Prefered reference books

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Spargrodan, Dec 28, 2020.

  1. Spargrodan

    Spargrodan Well-Known Member

    Before Christmans I found a special offer I couldn't resist, David. R. Sears complete 5 bundle of Roman Coins and Their Values.

    I haven't received Sear's books yet and can only speak of books I have read. RIC in my opinion is the best reference I've seen so far. I like how everything is set up chronologically and the plates in the end makes it easy to search and find the coins you're looking for. History and info is also neatly written.

    I also like the Handbook of Coins books (Oliver D. Hoover). They chronologically showcase coins, no plates but pictures directly in order under the city and some history summary for every section. I think it's a more hands-on way of reading which is nice as you don't need to search for the coins in a plate section.

    From my own experience and preferences so far my go to books are RIC for roman imperial coins and Handbook of Coins for greek coins.

    I'm interested to hear what others have and prefer to use, and most importantly WHY do you like to use it?
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  3. ambr0zie

    ambr0zie Dacian Taraboste

    I also use ERIC - Encyclopedia of Roman Imperial Coins by Rasiel Suarez.
    I found it excellent for beginners.
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  4. Burton Strauss III

    Burton Strauss III Supporter! Supporter

  5. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    OCRE is also very useful if you can't afford to spend $1,000+ on RIC, since the numbering is based on RIC. Plus it's updated to a certain extent.

    I use the five volumes of Sear all the time, especially for identifying Imperial coins. Although I've noticed that the last couple of volumes are much more comprehensive than the earlier ones, in covering just about all the different types and mints. And in giving volume and page references for RIC, which the earlier volumes don't In the earlier volumes, there seem to be lots of denarii from Nero, Vespasian, Titus, Domitian, etc., that simply aren't included.

    For silver coins, I find the five volumes of RSC still to be extremely useful. Especially the first volume, for Republican coins, which has the advantage of portability for coin shows, if those ever return! I also find Crawford indispensable for Republican coins, and the two volumes of Harlan are very helpful as well. Also CRRO, especially as an entry-point to the Schaefer Roman Republican Die Project.

    For Roman provincial coins, I own no books other than Sear's Greek Imperial Coins (usually only one coin per city per emperor), and the little Butcher book, which is useful as an introduction to the subject. So I rely heavily on the online version of Roman Provincial Coins. The 20+ volumes of the British Museum Greek Coin collection (BMC) (all available online) includes Roman Provincial coins and, despite dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, can still be helpful.

    For Greek coins (pre-Roman), since I'm only a casual collector, the two-volume Sear catalog of "Greek Coins and their Values" from 1978 is enough for me, in addition to the many online resources like the SNG British Museum database and Pella and Wildwinds, etc. Of course Wildwinds is also great for Roman coins, both Provincial and Imperial.
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2020
  6. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    BMCRE is better than RIC but it only goes up to Severus Alexander-Balbinus and Pupienus.

    Sear is my workhorse reference.
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2020
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  7. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    RIC worth getting the relevant volumes in your area of interest. BMCRE, first 4 volumes are available online. I picked up physical copies of V & VI recently:
    Unlike the 5 volume Sear you don't have to memorize which emperors are in which book. For Roman Imperial coins, for a start the 1988 1 vol edition of Sear is useful. ERIC II is great for the pictures and classification system. For Roman republican coins, Crawford is the one I have always close at hand - reprinted most recently in 2019.
    My favorite online resources are organized on my "Research Library" page. I am always interested in hearing about new online resources.
  8. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks for the links. Can the BMCRE volumes available on the Internet Archive be downloaded? And is the coin database on the British Museum website, which I believe can be searched by BMCRE number, any different from what's in the BMCRE volumes in terms of the information available?
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    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    By way of mixing cliche, rather than metaphor, here's my two cents, for what they're worth.
    ...From a (now notorious?) medieval emphasis, it's Really Cool to see you folks rating available references in print.
    Especially in terms of what you go to first. @Roman Collector's rating of Sear as "my workhorse reference" is especially resonant. You have my word and bond, starting with French feudal and English hammered, you get the same kind of consultative 'chain of command.'
    Roman Collector likes this.
  10. panzerman

    panzerman Well-Known Member

    For Imperial Rome/ Eastern/ Western/ Byzantine ERIC-II is the ONLY upto date reference.It carries the complete revision of Emperors/ new facts/ etc. The Calico 2 volumes on Aurei is also great/ however would have been a better book with colour plates.The new book on electrum coinage is excellent/ however there should have been more colour plates with enlarged coin photos.
  11. otlichnik

    otlichnik Well-Known Member

    It all depends on what you want to do with your resource. Identify your coin or understand your coin. There is a difference.

    Sear is a good resource to identify your coin and to get some idea of value. But it is not a good book for understanding the coinage, especially in the later period. Tracking coins by Emperor, when you have several Emperors at the same time, and up to 15 mints producing, is simply not an easy way to get a good overall picture.

    The again, to be fair, there is no easy way to understand something like late Roman coinage. Approaching by Emperor, mint or reverse type will each make certain things clear and easy to understand while making other things more difficult to track and study.

    RIC is great for understanding late Roman coinage but can be difficult to use, especially if you are unsure of the mint. It also provides no info on value.

    So it all depends on your wants and needs.

