Unidentified imitations

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Tejas, Jun 15, 2021.

  1. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    There is a sizable group of unofficial imitations, which are often attributed to "unidentified Germanic tribes" or "unknown barbarians" and so on. These are typically coins that show crude styles and incorrect lettering. Often the attributions remain a mystery. However, for the following Solidus, which was sold as "imitation of Germanic tribes" I think an attribution to the Burgundian King Sigismund is well plausible.


    Note the unbarred As, which point to a western mint.
    The coin does not copy an Ostrogothic coin, but is modelled after an East Roman coin, which is typical for the coins of Burgundian King Sigismund (PP instead of PF, CONOB instead of COMOB).
    Note the very unusual first S in Anastasius. In the coin below (also from my collection) the final S is interpreted as reference to King Sigismund. The same may have been intended with the unusual S in the first coin.
    The reverse style is similar to that of the coins of Sigismund.
    Overall, I think this Solidus was minted under King Sigismund in the years 516 to 518, i.e. before the accession of Justin I, which let to the creation of the solidus type below.

    If this attribution is correct, the coin would fill a gap between the Solidi in the name of Anastasius and with monogram of Gundobad, and the Solidi in the name of Justin with the final S for Sigismund (below).



    Screenshot 2021-06-15 at 11.43.30.png

    I would like to see other unknown imitations, and hear your theories regarding the attribution.

    Last edited: Jun 15, 2021
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  3. John Conduitt

    John Conduitt Well-Known Member

    You certainly make a good case. There are so many coins attributed vaguely to 'Germanic Tribes' so it's good to see one that might be able to be nailed down.

    I usually keep away from them for that reason - I like to at least have some idea who used it. But I have a Constantine I AE19 that was attributed by FORVM to 'Germanic Tribes'. I got it because it's imitating a London mint coin, which isn't very common.

    But I have since had others cast doubt on whether it was minted by 'Germanic Tribes' at all (because of the style). The style isn't like any British imitation I've seen either, so I'm still inclined to agree with FORVM, but now I have absolutely no idea where it was minted other than it must've been somewhere in or close to the Roman Empire.

    Barbarous Billion Constantine I, mid 4th-early 5th century AD
    19.2mm, 3.3g. (cf RIC VII London 154, with AG instead of AVG).
  4. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    This was a very informative post on a subject completely foreign to my collecting interests that shows there is still a vast amount of things to be studied. Thanks for the introduction.
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  5. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    My main thinking is that Germanic people, outside the Roman Empire, had no interest in copper coins. I think copper/bronze imitations, must have a connection to small scale urban trade, perhaps in border towns or settlements around Roman military camps. I think that many of these imitations were produced by local magistrates to overcome a shortage of small change. Such shortages also plagued the British economy in the 17th and 18th centuries.

    Germanic people outside the Empire, were of course interested in gold and silver, which they could use as raw material for jewellery or to store wealth. However, when they used gold to produce imitations of Roman coins, this must have had a special purpose, other than trade. I'm thinking of grave goods (charons pennies) and gift giving (mimicking Roman donativa).

    For Germanic people who settled inside the Empire (such as Goths, Burgundians, Franks, Vandals and Suevians) and who took control of large urban centers like Carthage, Lyon or Toulouse, this was of course a different matter. They produced coins for monetary/fiscal purposes.
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  6. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    The Solidi in the name of Justin I and attributed to King Sigismund are an interesting group. There were 20 specimens in the Gourdon hoard, all from the same pair of dies. So only one pair of dies was ever made to produce this series.

    The Gourdon hoard was concealed in AD 524 and it may have been parts of the Burgundian royal treasury. Its burial is probably directly related to the battle of Vezeronce, which ended in a defeat of the Burgundians by the Franks, which is probably why the hoard was never retrieved.

    The Sigismund solidi in the name of Justin I, where probably minted to pay for the war against the Franks. It is said, that all the existing specimens come from the Gourdon hoard. I have two in my collection.
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2021
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  7. yakpoo

    yakpoo Member

    This sounds like an episode of "Game of Thrones".
  8. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    Yeah, you haven't heard the full story yet.

