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Basis For Attribution For Sasanian Shapur/Shahpur I Coin (Reminted Coin)

 
 
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 Posted 05/02/2019  11:06 pm Show Profile   Bookmark this topic Add JapanDude to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
As a newcomer, the following question got me banned from another coin site. As my first question, I am posting it here as a litmus test for myself and to gain further information. Thanks in advance!

The description for the attached coin reads as follows:
"SASANIAN KINGS, Shahpur I. AD. 241-272. Ć (3.22 gm; 25 mm). No mint mark. Bust right / Fire altar flanked by two attendants."
"Core of silver drachm, minted from Roman Antonionis captured in the battle with Valerian and Philip the Arab. Choice VF. Original find patina."

The above part about "captured in battle" has really intrigued me, and although I have heard that coins can tell a story, I was wondering HOW it was inferred that this coin told this particular story.

Here is the information that I was able to obtain so far:
In Robert Gobl's Sasanian Numismatics, he says, "The drachm (Middle Persian 'drahm') was generally made of fine silver with the usual additives. Only under Shapur I is there an obvious debasement which is temporally and regionally limited. I have tried to explain this by pointing out that Shapur I, during his struggle against Rome (and presumably when conquering Antioch which which was the principal Roman mint place in the East), carried off Roman Antoninian flan (1 Antoninianus = 1 Double Denarius) and used them for his purposes... No overstepping of booty coins has as yet been discovered."

TO SUMMARIZE,
- "Captured in battle" is inferred based on the (lower) silver content only
- No roman text is present (which would be an obvious sign)
(h/t to Parthicus for all the above information)

MY QUESTIONS:
- Is there a non-destructive way to tell that a coin has lower silver content (such as by measuring the weight/volume ratio)?
- Isn't it still possible that war itself could result in lower silver content like U.S. steel pennies during WWII?
- If there's no Roman writing under the coin, then we are saying that the Sasanians hauled off blank silver coins from a mint?

Edited by JapanDude
05/02/2019 11:45 pm
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 Posted 05/03/2019  12:31 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Kushanshah to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Interesting topic. I think "captured Roman billon" might be a simpler way to get to Göbl's point. Göbl offers this as one possible explanation but not as the last word. As you suggest, the Sasanians would be neither the first nor the last to debase the coinage in time of war.

In addition to specific gravity tests, XRF analysis can reveal not only the purity of the silver but trace elements which can sometimes pinpoint the source of the silver. XRF is essentially a surface test, however. There may be no test that is both definitive and non-destructive.

The seller's description refers to the coin as AE (copper) and as a "core", implying it was once silver-plated. I am not familiar enough with the Sasanian series to know whether this coin is actually one of the debased pieces Göbl refers to. It may be that the seller is conflating debased official issues with contemporary counterfeits.
Edited by Kushanshah
05/03/2019 12:39 am
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 Posted 05/03/2019  12:44 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add JapanDude to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks!
The tests sound beyond the scope of what I can do at home! Oh well...
I was also confused by the seller's attribution, and so thanks for clearing that up. The part "Core of silver drachm, minted from Roman Antonionis" sounded to me that there was a Roman coin underneath, but I know that's not the case now.
Edited by JapanDude
05/03/2019 01:01 am
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 Posted 05/03/2019  01:40 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Kushanshah to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Some gold buyers use XRF to test scrap gold. You may be able to find one in your town who is willing to test your coin. As noted, though, a surface test of a heavily patinated coin may be of limited value.

I will also add that XRF guns emit x-rays and are potentially dangerous. I used to work in the gold industry and when XRF was in use, I would stand as far away as possible.
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 Posted 05/03/2019  05:52 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Spence to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
@jd, first welcome to CCF. If there is a college or university near to your home, you might be able to work with a professor to get access to an XRF machine.y

Added: niw that I think about it a little more, I'm pretty sure that one of our members has an XRF.
"The danger we all now face is distinguishing between what is authentic and what is performed."
-----King Adz
Edited by Spence
05/03/2019 05:53 am
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 Posted 05/03/2019  10:08 am  Show Profile   Check echizento's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add echizento to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
to the community

Interesting question and equally interesting coin. I wish there was more detail visible on your coin. I'm not not convinced that it is Shapur I, from what I can make out of the reverse there are some indications that it could be Shapur II. There appears to be a design on the column if so that would point to Shapur II. Also during the course of Shapur II's long reign the silver content of his drachm was at times as low as as 5% and looked more base metal than silver making the coin look as yours does.

I do agree with the comments made by kushanshah and Spence.



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 Posted 05/03/2019  9:14 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add JapanDude to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
TESTING
I'll let testing go for now -- it looks like too much effort for too little information. Ideally, you'd want to test a whole range of coins from this period (including both Roman ones minted in Antioch and Sasanian ones) to get an idea of where this coin falls in this range. Specific gravity testing is possible using a digital scale and metered cup, but my impression is that specific gravity testing is better for pure metal vs. pure metal, and since this coin still has dirt on it, it's probably a poor candidate.

@echizento, Thanks for your insight. If you think that a distilled water soak would help this coin, I'd be willing to try. Beyond that, I don't want to try anything that could harm the coin.
Interestingly, I noticed that sellers guarantee the authenticity of their coins, but not the attribution. I can see why!

Thanks all!
Edited by JapanDude
05/03/2019 9:15 pm
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 Posted 05/03/2019  10:55 pm  Show Profile   Check echizento's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add echizento to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I don't think a soaking in distilled water would help very much. I washing with mild soap and warm water and a brushing with a very soft tooth brush would probably work better.
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 Posted 05/03/2019  11:22 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add JapanDude to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks. I'll give it a try!
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