Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A "Fun" Coin of Elagabalus

Moesia Inferior Markianopolis AD 218-222
(26mm 11.05g) 4 Assaria
Obv: AVT KM AVR ANTWNEINOC laureate draped bust right
Rev: P CEPG TITIANOV MARKIANOPOLIT L N Hera standing with patera and scepter. (Sergius Titianus, Magistrate)
Ref: Moushmov 656 c.f. , AMNG 903 c.f. Ex Harry Stewart

Here is a Provincial coin of Elagablaus, issued from the city of Marcianopolis. Marcianopolis was a city in Moesia Inferior. It was located near modern day Devnya, Bulgaria. Previously known as Parthenopolis, it was renamed by the Emperor Trajan after his sister Ulpia Marciana. It issued coins from the reign of Commodus (AD 180-192) through about 248 A.D. during the reign of Philip I.

Elagabalus (Varivs Avitvs Bassianvs) was born either in late 204 or early 205 to Julia Soaemias and Sextus Varius Marcellus He entered the service of the Emesan sun-god, Elagabal, (hence his nickname Elagabalus). His bizarre and erratic behavior quickly eroded the support of the people and more importantly his troops. He married a Vestal Virgin, which went against Roman law and tradition and shocked the people of Rome. He also installed the sun god Elagabal above Jupiter in the Roman Pantheon of gods. Coupled with his scandalous sexual behavior, he quickly fell out of favor with the Roman people and was killed by members of the Praetorian Guard on March 6, 222. His body was dragged through the streets of Rome and was eventually tossed into the Tiber River. So much for ol’ Gabby!

Now for the fun part! Some coins are just fun to play with. This coin is one of my fun coins. I don’t normally collect provincial coins, but when Harry Stewart offered this one up at an Ancient Peddler’s Peddlers Market Auction, something about it caught my interest. The portrait of Elagabalus is good, even with the centration dimple, the lettering is clear and legible, the coin is well centered and of good metal. The color and texture of the coin is interesting, at least to me the coin has great eye appeal.

I enjoy handling all of my coins, what better way to enjoy a collection of ancient coins than to hold them in your hands, feel their heft, their texture and imagine the countless hands they have passed through on their way to yours. At least for me some coins for whatever reason are just more fun to hold. This coin is one of them! At 26mm and 11.05g it has a nice heft to it. It has a unique texture that my fingers find interesting. It has a very solid feel to it, heck its just fun to play with! It is often the first coin I hand people when I show them my collection for the first time, (you know, just before their eyes glaze over from boredom!)

Is it weird to have a favorite coin to handle? Perhaps. There are many things to enjoy when collecting coins, so why can't a coin just be "fun" to handle. I’d like to know if others have favorite coins to handle, or am I the only weirdo? (More than likely!) Thanks for reading.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A “Game” Coin of Domitian

AE As (29mm, 10.35g) Struck 88-89 A.D.. Rome
Rev: COS XIIII LVD SAEC FEC S C Domitian sacrificing over and altar facing left, harpist and flute player facing right, temple in background
RIC II 385a, Sear 2803 ex Mastrario ex Dr Busso Peus Nachf.

I seem to start every blog entry with something like “this is one of my favorite coins”, well, here I go again! This is one of my favorite coins :D The Flavians are one of my focus collections. Although this coin is a little rough, the deep green patina is quite attractive. You guessed it, its even better in hand!

This coin commemorates the Secular Games that Domitian held in October of A.D. 88. The Secular games were held every generation or “saeculum”. A generation was considered 100yrs, but they seemed to be held when ever the emperor wanted a good party! The Secular Games were a pagan celebration held to entertain and appease the gods. The first known Roman games were held in 249 BC, the second in 146, and the third in 17 held by Caesar Augustus. Later games, held in AD 47, 88, 147, 204, 248, and 262, included sports, music, theatre, and circuses. Constantine I finally put an end to the game in the 4th century A.D likely due to his conversion to Christianity.

