Pompey the Great portrait denarius. Is it looking fine?

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Alex22, Sep 30, 2020.

  1. Alex22

    Alex22 Active Member

    Dear CT friends,

    In the endeavor to find an accessible Pompey the Great coin, which I want in the collection due to the historical link with my avatar coin, I negotiated a discount and acquired the following Sextus Pompey coin with his father's portrait:


    The coin (3.53g) comes from Kolner Munzkabinett, along with original labels and past provenance of Hommel collection.


    From the beginning, was curious about the wide separation/scratch below "VS" on the obverse, possible excess metal, one merging the chin of Pompey with the edge, and others at some loci of the reverse. All those can be either benign or cruel signs, and I hope you can help me to evaluate all in combination. Upon receiving the coin yesterday, I ordered a £13 USB microscope, and took the following snaps (including the edges, which also show some puzzling long scratches (filing?) marks). Please note, that the pictures I get from the USB device are all mirror images, as I am yet to figure out which software to use to directly take right ones. It may also take a while to load this thread, as I tried to attach the hi-res versions.

    O1. Obverse legend above the Pompey head.

    Screenshot 2020-09-30 at 11.40.15.png

    O2-3. Pompey's ear and hair behind it.

    Screenshot 2020-09-30 at 11.38.32.png
    Screenshot 2020-09-30 at 11.40.44.png

    O4-5. Pompey's face and chin.

    Screenshot 2020-09-30 at 12.32.45.png

    Screenshot 2020-09-30 at 12.34.58.png
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2020
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  3. Alex22

    Alex22 Active Member

    R1-6. Pictures from the reverse.

    Screenshot 2020-09-30 at 11.28.40.png

    Screenshot 2020-09-30 at 11.29.06.png

    Screenshot 2020-09-30 at 11.29.46.png

    Screenshot 2020-09-30 at 11.30.03.png

    Screenshot 2020-09-30 at 11.31.21.png

    Screenshot 2020-09-30 at 11.33.36.png
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  4. Alex22

    Alex22 Active Member

    E1-6. Edges.

    Screenshot 2020-09-30 at 11.55.25.png

    Screenshot 2020-09-30 at 11.55.11.png

    Screenshot 2020-09-30 at 11.53.35.png

    Screenshot 2020-09-30 at 11.51.59.png

    Screenshot 2020-09-30 at 11.50.18.png

    Screenshot 2020-09-30 at 11.48.32.png
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  5. Alex22

    Alex22 Active Member

    R7-10. More photos of edges.

    Screenshot 2020-09-30 at 11.45.51.png

    Screenshot 2020-09-30 at 11.46.11.png

    Screenshot 2020-09-30 at 11.46.39.png

    Screenshot 2020-09-30 at 11.46.56.png
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  6. Alex22

    Alex22 Active Member

    Will much appreciate your thoughts on this specimen.
  7. Mr.Q

    Mr.Q Well-Known Member

    To many closeups nice coin though. Wait for the experts...
    Alex22 likes this.
  8. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    Sextus Pompey coin...kool!..i've been wanting one for years..:)
  9. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    Sextus Pompey coin...kool!..i've been wanting one for years..:)
    Alex22 likes this.
  10. Alex22

    Alex22 Active Member

    Thanks @Mr.Q and @ominus1, now fingers crossed for the coin to be authentic (if not, I should be able to return, but very little chance I can ever end up with an example of an equally acceptable quality for this type)...
    ominus1 likes this.
  11. Alex22

    Alex22 Active Member

    Here is an example found through acsearch (Leu, Web Auction 8, lot 943, 2019), that has similar style of the obverse portrait (see the eye and the overall face).

