Unusual Byzantine Anonymous Follis Help

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Brian Bucklan, Mar 16, 2019.

  1. Brian Bucklan

    Brian Bucklan Well-Known Member

    Just came across this Anonymous Follis that I put away probably 10 years ago and forgot all about. It's an interesting variety and I hope someone can give me a proper identification for it as it's not described in Sear. Here it is:

    Anonymous Follis Crosses.jpg
    Obv: Bust of Christ, nimbate, holding Book of Gospels, IC-XC to either side. Crosses to either side of head and on Book of Gospels.

    Rev: "Jesus Christ King of Kings" type

    At 24mm and 7.3gms the coin is somewhat smaller and lighter than typical. Any ideas?
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  3. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Perhaps there are nuances I'm missing but I think it's a lightweight class A3 follis, number 32 on this FAC chart which combines Bellinger and Grierson tables.

    There is a footnote about the type:

  4. Brian Bucklan

    Brian Bucklan Well-Known Member

    Thanks once again TIF!

    That's it. I could not find the link to that chart. There are certainly a whole lot of varieties but I had never seen this one before.
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  5. CopperGenie

    CopperGenie Om Nom Nom

    How much do these Byzantine folles usually go for? I really dig that reverse.
  6. Brian Bucklan

    Brian Bucklan Well-Known Member

    Typical varieties are fairly inexpensive as they are quite common. I've never seen this type before, and I've been doing this for a long time. Maybe @Valentinian can weigh in and let me know what his opinion is on this one.
  7. Justin Lee

    Justin Lee I learn by doing

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  8. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

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  9. CopperGenie

    CopperGenie Om Nom Nom

  10. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    @TIF answered the OP question. Here is a site on anonymous folles:


    I wish people would no longer attribute coins as "Class A3." The original evidence (of Metcalf) for such a class as distinct from A2 has been debunked (by a Ph.D. student of his!). However, it is interesting to state the size, because A2 can be large (rarely up to 36 mm and over 20 grams, which are the early ones) and the diameters decline to below 25 mm and weights to below 10 grams.

    I think the OP coin was not minted as small as it now is. It has been clipped. The type with crosses in the nimbus is fairly early and usually much larger than the OP coin. It looks clipped and the diameter and weight tell us it has been clipped. Look at how crowded the design is on the flan.

    Compare to this one:
    Class A2. Sear 1813
    32-30 mm. 12.745 grams.
    Crosses in the nimbus, on the gospels, and above and below the reverse legend.

    Variety 32 in the Dumbarton Oaks table.
  11. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I often hear now that there are no A3 but where is the evidence/reasoning? As I first learned it, A1 had no reverse decorations, A2 were larger and did have decorations while A3 were smaller but otherwise like A2. If it has been shown that the same decorations are found on both large and small coins, perhaps the separation is no more significant than overlaps we see on Roman AE1-AE4 but if certain numbers on the chart are regularly larger or smaller than others, it would seem that the separation in groups has use. We would still have to allow for the fact that many of these coins were overstruck on earlier issues so it is quite possible that there would be outlying weights in any group. Has anyone recorded weights and measurements of several specimens of the Dumbarton Oaks table types? I have not made a study of it by any means but have noticed that coins using some of the symbols like the ones in my collection seem to be of similar weight. There are also other points to consider including lettering styles (there are some letter A variations which seem to follow sizes). I see denying A3 as not unlike declaring Pluto is not a planet. Redefining terms is not new science unless accompanied by reasoning. Throwing out the baby with the bathwater is not usually justified.

    The above DO variety 1 is 15.73g and has the letter A in a shape I'd like to a Chinese spade coin for lack of a better name. Do these come in light weight versions?

    Is the debunking of Metcalf paper public or is there a publicly available summery beyond 'the old man was wrong'?

    Science or sensational rubbish?
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  12. gsimonel

    gsimonel Supporter! Supporter

    Any idea why someone would bother clipping a bronze coin?
  13. Brian Bucklan

    Brian Bucklan Well-Known Member

    I'm not so sure this is true. Here is as good a picture of the edge as I can get:

    Side of Anon Follis 2.jpg
    There are three small edge clips (one shown by the arrow) but the majority of the coin edge looks original. It is very possible that the minor clipping was actually done as part of the minting process, and not at some later time.

    As stated by Metcalf in the charts reference by @TIF (this coin is #32):

    "In 31 and 32, which are related by their secret-marks and style, are apparently on different weight-standards. It seems that B. 31 belongs with Class A-2 and B. 32 with A-3. If so, they may be consecutive issues from a provincial mint, bridging the reduction in the weight-standard."

