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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Antiquities| ▸ |Antiquities by Type| ▸ |Fibulas & Clothing||View Options:  |  |  |   

Ancient Fibulae and Clothing Items

A fibula (plural fibulae) is an ancient brooch. Technically, the Latin term, fibulae, refers to Roman brooches; however, the term is widely used to refer to brooches from the entire ancient and early medieval world that continue Roman forms. Fibulae were used to fasten clothing or, in some cases, purely for decoration. They followed the straight pin in evolution and were eventually replaced by buttons. They are perhaps most famous as the fastener on Roman military cloaks - the sagum and paludamentum. However, they were used centuries before Rome was founded and for centuries after it fell. They were used by Greeks, Persians, Phrygians, Celts, Germans, Slavs and many other peoples in addition to Romans. They were used by soldiers and civilians; by men, women and children. They can thus signify culture, tribe, sex, status or profession - though not always. They were used on robes, shirts and dresses as well as cloaks. One thing they were never used on was the toga, which was simply folded and draped and was not fixed by any pin.

Egypt, Coptic Textile with Birds, 4th - 6th Century A.D.

|Egyptian| |Antiquities|, |Egypt,| |Coptic| |Textile| |with| |Birds,| |4th| |-| |6th| |Century| |A.D.|,
Coptic art was produced in Egypt during the early Christian era. A remarkable number of Coptic textiles survive today, due to the Coptic custom of burying them with the dead, and to the aridity of Egyptian graves. The textiles are commonly linen or wool and use the colors red, blue, yellow, green, purple, black and brown. The dyes were derived from madder, indigo, woad, saffron, the murex shell, and the kermes insect.
AE61827. Coptic textile, 3 x 5 inches, double-weave fabric with birds; from a New Jersey collection, c. 4th - 6th century A.D.; SOLD

Roman, D-Shaped Iron Fibula, Late 2nd - 3rd Century A.D.

|Malloy| |Roman|, |Roman,| |D-Shaped| |Iron| |Fibula,| |Late| |2nd| |-| |3rd| |Century| |A.D.|,
From the collection of Alex G. Malloy, former dealer in antiquities for 40 years.

This brooch has no parallel in the four volumes by Hattatt. That is not too surprising since iron brooches are rare and are usually found as a rusty misshapen, just recognizable mass.

Manufacture of iron brooches was much more difficult than copper or bronze. Unlike copper and bronze, which could be cast, Iron could only be forged. Iron was rarely used for brooches after the middle of the first century B.C.

The D-shaped brooch was popular in Phrygia in the 7th Century B.C. and was little used in other times and places. This brooch, however, is clearly quite different from those early Phrygian brooches, sharing only the shape.

The loop was probably used to connect this brooch to another with a chain. This arrangement was probably both fashionable and helped ensure that if a brooch came loose it wouldn't be lost.

AI36064. Iron arched bow fibula; Hattatt -; loop at top, long clasp, loop-hinge pin, 32mm long; an extraordinary rarity in this condition; complete and intact, Superb, SOLD

Celtic, Gaul or Iberia, La Tène - Hallstatt Variant Fibula, c. 3rd - 1st Century B.C.

|Malloy| |Roman|, |Celtic,| |Gaul| |or| |Iberia,| |La| |Tène| |-| |Hallstatt| |Variant| |Fibula,| |c.| |3rd| |-| |1st| |Century| |B.C.|,
From the collection of Alex G. Malloy, former dealer in antiquities for 40 years.

This very unusual fibula with one-piece construction is similar to those of the La Tène Culture from the 3rd to 1st Century B.C. The cord wrapped around the head is rare, but known from some Gallic and Iberian Celtic fibula. The perforated catch-plate is a Hallstatt characteristic. The large number of windings on this piece perhaps indicates a later date, but is known on some early pieces. One-piece construction was rapidly replaced by the easier to manufacture two-piece construction in the middle of the 1st century A.D. We date this type as most likely from the 3rd century B.C. to the 1st century B.C. but it could be from as early as the 6th century B.C. or as late as the mid-first century A.D.
AI36104. Bronze fibula; Hattatt -;1 ¾ x 1 ¾ inches; one-piece construction; open spring and cord, cord wrapped around the head, Superb, perforated catch-plate, decorated with incised V shaped lines complete and intact, fine green patina, with wood base for display; rare, without close parallel in Hattatt, and extremely rare in this condition; SOLD

