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A countermark is a stamped or punched impression adding elements of design to a coin after it was originally struck. The practice of countermarking coins was widespread throughout antiquity. It was particularly common in the provinces of the Roman Empire. Countermarks were applied to coins for many reasons, including revalidation, revaluation, devaluation, and propaganda. Exactly when and why any individual countermark was applied is often uncertain.
Lampsacus (as Colonia Gemella Iulia Lampsacus), Mysia, c. 45 - 35 B.C.
M. Grant (Grant FITA, p. 246) first and convincingly attributed this type to Lampsacus. P. Brunt (Italian Manpower, p. 600) argues convincingly that the colony was founded by Julius Caesar about 45 B.C. and disappeared after its occupation by Sextus Pompey in 35 B.C. Marcus Turius was the legate (governor) of Asia, 42 - 40 B.C. The countermark is listed in RPC I on other issues of the colony. RP85355. Bronze as, RPC I 2272 (2 specimens), Grant FITA 246(4), SNG BnF -, SNG Cop -, SNGvA -; Countermark: Howgego -, F, a little rough with some smoothing, only three specimens known to Forum, weight 4.044 g, maximum diameter 17.8 mm, die axis 45o, Lampsacus mint, 42 - 40 B.C.; obversehead of Janus, C G - I L (Colonia Gemella Iulia Lampsacus) divided across field, countermark: cornucopia, C - C flanking at sides, within a roughly square punch; reverse galley prow right, Q LVCRETI / L PONTI IIVIR (duumvirs) above, M TVRIO LEG (Marcus Turius, legate) below; extremely rare; $800.00 SALE PRICE $720.00
Valerian I, October 253 - c. June 260 A.D., Hierapolis, Phrygia in Homonoia with Sardis
This coin commemorates the homonoia (alliance) between Phrygia and Sardis. Cities in Thrace and Asia minor sometimes formed alliances with other cities. The competition for prestige and rivalry between cities in the East was intense. Alliances could enhance a city’s status by aligning either with many cities or with particularly important ones. Homonoia was part of civic "foreign policy" and might have involved the exchange of delegates and joint celebrations and sacrifices. At least 87 cities issued homonoia coins celebrating their alliances. RP77248. Bronze AE 28, Franke-Nolle, type VI, 857 (Vs.C/Rs.18); cf. SNGvA 3668; SNG Tubingen 4054; Lindgren III 596, VF, tight flan, obscure countermark on obverse, weight 9.924 g, maximum diameter 28.1 mm, die axis 180o, Hierapolis (near Pamukkale, Turkey) mint, Oct 253 - c. Jun 260 A.D.; obverse AY• K• - ΠOY• ΛIK• OYAΛEPAN/OC, radiate, draped, and cuirassedbust right, from the front, round countermark on face; reverseIEPAΠOΛE/ITΩN - KE - CAP∆IANΩN, Apollo on left, standing right, plectrum in right hand, kithara in left hand; cult statue of Kore facing, wearing kalathos and veil, NEOKOPΩN downward in right field, OMONOYA in exergue; very rare; $300.00 SALE PRICE $270.00
Elaios, Thracian Chersonesos, c. 350 - 281 B.C.
