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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Numismatic and History Discussions  |  Parthian and Other Eastern Coins (Moderator: Howard Cole)  |  Topic: A Close Match To An Unusual Coin in Schatz's Gallery 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: A Close Match To An Unusual Coin in Schatz's Gallery  (Read 445 times)
Robert L3
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« on: January 30, 2019, 12:04:15 pm »

In footnote #25 in my recent article about Parthian fractions in KOINON: The International Journal of Classical Numismatic Studies, I make reference to the following coin in Schatz’s gallery (I had received her prior permission to mention that coin):

http://www.forumancientcoins.com/gallery/displayimage.php?pos=-124775

As Schatz rightfully points out in her description of that coin, “this coin is considered possibly undocumented and very rare

In the KOINON footnote (#25, page 123) I state: “While the Fars ‘Parthian’ coins consist mostly of diobols, they do also include a drachm of Pacorus II and several very rare hemidrachms of Pacorus II and Osroes I. In addition, an unpublished and unique little bronze coin, typologically similar (but not identical) to the Fars hoard diobols attributed to Vologases II, also exists – although it is unclear whether it is from the hoard. The coin, described as a chalkous, is ex-Hauck & Aufhäuser and is currently part of the extensive Parthian collection of Schatz. Given the fact that this coin is roughly the size and weight of Parthian diobols, and that base metals are believed to have been sometimes used for test strikes for silver issues, might the coin have been a test strike from a Persis mint that generated coins from the Fars hoard? Or is it possibly the only extant example of base metal ‘Parthian’ coins struck in Persis?”

I am writing this post now because of a silver coin, described (correctly, I believe) as a diobol but misidentified as Vologases I rather than II (the pelleted tiara pegs it as Volo II), that was listed within the last 24 hours. The coin, which closely matches Schatz’s, may support my speculation about her coin perhaps being a test strike for an AR issue. (For context pertaining to the Parthians’ use of non-precious metal for test strikes, see Robert Gonnella’s “A Previously Unknown Tetradrachm of Phraates IV: An Ancient Counterfeit?” in The Celator, Vol. 24, No. 8, August 2010, page 36; it may be reasonable to assume the same tradition of test-striking with non-precious metal held true for Parthian loyalists in Persis)

Referring to the Type 3 (plate 42, #3) diobols of Vologases II from the Fars hoard, David Sellwood, in his 1989 article “New Parthian Coin Types” (The Numismatic Chronicle, Volume 149) stated that only “a single obverse die has been noted for this group.” Thus Schatz’s coin is an anomaly not only in that it is struck in base metal (AE), but also in that its dies – both obverse and reverse – do not match any previously known examples.

Below is Schatz’s AE above the newly listed AR diobol. Dies are quite similar, but perhaps not a match – unless reworked between strikes. But, whether or not a match, I think they must be by the same workshop and quite possibly the same die engraver. Could the AR represent the production version, perhaps from newer or reworked dies, of the earlier AE test strike? Or were these two coins intended as different denominations, chalkous and diobol, albeit with almost identical devices? (That seems unlikely to me) In any event the new listing is the first AR diobol I’ve seen with the same rather distinctive style as Schatz’s fascinating coin.

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Stkp
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« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2019, 07:05:09 am »

Very interesting, Robert. Stkp
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Schatz
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« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2019, 12:25:41 pm »

Hi Robert L3,

yes, I definitely agree with you that the silver diobol of Vol. II pictured in your post bears a striking resemblance to the bronze Vol. II in my collection and that one can assume that it originated from the same workshop and even from the same celator. The possible explanations are manifold: Was the bronze version a test run for a silver coin, had the mint run temporarily out of silver, are there many more of both the bronze and the silver version in existence that just have not been found yet? Another one that I have entertained occasionally is that unusual versions of known coins, either in style or material, could be the result of illegal after-hours activities of mint workers. I know too little about the manufacturing process in ancient mints. Contemporary forgeries are often easily spotted, they are fourrée coins,  off-weight, off-style, etc. But what happened to discarded dies, and how careful was the supervision of the mint workers? I simply do not know, it was just intriguing to speculate along those lines.
I'll have to read Robert Gonnella's article in the Celator, thanks for the reference, Bob.

