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Countermarks - Both Real And Fake - On Parthian Types

 
 
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Pillar of the Community
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 Posted 12/03/2016  10:21 pm Show Profile   Bookmark this topic Add Bob L to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
Among the half dozen or so collecting areas that have really tempted me over the years - but that I resisted since I was trying to remain focused on Parthia-proper and Elymais - have been the regions in Eastern Parthia (east of the Caspian Sea and north of the Persian Gulf) that both countermarked official Parthian drachms for circulation within their territories, and that also produced imitative Parthian drachms with faux countermarks that were actually worked into the coins' dies. (I find that fascinating) The groups I'm referring to here are the Indo-Scythian Sakaraukae in Aria (the most famous of the Sakaraukae rulers was Gondophares, who founded the Indo-Parthian Kingdom) and the Indo-Parthian areas of Sogdiana and Margiana. All of these groups counterstamped Parthian drachms and also produced imitative Parthian issues. Determining which specific group produced a given countermarked coin seems to be problematic at times. Often these coins are listed with non-specific attributions like "Margiana or Sogdiana" or "Aria or Margiana" or "Sakaraukae or Indo-Parthian, Aria or Margiana." Sellwood refers to these coins collectively as "the currency of petty princes claiming independence from central Arsacid authority."

I own no coins of these groups, and so the coins below are courtesy of CNG and various research sites (Parthia.com, ACsearch.info, etc.). Competition for these types, as they occasionally show up in auctions, tends to be aggressive - more than their condition may seem to warrant, and they always end up fetching more money than the original Parthian types they are either counterstamped over, or that they imitate.

The countermarks on these coins take the form of the symbols below. Note numbers iii and iv which show, as Shore refers to it, the "royal symbol of the Sakaraukae" that later became associated with the Indo-Parthians - specifically with Gondophares and his dynasty. This symbol was, according to Sellwood, derived from the earlier, similar Parthian symbol seen on a number of official coins of the Empire at that time. The Parthian archetype is sort of an upside-down version of this one.




Here are some examples of countermarks on official Parthian drachms. Such countermarks were punched on coins of Gotarzes I, Orodes I (Mithradates III), Phraates III, Orodes II, and Phraates IV.

Countermark on a drachm of Orodes I (more recently attributed as Mithradates III)
Listed as Aria or Margiana. Tanlis Mardates.


Countermark on a drachm of Orodes II
Listed as Sakaraukae or Indo-Parthian, Aria or Margiana. Tanlis Mardates.


Countermark on a drachm of Phraates III
Listed as Aria or Margiana


Countermark on a drachm of Phraates III
No specific listing


Countermark on what is probably, but not definitely, an official issue of Phraates IV



More interesting to me are the minted imitatives of Orodes II, Vardanes I, and Phraates IV drachms, typically with "off" styling, that have the so-called "countermarks" actually engraved into the coins' dies. Here are some examples:

Imitating an Orodes II drachm
This type typically listed as Margiana or Sogdiana, unknown king


Imitating a Vardanes I drachm
This type typically listed as Margiana or Sogdiana, unknown king


Imitating a Vardanes I drachm
This type typically listed as Margiana or Sogdiana, unknown king


Imitating a Vardanes I drachm
This type typically listed as Margiana or Sogdiana, unknown king


Imitating a Phraates IV drachm
Listed as Margiana or Sogdiana, unknown king




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 Posted 12/04/2016  01:44 am  Show Profile   Check echizento's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add echizento to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
This is the first time I've seen counter marks on this coin type, they must be a pretty rare occurrence. The helmeted counter mark looks Baktrian and resembles the image of Menander.
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 Posted 12/04/2016  08:02 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Spence to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Bob, thanks for sharing this. It seems odd to me that these countermarks were placed so carefully (same location on every coin and nearly always with the same orientation). Any idea why that might be? Maybe those petty princes had OCD?
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 Posted 12/04/2016  08:47 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Bob L to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
The helmeted counter mark looks Baktrian and resembles the image of Menander.


Indeed it does, Ron. And, of course, we're talking about the same geographical area that Baktria occupied - although the coins above were countermarked - or, in the case of the lower batch, minted - a century or so after Menander.


Quote:
Any idea why that might be? Maybe those petty princes had OCD?


OCD, in this case, may mean "Off-Centering Discouraged." No idea, Dave. The consistent location of the countermark - always at the shoulder of the Parthian ruler's image - is, of course, mentioned in Sellwood and Shore, though neither of them offers an explanation as to why. My assumption is that, with such a small denomination (drachms), and with - as Wayne Sayles points out in one of his books - the countermark required for tariffing in these regions, the image of the Parthian ruler was consistently preserved to verify that the host coin was what it was supposed to be. Only several rulers' drachms were used for these, as I point out above...so, I suppose, given that reverses were so similar (the standardized seated archer type), the preservation of the king's obverse image was considered important for identification of the host coin.

But, really, here's my short answer:
Edited by Bob L
12/04/2016 08:49 am
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 Posted 12/04/2016  09:18 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Palouche to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
I own no coins of these groups, and so the coins below are courtesy of CNG and various research sites


Interesting thread Bob thanks for sharing...Have you got any craving to start collecting these type of coins?

Saludos Paul
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 Posted 12/04/2016  09:33 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Bob L to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
Have you got any craving to start collecting these type of coins?


Thanks for the comment, Paul.

The craving is always there - as it also is for Ptolemaic AE's, Judaean, Artuqids, Byzantine AE's, Characene, and other areas. But I try to stay focused on my priorities since I prefer a focused collection. There's a real analogy to be made here to dieting, isn't there? Avoiding the candy I crave so that I can see the results I want in my collection. Every time I slip and pick up a Kushan or Indo-Parthian, I feel a bit guilty - that's money that could have been used towards Parthia (meaning Parthia-proper, not the local rulers above) and Elymais.

My collection used to be all over the place, prior to settling on Parthia and Elymais: http://goccf.com/t/198096&SearchTerms=used+to+own
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 Posted 12/04/2016  10:29 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Palouche to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
I feel a bit guilty


I really understand that feeling..

At the moment I'm really focused on Roman silver denarius,hence my latest thread, but being on such a tight budget makes it quite frustrating sometimes not being able to buy anything for a couple of months so as to aquire a better specimen.

So every now and then I diverge and end up buying a raja raja chola I,Didda rani,chahada deva jital,and a mix of other cheaper coins and think aaargh thats 30$ I could have put towards a denarius..................Then they arrive... Wow a massive surge of new historical information to digest.

And then that guilty feeling disappears...fresh start save for a denarius.My experience.

What you did and bought in the past are the reasons why you've got such a vast knowledge of ancient coins (History) in general,I hope to get there one day.

Saludos Paul
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