The plummed apple: When the seller (or MAJOR auction house) doesn't get it right

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Ryro, Jan 17, 2022.

  1. Ryro

    Ryro Trying to remove supporter status Supporter

    Whether purchasing from a top firm at auction or a low seller at eBay we cannot trust that they are selling us what they say, even when they think they are.
    The obvious example of not being able to trust sellers being 2/3rds of all ancient coin related items on ebay (and that might be a liberal estimate). That said, reputable sellers make errors (they're only human... except David R:bookworm::cigar:), trust the consignor without giving due diligence (these houses are dealing with massive amounts of products. Think of all the coins they decide NOT to put up for sale:stop:) or could simply be using dated references (remember a few years ago when we found out that Nekta-not-bo II DIDN'T mint bronze coins).
    Fakes, toolies, false provenances and out and out naming the wrong person are egregious, but how about when a trustworthy source lists that, oh, I don't know, a coin to have a Christian cross on it 100 years before the cross was even Christian!:
    (That thread was a lot of fun to watch unwind and very informative, thanks for all the participation).

    Onto the coin that named the thread:rolleyes:
    This error, brought to you by Leu; is absolutely silly. So silly that they not only misattributed my coin, but when I was cross checking on AC search they'd done it to prior examples, as did 1 other major house... at least:eek:
    As a collector well acquainted with Venus holding an apple:kiss:bottom vs her holding her lover's (Mars) helmet this one threw me for a loop.
    You see Magna Urbica is so little known that its still up for debate as to which emperor was actually her husband! Hence, she is known to be more commonly faked then a Julia might.
    Here I'd like to state that I believe this Magna to be the real Magna McCoy. It's the attribution being so basically and, IMHO, obviously off that I take exception to.
    But the description, if fully read, gave reason for pause, "Venus standing front, head to left, holding apple"... errmmmm, unless that apple has a WORM crawling across the top of it and not a plume that's Mar's helmet in her sensual hands!
    Magnia Urbica, Augusta, 283-285. Antoninianus (Billon, 24 mm, 4.13 g, 6 h), Rome. MAGN VRBICA AVG Diademed and draped bust of Magnia Urbica set to right on crescent. Rev. VENVS GENETRIX / KAS Venus standing front, head to left, holding apple in her right hand and scepter in her left. Cohen 17. RIC 343. Areas of weakness and somewhat rough on the reverse, otherwise, good fine.

    A quick look at AC search to verify left me baffled...
    A VERY nice example from Leu again. But again look at dem apples:joyful::
    Magnia Urbica, Augusta, 283-285. Antoninianus (Silvered bronze, 24 mm, 3.63 g, 11 h), Rome. MAGN VRBICA AVG Diademed and draped bust of Magnia Urbica set to right on crescent. Rev. VENVS GENETRIX / KAS Venus standing front, head to left, holding apple in her right hand and scepter in her left. Cohen 17. RIC 343. Struck on a broad flan and with faint silvering. About extremely fine.
    From the collection of a retired senior air force officer.

    CNG 06 same mistake (and these "apples" even have cheek guards):

    MAGNIA URBICA, wife of Carinus. Augusta, 283-285 AD. Antoninianus (22mm, 3.41 g). Rome mint. Diademed and draped bust right / Venus standing left, holding apple and sceptre; KAΓ. RIC V 343; Cohen 17. Fine, dark greenish-brown patina, smoothed.

    MAGNIA URBICA, wife of Carinus. Augusta, 283-285 AD. Antoninianus (23mm, 2.90 g). Rome mint. Diademed and draped bust right / Venus standing left, holding apple and sceptre; KAΓ. RIC V 343; Cohen 17. Fine, brown patina, reverse a little rough.
    From the Tony Hardy Collection.

    Are these guys copying off each other's homework?:writer:;)


    As much as I'd like to look down my nose and say, "Come on top shops. Get it right everytime." I own a mirror and realize I'm guilty, albeit in a much more low key level, of the same short cutting.
    Then again, I'm the one paying them:sour:

    I've certainly plenty of other misidentified coins, but would like to see and hear about all of yours!:woot::wideyed:
    Misidentified, falsified, misattributed and roothooted, post em if ya got em. The funnier the better:D
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2022
  2. Avatar

    Guest User Guest

    to hide this ad.
  3. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    Great coins and great post, @Ryro .

