Numismatic and History Discussions > Ancient Coin Forum

Some simple observations on ancient coin flans

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A discussion about the typical flan for each type, period or mint, about some of the flan's basic characteristics is something which will not only help with the authentication
but also the better understanding and appreciation of each type, period, mint or even region as a whole. One could say that the fabric is the "heart" of each type.
I am not particularly good at reading technical matters, much less good at describing them and this is mainly because of the language.
For me, these and similar things are much easier to observe than explain in English, my second language. Be sure, it takes me a long time to write these posts.
A second problem which arises for me here is that my own interest is limited to what we call "Greek coins" and among them Hellenistic coins being my main field.
Undoubtly, some of the flan characteristics are common to many types from different regions or even different eras; flan preparation methods depended surely on the technology available at the hands of the people of a specific mint at the time of the issue of the coins but it is beyond doubt that specific methods, which had been characterized as succesful somewhere, earlier, continued to be followed by other mints at later periods, although the available technology of these later times might have been more advanced. I find the subject both important and interesting and I will try to make a start with a brief description of the flans often found on Seleukid AE's.

I hope others here more knowledgeable than I am, with the will to share, talented observers with the ability to express themselves with accuracy on such subtle but extremely important matters will follow and make this thread useful, making corrections or additions to those which will have been written here, and/or post their observations on the types and areas of their own interests.

Let's stay on topic and avoid "nice coin" and similar chat, "noisy" posts. Let's keep it simple and avoid entering into labyrinthine details, which often opens these chaotic and
disputed matters of controversy. Let's keep it into the basics so that the new collectors will be able to follow and be aware of how important the issue of the flan is.

An important thing to remember is that even coins of the same type may vary on the degree they show these flan characteristics. Some coins may exhibit some but not all of these characteristics. We are talking about ancient coins, one can't expect absolute uniformity in anything which has to do with antiquities and ancient coins.
New collectors will probably look for these characteristics on their own coins, and that is a good thing to do, but they should not worry if their coins don't obey all these "rules".
We have said it many times : Each ancient coin is unique and that sense of uniqueness is what we love.

Seleukid AE's are frequently on beveled flans, their blanks were most probably cast in open, shallow bowl molds.
Usually, it is their obverses which are slightly larger than the reverses, (pic.1) but the opposite is common as well. (pic.2)
Which side would be the broader I assume, from my observation, was probably a random choice, left to the hands of the people who struck the coins and not of any significance. Of course, this is something anybody can add a thought to.
Seleukid AE's bear legends on their reverses, these legends often appear incomplete when the reverse happened to be the smaller side.
Generally, flans on the Seleukid AE's can be characterized as "tight"; incomplete designs and legends are common; badly centered coins are common too.
Many types bear center "dimples" (pic.3). Much has been written on these.
The cast flans of the Seleukid bronze coins often bear remnants of sprues from their connection prior to the strike. (pic.4) That was common to other ancient coin types as well from
various eras and regions. The separation of cold flans one from the other sometimes has left flans with damaged parts of their bodies. (pic.5)
Some Greek issues from Sicily are characterized by similar looking casting sprue remnants, (5th cent. BC Himera and Syracuse Hemilitron AE's among those well known), and often this is considered to be a good sign of authenticity.

The serrated edge Seleukid types are particularly remarkable. With bottle cup appearance, most probably for decorative only reasons. (pic.6)
Although these specific flan characteristics of the Seleukid AE's, which I described above, are observed on many types from the Seleukid mint of Antioch, types which modern
evidence places to other Seleukid mints show them as well.

Lloyd Taylor:
I just received this one....  what a great goat!

Look at that edge seam I hear people say!

It is indicative of authenticity in this case, as the bronze flans were cast in a two piece mold, as was common practice at the time. In this instance the sides were mismatched prior to the molten bronze pour... so not everything with an edge seam is fake.... you need to understand the fabric of the coin and the manufacture process of the type to make any meaningful determination.

Thank you Lloyd, exactly what I was looking for. Hopefully, new collectors will benefit from the discussion and start realizing the significance and importance of the fabric.

--- Quote from: Lloyd T on February 25, 2013, 10:29:42 pm ---I think its fair to say that in the 4th century BC, the Persians tended to use more flat faced reverse dies than the Greeks whose reverse dies tended towards a slightly
hemispherical form which gives rise to a more concave reverse. Exceptions occur e.g. at Salamis and the Phoenecian mints the early Alexanders tend towards parallel obverse and reverses reflecting the prior Persian influence.

--- End quote ---

I think it is safe to assume that the slight concave reverses of Babylon tetradrachm emissions of Alexander's, Seleukos' I (in the name of Alexander and the later in the name of Seleukos) are a good and steady guide. The emissions from Babylon are characterized not only by their especially beautiful, often idealized style, but also by their sculptural obverse relief as well. Probably, it was exactly these concave reverses -along with the finely engraved dies and the obvious care of the mint workers- which had as a result the obverse relief to be significantly high. The concave reverses contributed to the transposition of metal to the center, "pushing" the obverse relief higher.

Regarding the cast flans and the kind of their manufacture, the picture below from Numiswiki is useful for the understanding of the matter.
The spure(s) remnants on coins give(s) a fairly good idea about which method was used.


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