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Help, Beginner Ancient Coins

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Pillar of the Community
1246 Posts
 Posted 05/27/2022  8:19 pm Show Profile   Check ryurazu's eBay Listings Bookmark this topic Add ryurazu to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
Hi there normally on more of the modern coin forum, but want to get a couple of ancients what should I start with as a beginner and what should I be on the look out for in term of ancient coins?

Thanks in advance
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14346 Posts
 Posted 05/27/2022  8:51 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Sap to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Depends entirely on what you're after.

If you want "cheap, ancient, and still looks like a coin", then Late Roman Bronzes are your thing. Coins from the period 300-400 AD are cheap and plentiful, as the Romans made millions of them to try to prop up their failing economy. By "cheap", poor condition unidentified coins can be bought for $5 or less. Identified and legible coins maybe $20 or so, and prices go up from there.

If you want coins from a specific time period, price and availability depends on the time period. "Coins from Emperor Augustus", are harder to come by than "coins of the Golden Age emperors" (Hadrian through to Marcus Aurelius).

Coins of specific emperors are likewise variable, depending on who you're after. Series that are popular with collectors, like the "Twelve Caesars", or famous early emperors like Augustus, Nero, Caligula or Claudius are pricey because of both low supply and high demand. As a general rule, the coins made to depict Imperial family members (their wives and children) are cheaper than the coins depicting the emperors themselves.

If Greek coins appeal to you rather than Roman, they tend to be more expensive - supply is low, because mintages were generally lower, and the territories that Greek city-states are found are today within countries that put strict restrictions on the sale and export of ancient coins, restricting supply further. Coins from the Greek cities in France, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Russia tend to be more commonly available than the coins from "Greece proper", or Turkey. "Hellenistic" coins, issued by Alexander the Great and his successors, tend to be more common and more readily available than earlier "Classical" and "Archaic" coins.

In between "Greek" and "Roman", we have Roman Provincial coins - coins struck during the Roman empire, but by local city governments for local use; they usually have the emperor's portrait like a Roman coin, but the legends are usually in Greek (hence the name "Greek Imperial" that used to be used to describe the series). Roman Provincials can be cheaper than regular Roman coins, but they are less well catalogued and fully identifying them can be challenging.

As for sources, find yourself a trusted dealer knowledgeable in ancients. I'd strongly recommend avoiding eBay, simply because there's lots of fake "ancient coins" for sale there, and some of the highest-rated "ancient coin sellers" on eBay are scammers. Even regular brick-and-mortar modern coin dealers can be confused and erratic in their authentication and pricing of ancient coins in their stock. Here in Australia, Romanorum is my go-to specialist dealer for ancients.

Prices for ancient coins have gone crazy since COVID.
Don't say "infinitely" when you mean "very"; otherwise, you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite. - C. S. Lewis
Bedrock of the Community
19678 Posts
 Posted 05/27/2022  10:05 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add sel_69l to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I put together a really nice collection of Australian coins starting from about 14 years old including gold coins. Unlike most kids, I had a reasonable income from working with my father, and spent it all on coins.

I started out into ancient coins by picking up a specialist book on Roman coins by Harold Mattingly from the City of Sydney public library and reading it twice. Mattingly was an ancient coin curator in the British Museum, and was a major contributor to the Roman Imperial Catalogue - R..I C.
Soon after, I bought my first Roman coin: a denarius of Antoninus Pius, in VF condition, for $4 from a well recognized dealer, way back 1965.

I started reading on Greek coins for a couple of years from about 1980. My first Greek coin was my avatar coin, bought directly from Spink's in London. I paid over $AU 1,000 for it, but not knowing enough be be really confident about the Greek series, I knew that it had to come from a dealer with the best of reputations. By that time I was an avid subscriber and reader of Spink's Numismatic Circular and Seaby's Coin and Medal Bulletin, so I had a good idea of pricing of ancient coins a the time.
These days, we have Vcoins on line, to get a reasonable idea of current pricing of ancient from reputable dealers. As Sap indicates, Romanorum is included in the sellers on Vcoins. We also have Wildwinds on line for ancient coin identification.

I have made a special attempt over many years to build up a good sub library on fake ancient coins and how to identify them, and their manufacture, because this provides the basis for their exposure. To support this I also have a reasonable student 'black' collection of fake ancient coins.
I am fortunate enough to have access to scanning electron microscope and XRF technology provided by good friend of mine, who manages a scientific materials testing lab on university grounds.

I also have good relations with some of the leading professional numismatic dealers in Australia. Noble Numismatics in Sydney has one of the best specialist numismatic reference libraries in the World, with more than 1,000 specialist numismatic reference books.
It was this dealer that led me to my avatar coin. I still have all of the polaroid photographs and purchase documentation for this coin.

Pillar of the Community
United States
9048 Posts
 Posted 05/28/2022  12:03 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add numismatic student to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Being a noob alongside OP, I really appreciate Sap, sel 69l and many others that make this a great place to learn and grow into the hobby. Not every place is welcoming of and patient with newcomers, which makes the ancient forum a special place inhabited by special people.
Highlights of my coin collection: https://coins.www.collectors-societ...aspx?s=31920
Help me optimize my photo setup:
Valued Member
United Kingdom
459 Posts
 Posted 05/28/2022  7:18 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add JohnConduitt to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I agree with the above. You can't really do much better than an Alexander the Great lifetime bronze or a Constantine the Great bronze for value and just getting your hands on an ancient coin. Most collectors point you to somewhere like VCoins or MAShops to have best chance of avoiding fakes, although I would suggest researching any coins you like - it's half the fun. You can buy on eBay but a good half of ancients (and a much higher proportion of Celtic or Saxon) are fake.

There's a lot outside of Roman and Greek too - Celtic, Chinese (e.g. a nice big Qin Shi Huang cash coin), Indian, Persian (Parthian coins are popular, with their comical portraits) etc. Some can be pricey and fakes hard to spot if you're new, but a trustworthy dealer will take the risk out for you.
Bedrock of the Community
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 Posted 05/29/2022  03:18 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add sel_69l to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
For a beginner into Roman coins, I think the best value for money and condition would be a Gordian 111 antoninianus in VF condition.
That is the sort of coin I have given away on two occasions, to other established collectors, but are beginners into ancients.
Valued Member
United Kingdom
459 Posts
 Posted 05/29/2022  04:37 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add JohnConduitt to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

For a beginner into Roman coins, I think the best value for money and condition would be a Gordian 111 antoninianus in VF condition.

Yes you can get some great quality coins of his for not very much. There are a few emperors in the late 200s who are cheap if not quite so good for quality.

I went for Constantine the Great because he's actually famous outside coin collecting. Everyone's heard of Constantinople. As a beginner that adds something to a coin. Strictly sticking to the coins, you can probably do better in terms of cost and condition with his sons, Constantius II, Constantine II, Crispus and Constans.
Edited by JohnConduitt
05/29/2022 04:38 am
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