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Ancient Coin in the Mediterranean World Print E-mail

ANCIENT COINAGE
OF THE MEDITERRANEAN WORLD

Written by John E Ryan, Philadelphia, PA. for ACE


Foreword

Here is an outline I have used for various ACE presentations I have done in the Philadelphia area. I commonly have distributed copies of the outline to the students, which gives them the information to read on their own, so it is not necessary to cover all of it in the presentation.

A couple of thoughts on presentations:

1. Bring coins to pass around for the students to handle. That for me has been a highlight of the presentations.

2. Even Latin students tend to have a sparse knowledge of Roman History. Do not assume that they know all the Emperors, provinces, or even major events. Phrases such as "during the Severan period", "just after Actium", or "minted at Antioch" are likely to draw a blank without full explanation.

3. It is most unlikely that anyone to whom you present - even the teacher - knows anything about ancient coins. For many, the coins they see and receive through the ACE program will be the first they have seen. They will appreciate seeing other cleaned and more diverse coins from your own collection.

I. INTRODUCTION

The coinage of the ancient Mediterranean world is especially interesting for its variety, artistic merit, and the many religious, political, cultural and historic themes it depicts. Perhaps more than other coinages through history, the coins of the ancient Mediterranean are a vital source of historic information for these times.

II . WHAT IS A COIN?

a. A coin is a metallic object bearing a standard mark of value, legend, or design for its denomination, which is issued by a governmental authority to circulate as money.

b. Has to be issued by a governmental authority. So-called coins issued by private persons or entities (such as businesses) are called tokens.

III. CLASSIFICATIONS OF COINS

a. Specie/bullion. Coin circulates at or near the value of the metal it contains. Normally specie coins were made of precious metal, but there were some coinages which were based on the intrinsic value of a base metal such as copper. The metal of a coin may be alloyed with base metal without depriving the coin of its status as specie, so long as the coin is not issued with the purpose of deceiving the public as to its precious metal content, and as long as the coin is not tariffed at a value in excess of the precious metal it does contain. An example are the Roman Imperial Tetradrachms of Antioch, which circulated at three Denarii worth of silver, but which were made of less pure silver (78% during the reign of Augustus, as opposed to over 90% for the Augustan Denarius) in order that the coin could be struck on larger planchets which were customary in the area.

b. Token. Coin is openly issued at a value significantly in excess of the metal it contains, and is accepted as such on general confidence in the credit of the issuing government. All modern U.S. coinage is token coinage, as were most ancient coinages in copper or other base metals.

c. Debased. A coin which is issued as a specie coin, but contains less precious metal the its purported bullion value. An attempt by the government to mislead the public, which historically never is successful over the long run. Several methods of debasement were used in ancient times.

1. Tariff a coin at a higher multiple of a lower specie denomination than the amount of precious metal contained in the new coin. An example is the third century AD Roman antoninianus, a silver coin which was valued at two silver denarii, but in fact contained the silver of only one and one-half denarii.

2. Reduce the weight of a specie coin while tariffing the coin at the specie value which the coin held prior to the reduction in weight.

3. Adulterate the precious metal content of the coin with base metal.

4. Strike coins on planchets composed of a base metal core and an outer layer of precious metal. Such a coin is called a fouree.

5. Issue coins on extremely debased planchets (or even base metal planchets) with a precious metal "wash".

6. NOTE: It was common for governments issuing debased coinage to pay their current expenses in debased coins while trying to collect tax payments in earlier, non-debased (or less debased) coins.

