Taking things up a notch

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by The Meat man, Feb 27, 2024.

  1. The Meat man

    The Meat man Well-Known Member

    The past several months I've been working at shifting my collection from 'lots of average coins' to 'fewer coins but of higher quality'. Part of that has involved selling off a lot of coins to free up funds for new purchases, and there's still a bunch more I want to move on.

    In the meantime, I've greatly enjoyed being able to spend a bit more per coin and being a bit more discriminating in what I purchase.

    Like many people I am drawn to the fine portrait artistry on Roman coins, so I've been building a small collection of portrait denarii, prioritizing eye appeal - artistic style, top condition, quality of strike, and toning. Of secondary importance is good full weight, rarity of type, interesting provenance, etc. The goal is to buy the very best I can afford - which naturally varies somewhat by emperor. Needless to say, I won't be able to acquire them all.

    My rule is one per emperor, so if I want to upgrade I will have to sell the current coin. Hopefully that will keep it manageable and affordable. I also am trying to keep it to lifetime coins as Augustus, so no 'DIVVS' or coins as Caesar.

    So far I am content with my representations of Augustus, Tiberius, Antoninus Pius, and Septimius Severus. I've posted all those before and I won't bother with them again here.

    But more recently, I was thrilled to acquire this beautiful denarius of Titus. Not only does it have great 'eye appeal', but it's also a somewhat rare and historically significant reverse type:

    Titus denarius kneeling captive.jpg

    TITUS, AD 79-81
    AR Denarius (18.54mm, 3.34g, 6h)
    Struck September-December, AD 79. Rome mint
    Obverse: IMP TITVS CAES VESPASIAN AVG P M, laureate head of Titus right
    Reverse: TR P VIIII IMP XV COS VII P P, bound captive kneeling under trophy of arms and armor
    References: RIC II 49, RCV 2511 var. (obv. leg.)
    A choice specimen, sharply struck with a superb portrait.
    "The reverse type refers either to the victory in Judaea or, alternatively, may be associated with the activities in northern Britain of the celebrated governor Gnaeus Julius Agricola, father-in-law of the historian Tacitus." - David R. Sear (Roman Coins and Their Values, Vol. I, p. 465)

    Being able to afford coins like this takes the hobby to a whole new level for me. I will be posting more later on, so stay tuned. ;)
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  3. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    Very nice @The Meat man. I've considered doing the same, but I'm too lazy to sell off my "average" coins.
  4. Cheech9712

    Cheech9712 Every thing is a guess

    I like your one per emperor rule. The chase will be long
    The Meat man likes this.
  5. WuntBeDruv

    WuntBeDruv Active Member

    Lovely piece. It is the eternal battle, whether to have 10 'excellent' coins or 100 'average' ones. Ultimately it comes down to the individual balances of the collector. My personal view with ancient coins is that it is well worth buying quality because then you get the most out of the superb artistry!
    The Meat man likes this.
  6. The Meat man

    The Meat man Well-Known Member

    Thanks Bing! Even though I probably won't be able to replace some of the coins I sold, I have no regrets. ;)

    Yes, it is definitely a long-term goal. ;)

    Thanks! I'm beginning to agree with you. Even though I still appreciate a worn coin, especially if it is a rarity, it's much more satisfying to buy quality when you can.
  7. The Meat man

    The Meat man Well-Known Member

    Here is another one of my new 'quality' acquisitions - perhaps not quite as eye-catching as the Titus denarius, but still quite nice. I especially like the portrait style, which seems to be of a more individual and artistic style than the standard Domitian portrait. The reverse is nice as well - I like the little owl - and it is struck on a full weight, quality flan.

    Domitian denarius Minerva-owl.jpg

    DOMITIAN, AD 81-96
    AR Denarius (19.29mm, 3.53g, 6h)
    Struck AD 88-89. Rome mint
    Obverse: IMP CAES DOMIT AVG GERM P M TR P VIII, laureate head of Domitian right
    Reverse: IMP XVII COS XIIII CENS PPP, Minerva standing right on top of rostral column, holding spear and shield; owl to lower right
    References: RIC II 657 (R)
    A rare type, well-struck on good metal with light toning. An excellent portrait of Domitian in fine style.

    It also so happens to be a rare (R) type. If I may quote @David Atherton:

    "Domitian did not take the consulship in 89, so this rare denarius is dated by TR P VIII between September 88 and September 89. The date can be further narrowed down by the 17th imperial acclamation. A military diploma dated 7 November, 88 records Domitian as IMP XVII, so this issue must have been struck briefly at the end of 88, perhaps just a month or so due to the rarity of the acclamation number on the denarii and the fact they were being awarded at a fairly rapid pace due to increased military activity along the Danube." - Image search results - "domitian ric 657" - RIC 657 Domitian - Classical Numismatics Discussion - Members' Coin Gallery (forumancientcoins.com)
    Carl Wilmont, Dafydd, galba68 and 8 others like this.
  8. GarrettB

    GarrettB Active Member

    Both lovely coins, Meat man! I think I prefer the Domitian. I also agree with your new approach. I've been purchasing fewer and putting money aside for 'higher quality'. I'm a relatively novice collector, but I have 'most' of the emperors now. There is a stone of Emesa Elagabalus denarius I have my eye on. I wouldn't have considered it a year ago. I'm after a good quality Allectus as well - I can't really say why!
    The Meat man likes this.
  9. The Meat man

    The Meat man Well-Known Member

    To complete the Flavian Dynasty, I needed a good Vespasian denarius. But even though I came across a number of possible candidates, none of them really seemed to 'speak' to me, if you know what I mean.

