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An exceptional gold Aureus of commodity

Commodus is probably best known for his appearance in the 2000 film, Gladiator.  Though quite inaccurate, the film may actually have captured his wild, cruel side quite well.  Commodus has received mixed reviews in history.  He is seen as a mad emperor who indulged in the excitement of the Roman games.  Popular with the masses, but hated by the Senate. The polar opposite of his father, the great Marcus Aurelius, Commodus is known to have appeared in the Colosseum, but rather than just spectating, he would actually get involved in the melee – though he would always win any fight.In his later years, Commodus is thought to have slipped into madness, believing he was the demigod Hercules, and even depicting himself as such in sculpture and coins.  This splendid gold piece, however, shows us a scarce, young portrait of the ruler, struck at the very beginning of his reign. Surviving in extremely fine condition, with much of its original mint lustre in-tact, it is hard to imagine a finer example.  The coin also holds a fantastic provenance which dates back to the 1970s.An exceptional Gold Aureus of commodity

Commodus (177-192) AV Aureus 7.39gm., Rome 178 AD. Laureate, cuirassed and draped  bust right, L AVREL COMMODVS AVG. Rev: Castor, naked except for cloak seen on breast and shoulder, wearing round cap, standing left, in front of horse left, holding it by the bridle in right hand and spear in left,  TR P III IMP II COS P P. (RIC III 648 (Aurelius);   MIR 18, 420-12/37; Calicó 2337B;  BMCRE 774-5 (Aurelius and Commodus);  Biaggi 1014),  Extremely Fine, well struck with considerable amounts of original lustre.             £40,000

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A rare celtic gold starter of the Cantuvellauni Tribe

This delightful Celtic gold stater was issued by the Catuvellauni Tribe around 80 – 50 BC.  Its elaborate design, in keeping with the majority of early British gold coins, is derived from the gold staters struck by Philip II of Macedon over 200 years earlier.  

They were a warring tribe, adding the lands of the nearby Trinovantes to their domain sometime around the turn of the millennium.  

Depicted is a celticised horse, surrounded by pellets.  The horse, (along with the boar and the wolf) was culturally significant in Iron Age society, and appears on a variety of Celtic coins.  This rare issue is unlisted by most Iron Age coin indexes, and only appears in Ancient British Coins.

A rare celtic gold starter of the Cantuvellauni Tribe

 Catuvellauni. AV Stater 6.6gm., c.80-50 BC. Sinuous horse right, small pellet rosette and larger pellets above. Pellet below, triquetra in front. Rev: Wreath motif with cloak and crescents. (ABC 2424; VA – ).  Good Very Fine. Extremely Rare.  £2500

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A striking portrait of christ on a Byzantine Histaminon of Constantine 8

On this example, Christ is portrayed essentially as many would imagine today – bearded and with long, flowing hair.  He is shown raising his right hand in benediction, and holding the Book of Gospels in his left.  Behind him, the Christian Cross stands.

On the obverse of the coin, the emperor Constantine VIII is depicted wearing full and elaborate imperial regalia, and holding a cross-topped labarum.  

A striking portrait of christ on a Byzantine Histaminon of Constantine 8

Constantine VIII (1025-1028)AV Histamenon 4.42gm., Constantinople. Bust of Christ facing, with cross nimbus, holding the book of gospels in left hand and raising right hand in benediction, +IhS XIS REX REGNANTIhM.Rev: Bust of Constantine VIII facing, wearing crown, collar piece and loros, and holding akakia in left hand and cross-topped labarum in his right, +CωnSTAnTIn bASILEuS ROM. (DOC 1; SB 1815).  Good Very Fine.           £1,150 

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Extremely fine gold solidi

Weighing roughly 4.6 grams, the solidus became a popular gold coin, struck en-masse across the empire, at mints from London to Antioch.  The solidus, and its 1/3 denomination, the tremissis, became the standard gold coinages for centuries to come.  The Byzantine Empire used the solidus as its primary gold coin until the 9th century, and the tremissis, popular in the West, became the model for coin series struck by the Merovingians in Gaul, and, eventually, the Saxon Gold Thrymsa or Shilling.  

