Political Controversy, Inflation and Caveat Emptor

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by IMP Shogun, Dec 29, 2021.

  1. IMP Shogun

    IMP Shogun Well-Known Member

    First it was gas, then groceries now rampant inflation has hit the grading of ancient coins at auction houses (or did it?)!

    Ancient Rome had its share of politics, perhaps making ours look tame. Here are two guys who had their share of political controversies -- otherwise known as killed off their share of senators.

    I am always looking to add denarius from the Nerva-Antonine dynasty. And I enjoy collecting the references to justice on all types of coins. Throw in a wonderful portrait in fine style and I was very fortunate to get this. Following the references which the AH did include there appeared to be grading inflation. Leu and CNG in my opinion do a very nice to the best job of describing coins, and I'm a fan of Roma, just don't like the descriptions as much as the others.

    3.31 Hadrian denarius Justicaresized.jpg

    As described by Roma:
    Hadrian AR Denarius. Rome, AD 118. IMP CAESAR TRAIAN HADRIANVS AVG, laureate bust to right, with slight drapery on far shoulder / P M TR P COS II, Justitia seated to left, holding patera and sceptre; IVSTITIA in exergue. RIC II.3 117; BMCRE 74; RSC 877. 3.10g, 19mm, 6h.

    Extremely Fine.

    From the prior Leu auction:
    Hadrian, 117-138. Denarius (Silver, 18 mm, 3.11 g, 6 h), Rome, 118. MP CAESAR TRAIAN HADRIANVS AVG Laureate head of Hadrian to right, with slight drapery on his left shoulder. Rev. P M TR P COS II / IVSTITIA Justitia seated left, holding patera in her right hand and long scepter in her left. BMC 74. Cohen 877. RIC II, Part 3, 117. A lightly toned example with a fine portrait. Minor flan fault on the obverse, otherwise, good very fine.

    But low and behold at NAC prior to Leu (all within 18-months...)
    The Roman Empire. Hadrian augustus, 117 – 138
    Denarius 118, AR 19 mm, 3.10 g. IMP CAESAR TRAIAN – HADRIANVS AVG Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust r. Rev. P M TR P COS II Justitia seated l., holding patera and sceptre; in exergue, IVSTITIA. C 877. BMC 74. RIC 42 = RIC II, 117.
    Wonderful old cabinet tone and extremely fine / about extremely fine

    Ex Helios sale 4, 2008, 387. From the A. Lynn collection.

    Almost the same exact thing, amazing how consistent these guys are.
    3.704 Commodus Pax resized.jpg

    From Roma:
    Commodus AR Denarius. Rome, AD 181. M COMMODVS ANTONINVS AVG, laureate head to right / TR P VI IMP IIII COS III P P, Pax standing to left, holding branch and cornucopiae. RIC III 17; BMCRE 63; RSC 806. 3.06g, 18mm, 12h.

    Good Very Fine.

    Acquired from Leu Numismatik AG;
    Ex Schweizerische Kreditanstalt Monetarium, Fixed Price List 32, August 1980, no. 5;
    Ex Schweizerische Kreditanstalt Monetarium, Fixed Price List 28, April 1979, no. 117.

    From Leu:
    Commodus, 177-192. Denarius (Silver, 18 mm, 3.07 g, 12 h), Rome, 181. M COMMODVS ANTONINVS AVG Laureate head of Commodus to right. Rev. TR P VI IMP IIII COS III P P Pax standing front, head to left, holding olive branch in her right hand and cornucopiae in her left. BMC 63. Cohen 806. RIC 17. Beautifully toned. Very fine.

    From an old Swiss collection, ex Schweizerische Kreditanstalt Monetarium FPL 32, summer 1980, 5 and FPL 28, spring 1979, 117.

    Both coins are fantastic trust me, whether it's EF, near EF or Good Very Fine x2 but just a reminder that caveat emptor applies even when dealing with the best. Or is it that Leu is so conservative they dropped it a grade from the prior for it only to be raised back up by Roma? Can AH ratings resemble real life inflation:

    I would love to see you Nerva-Antonine denarius or hear about any grading patterns you've noticed or your thoughts on the frequency of coins coming back to auction.

    Attached Files:

    Nvb, ancientone, Ryro and 8 others like this.
  2. Avatar

    Guest User Guest

    to hide this ad.
  3. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    I would have no objections to the EF grading of the Hadrian denarius. I think it is Leu's policy to understate grading and auction estimates. Infact, one of the numismatists at Leu told me that they found that conservative grading and low auction estimates help to entice interest. Collectors feel that they discovered a bargain, they put in a high bid anyway - just to make sure, only to discover that others had the same idea, ending up with a hammer price that is very close or exactly on their bid. Happens to me regularly with Leu auctions :)
    Restitutor likes this.
  4. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Lovely coins, @IMP Shogun

    Here is a variation of the Hadrian denarius with Justitia (mine has an aegis - @curtislclay helped me out with attribution a while back):

    Hadrian - Denarius IVSTITIA Mar 2020 (0).jpg
    Hadrian Denarius
    (118 A.D.)
    Rome Mint

    IMP CAESAR TRAIAN HADRIANVS AVG, Laureate bust right, aegis on left shoulder with visible snakes / Justitia enthroned left, holding patera and sceptre, PM TR P COS II, IVSTITIA in exergue.
    RIC 42 (var.); RIC II.3 117.
    (3.26 grams / 19 x 17 mm)
    eBay Mar. 2020
    Attribution Note:
    "RIC II gives bust options... No mention is made of the aegis."