    Ok, for your thread, my coin is REAL!!!

    BRUTUS (nope, notta knock-off)

  4. Ryro

    Ryro Trying to remove supporter status Supporter

    Funny enough, I've been listening to Plutarch's lives (almost done too!) And am currently listening to his take on Brutus. Hardly a brute. According to Plutarch this Brutus was the only one of the conspirators that had no hidden agenda. He simply wanted to live up to his namesake and probable in (Plutarch did say it was up for debate whether he was an ancestor of the ridder of kings and tyrants in Rome).
    The only hidden agenda would have been that Caesar was notoriously his mother's favorite lover (and possibly the kids father:shame:).
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2022
  5. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    Funny! I am reading ‘ Brutus: Caesar’s Assassin’ by Kirsty Corrigan as we speak!
    ominus1 and Ryro like this.
  6. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    That IS obviously the helmet of Venus' boy-toy, Mars, @Ryro.

    Here's one I've posted before, but it was 3-1/2 years ago, so I'll post it again for grins...

    The reverse of this sestertius of Faustina II issued under her father (RIC 1386b) supposedly depicts "Venus Genetrix standing left, holding apple and child in swaddling clothes."


    I dunno ... that doesn't look like an apple to me. In fact, it's clear that it's a cylindrical object with roundish logo on the side, a heap of whipped cream, and a straw.


    It can be nothing other than the Unicorn Frappucino!!


    Joke son.jpg

    Nobody misidentified that one. The die-engraver just made a weird-looking apple.

    But seriously, here's one that WAS misidentified by the dealer. It was sold as "Faustina" -- because we all know that EVERY EMPRESS WITH A BUN IN HER HAIR IS FAUSTINA. ;)

    It's Plautilla. And I like a nice Plautilla provincial.

    Plautilla, AD 202-205.
    Roman provincial Æ 20 mm, 4.1 g.
    Phrygia, Otrus, AD 202-205.
    Obv: ΦOVΛ ΠΛ-AVTIΛΛAC, bare-headed and draped bust, right.
    Rev: OTP-O-HNΩN, Demeter standing left, holding grain ears and long torch.
    Refs: BMC 25.344,7; Von Aulock Phrygiens, 802-8; cf. SNG Cop 633.
  7. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Here's my post from last year about an error in the identification of a particular Roman Republican coin published in the RBW Collection book -- an error also found in several NAC auctions. See the boldfaced text in the third footnote below.

    Roman Republic, P. [Publius] Sulpicius Galba, AR Denarius, 69 BCE. Obv. Veiled head of Vesta right, S•C• [Senatus consulto] downwards behind / Rev. Sacrificial implements (Long knife [secespita], short-handled simpulum or culullus,* and single-bladed axe [securis] ornamented with lion’s head**, left to right), AE in left field, CVR in right field [together = Aedilis Curulis]; in exergue, P•GALB.*** Crawford 406/1, RSC I [Babelon] Sulpicia 7, Sear RCV I 345, BMCRR 3517, Harlan, RRM I Ch. 28 at pp. 160-163 [Harlan, Michael, Roman Republican Moneyers and their Coins, 81 BCE-64 BCE (2012)], Sydenham 839, RBW Collection 1454.**** 18 mm., 3.97 g. Purchased from Kölner Münzkabinett, April 2021; ex. Fritz Rudolf Künker GmbH & Co. KG, Auction 347, Lot 918, March 22, 2021. (With 19th[?]-Century handwritten French-language coin ticket, citing Babelon Sulpicia 6 [bearing the reverse legend AED-CVR] on one side, and Babelon Sulpicia 7 [this coin-type, bearing the reverse legend AE-CVR] on the other.)