Beside the brilliant patina, I like this coin because, at least in my opinion, it represents one of Domitian’s more interesting reverse types. This coin shows the emperor performing his duties as Pontifex Maximus, the supreme head of the state religion, sacrificing in front of what is probably the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus. Looking at the reverse I can almost hear the music played by the musicians, smell the smoke from the altar and hear the sounds of the crowd. Even though the portrait of Domitian on the reverse is tiny, I can recognize Domitian’s face. Coins like this one provide a glimpse of daily life in the Roman Empire, a snap shot in time! We can read about history, we can read about the Secular games. We can understand why they were held, we can know when they were held. In this coin we have tangible connection to that history. We can read that Domitian sacrificed at the games, but with this coin we can see it! If we let our imagination work a bit, we can imagine the coin circulating, much like commemorative coins today. We can imagine the ancient Romans looking at the reverse and remembering the games, much as we might look at a Bicentennial quarter and remember that time in our lives.

I won this coin from one of Joe Mastrario’s (Imperator Coins) e-bay auctions. I won it way too cheap (sorry Joe!) A good buy makes a coin more enjoyable! On top of that it is ex Dr Busso Peus Nachf, and came with the auction ticket. It’s fun to know a coin’s history.

So, I have a cool coin with great “eye appeal” that lies within my collecting focus. It has an incredible green patina that is much better in hand. The imagery on the reverse is interesting and provides us with a unique snapshot of life in ancient Rome. On top of that it was won from an honorable dealer and friend (thanks Joe!). If we use our imagination, we can see how in nearly 2000 years the basic function of coinage, and folks reactions to the imagery on coins hasn’t changed that much. That might lead us to the conclusion that people really haven’t changed that much in 2000 years. One of the reasons that I enjoy collecting ancient coins is the very tangible connection with the past. This coin is an attractive and excellent example of that connection. How could I not enjoy this coin? Thanks for reading!!!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

An “Ugly Duckling” of a coin

AR Denarius. Marcus Porcius Laece 125 B.C. Rome (16mm, 3.58g)
Obv: LAECA Helmeted head of Roma right, ? (XVI monogram) in right field. “sexy” Banker marks on face and right field
Rev M. PORC Libertas in fast quadriga right, crowned by Victory flying left, ROMA in exergue. Bankers marks
Sear 146, RRC 270/1, CRR 513, RSC Porcia 3
Ex Vel Garnet collection

This rather rough but interesting coin, this “ugly duckling”, is one of my favorites for a couple of reasons. First, it was a Christmas Gift (2006) from my wife. It was the first coin she ever bought me. She has told me that I’m hard to buy for. (I don’t think I am!) I suggested that she pick out a coin she liked on Vcoins and make that my gift. She enjoyed the experience and has since given me other coins as gifts. It’s fun because I never know what I’m going to get! My two sons have also purchased coins for me (with Mom’s help!), it adds to the enjoyment of my collection.

Another reason I like it is that it is so ugly it’s beautiful! It possesses a certain “eye appeal”. We all enjoy pretty coins, nice fully struck, centered and detailed beauties. I enjoy the less than pristine examples also. I appreciate the nice ones for their beauty, the ugly ones I enjoy for their “character”. This denarius has character! The wear, scratches, banker marks and tarnish are all badges of honor this coin has earned in its 2000+ year journey. I can imagine the coin in a busy market place, the merchant and the coins owner transacting business, the coin changing hands, the cautious merchant punching the coin to make sure it’s good. I look at the coin and I can imagine it happening!

I also enjoy the history of it. It was minted by the moneyer Marcus Porcius Laece. Here we are 2000+years later and we know his name because it is there on the coin. How cool is that! Seaby notes "This moneyer was a descendant of P. Porcius Laeca, praetor in 195 BC, who proposed and carried the Lex Porcia de Provocatione. This granted the Roman citizen residing outside the city right of appeal in criminal matters against the magistrates acting in their military capacity and is commemorated by the reverse type." Ahh yes, propaganda, “Hey look how cool my ancestor was, I’m just as cool.” What good is being a moneyer if you can’t toot you own horn a bit? Little has changed in the world of politics in the last 2000 years!

So, this one little “ugly duckling” has brought joy and learning to me at several different levels. I have a special gift from my wife. That gift bears the marks of its journey through the centuries, sparking my imagination. The coin itself tells me who caused it to be made. I learn the story of his ancestor, and see that human nature hasn’t changed all that much over the centuries. This one ugly duckling sure is a swan in my eyes!