Same high grade coins again and again

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by stevereecy, Feb 23, 2021.

  1. stevereecy

    stevereecy Collects Everything

    Ok, put aside your feelings about slabbing ancient coins for just one moment.

    I said put it aside! :)

    I was on ebay, doing a search. I asked ebay to show me all NGC graded Denarii in AU condition. (Yes, a high grade)

    What did I find?

    A whole bunch of coins from Septimius Severus, Elagabaulus, Severus Alexander, Gordian III, Caracalla, and mostly their wives and mothers. My point here is that I was seeing the same names again and again (like perhaps 8 to 10 of them), but almost NO other emperors at all.

    I'm trying to wrap my brain around this search output/outcome. Is this a market driven thing? (i.e., these coins are common enough that they need to be slabbed to get sold?) Was a huge horde of these coins found in high grade?

    Why did my search reveal such a stilted outcome?

    Love to hear your opinion.
    +VGO.DVCKS likes this.
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  3. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    They're just common coins in the ancient coin world and most come in excellent grades at comfortable prices.

    As for them being slabbed, just people looking to find suckers or newbies to pay their asking prices.
  4. John Conduitt

    John Conduitt Well-Known Member

    You were searching for denarii - a silver coin minted from 211BC to 244AD (Gordian III), and steadily debased until replaced by the antoninianus (which meant you hoarded the last good silver). So later emperors in that timeframe are more common, but it's too early for the Tetrarchy and the Constantinians who provide most of the bronze coins on the market. (You've cut out a lot of emperors simply by the choice of coin).

    The late 100s and 200s were also an unstable time, and hoarding was more common during periods of uncertainty. The denarii of earlier emperors did appear in later hoards since coins stayed in circulation a long time, but would not have been in AU condition (if that's even possible for an ancient coin).

    Galba Denarius, 68-69
    Rome. Silver, 16x17mm, 3.03g (RCV I# 2109).

    This Galba denarius is from the Westbury-sub-Mendip hoard, which was deposited around 193AD (the reign of Septimius Severus). By then, it had been in circulation for 125 years, so it is well worn. Any coins of Septimius Severus in the hoard would've been brand new and in a lot better condition.
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2021
  5. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Silver coins from earlier eras circulated a long time and are worn. Third century coins were often hoarded as soon as they were minted and appear often in mint state. The coins are so cheap it costs more to slab them then they are worth, so avoid such coins because they are overpriced.
    savitale, Orfew, Johndakerftw and 7 others like this.
  6. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    1) The denarius was being rapidly debased, and the public was likely aware. Severan denarii didn't enjoy circulating through a stable economy for 20+ years like those of the Nerva-Antonines did.

    2) The denarii still had enough silver to justify hoarding them when possible. Especially when the antoninianus was circulating, which had even less silver relative to face value.

    3) The quality of workmanship was decent from the middle of Severus' reign until early in Alexander's, and excellent from late in Alexander's until early in Gordian's. They did not suffer from the sloppy manufacture seen in coins of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus, nor the worn-out dies that plagued the Crisis years.

    4) The empire's main expenditure at this point was the military, who were almost always being sent to a new war or to crush a new uprising. New enlistees were given a large bonus - which was commonly brand-new denarii to remind them who they served - and those bonuses often went into the ground for safekeeping - but the soldiers didn't always come back to dig them up again. This is especially evident in the coinage of Maximinus I, which is almost always found in mint state.
    savitale, benhur767, Orfew and 9 others like this.
  7. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    If you think about the emperors you just listed all of them minted coins near the end of the period when good quality silver was being used. In the second half of the third century the currency was debased significantly which caused people to hoard the good quality silver coins which in turn is why they survive in such numbers.

    The earlier emperors ruled during a more stable time when money was being spent more freely and not hoarded. These coins where therefore available to be periodically melted down and minted into new coins which is why they are not as common.

    As for the denarius it was slowly driven out of circulation after Caracalla introduced the Antoninianus at only 1.5x the silver content but 2x the valuation.

    Some denarii / antoninianii of this period.
    Roman Empire
    AR denarius, Rome mint, struck ca. AD 206
    Dia.: 18 mm
    Wt.: 3.18 g
    Obv.: ANTONINVS PIVS AVG; Laureate head right
    Rev.: PONTIF TR P VIIII COS II; Mars in military dress standing left, right hand resting on shield, left hand holding spear
    Ref.: RIC IV 83
    Ex Otto Helbing Nachf. 86 (Nov. 25, 1942); Ex Gorney & Mosch Auction 241, lot 3068 (Oct. 12, 2016); Ex arnoldoe Collection

    Roman Empire
    Gordian III (238-244)
    AR Antoninianus, Rome mint
    Dia.: 24.5 mm
    Wt.: 3.89g
    Obv: IMP GORDIANVS PIVS FEL AVG; Radiate, draped and cuirassed bust right.
    Rev: VIRTVTI AVGVSTI; The Farnese Hercules: statue of Hercules right, with apples of the Hesperides and lion skin, and leaning upon club.
    RIC 95.
    Ex Michael Higley Collection with tag; Ex AMCC 1, lot 236 (Dec. 2018)

