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Top 10 for 2021

Next week is Thanksgiving, and I am looking forward to the family gathering and a return to Thanksgiving traditions that we missed last year. It felt like most of this year I was frustrated at auctions with the coin that I was bidding for selling for several times my top bid. Looking back over the year gives a more positive view: I have added some interesting ancient coins to my collection.

I sold more coins than I bought this year as I pared back to keep the collection somewhat contained. I am also surprised to see that my top 10 was complete by the end of July. The second half of the year has been quieter and more occupied by work and other responsibilities.

The new coins this year were again a somewhat eclectic mix. Islamic coins and Mongol Empire coins attracting my interest in the second half of this year. With these coins, I am often discovering people, geography and history that was unknown or almost unknown to me. Reading the legends (or attempting to) has been sometimes an enjoyable and sometimes a frustrating challenge.

I'll add this coin as an interesting example that comes with the history of Genghis Khan crossing the Tien Shan mountains and invading the Khwarezmian Empire in 1219. The invasion resulted in the destruction of the empire and the deaths of millions of people within 2 years.

This coin was struck by an anonymous "Malik", a city governor who remained in Kurzuwan with the city under seige by Ghengis Khan, in the weeks before the city was taken and destroyed by the Mongol army. Stephen Album describes this coin as "one of the very few identifiable siege coins of the Islamic world".

Islamic, Persia (Post-Seljuk), Khwarezm Shahs from the time of Jalal al-Din Mangubarni b. Muhammad, AH 617-628 / 1220-1231 CE, Æ Jital (3.63), a siege issue from the Kurzuwan mint dated Rabi’ II AH 618 (May-June AD 1221)

Obv: “al-malik” across field; date in outer margin

Rev: Kalima in four lines across field "kurzuwan / la ilah illa allah / muhammad rasul / allah" translated as "Kurzuwan. There is no God but God. Muhammad is the messenger of God"

Ref: Tye 324.1; Nyamaa 31; Album 1971

Although only 5 Roman Republican coins made the top 10 list, the top coin is an RR denarius, and I added enough RR denarii this year that I could have made an all RR top 10. Several coins that didn't make the list can be found in my Notes:

Ptolemaic Isis - this year's top 10 list starts with "Honorable Mention" for this drachm

Ptolemaic Kings of Egypt, temp. Ptolemy VI–VIII, circa 180-116 BC, AE (25mm, 14.51 g, 12h), Alexandria mint, Series 7c

Obv: Head of Isis right, wearing wreath of grain ears, and her hair in long curls

Rev: ΠTOΛEMAIOY-BAΣIΛEΩΣ, eagle with open wings standing left on thunderbolt

Ref: Svoronos 1235; Faucher & Lorber Series 7c; SNG Copenhagen 247–8

More on this coin in my Notes: Ptolemaic Coins of Egypt

#10 Galatians in Egypt (and Sicily)

I am going to stretch the Top 10 again with these two coins which needed the pair to tell the story. One a Ptolemy issued in Egypt the other issued by Hieron in Sicily, both referencing Galatian mercenaries. Why would Hieron issue coins under the name of Ptolemy II?

Top: Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt, Ptolemy II Philadelphos (285-246 BC), AR Tetradrachm, Ptolemais-Ake mint, struck circa 275-262/1 BC

Obv: Diademed head to right, [wearing aegis]

Rev: ΠΤΟΛEΜΑΙOΥ BAΣΙΛEΩΣ, eagle with closed wings standing to left on thunderbolt; ΠT over two monograms to left, Galatian shield to right

Ref: CPE 441; Svoronos 544; SNG Copenhagen 521 (Uncertain Phoenician mint)

Bottom: Sicily, Syracuse, Æ Obol (17.0g, 27.3mm, 12h), time of Hieron II, circa 285-246 BC, imitative issue in the types of Ptolemy II Philadelphos of Egypt

Obv: Laureate head of Zeus to right

Rev: ΠΤΟΛΕΜΑΙΟΥ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ, eagle standing to left on thunderbolt, with wings spread; Galatian shield to left

Ref: CPE B289; Svoronos 610; Wolf & Lorber, 'Alexandrian' Style, P57–71; SNG Copenhagen 114.

More in this coin in my Notes: Galatians in Egypt

#9 Fonteius' Ship a wonderful ship on the reverse

C. Fonteius, 114-113 BC, AR denarius, 3.82g, Rome mint

Obv: Laureate, janiform head of Fons (or Fontus); two dots below, V to left, * [mark of value] to right

Rev: Galley left with three rowers, gubernator at stern

Ref: Crawford 290/1; Sydenham 555; Fonteia 1

More on this coin in my Notes: Ancient Ships

#8 Genius of the Roman People a coin that came with undeclared provenance from Shaeffer die project and Andrew McCabe - and gave me an excuse to decode some of the cryptic notes in Crawford RRC.

P. Cornelius Lentulus Marcellinus, 100 BC, AR Denarius (17.5mm, 3.08 g, 11h), Rome mint

Obv: Bareheaded bust of young Hercules right, seen from behind, wearing lion skin and holding club; to left, shield and •/R /

Rev: LENT.MAR.F. Roma standing facing, holding spear, being crowned by Genius of the Roman People, holding wreath and cornucopia; •/R between them; all within laurel wreath

Ref: Crawford 329/1a; Sydenham 604; Cornelia 25; RBW 1186 var. (control letter)

Note: ex CNG, from the "Benito Collection", formed by the Spanish ambassador Ramón Sáenz de Heredia y Alonso, who passed away in 2016.

