Tuesday, March 31, 2009

cgb.fr Monnaies 38 catalog up

The cgb.fr auction catalog Monnaies 38 is up. 1705 lots, including this unique stater from Phaphos, ex Santa Barbara Museum Collection.

Monday, March 30, 2009

LHS auction 103 catalog up

The catalog for LHS auction 103 is up. 145 Greek Lots, 99 Roman, 6 Celtic.

A highlight, for me, is lot 96, a rare gorgon stater from Melos. Most Greek coins with gorgoneions are small but this weights over 14 grams. Unfortunately, the estimate of CHF10000 means I'm out of the running this time around.

Friday, March 27, 2009


Many of the coins in my collection are very small. Here is the obverse of a gorgon/helmet fraction. I cannot find my scan of the reverse (and of course the coin is in the safety deposit box.)

The coin is 6.5mm in diameter and weighs 0.22g. The reverse type can be seen on this example on CoinArchives. Although LHS attributed the coin to Maroneia an example from M&M appears to have the letters O-Π in the corners suggesting NEOΠ or Neapolis.

Collectors of ancients often praise the engraving skills of the ancients but look how small the statue of Lincoln in the memorial is! (It was mechanically reduced, of course.)

Thursday, March 26, 2009


I love the expression on this gorgon's face. I bought this obol in 2001 from Lanz's auction of Mr. BCD's Corinth collection. I'm very happy that my example of this coin comes from my favorite die of the type. It's a tiny coin; just 10mm across.

My version is a later example. I'm guessing it was made between 400 BC and the Macedonian occupation of 338 BC.

The earlier coinage featured a stern gorgon in an incuse square with the letters TRIH, for trihemiobol, in the corners. Although E. M. Cousinery attributed an example of this coin to Corinth in 1825 a paper by H. P. Borrell in the Numismatic Chronicle of 1840 argued for Tiridia in Thrace, a city with no known coinage, based on Borrell's misunderstanding of the inscription.

The same type was struck by Anaktorion, Leukas, and Medeon in Akarnania. The attribution to Medeon isn't secure; the M could be for Metropolis, Mesma, or it could be a Σ on it's side. It would be nice to assemble a set of these by mints but I probably won't live long enough. Coins of Medeon are rare! A note in the BCD auction (Akarnanien, October 2007) for a stater of Medeon says it is the only silver coin from that city to appear on the market during the last 40 years.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Make your own coins

You can own Nevada Coin Minting for $950,000 (or the best offer over $250,000). For your money you get to run tokens.com, usmint.net, a 360 ton coining press, over a million blanks, a coin conveyer belt, furnaces, pantographes, coin washing and drying machines, a centrifugal casting machine, and two US patents on coin colorization.

(The offer is from late 2007 I don't know if it is still good.)

You also get a Gaming Control Board approved portable destruction machine. “In the past old tokens were thrown into cement, Lake Mead, or taken to scrap yards to be destroyed, which caused unnecessary expenditures of time and money to ensure that security was properly maintained. With the machinery that was developed by NCM we can destroy approximately 900 coins a minute per machine in the casino’s cage...”


Alfredo asked to see some favorites from my collection. This coin is a large-ish and heavy (21mm; 10.7g) bronze of Parion. It's similar in style to the common gorgon/cow hemidrachms.

I was the underbidder in the Dr. Busso Peus Nachfolger auction, October 2003. After I lost I regretted it and felt I should have bid higher. So I was very excited to see this coin turn up again in Ed Waddell's trays at the New York show a few months later for not much more the high bid plus juice. I have been able to trace this coin back to a Bankhaus H. Aufhaeuser auction in October 1988.

Parion struck bronze gorgons with several reverse types. The only one that shows up with any frequency is the eagle. The cow type appears in three sizes. The large size shown here has the most primitive appearance and is probably the earliest. The middle size lacks the protruding tongue and the gorgon seems more human. I recall von Aulock describing the type middle type as depicting Athena, but on the best specimens like this CNG example there are faint snake-ties below the chin. The smallest size gorgon/cow is quite rare — I only know of the specimen in the BM catalog.

So when was it struck? I don't trust published dates for bronzes of Parion. Warwick Wroth divided the BM's Parion pieces into '350-300 or later' and 'Circ. 200 - Augustus' categories. Putting "or later" into a date range is a bit weaselly. And what did the good citizens used from 300 to 200 BC? Parion's neighbors were striking bronze as early as 440 BC (Pergamon) and 400 BC (Kyzikos). My best guess is that both this coin and the hemidrachms date no earlier than 360 BC when Parion was conquered by Iphiades of Abydos.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


On a recent suggestion thread Kevin expressed an interested in my collection.

I am collecting ancient coins depicting gorgons. I hope to write a book about them someday. (I have extensive notes towards that end.) If anyone has a coin with a gorgon they can't identify send it my way for a free ID or a chance to be in a book. Dealer inquiries encouraged.