Germanic Tribes, Horse Head Swastika Plate Fibulae, c. 174 - 300 A.D.

|Fibulas| |&| |Clothing|, |Germanic| |Tribes,| |Horse| |Head| |Swastika| |Plate| |Fibulae,| |c.| |174| |-| |300| |A.D.|,
This type is found in the former Eastern Empire, including Pannonia, Moesia, Dacia and in Germanic lands. An especially high concentration have been found in northern Serbia in and around Novi Banovci, Roman Burgenae. It is considered a Germanic type. The horse head swastika is believed to be a sun symbol.
AS71473. Bojovic XXVII; Genceva 32b; Matouschek-Novak 1981/82, Taf. 14, 53; Janovic 60; Riha -; Feugère-; 36.3 mm, 10.6g, Choice, green patina, pin missing, a clockwise swastika shaped brooch with each arm ending with a horse's head, jaw hing pin connection; SOLD

Roman, Gaul, Bronze Bird (Dove?) Fibula, c. 2nd Century A.D.

|Fibulas| |&| |Clothing|, |Roman,| |Gaul,| |Bronze| |Bird| |(Dove?)| |Fibula,| |c.| |2nd| |Century| |A.D.|,
This type with a "jaw" pin hing was produced in the northern Gallic provinces and Rhine area, c. 2nd century A.D.
AS71467. cf. Buora 855; 28.8 mm, 7.808g, Choice, attractive surfaces, green and red patina, missing pin, otherwise complete and intact, c. 2nd century A.D.; very finely made, bronze cast bird (dove?) fibula with engraved decorative details, "jaw" pin hing; rare; SOLD

Roman, Carnuntum, Pannonia, Bronze Hybrid Type Fibula, c. 2nd Century A.D.

|Malloy| |Roman|, |Roman,| |Carnuntum,| |Pannonia,| |Bronze| |Hybrid| |Type| |Fibula,| |c.| |2nd| |Century| |A.D.|,
From the collection of Alex G. Malloy, former dealer in antiquities for 40 years.

Hattatt has two similar fibulas, both from Carnuntum and both purchased together. He notes the type is a hybrid with no similar examples known from other collections or references. Most of the features are from various other 1st century A.D. types, but in a combination otherwise unknown. The long catch plate is a feature of 2nd century Pannonian Knee brooches. The highly curved pin, to compensate for the small bow curvature is very unusual.

Carnuntum was an important Roman army camp in what is now Austria. It belonged originally to Noricum province, but after the 1st century was part of Pannonia. Its remains are on the main road halfway between Vienna and Bratislava, on the "Archaeological Park Carnuntum" in Lower Austria, extending over the area of today's villages Petronell-Carnuntum and Bad Deutsch-Altenburg.
AI36063. Bronze hybrid type fibula; cf. Hattatt 763 - 764 (otherwise unpublished); 4 cm long, Collectible condition, heavily constructed with an Aucissa head and hinged pin; a bow of Hod Hill type in profile but not frontally, forward facing foot knob; modern pin attached, foot knob missing; very rare; SOLD

China, Han Dynasty, Five Bronze Belt Hooks, c. 206 B.C. - 220 A.D.

|East| |Asian| |Antiquities|, |China,| |Han| |Dynasty,| |Five| |Bronze| |Belt| |Hooks,| |c.| |206| |B.C.| |-| |220| |A.D.|,
The Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 A.D.) was an age of economic prosperity, with significant growth of the money economy, and advances in science and technology, including papermaking, the nautical steering rudder, the use of negative numbers in mathematics, the raised-relief map, the hydraulic-powered armillary sphere for astronomy, and a seismometer employing an inverted pendulum. The emperor was at the pinnacle of society but shared power with the nobility and appointed ministers who came largely from the scholarly gentry. From the reign of Emperor Wu, the court sponsored Confucianism, a policy that endured until the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911 A.D.
AS59780. Han Dynasty belt hooks, largest 2.6 inches, a couple with chips; from a New Jersey collection, SOLD

Roman, Three Bronze Pins or Probes, 1st - 3rd Century A.D.

|Malloy| |Roman|, |Roman,| |Three| |Bronze| |Pins| |or| |Probes,| |1st| |-| |3rd| |Century| |A.D.|,
From the collection of Alex G. Malloy, former dealer in antiquities for 40 years.

