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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Numism  |  For the New Ancient Coin Collector (Moderators: wolfgang336, Stkp, Lucas H)  |  Topic: Getting Started 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Jeffrey D1
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« on: June 14, 2020, 07:52:22 pm »

Hello,

I wanted to drop a note and say thank you for all the fine information in this forum. Ive spent the day reading posts that clearly took some time to put together and I appreciate all the intel and perspectives

Im not yet a collector.  I purchased a few coins today from a few different dealers - so Im on the path.  I have some questions below, but Ill first introduce myself and share a little about what I want to collect.

I have always been fascinated with ancient history.  I toyed with the idea of being an archaeologist and went deep into grad school, learning Latin and Greek and participating in several digs in Greece.  I bailed out in favor of a career in business.  Now, Im 40 years old and looking for another hobby.  Ive got varied collecting interests - memorabilia from notorious African dictators, Byzantine icons, books, WW2 firearms and antique radios are some of my interests.   I never realized ancient coins were so affordable - so I never considered it - other than one time prior...

18 years ago in Egypt inside the archaeological site at Memphis, I bought some coins off some local worker inside the site.  I dont remember exactly what they were but one of them depicted Antoninus Pius (that I remember).  Anyway long story short, as I was going to leave there were metal detectors on the way out of the site.  I considered mixing the coins in with my pocket change but opted to leave them on a stone wall instead before exiting.  The guy I bought it from has probably sold Antoninus Pius 50 times.  So, I once owned a few illicit coins for a few minutes and learned a lesson I should have known anyway.

I read some typologies of typical collectors here on the forum.  I can see myself collecting ancient coins primarily because of the history and the opportunity to be both a researcher (a consumer of history) and collector at the same time. A hobby with intricate reference citations? Amazing.

So I was researching some coins to buy today - I went down the rabbit hole on a coin depicting the Emperor Valens.  I had my Gibbon out, my maps out, looking for the place of his demise (in Battle  - either trapped in a house and burned or literally cut to pieces).  The idea that I could have a coin depicting the guy who was at the helm when things really went irrecoverably south for the Roman Empire was intoxicating!  For $30?  Unreal.  To me collecting some information about Valens, sharing it on a website and owning a beautiful coin - makes me feel like a museum curator. 

So right now, I dont think I want to clean coins and try to identify them.  Although I can see how that is very cool, rewarding and beneficial. What I want to do is collect high quality late Roman emperors.  Im defining late Roman as Diocletian to Honorius for my collection.  My first question is one of books.  I must have read 50 times today - you need a library - great,  I want a library but I just need some specific help on the 2-3 books that are most useful for my situation and needs. As I started researching the research material needed - frankly, I was confused by the book choices. I guess I want to learn from books what is out there: the possible scope of the collection, how many coins are in my target area, and anything about some basic pricing information. I see myself buying things that are already identified and working with reputable dealers.  I like the details, the why, the history behind an object.

I hope previous statements make clear:  I know nothing.   Ive had success in other collecting situations researching and then first buying low quality specimens while I really dig in and research bigger purchases and track auctions - at least as a device to learn what things cost.  Any tips on how to expertly start the collection would be appreciated and if you can set me straight on the essential books I need to get started, it would be amazing. If you know samples of great private collectors websites Id be really interested to see their presentation as well

So how do I give myself an education on Roman coins of late antiquity?

Thank you

Regards
Jeff Demers
Boston, Ma





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Jay GT4
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« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2020, 10:43:32 pm »

Welcome Jeff.  You're in the right place.  I think all of us share a passion for history and feel the same way about owning a small piece of it.

Forum is an excellent resource and there are some very knowledgeable people who frequent this site.  You can start right here in the discussion boards and in the members galleries.  Many galleries are very well curated with wonderful write ups about each coin and the history surrounding them.

Forum is also a coin shop and you will find excellent coins for sale right here from our host Joe.

I can't help when it comes to books on the late Empire as I focus mainly on Antony, the Flavians and Southern Italians but I'm sure you'll get more comments soon.

Welcome to the world of ancient coins!

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J. Grande
Jeffrey D1
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« Reply #2 on: June 15, 2020, 04:41:55 am »

Thanks, Jay.

I took some time to look at your Antony collection. Antony as Sol, the fleet coinage, the legionary - very interesting.  Do you research or write your own descriptions?  One of the things I'm trying to get a handle on (and as I don't have the library yet...) - is what is the possible scope of an Antony collection?  Did you chose him because of this scope?  I can guess he's an interesting subject for coinage
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Jay GT4
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« Reply #3 on: June 15, 2020, 07:49:09 am »

I always thought Antony got a bad rap.  He wasn't the love sick fool many have made him out to be.

