ANA Blog

24 May 2017

Will You Help Make History Today?

Ancient Coins | Pliny The Elder

Numismatics is a hobby, and of course it is fun, but it is also a science with many frontiers to explore. The studies that we do today help guide other coin collectors for many years down the road. In the world of ancient coins there are portraits of rulers for whom we have no name. There are kings who are known ONLY from their coins. Sometimes a ruler comes into power, but holds court only for a short time before being defeated and erased from memory. Just a blip on the radar of a millennium. Take the Unknown King of ancient Parthia. I mean, who was THAT guy? We really do not know....yet. The discovery WILL come one day, and quite possibly one of you reading this will be the person to reveal it to the world. He is pictured above in this blog. Another example is the Nameless King, a man historians now call Vima Takto of the Kushan Empire. Vima Takto. But for so long he was totally nameless, the clues from his coins too scant to make an identification. It is fascinating how his name came to be known, worth looking into I say. There are so many kings throughout the centuries and so many mysteries. As a numismatist one must always be questioning. The Indeterminate Kings, or "Princes", of Elymais. Prince A, Prince B and Prince C. Who were they and what did they do? All we have are their coins. There are discoveries still waiting to be found in the ground today that will help shape how we view history tomorrow. Discoveries in collections that will change the way historians view the past. A coin collector might be the one to make the discovery, to find out the name, to reveal to others the mysteries of ancient times. We are historians as well as coin collectors, we are indeed scientists, and we can work within our hobby to make a difference in the world. We have to actually. We have to always study our coins, question their place in history, rearrange what we once thought was true to make room for what is true tomorrow. Do you have any mystery coins? Coins from a ruler who is unknown even to the most experienced numismatist? Study history, study your coins. And think outside the box. Your unique and individual insight might provide the world with the next great discovery. Your opinion counts. There is room to learn, there are discoveries waiting to be made, and there are old mysteries still waiting to be found out. The most everyday collector of ancient coins can be an important collector if he or she wants to be. Make a discovery, ask a question, teach the world. I thank you for being so inquisitive, and for making history come alive each and every day with your collections and your studies. Really, thank you.

10 Feb 2017

Parthian Coins

Ancient Coins | Pliny The Elder

I have been buying some Parthian coins recently. Sometimes my emotions get the better of me, and I reach out into an area that is new to me, or not as familiar. Such is the case here, where I am now the owner of this coin of Phraates IV. The king is shown on the obverse of this coin. Look at that beard! That is a wart on his forehead. There is a star within a crescent above left, and an eagle that looks like a turkey holding a wreath in it's beak. The reverse is a common image for Parthian coins, and displays an archer seated to the right with a legend in Greek surrounding. The archer is a common figure in ancient coins. Sometimes the archer is Diana the Huntress. Sometimes Arsaces. Sometimes Artemis. Sometimes a Persian king is depicted as an archer. Interesting image that reappears on many ancient coin types. You can also see evidence of another legend underneath the current one, to the left, which indicates this coin was probably restruck onto an older coin type where the old legend was not totally removed. I guess it could have been slip in the minting process, but I think it is an underlying coin type. I wanted to share this. I have been under the weather as of late, so this is the best I can do right now. Enjoy.

21 Nov 2016

Buying Damaged Coins

Ancient Coins | Aidan

I'm just curious as to what everyone's opinion is in this matter. Would you buy a historically important or "rare" coin even if it's damaged?Coin shown, holed denarius of Caesar Augustus.Augustus. 27 BC-AD 14. AR Denarius (3.53 g, 5h). Spanish mint (Colonia Caesaraugusta?). Struck 19-18 BC. Bare head right / S•P•Q•R• /CL•V in two lines on round shield.