We have seven solidi and one tremissis from the Late Roman and Byzantine periods, all surviving in at least extremely fine condition, and many with most of their original mint lustre surviving.

 

Constantius II (337-361) AV Solidus 4.6gm., Nicomedia 340-350. Diademed and draped bust of emperor facing right, FL IVL CONSTAN-TIVS PERP AVG. Rev: Helmeted Roma seated to left and Constantinople to right of shield inscribed VOT XX MVLT XXX, Constantinople resting on prow of ship, GLORIA – REI – PVBLICAE, SMNT in exergue. (RIC 33). Extremely Fine, some remaining lustre in protected areas of the field.         £4,100

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Divine intervention celebrated on a gold Aureus of Trajan

  Trajan was present during the disaster, and rushed to the relative safety of the city’s hippodrome, where he waited for several days.  This spectacular issue of AD 114-5, depicts Trajan (left) standing beneath a much larger Jupiter (left) whom holds his arm out, protecting the emperor.  The coin is likely to have been struck to celebrate divine intervention from Jupiter, who kept Trajan safe during the earthquake and tsunami which claimed the lives of so many civilians.

 

Divine Intervention Celebrated on a Gold Aureus of Trajan

 

Trajan (98-117) AV Aureus 7.19gm., Rome 114/115. Laureate, cuirassed and draped bust right, IMP CAES NER TRAIANO OPTIMO AVG GER DAC.  Rev: Jupiter standing left, naked except for cloak draped from shoulders, holding sceptre in left hand, and thunderbolt in right, protecting Trajan, togate, standing to lower left, holding laurel branch in right hand,  P M TR P COS VI P P SPQR.  (RIC 336 var. (bust not cuirassed); Woytek 512f; Strack 229; Calicó 1065; BMCRE 533; BN 814-6 var. (pellets in rev. legend); Biaggi 515).  Extremely Fine, very high relief.                             £28,000

Ex NAC 2016; Ex Raunch 2010

 

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A spectacular Mysian Stater in Electrum

Early Greek coinage, which had its origins on the coast of Asia Minor, had been produced from the alloy electrum, but was abandoned by most city-states when silver became the preferred metal for the majority of coinage. Some city-states did however continue to produce coinage in electrum and the issues of Kyzikos are perhaps the most famous and spectacular of these.

Kyzikos was a rich trading city-state, due to its location between the Aegean and the Black Sea. Its coinage of electrum staters, a clear expression of its wealth, were produced between about 550-350 B.C. The coins always possess an impressive obverse type, the reverses bearing a quadripartite incuse square, and the flans are invariably thick and, at times, exist in a variety of shapes.A spectacular Mysian Stater in Electrum

Mysia, Kyzikos. EL Stater 16.01gm., c.500-450 BC.  Naked male kneeling left, tunny fish in each hand. Rev:  Quatrapartite incuse square. (Von Fritze 70; Baston 1478) Very Fine.       £6,750

 

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Voting in the Roman World

With the UK General Election looming, it’s an excellent opportunity to look back on democracy in history.  It might be a surprise that the Romans embraced a democracy of sorts.  It had restrictions, and only a small fraction of people living under Roman control could actually vote, but during the Roman Republic, citizens of Rome had the opportunity to cast their vote for various administrative positions in government. From 509 BC, with the overthrow of the Roman Kingdom, Rome was ruled as a Republic. But it wasn’t until the 3rd Century BC that the civilisation rose to become dominant power in the Mediterranean. The Senate was made up of the most powerful people in the Roman world, and oversaw military campaigns and political structure. Citizens could vote for officials in up to 44 public offices.  But public voting didn’t offer the people a chance for a true choice. Candidates for office were selected by the Senate, and were voted for by various different assemblies of citizens, stratified by social class. There were two candidates for each governmental position, such as Consuls, Quaestors, Censors and Tribunes, and voting was essentially a first-past-the-post system, one we still embrace in Britain today, during our General Elections. In the early years, candidates were actually banned from speaking or even appearing in public.The Senate claimed that candidates should be voted on the merit of their arguments and policies, rather than through rhetoric, public appearance and personality. Fonteius Capito Silver Denarius A remarkable coin depicts the Roman democratic process in action – possibly as a means of legitimising its ‘success’.  The silver denarius, struck by the moneyer Publius Licinius Nerva in around 113 BC, shows three figures.  The figure, on the left, is picking a ballot paper from the attendant standing in the centre, the man on the right is depositing his ballot into the cista (ballot box).  The detail is such that the ballots themselves are depicted by small pellets.  The coin is a textbook example of how the Roman democratic system was supposed to work.  It is popular with academics and collectors alike. Unlike today, democracy in the Roman Republic was very much controlled by the select few who held seats in the Senate.  They essentially held all of the power, having been born into wealthy patriarchal families.  Most inhabitants of the Roman world were not allowed to vote, including women, slaves, and the lowest ranking Roman citizens.  It was a democracy of sorts, but a very loaded one.  AugustusThe Romans lost what little democracy they had, with the advent of the Roman Empire, and its first emperor, Augustus Caesar (27BC – 14AD). Augustus claimed voting was too rigged by the Senate. His solution? To abolish voting altogether.      

