection. It shows the patron saint of Halberstadt, Saint Stephen. In accord with the account of his death given in Acts 7:54–60, he is shown with the instrument of his martyrdom, stones, and the legend titles him “protomartyr.” The eight-rayed star in the right field is a Greek chi on top of a cross, representing the crucified Christ. This is a visual reference to Stephen having a vision of Christ before he was martyred (see Acts 7:55–56). Also note that Stephen, being one of the Seven Deacons (Acts 6:1–6), wears the liturgical vestment of the diaconate, a diagonal stole.
    MA – Halberstadt, Gero von Schermbke, Brakteat, Hlg. Stephan.png
    Bishopric of Halberstadt, under Gero von Schermbke (sometimes: von Schochwitz), AR bracteate, 1169–1177 AD. Obv: + S–STEPHANVSPROTOMARTI; bust of St. Stephen facing between three stones and star. Rev: negative design. 25mm, 0.83g. Ref: Berger 1324; Slg. Bonhoff 483. Ex Münzenhandlung Löchte (Rheine); ex Teutoburger Münzauktionen, auction 125, lot 1978.

    9. This bracteate is not only visually stunning, it also has an interesting local story. In 1220, the politically strident Archbishop Albrecht of Käfernburg managed to acquire what was believed to be the cranium of St. Maurice, the patron saint of Magdeburg. The new relic was also meant to attract pilgrims and donations. Albrecht needed this additional income to rebuild Magdeburg Cathedral, which had been destroyed in a fire in 1207. Partly for promotion, he minted a series of three bracteates showing the saint with the recently acquired relic, and this coin is one of them.
    MA – Magdeburg, Moritzpfennig 1586, Reliquie.png
    Archbishopric of Magdeburg, Albrecht von Käfernburg, bracteate penny, ca. 1220–1232. Obv: OICI – IVSDV; St. Maurice, nimbate and wearing armour, standing facing, holding cross and lance flag; below, church building with two towers an an arch; inside, cranium relic. Rev: negative design (bracteate). 23mm, 0.68g. Ref: Berger 1586; Slg. Hauswaldt 167; Slg. Bonhoff 712. Ex Westfälische Auktionsgesellschaft (WAG), auction 98, lot 971.

    10. I don’t really focus on medieval British coinage, but now and then, it's time to venture out into non-bracteate territory. This groat with its grim portrait of Edward IV, a central figure in the Wars of the Roses, is quite something to look at and incredibly satisfying to hold. It’s also worth mentioning that it shows a rose, maybe meant to be the White Rose of York, in a fashion similar to some illuminated manuscripts from Edward IV’s reign. I’m glad @Orfew decided to part with it!
    MA – England, Edward, Groat.jpg
    Edward IV (second reign), England, AR groat, 1471–1483, London mint. Obv: EDWARD DI GRA REX ANGL Z FRANC, pierced cross with pellet in lower l. angle; saltire stops; crowned bust facing within a tressure of arches, fleurs on cusps, none above crown. Rev: POSVI DEVM ADIVTORE MEVM; long cross, three pellets in each angle, rose after DEVM; CIVITAS LONDON around inner circle. 25mm, 2.90g. Ref: Spink 2098. Ex Berk 201, lot 517; ex @Orfew collection; ex AMCC 2, lot 314 (their picture).
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2019
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  3. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    Fabulous coins @Orielensis. It is hard to pick out which ones I like the most. The iconic JC elephant is great and a must have, along with the the Athenian owl. Besides those two, I'm particularly drawn to the Marius RR and the Archbishopric of Cologne coins. Very nice all around.
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  4. Ancient Aussie

    Ancient Aussie Supporter! Supporter

    Great set of coins Orielensis, I like your owl and good idea to get a bit of price leverage with the test cut and a little wear exactly what I do when I think a type of coin is overpriced the same goes for your JC elephant I can remember seeing that in the auction and thinking that was a bargain for the type. Congrats on your buying skills and great pick ups.
    Orielensis likes this.
  5. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Great list! I really enjoyed your notes on the individual coins. I don’t collect medieval coinage, but you made those on your list sound very interesting. Almost too interesting! :shame: Of the ancients, the L Philippus is my favorite. The Cologne obol is my favorite amongst the medievals.
    Orielensis likes this.
  6. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    Those bracteates are stunning. Wow they are great coins. I have a soft spot for those as I find them very historically interesting
    Orielensis likes this.
  7. Yorkshire

    Yorkshire Well-Known Member

    Nice list, I want to get an athens tetradrachm in 2020
    Orielensis likes this.
  8. Nathan401

    Nathan401 Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Supporter

    Awesome! Number 5 and 10 are my favs!
    Orielensis likes this.
  9. Spaniard

    Spaniard Well-Known Member

    Lovely mix!.....I'm really taken with the L. Philippus...
    Can't stop looking at it!..Nice coin!
    Orielensis likes this.
  10. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    What a great group, @Orielensis!! I loved reading your reasons for enjoying each coin, and am glad to have played a small part for a few of those acquisitions. It's quite hard to pick favourites here, but at the moment there are three that are standing out for me slightly above the others: the Capito denarius (fantastic reverse!), the Caesar denarius (one of my favourite types, and I like the "elephant emerges from fog" idea :D), and the Magdeburg bracteate (a very appealing coin with a good story & a hilarious depiction of the cranial relic).