23 Sep 2016

Ancient Propaganda On A Coin

Ancient Coins | Pliny The Elder

This coin attracted me because of the strange Z mark carved into it, and the Xgraffitoseen lightly in the background. I always like the signs of ancient hands on the surfaces and on the edges, I do. But I also like the history each coin represents, and the underlyingpropagandabeneath that history. Every single ancient coin says something, if not just in my own head. This silver denarius was issued during the lifetime of Julius Caesar, but before he was given total power over Rome and all of Romantic history. Struck in 58 B.C. by Marcus Aemilius Scaurus and Publius Plautius Hypsaeus at the time of the Aedilician Games (you can see the "AED CVR" for Aedile Curule, the titles ofHypsaeusandScaurus at the time---Aediles organized public events like parades, festivals and games).This coin appears to commemorate the supplication of King Aretas to Pompey's general (and brother-in-law) Marcus Scaurus. I say "appears" because Scaurus had a reputation for backroom dealing and dishonesty. Even though accusations were constantly bandied about, as brother-in-law to a famous general he always managed to avoid legal trouble, once employing the famous Cicero as his defense counsel to plead his case. Scaurus went to war in the Nabbatean Kingdom in 62 B.C. and laidsiegeto the city of Petra. King Aretas III is alleged by historians to have bribed Scaurus to lift this seige. Scaurus returned to Rome, crowing of victory and hoping to settle into a nice and important life as a public servant. And he did to some extent. He organized these Aedilician Games, he issued this coin. But he just couldn't escape from being himself, though, and lingering problems with honesty eventually saw him sent him into exile. This coin is a snapshot in time. It tells the history of his victory in Nabbatea? Or possibly it merely shows one of his many thinly veiled lies. That is King Aretas kneeling next to his camel on the obverse side. The reverse is Jupiter, the king of the Gods, driving a four horse chariot to the left. That is fourhorses galloping abreast of eachother, an amazing sight to see I am sure. I hope you enjoy the coin and the short history associated with it.

14 Sep 2016

Ancient Hands

Ancient Coins | Pliny The Elder

Nobody likes to zoom in for a closer look only to find file marks on the edges of their coins. Or do you? I do. I collect ancient coins, and for me, seeing file marks on certain pieces is solid evidence not of a numismatic crime, but of ancient hands at work. This is not always the case, and file or other tool marks along the edges are also done to obscure clues pointing to an inauthentic piece. This can create a stumbling block for some collectors trying to authenticate their own pieces. The one thing to remember is that file and tool marks along the outer edge are not always a sign of a forgery. During the time of the Ptolemy rulers in ancient Egypt, as well as in Antioch, Syria, there was sometimes great care taken in the manufacturing of their coins. Flans were prepared to a hefty and grand scale. In Antioch, edges were often squared and made perfectly smooth around the rims, presumably for stacking. In Egypt, there was an attempt to bevel the edges of many of the larger bronzes. The flans of these Ptolemy bronzes were cast together, either in pairs or in a tree (I do not know!), and the process would leave casting sprues on the edges, as well as a fatter "bottom" on one side of the flan. File marks are quite common where there was an obvious attempt to knock down the casting sprues and do away with the fatter bottom. In some of the finer specimens, the sprue is completely filed away and the outer rim is beveled evenly with a ridge running along the middle. These coins run the entire spectrum of either showing a lot of detailed working to make them perfect, all the way down to a coin that shows zero signs of care in the manufacturing at all. I have provided photos of an authentic coin of Antioch, Syria and its outer rim and some authentic coins of Alexandria, Egypt. I have also included a photo I am borrowing of a beveled edge of a Ptolemy era bronze. Included also is an outer rim/edge of a fake "ancient" silver coin that was scraped smooth along the edge by modern hands. Examine the edges of your coins carefully if necessary. But do not be afraid to see file marks. Because, if you know what to look for, they are sometimes direct evidence of the ancient hands that once held your coin. I find them exciting, and I hope you do too.