    The ticket that came with the coin; the dealer thinks it's 19th century but I have a feeling it's a bit more recent than that (one side appears to be in pencil, and the other in ink):



    * “Culullus: The Culullus is a horn-shaped vessel like the rhython held aloft by the Penates, holding milk or wine. This was an emblem of the Vestales Virgines as well as of the pontifices.” But see Jones, John Melville, A Dictionary of Ancient Roman Coins (Seaby, London 1990) (entry for “Culillus or culullus” at pp. 78-79): “This is said to have been the name of a drinking cup used in religious ceremonies by the Roman pontifices and Vestal Virgins. For this reason the digger or scoop which appears on the reverse of a denarius of P. Sulpicius Galba issued in 69 BC, with a head of Vesta on the obverse, has been identified as a culillus. It seems, however, to be only a simpulum, perhaps with a slightly shorter handle than usual.” See also Jones, entry for “Simpulum” at p. 290: “the name for a ladle made of earthenware which was one of the traditional implements of the pontifices at Rome. It should be distinguished from a culullus, which was a drinking vessel.”

    ** If I'm interpreting it correctly, the "lion's head" at the top of the axe (according to BMCRR) is facing upwards, with his mane at the bottom, his open mouth at the top with a tooth protruding from his lower jaw on the left, and his ear to the right. Oddly, neither Crawford nor Harlan nor RSC nor Sear mentions the lion's head. I don't have access to Sydenham.

    ***The moneyer is known to have been “appointed one of the judges in the trial against Verres in B.C. 70 [for extortion and corruption as provincial governor of Sicily, prosecuted by Cicero; see] but was rejected by Verres on account of his reputation for severity. He was an unsuccessful candidate for the consulship in B.C. 63, and he is mentioned as pontifex in B.C. 57, and augur in B.C. 49.” (BMCRR Vol. I at p. 433 n. 1.) See also Harlan, RRM I at 160 (quoting Cicero’s characterization of Sulpicius Galba, in a letter to his brother Atticus in July 65 BCE, as “sobrius et sanctus”). Crawford states at Vol. I p. 418 that the moneyer was already a pontifex (i.e., a member of the senior college of priests) at the time of his term as moneyer in 69 BCE -- as is demonstrated by the head of Vesta on the obverse of this coin (given that the pontiffs had oversight of the ceremonies of Vesta, trials of delinquent Vestal Virgins, etc.; see Harlan, RRM I at p. 161), as well as by the depiction of sacrificial implements on the reverse.

    The moneyer’s position as curule aedile in 69 BCE, expressly mentioned in the coin’s reverse legend (AE - CVR), was separate from his status as a pontifex. At any given time in Rome, there were two curule aediles -- i.e., patrician aediles entitled to use the sella curulis (curule chair). They were the magistrates charged with “the general administration of the city and its buildings and the organizing of public games and spectacles.” (See Dictionary of Ancient Roman Coins, supra, entry for “Aedile” at p. 5.) See also the NumisWiki entry for “Aediles Curules,” from Stevenson’s A Dictionary of Roman Coins (1889), at Curules: “To the curule ediles were entrusted the care of the sacred edifices (especially the temple of Jupiter), the tribunals of justice, the city walls, and the theatres; in short, all that was essential to the religion, defence, and embellishment of the city, came under their cognizance.” According to Harlan (RRM I at p. 163), this coin represents “the first time under the Sullan constitution that an aedile minted” as moneyer. The specific special purpose for the Senate’s authorization of this issue (as signified by the “S•C” on the obverse) is unknown, although Harlan suggests (id.) that the purpose may have been related to the need to purchase extra grain from Sicily to alleviate the severe grain shortages during that period, exacerbated by Verres’s peculations as provincial governor. Cf. the Stevenson entry on Aediles Curules quoted in NumisWiki at the link above, citing various coin issues expressly depicting corn ears, and noting that “[t]he addition of EX. S. C. denotes that those Curule Ediles purchased wheat for the supply of the Roman population, with the public money, by authority of the Senate.”

    ****The coin pictured as RBW Collection 1454 (at p. 301 of the book) is actually the same type as my coin ([RSC I] Babelon Sulpicia 7, bearing the reverse legend AE - CVR), even though the book’s text (at p. 300) erroneously identifies it as [RSC I] Babelon Sulpicia 6, mistakenly characterizing it as bearing the reverse legend AED-CVR. (Both types have the same Crawford number, namely 406/1.) Here is the text:


    And here is the RBW Collection photo, in which it's clear that the reverse legend says AE - CVR rather than AED-CVR, meaning that the coin should properly have been identified as Babelon Sulpicia 7 rather than Babelon Sulpicius 6:


    The RBW Collection coin was sold by Numismatic Ars Classica (NAC) with that erroneous identification on May 17, 2012. Here's the photo of the same coin from ACSearch, as listed by NAC. Like on mine, there's obviously no "D." (Note that it sold for about four times as much as mine, despite the missing lion's head! That's a very beautiful, luminous portrait of Vesta, though.)


