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Byzantine Coins / The City Tetarteron. 1092-1203 An Obscure Denomination.
« Last post by Simon on Today at 08:30:47 pm »
With the name Tetarteron, the confusion starts.  We have one Eastern Roman (Byzantine) coin name that over a period of centuries represented several denominations all in different levels of the monetary system.

Originally a Tetarteron was a gold coin (Mid 10th and 11th century), then it became a pure silver coin (Early reign of Alexius I) and after the coin reform of Alexius I Comnenus  in 1092 it became at least three different lower end denominations.

The 12th century coin reform was a focus of numismatist Michael Hendy, he saw enough documents that the small copper coins verbally proved they went by the name tetarteron, the same name used as the two previous higher value coins.  In previous numismatic books written before his 1969 book these coins were listed a follis or small flat coin.

 Why the repetition in name for multiple denominations is uncertain, all of the denomination are roughly the same size and shape, In the early 1970s D. M Metcalf did a metallurgy study of Alexius post reform tetartera, he found the ones minted in the city of Constantinople had a silver content of roughly 4%. The Thessalonica minted coins had no silver. That 4% does not sound like much, but a trachy of the same time period had only 8% silver.

The Alexius I Comnenus reform was the first coinage to use mixed metals, so the fact he made a mixed metal tetarteron is quite logical. The abundance of the coinage from this century marks a turning point in the history of commerce.

Michael Hendy included his findings in Dumbarton Oakes Catalog IV published in 1999, the difference in the addition of silver and decided it was a separate denomination from the Thessalonica issues that proved to contain no silver.  In his findings he called them the Metropolitain tetartera. A simpler name would have been City Tetartera and for the sake of this article, I will refer to them as such.

These City tetartera minted in Constantinople were considered extremely rare to find, so hard to find that Phillip Grierson decided they were issued for ceremonial use only. At the writing of his catalog the silver content was unknown.

Today they do hit the market with some regularity but still far rarer than their Thessalonica counterparts.

The Existence of City Tetarteron  makes this field even more confusing for the common collector, it no longer looks visible different than those issued in Thessalonica. For the collector the easiest way to know is by looking at the catalog and knowing where it was minted.

None of the catalogs that are mainly used today were updated after Dumbarton Oakes Catalog IV, that is why this is not commonly known among collectors.

Now Alexius Issued 4 City Tetartera minted in Constantinople and all with silver content.

Here are the four issues,( Figure 1) in the most condition found. Dark and no silver wash left. SBCV-1920-1921-1922-1923

As for the most common question, how did the citizens know the difference?

After studying this denomination, the last two decades, I noticed sever examples had traces of silver coating, as much as the same way the trachea was silvered so was the City tetartera.  The more I handled these coins the less apparent the silvering remained; I was in fact, by touching them helping remove the small amount of silvering that was left.

The main reason this is no longer noticeable to the collector is that these coins remained in circulation for many years, whatever silver coating was on them long wore off. The tetarteron was too low a denomination to recall for the new ruler. Hoard evidence has proven that coins of Alexius and Manuel were imitated in the 13th century, rulers who had not been around in over 50 years had local population recreating the coins they were familiar with, that in turn tells us they were not recalled.

What was the buying power of the coins? in an interesting correspondence between a Princess and her Tutor they buying power was mentioned, In the letter from Thessalonica a tetarteron could purchase a small loaf of bread, the letter from Constantinople mentioned a tetarteron could purchase 12 mackerel fish, A considerable difference between the two denominations so they were defiantly talking about two different coins with the same name.

Why are they rarer than the Thessalonica issues?

Several reason, they were worth more so, lost less, the circulation of the City tetartera was primarily limited to the city, in the Greek area of the empire and Asia Minor, they are rarely found. This is true for all of the rulers who issued City tetartera.

Alexius  Comnenus I had 4 issues City Tetartera

John Comnenus  II 2 issues City Tetartera

Manuel Comnenus 4 issues City Tetartera

Andronicus Comnenus 1 issue of a City Tetarteron.