12 Jul 2016

One Fine Remarque

Ancient Coins | Pliny The Elder

I bought this really neat coin recently and I believe it is surely worthy of a fine remark. Or perhaps that should be "Remarque". You see, a "Remarque" is a term used in the art world. It describes a sketch done along the border of a print, displaying a crude rendition of the greater piece of art of it is drawn in the borders of. You might see Remarques at the base of low numbered high value prints of original works of art. It is a nice effect that is sometimes done for friends or family of an artist receiving a print or work of art. I already hear the question, "But are these to be found on a coin, Mister Pliny?" Yes Beav, I think they are. Here are some photos of a coin of Elymais. The Kingdom of Elam. You can see the image on the obverse, and it is quite detailed. The King, Kamnaskires VI it is believed, has a beard and is wearing a torque around his neck. A torque is a coiled up piece of metal, probably gold, that uncoils when you give it a twist. The king is also wearing a diadem tied around the top of his head. Beneath that is a wide fringe of hair, which makes him appear to be wearing a fancy hat. That is my favorite part. Yee haw, ride em cowboy. You can even see evidence of a cuirass at his shoulder area. Really neat details. But when you give it a flip, whoa. The reverse appears almost blank. It was described to me as a "very weak strike as usual" when I acquired it, in fact. I just saw some marks that looked like nicks in the coin's surface. But when I looked closer I could see the image. I'll be darned. Like the aforementioned artist's Remarque, here was a crude sketch of the king who is pictured on the front. You can see the beard, the cuirass on the shoulder area, the cowboy hat of a hair style. Done in a tiny crude style. Things like this make me glad I looked closer. I have seen similar effects done on coins of the Himyarites, a tiny reverse portrait so insignificant it might even be missed but for the peering gaze of the interested. It is like looking at a beautiful mountainside, just taking in the wonderful view, then seeing black specks moving around and realizing there are grizzly bears also on the mountain. The reverse of this coin is an added treat and I just had to share it with you. I hope you enjoy my remarks about this fun and unusual coin style.