    Roman Empire
    Severus Alexander
    AR Denarius, Antioch mint, struck ca. AD 222-235
    Dia.: 18 mm
    Wt.: 3.35 g
    Obv.: IMP C AVR ALEXAND AVG; Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right
    Rev.: PROVID DEORVM; Providentia standing left, holding wand over globe and sceptre
    Ref.: RIC 294
    Ex arnoldoe Collection, Ex Otto Helbing Nachfolger 86, Lot 1585 (Nov. 25, 1942)
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2021
  8. Orielensis

    Orielensis Supporter! Supporter

    In economics, the underlying principle is called "Gresham's Law:" an influx of bad money tends to remove good money from circulation.

    As many others have stated, the emperors you mentioned ruled at the relative end of the period in which Rome minted good silver coins. The introduction of the overvalued antoninianus under Caracalla was a first change. Finally, during the imperial crisis of the 3rd century (c. 235–284 AD), silver was rapidly debased and eventually all but replaced by bronze.

    All of this meant a steady influx of bad money. Clever as they were, people spent overvalued billon and bronze coins while at the same time saving and hoarding good silver. This effectively removed the latter coins from circulation and prevented further wear. Therefore, relatively good silver coins minted in the first half of the 3rd century often survive in high grade.

    You can see the same thing happening today: if you got back a silver quarter at the supermarket, you would likely keep it, wouldn't you?

    Here are some high grade 3rd century denarii:
    Rom – Septimius Severus, Denar, Neptun (2).png
    Septimius Severus, Roman Empire, denarius, 210 AD, Rome mint. Obv: SEVERVS PIVS AVG; head of Septimius Severus, laureate, r. Rev: P M TR P XVIII COS III P P; Neptune, naked except for cloak over l. shoulder and r. arm, standing l., r. foot set on globe, holding trident in l. hand. 19 mm., 3,54 g Ref: RIC IV Septimius Severus 234.

    Rom – Julia Domna, Denar, Juno.png
    Julia Domna, Roman Empire, denarius, 196–211 AD, Rome mint. Obv: IVLIA AVGVSTA; bust of Julia Domna, draped, r. Rev: IVNO, Iuno standing l., holding patera and sceptre, peacock at feet l. 18mm, 3.20g. Ref: RIC IV Septimius Severus 559.

    Rom – Macrinus, Denar, Jupiter RIC 76b.png
    Macrinus, Roman Empire, AR denarius, 217–218 AD, Rome mint. Obv: IMP C M OPEL SEV MACRINVS AVG; laureate and cuirassed short-bearded bust of Macrinus r. Rev: IOVI CONSERVATORI; Jupiter standing left, holding thunderbolt and sceptre; to left, small figure of Macrinus standing r. 20mm, 3.21g. Ref: RIC IV Macrinus 76b.

    Rom – Elagabal, denar, Sol mit Peitsche.png
    Elagabalus, Roman Empire, denarius, 220 AD, Rome mint. Obv: IMP ANTONINVS PIVS AVG; bust of Elagabalus, draped and laureate, r. Rev: P M TR P III COS III P P; Sol, radiate, naked except for cloak over l. shoulder, standing l., raising r. hand and holding whip in l. hand; in field l., star. 18mm, 1,80g. Ref: RIC IV Elagabalus 28b.
    +VGO.DVCKS, panzerman, Limes and 10 others like this.
  9. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Basileus Megalos

    I'll add some examples of "good silver" coins of the third century. The time of extremely rapid debasement occurred during the joint reign of Valerian and Gallienus, rendering the antoninianus into a base metal coin with a silvered wash.










  10. stevereecy

    stevereecy Collects Everything

    Wow. Many Thanks to the group! I get what you guys are saying, and this gives me better ideas on what to look for and what to avoid. Condition rarity takes on an entirely different meaning depending on what was going on at the time and my search for "Denarius" would be like looking for "Franklin Halves" in modern times. Really great info and I appreciate it.
  11. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Basileus Megalos

    I was going to show a Gallienus as an example of a base metal coin but I reached my picture limit in the last post. As you can see, the silver is nowhere to be found, and folks likely were hoarding the coins of 35%-40% fineness as struck by Gordian III through the time of Decius, Trebonianus Gallus further debased the coinage and of course, it collapsed with Gallienus after his father Valerian was captured by the Persians.


    Last edited: Feb 23, 2021
  12. OutsiderSubtype

    OutsiderSubtype Well-Known Member

    Gordian III denarius. Quite under-weight due to silver crystallization.