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  12. Ryro

    Ryro You'll never be lovelier than you are now... Supporter

    That lovely coin type would be worth sending to David Sear for authentication and not some public forum;)
  13. Alex22

    Alex22 Active Member

    Thanks @Ryro for the advice. At the moment am trying to refrain from the UK-US-UK postage considering the peaking second wave of the virus and possible expected disruptions in mail services.
  14. Orielensis

    Orielensis Well-Known Member

    Do you have any particular reason to doubt this coin's authenticity?

    To me, the scratches and marks you mentioned look like fairly typical ancient damage. The punches you see on the reverse are banker's marks, and the edge of your coin doesn't look filed – maybe it got some scratches when the coin was cleaned.

    Kölner Münzkabinett has been in business for more than 50 years. It's a solid address for buying ancient coins. Though everybody makes mistakes, the numismatists working there are ancient coin experts and not easily fooled by forgeries.

    Furthermore, the Prof. Hildebrecht Hommel collection is a most respectable provenance. Hommel was a classical philologist who collected and studied ancient coins for decades and published widely on numismatic topics. His collection is said to have included a more or less complete set of Roman Republican denarii, and he certainly didn't fall victim to fakes easily.

    In summary: I am not one of the experts mentioned above and might be proven wrong, but I see nothing suspicious about your coin. Furthermore, the Hildebrecht Hommel and Kölner Münzkabinett provenances make a fake appear unlikely.
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2020
  15. Alex22

    Alex22 Active Member

    Thanks @Orielensis. The Kölner Münzkabinett and the provenance are the two major weights that make me hope this will turn out well, still considering that mistakes can happen, and none of the above factors rule out the presence of false positives in their data points (i.e. coins).

    I am only equipped with what I read about coin authentication, and have very little experience in handling coins other than the ones in my collection and a few times I visited coin shows. From purely theoretical viewpoint, which I know is not enough at all, the features that call my attention are listed below. Please, consider this (and debunk) as a curious example of how someone only educated through written material would look at this coin.

    a) The Pompey’s chin has an excess metal (merging the chin with the edge), beyond where the design should allow, and, as per the complete obverse design, there is no other design element that can make usual die damage in between elements. This can however also be a mere result of the chin being close to the edge. So no opinion here.

    b) The two deep separating dimples under the “S” on the obverse seem to be done next to an excess metal, from both sides, which now forms a strip under “S”. I struggle to see how this could have been a scratch on top of a very large, out of border, original S, beyond the expected design. This may also be a result of a die damage or some kind of banker’s mark though. Have brought the magnified figure of that part, and a similar strip of metal next to it, on top of Pompey’s hair, in figure O1, but no opinion here too.

    c) The coin wear may come from harsh cleaning, but it is actually very high relief. Still, there is no 90-degrees sharp outline anywhere. Most of the borders are rough, with wavy slopes. As before, this can also be benign, due to the wear and the corrosive forces acted on the surface through time, or due to the way the dies were carved. No strong opinion here.

    d) Small excess metals next to the design borders, especially next to the prow on the reverse (figure R3). Again, can simply be because of how the die was carved, or because of a die damage. No strong feeling here too.

    e) In figure R5, next to the face of Neptune, can be a very small banker’s mark, but may also look like one of those things described as a “finger in a butter” effect on the surfaces of cast coins. As before, inconclusive from my side.

    f) The edges have these parallel scratches all over (figures E1-E2), at parts not on the most elevated loci of the edge. Maybe someone did that to deter the attention from the point (g) below, or simply this is a benign result of harsh polishing of the edges while cleaning. No opinion.

    g) Lots of consecutive small dimples (figures E1-E2) across the whole edge, along the centre of the edge. Can be remnants of the border between the cast halves, or simply common damages on the edge of an ancient coin. No opinion.

    h) Have no experience to differentiate whether the cracks (E3-E10) are deep enough or superficial. No opinion.

