Total Beginner Looking for the Next Step

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Jfp7375, May 17, 2022.

  1. Jfp7375

    Jfp7375 Member

    Hi Everyone --

    I am a total beginner in ancient coins and am, for now, primarily interested in Roman coins. Like many others, I was initially drawn in through my interest in history and the intrigue of possessing these cool little artifacts.

    So far I've acquired a few coins:
    1. Cointalk's very own Victor_Clark sent me a mixed lot of about 20 coins, mostly late Roman stuff from 250-360AD, spanning 6-8 emperors, mostly Constantinians. What an incredibly generous guy. I've now gotten to see a variety of emperors, prevalent reverses, and mint locations. I've already made a good effort at attributing about 15 of the 20 coins and looking forward to the rest - I think only 2 or 3 are beyond my skill as of now. Thanks Victor!
    2. I also bought a lot of about 11 uncleaned coins on eBay which, predictably, is going "just ok". I was pretty discriminating about picking out a seller and just wanted some cheap ones to experiment with. They are mostly smaller coins, some heavily encrusted, and my best prediction as of now is that only 2-4 of the 11 will show any significant detail. I've only been soaking in distilled water for 2 days, gently brushing intermittently, so we will see what I get.
    My question is: what next?

    I so enjoy the attribution, learning about different emperors and the history, and am still intrigued by cleaning coins as well. Most times on this site, I see people strongly recommend buying quality coins instead. But to me, the mystery and learning process is a huge part of the appeal.

    But I don't want to waste a lot of money or time either. I am open to shelling out some money for quality coins, but can't help but feel a little lost. I think I still know so little that the satisfaction of a more premium quality, rarer coin relative to a cheaper one is still lost on me. I'm not sure how fun it would be for me to just drop $20 here, $50 there and complete sets or the like.

    Does anyone have a view on this? Any recommendations? Anyone know dealers that sell cheap but decent quality lots (such as the one Victor generously sent me), or higher quality uncleaned coins, so I can just see more coins? Would love to see a sampling of earlier roman coins.

    As a bonus, here is the very first coin I ever attributed from the lot Victor sent - common but pretty nice detail especially on the reverse right?
    Bronze AE3 of Constantine I, ~3.53 grams, ~18.0mm, Obverse Legend: CONSTAN TINVS AVG; Obverse descrip.: Laureate bust facing right; Reverse Legend: PROVIDEN-TIAE AVGG; Reverse descrip: Campgate, 2 turrets, 10-11 Layers, 1 star, no doors. Mintmark: BSIS double crescent. Struck 328-329 AD in Siscia. Reference: RIC VII Siscia 214

    The format of my attribution is probably garbage but pretty confident it's accurate
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  3. Victor_Clark

    Victor_Clark all my best friends are dead Romans Dealer

    You did a great job on attributing your coin; but one small correction-- it is a laureate head versus laureate bust.

    for comparison another Siscia campgate with a rosette-diademed, draped and cuirassed bust right.

    PROVIDENTIAE Siscia 215.jpg
  4. Jfp7375

    Jfp7375 Member

    Ah - of course. Makes sense. This is "exhibit A" in the case for why I should probably hold off for a bit on spending significant resources on individual coins :D

    Thanks for the correction!
    Cheech9712 and Victor_Clark like this.
  5. Dafydd

    Dafydd Supporter! Supporter

    Welcome to CT @Jfp7375. IMHO a great place to start is to run the search bar here for anything you are interested in as you will definitely find great advice and interesting posts. Then I would invest in books and again there are some great posts here on the subject. Sear is a must and don't worry about old or second hand volumes because the pricing is irrelevant , prices change and you can check trends on line but the contents are essential and it is great to have a book in hand , and to me, more satisfying than bouncing between web pages.
    You will find folk here generous in their help but it pays to search first.
    Nice coin and nice job on the attribution!
  6. sand

