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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Themes & Provenance| ▸ |Denominations| ▸ |Tesserae||View Options:  |  |  | 

Tesserae and Lead Coins

Tesserae (singular: tessera) are ancient tokens. Most were made from lead, but other materials including bronze, bone, ivory, clay, glass and wood were also used. They were used as tickets for theaters, gladiator fights, ferry passage and even brothels. Tesserae liberalitatis were distributed as gifts by the Roman emperor or local government, often to the poor, and used as vouchers to exchange for grain, oil, or other goods. Some ancient lead "tokens" may have been used as small change coinage.

Byzantine Empire, Levante or Alexandria, c. 5th - 6th Century A.D., Jewish Menorah Lead Token

|Holy| |Land| |Antiquities|, |Byzantine| |Empire,| |Levante| |or| |Alexandria,| |c.| |5th| |-| |6th| |Century| |A.D.,| |Jewish| |Menorah| |Lead| |Token||token|
The purpose of Byzantine era lead tokens is unknown. Many appear closely related to seals differing only by the absence of a cord or channel for attachment to a container or document. Many late Roman and early Byzantine seals have a figural type on one side and a legend in two lines in Latin or Greek on the other side. Seals with a menorah are known, usually with a blank globular reverse, but some also have a name on the other side.
JD98657. Lead token, personal token of Rodanos(?); Roma e-sale 53 (7 Feb 2019), lot 504 (same dies), VF, highlighting earthen deposit desert patina, weight 3.077 g, maximum diameter 14.1 mm, die axis 180o, c. 5th - 6th century A.D.; obverse Menorah of seven branches, flanked by lulav on left and etrog on right; reverse PO∆A/NOY in two lines across field, palm frond above; ex CNG e-auction 435 (2 Jan 2019), lot 401; extremely rare; $1800.00 (1710.00)


Judean Kingdom, Anonymous Hasmonean, c. 140 - 37 B.C.

|Judean| |Kingdom|, |Judean| |Kingdom,| |Anonymous| |Hasmonean,| |c.| |140| |-| |37| |B.C.||tessera|
A Judaean coin expert informs us that there are nine known specimens of this type, one specimen of this type was discovered during excavations at Mt. Gerizim, and the second best known specimen of this type sold for $12,000 a few years ago.
JD97077. Lead tessera, Hendin 6193 (RR), Meshore TJC -, Sofaer -, HGC 10 -, SNG Cop -, F, scratches, bumps, earthen encrustation, tight flan, weight 2.024 g, maximum diameter 12.1 mm, die axis 225o, Samarian(?) mint, c. 140 - 37 B.C.; obverse double cornucopia, upright rod between, border of dots; reverse stylized palm tree between two blooming lily flowers, border of dots; zero sales of this type listed on Coin Archives in the last two decades; extremely rare; $1350.00 (1282.50)


Roman Egypt, Antinoopolites Nome, Portrait of Antinous, c. 30 Oct 130 - 300 A.D.

|Roman| |Egypt|, |Roman| |Egypt,| |Antinoopolites| |Nome,| |Portrait| |of| |Antinous,| |c.| |30| |Oct| |130| |-| |300| |A.D.||tessera|
Antinous probably joined Hadrian's entourage when it passed through Bithynia about 124 A.D. He became Hadrian's constant companion and lover. In October 130 Antinous drowned in the Nile. Hadrian's grief knew no bounds; he enrolled him among the gods, erected a temple, and on 30 October 130, Hadrian founded the city of Antinoopolis on the very bank of the Nile river where Antinous drowned. It was the capital of a new nome, Antinoopolites. Perhaps the date is from the founding of Antinoopolis. There began a Cult of Antinous. Artists vied with each other in immortalizing his beauty. Temples and statues dedicated to him were erected all over the Empire.
AG97755. Glass tessera, Dattari (Savio) (but cf. 6551-6551 for other glass tesserae of different types), green hue, manufacturing flaw at 12h, otherwise intact., weight 1.67 g, maximum diameter 18 mm, Antinopolis Nome mint, c. 30 Oct 130 - 300 A.D.; obverse draped bust of Antinos right, wearing hem-hem crown, crescent before; reverse blank; ex CNG e-sale 481 (25 Nov 2020), lot 280; rare; $450.00 (427.50)


Byzantine Empire, Lead Amulet or Votive Mirror, c. 5th - 11th Century A.D.

|Byzantine| |Antiquities|, |Byzantine| |Empire,| |Lead| |Amulet| |or| |Votive| |Mirror,| |c.| |5th| |-| |11th| |Century| |A.D.|
In Greek and Hebrew the biblical term Charis (xapiς) refers to good will, loving-kindness, favor, in particular to God's merciful grace. It is used over 140 times in the New Testament and is a central concept in the theology developed by St. Augustine of Hippo. Epigraphically, the inscription resembles so-called 'magical' or 'gnostic' engraved gems and amulets, also bearing retrograde inscriptions and square lunate sigmas. Although this may have been a "mirror" it would never have been useful or used as one. Its purpose was likely to seek favor from God, ideally to seek the God's grace to strengthen the owner's faith and their exercise of Christian virtues. They may have been purchased to be left behind in a church, similar to how prayer candles are offered in Catholic churches today.
BZ99058. Lead amulet or votive mirror, weight 10.250 g, maximum diameter 31.0 mm, die axis 0o, c. 5th - 11th Century A.D.; obverse H XA/PIC EI/MI (Greek: I am grace) in three retrograde lines; reverse blank (if a mirror, it would have originally been polished to provide a reflection); $150.00 (142.50)







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REFERENCES|

Burnett, A., M. Amandry & P. Ripolls. Roman Provincial Coinage I: From the death of Caesar to the death of Vitellius (44 BC-AD 69). (London, 1992, and supplement).
Buttrey, T. "The Spintriae as a Historical Source" in NC 1973.
de Boccard, E. Les tesseres et les Monnaies de Palmyre. (Paris, 1962).
Cohen, H. Description historique des monnaies frappes sous l'Empire Romain, Vol. 8: Nepotian to Romulus Augustus, plus tesserae & cotorniates. (Paris, 1888).
Dattari, G. Numi Augg. Alexandrini. (Cairo, 1901).
Emmett, K. Alexandrian Coins. (Lodi, WI, 2001).
Farhi, H. "Note on Two Types of Byzantine Lead Currency" in INR 8 (2013).
Geissen, A. Katalog alexandrinischer Kaisermnzen, Kln|, Band 4: Claudius Gothicus - Bleimnzen. (Cologne, 1974-1983), pp. 178 - 213.
Hendin, D. Guide to Biblical Coins. (Amphora, 2010).
Hoover, O. "A Reassessment of Nabataean Lead Coinage in Light of New Discoveries" in NC 2006.
Milne, J. A Catalogue of the Alexandrian Coins in the Ashmolean Museum. (Oxford, 1933), pp. 125 - 130.
Milne, J. "The leaden token-coinage of Egypt under the Romans" in NC 1908, pp. 287-310, pl. XXII.
Rostowtzew, M. Tesserarum Urbis Romae et Suburbi Plumbearum Sylloge. (St. Petersburg, 1903).
Rostowtzew, M. Tesserarum Urbis Romae et Suburbi Plumbearum Sylloge, Supplementum I. (St. Petersburg, 1905).
Scholz, J. "Rmische Blei Tesserae" in Numismatische Zeitschrift bd. 25 (1893).

Catalog current as of Monday, September 26, 2022.
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