Schatz
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Robert L3
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« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2019, 09:15:55 pm »

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Schatz.

The newly listed coin has sold already. Hopefully the buyer understands how special it is.

Well, we’ll likely never know for sure the answer to our little mystery here. However, I begin to think that the possibility of both of these being contemporary counterfeits is likely. If true, it doesn’t entire preclude the possibility of the AE still being a test strike or, perhaps, another issue/denomination produced by the same counterfeiters. The counterfeit theory may be supported by the crudeness of the obverse portraits. The king’s depiction on “official”* documented type 3 (pl. 42, 3) diobols was still of relatively decent style: http://www.forumancientcoins.com/gallery/displayimage.php?pos=-106841

I say "still" because it was only later, with the type 6 (pl. 42,6; pl. 42,7; and pl. 42,8) issues of Pacorus II, that the style of these "official"* Fars issues became "somewhat more primitive." (Sellwood)

* “Official” may be a misnomer given that the “Parthan” fractions minted in Persis were, of course, not imperial issues of Parthia-proper.

In the article I mentioned how Parthian fractions, including the Fars issues, are “imbued with some mystery, providing ample opportunities for research and speculation.” I also wrote that, “adding to the mystery are the unpublished types – or unpublished variants of known types – that periodically appear on the market.”

Those passages definitely seem to apply here.

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Schatz
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« Reply #4 on: February 01, 2019, 09:56:10 am »

Hi Robert L3,

again, I agree. It is definitely possible that these two diobols of Vol. II are forgeries. But nothing is certain about undocumented coins. I believe that, in general, the line between 'unofficial issues' and forgeries is very blurred. And there seems to have been quite a lot of unofficial issuing, especially around the Eastern Parthian mints. Also, what lets me hope that the two diobols are not outright forgeries is the fact that there was a steady deterioration in artistic style in the diobols from Vol. I to Pacoros II., so the somewhat primitive portraits on the two Vol. II are not really out of line. Whatever the truth is, I find all of these fractions intriguing, mostly because there are so few of them around, and yet there must have been quite a lot of them minted for everyday use. But it is not difficult to imagine how easily these small, lightweight metal discs would disappear throughout the centuries.

Regards, as always,
Schatz
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Michael C8
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« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2019, 05:34:58 pm »

I have a couple of questions for Robert and Schatz about these interesting fractions.

Robert: Where was the silver diobol sold?

Schatz: Assuming Sinisi is correct in assigning Sellwood's Vologases II tetradrachms to Vologases I and Sellwood's Vologases II drachms to Pacorus II, who would the diobols likely depict? Vologases I or Pacorus II or ??

Mike
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Robert L3
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« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2019, 06:19:58 pm »

Mike,

Welcome to the board. I like that avatar!

As for the question you pose to me, about where the coin was sold, I'll just state that it was through an established, reputable dealer. I think it would be bad form - and perhaps frowned upon - to mention the specific dealer given that this board is hosted by one of the premiere sellers of ancient coins.

I am very pleased to have learned, in direct correspondence with Schatz, that the AR is joining her amazing collection - so the two coins above will be together.