    Personally, I use the following for basic ID:

    Roman: RIC

    Late Roman: RIC + LRBC (and sometimes Bruck for very worn coins)

    Greek: where I have no idea where to start - Plant and the three volumes of Lindgren.

    Byzantine: Hahn MIBE and MIBEC and then Sear for the period after MIBEC.

    Islamic: Mitchiner

    Eastern Cash: Hartill Guide to Cash Coins.

    But often I find websites like Dane Kurth's Wildwinds and to be better than any book due to the ability to keyword search.

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  12. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I agree with most of the recommendations here except ERIC II which I reviewed less than glowingly when it came out.
    It is a huge book with a lot of good points and recently was reduced in price so it is worth the money. I never look at it, find it hard to use and greatly dislike the way photos are shown one sided. I would like it better if the catalog numbering system were replaced with information on coins and collecting.

    No book is complete. I love BMCRE but it is badly out of date in the area of my prime interest (Eastern Severan). Books are great but the amount of free online material today makes me question how much a beginner should spend on paper and ink.

    My book review page is terribly out of date but does offer opinions on some books mentioned in this thread and not.
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  13. dltsrq

    dltsrq Grumpy Old Man

    For Greek and Provincial, I love the "Catalogue of Greek Coins in the British Museum". All but 1 or 2 of 29(!) volumes are out of copyright and readily available to download online.

    For Byzantine, the standard reference is "Catalogue of the Byzantine Coins in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection and in the Whittemore Collection". All volumes are now available as free downloads at the Museum's website. Their publications search is clunky but diligence will be rewarded.

    For Islamic, the standard reference is "Checklist of Islamic Coins" by Stephen Album. The current (3rd) edition is available as a free download at the author's website. For those who don't yet read Arabic, "Arabic Coins and How to Read Them'" by Richard Plant is very useful.

    "The Coins of the Indian Sultanates" by Gordon and Goenka covers pre-Mughal Islamic India (which Album does not cover) and, unlike Album, is fully illustrated.
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  14. DiomedesofArgos

    DiomedesofArgos Well-Known Member

    My opinion as a newer collector and as a collector that mostly buys coins already attributed is that I really dislike books with plates. I understand that plates make it easy to scan through and find a match for coins you need to identify. I also get that many coin books are old and that lots of older books used plates for photographs because that's just how things needed to be published in those days. For my needs, I really hate to read about a coin and then have to go to the back to see the coin. Back and forth, back and forth. So while I understand that the Dumbarton Oaks catalogs contain much valuable information, I hate the format. I also dislike that not all coins described are photographed.

    As for books I do like, I have a volume of the CNG Handbook of Greek Coinage series. Every coin description is accompanied by a picture of the coin, so no hunting around. Not a fan of the black and white images, especially given that they are fairly recent publications, but I guess with ancient coin collection being so niche and the books probably being low volume, it maybe wasn't economical to use color images. IIRC, the coins are shown as actual size which is nice too.

    I also like Catalogue of Late Byzantine Coins, Volume I. It has illustrations of an ideal perfect coin rather than pictures. The Byzantine scyphate coins are often poorly struck, so seeing what a coin theoretically should look like is really nice. I like that each page is dedicated to a single coin and also being relatively recent (only 10 years old, which seems like it's still an infant compared to many coin books), the information is much more up to date. I really hope they eventually complete Volume 2 for Palaiologian coinage because many of those coins are struck just awful and I'd love to see them illustrated.
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  15. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    Q: Can the BMCRE volumes available on the Internet Archive be downloaded?
    Yes, offers a lot of download options:
    Q: Is the coin database on the British Museum website, which I believe can be searched by BMCRE number, any different from what's in the BMCRE volumes in terms of the information available?
    There is a lot of text in BMCRE that is not available on the British Museum site.

    Searching on the British Museum Collection site seems to have greatly improved recently (this year?) e.g. using my coin example from above Crawford 440/1 and searching for "Sicinius" now finds beautiful coin photos of my target coin and others. However, searching by "BMCRR 3947", "3947", "3947 denarius", or "Crawford 440/1" doesn't do what I want to it do.
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  16. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    In the 45 or so years since BMCRE V was published, the BM has added many coins to their holdings. In my specialty, the number is at least doubled. I doubt that is as extreme in every section.
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  17. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks. What numbering system do they use for new coins? Do they add on to the BMCRE numbers?
  18. dltsrq

    dltsrq Grumpy Old Man

    Here is a denarius of Augustus apparently accessioned in 2002, referencing RIC only (with a curator's note concerning a specimen in Paris). The museum accession number is listed but those are different from BMCRE numbers. Apparently they use whatever reference is applicable.
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2020
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  19. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    Sear is almost useless for the Flavians. It is a fun volume but it leaves out too many types to be useful to anyone who specializes in this area. The volumes give a decent overview and they are very interesting to read. For me there are 3 that are my go to references. The most important one and the most up to date is RIC (2007). There re m ny coins in this volume that do not occur in any other reference. This is very helpful for identifying rarities. It does not give value but having this in a printed reference is not very helpful to me anyway since by the time of publication some prices would have changed. I greatly enjoy BMCRE and find it quite useful. I find that there are numerous cataloguing choices that differ from the authors of RIC. I also use RSC but find this somewhat less useful than BMCRE. I have all of my attributions cross referenced with these 3 sources and it works fairly well.
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