  13. Theodosius

    Theodosius Fine Style Seeker Supporter

    I really interesting question that you asked. Good observation.

    benhur767 likes this.
  14. Terence Cheesman

    Terence Cheesman Supporter! Supporter

    Yes it is a very interesting thread. However I do believe there are a number a factors that might not have been adequately expressed thus far. The first is that the early Severans did not produce an aes coinage in any quantity. True to some degree this deficiency was corrected by Severus Alexander but I do believe that there was a need to produce more denarii. The second is a situation created by modern slabbing. The dies during this period appear to have been rotated out and not used to extinction as is more common during later periods. This is particularly true of reverse dies. Thus it is somewhat easier to get an AU grade for coins during this period.
    Caracalla Ar Denarius Rome 205 AD Obv Bust right laureate draped and cuirassed seen from back Rv Mars standing left. RIC 83 3.49 grms 18 mm Xcaracallad26.JPG I bought this coin sometime between 1972- 1975 from NFA. I would really appreciate if someone could find it in one of the FPLs they produced and let me know which issue it is in.
  15. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    Experienced ancient-coin collectors know that high-grade denarii of Septimius Severus, Severus Alexander, and others of that era are common. Certainly they are inexpensive relative to other high-grade denarii. So, if you are a seller and want to sell a very attractive ancient coin for more than you paid for it, what can you do?

    Well, one thing is you can expand your customer base by slabbing it and thereby allowing collectors who only know US coins to enter the market with assurance the coin is both genuine and high grade. There are many US-coin collectors who would be amazed at how inexpensive a coin in nice shape and 1800 years old can be. A denarius that we know costs $50 raw can be slabbed and turned into a coin that might bring $125 or $150 bids. The coins look that good. Maybe ancient-coin prices are too low and they are right?
  16. Theodosius

    Theodosius Fine Style Seeker Supporter

    An interesting thread would be one that surveyed the various eras of Roman history and presented the gold, silver and bronze coinage of each era and what state of preservation you can expect to find them in and why?

    An honorary coin talk PhD will be granted to whoever completes this assignment and passes the scrutiny of the community. Lol

    Alegandron likes this.
  17. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Well-Known Member

    The subject of slabbing versus raw ancient coins has been discussed into exhaustion so I won't belabor the issue; everyone knows where I stand on the subject. I would like to share an experience from over a year ago. My PC physician is a highly educated man with an impressive knowledge of ancient history & knows I collect ancient coins. He asked me if I could find a high grade Roman denarii that weren't terribly expensive for gifts to his children. So I did show him a variety of raw 3rd century denarii & noticed he was uncomfortable handling the coins, even asking me to turn the coins over for him. He felt the coins were so precious they shouldn't be handled. I then showed him some slabbed coins & his whole disposition changed, he felt the coins were easier to examine & made for a nice presentation. I told him slabbed coins were more expensive for obvious reasons & he had no problem with that. So I had a group of denarii slabbed on the less expensive tier & he bought the coins. Pictured below is one of the coins.

    Severus Alexander denarius, NGC AU.jpg

    I did translate the inscriptions for him & explained the reverse design. He was very appreciative :happy:. Slabbing ancient coins has brought many new collectors to the hobby, & that's a good thing ;). Coins can always be removed from slabs for those collectors who feel a need to handle the actual coin.
  18. gogili1977

    gogili1977 Well-Known Member

    Caracalla, Elagabal, Mamaea
  19. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    It is true that slabs brought new collectors to the hobby but there is one slight side effect/problem. When a $50 coin is put in a $50 slab and sold for $150 it still remains a $50 coin in the eyes of those collectors who were in the hobby before slabs or who have learned their hobby skills 'old school'. That means that the coin in a slab that can be removed from the slab will probably only appeal to people who will not remove it from the slab. Someone will have to 'eat' the cost of that slab. I do not pay extra for slabbed coins so you have a choice if you want to sell to me. You will sell it for what the coin raw is worth to me or you will convince me that I have to pay more because I will not find another like that coin and I should pay more to cover your not knowing what you had. Usually that means you will have only people who are like you and like slabs as customers for common coins but may sell coins in slabs for a high price if the coin was special enough to cover its own slab fee. Two coins below are not slabbed. If they were, I suspect one would remain that way while the other would be broken out by the buyer who would not be impressed by the plastic/label. The other is a common coin which I predict will stay in the slab and sold to someone like the PCP who will take comfort in the label and not the coin. Which is which? I wonder how many of each of these exist in slabs.
    rg3070bb1565.jpg rj4490bb0934.jpg
    paschka, Yorkshire, DonnaML and 5 others like this.
  20. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Well-Known Member

    Why don't you get your facts straight before posting a buffoon-like diatribe. It doesn't cost $50 to slab a coin with a value of $300 or less, it costs $25. That isn't an extravagant expense for someone who likes a nice presentation for an ancient coin. Further more I don't get all my coins slabbed as I've stated in the past, in fact I've removed some of the coins I've bought from their slabs. Common issue coins in extraordinary condition are no longer common coins. I couldn't care less what you or anyone else thinks about slabbed coins or what you are willing to pay for a coin, that's your business. Don't confuse "old school" with outdated thinking. As Bob Dylan wrote "Your old road is rapidly aging, Please get out of the new one if you can't lend your hand, For the times, they are a-changin".
    Theodosius likes this.
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