Recently I purchased a tiny fraction on eBay. 0.21g, 7mm, and thin. I'm not sure what it is. The seller attributed it as Selge so I'm assuming he thinks it came from southern Turkey.

My hunch is that it matches a unique (or formerly unique) fraction published in SNG Levante and attributed by Edoardo Levante to Kelenderis. That piece weighs only half as much and may lack the beaded border so I am not certain. Selge and Kelenderis are fairly close geographically.

Perhaps the coin is merely blank due to heavy wear? Last year I bought a coin that appeared to have a strange blank reverse from a VCoins dealer but it turned out to just be a damaged image of Athena on a non-rare coin usually attributed to "Selge or Aspendos".

If Levante knew the provenance of his coin he didn't say. A blank side is unusual in Greek coins. Nearby Selge has a lion/blank type (very rare; in the Paris collection). There are also gorgon fractions and a unique stater attributed to Selge but the attributions are somewhat dubious. As far as I can tell the common attribution of numerous gorgon types to Selge rests upon a coin in the BM with inscription "ΣΤ" in the Pisidian language and some coffins Waddington saw in the 1850s. I don't know what a "Τ" is doing in the name Selge but then I don't speak Pisidian!

Cities proposed for the gorgon/Athena fractions are Aspendos (by George Hill), Selge (by Waddington), Etenna (by Imhoof-Blumer), and Side (by Imhoof-Blumer).

Monday, March 23, 2009

Argentine professor faces prison time for posting unofficial translations of out of print Derrida texts

A philosophy professor at Universidad Nacional de Lanús in Argentina faces possible jail time for posting translations of out of print books.
Most of these texts were out of print, or had never been translated. Now a publisher is bringing a few of these books into Argentina, and they're trying to get this prof imprisoned for supporting Derrida while he was unavailable.
(via bOING bOING, which links to Spanish-language story.)

American law probably isn't so strict, but the ethical issues are similar. What should be the penalty for translating out-of-print technical books?

R. Goldsborough recently posted on this subject to the e-Sylum. He queried five lawyers, 40% of whom said Tsvi Rogin's proposed translation of Problemeder frühen Elektronprägung could be illegal. Reid concluded that the legality of unauthorized uncommercial translations haven't been tested by the courts and violate no laws until the courts decide the matter.

I would be unwilling to be the test case! I figure if 40% of lawyers think something is illegal I'm likely to get a judge who agrees. I'm certain Goldsborough is wrong but it's similar to the old saw about foul balls and umpires. Does the umpire call the ball because it's foul, or does the umpire calling the ball make it foul? If calling a ball makes it foul then Reid is right and I am wrong.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Journal of Ancient Numismatics 3

Volume 3 of Alfredo de la Fe's Journal of Ancient Numismatics is online, with contributions by David Vagi, Curtis Clay, Georges Depeyrot and others.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Rare Greek portrait coins: Thraso

The Wikipedia entry for the Indo-Greek king Thraso describes his coinage:
... in a style similar to those of Menander I, has the same type of Athena, and shares one of Menander's mint marks. On the coin, the title of Thraso is "Basileus Megas" ("Great King"), a title which only Eucratides the Great had dared take before him and which is seemingly misplaced on the young boy Thraso ...
The Thraso coin has never been photographed. Wikipedia cites R. C. Senior, Decline of the Indo-Greeks (1998) and says "The coin belonged to a secretive coin-collector, who did not allow Senior to photograph it, and it remains unpublished."

Not only is the coin unpublished, it may represent a portrait of Thraso whose appearance is otherwise unknown. The bronze coinage of Menander is described as having Athena's head on the obverse. This description comes from James Prinsep (“New Types of Bactrian and Indo-Scythic Coins, Engraved as Pl. XXXII”, Essays on Indian antiquities vol. 1 (1858), p. 399). Prinsep named the obverse bust as “Athena” and this has stuck although the features greatly resemble those of Menander himself!

Not to scale. The coin on the left depicts “Athena”, the right Menander. That Athena sure looks a lot like the first Greek Buddhist king.

(Images used without permission, but are from cngcoins.com, the the tetradrachm is available in CNG's web store.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Why so quiet lately?

A Gift for Polydektes uses sitemeter.com to track readers. I get about 30-35 visitors a day. It provides a free cute map telling where readers are from and what link they clicked to visit.

The last forty visitors breaks down like this: 13 from unknown (bookmarks&bots), 19 from Google searches (mostly related to the topics I discuss!), 3 from Yahoo search, 2 from links on my web site and two from other blogs (moneta-l-bloggers and A Survey of Ancient Coins).

So I'm getting readers -- that's great. I was hoping this medium would be more interactive and I'm slightly concerned that no one has commented on my last 14 posts. I was wondering what kind of posts would get more reader interaction? The only person who responds regularly is Wayne Homren, who responds through his own popular meta-blog the e-Sylum.