    For comparison purposes, here's an example from the British Museum which does have AED-CVR on the reverse (with a ligate AE):


    And an example sold by Roma on Dec. 17, 2020:


    Interestingly, NAC proceeded to sell at least two other Sulpicius Galba AE-CVR examples in 2015, and another in 2016, all with the exact same erroneous identification as purportedly bearing the AED-CVR legend. Making the mistake once is odd; I don't know what to say about four times! Here are two of the three others, all I can fit in this post. (Note the very clear lion's head on the second one):



    The mis-identification of the RBW Collection coin is hardly a major error, of course, but it still surprises me that both NAC (repeatedly) and the authors of the book could have missed it. The distinction isn't exactly obscure. It just goes to show that nobody's perfect, no matter how esteemed or reputable, and that one should always try to double-check and confirm the identifications of one's coins when it's possible.
  8. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    And here's an odd error I noticed recently, made by Silbury Coins in the UK, a perfectly reputable dealer (from whom I purchased my new Trajan Danuvius denarius), in describing the reverse of another Trajan denarius:

    "Trajan 98-117AD Silver Denarius Arabia stg. right, Bird at feet

    Code: FR580
    Trajan 98-117AD Silver Denarius Arabia stg. right, Bird at feet

    Sear 3157, 17x18mm, 3.35g

    This coin comes with old tickets. Silbury Trajan camel reverse.jpg
    Shouldn't any knowledgeable ancient coin dealer know that the animal standing next to Arabia in the denarius with ARAB ADQ in the reverse exergue is supposed to be a camel, not a bird? Even if it looks more like a flamingo/ ostrich?! (Also, the proper Sear RCV II number is 3118, not 3157, which has a reverse with Ceres standing left and has nothing to do with Arabia.)

    I can't even try to count the number of times I've discovered that a dealer on VCoins or MA-Shops -- we're not talking ebay here! -- has assigned the wrong RIC or RSC number to a coin. Bird vs. camel, though, is a pretty big mistake.
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2022
  9. GinoLR

    GinoLR Well-Known Member

    This is a classic mistake dating back to late Antiquity.

    For the Romans, the symbol of Arabia was the camel (generally the one-humped dromedary, but sometimes the two-humped Bactrian species). It began with the M. Aemilius Scaurus denarii showing Aretas III, king of the Nabataean Arabs, kneeling in submission, and when in 111 Trajan celebrated the annexation of Arabia, the official allegory of the new province had a small camel protome at her feet, the posterior half of the animal being hidden behind the allegory's legs. This camel is still depicted on Hadrianic coins, and also (w/o the allegory) on some civic coins of Bostra, capital of the province.

    Because the camel was only partially represented, it is obvious that several celators took it for an ostrich, especially if they carved their dies by copying a coin and not a detailed picture. But it was always supposed to be a camel !

    Modern numismatists sometimes make the same mistake. For ex. this lot in a Savoca auction:
    savoca ostrich.jpg
    or even this entry in the OCRE database !!!

    But the error may date back to late Antiquity or early Middle Ages. All manuscripts of the Notitia Dignitatum depend on one now lost archetype of Carolingian date. The plate depicting the sector of the Dux Arabiae represents military garrisons of the Arabia province (in its much reduced extent of the 4th-5th c.). Between the walled cities we can see snakes and two ostriches.

    This plate from the Munich manuscript is the most accurate copy of the Carolingian lost original :

    other 15th or 16th c. manuscripts show it in different styles:
    DuxArab-P.png DuxArab-M.png

    The snakes cannot be explained otherwise than ill-interpreted dracones : on the original plates of late Antiquity, there must have been draco-standards floating above the fortresses of Betthorus (Lejjun), Mefa (Umm ar-Resas) and Gadda (near Zarqa), all now in Jordan. A copyist has not noticed there were standards and only reproduced the draco w/o the pole, and all subsequent copies reproduced this mistake.