7. NOTE: The Roman Imperial coinage suffered a prolonged period of repeated debasements from the late second century AD through the middle of the fourth century AD. Full restablization of the gold and silver coinage was not achieved until circa 350 AD, and the token bronze coinage was not fully resurrected until Byzantine times. The undermining and repeated collapse of the coinage through debasement had catastrophic economic effects on the Roman world, and contributed significantly to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century AD.

d. Counterstamped Coinage. Coins in the ancient world often circulated for generations or even centuries. Often worn coins were impressed with small, stamped inscriptions or designs by a governmental authority and then returned to circulation. The counterstamp authorized continued use of the coin as circulating money. Many times the counterstamp came from a different government than the original issuer of the coin.

e. Counterfeit Coinage. These include issues which were traditional counterfeit coinage, often fouree or otherwise adulterated copies of current specie coinage. Persons manufacturing such coinage were punished as criminals if caught. Alongside such issues, however, were many counterfeit coins which were issued locally to address coinage shortages - without authorization, but with the likely acquiescence of the authorities. Examples include the local copper coins of Claudius (41-54 AD) issued in Britain, Spain and the Balkans, the "barbarous radiates" of the later third century AD, and the imitations of fourth century coinage issued in many areas of the Roman Empire during the fifth century AD.

IV. METHODS OF MAKING COINS

a. Casting. Certain coin issues were made by pouring (casting) molten metal into a prepared mold, often of clay or stone. A number of counterfeit coins also were cast from clay molds taken from genuine coins.

b. Striking. This method, which produces a clearer design than casting, was the most common method of coin manufacture. Designs of the obverse and reverse of the coin were engraved on iron dies - either mounted as a "tong" arrangement for placement on an anvil, or as one design engraved directly into the surface of an anvil with the other engraved at the base of a large iron dowel. The coin blanks (planchets) were heated until the metal was soft, and then were inserted between the dies. The dies then were hit sharply with a heavy hammer to impress the designs in the coins. Coins manufactured by this method also are known as "hammered coins". During the 17th and 18th centuries, the use of hammered dies to manufacture coins was replaced by dies mounted in machine presses.

V. METALS USED IN ANCIENT COINAGES

a. Gold.

b. Electrum - an alloy of gold and silver, occurs naturally in Anatolia.

c. Silver.

d. Billon - a silver alloy containing a low percentage of silver and a high percentage of copper. Used extensively by the Romans circa 250-350 AD, often in conjunction with an exterior "silver wash".

e. Brass (Orichalcum) - an alloy of copper and zinc.

f. Bronze - an alloy of copper and tin.

g. Copper.

VI. HISTORICAL PERIODS OF ANCIENT MEDITERRANEAN COINAGE.

a. Hallmarked "Slugs". First coinage in the Mediterranean World, appearing in Anatolia around 700 BC. Crude, often oblong planchets, with simple designs or marks - just enough to provide an official stamp of to show the coin was issued by a governmental authority.

b. Hellenic/Hellenistic Period, circa 500 BC- 27 BC. Coinage characterized by meticulously crafted coins, often of the highest artistic merit, which normally utilized the same design over long periods of time. Such coins were pioneered by the Greeks, but also were used by other peoples such as the Phonecians, Carthaginians, Iberians and Romans. Coins could be recognized far from home by their distinctive symbols, such as the Athenian owl, the Corinthian Pegasus, and the Carthaginian head of Tanit. These attractive and distinctive coins served to advertise the name and reputation of the issuing state in international trade.

Some states copied the designs of more established coinages so that their coins could ride on the coattails of existing reputations in international trade. Thus, a number of peoples in Arabia and the eastern Mediterranean (including the Jews under Persian vassalage) copied the coin designs of Athens, while a number of cities originally founded as colonies of Corinth copied the coin designs of the mother city.

In the three centuries following the reign of Alexander the Great, extensive regal coinages of the various Greek successor monarchs become commonplace. Portraiture varies from highly idealized to realistic, and alongside of issues of living monarchs are posthumous issues of monarchs long dead. This was particularly true of the coinage of Alexander the Great, which continued to be issued by various states and rulers as late as the first century BC.

c. Pax Romana, 27 BC - 250 AD. With the exception of Parthia, which continued to issue a Hellenistic-style regal coinage, all significant areas of the Classical World were under Roman rule or influence by the reign of Augustus Caesar. Beginning in the late Republic, and expanding dramatically in early Imperial times, the coinage shifts from long-term designs to constantly changing designs of short duration. With the Classical World pretty much under one (Roman) roof, the coinage became a vehicle for Imperial propaganda. Three prominent objectives of this constantly changing coinage were:

1. Bringing the Emperor and His Family to the People. In the early Imperial period, the concept of an absolute monarch was anathema to the Romans. The Emperor was viewed as simply the "first citizen" (princeps), and justified his authority through holding simultaneously a number of the political offices of the old Republic. Thus, the Emperors proclaimed on their coins the various offices and titles they held, such as Consul, Imperator, Censor, holder of the Tribunican Power, and Pontifex Maximus. Honorary names and titles such as Caesar, Augustus, Germanicus (victor over the Germans), Britannicus (victor over the Britons), Parthicus (victor over the Parthians) Pius ( faithful to the memory of a preceding Emperor) also appear on the coins. Beautifully executed and highly (sometimes even brutally) realistic portraits of the imperial family on the coins brought their faces to every corner of the Empire.

2. The Imperial Propaganda Machine. The Romans did not have printing presses or newspapers, so in this period they used the coinage to bring to the people a wide host of news, commemorations, religious instruction, and other messages or propaganda being pushed by the Imperial authorities. This was particularly true of the large bronze denominations, which often were issued in dozens of different designs by the same mint in the same year. Had the Emperor beat the Germans again? Conquered a new province? Built a new temple? Re-dredged the port of Ostia? Reduced taxes? Traveled around the Empire? Designated the man who would succeed him to the Throne? All of these, and many more, could be commemorated on the coinage. And if the Imperial authorities wanted to exalt a particular god, or to tout a virtue such as justice or clemency (particularly if that virtue was to be attributed to the Emperor), that could go on the coins as well.

3. The Emperor's Final "Report Card". Emperors who were well-regarded were deified by the Senate following their deaths, with an accompanying coinage issue to commemorate this fact. The better the Emperor, the more extensive his commemorative coinage. Conversely, Emperors were denied deification and a posthumous coinage, and a really bad Emperor like Caligula could receive the "damnatio memoriae", or declaration of cursed memory. In such event, the Emperor's statues would be destroyed after his death, and even his coinage defaced.

c. The Late Roman Period, 250 - 498 AD. During the mid third century AD, the Roman Empire almost collapsed in a series of political, economic and military crises. A key problem was the increasing propensity of the soldiers to overthrow and murder the reigning Emperor. By the end of the century order had been somewhat restored, but now the Emperors were almost entirely military men, who often had risen through the ranks of the Army from the humblest beginnings. They were used to giving orders, and had no time for civilian sensitivities against despotic rulers. Indeed, the military emperors believed that the more the Emperor was perceived as holding an august position of divine right above the people (as opposed to being a first citizen), the less likely it would be that someone would try to assassinate him. Very quickly the old realistic portraiture is replaced by highly stylized, austere, stern portraits which often are little more than stick figures. The variety of designs on the coinage also decreases, with military themes dominating the smaller variety of coin designs which were issued. Following the baptism of Constantine I in 337 AD, Christian symbols begin to appear on the coins to commemorate the new state religion.

VII. DENOMINATIONS OF ROMAN IMPERIAL COINAGE

a. Early Imperial Coinage, 27 BC - 250 AD. The coinage of this period is divided into the regular, Roman denominations, and a host of local provincial coinages. The Roman denominations usually were minted at Rome, although Lugdunum (Lyons) in Gaul was used extensively in the Julio-Claudian period, and the regular issues on occasion were issued from other large cities such as Antioch, particularly if the Emperor was in residence. An exception is the Cistophorus, which was minted exclusively in western Anatolia.

1. Regular Roman Denominations. The regular Roman coinage was issued in the following principal denominations:

Gold Aureus (25 silver Denarii);

Gold Quinarius (1/2 of an Aureus;

Silver Cistophorus (3 Denarii);

Silver Denarius (the central denomination of the Roman Coinage);

Silver Quinarius (1/2 of a Denarius);

Brass (orichalcum) Sestertius (1/4 of a Denarius);

Brass (orichalcum) dupondius (1/8 of a Denarius);

Copper As (1/16 of a Denarius);

Brass (orichalcum) Semis (1/2 of an As); and

Copper Quadrans (1/4 of an As).