Licinius Nerva detailed

 P. Licinius Nerva
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Coin Moulds – Counterfeiting on an Industrial Scale

New Pound Coin Mint

 

Finally, the brand new £1 coin is in circulation.  Whether you think it’s a twelve-sided, bimetallic monstrosity, or a curious breath of fresh air; it has certainly made an impact in the media and in our wallets.  With everybody talking about the new coin and its unique security features, the history of counterfeiting, particularly in Britain, came to mind.  For as long as there have been coins, there have been counterfeits.  They are a nightmare for the state, which throughout history has sought to punish those responsible for polluting their currency, but they continue to be the scourge of modern money

The earliest coins, struck in modern day Turkey, were minted in precious electrum, a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver.  As soon as they started to circulate, it only took a handful of cunning individuals to realise that if they were to create base-metal copies of the valuable coins, they could coat them in the precious metal, trade them, and end up far better off – as long as the recipient didn’t notice.  While early counterfeits are scarce (likely because the coins were strictly weighed) they show the eagerness of the individual to ‘do over’ their fellow citizen and make a quick buck.

 Attica Silver Tetradrachms

 

As production of coinage exploded across the ancient world, so did counterfeits; most notably imitating the coinages of Attica.  Athenian ‘Owl’ Tetradrachms are perhaps the most famous coins of the ancient world and were some of the most faked.   To counter this, traders would often chop into the coins with a chisel, to check for silver throughout.  As a result, most tetradrachms of Athens suffer from these test cuts (often, heartbreakingly, struck straight through the portrait of Athena), which tend to devalue the coin.

But back to Britain.  Whilst rummaging through stock a few weeks ago, eight unusual objects emerged.  These small, round pieces of clay were imprinted with Roman coins from the 4th Century AD, and were used in the production of counterfeits.  Britain was part of the Roman Empire from AD 43 until around AD 410, and coins flowed to province, making them a prime target for counterfeiting. Iron Age Britons had a habit of faking their own gold ‘staters’, and forging would continue into the Roman period.

During the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, aside from large quantities of imitation copper asses of the emperor Claudius made immediately after the invasion of Britain (which are considered to have been struck for necessity rather than to deceive anyone), counterfeiting seems to have been relatively rare.  By the time of the Severan rulers and the 3rd Century, however, large quantities of coin moulds begin to appear, as well as an increase in counterfeit coins – mainly higher value silver denominations. 

Coin moulds are discs of fired clay, with coins pressed between them.  Once dry, the coins were removed, and when stacked, one on top of the other, formed a row of moulds.  These quick, simple and cheap coin moulds removed the need for time-consuming die-engraving, and allowed multiple coins to be cast at once.  After the molten base metal had cooled, the coins could be removed, dressed, coated in silver and spent, and the moulds perhaps reused.  This method seems to have been effective across the empire, with large quantities of coin moulds found in Switzerland, Rome, and Britain. With a denarius being roughly a day’s wage for a soldier during this period, it certainly made economic sense to counterfeit using such cheap and simple methods.

