Numismatic and History Discussions > Uncleaned Ancient Coin Discussion

Ruler representation in uncleaned lots


Ken W2:

This post sort of dovetails with Michael M20's question about whether uncleaned lots are a thing of the past. Quality in general, and the abilty to buy AE2s by the lot, has declined just since I started cleaning in 2013. For me, and most I suspect, uncleaneds were never an economic endeavor. I enjoy the challenge of cleaning-- it's kind of theraputic-- and enjoy the art and history.  I also enjoy building a collection of that work I can share and pass on.  I bought a good many uncleaned lots during the pandemic and have been working through them (and will for years) 20 at a time.  I find that about 7-8 of 20 turn out OK to nice, and are fully attributable, albeit sometimes by deduction. Another 4 to 6 are discards, and the balance are in between. I find those odds very acceptable.

I just made attribution cards and flipped 40 coins from my pandemic production, processing them randomly.  The 40 included 16 different emperors-- Ants of Claudius II, Aurelian, and Carus, and coins of Severus II, Galerius, Constantine I, Licinius, Constans, Constantine II, Constantius II, Magnentius, Jovian, Julian II, Valentinian I, Valens, and Gratian.  Perhaps that representation would be common among many lots of 40 attributable coins recovered from uncleaned lots.  Again, those odds are acceptable to me.  I'd welcome hearing what representation of emperors others have seen in their uncleaned lots.


If you are getting Carus, Galerius, Severus II, Magnentius, Gratian, and Jovian from uncleaned lots, I would say you are having really solid luck or maybe getting your uncleaned coins from a different corner of the Empire than I do.

Like you, I buy lots of uncleaned coins just for the fun of it. I put my headphones on, get out the mechanical cleaning supplies, and just clean them. It's all pretty Zen I guess. It's rewarding to get to something interesting I can use Forum/Wildwinds/Sear/Helvetica's Tables on to reach a definitive conclusion. My actual areas of interest for true collecting is Legionary denarii, Republican denarii, and The Crisis. In uncleaned lots I've had decent finds (some denarii of Titus, Septimius Severus, Geta (limes), Julia Domna), but that's out of...something like 500 uncleaned coins? I keep complete records of all of my "finds", but I've never encountered a Severus II or Magnentius since I started around 2014. And I seriously doubt that anything truly valuable slips though to the point where I could buy it except in very rare circumstances. (Although the Septimius Severus denarii I found was in incredible shape but completely caked in mud and looked like nothing on the outside. That one might have actually gotten through someone sorting the coins. Even it is probably only a $10-$30 coin though).

I'd estimate that 75% of what I can attribute is Constantinian dynasty, Valentinian dynasty, Claudius II, or Aurelian. Probus, Gallienus, and Licinius probably make up another 10-15% combined. There's nothing wrong with getting coins from these guys, but other than the Crisis emperors, I usually don't even put low grade LRBs in flips anymore. I have a little piece of pottery I place them in as a decor item. I put unattributable early bronze in there, too. I've let a few people take a couple of them as gifts. That said, I'd be stoked to find a Severus II, Magnentius, Carus, or Galerius because I rarely see those. It makes me think where you buy from actually does matter.

Over the years I have had uncleaned lots found in (as opposed to the country they were sold from): Spain, England, France, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria, Israel, Jordan and Syria (acquired more than six years before the start of the war in 2011).

There is no single pattern of ruler representation as they instead represent the coin circulation and use pattern from each region and these patterns differed significantly.  At least they do in theory - all lots have been picked over and manipulated to some degree and this skews the proper pattern somewhat.  I have been fortunate enough to have bought some lots directly from the finders, all true dirt covered uncleaned coins,  - but even in those cases anything larger than 25-26 mm and anything showing silver or gold had obviously been removed.

In addition to the pattern of Roman rulers the other things that varies hugely are the non-Imperial coins. Finds from Britain or France have nothing but Imperial coins - though that usually includes coins of the Gallic Usurpers.  Coins from the Balkans often have local provincial Roman coins and Byzantine coins.  Coins from the Middle East have all kinds of stuff.

I have compiled a few lists over the years and will try to find them and post them.



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