    For the ostriches we must also make the same hypothesis: there are no texts stating that the ostrich is a typical bird of Arabia, and the traditional Roman symbol of Arabia is the camel. These two ostriches to characterize Arabia were very probably camels in the late antique manuscript, but when it was copied it was in bad condition and the copyist took them for ostriches.
  10. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Ryro and Roman Collector like this.
  11. ambr0zie

    ambr0zie Dacian Taraboste

    Well, for me this kind of errors are helpful ... when I find them myself. Educational, to put it so.
    I try to doublecheck whenever possible the attributions, the design symbols, and when I find a misattribution in my own catalog I am almost happy as I learned something new.
    @Ryro, if I remember correctly, you bought a Titus denarius with Venus reverse (you know, that reverse) listed as Vespasian. For me, this kind of error from an auction house means they are clumsy.
    @DonnaML it is extremely clear that the animal is a camel, but if I look at it, the engraver really had an ostrich in mind.
    ... or Road Runner's ancestor?!

    What bothers me more is the incorrect attribution, pointing to a different ruler, or incorrect description, because the action house did not pay attention.
    I have 3 coins in this situation (one on the road and already delayed, grrrr)

    Bought this coin because I didn't have an Imperial Geta.
    Described as
    Geta 198-212 AD, as Caesar, AR Denarius, Rome Mint, ca. 200-202 AD.
    Obv: P SEPT GETA CAES PONT, bare, draped and cuirassed bust of Geta, seen from behind, right
    Rev: PRINC IVVENTVTIS, Geta in military dress standing left, holding baton and sceptre, to the right trophy
    RIC IV 18 C

    And yes, after buying it, my total amount of Geta imperial coins remained 0. The legend is not fully visible due to the small flan but the house assumed it's RIC IV 18.
    I just assumed everything is correct and a CT member pointed that the legend, based on what is visible on the left, can only be M AVR ANTON CAES PONTIF, so the coin is a Caracalla as Caesar.

    In the same auction I bought a coin, this time correctly attributed to Caracalla
    Caracalla (as Caesar, 196-198) AR denarius. Rome
    M AVR ANTON CAES PONTIF - bareheaded and draped bust right
    Rev: DESTINATO IMPERAT - Implements of the priesthood: lituus, apex, bucranium, and simpulum.
    RIC IV.1 6 note. RSC 53.

    This time they misread the reverse. The legend is again hidden but one could see it's not DESTINATO IMPERAT.
    My problem was the description (taken from the "correct" coin) "Implements of the priesthood: lituus, apex, bucranium, and simpulum."
    Really? bucranium? the jug is very visible and points clearly to
    Implements of the priesthood: Lituus, axe, jug, simpulum and sprinkler
    RIC IV Caracalla 4

    Latest error I found is on my latest sestertius (that hopefully will arrive)
    This coin is not perfect at all and I think I might have overpaid a little, but the interesting reverse and an emperor missing from my collection, an interesting reverse plus my admiration for chunky bronzes made me want it.
    But... it was listed as Trebonianus Gallus.
    While studying the coin, after purchasing it, I tried to match the obverse legend letters with what it "should" be.
    IVNONI MARTIALI S C sestertii for Gallus have the obverse legend ending in GALLVS AVG. Final obverse legends are ANO AVG so there's a situation here.
    Coin is in fact a Volusian (being a distyle temple, my attribution is
    unless I misunderstood the difference between distyle and tetrastyle)

    I was not bothered by this as having a Volusian sestertius is as good as having a Trebonianus Gallus sestertius. And the price would probably be the same. But it proved me that I should double check everything.
    Edessa, Johndakerftw, DonnaML and 3 others like this.
  12. John Anthony

    John Anthony Ultracrepidarian Supporter Dealer

    Great stuff, Gino. Thank you!
  13. Victor_Clark

    Victor_Clark all my best friends are dead Romans Dealer

    or they are actually ostriches





    an older thread on the now extinct Arabian ostrich
    Edessa, Johndakerftw, Bing and 4 others like this.
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page