Pins or probes this type were used for a variety of purposes, including dress pins, hair pins, sewing needles, and as surgical instruments.
AI36062. Bronze pins or probes; cf. Vienne 436; 5 inches long; with one blunt and one pointed end, Average - choice, one with knob on one end and the pointed end broken, another with a broken loop at one end; SOLD

Byzantine, Bronze Strap Ornament, 6th Century A.D.

|Byzantine| |Antiquities|, |Byzantine,| |Bronze| |Strap| |Ornament,| |6th| |Century| |A.D.|,
AS50124. Bronze strap ornament, dual horse head finials, 3.4 x 2.2 cm, Choice, nice patina, SOLD

Roman, Bronze Bird Fibula, C. End 2nd - 4th Century A.D.

|Fibulas| |&| |Clothing|, |Roman,| |Bronze| |Bird| |Fibula,| |C.| |End| |2nd| |-| |4th| |Century| |A.D.|,
This type is predominantly found in the Rhine area, in Noricum, and in Pannonia.
AS61829. Roman fibula; cf. Riha type 3.21, pl. 13, 316; Hattatt BOA 1158 (very similar to these two referenced specimens); 1.25 inches, pin missing, c. end 2nd - 4th century A.D.; crude type without decoration, detail or even much of a tail; from a New Jersey collection; SOLD


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Allason-Jones, L. (ed.). Artefacts in Roman Britain: Their Purpose and Use. (Cambridge, 2011).
Bayley, J. & S. Butcher. Roman Brooches in Britain: A Technological and Typological Study based on the Richborough Collection. (London, 2004).
Binding, U. Band 16: Studien zu den figürlichen Fibeln der Frühlatenzeit. (Bonn, 1993).
Blinkenberg, C. Fibules grecques et orientales. (Kobenhavn, 1926).
Bojoviae, D. Rimske Fibule Singidunuma. Muzej Grada Bograda Serija - Zbirke i Legati Katalog XII. (Beograd, 1983). Davidson, G. Corinth XII : The Minor Objects. The American School of Classical Studies at Athens. (Princeton, 1952).
Deppert-Lippitz, B. "A Late Antique Crossbow Fibula in the Metropolitan Museum of Arts" in Metropolitan Museum Journal 35, 2010.
Egan, G. & F. Pritchard. Dress Accessories: 1150-1450 AD. (Boydell, 2002).
Ettlinger, E. Die römischen Fibeln in der Schweiz. (Bern, 1973).
Feugere, M. Les fibules en Gaule meridionale de la conquite a la fin du Ve sicle apres J.-C. (Paris, 1985).
Hattatt, R. A Visual catalogue of Richard Hattatt's Ancient Brooches. (Oxford, 2000).
Hattatt, R. Ancient Brooches and Other Artifacts. (Oxford, 1989).
Hattatt, R. Ancient and Romano-British Brooches. (Dorset, 1982).
Hattatt, R. Brooches of Antiquity. (Oxford, 1987).
Hattatt, R. Iron Age and Roman Brooches. (Oxford, 1985).
Mackreth, D. Brooches in Late Iron Age and Roman Britain. (Oxford, 2011).
Milavec, T. "Crossbow fibulae of the 5th and 6th centuries in the southeastern Alps" in Arheolo?ki Vestnik 60, 2009.
Mills, N. Celtic and Roman Artifacts. (Buxton Press, Derbyshire, 2000).
Riha, E. Die römischen Fibeln aus Augst und Kaiseraugst. (1979).
Riha, E. Die römischen Fibeln aus Augst und Kaiseraugst Die Neufunde seit 1975. (1994).
Shopland, N. Archaeological Finds: A Guide to Identification. (Tempus, 2005).
Swift, E. "Personal Ornaments" in Allason-Jones, Lindsay (ed.). Artefacts in Roman Britain: Their Purpose and Use. (Cambridge, 2011).

See Fibula in NumisWiki for additional references.

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