Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A New Obsession?

Apologies for my diversion from the stated format of this blog, which is to display and discuss the coins in my collection… one at a time. Truth be told is that I haven’t had the opportunity to photograph and research the next coin from my collection. So, I figured why not discuss coins that will be a part of my collection, sooner or later!

A friend recently announced that he had completed a collection of the coins of the Roman Prefects and Procurators. This particular friend is noteworthy for assembling interesting type sets and this one definitely caught my attention! Hungry for information about these Roman governors of Judaea and the coins they issued, I asked my friend where best to begin. He recommended David Hendin’s, Guide to Biblical Coins, Fourth Edition.

To be honest, I had previously heard of only one Roman governor, the infamous Pontius Pilate. I never really paid any attention to this area of collecting as it had only peripheral applicability to my area of focus, the Twelve Caesars. However, I’ve found myself drawn more and more to the history of the Bible. Perhaps it’s because I’m getting older and nearer to meeting our Maker. Perhaps it was Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ. Perhaps it has been all of the interesting stories my friend tells me about the coins in his collection in this area. Perhaps it’s a combination of all these influences. I don’t know why… but what I do know is that something is compeling me to focus in this direction right now!

So to David Hendin’s wonderful book I turned for knowledge. I learned that 14 individuals served as prefect or procurator of Judaea and that of those 14, only 6 issued coins. Of those 6 who issued coins, a total of 19 different coins were issued (Hendin numbers 635-653). The following 14 individuals served in this post:

Under Augustus
Coponius, AD 6-9
Marcus Ambibulus, AD 9-12
Annius Rufus, AD 12-15 (did not issue any coins)

Under Tiberius
Valerius Gratus, AD 15-26
Pontius Pilate, AD 26-36
Marcellus, AD 36-37 (did not issue any coins)

Under Caligula
Marullus, AD 37-41 (did not issue any coins)

Under Claudius
Cuspius Fadus, AD 44-46 (did not issue any coins)
Tiberius Alexander, AD 46-48 (did not issue any coins)
Ventidius Cumanus, AD 48-54 (did not issue any coins)
Antonius Felix, AD 52-54

Under Nero
Antonius Felix, AD 54-59
Porcius Festus, AD 59-62
Albinus, AD 62-64 (did not issue any coins)
Gessius Florus, AD 64-66 (did not issue any coins)

There was a 3 year period from AD 41-44 where Agrippa I was King of Judaea. The coins of these prefects and procurators are unique in that none of them mention the governors’ names… they mention only the emperors or imperial family members under whose authority they served. Hence, the attribution of these coins to individual prefects and procurators is achieved by the dating of the coins, which is based on imperial regnal years.

An interesting aspect of these governors is that 3 of the 6 who issued coins are mentioned in the Bible. Matthew 27:2 says, “And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.” Acts 24:24 says, “And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ.” Acts 24:27 says, “But after two years Porcius Festus came into Felix’ room: and Felix, willing to show the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound.”

In reviewing the 19 different coins issued by these governors in Hendin’s book, I see that there is little in the way of aesthetic appeal. The appeal of these coins, their attraction, comes entirely from their connection to Biblical history. I anticipate that this will be a very fulfilling pursuit! My thanks to Ken Baumheckel for lighting this fire.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Just the Right Amount of Earthen Highlights!

Aurelian, AE Antoninianus, 22mm (3.84 gm), Struck AD 270-275, Rome

Radiate and cuirassed bust right, IMP C AVRELIANVS AVG / Sol standing left, between two captives, right hand raised, left holding globe, ORIENS AVG; T in exergue. RIC V-I 61 (pg. 271); Gobl 118a3.

I remember well the day I bought this coin. I purchased it from my friend Ken Martins, the owner of Museum Surplus ( and fellow founding member of the Orange County Ancient Coin Club (OCCAC). He had two and and I bought them both at an OCACC meeting. The other now resides in the collection of a good friend! Knowing Ken, I'm sure he gave me a great deal on both!

What struck me most about this coin were the earthen highlights, which some call 'desert patina.' To me, this very common coin is so uncommon because of these highlights... however, the beautifully rendered portrait and centering also enhance the eye appeal of this coin!

Thanks to Tom Ross, the avid collector of coins of Aurelian, for the Gobl cite.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

My "Croc" Coin

Augustus, AE As, 25mm (10.59 gm), Struck 16/15-10 BC, Nemausus.

Addorsed heads of Agrippa left, wearing combined rostral crown and laurel wreath, and Augustus on right, bare headed; IMP above and DIVI F below; D-D countermark / Crocodile chained to palm tip, wreath with long ties above; COL-NEM. RIC I 155 (pg. 51); RCV I 1729; RPC I 523.

RIC classifies this issue as an As, but this classification is uncertain, as indicated by the '(?)' after the listed denomination. Sear classifies this issue as a dupondius, as does David Vagi's flip ticket.

No, it's not 'the' croc coin... the coin so prominently displayed on my collection website:

and here, on the webpage on that site:

That coin is long gone, having been sold in the January 2007 Gemini auction. It's one of my biggest regrets and should it ever come to auction again, I will make it mine again!

I bought this croc coin at the January 2006 NYINC show... my first, and so far only, visit to that wonderful show. I purchased it from David Vagi for the simple reason that I didn't have a countermarked coin in my collection. This particular coin carries the D-D countermark, which is within a dotted circle and with the two D's disected by a dotted line. This countermark stands for Decreto Decurionum, which means 'by decree of the town Decuria (or Council)'. This is a common countermark on the Asses from Nemausus. The purpose of this type of countermark is to appropriate officially sanctioned Roman colonial coinage for local use in another colonial city.