Denarius Vitellius

Thousands of coin moulds have been discovered in the South-West of England, specifically the Somerset Levels, where large numbers of Severan-dated moulds have been discovered in areas of salt production. Brunning suggests the flatness of the levels would have made the evidence of illegal counterfeiting easy to hide, with potential visitors visible for miles.  The Shapwick Hoard of 9262 Roman silver denarii, discovered in 1998, contained several cast and plated forgeries which are believed to have come from the same moulds found nearby.  Punishments for forgery in the ancient world were strict and this was likely a risky business, but one perhaps overlooked to an extent.  Hundreds of coin moulds have been discovered in the ditch around Roman London, the seat of provincial government, where it is hard to imagine forging being discrete.

By the late 3rd Century, so called ‘barbarous’ coins were common in Britain.  These were often struck using engraved dies and were very crude.  It is thought these were produced, as the Claudian copies were 300 years earlier, as a response to a lack of money in the economy.  Thus, these are not considered ‘counterfeits’ as such.  With such poor craftsmanship, they are unlikely to have fooled anyone, and may actually have helped the economy of Roman Britain flourish in the fourth Century AD, a time when more Roman villas were thrown up than ever before.  Coin moulds, however, did see use in the early decades of the 4th Century, as can be seen by the examples I’ve shown here.

In the present, coin moulds rarely emerge on the market.  This is probably because they are not made of metal, thus rarely found by metal detectorists.  They remain a fascinating insight into forging in the ancient world, and demonstrate just how easily it could be done.

This is merely scratching the surface of faking in Roman Britain.  Along with engraving, transfer dies and metal moulds, clay coin moulds were just another weapon in the ancient counterfeiter’s arsenal.  Today, it is thought that one in thirty £1 coins is counterfeit. Hopefully, the new coin will change this frightening statistic, but the counterfeiters will try their hardest.  The question is, will the cost of forging the new £1 coin, with all its advanced security features, make counterfeiting unprofitable?  We can hope, but only time will tell.

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Introducing our new Managing Director

Baldwin’s are delighted to announce the arrival of their new Managing Director, Neil Paisley. Neil joins from Colin Cooke Coins, where he has worked for more than twenty years, the last ten of which were as Director.After giving him a few weeks to get to know everyone and find his feet, we managed to drag him out of the famous Baldwin’s basement and subject him to a few questions… 

Why Baldwin’s? What attracted you to the position?

Baldwin’s has always had a fantastic reputation and history in the coin world, and it is a name that is known all over the world. Personally, I have always had ambitions to work for a major London Numismatic company, so when I heard of the opportunity I jumped at the chance.Coming from such a strong numismatic background, I was also intrigued by the air of mystery that surrounded Baldwin’s – so many amazing numismatic items acquired through over 150+ years of dealing at the top of the game.

It’s no secret that the company has gone through some significant changes in recent times with a number of key staff moving on – how do you see that affecting the business moving forward?

Yes, it’s true that the company has gone through a lot of changes recently, and it is always sad to see staff moving on, especially when they have been with the company for so many years.There is, however, still a massive potential at Baldwin’s – the reputation and the location are second to none, and whilst the faces might be a little different, the same principles of extraordinary customer service combined with superior numismatic knowledge and experience are enduring. With the set-up here and the team that we have already put in place, I can only envisage the company going from strength to strength.  

What is your specialist area?

My specialism is in all British Milled and Hammered Coins. I also have an extensive knowledge of copper and bronze coinage.

Baldwin’s has a long history dating back to 1872 as a numismatic dealer, and since 1993 has gained a strong reputation for worldwide high-profile numismatic auctions. Will you be focussing on one side of the business or the other?

My personal numismatic experience is in both retail and auctions, so I will definitely be maintaining both aspects, and am very much looking forward to developing these areas into even greater success.

Why did you get into numismatics? What was the appeal for you in the beginning?

I started numismatics initially as a weekend and holiday job whilst at school. The fascination with the historical aspects came almost immediately. Soon after, I discovered a love of day-to-day dealing, and this is something I still feel today.

Triple Unite or Gold Ryal?