    ... Sigismund was married to Suavegotho, a daughter of Theoderic the great. Sigismund and Suavegotho had a son called Sigeric. After Suavegotho's death Sigismund remarried, but his new wife mistreated Sigeric. When Sigeric complained that his stepmother wore his mothers dresses, she persuaded Sigismund to have Sigeric kill, by drowning him in a well.
    In 523, the Frankish queen Clotilde, who was a daughter of the Burgundian king Chilperic, whom Sigismund had killed previously incited a war against the Burgundian king. After his defeat in 524, Sigismund and his family was killed and their bodies thrown into a well.
    Sigismund's brother Godomar managed to rally Burgundian troops enforced by Gothic troops sent by Theoderic the Great. They massacred the Frankish forces left behind to occupy the Burgundy, and Godomar regained the Burgundian kingdom.

    I have this Tremissis of Godomar in my collection. Note the monogram MAR on the reverse.

    Screenshot 2021-06-15 at 17.15.19.png
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2021
  9. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

  10. yakpoo

    yakpoo Member

    How in the heck can a second wife convince a man to kill his son over some dresses? That's just nuts! :confused:
  11. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    Apparently, she convinced Sigismund that Sigeric was plotting against him. The episode with the dresses was significant, because according to the law they should have gone to Sigeric's sister. It indicates, that the new wife was depriving her step children off their inheritance.
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  12. yakpoo

    yakpoo Member

    I like the stories behind Ancient coins. However, Dad always said, "Never buy anything you don't understand"...and I don't understand Ancients at all.
  13. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Dirk, CNG Triton XI sold an example from the Gourdon Hoard for a staggering $18,400.00 :jawdrop: that you're probably aware of. You're very lucky to have an example of that rarity in your collection. Pictured below is your coin next to the CNG coin.
    Burgundian AV Solidi.jpg

    The 1st coin you posted seems less convincing although it's certainly a barbarian coin. It's probably safer to call it "Unknown Germanic". Every time I post my "Unknown Germanic" solidus I feel like I'm beating a dead horse, nevertheless, I'll keep exploring different avenues until I can identify the maker with some feeling of certainty. My coin has gone through a number of different auction houses with suggestions that it may be Burgundian or Merovingian. I seriously doubt it's Merovingian since they came well after the Burgundians. CNG recently sold a solidus of Zeno with a reverse similar to my solidus, especially the reverse, see photo below.

    Germanic Solidus of Zeno, late 5th cen..jpg

    Zeno solidus 336_2.jpg
    ZENO. Second reign, AD 476-491, Constantinople Mint, 10th Officina. AV Solidus: 4.47 gm, 20 mm, 6 h. RIC X 929. CNG had previously sold this coin in 2007 identified as an issue of Theodoric o_O.

    Could my coin be an early issue of of the Burgundians :rolleyes:?
  14. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    As I said, I happen to have two of them in my collection. However, I paid nowhere near the CNG Triton price. The first one was about 2000 euro and the second one was kind of overlooked in a smaller UK auction, where I bought it for 1000 pounds, as nobody seemed to be interested it it.
  15. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    Hm ... Metlich, (The coinage of Ostrogothic Italy) writes "No solidi in the name of Zeno can be attributed to Theoderic's reign. Nevertheless the possibility that the above described 'Gamma" group was minted in the time of the new ruler cannot be totally disregarded." (p. 13)

    The second sentence refers to a group of distinctly western-style solidi with a Gamma officina letter.

    I don't think that Metlich* is strictly correct. Besides his Gamma-group there are solidi in the name of Zeno, which seem to show something resembling a THE monogram in the place of the Officina letter. If this is THE, it should stand for Theoderic, who briefly used these letters as monogram on solidi in the name of Anastasius.


    However, I cannot see anything in the above solidus that suggests to me that the coin is not from Constantinople. Why do you think your coin is Ostrogothic or western? Or are you in fact referring to the first soldius as western and possibly Ostrogothic?

