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!

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