Triple Unite for sure. There is, and will always be in my opinion, something extraordinary about the largest denomination to be produced in the hammered era.

Most memorable coin you ever dealt with?

The unique 1952 currency halfcrown. There is always something special about knowing that that thing you are holding in your hand is utterly unique, and that right now you are the only person in the world who is holding one.

I’m looking to sell my coins, and this industry is extremely competitive. Why should I choose Baldwin’s?

One of the key things I have noticed in my short time here is the extremes that the team go to in order to make sure all our customers are happy. Whether that’s a long-term dealer with reams of numismatic knowledge or a first-time collector just starting out on their journey. The team take genuine pride in helping people find what they are looking for.Also, Baldwin’s pay very strong prices for quality items, and our consign to auction packages are amongst the best in the world.

Any advice for those starting to collect?

My advice would be simply to collect the best examples that you can afford – if you get the opportunity to acquire a rarity in your field for the right price then grab it. Too many times I’ve seen collectors dither, miss their chance and then not see another example for many years.

 Will there be an opportunity to meet you in person?

Absolutely – I will be attending all the major UK fairs and many of the International Shows. My attention has already turned to our annual pilgrimage to the New York Coin Convention in January, which I am very much looking forward to. And of course, I would be delighted to meet anyone who wanted to come into Baldwin’s at 399 Strand for a chat and a coffee!

So what’s next for Baldwin’s?

We’ve got some amazing developments coming up in the next few months. We’ll be offering a fantastic Executive Membership program in the very near future, which will give our customers one of the most unique numismatic opportunities to be found anywhere online. We’re also going to be bringing some great new auction platforms, enabling our auction customers to bid directly through our website. So watch this space…! 

Got a question you’d like to ask Neil? Simply fill in the form below. All genuine requests WILL be answered!

 

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Token Congress 2016

The 35th annual Token Congress was held this weekend at the Hilton Hotel in Northampton.

Delegates travelled from all over the world to contribute to a fantastic weekend celebrating all things token. Over 100 token enthusiasts attended this year’s event, engaging in three days of lectures, auctions, dealing, and beer….

Delegates gathering at the start of the three-day event….

 

The lectures were given on some fascinating token-related subjects, such as the Lusitania tokens by Goetz, and a wonderful ressurrection of the old 18th Century Sentimental Magazine and a study of the Regency Medals that were given away by the publication in the 1790’s.

Throughout the weekend, the passion and the dedication of the attendees shines through, especially when you consider the sheer volume of research that the speakers accumulate to engage their audience. Many of the talks were fascinating studies of singular items that uncovered reams of historical facts and figures, with histories traced back to origin and beyond (in some cases right to the other side of the world).

‘To celebrate the end of a life’: not as funereal as you might think, but rather Andrew Wager’s fascinating lecture on the historical significance of engraved coins and love tokens. Other highlights included Gary Oddie’s amazingly comprehensive research into a certain Gilbert Gilpin; and David Young’s study of Dorset Tickets and Passes, taking us on a beautiful tour of 18th Century Dorset (which is never a bad thing in any time period).

 

As well as the series of lectures, there is also a focus on the social side of token collecting. With all delegates obviously sharing a mutual interest, there is never a dull moment around the hotel, as people swap stories, research and plans.

There is also an auction held on the Friday evening, a magnificent gala dinner on the Saturday, and a bourse, where some of the most respected and foremost token specialists from around the globe have tables.

 

Deals, deals and more deals – some of the premier token dealers in the world display their wares….

 

As always, what stands out most from the weekend is the commaraderie of the delegates. Newcomers are welcomed with open arms and brought into a world that might seem at first glance to be extremely niche, but is as intellectually fascinating as any area of numismatics.

And this year, Baldwin’s were proud to sponsor the beer, which turned out to be a little bit too much for one delegate in particular…..

!!!!!

All token enthusiasts are welcome, and if you’re interested in attending next years event, to be held at the Hilton Hotel in Warwick 6th-8th October 2017. you can get more information on the Token Corresponding Society’s website: http://thetokensociety.org.uk/

Or you can email the organiser directly – contact Dave Smith on daveksmith@blueyonder.co.uk