    Then I noticed a particularly fine example scheduled to be auctioned off later that month and put it on my watchlist. The bidding stayed pretty low so I was hopeful of being able to snag it for a decent price. Ha, think again! The evening before the auction was to go live, I decided to make my move - so I placed a bid about double what the current bid was. Not enough. Both my bids and a feeling of desperation kept inching up and up as I tried to top the winning bid.

    Sigh. Yes, I finally topped the max bid, but by that point we were both in the stratosphere, almost double what I had previously decided would be my max bid, and it was with feelings of annoyance, guilt, hope, and resignation that I finally closed the web browser and headed for bed.

    Well, to make a long story short, my winning bid held - there were no additional bids placed, so I won the coin! But whew. I am afraid I may have overpaid for it, but oh well, it really is one of the finest portrait denarii of Vespasian I've ever seen! Plus, a rare type, rated "R" in RIC. So I will now present what might be the best yet in my 'quality' collection:

    Vespasian denarius PONTIF MAXIM.jpg

    VESPASIAN, AD 69-79
    AR Denarius (18.35mm, 3.26g, 6h)
    Struck AD 74. Rome mint
    Obverse: IMP CAESAR VESP AVG, laureate head of Vespasian right
    Reverse: PONTIF MAXIM around winged caduceus
    References: RIC II 686 (R), RCV 2306
    Lightly toned and lustrous. A magnificent portrait of Vespasian, and an exemplar of the veristic style of Flavian portraiture.
  10. The Meat man

    The Meat man Well-Known Member

    Here is another one of my more recent 'quality' denarii purchases - and one of my favorites:

    Nero denarius eagle-standards.jpg

    NERO, AD 54-68
    AR Denarius (17.24mm, 3.47g, 7h)
    Struck AD 68. Rome mint
    Obverse: IMP NERO CAESAR AVG P P, laureate head of Nero right
    Reverse: Legionary eagle between two standards
    References: RIC I 68, RCV 1947

    A scarce type. Lightly toned with an excellent portrait.
    From the T. R. Hardaker Collection (1942-2019)

    "This type, among the last coins struck by the very unmilitary Nero, would seem to be an attempt to curry favor with the Roman legions of the provinces, which were beginning to rebel against his capricious rule. It did not work." - Classical Numismatic Group (lot description)

    Though this coin definitely exhibits more wear than my other purchases, it's still got a lot going for it in my opinion. The portrait is classic, late-reign obese Nero, skillfully executed and well-struck. The reverse is an interesting, and somewhat scarce, anepigraphic type, among the last types struck by Nero in the last year of his reign. By this time, nobody was willing to entertain Nero's depraved eccentricities.

    The coin is also very nicely toned, and I discovered an interesting collection provenance after finding the coin on ACSearch.info. It was formerly in the collection of T. R. Hardaker, a well-known authority on ancient Indian punchmark coinage, but who also possessed a sizeable collection of other ancient coins. Many of these (including this coin) were auction off by Baldwin's of St. James's auction house a few years ago.

    All in all, a very satisfying addition!
  11. rasielsuarez

    rasielsuarez Active Member


    Check this out:


    Attached Files:

  12. The Meat man

    The Meat man Well-Known Member

    That is an incredible set-up. Your own?
    galba68 and Pickin and Grinin like this.
  13. Pickin and Grinin

    Pickin and Grinin Well-Known Member

    Same question I had.
  14. Cherd

    Cherd Junior Member Supporter

    I've collected a lot of different things over the years (US coins, baseball cards, antique fishing lures, etc). I reached a point in each case where I realized that my collections had sprawled into an unmanageable mountain of mediocre stuff with a few gems that I actually appreciated. I would then go through the process that you described of selling off the lesser stuff, consolidating the collection to a more focused area, and seeking out quality over quantity moving forward.

    Happily, I had learned this lesson enough times to avoid the cycle when I eventually shifted my focus to ancient coins. The first thing that I did was make a comprehensive list of the coins that I wanted, considered the maximum amount of money that I'd reasonably want to invest over the duration of the hobby, and calculated my target price per coin while accounting for rarity variations (Julius Caesar and Constantine I are different categories). I've deviated from the list from time-to-time when something special tickles my fancy, but I've stuck with it for the most part and I'm very happy with the results.

    I'll take this opportunity to post my Titus Denarius. The design, toning, and hard edges give him a scruffy, angry look. It's one of my favorite coins :shame:
  15. Cherd

    Cherd Junior Member Supporter

    I know the feeling! I tend to feel a bit of regret immediately after I "Splurge" on a coin (go out of my predetermined price range, maybe overpay a bit). But so long as the coin seems special enough to me, I find that this feeling of regret transitions to satisfaction as I appreciate the coin repeatedly over time.

    I don't know what you paid, but your Vespasian would qualify as that type of coin in my opinion. That bust is fantastic!
    The Meat man likes this.
  16. Nicholas Molinari

    Nicholas Molinari Well-Known Member

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  17. Blake Davis

    Blake Davis Well-Known Member

    I’ve decided to do the same and just shipped off 13 coins for consignment - whatever I get for them will probably go toward one or two coins - I am rearranging things in the collection once again.
    The Meat man and philologus_1 like this.
  18. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    That's a superb example!
    Cherd likes this.
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