Bob
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orfew
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« Reply #7 on: February 08, 2019, 06:26:41 pm »

That is great news Bob. Those coins should definitely be together and congratulations to @Schatz.
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Schatz
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« Reply #8 on: February 10, 2019, 11:00:36 am »

Thanks, Andrew, and Mike, here is an attempt to answer your question, apparently not exhaustively. The best discussion board member to shed light on this is Robert L3 who recently published a study on Parthian fractions in the journal  KOINOS.  Here is my take on this:

If we follow Sinisi, we combine Vol. I and II into Vol. I (51-79 AD) with the Son of Vardanes in between, Pakoros II (75-110), and Vol. II  (105-147). That would leave my diobols grouped with those of Vol. I, the difference being a tiara discernible in the possibly later diobols, and the deteriorated style. Also, Vol. I had no drachms and tetradrachms showing him in a tiara, so why should he be wearing one on his diobols? Of course, if you group the Sellw. 72 drachms and tetradrachms with Vol. I and not Pakoros II, there would be Vol. I drachms and tdrs with a tiara. Also, are the two extra dotted lines above the head of the Shore 390 types meant to be a tiara? I honestly do not know. One also has to wonder if a prince who ruled only for ca. 2 years supposedly in Mesoptamia while Pakoros II ruled Iran had access to the mint in Persis where these diobols originate from. As usual in these cases, further research is necessary.

I'd be curious to know what you and Robert L3 think,
Schatz
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Robert L3
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« Reply #9 on: February 10, 2019, 07:19:33 pm »

Michael, are you sure about Sinisi reassigning Sellwood’s Volo II drachms to Pacorus II? Sellwood’s type 72 drachms (which Sellwood had as Volo II) are reassigned in Sinisi’s Sylloge Nummorum Parthicorum, Volume 7 as Volo I, not Pacorus II. (see SNP 7 #’s 784-803)

In any event Sinisi of course makes it abundantly clear that he does not consider the Persis fractions that are issued in the names of Parthian kings to be, in fact, Parthian. As I wrote in the article:

“…SNP 7 includes only coins from the Ecbatana, Seleucia, Mithradatkart, and (possibly) Rhagae mints, none of which produced AR fractions during the reigns of (the Parthian kings to which the Persis fractions are traditionally attributed: Volo I, Volo II, Artabanus III, Pacorus II, and Osroes I). As far as Sinisi is concerned, 'with regard to the silver series…no fractions of the drachm (are) attested (to) after Orodes II.’”

Now, the Type 3 “Parthian” diobols from Persis (which the die engraver who produced Schatz's coins seems to have been riffing on) have, according to Sellwood, degenerated “vestiges” of “Vologases” in their reverse legends. Thus an attribution to Pacorus would be out. Furthermore, Dr. G.R.F. Assar, who has in recent years done more rearranging of Sellwood’s sequence and more reattribution of Parthian coins than any other scholar (including Jalal Dilmaghani, Ruben Vardanyan, and Fred B. Shore), does not dispute Sellwood’s Volo II attribution for the Type 3’s. Accordingly the only Type 3 among the Sunrise Collection's Parthian coins in The Numismatic Art of Persia, which uses Assar's work as a basis for attribution, is listed as Volo II. Referring here to Sunrise 429.
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Michael C8
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« Reply #10 on: February 11, 2019, 05:24:40 pm »

Robert: Yes, I didn't state that well or correctly. Sinisi describes the S.72.10 drachms as being re-used and redeployed by Pacorus, who subsequently copied his father's design with the S.77 series (the discussion is on pages 92-93). The fractions under discussion here appear to have no monogram or design on the tiara (or is that crescent structure behind the ears an interpretation of a monogram???). Hence my (clumsy) original question. Mike

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Michael C8
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« Reply #11 on: February 11, 2019, 06:28:26 pm »

Schatz:

Yes, I agree with your points. There is a third King option if these diobols are official or semi-official issues of a Parthian ruler and that is Vologases III who wore a similar tiara on his Type 79 tetradrachms and bronzes from Seleucia. Sinisi has so many interesting repercussions (like who minted the Type 69 drachms?). 
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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Numismatic and History Discussions  |  Parthian and Other Eastern Coins (Moderator: Howard Cole)  |  Topic: A Close Match To An Unusual Coin in Schatz's Gallery « previous next »
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