The city of Elaios in Thracian Chersonesos occupied a strategic position on what is now called the Gallipoli peninsula. In the ancient world, it was know for its sanctuary of the Trojan hero Protesilaos. Philostratos, writing of this sanctuary in the early third century A.D., speaks of a temple statue of Protesilaos standing on a base which was shaped like the prow of a boat. Of all the references listed in this coin's attribution, SNG Copenhagen is the only to list any coins of this rare city.GB85370. Bronze AE 13, SNG Cop 898 (also same countermark); BMC Thrace -, Corpus Nummorum Thracorum -, SNG Tub -, SNG BM -, SNG Stancomb -, SNG Pushkin -, VF, well centered, highlighting earthen deposits, some marks, some corrosion, reverse slightly flattened by counter marking, weight 2.392 g, maximum diameter 13.3 mm, die axis 0o, Elaios mint, c. 350 - 281 B.C.; obverse veiled female head (Demeter?) right (wreathed in grain?); countermark: lion forepart right in an round punch; reverse bee upward, seen from above, EΛAIOY/ΣIΩN flanking in two upward lines first on left, ΠA monogram below; extremely rare; $250.00 SALE PRICE $225.00
From McAlee, The Coins of Roman Antioch, p. 74, note 25: "The coins of this year (Pompeian Era 19 = 48/7 BC) and of Year 3 of the Caesarean Era are frequently seen with a countermark on the obverse, which was previously described as "head of Apollo r." in an oval. As discussed in the text, it now seems likely that the countermark portrays Cleopatra, and was used to mark coins circulating in the Syro-Phoenician territories, which were given to her by Mark Antony."RP84649. Bronze tetrachalkon, McAlee 43; RPC I 4216; BMC Galatia p. 155, 35; Cohen DCA 384; HGC 9 1366; SNG Cop -; countermark: McAlee p. 74, note 25, F, countermark: aVF, weight 11.895 g, maximum diameter 22.7 mm, die axis 0o, Antioch (Antakya, Turkey) mint, Autumn 48 - Autumn 47 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Zeus right; countermark: bust of Cleopatra right in an incuse oval; reverse ANTIOXEΩN THΣ MHTPOΠOΛΩΣ, Zeus Nicephorus enthroned left, chest bare, himation around hips and legs, Nike offering wreath in his extended right hand, long scepter vertical in left hand, fulmen (thunderbolt) above, cornucopia (control symbol) inner left, IΘ (Pompeian Era year 19) below, all within laurel wreath; $200.00 SALE PRICE $180.00
Kingdom of Commagene, Julia Iotape, 38 - 72 A.D.
Iotape was the daughter of Antiochus III and Iotapa, the king and queen of Commagene. Her parents were full-blooded siblings and direct descendants of the Seleucid kings. Iotapa and her brother Antiochus IV were very young when their father died in 17 A.D. Tiberius agreed with the citizens of Commagene to make their Kingdom a part of the Roman province of Syria. From 17 until 38, Iotapa and her brother were raised in Rome, members of the remarkable court of Antonia Minor. Antonia Minor was a niece of Augustus and the youngest daughter of Mark Antony. She was very influential and supervised her circle of various princes and princesses, assisting in the political preservation of the Empire’s borders, and the affairs of client states. In 38, Caligula returned Antiochus IV and Iotape to the throne of Commagene. In addition, Caligula enlarged their territory with a part of Cilicia bordering on the seacoast and gave them one million gold pieces, the total amount of revenue collected from Commagene during the twenty years that it had been under Syria. The reason for his extraordinary generosity is unknown. Perhaps it was just a stroke of Caligula's well-attested eccentricity. Iotapa and Antiochus IV married and had three children. Iotapa died before Commagene was annexed by Vespasian in 72. When she died, Antiochus IV founded a town called Iotapa in her honor (modern Aytap, Turkey).GB84499. Bronze AE 26, Lindgren-Kovacs 1887 (same countermark); RPC I 3858; BMC Galatia p. 109, 4; Nercessian AC -; SNG Cop VII 5; countermark: Howgego 403 (after 69 A.D.), VF, straight edge flan, weight 15.289 g, maximum diameter 25.8 mm, die axis 0o, Samosata (site now flooded by the Atatürk Dam) mint, 66 - 72 B.C.; obverse BAΣIΛIΣΣA IΩTAΠH ΦIΛA∆EΛΦOΣ (of Queen Iotape Philadelphus), diademed and draped bust of Iotape to right, countermark: crossed cornucopias; reverse KOMMAΓ−HNΩN, scorpion and inscription all within laurel wreath; from the Dr. Sam Mansourati Collection; scarce; $150.00 SALE PRICE $135.00
Persian Empire, Sidon, Phoenicia, Ba'Alshillem II, c. 401 - 366 B.C.