 His coins can be both very rare and expensive and also low to medium budget, like the legionary series.  Of course condition is everything.  A complete set of Antony legionary denarii has been undertaken by many, achieved by few!  There is one full legionary series here in the Forum galleries.  If you collect what your interested in you'll enjoy this hobby for a very long time.


I copy the coin details in the standard format of RIC  with legends and devices and then I try to compose a brief write up, usually compiled from a few sources.  It is becoming increasingly important to keep track of provenance too and it can be fun when you find that your coin was in an auction or other collections.
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J. Grande
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« Reply #4 on: June 15, 2020, 08:16:08 am »

Welcome Jeff.  Thanks for introducing yourself.

Books and late Roman coins is an interesting subject.  It is perhaps a more difficult answer than with other types of ancient coins.

Most books related to late Roman coins are focussed on identification.  If you are not interested in that - in other words you will only buy already identified and attributed coins - that cuts out the need for such books.

Other books on ancient coins help you tell what is genuine, but late Roman coins - at least bronze ones - are generally the least faked.

So what is left?

If you want to study the Emperors I find that history books are frankly better than numismatic books

For the Valentinainic period I like:
A.H.M Jones huge 4 volume The Later Roman Empire
R. Malcolm Errington Roman Imperialism from Julian to Theodosius
Matthews Western Aristocracies and Imperial Court AD 364-425
Kulikoski Rome's Gothic Wars
Wolfram History of the Goths
Harper The Fate of Rome
Ward Perkins The Fall of Rome
Charles Freeman The Closing of the Western Mind
Charles Freeman AD 381
Peter Heather The Restoration of Rome

There is also Hendy Studies in the Byzantine Monetary Economy 300-1450.

For study of the complete coinage by mint there is the RIC (The Roman Imperial Coinage) series.  Vol IX covers Valentinainic and Theodosian but is hugely out of date and is currently being re-done by SpinkVol.X covers the fifth century as does the Late Roman Coins volume of the Dunbarton Oakes Collection.  Both are much newer.

Sadly, late Roman coins very rarely link to specific events so the "history by the coins" approach used by many books for the earlier Imperial era is sadly lacking.

I wrote a book focussing on the reverse types of Roman bronze from 324 to 395 but have not found a publisher - one lead stalled with the start of covid.  As far as I know no one else has examined them specifically by reverse type and theme.

SC

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SC
(Shawn Caza, Ottawa)
Jeffrey D1
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« Reply #5 on: June 15, 2020, 11:08:37 am »

Hi Shawn

Thanks for the note and the book suggestions.  On the coin side,  I went with the RIC vol. IX,  the new X, and the Dumbarton volume.  I can't sit on an expensive book purchase or I'll never pull the trigger - so I just sucked it up and bought them to get it done.  Can't wait to dig in.

On the period books,  I had Jones and I'll start there.  Thanks for mentioning it.  Yesterday, I was thinking of books I might have the covered the period and I had J.B. Bury's two volumes on the Later Roman empire but those started with Theodosius' reign so I skipped past it before going to Gibbon and forgot JonesJones is going take me awhile to read- I need a thorough refresher but when I'm done, I'll check out the others. I've got at least the Freeman books somewhere.

Very cool on your reverse types book project. Good luck with it!  My first coin I bought yesterday (a Valens bronze) has the goddess victory on the reverse which I liked very much.  I saw a Julian II coin here on this site yesterday where he was trying to jumpstart his 10th anniversary as emperor.  Fascinating!  I'm engrossed with the subject matter.

I'm very appreciative of the response and guidance.

Best
Jeff
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Jeffrey D1
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« Reply #6 on: June 15, 2020, 11:29:22 am »

Yes,  M.A. gets somewhat maligned.  I can't quite remember the description of Antony's suicide in Plutarch but the sentiment was one of him being a fool - so he's had that rap for a long time despite the evidence of him being shrewd enough to rise to the top and stay there for a very long time. 

Thanks for the details on your collection and insights into your workflow.  Much appreciated.
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Charles M
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« Reply #7 on: June 15, 2020, 12:59:41 pm »

To aid with IDing coins I would recommend Dane Kurth's site, HELVETICA'S IDENTIFICATION HELP PAGE:

http://www.catbikes.ch/coinstuff/coins-ric.htm

She has created Excel spreadsheets mostly based on the reverse types of Roman Imperial coins, cross referenced to RIC.  They make identification a breeze and best of all they are free.  There's no history involved but that can come from your other sources after the coin is identified.

Dane is the administrator of Wildwinds, another excellent site to aid in the ID of ancient coins.

FORVM also has a wealth of information available, especially Numiswiki.

Charles M.
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