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Which Ancient / Medieval Coins Have The Most Historical Significance In Your Collection And Why?

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 Posted 11/20/2022  7:16 pm Show Profile   Bookmark this topic Add numismatic student to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
As I move through my collecting journey I realize that a coin's historical context, meaning and significance have become more important. Which coins in your collection have the greatest Historical Significance and why?

I think this will say a lot about what historical events you prize and which are most reflected in the coinage you have chosen to collect.

I'll start the ball rolling in my collection.

The Roman worship of Libertas, the goddess of Liberty and the disdain of Tyranny became a spark that influences societies, civilizations and governments throughout the world. It is a central underpinning and goal of Western values and Western civilizations as imperfectly as it has been implemented in history.

In the United States, an image of Liberty in the form of a woman was in every issue of U.S. coinage until 1851 when a 3 cent silver issue was struck without that image. Liberty remained in circulating U.S. Coinage until 1947 when the last Walking Liberty half dollar was struck and coin designs shifted to historical figures.


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 Posted 11/20/2022  8:43 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Bob L to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Neat topic. I look forward to seeing what gets posted here.

I doubt any of the coins from my own current collection would qualify as particularly important from a historical perspective. The coins I sold off years ago included my more historically important ones. My Orodes II coins were relevant to the discussion given their possible minting around the time of the Battle of Carrhae. My Mithradates II coins were interesting since he was such an important ruler in Parthia - greatly expanding its power and borders.

While there is nothing historically earth-shattering about the antiquities I present below, they are at least interesting for different reasons.

To begin with, a simple 2nd century Roman gray ware bowl, reassembled from sherds. It's a significant entry because it is so rare that antiquities come with such specific archaeological information like this one did. This bowl was excavated at Dean's Hanger, Towcester, Northamptonshire, England in 1972. It was subsequently owned by a fellow, Michael Green of Tiverton, England, between the 1970s and 2012.



The following four weapons are significant only in that they are the oldest in my collection. The dagger at left is from Western Iran - likely Luristan or Elam - and dates from the 3rd to 2nd millennium BC. The dagger blade next to it is ex-Shlomo Zeitsov Collection (which is, in itself, significant). It is Canaanite and dates from the early to mid-2nd millennium BC. The third item is a Sumerian arrowhead associated with Susa, dating to c. 2000 BC. Next to it is another bronze arrowhead, this one possibly Elamite, dating to some time over a long span: c. 2200 - 1050 BC.

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 Posted 11/20/2022  8:59 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Yokozuna to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I only have one in my collection, so that's an easy question. This was in the bargain bin at Dallas Rare Coins many years ago for $5. I like the detail on the coin as well as the reverse image of a Roman Soldier killing a barbarian with the inscription "Return of Good Times" (or so I've been told.)

I don't have a conversion chart handy, so can any expert out there tell me what the value of this coin was in 357 A.D.? Was it a cent, like a dime, or could it have bought me a hot dog at the VII-XI?





ANA ID: 3203813 - CONECA ID: N-5637

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 Posted 11/20/2022  9:33 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add numismatic student to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Great entries!
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 Posted 11/20/2022  10:05 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add circusmax120 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
This is indeed a great topic. History is an awesome thing, but the deeper, more personal meaning to the steward-collector is always a story worth hearing. All of which makes Bob's contribution so fascinating. The bowl for instance: very personal object, created for daily use. Just incredible!

There is something personally motivating about all of the coins in my collection, but speaking as an artist, my fascination with Hadrian as a patron of the arts spurred my appreciation of several of my coin acquisitions. There is, however, one coin in particular with a connection to an ancient event. A happening that has always stirred a deep interest within me.

This dupondius of Titus is that special piece. Connecting me with the eruption of Vesuvius and the subsequent burial of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Even the molten look of the coin speaks to me of that ancient tragedy. Humbling!
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 Posted 11/21/2022  12:04 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add numismatic student to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I remember reading 'The Last Days of Pompeii' when I was fairly young and it colored my view of antiquity because it wasn't historically accurate at all. It was a British popular vision of antiquity, written right before Victoria ascended to the throne of the British Empire, where the role of Christianity was greatly exaggerated in the early days of the Roman Empire. The book was written as an allegory to fit within a mold that sought to teach that decadence and depravity in 1st century Rome was punished by G_d through the tragedy of the eruption of Vesuvius. It took me a while to unlearn that Anglo-centric view of the Roman world that I learned during my very formative years.