Reader survey: What kind of posts would you be willing to respond to? Book/site reviews? Dealer interviews? Digitization and computer stuff? Fakes? Other? Guest co-bloggers? How about 'open threads' where you can post your own questions or promote your own web site?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Texture analysis of ancient coins with TOF neutron diffraction

Frank Kovacs contributed to a paper, “Texture analysis of ancient coins with TOF neutron diffraction” (along with Yanxia Xie, L. Lutterotti and H. R. Wenk) for the Journal of Materials Science (2004).

The scientists compare a Black Sea Hoard coin, usually called fake, from Mesembria with a genuine example. The paper calls them hemiobols but they look like diobols.
... neither with phase proportions nor texture patterns can we distinguish between the two coins. The observed texture is consistent with ancient practice to produce coins by striking between two dies..... Therefore, no conclusions can be drawn about the authenticity of the coins....
(via the Science & Coins page on the Robert Matthews Coin Authentication site.)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Nomos AG auction 1

The catalog for the upcoming (May 6th) Nomos auction 1 is up at SixBid.com.

Nomos AG is the re-established coin company directed by Alan Walker (formerly of Leu/LHS).

The catalog features 132 amazing Greek coins including two Akragas tetradrachms and a Naxos tetradrachm. (Actualy 135 coins — lot 6 is a hoard of four coins found in a river inside a small bronze box.) The picture above is a rare Tenedos didrachm. There are also Roman coins, including many gold lots.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What does $1 trillion dollars look like?

Someone on PageTutor.com has created cartoons of what various piles of money look like, including $1,000,000,000,000 (one of the stimulus amounts).

Apparently Google SketchUp was used to make the images.

(via bOING bOING)

Incredibly Strange Appraisal Mathematics

News-Antique.com reports on the Tamoikins, who have Solved the Last Unregulated Marked of Art, Antiquity, and Collectables!

A 107 page PDF by Dmitriy and Mikhail Tamoikin (of the Tamoikin Family Museum apparently of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada) explains the solution.
With Method TES any trained customs officer can make an independent appraisal of any item. If the owner already has a TES appraisal the officer can check its legitimacy and personally audit the entire process. Complete Item Information Document stores all known information about the item in a user friendly format allowing any person without training fully understand what is written in the document and how relevant that information is. Secure Item Identification System (SIIS) provides a unique identity to an item so that even identical copies are easily told apart and the issue of authenticity becomes no longer a problem. Finally all information is registered in what will become a Unified National Database giving policing agencies an incredible tool against art crime.


Tamoikins Knowledge Institute totally solved the problem of lending money for art, antiquity and collectibles opening to the banks and wide public a completely new money lending sector! How? By providing the banking industry everything it needs to safely lend money to everyone regardless of their social status. If a person is of adult age and has no problems acquiring a credit card, he or she can use personally owned art, antiquity and collectibles as collateral to borrow money!
There is also a Russian Patent, filed in 2005, Method for Evaluating Collectibles and Device for Carrying out Said Method.

The Untold Story of the World's Biggest Diamond Heist

Joshua Davis reports for Wired on The Untold Story of the World's Biggest Diamond Heist.
In 2000, Notarbartolo rented a small office in the Diamond Center, one of the area's largest buildings. He presented himself as a gem importer based in Turin, Italy, and scheduled meetings with numerous dealers. He bought small stones, paid cash, dressed well, and cheerfully mangled the French language. The dealers probably never knew that they had just welcomed one of the world's best jewel thieves into their circle.


Notarbartolo was buzzed into the vault the next day, Friday, February 14—the day before the robbery. He was alone. In his jacket pocket, he carried a can of women's hair spray. ... It was a simple but effective hack: The oily film would temporarily insulate the sensor from fluctuations in the room's temperature, and the alarm went off only if it sensed both heat and motion.


The murky nature of the diamond trade makes it difficult to get clear answers. For instance, detective De Bruycker says that three-quarters of the business is done under the table. According to Denice Oliver, the adjuster who investigated the robbery for insurers, there were roughly $25 million in claims, all documented by legitimate invoices. As a result, De Bruycker calculated that at least another $75 million in goods was stolen, bringing the total value of the heist to about $100 million.
Leonardo Notarbartolo was just released from a Belgian prison.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

negative shadow

A recent post on the e-Sylum by Dick Johnson gives a name, negative shadow, to a kind of toning seen on struck silver coins where the devices and inscriptions a projected in toning onto the field.

This effect reminds me greatly of an effect on Roman coins discussed on Moneta-L back in 2004.

(The Roman coin image is from Warren Esty's page).

The most detailed explanation on Moneta-L came from a post by Robert Kokotailo of Calgary coin. I wonder if this is the same effect?

I'm glad to have a name for it! (If it is the same phenomenon.) The name most popular on Moneta-L was 'ghosting', which is also a technical term in numismatics for clashed die errors that leave a 'ghost' of the type on one side upon the other.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Gold/coin tour at New York Fed

John Horn describes the gold, numismatic, and counterfeit exhibits at the New York Fed for the travel section of The Providence Journal.

I also recommend this tour. Book in advance to see the gold. You don't need to book in advance to see the ANS coin exhibit or the counterfeit exhibit.