    At this point I am in agreement with @dougsmit in that A-3 size coins are original. In fact if you look at just the lettering shown in your example it is larger than the A-3 coin I show. At 24mm pretty much every letter shows on this example. It doesn't appear that would be the case on the larger coin.
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  14. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    About Class A3. Class A2 began c. 976 and lasted until 1025 or maybe 1034 [Grierson]. That's 50 years. Fifty! It is no wonder that inflation made coins become smaller. We saw it under Justinian after his coin reform when the new dated facing-bust coins became smaller over the years. It is expected. Class A2 coins also became smaller over the years. Metcalf proposed that some were from mints in central Greece (as opposed to Constantinople). They were cruder and smaller and distinguished "Class A3". The thesis by Vesso (link on my website) studied the issue and found the previous distinctions were unfounded and there were probably not separate mints. The sizes diminish, but more or less on a continuum. They were all one type, not two (so, A2 and A3 are not distinct).

    Collectors like bigger coins, so I suppose labeling a coin "A3" tells you it is not one of the big ones, but so would "Class A2, 24 mm [or whatever diameter it is]" which would be more informative.

    I agree it is difficult to justify clipping AE coins. However, look at the OP coin. From 10:00 to 2:00 the edge is pealed up the way it never is on regular coin until the medieval period when coins are punched out of sheets of metal. The side view @Brian Bucklan shows also it is pealed up. There is no way a broad die could strike a coin and make that feature. Something happened post-production.

    So, here is my proposal. When there is one denomination which 40 years ago was 15-20 grams and 33 mm or more and the same denomination is now 10 grams and 25 mm or less and you have one of the old ones, you might think "Why should I spend a better coin when it would still be good enough if I trimmed it a bit?" We know from many coins of the seventh and eighth centuries that Byzantine cut smaller flans from larger coins. (Think of all those triangular Justinian II coins and cut Constans II coins.) Maybe copper is not very valuable, but it is not worthless, either. So, you get out your chisel and a few whacks later you have a spendable coin and some copper to boot.
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2019
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  15. Brian Bucklan

    Brian Bucklan Well-Known Member

    Thanks @Valentinian, very interesting write-up. I guess the counter to the idea that the populace was cutting the coins is that the mint was actually doing the trimming. Perhaps a dearth of copper could lead to this action. It also could be why this particular coin would be called out by Metcalf as being an "A3" size, with the size and weight of my example. Obviously the pieces he was seeing were for the most part this smaller size. If this trimming was a wide-spread practice you would think you could find it on many of the Anonymous Follis types of that time period .. but apparently not so much. In addition the trimming is very precise, not something you would expect from an untrained individual.
  16. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    AE Nummus AD 967-1065.jpg

    I recently acquired the above coin that weighs 10.48 gm, & is 29 mm in diameter. After reading the variety of opinions whether it is A2 or A3, I'm going with David Vagi's opinion that it's an A3. I sold the coin pictured below at a Heritage auction seven years ago & it was attributed to A2. Note the weight of the coin & the different reverse design.

    NGC 2491169-006 obv..jpg NGC 2491169-006 rev..jpg
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  17. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Wow! What an amazing example of the type!
  18. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    Metcalf (D. M., not William E.) proposed the existence of Class A3 in

    Metcalf, D. M. "Interpretation of the Byzantine Rex Regnantium folles of Class A" in Numismatic Chronicle 1970, pages 199-219

    and reconsidered the criterion, dates, and frequency in

    Metcalf, D. M. Coinage in South-Eastern Europe, 820-1396. HC. RNS. 1979. Pages 55-62 discuss Class A folles and which varieties are his Class A3.

    He states [NC, page 203] that, "The average weight, or what it is worth, of the Class A1 folles is about 7 grams." Then he goes on to say the weight for Class A2 was "doubled" and then reduced to about "2/3" for Class A3.

    However, inspection of weights (e.g. in DO or BN) shows no such clear distinction. Anyone who has a few of these (or looks at DO or BN) knows the weights vary greatly and do not cluster around two particular values. I just cracked open DO 3.2 to a relevant page and the first variety I found was "variety 5" and the weights are 16.23, 15.64, 14.03, 12.46, 12.07, and 10.28. That is within one ornament variety! Don't tell us the heavy ones are A2 and the lighter ones A3. They are the same ornament variety!

    So, I assert again that there are Class A2 coins of various sizes and weights, nearly on a continuum. If one want to say 15 grams makes A2 and 10 or less makes A3, I suppose we could, but where would (should) the dividing line be drawn?

    I wonder why David supported "A3". It must be the "10.48 grams" weight which is lighter than some. My example, from the same variety and highly likely from the same hoard and very similar in most regards, is 11.70 grams. Not so light.

    There is a big difference between A1 and A2. (See the web site.) The difference is worthy of making the distinction. I don't see that variation in sizes of "A2" is worthy of a comparable distinction. It doesn't seem there was a particular occasion or date when anyone said "We are going to reduce the weight to 2/3."

    Without some criterion for making the distinction between A2 and A3, perhaps it should not be made at all. "Class A2" serves.
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