    I guess you meant the first solidus as being western, possibly Ostrogothic. I don't think it is Ostrogothic or Burgundian. Instead, I think that the most likely originators are the Franks. If you feel adventurous and it would certainly help with the resale price, you can tentatively attribute the coin to the reign of King Childeric. In his famous grave, Childeric was keen to be known as both a Germanic king and warlord and a bearer of Roman offices. It is possible that he ordered the minting of a few coins, if only to demonstrate his Roman credentials. Solidi in the name of Zeno were included in his rich grave goods material.

    *Metlich's book is the standard on Ostrogothic coins, but it contains several errors.
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2021
  16. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    True, but safe is boring. I think the parallels to the Burgundian series are rather convincing. I think, that Gundobad, just like Theoderic agreed to remove their monograms from their gold coins in around AD 497. However, Sigismund tried to sneak it back in with the redundant S on the Justin I solidi and possibly with the strange S on the Anastasius solidi. The other option for this solidus is a Frankish origin, but it does not look like any Frankish solidi in the name of Anastasius.
  17. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    Here is a Solidus in the name of Zeno, which was minted either by Odovacer or Theoderic.

    Screenshot 2019-11-21 at 19.57.58.png
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  18. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Dirk, The Frankish origin never crossed my mind o_O, it's an interesting idea. I value your opinion :). Thanks for the N.A.C. AG link. After comparing it to a Zeno solidus in my collection I can see why N.F.A. & David Sear labeled the coin Ostrogothic in 1987.

    NFA XVIII, Lot 635.jpg

    There is so much left to be learned about Migration Era coinage....

    BTW, yesterday I received my copies of Guy Lacam's books from the K & F auction & began browsing through them :happy:. The books weigh about 10 lb. :eek:!
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  19. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    That coin is so crude I'd lean towards Odovacer ;).
  20. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    Difficult to say. Here is another Solidus in the name of Zeno from my collection. The style is superbe. It is said to have been minted under Odovacer at the mint of Bononia. It has a some peculiar lettering (inverted Z and strange T in VICTORIA) and the COMOB sigle.

    Screenshot 2021-06-15 at 22.21.28.png
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  21. Ocatarinetabellatchitchix

    Ocatarinetabellatchitchix Supporter! Supporter

    Here's my imitation, a fourrée holed aureus.

    Copied from a well known Probus gold coin, uncertain Germanic (Gothic) tribes. And some interesting details given by @Julius Germanicus in this old thread:

    "There three kinds of barbarous imitations of gold coins: 1) minted from gold, 2) silver, plated with gold, and 3) bronze, plated with gold, were originally intended for use in the form of pendants and jewelry. This is evident by the presence of holes, loops, or visible traces of spots where a loop had been attached, in 99% of the imitations. The official Aurei of the Roman mints which are found in the territories that were inhabited by barbarian cultures also have holes or loops for the most part. This also confirms that the gold coins of barbarian cultures were not intended for monetary circulation, but served as donatives, which, according to the assumptions of some researchers, the Roman authorities awarded to leaders and nobles of barbarian tribes.
    Then in order to show their closeness to the Roman emperors, "barbarians" made barbaric imitations of the Aureus. Proof that neither Aurei nor barbaric imitations of Aurei were intended for monetary circulation is that they are practically not found in coin hoards and the fact that the manufacture of barbaric imitations of Aurei did not respect the weight in relation to the Aureus. In most cases the weight of imitations is much to low, and specimens with the same dies can vary by several grams. In the manufacture of barbaric imitations of Denarii, on the other hand, an approximate correspondence to the weight of the original Denarii was observed.

    The remains of gilding in the holes and on the loops in bronze imitations plated with gold indicates that they first made a hole or attached the loop, and only then put on gold plating.There are types of imitative Aurei that both exist as golden coins and bronze coins plated with gold, this suggests that they were made for different representatives of barbaric tribes differing in their status.

    Holes or loops are almost always located above the bust. This suggests that the "barbarians" cared about the aesthetic appearance of jewelry, and it was intended to be worn in a prominent place."

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