Silvered Tetradrachms

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Orange Julius, Jan 12, 2019.

  1. Orange Julius

    Orange Julius Well-Known Member

    I just received this nice Aurelian tetradrachm in the mail. What's interesting about it is the silvering that remains. I have quite a few nice tetradrachms from this period but this is the first retaining significant silvering... I guess I didn't realize that it was applied to tetradrachms.

    Does anyone know more about the when these were "silvered" and when they were just base metal without a silver wash?

    Show your silver/tin washed tetradrachms if you'd like!

    Aurelian - LE (Year 5) - Emmett 3924?, Milne 4422?

    PS: Also I was hoping I could get a reference check on this one from someone who may have Emmett or Milne... on acsearch there are varying attributions for the same coin.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2019
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  3. Pellinore

    Pellinore Well-Known Member

    20593364-6213-49AE-A74C-A989D7AA2B44.jpeg I don’t have Milne, but it is Emmett 3924 alright. In Emmett’s references, Milne 4426 is given. But I can’t check.
    Orange Julius likes this.
  4. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    The eagle's wings are closed rather than open. Your lovely Aurelian tet is Emmett 3923.5, Milne 4419, and Dattari 5475.

    As for silvering, to the best of my knowledge silvering was never a part of the production of Alexandrian tetradrachms, so maybe you're seeing some reflection or other patina?

    Looking up your coin caused me to look more closely at Milne. He took into consideration many minor details which Emmett disregarded when creating catalog numbers (yay Emmett!). However, in Emmett's concordance tables those little details are not considered and apparently the Milne numbers are just the first number of a list when such a list contained other minutiae. For instance, in the Emmett concordance table, E 3923.5 equates with Milne 4418 but 4418 has a different obverse legend. Milne 4419 describes your coin


    B1 is the legend:


    k7 is the bust type, from a list that covers all coins in the book:


    This degree of specificity of the busts seems ridiculous to me, especially when so often the strike, wear, and corrosion makes determination of clothing details sketchy at best, and again: does it matter in any way? Does it connote some important historical detail? It seems unlikely. Maybe Milne suffered from OCD :D.

    Milne even has a code for the position of the wreath ties!! Why?! Is there some secret code contained in the wreath tie positions? :joyful::joyful: He is referring to the ties of the wreath on the emperor's bust, not of the wreath in the eagle's beak.


    Speaking of, Milne says your coin's wreath ties should be (c), "both ties turned backwards".


    It looks like yours is really (f), "both ties turned backwards and curled", although I don't know just how upturned the ends of the ties have to be in order to be considered "curled". I can imagine certain sellers exploiting this: "rare variant unlisted in Milne" :D.

    Here's the Dattari entry:


    Yes, I'm an Emmett fangirl :D. I don't see the purpose of dissecting the minute details of ancient coins unless there is some purpose behind the details. Granted, it is possible that the purpose may only be revealed after such study... but wreath tie position? Gimme a break :rolleyes:. I'll turn a blind eye on Emmett's breakdown of the various eagle reverses, which seems a bit too much to me.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2019
  5. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    ...and I am a TIF fanboy. Her excellent post points out why I am so very opposed to the practice of 'farming' catalog references without looking them up and understanding the original reference in hand. Lets take two books A and B. Because of book A nitpicking some details and book B ignoring them or even nitpicking other details it is NOT the case that all coins with the same A number will have the same B number. When you look a my coin and see it is A1234 and B5678 that does not tell you that your A1234 is also B5678. I know many people want to look more professional and scholarly but I hope we all will use these numbers to communicate and not worship them. Labeling your coin to ten different out of print references you have never seen does not make you a scholar.

    I once (1990's) corresponded with an elderly collector who was convinced there was a code in laurel wreath tie positions in the time of Licinius. His arguments went over my head and I do not know if I would be able to find his letters in that mess I call an attic. He passed away. I did not memorize his theories and had that same "Gimme a break" opinion. I don't even remember his name. Was he right? I'll never know. Will that be common knowledge in discussions on Coin Talk in 2119? I won't know that either.
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  6. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    The devil take wreath-tie positions; I want a catalog that characterizes Gallienus issues by amount of neck-beard present!