Sidon, named for the "first-born" of Canaan, the grandson of Noah (Genesis 10:15, 19), is frequently referred to by the prophets (Isaiah 23:2, 4, 12; Jeremiah 25:22; 27:3; 47:4; Ezekiel 27:8; 28:21, 22; 32:30; Joel 3:4). The Sidonians long oppressed Israel (Judges 10:12) but Solomon entered into a matrimonial alliance with them, and thus their form of idolatrous worship found a place in the land of Israel (1 Kings 11:1, 33). Jesus visited the "coasts" of Tyre and Sidon (Matthew 15:21; Mark 7:24) where many came to hear him preach (Mark 3:8; Luke 6:17). After leaving Caesarea, Paul's ship put in at Sidon, before finally sailing for Rome (Acts 27:3, 4).GS70326. Silver 1/16 shekel, Elayi 2004 851 ff.; HGC 10 240; Betlyon 27 (Abd'astart, Straton I); BMC Phoenicia p 146, 36 (same); SNG Cop 197 ff. (same), VF, toned, tiny edge cuts, banker's mark, tight flan, bumps and marks, weight 0.648 g, maximum diameter 9.5 mm, die axis 90o, Sidon (Saida, Lebanon) mint, c. 371 - 370 B.C.; obverse war galley left, Phoenician letter beth above, banker's mark or countermark above galley; reverseKing of Persia (to left) standing right, slaying erect lion to right, Phoenician letter ayin between them; $140.00 SALE PRICE $126.00
Kyzikos, Mysia, 2nd - 1st Century B.C.
In Megalopolis, Arkadia, there was a sanctuary of Kore the Maid. "The image is of stone, about eight feet high; ribbons cover the pedestal all over. Women may enter this sanctuary at all times, but men enter it only once every year." -- Pausanias, Description of Greece 8.31.8GB85164. Bronze AE 19, cf. SNG BnF 452 ff.; SNG Cop 68 ff.; SNGvA 1235 f.; SNG Tub 2256 ff.; BMC Mysia p. 39, 147; Lindgren I 220 (none with this monogram or countermark), aVF, c/m: VF; well centered on a broad flan, flattened on reverse opposite countermark, weight 5.749 g, maximum diameter 19.1 mm, die axis 0o, Kyzikos (Kapu Dagh, Turkey) mint, 2nd - 1st century B.C.; obversebust of Kore Soteira (the savior maiden) right, wreathed with grain; countermark: griffinhead right in oval punch; reverse KY/ZI in two lines, divided by ΠAT monogram at center, all inside oak wreath, within a shallow round incuse; apparently unpublished and both the monogram and countermark are extremely rare - we were unable to find specimens with either this monogram or this countermark in our many references or online; $140.00 SALE PRICE $126.00
Augustus, 16 January 27 B.C. - 19 August 14 A.D., Uncertain (Philippi?), Macedonia
Howgego notes the capricorn was a standardtype for Parium. The capricorn was a symbol of Augustus and was probably adopted as a symbol of the city after a Augustan refoundation of the colonia. Howgego notes that the capricorn countermarks on the colonist plowing types may have indicated a devaluation of the coins.RP85357. Bronze AE 19, RPC I 1656.43 (same countermark); SNG Cop 282; Varbanov 3770 (R4); McClean 7660 (Tiberius); SNG BnF 1439 (Parium, Mysia); c/m: Howgego 302 (Parium), gF, c/m: VF; scratches, corrosion, earthen deposits, reverse flattened by counter-marking, weight 3.861 g, maximum diameter 17.8 mm, die axis 0o, Uncertain (Philippi?) mint, 16 Jan 27 B.C. - 19 Aug 14 A.D.; obverse AVG, bare head right; c/m Capricorn right in rectangular punch; reverse two priests with yoke of two oxen right, plowing the pomerium (sacred boundary), founding the new colony; rare with countermark; $125.00 SALE PRICE $113.00
Kyzikos, Mysia, c. 200 - 27 B.C.