    sand Well-Known Member

    @Jfp7375 Welcome to CoinTalk ancients.
    For me, the first rule of collecting ancient coins, is that there are no rules.
    For myself, I just collect, what I want to collect. I collect coins, that I like, for various reasons.
    The nice thing about collecting ancient coins, is that you don't have to spend a huge amount of money. There are many ancient coins, in every price range.
    If you want to see a sampling of ancient Roman coins, you can go to, and see lots of ancient Roman coins for sale, from the Roman Republic, and from the Roman Empire.
    Beware of tooled bronze coins. Just search CoinTalk with keyword : tooled
    I think it's good, to start, by buying less expensive coins, until you learn, to a certain extent, to distinguish authentic coins from fake coins.
    I think it's also good, to buy coins from reputable coin dealers, dealers who know enough about ancient coins, that they can tell authentic coins from fake coins, and who are honest, and don't sell fake coins or tooled coins.
    You can also search CoinTalk, using keywords like : Roman, denarius, sestertius, "aes grave", "Roman Republic", antoninianus, etc.
    The longer you hang around CoinTalk ancients, the more you'll learn.
    CoinTalk ancients has many very knowledgeable collectors of ancient coins, and CoinTalk ancients is a very active forum.
    Also, is a great place to look at ancient coins, from previous auctions. If I remember correctly, you may have to join and become a member, but it's free, as long as you don't need to view the hammer prices.
    In addition to fixed price sites like Vcoins, many collectors of ancient coins, buy their coins from various auctions. You can search CoinTalk, to see which auctions are recommended.
    There are also lots of good books, about ancient coins, with lots of photos and information about ancient coins. You can find such books, by searching CoinTalk. Myself, I enjoy collecting books about ancient coins, almost as much as I enjoy collecting ancient coins.
    Also, Youtube has some nice videos, in which people show their ancient coins.
    Here's a link, to some of my ancient Roman coins.
    Last edited: May 17, 2022
  7. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    Welcome to CT Ancients!

    I think a good start is to identify the area of greatest interest for you, in this case Roman coinage. Are you interested in a particular period, or emperors or empresses? Are you interested in the Empire and its provinces? Are you interested in particular denominations?

    Getting information online and through books is something that will reward you as you move forward. Knowledge is key, not only for understanding what is common and what is rare, but also the historical context of each coin. As with any labor of love this process of becoming knowledgeable take time, but it will pay off in many ways.

    I have been a student of history for most of my adult life and find that linking the coins I collect from history works, fiction and non-fiction, gives collecting a vital dimension.

    I don't have any recommendations for bulk ancients. It is true, generally speaking, that buying a pile of uncleaned coins will result in a lot of duds. These coins, almost all bronze, have been in the ground for thousands of years, so many are just so encrusted and corroded lumps that cleaning them actually becomes a destructive process. I do buy group lots from time to time, but they are usually well photographed (at least when they are small in number) so I have a pretty good idea of what's included in the lot.

    As you move along with your ancient collecting, focus more on individual coins within your budget.
    Carl Wilmont and Jfp7375 like this.
  8. nerosmyfavorite68

    nerosmyfavorite68 Well-Known Member

    David Van Meter's book is a great beginner's guide, and lists a lot of coins from Augustus to 476, and I think is still only $35. I think Forum has it.

    Unless you're good at it, or really enjoy it, uncleaneds aren't the greatest way to go. I think you'd get your better bang for the buck by buying individual coins from vcoins dealers. My answer is colored by my cleaning incompetence and bad luck with them. If you're willing to put in a LOT of effort and time cleaning them, there are some pretty decent how-to clean videos on youtube. Most uncleaneds are only going to have AE3's and Antoninianii from the 260's.

    The 1990's were the high tide for buying bulk lots. I bought a bunch from Matt Kreuzer in the late '90s, Asses/Dupondii, similar size provincials for $1.50 each. They were no masterpieces, but not bad for the price, mostly VG grade, some Fine.

    There are others who have inexpensive coins, but some are:
    Marc Breitsprecher
    Incitatus Coins
    London Ancient Coins has a bunch, but your shipping's going to be at least $15).
    David Connors (I've never bought anything from him, but I've heard good things).

    You can't go wrong with the above. I have also bought a couple from Aegean.

    I'm not sure if Allen Berman still does the 4 pack 'junk box' byzantine deal. The 'junk' Folles were comparable to $20-40 coins currently on Vcoins - mostly Justin-early Justinian or Heraclius S 805.

    And per books, wasn't there a free electronic version of ERIC? I have the tiny paperback.

    Reading back to the original post, per the difference between certain expensive and cheap coins, you'll certainly notice the difference if you buy right.

    Both are the same period, same general size/denomination.

    $36 Justinian (still a very good deal for the huge ones)

    a $221 Justinian. Still a decent deal. The high grade ones can go for a lot.


    (both coins are enormous)
  9. nerosmyfavorite68

    nerosmyfavorite68 Well-Known Member

    I'll also add something; For me, the history came first before the coins. I already knew who most of the emperors were before the coins started in earnest.

    If you're willing to try something different, Sassanian Persian silver Drachms are still pretty cheap; $20-something on up. One can get a halfway decent one for 40 or so. They're fairly large.
    Jfp7375 likes this.
  10. Jfp7375

    Jfp7375 Member

    Thank you to everyone for the thoughtful replies!