The coin you posted is a far more objective representation of the era without all the proto-Victorian flourishes.
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Edited by numismatic student
11/21/2022 12:54 am
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 Posted 11/21/2022  02:29 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add sel_69l to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
My avatar coin.
They were the World's first example of a large scale circulating gold currency used for large trading payments, and for a short time, the preferred form of wealth storage.

Over the last 2,300 years almost all of them were melted and recycled to make other current coins, (most during the period of the Roman Empire), and so they are somewhat scarce today.

Nevertheless, any collector of ancient coins can have an example, if they are prepared to pay for it.
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 Posted 11/21/2022  02:54 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add DavidUK to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply


Hard to chose really, there are many notable people on my coins, Alexander the great, Marcus Aurelius and Hadrian among my favourites but Mark Antony is a big name and that these legionary denarius were used to pay soldiers is somewhat cool to think about.
Edited by DavidUK
11/21/2022 02:58 am
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 Posted 11/21/2022  07:21 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add livingwater to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
All nice examples being posted. Thanks. It's fun learning about history. I also have coins of Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Herod the Great, Pontius Pilate etc. but....

Here's my Claudius asserion with Libertas.

Here's my North Africa Late Roman oil lamp with reverse chi-rho. The maker got it turned around. It has been burned, I assume in a fire, 14.3cm. I have Roman coins with the Christian chi-rho from Constantine I into Byzantine era. The gradual shift from worshiping ancient gods and Caesar to Christianity is interesting, sometimes bloody and cruel.





Edited by livingwater
11/21/2022 07:35 am
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 Posted 11/21/2022  07:35 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add circusmax120 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Ahhh, Numistudent. Tainted, varnished, whitewashed, biased histories. A sad but true reality. History used as a propaganda tool. It has been going on for as long as there was a human history to pass on. My introduction to the eruption of Vesuvius and the ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum was this book.

As a teen, I frequented local used book stores where I found this splendid volume. Large and heavy. Full of information, detailing the excavation of the cities. Hundreds of wonderful photos and illustrations! It was the beginning of a lifelong fascination. ['Pompeii and Herculaneum: The Living Cities of the Dead' by Theodor Kraus, 1973.]
Edited by circusmax120
11/21/2022 07:42 am
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 Posted 11/21/2022  07:37 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add livingwater to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
They have found a good number of coins and jewelry in excavations at Pompeii.
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 Posted 11/21/2022  10:04 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add tdziemia to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Great topic!

My collecting habits have been a springboard for learning about European history in the medieval to early modern eras. I will ponder the topic, but this first one is easy (though it is well past the limit for medievals, by any yardstick...I promise to behave myself and move back a few centuries with the next one).

In 1795 the third partition of Poland occurred, wiping the Polish state off of the map of Europe for the next 123 years. Here is a 6 groszy coin minted in the last year of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth:



Edited by tdziemia
11/21/2022 10:12 am
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 Posted 11/21/2022  7:22 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Sap to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
I only have one in my collection, so that's an easy question. This was in the bargain bin at Dallas Rare Coins many years ago for $5. I like the detail on the coin as well as the reverse image of a Roman Soldier killing a barbarian with the inscription "Return of Good Times" (or so I've been told.)

I don't have a conversion chart handy, so can any expert out there tell me what the value of this coin was in 357 A.D.? Was it a cent, like a dime, or could it have bought me a hot dog at the VII-XI?

Your first question is easy to answer. It does indeed bear that inscription: "FEL TEMP REPARATIO", abbreviated for the Latin "Felicium Temporum Reparatio", or "happy times restored". Or perhaps more colloquially, "happy days are here again".

