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Author Topic: Enigmatic Nicephorus II follis  (Read 233 times)

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Offline L.e.

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Enigmatic Nicephorus II follis
« on: May 01, 2021, 06:24:38 pm »
Hi! I want to share with you an enigmatic follis of Nicephorus II (963-969). The obverse has an unconventional style for the follis of Nicephorus II.
Infact, it resume the follis of Costantine VII or those with Constantine VII and Romanus II, for the oblong face and the style of the loros. Also, we can see no trace of the pendilia (as on the previous follis of Constantine VII and his son) that are instead typical of the portrait of Nicephorus II on his follis.
But it is sure that it is a Nicephorus II follis, because of the obverse legend (nICI...), of the reverse legend (there is HF as part of nICHF) and of the presence of the labarum, as it is on Sear 1782.
The overall style seems quite official.
Can it be one of the very first emission of Nicephorus II from the mint of Constantinople?
I read somewhere that it is probable that the minting of the follis with Constantine VII and Romanus II (Sear 1762), continued thru the reign of Romanus II. If it'so, I think that it is normal that the very first follis of Nicephorus II have the style of the previous follis.
What are your thoughts about?
Many thanks

Offline Kevin P

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Re: Enigmatic Nicephorus II follis
« Reply #1 on: June 09, 2021, 05:33:04 pm »
An interesting coin for sure.  Here are a few thoughts:
1)  I would use considerable caution when drawing conclusions about coins that are (A) overstruck on earlier coins (since the designs are often intermingled with one another) and (B) worn and/or dirty, making the details more difficult to see.
2)  I absolutely agree that the top design is that of Nicephorus (the overstrike) and that the head shape doesn't match his normal design at all, but rather looks very much like that of Constantine VII (SB 1761).
3)  The reverse is where the overstriking is clearest, so that is where I started trying to decipher what coin(s) this one was struck over. I aligned the photos with the letters and below are the results (with drawings to support).  We can see that the letter arrangements show clearly both the reverse of Nicephorus II (SB 1782 as you correctly discerned - drawn in light blue) and also that of Constantine VII (SB 1761 - drawn in gold).
4)  The fun part is translating these areas to the same part of the coin on the obverse side - because we should see the same designs dominate the other side in the same places on the coin (where the dies had something to push against on the other side).  In other words, where the SB 1782 design dominates on the reverse, the opposite side should also be dominated by that obverse design - the same being true for the SB 1761 design.  Based on the contour of the rim, I took a shot at translating the equivalent areas on the obverse, using the same colors that were used to represent the 2 different designs on the reverse.  The photos are posted below.
5) What we see is that you were absolutely correct - a coin of Nicephorus with the effigy of Constantine VII.  However, it isn't because that is how the dies were made, but rather a fortunate die alignment that nearly perfectly blends the 2 designs seamlessly together.  It helps with the blending that they are both wearing loros.  A final bit of confirmation is this:  while the obverse legend of both coins end with bASIL ROM, where the letters fall relative to the cross on the crown of the emperor is different.  Coins of Constantine VII have the legend as bA + SIL while those of Nicephorus are arranged as  b + ASIL.  On this coin, we see that the arrangement is that of Constantine VII.
6)  The last photo I've enclosed is from a recent auction (March 2021 - Savoca Coins 98th Blue Auction, Lot 1947) that shows this design blending more acutely.  At first, it looks like a new garment for Christ on a Class A1 coin.  Instead, we are seeing the bust of Nicephorus II (SB 1783) up to about the lips of Christ (note the design break) - and then the 'normal' Class A1 design above that.  On the reverse, the side opposite the Nicephorus II design is the Nicephorus reverse legend and the A1 legend is opposite the head of Christ - both as expected.

I hope this is helpful.


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