    Gallienus Alexandrian tetradrachm.jpg
  7. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Oh YES! Let's do this!! It would be so funny :D

    Let's see... we could express it as a ratio of chin to neck.

    :shy: This made my day :)
  8. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    The numiswiki entry seems to want to make the same point but still give Milne the benefit of the doubt... :D

    "Milne, J. A Catalogue of the Alexandrian Coins in the Ashmolean Museum. (Oxford, 1933, reprints with supplement).

    Catalog primarily of the coins donated by Milne to the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford England. It's an extensive collection, very precise descriptions of the obverse types (likely still ahead of its time). It relies on extensive cataloging information at the back of the book (a pain at times). It can be problematic for new collectors to use. Obverse inscriptions among the most reliable and reverse date placements are very accurate. One can absorb a lot of information from different parts of the book. It's about as extensive in scope as the ANS collection."
  9. rrdenarius

    rrdenarius non omnibus dormio Supporter

    I agree.

    Interesting posts on how to ID an ancient coin. I suppose this is not a lot different than VAM # for US silver $.
    I have several books on RR coins (10+) and try to check numbers before posting them with a coin description. I collect several minute details on coins (plumb bobs, anchors & scales). Often auction descriptions of a coin will be by cutting and pasting a similar coin from an earlier auction. The die marks are often not changed. The first coin is often miss-described. The second coin where the anchor gives the coin a different Crawford # is usually correct.
    Piso anchor symbol DrBP 11.18.17.JPG
    anon as anchor symbol DrBP 11.18.17.JPG
  10. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I guess what I find objectionable is copyright laws. Each time someone writes a book they feel the need to create a new numbering system because books that don't simply do not sell well. Just once I'd like to see someone use the old numbers from a previous standard reference but I assume that would bring a lawsuit from the person who first applied that number to that coin. Seaby's Roman Silver Coins did this with Cohen numbers. I would have been happy if RIC had ordered their coins as they did by mints but shown the prime number for a coin according to Cohen and added a suffix that defined the series and mint information that Cohen ignored. Of course this has problems when it comes to correcting errors and adding new finds but I'm not convinced it would have been worse than what we have.

    Neck beards: I worked for 20 years for an operation that required shaving. I left them over 30 years ago and have not shaved since about this time in 1989. Laugh if you wish. I have a neck beard but it is hiding behind the rest of the hair. I try not to judge people by their hair. I'm sure Gallienus was as fashionable in his day as the Beatles were in theirs. I wonder if they would have starved to death if they had neck beards rather than mop tops?

    This guy looks pretty stupid, right?
  11. Orange Julius

    Orange Julius Well-Known Member

    Thank you TIF and Pellinore for the attribution help! I could tell there was some confusion out there as I was running into a different attribution for almost every example I found of this coin. I've been meaning to buy Emmett and Milne (and others) as they seem to be the most sited references but have yet to pull the trigger.

    TIF thanks also for taking the time to walk me through the Milne attribution. I agree that it is extreme to look at differences as small as wreath ties on coins that were made with hand-carved dies... but I guess some could someday see these details as evidence for chronological sequence or style change/transition.

    As for 'farming' references, I see nothing wrong with wanting to attribute a coin with a reference from the standard works on a topic, even if you don't own the books. I personally like to understand the details behind and between those numbers.

    I agree that sometimes people can get too hung up on a catalog number and not appreciate or understand what separates one attribution from another.

    For me attribution is part of the ritual and fun of getting a new coin. For every coin, I toss the dealer attribution and research the coin myself (beyond catalog numbers)... only going back to the dealer information at the end to see if they agree.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2019
  12. Orange Julius

    Orange Julius Well-Known Member

    That's what I thought too as none of my 3rd century tetradrachms were silvered, even the ones in perfect condition. This coin most definitely is/was coated with a silver/tin wash.

    After looking through the rest of my Alexandrian coins, I'm finding a few more with a white metal wash in the crevices. Here's a few closeups of the coin, showing a better look.

    I'll have to do a bit more information hunting tonight on this topic.

    Last edited: Jan 12, 2019
  13. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Hmm. It does look like you coin was coated with something, and probably long ago.

    If I understand correctly, silvering of Imperial coins was prevalent during Aurelian's reign, so perhaps this trickled down to the provinces? I'd like to have more examples or a more learned opinion.
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