Isaac Angelus II one issue of City tetarteron but with very low silver content around 1%

(Isaac Comnenus Usurper of Cyprus tetartera followed the model of city tetartera with 1.5% silver in all his tetartera, he had 8 issues)

Alexius III, one issue and a half tetarteron as well (The only half tetartera known to be minted in the city.), These coins were never tested for silver content and more than likely did not have any.  His other mixed metal coin coinage was heavily debased, some of his Electrum Aspron Trachea did not even contain any gold.)

The tetarteron continued after the fall of Constantinople to the Latins, they change the name in later years to Assarion , evidence of this name change was due to one document found. None of the tetartera after 1203 contained silver even if created in the mint of Constantinople. It once again became a simple copper coin.

In the last few years, I have managed to acquire three examples of Alexius City tetartera with some silvering intact and one John II City tetartera with some silvering still intact, none of them  are my most attractive examples, two of them seem to be a higher silver content allowing them to survive as notable different, even with heavy circulation.

 Figure 2 Alexius SBCV-1920 SBCV-1922 Bottom SBCV-1923 and John II Comnenus  SBCV-1946

The city tetarteron was a different denomination, The evidence is in DOC IV, Julian Bakers book mentions it but his book was based on 13th century coinage did not go into great detail. He does go into great detail over the imitation tetartera of that century. Other references would include D.M Metcalf and Pagona Papadopoulou.

Regardless, collectors and dealers of coins focus on David Sears work and that has not been updated in 50 years and is doubtful that it will be. So hopefully the next major reference work will include All of the new findings of the past 50 years and City Tetartera.

Comments are appreciated, feel free to dispute, the silver content is well documented, but the silvering is not.

Books and References / Paris Inventories and Acquisitions
« Last post by helvetica on Today at 07:39:02 pm »
Some of you may have guessed that I am a great fan of old numismatic references. When I first took over wildwinds, my heros Mionnet and Imhoof-Blumer supplied me with over 200 references of coins previously described as "unpublished" or on wildwinds simply as e.g. "Tyche" or "river-god". Mionnet, Imhoof and several others are still helping me find coins which are not found in any modern catalogs.

The Bibliotheque National in Paris is exemplary in publishing pdfs of old inventories, lists of donations and legacies, and lists of purchases of parts of old collections. Having already downloaded all the old inventories 7 years ago (and often refer to them), I found a large number of pdfs of purchases, donations and legacies. All the documents are hand-written, some more legible that others  ;)
I have listed the inventories and the most useful purchases etc. in a 2-page xls file with shortened titles, some information about the contents and download links. I have only had a problem downloading one of them (the first on the Aquisitions sheet), which timed out on eight attempts but it can be viewed page by page (downloading from page x to page y doesn't work either).
Anyway, if you can read and understand French, you might enjoy browsing through them.
My xls list can be found here:
It looks like a trick with oblique lighting which I fell for once. I'd be unlikely to buy a coin photographed with that sort of contrasty very oblique lighting again.
You are right, Lech. The globe and the bowl (with flames) looked suspicious, but if a hole had been plugged there the plug was then smoothed, which is not the case with the visible plug. So there was only one hole, as in many of the others.
Identification Help / Re: Id roman coin please
« Last post by Gianluca G on Today at 04:36:08 pm »

Ahhh yes yes, thanks.
The problem is that I'm not able to understand the Mintmark, so, it's difficult for me to determine the right RIC.
I agree with the opinions that the OP's photos show a better looking coin than do the auction images. The darker surfaces with "glossy green" look healthy to me.
Of the 13 examples seven are holed, two of them twice (one is your father's)

Where is/was the second hole? I see only one and repaired.

Identification Help / Re: Id roman coin please
« Last post by Merinda on Today at 02:39:21 pm »
Identification Help / Id roman coin please
« Last post by Gianluca G on Today at 12:54:51 pm »
Hello friends,

I'd like to Id this coin please.

mm 24 and g. 3,28

Thanks for your help

I agree with the comments.  It is never a good thing to feel that you are a victim of fraud. 
Is it easier to take the grey pic which clearly reveals all the coin's flaws?  I don't know much about photography
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