Top 10 for 2020
Updated: Jan 30
While it is possible that one more coin might show up this year, it seems unlikely that I will displace any of the coins listed below, so I will post my 2020 list a bit early this year. Perhaps I don't need to say it: this has not been a normal year, between virus, politics and more. Thankfully, vaccines are showing promise, and I will include in my Thanksgiving this year: gratitude, both for the miracles of modern science and medicine, and for everyone who has given of themselves this year to make the world a little better for others.
In 2020, I enjoyed a virtual tour of the provinces, especially Asia minor, and dabbling in non-Roman coins. I feel a bit better educated or at least aware of the people, maps and leaders outside of ancient Rome. Alexandrian Egypt under Roman rule is a growing group in my collection - catching up to Parthia as notable sub-collection. Last year, 7 of 10 of my top coins were from the Roman Republic. This year, only two that could (almost) be described as Roman republican made the list, although 7 of 10 can still be described as "Roman". Reviewing my ordered ranking, it does seem that my Roman republican interest is still visible.
With "work-from-home" becoming common for many this year - a trends we may not see reverse even after a vaccine - it is entertaining to see this 1967 view on what the future of home might look like:
In the spirit of the year, my collection became "virtual" this year with this blog which I will evolve with more notes, references, and photos.
#10 Flavian Dynasty
This coin shows Vespasian's sons on the reverse as he uses the coin to set expectations for a Flavian dynasty. The artistry of this denarius of Ephesus is the attraction of this coin, it is posted with a second one that almost made the list here.
Vespasian, 69-79 AD, AR denarius, Ephesus mint, 71 AD
Obv: IMP CAESAR VESPAS AVG COS III TR P P P< Laureate head right
Rev: LIBERI IMP AVG VESPAS, Titus and Domitian, each veiled, togate and holding a patera, standing facing heads left, EPE in exergue
Ref: RIC II 1430 (Group 6)
#9 Aristotle on Mytilene
A small Greek coin from the 4th century BC. The history is the first draw and I don't have many gold/electrum coins or coins this old - more on the Aristotle connection here.
Mytilene, Lesbos, c. 377-326 BC, Electrum Hekte
Obv: Head of Apollo wearing laurel wreath right
Rev: Head of Artemis right, her hair in sphendone; snake symbol in left field
#8 Hadrian and Osiris
One of several Hadrians added this year - with an Imperial denarius near the transition of power and another Alexandrian tetradrachm, "Father of the Country", in the list. This coin was all about the reverse, see the entry on Osiris Hydreios for more information.
Egypt, Alexandria, Hadrian, AD 117-138, BI Tetradrachm, dated RY 10 (AD 125/6)
Obv: Laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right
Rev: Canopus of Osiris (canopic jar) right; L ΔE-KATOV (date) around
Ref: RPC III 5578; Dattari (Savio) 1325-6
#7 The Homeland of Achilles
A rare AE from Ekkara in Thessaly, dated to the end of the 4th century BC based on their style. Zeus on the coins of the Ekkarra is associated with the cult of Zeus in Thessaly. The reverse depicts Artemis Kynegetis, a type that is also known from statues. This was a fun coin to research and had a surprise provenance as a plate coin - more on this coin here.
Thessaly, Ekkarra, circa 325-320 BC, AE Chalkous
Obv: Laurel-wreathed, head of Zeus to the left in a circle of dots. The head of the Zeus is compact with wide cheeks. The beard and hairstyle are cut in stiff lines, and the hair covers the nape of the neck, a wavy line. Details like the pupil can be seen on the eyebrowed eyes.
Rev: ΕΚΚΑΡ / ΡΕΩΝ, downward, Artemis standing in between, in three-quarter view to the left. Her right leg is bent back. Her left arm rests on her hip, her right hand rests on a hunting lance, in the middle of which you can see a strap. Her hair is pinned up in a Lampadion knot and a bow and drapery appear on the nape of the neck, fastened crosswise in front of the chest with the shoulder strap. She is wearing a short sleeveless chiton (woolen tunic) and a himation (outer garment), and an endromides (cloak) lined with fur.
#6 Constantine VII, Born in the Purple
He was the illegitimate child of Leo VI however, his mother, Zoe, gave birth to him in the Purple Room of the imperial palace. Leo VI did marry Zoe after the birth of Constantine - but as his 4th marriage, this marriage was also of questionable legitimacy. This coin is issued by Constantine VII with his son Romanus II. This coin more enjoyable with the book "The Emperor Romanus Lecapenus and His Reign" by Steven Runciman - more on this coin here.
Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus, with son Romanus II. 913-959, AR Miliaresion, Constantinople mint. Struck 945-959
Obv: IESuS xRIStVS nIcA, Cross-crosslet set on three steps; globus below
Rev:+ COҺST’ τ’/ ΠORFVROG,/ CЄ ROmAҺO/ ЄҺ X’ω EVSEЬ’/ Ь’ RωmEOҺ in five lines Obv Translation: Jesus Christ Victor
Rev Translation: Constantine Porphyrogenitus, Romanus, by the grace of Christ, Pius, Emperors of the Romans
#5 Julius Caesar in Antioch
Issued in the year before the assassination of Julius Caesar, this coin bears a date that recognizes the visit of Caesar to Antioch and the gift of "freedom" that he bestowed on the City - more on this coin, and the rebellion of Bassus in this post.
Syria, Seleucis and Pieria, Antiochia ad Orontem, Q. Caecilius Bassus, rebel governor, 46/5 BC, AR tetradrachm in the name of Philip I Philadelphos of Syria, recognizing the era of Julius Caesar, minted 46/5 BC, Year 4 of the Caesarean Era
Obv: Diademed head of Philip I right
Rev: BAΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΦIΛIΠΠOV ΦIΛAΔEΛΦOV EΠIΦANOVΣ, Zeus seated on high-backed throne left, holding Nike on outstretched right hand and sceptre in left
Size: 26mm, 15.55g
Ref: Seleucid Coins (part 2) 2491
#4 : A Decade of Gallienus
The bulbous portrait, the chocolate patina, the weight of the tetradrachm in hand, the provenance of a Dattari plate coin, and the link to Gallienus' struggles with multiple usurpers, I like everything about this coin. Notes and more of my coins of Alexandria can be found in this post.
Egypt, Alexandria, Gallienus, 253-268 Tetradrachm circa 262-263 (year 10)
Size: 23mm, 10.63g
Obv: Laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right
Rev: ΔЄKA/ЄTHPI/CKV/PIOV in four lines within laurel wreath; below, L I
Ref: Geissen 2915 (this coin cited) Dattari-Savio Pl. 272, 5273 (this coin the same coin that appears in Dattari's pencil sketches, issued to celebrate Gallienus' tenth year of reign)
#3 Augustus, Tyche and Orontes
This coin of Augustus bears a date that Marks the battle of Actium, a portrait of the first emperor, and a reverse that I can't stop admiring.
Seleucis and Pieria, Antioch, Augustus, 27 BC-AD 14, AR tetradrachm, dated year 30 of the Actian Era - dating from the Battle of Actium between Marc Antony and Augustus - and Cos. XIII (2/1 BC)
Obv: ΚΑΙΣΑΡΟΣ ΣΕΒΑΣΤΟY, laureate head right
Rev: [ETOVΣ] Λ (Actian era date) NIKHΣ, Tyche seated right on rocky outcropping, holding palm frond; below, half-length figure of river-god Orontes swimming right; in right field, monogram (=ΥΠΑTOY) and IΓ (consular iteration) above monogram (=ANTIOXIEΩN?)
Ref: RPC I 4156, McAlee 185; Prieur 55
#2 Mark Antony and Octavian
The Second triumvirate a coin that is about 10 years before their showdown at the Battle of Actium (depicted in the opening image from Neroccio De' Landi & Workshop in AD 1475-1480) with Antony's death in Egypt following. A denarius from last year from the days before the formation of the second triumvirate is written up here.
Marcus Antonius with Octavianus and M. Barbatius, AR denarius, military mint moving with Mark Antony (Ephesus?), 41 BC
Obv: M ANT IMP AVG III•VIR•R•P•C•M•BARBAT Q P , bare head of Mark Antony to right
Rev: CAESAR•IMP•PONT•III•VIR•R•P•C•, bare head of Octavian to right
Ref: Crawford 517/2, RBW 1798, Sydenham 1181
Note: banker's mark on the reverse
One of the most beautiful republican denarii, in my view, and more so for its anonymity in a sea of coins of self aggrandizement. The mysterious and unobtrusive graffito, ΚΛЄ on the obverse, does not detract. The imagery simple, iconic: Roma, peacefully absorbed with the scene of birds and the she-wolf suckling twins, a founding myth of Rome - more on this coin here.
Anonymous, 115-114 BC, AR Denarius, Rome mint
Obv: Helmeted head of Roma right wearing a winged Corinthian helmet, with curls on her left shoulder; X (mark of value) behind, border of dots
Rev: Roma, wearing Corinthian helmet, seated right on pile of shields and a helmet beside, holding spear in left hand, birds in flight to upper left and right; to lower right, she-wolf standing right, head left, suckling the twins Romulus and Remus.
Size: 3.8g, 18.5 mm
Ref: Crawford 287/1
A pretty eclectic set this year, ranging from 4th century BC to 10th century AD. I have added a few coins from that period of transition between Republic and Empire. Several coins linked to the end of the Roman Republic, a beautiful Roma with wolf and twins, a dynastic Vespasian from Ephesus, a Dattari plate coin, a rare provincial, a small gold/electrum coin, and a couple of Alexandrian tetradrachms....all interesting artifacts from an unprecedented year.