    "Your Hadrian: no. 117 in R. Abdy's new RIC II.3. For the aegis on shoulder he cites a hoard in Valencia, illustrated pl. 4, the second coin labeled 117."
    Curtis Clay CT Mar. 2020

    As for Commodus with Pax, I have this, which is described as "Commodus as Pax standing left, togate, holding branch and cornucopia, hexagonal shield at foot." in OCRE. I knew Commodus liked dressing up like Hercules, but I guess he liked going as Pax on the weekends. At least on this specimen, I am not seeing a Commodus resemblance at all - it looks like a standard (female) depiction of Pax to me:

    Commodus - Den. Comm as Pax Apr 2020 (0).jpg
    Commodus Denarius
    (183-184 A.D.)
    Rome Mint

    M COMMODVS ANTON AVG PIVS, laureate head right / TR P VIIII IMP VI COS IIII P P, Commodus as Pax standing left, holding branch and cornucopia, hexagonal shield at foot.
    RIC 86; RSC 940.
    (2.44 grams / 18 mm)
    eBay April 2020

    Here is a Commodus sestertius with Pax standing, very similar to the OP denarius. It has an old collector's or museum's inventory number inked on the obverse:

    Commodus - Sest. PAX standing lot Jun 2018 (0).jpg
    Commodus Æ Sestertius
    (183-184 A.D.)
    Rome Mint

    M COMMODVS ANTONINVS AVG PIVS, laureate head, right / TRP VIIII [IMP VI COS IIII PP] S C, Pax, draped, standing left, holding branch in right hand and cornucopia in left hand
    RIC 415.
    (19.68 grams / 28 mm)
    eBay June 2018

    Since these all have illustrious eBay provenances, which means they were probably barely described at all, I cannot speak to grade inflation. On eBay you get "unknown old worn Greek coin" or "Brilliant Uncirculated Augustus Constantine Biblical Roman Coin!" Or, if the coin is correctly described, too many people bid on it and I usually cannot afford it.
  5. GinoLR

    GinoLR Well-Known Member

    Why do auctioneers or dealers still grade the coins they sell? They provide excellent hi-res color pictures so everybody can make his own judgement, even better than if he had the coin in his own hand.
    TIF, Ryro and Roman Collector like this.
  6. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    With hi-res photos of the coin, who cares if its description reads "about VF" as opposed to "VF"?? Each coin is unique and there's far more to eye-appeal than technical grade.

    Here's a couple of IVSTITIA reverse types by Nerva. One's COS II, the other COS III. I'd call them both "aVF" but what does that matter?
    Nerva IVSTITIA AVGVST denarius RIC 6.jpg
    Nerva IVSTITIA AVGVST denarius RIC 30.jpg
  7. IMP Shogun

    IMP Shogun Well-Known Member

    Because there is a correlation between grade and price. While I prefer consistency over the grade, so I’m ok with Roma’s descriptions and grading, it may appear to some that they increased the grades to achieve a higher hammer.
  8. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Well-Known Member

    Both coins are lovely & the condition seems accurate :happy:.
  9. savitale

    savitale Well-Known Member

    Without a standardized grading guide, which is impractical for ancient coins, I could be convinced that digital photography has made adjectival grades superfluous.
    DonnaML and Roman Collector like this.
  10. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    I agree since grading ancient coins is an inexact science, if one could even call it that, I just go by the images. In the old days and paper auction catalogs one could make an argument that it was important but those times are long gone.
    DonnaML and Roman Collector like this.
  11. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Well-Known Member

    If adjectival grades are superfluous why do all the major auction houses use them o_O?
  12. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    They are superfluous to experienced collectors, but some of the market for ancient coins (some of it with a lot of money) consists of new collectors and collectors with only a background in US coins where grade is everything. The auction houses must also cater to potential buyers who do not already know ancients well.
  13. dltsrq

    dltsrq Grumpy Old Man

    Some say photography is everything but look how often discussions right here in this forum center on whether two photos are in fact of the same coin. Those who do a lot of coin photography will know just how difficult it can sometimes be to accurately represent a given coin.
    IMP Shogun likes this.
  14. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    True, BUT still much more accurate than "gF" or "VF/F".
    Valentinian likes this.
  15. IMP Shogun

    IMP Shogun Well-Known Member

    I think the combination of picture, description and grade, if consistent, is helpful. Pictures are not as good as examining in hand which the AH does. There is a conflict there in that the AH wants higher hammer$, but they also want customers to bid their auctions.

    When the grade consistency and description qualities (and in some cases the pictures!) decline I agree they are worthless. That is why I appreciate Roma’s less than for example Leu’s.
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page