14 Jun 2016

Pseudo Official Tetradrachms

Ancient Coins | Pliny The Elder

Since the time of Alexander the Great many coins have taken on a common look, displaying a male or female portrait in profile on one side and a somewhat patriotically evocative image on the other. It has become the modern standard to which many of us have become accustomed. In the USA we have a basic set of people, former Presidents, statesmen founding fathers and mothers and others who populate our coins at all times. It changes, but the process is slow, and the change is by no means mercurial. The public has become quite used to it's George Washington Quarter with the eagle reverse, the Lincoln Penny with the memorial or shield reverse, the Kennedy Half, the Sacajawea Dollar, Susan B (come on, can I get some support for the ladies here?). An exact image, along with a date and the ensuing legend, tells you what country issued the coin and when. It is a pretty simple and easy to understand system, thankfully. But it was not always this way, and in ancient times this standard image set up was changed and shifted around often, and depending on a variety of factors, most notably the changing of a ruler or issuing authority, or in other cases when remonetization was undergone. The public could see Mercury on a coin one year, and the next year it is Venus....or even Julius Caesar. In the times of Alexander the Great, Alexander was featured on his coins dressed as Herakles, from whom he was supposedly descendant. This image was so popular, as was the growing legend of Alexander, that it was continued long after his death. For collectors these days, ancient coins featuring the image of Alexander the Great can be partially defined as to whether they are lifetime issues or posthumous. And even then his generals continued using his exact image on the face of THEIR coins which they struck after his death. That stunning image of a King in profile with a powerful patriotic or religious image on the reverse! You stick with a winner, I guess. It is a popular style, and it catches fire across a series of Hellenistic kingdoms. A standard series of coin designs stretched over the course of several rulers, all using a common Greek tongue. For the person spending the coinage in ancient times it helped retain for the citizen a sense of continuity and perhaps pride. But for the modern numismatist trying to pin down specific dates of issue and rulers it can bring about a lot of hair pulling and hand wringing as the collector is forced to become a magician, using a magnifying loupe and a dead language to try and bring life to a piece of silver. But luckily numismatic giants have walked before us, and so much of the work has already been done if you can just find it in the reference works available. I have recently read a piece by Richard G. McAlee on a series of coins referred to as Pseudo-Philip Tetradrachms titled The Livia Hoard Of Pseudo-Philip Tetradrachms (AJN Second Series 11—1999) and I wanted to share a little of this interesting coin type with you. These are coins, like the posthumous issues after Alexander the Great, which feature an image of a ruler long since dead. Like in the times of Alexander the Great, this can be seen to be done to appeal to residents of an area who might not otherwise take kindly to the new bosses in town. Best to keep the money similar, keep the message simple. You have to admit it is a great look! Rome started doing this in Syria, copying coins of Philip I Philadelphos who was long since deceased. These Pseudo-Philip tetradrachms are almost exactly like the silver issues minted by Philip I Philadelphos, who ruled over Antioch, Syria for ten years ending in 82 B.C. They contain the image of Philip I Philadelphos on the obverse and an image of Zeus enthroned on the reverse. Nearly 4 decades after his death, in 47 B.C. Roman authorities in Antiochia began issuing this copycat coinage, distinguishing it from the earlier official issues by a special monogram near the image of Zeus on the reverse. These coins are mostly dated at the bottom with a Greek letter. But because of their similarity to the issues of Philadelphos, they present a sometimes difficult path for a collector or a dealer trying to correctly identify. The first and foremost thing to do is to determine if it is an official coin of Philip I Philadelphos or a Pseudo-Philip Tetradrachm. For the experienced numismatist you can do this by comparing portrait styles. But really you want to locate the monogram to the left of Zeus' knees. The monogram on the coin pictured is the most common one used for the Pseudo-Philips. AY ANT. Autonomous City of Antioch. There is another similar monogram for this series, AY GB for Aulius Galbinus, and it is seen as the rarer of the two. If you see one of these two monograms on the reverse you definitely have a pseudo-Philip tetradrachm. Issued four decades or more after the death of Philip I Philadelphos, and under a different governing authority (Rome-controlled). These Pseudo-Philip tetradrachms also have control marks scattered at various locations on the reverse, depending on the dates it was issued. The piece I read by McAlee doesn't indicate why the control marks are present as, according to McAlee, they are not used to match up dies. These are dots, or pellets, and from the several pieces I have viewed they are made look like the design on the coin (a point McAlee makes in his 1999 article in the AJN). On this coin I have pictured, the control marks appears directly to the left of Zeus' chin and could be mistaken for part of the chair design, or even a second image of Nike standing on Zeus' elbow, or even ribbons flowing down from the actual image of Nike to the left and above. But it is not, it appears to be some sort of control mark. Because of the Antioch monogram, the control mark, and the Lambda symbol on the bottom of the reverse, a collector is able to correctly determine when this coin was issued and whether or not it is a coin of Philip Philadelphos or not (it is not). Ancient authorities had the foresight to date these coins, so it is not some wild and woolly series where anything goes. Because of the great work of people like Edward Theodore Newell, who first identified this series as being pseudo-official, not official issues of Philip I Philadelphos, and Richard G. McAlee who studied the Livia Hoard in close detail, modern numismatists are able to identify easily coins that a hundred years ago told a much different story to the collectors studying them. Thank you to them, and to you fellow numismatists. I hope you enjoy the read.


Blog Policy / Disclaimer

This is a community-sourced blog. Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog post’s author, and do not represent the views or opinions of the American Numismatic Association, and may not represent the views or opinions of people, institutions or organizations that the author may or may not be associated with in professional or personal capacity.

All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The American Numismatic Association (ANA) makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. The ANA does not monitor the blog on a constant basis.

The ANA will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information, nor for the availability of this information. The ANA will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.

Downloadable Files and Images

Any downloadable file, including but not limited to pdfs, docs, jpegs, pngs, is provided at the user’s own risk. The ANA will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages resulting from a corrupted or damaged file.


Blogs and comments are encouraged. However, the ANA reserves the right to edit or delete any blog posts or comments submitted to this blog without notice due to :

  • Content deemed to be spam or questionable spam.
  • Content includes profanity.
  • Content contains language or concepts that could be deemed offensive.
  • Content contains hate speech, credible threats, or direct attacks on an individual or group.

The ANA is not responsible for the content in blog posts or comments.

This blog disclaimer is subject to change at anytime.