    BTW I think you're right about both the whip and the sarcophagi.
    Orielensis likes this.
  11. Shea19

    Shea19 Supporter! Supporter

    That’s a great set! I especially like that denarius of young Marcus Aurelius, beautiful portrait.
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  12. panzerman

    panzerman Well-Known Member

    Lovely coins, esp. the Medieval bracteates from Germany. Quite a diverse group of excellent coinage.
    Orielensis likes this.
  13. Clavdivs

    Clavdivs Supporter! Supporter

    Great coins! A pleasure to view!
    I always find it so difficult to rate or choose a favorite when I see these lists ...

    Do you choose the one you'd love to add to your collection the most?(Owl)
    The one you find most interesting (Saint Stephen Bracteate)
    Most unusual (Norman Kingdom of Sicily bronze)
    or the most aesthetically pleasing (Marcus Aurelius)?

    These are not always the same answer!
    Orielensis likes this.
  14. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist Supporter

    I was starting to get worried when I hadn’t seen any medieval sin the first five! Love the Cologne obol - I use Rainald’s successor as my avatar...

    Med-02-GCo-1167-Philip Heinsberg-D-3-1993.jpg
    German States, Cologne
    Archbishop Philipp von Heinsberg, r. 1167-1191
    AR Denier, 3rd type, 18.05 mm x 1.4 grams
    Obv.: HITARCH EPICOV, Archbishop with mitre, crosier, and bible seated on lion throne
    Rev.: EIACOLONIA PAICHAI, Three towers over wall and gate, likely representing the Cathedral of St Peter, Cologne

    And Normans are always fun

    Med-14-INSic-1166-William II LFol-Messina-372.jpg
    Norman Italy - Sicily
    William II, r. 1166-1189
    Messina Mint, Second Copper Large Follaro, 25.28 mm x 11.2 grams
    Obv.: Lion Head
    Rev.: Palm tree with dates
    Ref.: NCKS 372, MEC 14.425

    Med-14-INSic-1166-William II-Fol-Messina-373.jpg
    Norman Italy - Sicily
    William II, r. 1166-1189
    Messina Mint, Second Copper Follaro, 12.04 mm x 2.0 grams
    Obv.: Lion Head
    Rev.: Arabic legend “al-malik / Ghulyalim / al-athani” (King William II)
    Ref.: NCKS 373, MEC 14.432

    I need to update that Follaro - I found it cheap and couldn’t pass it up.
  15. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    You acquired some real beauties for your collection this year, @Orielensis ! I love the bracteats and the Capito serrate denarius. Stunning!
    Orielensis likes this.
  16. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    That is an interesting typo, @FitzNigel! :D
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  17. Orielensis

    Orielensis Well-Known Member

    Thanks for all of the kind words! I appreciate it.

    It’s particularly good to see that each of the ten coins were named as favorites. I guess that illustrates the great numismatic range represented in this forum. One of the best things about CoinTalk is that it brings together expertise and creates exchange between ancient and medieval collectors focusing on very different subfields of coinage. We see a lot of different and complementing coin tastes and collecting styles here, and this makes this place so enjoyable for me.

    Do I sense you being drawn to the dark side’s darker side? Well, it’s not too late to branch out… :)

    Thanks for the compliments! I am glad and grateful you played that part – thanks to you, AMCC 2 was simply a blast, and I’m already looking forward to AMCC 3 next year.

    Don’t worry – they simply are in chronological order. Medievals are and stay a main focus. Also, I very much like the Cologne penny and the Norman coins. Those follaros with Kufic inscriptions are fascinating.

    That’s exactly how I feel when seeing these lists! But if I had to give a closely qualified ranking of these coins, it would indeed look very similar to yours.

    I’m glad that @Spaniard and many others like the Republican and Imperatorial denarii. They became somewhat of a collecting focus this year.

    @Bing, @Ancient Aussie, and @Yorkshire, thanks for the compliments on the “owl.” It really is somewhat of a new centerpiece in my Greek collection.

    @Nathan401, @ Shea19, it’s good to see that I’m not alone in my appreciation of expressive portraits!

    The bracteates are a complex but extremely satisfying collecting field. It doesn’t astonish me that they appeal to collectors with other sophisticated specializations such as you, @Orfew, @panzerman, and @Roman Collector.
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2019
    FitzNigel and Severus Alexander like this.
  18. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish)

    Fantastic year @Orielensis . Your write ups and links are great as well. My favorites are;

    #3 - I love it when a coin shows a scene or a process from real life in the ancient world and this reverse is a good example of that. The eye appeal is also great.

    #5 - I like the young portrait of Marcus Aurelius.

    #4 - An iconic coin associated with the most famous of Romans. Well done :)
    Orielensis likes this.
  19. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Congrats on a fine year, @Orielensis! My favorite is #7 with the bug-eyed lion :D.

    Next are #2 and #4.
    Orielensis likes this.
  20. thejewk

    thejewk Well-Known Member

    I agree about the Marcus portrait. I think one of the high points of Roman portraiture is in the issues for Faustina the younger and Marcus as Caesar under Antoninus Pius. I actually have that exact type but as an As awaiting me in a few weeks as a birthday gift from my wife.

    A great selection overall.
    Orielensis and Orfew like this.
  21. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist Supporter

    This is the problem of typing on an iPad with predictatext...
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