For more on this coin in my Notes: Unencrypting Crawford

#7 Pompeians in Africa

I was thrilled to pick up this coin this year, a type that was hard to find for price/quality that I liked. This coins issued by the adopted son of one of Sulla's co-consuls. Issued from a military mint in Africa, it is from the civil wars that concluded with the end of the Republic and the start of the empire, in nice condition.

The Pompeians, Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius Scipio, AR Denarius, military mint traveling with Scipio in Africa, 47-46 BC. Eppius, legate

Obv: Head of Africa right, wearing elephant skin headdress; grain ear before, plough below, Q•METELL downwards to right, SCIPIO•IMP upwards to left

Rev: Hercules standing facing, right hand on hip, leaning on club draped with lion skin and set on rock; LEG•F•C upwards to left, EPPIVS downwards to right

Ref: Crawford 461/1

More on this coin in my Notes: Julius Caesar v. Pompeians

#6 Julius Caesar a coin that I didn't know existed until I saw it, and could not let go of once I did, my first portrait coin of Julius Caesar and a coin to complete a 12 Caesar's set.

Macedon, Thessalonica or Unknown Asia Minor mint, Augustus, with Divus Julius Caesar, 27 BC-AD 14, Æ (21mm, 8.66g, 6h)

Obv: ΘEOC, bare head of Divus Julius Caesar right

Rev: CEBACTOY ΘE, bare head of Augustus right

Ref: BMC 61; Varbanov 4154; RPC I 5421 (uncertain mint)

Rarity: 12 specimen are listed in in RPC online and my example is the second heaviest and nicer condition and style, in my view, than the other examples with photos. Varbanov lists the coin 4154 as R5 = 100-200 examples.

More on this coin with 11 companions in my Notes: Not the Usual "12 Caesars"

#5 Faustina II a coin with no explanation other than "I liked it"

Faustina II, AR denarius (3.59g, 18mm), Augusta, AD 147-175, Rome, under Antoninus Pius, circa AD December 147 and March 149

Obv: FAVSTINAE AVG PII AVG FIL, draped bust of Faustina II right, hair tied in bun at back of head, single circlet of pearls around

Rev: V-E-NVS, Venus standing facing, head left, holding apple and rudder with dolphin entwined

Ref: RIC 515a; Strack 520; BMC 1067; RSC 261

More on this coin in my Notes: Faustina the Younger

#4 Phokis Bull one of several where I drifted to earlier Greek coins

Phokis, federal coinage, circa 357-354 BC, AR Triobol/Hemidrachm, Philomelos, strategos

Obv: facing head of bull

Rev: Head of Artemis right; branch to left

Ref: Williams 303 (O220/R189); BCD Lokris 463.1 (these dies); HGC 4, 1046

More on this coin in my Notes: Greeks and Cattle

#3 Chalkis Nymph another Greek coin that captured my attention

Euboia, Chalkis, circa 338-308 BC, AR Drachm, (16.9mm, 3.68g, 12h)

Obv: Head of nymph Chalkis left

Rev: Eagle left, holding serpent in talons; torch to right

Ref: Picard Emission 1

Note: this coin came with a book "Chalcis et la Confédération Eubéenne Etude de Numismatique et D'Histoire (IVe - Ier Siécle)" Olivier Picard 1979

#2 A Perfect Frugi the scorpion and elegant portrait were the draw on this early example of C Calpurnius Frugi

C. Calpurnius L.f. Frugi, 61 BC, Denarius, Rome

Obv: Laureate head of Apollo to right; behind, standing eagle behind

Rev: C PISO L F FRVGI Horseman galloping right, winged, not wearing a hat, carrying nothing, with scorpion behind

Ref: Babelon (Calpurnia) 24. Crawford 408/1b. RBW, 319 in Hersh's 1976 catalogue of die combinations which is Obverse die 4 with Reverse die 1000 from Hersh C. (1976). A Study of the Coinage of the Moneyer C. Calpurnius Piso L. F. Frugi. The Numismatic Chronicle (1966-),16 (136), 7-63.

More on this coin in my Notes: FRVGI, Father and Son

#1 Temple of Eryx an unusual coin with an interesting story and amazing perspective landscape in beautiful condition

C. Considius Nonianus, 56 BC, AR Denarius (17mm, 4.0g, 12h), Rome mint

Obv: Laureate and draped bust of Venus Erycina right, wearing stephane and earring; C • CONSIDI • NONIANI downward to left, S • C upward to right

Rev: Temple on summit of rocky mountain surrounded by wall with towers on each side and gate in center; ERVC above gate

Ref: Crawford 424/1; Sydenham 886; Considia 1

More on this coin in my Notes: The Temple on Mt. Eryx

Best wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving!


- Mohsen Rahmati, Mohsen, "The last fight between sultan muhammad khwarazmshah and mongol army", January 2017, Man in India 97(23):605-624, Project: History of Malayer.

- Igor de Rachewiltz, The Secret History of the Mongols: A Mongolian Epic Chronicle of the Thirteenth Century the Thirteenth Century, The Australian National University, December 11, 2015, Edited by John C. Street

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