    Overall, no strong feeling from any of the individual points from me. This is just my first coin where many individual ones happen in combination. My eye is however not trained at all on how to consider all these in combination, and how to also see the combined signs of authenticity, since most of the materials I read are about seeing the signs of fakes. Therefore, counting on the hive mind on CT.
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2020
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  16. Orielensis

    Orielensis Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the clarification! Some thoughts:

    b, d, e
    ) What you describe as excess metal to me looks simply like banker's marks. If you punch a gravel of some sort into a coin, the displaced metal has to go somewhere. Thus the small raised pimples you see under the microscope.

    c) 90° angles, as in modern coins, cannot be expected from a manually engraved bronze die.

    Just as you, I'm not an expert in detecting fakes.
    I therefore know that it's very easy to see forgeries everywhere if you are not fully versed in spotting them. In the case of your coin, though, I wouldn't share your doubts.

    Relying on trustworthy dealers and good provenances is probably the best strategy to avoid fakes.
  17. Roerbakmix

    Roerbakmix Well-Known Member

    I agree with @Orielensis: in my opinion it is a nice coin with a good provenance.

    Usually, members refrain from replying on these types of thread (i.e: genuine or fake?) because the photo's are poor, or there is insufficient information. In your case, the photo's are excellent. I'm surprised no more members have reacted.

    You can of course hope for @Barry Murphy to weigh in.
  18. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    The degree of analysis here is impressive. My off-the-cuff inexpert opinion - it is genuine. A truly clever counterfeiter would make worn copies - but most fakes are too perfect: well-centered, no wear, even strike. The OP looks like an example with real ancient wear - this is my impression, which is non-scientific.

    It seems to me the one true way to determine a genuine ancient would be an analysis of the metals, compared with known ancients. This kind of testing used to be destructive, now it is not, so I understand. Like human DNA testing, if done properly, this kind of metals analysis would be pretty much fool-proof, so I'd think.

    Anyway, here is mine - provenance goes all the way back to a December 2019 eBay auction, where it was described as: "AUGUSTUS AR DENARIUS (27 BC - 14AD) GAIUS & LUCIUS CAESARS"

    Sextus Pompey - Den Neptune Dec 2019 (0a).jpg
    Sextus Pompey Denarius
    (42-40 B.C.)
    Sicilian Mint

    MAG•PIVS•IMP•ITER• , head of Pompey Magnus r. between lituus and capis / Neptune left, holding aplustre, foot on prow, with Anapias & Amphinomus, parents on shoulders, [PRÆF] above, CLAS•ET•O[RÆ] / [M]ARIT•E[X• S•C•]
    Crawford 511/3a;
    Pompeia 27;
    Sydenham 1344;
    BMCRR (Sicily) 7;
    RSC 17 (Pompey the Great);
    Sear CRI 334.
    (3.47 grams / 16 mm)

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  19. Alex22

    Alex22 Active Member

    Thank you all so much for your comments.

    @Orielensis, now I see that the line under "S" is simply a result of two punches that displaced the metal into the area in between. The fact that the surface inside the punches is very much of the same texture as the rest, is also reassuring.

    Thanks @Roerbakmix and @Marsyas Mike for the comments on the general feel from the coin. I was just bringing all the features of the coin theoretically "looking for" signs of fake, whereas, with more experience, you do perceive the overall feel and features of authenticity too. Having your comments is very educational in adjusting the thresholds in how should I assess the coins.

    Also, wanted to stress that this post is an educational opportunity for me, and hopefully for many others, to see how people with more experience view what a starter sees in a coin. So any descriptive comment on what you see on the pictures that I posted is much appreciated. This is not my persistent desire to condemn coins, and I have much respect to Kölner Münzkabinett who have been very supportive to me as a starting collector, with a number of coins I am fond of coming from there with significant discounts.

    @Marsyas Mike, the original post on how you got your coin was the inspiration for me to eventually look for a Sextus Pompey coin depicting Pompeius Magnus I was looking for. Quality-wise, not much different from mine, but with that price, yours is a treasure!
    Marsyas Mike likes this.
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