Your second question is harder to answer. We don't even know what names the ancient Romans gave to these bronze coins; inflation was continuing at a rapid pace as the Roman Empire contracted - in the exact opposite way to what the propaganda message of the reverse of this coin implied was happening - and if anybody had bothered to write down details like the names and face values of these coins, such records have not survived. So it can be difficult to discern what the intended face values of coins from this time period were supposed to be. But the ancients didn't have the modern tendency to produce coins that were literally worthless, like modern US pennies or even dimes; even the smallest ancient coin would have been able to buy you something - a loaf of cheap bread, or enough raw wheat to feed a whole family for a day. So in terms of dollar-equivalent buying power, it's probably best to think of it as somewhere around equivalent to a $1 to $5 coin.

But the economy of the time was becoming de-monetized; in circulation, you'd have found these coins, and you'd have found gold coins, and pretty much nothing in between, as silver had essentially disappeared from circulation; you'd have needed a thousand or so of the copper coins to equate to one gold coin (again, we don't really know the exchange rates for certain). So a lot of basic day-to-day trading had reverted to being done by barter, rather than money.
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
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 Posted 11/21/2022  8:25 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Sap to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
As for the OP's question: it's difficult to say which of my coins is the "most historically significant". But in my mind, "historical significane" relates to the impact of the coins themselves in understanding the history of the coin-issuing culture.

For some cultures, such as ancient Greece and Rome, the coins usually aren't really all that significant, as these civilizations left behind a great many other records, from architectural monuments to preserved written records. Other societies are not so well attested, and the coins themselves provide significant information. I have two examples of such "fringe culture" coinages to name in this thread.

First, we have the Axumite Empire. The most powerful nation in ancient sub-Saharan Africa, and the only one to issue its own coinage. Yet very little is known about the kings of Axum; a list of names has been preserved by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, but this list is mixed with numerous mythical and semi-mythical names and the chronology is just as mixed up. The coins help us tell the difference between man and myth. Here is my one and only Axumite coin, struck in the name of King Ousanas, as he is named in Greek on this coin:


Besides the coins, no monuments or inscriptions naming Ousanas have been found; the coins are the only physical evidence of his existence.

This is apparently the same king that the church records name as "Ella Amida", and was the first king to convert to Christianity; as was the case with Constantine, this personal religious conversion did not see an immediate change in coinage design, as his coins retained the pagan moon-symbol a the top; his successors began to place a cross there instead.

My second "fringe culture" coinage example, I don't have pics of them on file so I will post them later.
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
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 Posted 11/22/2022  01:24 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Sap to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
OK, next up: the Habbarid Emirate of Sind.

One of the last places the Islamic Caliphate expanded into what is now south-eastern Pakistan. This far remote from central control, the governors of SInd went... rogue. IN 854, they proclaimed themselves Emirs and, although still nominally recognizing the Caliph, they ruled as a de-facto independent state. They converted from Sunni Islam to the heretical Ismaili sect, and switched their allegiance to the Fatimid caliph of Egypt.

In 1026, the orthodox Sunni Ghaznavids invaded and conquered Sind, and there was a purge. The Ismailis were wiped out from the region. If any records from the Habbarid Dynasty were ever made (and we can assume such records probably did once exist, as Islamic rulers are normally pretty good at keeping records about themselves), the Ghaznavids did a thorough job of obliterating them. The coins are all we know of their names, making the coins critical for obtaining understanding from this time period in Pakistan's history.

I own two Sind coins, one in the name of a "Mohammed" and one in the name of an "Ali", but exactly who these rulers were, can now only be conjectured about. Our best guess is that "Ali" was "Mohammed"'s son and successor and they ruled in the mid-900s AD, but if there were actually two Habbarid rulers named "Mohammed" or "Ali" then that throws out the entire hypothesized chronology. Anyway, here's my "Mohammed" coin:


And here's my "Ali" coin:


They both have the appearance of "regular" Umayyad or Abbasid dirhams, but they're tiny - less than half the size and weight.
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
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 Posted 11/22/2022  11:52 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add circusmax120 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Yow...livingwater. That is one niiiice Claudius. Sharp!

Looking through my collection, I felt drawn to post this AE24 of Mithradates. One of Rome's greatest opponents.

History: exploring both sides of the proverbial coin, so to speak!
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