Numismatic and History Discussions > Books and References


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Optimo Principi:
Hi Curtis,

I never said the text was an in-depth academic work but as a nice celebration of an emperor's coinage (especially one you collect) it is a welcome addition to the bookshelf. There are a ton of topics over 67 pages, inspired by coin reverses, so it can't go into intricate detail on every one. The plentiful photographs of coin types throughout make it worthwhile alone, in my opinion.


But wouldn't you, as a collector, be more interested in the kind of facts I give, allowing you to appreciate the details of the coin type and the reason for its appearance in 103 AD, rather than the general history of the building recounted by Leoni?

Joe Sermarini:

--- Quote from: curtislclay on May 01, 2013, 04:00:51 pm ---Kained,

But wouldn't you, as a collector, be more interested in the kind of facts I give, allowing you to appreciate the details of the coin type and the reason for its appearance in 103 AD, rather than the general history of the building recounted by Leoni?

--- End quote ---

I find both equally interesting. :)

I originally posted this review in the old Sofaer collection thread but am posting it here at the request of another member.

The ANS (American Numismatic Society) has published a new two volume set:.  

Coins of the Holy Land: The Abraham and Marian Sofaer Collection at the American Numismatic Society and the Israel Museum. (Ancient Coins in North American Collections 8, 2013) by Ya’akov Meshorer with Gabriela Bijovsky and Wolfgang Fischer-Bossert, and edited by David Hendin and Andrew Meadows.  
(ISBN-13: 978-0-89722-283-9 Hardback, 2 vols, 344+244pp)

My Initial Thoughts

I have browsed through the whole book but have only started to look at a couple of sections in depth so I only have initial impressions to share.

First of all, about the physical books themselves.  

The first volume of the two volume set covers the text, the second has the plates.  Personally I like this system as you can have both volumes open at the same time - one to the text and one to the plates.  It is far better than flipping through the same volume to consult the plates.  I also find it better than volumes that try to have the plate facing the text as these always seem to have exceptions where you still have to flip back and forth to find the right pages.

The book, printing, paper, binding and illustrations are all extremely high quality as is to be expected in modern ANS publications.  The vast majority of illustrations appear to be "life-size" though there are some small coins, especially in the Samarian section, that are shown life-size and enlarged.

The Coverage

The book details a single collection of coins from a single region.  It is the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Sofaer that is on loan, and in fact in the process of being permanently donated to, the ANS in New York.  The book covers coins of the Holy Land region although in this case that covers modern Israel, the Palestinian Territories and Jordan.  I might be mistaken but I don't think it covers a single city from what is today Lebanon or Syria.  It covers coins from the Persian period, through Seleucid and Ptolemaic occupation, Hasmonaean, Herodian and Nabataean issues, Roman Provincial, Byzantine, Arabic and Crusader.  However, it only covers coins struck in the region and thus, for example, does not cover Seleucid coins struck in Antioch or Ptolemaic coins struck in Alexandria.

The Organization.

The organization is an interesting one, and fairly unique as far as I have seen.  Most of the work is divided by city and under each city entry you find listed Persian, Greek, Roman Provincial, Byzantine, Arab and Crusader coins in chronological order.  The exceptions to this are the Judaean (Hasmonaean, Herodian and revolt) and Nabataean coins which have their own sections.


As I noted before this is only an initial assessment.  

You have to keep in mind that the book is a corpus of one collection and not of all coinage and variations from the region.  Thus it is most like the SNG ANS 6 volume (though it goes past that volume to add Byzantine, Arabic and Crusader).  That said it is likely on of the best collections in the world from this region.  Furthermore, much of the coinage of the region has been insufficiently studied to date.

I think you have to examine some of the coinage types separately to determine the extra value of this work.

I do not know enough about the Persian era coinage to know about the coverage but at first glance I do not see any huge leap beyond SNG ANS 6 or, more importantly the recent Hoover volume on this area.  

Similarly it does not look to add a huge amount beyond the Lorber and Houghton Seleucid Coinage volumes although I expect there are several new pieces of information here.  

These days every little bit on Ptolemaic coinage is valuable although I understand that a new important work by Lorber is underway at the ANS.

While the Judaean collection is certainly impressive this work will not replace the need for the 5th edition of David Hendin's book.

It has interesting and up to date info on Nabataean coinage though I do not have the ANS' recent Caravan Kingdoms volumes to compare it with.

The Arabic coinage looks very interesting, and it is useful to have it broken down by mint.  However, I can not comment on degree of coverage knowing little about the recent literature in this area and I simply can not say anything regarding the crusader coinage which I know nothing about.

Even if the book does not represent the full picture in any of these areas it is still an excellent resource for them.  The plates and the fact the information is up to date make it very worthwhile to have.

However, it is in the remaining areas that the book really comes to the fore.

I know very little about Samarian coinage but I see no reason to doubt the comments by the authors and editors themselves who note that this work is a major leap forward in understand this extensive coinage of small silver fractions.

Finally, the real interest for me is in the Roman provincial coinage.  I think that it is here that the book really stands head and shoulder over all others.  My main sources in this area were SNG ANS 6 and Spijkerman and to a lesser extent the Lindgren trio.  True the Sofaer collection book does not present every variant and every possible legend reconstruction but it appears to exceed most other sources in number of types for each city and with the collection's concentration on coins of the highest quality it offers the best legend reconstructions anywhere.  I have looked in particular at some cities like Abila, Pella, Philadelphia/Rabbath-Ammon and Petra and been very impressed.  I have yet to look at other cities in depth.  

My well worn Spijkerman that has been my first go-to source for this coinage for many years will now get a well earned rest on the back shelf.  Still useful for legend variations and such but the Sofaer collection will be front and centre for a long time.

Overall it was worth the long wait and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in coinage of the Holy Land and especially to those interested in Roman provincial coins of the region.

It is not cheap.  The forum book store does not seem to carry it.  It can be found at the ANS bookstore site and people should be aware that there is a substantial discount for members.  In fact the discount is over 50% of the annual membership fee.


About Daniele Leoni's books:
I purchased a copy of the Trajan book by Daniele Leoni (in English) at the book store at the Colosseum in Rome in June 2012.  A few brief comments: It is an attractive supplement to my RIC and other coin books, and shows a number of the coins that I have.  I like the balance of many pictures and a moderate amount of text to give some context (indeed, mostly available elsewhere, so nice it is more of a snippet rather than an attempt to be comprehensive).

I would like to purchase the Hadrian book in English; please continue making suggestions of how to find other than returning to Rome!

I periodically check the e-shop ( ) listed in her book to see if the English part is active (says under construction as of 7 Aug 2013). I'm assuming that is where a order can be placed some day.


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