    Thanks very much for the insight on buying bulk lots. It's disappointing there isn't more quality stuff around... seems like maybe the market of professional dealers has become more saturated and they absorb most of the best uncleaned/unidentified lots, and export laws in Europe/elsewhere have changed as well.

    Great example with the Justinian as well. The funny thing is, even seeing the pictures and seeing the obvious difference in quality, I'd still be tempted to have 3-4 various coins of the former coin's quality than 1 of the latter. But I am sure that will change as I learn more and hone in on what really gets me going.

    I think I will try to buy another budget lot or two to continue to broaden my palette, and get a good book or two as many have recommended. And then maybe I'll have a better sense of how to develop my collection.

    Thanks a lot for the dealer recs for cheaper coins/lots. Please, if anyone else has similar recommendations, please let me know!
    sand likes this.
  11. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

  12. Jfp7375

    Jfp7375 Member

    Very helpful my friend. I can see you've written a lot on this exact question! will check it out
    Roman Collector likes this.
  13. Herodotus

    Herodotus Well-Known Member

    If you haven't already done so yet...

    Check out these online coin auction sites:

    These sites are among a few that list upcoming auctions from various numismatic auction houses.

    They also provide a platform to sign up to place pre-bids and (or provide links to the auction house websites to) bid-live during the auctions.

    Many of these auction houses will offer group lots from time-to-time. This is a great way to get a pile of unattributed coins; good for hours of attribution fun-time. Often, many of these coins are of a lesser condition, or may have perceived issues that may not make practical sense to be sold individually by the auction house for the time/labor involved. Yet, some decent coins can still be had for the less discerning collector.

    Occasionally, parts of private collections may also be sold in group lots; oftentimes by some of the more obscure European auction houses. Some real gems can be found this way.

    Here's an example of some group lots on offer in an upcoming auction from Savoca Coins(May 21-22)

    EDIT: Here's another auction house that offers group lots frequently. The coins are usually a little nicer than those offered by Savoca, but they also usually hammer for a little more too. Numismatik Naumann has an auction scheduled for June 5th.
    Last edited: May 18, 2022
  14. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Well-Known Member

    Buy what you like & can afford, & make your own path instead of following someone else :D.
  15. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    Very true. My only advice is to avoid fakes and tooled coins as much as possible. Otherwise, there is no right or wrong way to collect coins as long as you enjoy what you are doing.
    Jfp7375 and sand like this.
  16. ominus1

    ominus1 Supporter! Supporter

    ...welcome to the dark side :)
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  17. Jfp7375

    Jfp7375 Member

    Now this is pretty interesting! Buying some of these lower/mid-grade lots is kind of exactly where my instincts are pulling me right now. Just love that thrill of attributing and learning about the coins and looking to figure out what really grabs my attention. Thanks a lot man

    that's exactly how I want to approach it. I just haven't figured out what I really like yet!

    Yes I've tried to read about spotting fakes. I think I know a bit, although I'm sure i'll make a mistake here or there. I'll try to be careful!

    Thanks ;)
    Last edited: May 18, 2022
    sand likes this.
  18. sky92880

    sky92880 Well-Known Member

    Hoi Jfp7375,
    Another small adjustment to your coin description, if you compare your coin with Victor_Clarck's, you will see that the bottom layer of your coin consists of forward lines and backward lines. The top layer of both coins consists of pointed arches with a dot in them. Those are variants, rarer or not.
    The outer side of both gates consists of contiguous points.

    Jfp7375 likes this.
  19. nerosmyfavorite68

    nerosmyfavorite68 Well-Known Member

    Some of the vcoins dealers offer small lots of cleaned coins.


    The lots seem to be about the same quality that I paid $1.50 each for in the 1990s, but are not all that bad for today's market, although I haven't bought bulk coins in a long time.

    I searched via vcoins "lot of" and title only search.

    Dealers who also had a lot of bulk lots (whom I've never bought anything from, and know very little about):
    Charachmoba Gym
    DT coins
    Conatus coins

    Valentinian's lists seem to be really thorough. That's an excellent guide.

    Or why not trawl through the listings of some of the larger dealers, no matter what the price? You might form some kind of general interest, and then could search for that.
    Jfp7375 likes this.
  20. Nicholas Molinari

    Nicholas Molinari Well-Known Member

    If you’re interested in bulk lots of Greek coins I may be able to help you. Send a PM if so.
    Jfp7375 likes this.
  21. Rich Buck

    Rich Buck Yukon Cornelius

    CoinTalk is already a good start. Saving your money and budgeting for coins you like is second.
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