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Author Topic: A new bust type for Balbinus  (Read 1260 times)

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Offline curtislclay

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A new bust type for Balbinus
« on: December 30, 2013, 08:13:26 pm »
The Rome-mint coins of Balbinus and Pupienus can be told apart not only by their obverse legends and their differing portraits and beard length, but also by their bust type: the normal bust type for both emperors was draped and cuirassed, but seen from the front for Balbinus, seen from the back for Pupienus. The same distinction was also made on their Alexandrian tetradrachms: the mint of Alexandria must have been instructed to follow Rome in this regard, or the mint merely copied Roman coins that had been transported to Alexandria, thereby maintaining the bust type difference.
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Offline curtislclay

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Re: A new bust type for Balbinus
« Reply #1 on: December 30, 2013, 08:57:19 pm »
It seems however that Balbinus' earliest bust type, appearing on only a small number of denarius obverse dies, was draped only, seen from behind, without cuirass flaps on the shoulder, the same type that also appeared on Balbinus and Pupienus' contemporary coins of Gordian III as Caesar (picture below).

A denarius of Balbinus with this rare earliest bust type showed up in Lanz 40, 1987, lot 766, coupled with the rare early reverse type IOVI CONSERVATORI. I tried to acquire it, but was outbid by my English friend David Walker, who bequeathed this coin and the rest of his outstanding collection to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford when he died a couple of years later.

In Gorny & Mosch 169, 2008, lot 365, another denarius of Balbinus with the same bust type turned up, apparently from the same obverse die as the Lanz-Walker coin, but coupled with another rare, early reverse type, LIBERALITAS AVGVSTORVM; see second picture below. I don't remember bidding on this coin, but in any case, because of its excellent condition, it sold for more than I could have afforded, $1760 plus fees, so around $2000.

Just recently a third such denarius of Balbinus has appeared, from a different obverse die and coupled with the standard VICTORIA AVGG reverse type: Roma Num. E4, 28 Dec. 2013, lot 768 = Vico 136, 7 Nov. 2013, lot 567; see third picture below. This coin I did manage to acquire, though with a bit of luck: on originally going through the Roma lots I had overlooked the unusual bust type, and I only happened to notice it as I was scrolling from one of my bids to the next one in the course of the sale. Unfortunately I hadn't been aware of the Vico sale, where I might well have acquired the coin for a couple of hundred dollars less!

This is the kind of rarity that hardly affects the price of the coin, because very few dealers or collectors notice it, or even care if it's pointed out. Of the four dealers named above who sold such a denarius, only Vico noticed that the bust type was different, but he didn't realize that that difference is interesting and very rare, so worth paying a bit more for. Rarities of this sort probably won't cost you any extra, if you happen to notice them yourself!

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Offline otlichnik

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Re: A new bust type for Balbinus
« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2013, 12:49:49 am »
Interesting.  Was there any meaning in the front vs. back portrayal?  Was there any implication of seniority??

Shawn
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(Shawn Caza, Ottawa)

Offline curtislclay

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Re: A new bust type for Balbinus
« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2013, 01:45:45 pm »
I don't think seniority was involved: just the coin designer's intention to show different bust types for the two joint rulers.

Speaking generally, busts seen from the front were rare exceptions up until about the last year of Elagabalus' reign. The entire bronze coinage of Septimius Severus from 193-198, for example, used only one sestertius obv. die and one As obv. die with bust seen from front, both with IMP IIII (194-5). Similarly on the bronzes of Elagabalus from 218-mid-221: only three sestertius obv. dies and one As obv. die with bust seen from front.

In Elagabalus' final issue of 221-2, with reverses showing the emperor sacrificing to his sun god, however, bust front, first with and then without "horn", was the standard bust type in all denominations. Frontal portraits also predominated in Severus Alexander's final issue of 231-5, especially on the bronze coins.

So the coin designers of Balbinus and Pupienus were following this trend to use busts seen from the front as a standard rather than a special type. The same trend continued from Valerian and Gallienus on and in the fourth and fifth centuries.
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