This, along with a few other coins, serve as reminder of my first NYINC show and all the great people I met.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Elements of Style

Nero, AR Tetradrachm, 25 mm (14.45 gm), Struck AD 59-60, Antioch

Laureate bust right, with aegis, NEPΩNOΣ KAIΣAPOΣ ΣEBAΣTOY / Eagle standing left on thunderbolt, palm branch to left and ς - HP to right (year 6 = AD 59-60). RPC I 4180.

Sometimes you can have two coins of equal grade and centering, but one just looks better than the other. This difference is the style, or artistic quality, of the coin… an intangible quality that sets one coin apart from all the others. Eye appeal is another term to describe the style of a coin… you hear it used a lot with US coins. Style, or eye appeal, is very subjective… after all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

Take this coin and compare it to other examples of this issue (RPC I 4180) on ancient coin dealers sites. Sure, both coins may depict a portrait of Nero, but are both portraits of equal style? I’m not saying that the portrait on my coin is a perfect replication of Nero’s visage. I’m just saying that it’s more beautifully rendered than most other examples of this same issue (RPC I 4180). Most, for example, are a bit cartoonish, and not too different from the later portraits of Magnentius or Decentius.

This coin isn’t perfectly centered on the reverse, and that’s usually very important to me. However, the style more than makes up for this little imperfection!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Oh Those Eastern Mint Coins...

Vespasian, AR Denarius, 17mm (3.33 gm), Ephesus mint

Laureate head right, IMP CAESAR VESPAS AVG COS III TR P P P / AVG EPHE (PHE in monogram) in two lines within oak-wreath. RIC II.1 1427 (pg. 164); RSC II 40; RCV I 2265.

I bought this coin from Tom Cederlind at the Long Beach show a few years ago purely on the strength of the portrait. Mike, Tom Cederlind's assistant, didn't have to pour on the sales charm with this one... I was sold at first sight! I've come to appreciate eastern mint portraiture quite a bit and now even seek these coins out.

You'll notice that this coin is listed in my 'Top 10' on my collection site... It's listed at #6 but 'that' Top 10 was determined a couple of years ago. I've since sold some coins in my collection and added a few. The coin would still be in my Top 10, but I'm not sure if it'd still make #6.

Vespasian was, of course, one of the Twelve Caesars and father to the final two emperors of Twelve Caesars fame - Titus and Domitian. It was Vespasian who commissioned the Flavian ampitheater... or the Colosseum as it is known today. Vespasian's son Titus campaigned with him in Judaea and completed construction on the Colosseum. Vespasian is notable for having restored order to Rome, following a tumultuous period that saw four emperors ascend the throne in one year (AD 69).

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Coin to Commemorate My Joining the Ancient Coin Club of Los Angeles

Germe, Mysia, civic coinage, 25.7mm (8.31gm).

Draped bust of a youthful Senate right, IEPA CYNKΛHT[OC] / Zeus seated left holding eagle and sceptre, CEΞI ΦAY-CTOY ΓEP-MH. SNG Von Aulock 1090 var. (unlisted strategos); SNG France 951 var.; RPC IV (online) 658; ANS 1971.230.6 var.

This coin can be dated to the time of Marcus Aurelius (AD 161-180). Ed Snible's wonderful website provided the time frame from this strategos:

In each reference cited above, the strategos differed from this coin. I submitted this coin to the authors of RPC IV online ( perhaps it'll be cited there someday! Keep a look out for "Brett Telford collection" or the mention of the strategos Faustoy at this url.

I spent quite a bit of time and enlisted the help of a couple of friends in an attempt to find a definite reference. I am not content with a reference listed as a variant if a definite might exist. However, in this case, all known references, save BMC Greek, were consulted. My thanks to Tom Mullaly and John Noory for their assistance in finding references for this coin.

I bought this coin at my first Ancient Coin Club of Los Angeles (ACCLA) meeting from Merrill Gibson of Apollo Numismatics (Vcoins). The obverse grabbed my attention immediately for its artistic rendering of Senate and because of its great patina! I suppose this coin will serve to commemorate my joining the ACCLA.

I also learned something in researching this coin. I have to admit that I had no idea what the term strategos meant. So, for those who don't know, a strategos is an army leader or general. In the Helenistic and Byzantine Empires, the term was used to describe a military governor.

This coin is one of my favorites, even though it isn't within my core collecting area of the Twelve Caesars. It's a nice coin and I had a lot of fun researching it!

Sunday, February 17, 2008


Welcome to this, my initial foray into the world of blogging. The purpose of this blog is to share my collection with others in the collecting community. I began 'sharing' my collection a few years ago through my website, That site is woefully neglected though, and still displays coins sold in recent years and still incomplete in listing other coins in my collection. I intend to update that collection site, when time permits. Until then, I thought I'd share my collection here, in blog format, one coin at a time! (After all, what's another project?!) I think this will be a fun way to spend some time getting to know my coins. I hope to share a coin a week, it's attribution information, related history and anything else interesting about the coin or its acquisition. I hope others will find it as worthwhile as it will be for me!

My primary collecting interest is in ancient coins, especially those of Domitian and the 'other' Twelve Caesars. I also collect coins of the English monarchy and am attempting to acquire at least one coin from each monarch from William the Conqueror forward. To further blurry my collecting focus, I collect Thracian Chersonese hemidrachms, Morgan silver dollars, have an extensive 'wish list' of coins that I think represent a core set of ancient Greek coins, and am still pursuing a complete collection of Roman emperors and their family members. I imagine that many others struggle in trying to stay within their collecting focus... after all, this is a wonderful and fascinating hobby!