Cyzicus was one of the great cities of the ancient world. During the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.) Cyzicus was subject to the Athenians and Lacedaemonians alternately. In the naval Battle of Cyzicus in 410, an Athenian fleet completely destroyed a Spartan fleet. At the peace of Antalcidas in 387, like the other Greek cities in Asia, it was made over to Persia. Alexander the Great captured it from the Persians in 334 B.C.GB72168. Bronze AE 28, SNGvA 7355 (with same countermark); SNG BnF 505 (also with same c/m); SNG Cop 84; BMC Mysia p. 40, 167, VF, nice style, well centered, nice green patina, bevelled obv edge, weight 12.530 g, maximum diameter 28.2 mm, die axis 90o, Cyzicus (Kapu Dagh, Turkey) mint, c. 200 - 27 B.C.; obversehead of Kore Soteira right, wearing grain wreath; countermark: eagle standing right, wings open in a 7.5mm round punch; reverse tripod with three loop handles, KYZI/KHNWN from upper right, in two flanking downward lines, branch right above, torch left below, monogram outer right, monogram outer left; $120.00 SALE PRICE $108.00
Kings of Cilicia, Tarkondimotos, c. 39 - 31 B.C.
Tarkondimotos was made dynast by Pompey and crowned king by Marc Antony. He died at the Battle of Actium. The anchorcountermark, frequently used in an earlier era by Seleukid kings, is almost certainly post-Actium, perhaps from Antioch.GB75283. Bronze AE 22, RPC I 3871, SGCV II 5682, BMC Lycaonia p. 237, 1 ff., F/aF, green patina, weight 8.040 g, maximum diameter 22.1 mm, die axis 0o, Hieropolis mint, c. 39 - 31 B.C.; obverse diademed head right, countermark: anchor in oval punch; reverse BAΣIΛEΩΣ / TAPKON∆IMO/TOY, Zeus enthroned half left, himation around hips and legs with end over shoulder, Nike offering wreath extended in right hand, long scepter vertical behind in left hand, ΦIΛANT exergue; $95.00 SALE PRICE $85.50
Baker, R. "The Countermarks Found on Ancient Roman Coins: A Brief Introduction" in SAN XV (1984). pp. 52-58.
Barag, D. "The countermarks of the Legio Decima Fretensis" in Kindler Patterns. (Tel-Aviv, 1967).
Barag, D. & S. Qedar. "A Countermark of the Legio Quinta Scytica from the Jewish War" in INJ 13 (1994).
Bauslaugh, R. "Cistophoric Countermarks and the Monetary System of Eumenes II" in NC 1990.
Calciati, R. Corpus Nummorum Siculorum. The Bronze Coinage. (Milan, 1983 - 1987).
Davesne, A. "Une contremarque au trident sur certaines monnaies de Ptolémée II Philadelphe" in BSFN 42/2 (Feb. 1987), pp. 145-149.
Elayi, J. & A. Lemaire. Graffiti et contremarques ouest-sémitiques sur les monnaies grecques et proche-orientales. Glaux 13. (Milan, 1998).
Howgego, C.J. Greek Imperial Countermarks. RNS, Special Publication No. 17. (London, 1985).
McAlee, R. The Coins of Roman Antioch. (Lancaster, PA, 2007).
Martini, R. Nomismata 6: The Pangerl Collection Catalog and Commentary on the Countermarked Roman Imperial Coins. (Milan, 2003).
Rosenberger, M. The Rosenberger Israel Collection Volume IV: The Coinage of Eastern Palestine, and legionary countermarks, Bar-Kochba overstruck. (Jerusalem, 1978).
Seyrig, H. "Monnaies contremarquées en Syrie," in Syria 35 (1958), pp. 187-197.
Topalov, S.A. New Contributions to the Study of the Countermarking of Coins in the Area of the West Pontic Cities, 3rd-1st c. B.C. (Sofia, 2002).
Werz, U. Gegenstempel auf Reichs - und Provinzialprägungen der römischen Kaiserzeit - Katalog der Sammlung Dr. Konrad Bech, Mainz. (Speyer, 2004).
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