2. Debasement of the Silver Coinage. The purity of the silver coinage gradually was debased starting with the reign of Nero (54-68 AD), but remained at a purity of roughly 80% on the accession of Commodus in 180 AD. Thereafter debasements became more pronounced, so that within 30 years the denarius contained no more than 45-50% of silver. The Emperor Caracalla further debased the silver coinage circa 212 AD through the introduction of the antoninianus, which contained only 1 and ½ times the metal content of the denarius, but which was tariffed as the equivalent of two denarii. By the early 240s, the antoninianus had replaced the denarius as the standard Roman silver coin, with the denarius rarely being issued thereafter.

3. Roman Provincial Issues. The Romans permitted the issuance of an extensive series of local issues, particularly in the eastern provinces. These primarily were bronze coinages, although silver was issued at major cities such as Caesarea in Cappadocia and Antioch in Syria (normally on the standard of the old Greek silver Drachm). Most provincial coinages bore the portrait of the reigning Emperor, although some autonomous civic issues were permitted which did not employ Imperial portraits. In the early part of this period the Roman authorities even permitted the continuance of earlier coinages as a convenience to the local economy - examples of these coinages are the reissues of late Seleukid coinage at Antioch until well into the reign of Augustus, and the continuation of the Shekels of Tyre series at mints in Judaea. While there were local issues using Latin inscriptions, and even copying Latin denominations, most of the provincial series used Greek inscriptions, the dominant language of the eastern provinces.

b. Third Century Collapse of the Coinage. The silver coinage continued to debased until by the early 260s AD, the antoninianus had been reduced to a diminutive, often crude billon or copper coin with a silver wash. Once the antoninianus essentially had been reduced to a base metal coin, production of the standard bronze denominations all but ceased, as did the minting of most of the provincial issues. The Emperor Aurelian (270-275 AD) restored the antoninianus to a size similar to the original coin, but only increased its silver content to about 5%. The technique of applying the silver wash seems to have improved, as antoniniani issued over the generation following Aurelian's reform more frequently retain traces of their silvering.

c. Reforms of Diocletian and the House of Constantine. The Emperor Diocletian (284 - 305 AD), in a series of reforms, scrapped the remnants of the old Imperial coinage in favor of a new coinage based on a lighter weight Aureus, a new silver coin approximating the Denarius of Nero in fineness and weight (probably called the Argenteus), and a large, silver-washed billon coin which most numistmatists today refer to as the Follis. The last provincial issues were abolished, and the new, standard Imperial denominations now were issued at mints throughout the Empire. A new system of mintmarks - relatively easy to understand even today, identified the coins as to their city of issue.

Unfortunately, the cycle of debasements soon resumed, with the Argenteus being discontinued, and the Follis rapidly declining in weight and silver content. Over the next century, the billon and bronze issues are so confusing that nobody knows where most of them stood in relation to the gold and silver coinage. In the 350s, the Roman Mint finally gave up trying to silver-wash its low value coins, and simply issued bronze coins without the pretense of disguising them as silver. The bronze coins themselves declined in size, until by the early fifth century, only tiny (circa 15 millimeter diameter) bronze coins remained in regular issue. In the absence of real knowledge about late Roman bronze denominations, these coins are classified by size as AE1, AE2, AE3 and AE4, with AE1 coins being the largest.

In contrast to the final decline of the Roman bronze coinage, a viable gold and silver specie coinage was reestablished in the fourth century. The starting point was the introduction by Constantine I (307-337 AD) of a new gold coin, the Solidus, which consistently was issued at 4.4 grams of pure gold, continuing as such into the Byzantine period down to the eleventh century. By the end of the fourth century the gold fractions of the Solidus (Semisis and Tremisis - respectively ½ and 1/3 of a Solidus) were in existence. Constantine also resumed the issue of high purity silver coinage, initially coined at a confusing array of weights, but settling down by the end of the fourth century to two standard-weight denominations - the Milliarense (1/12 of a Solidus - 4.4 grams), and the Siliqua (1/24 of a Solidus - 2.2 grams).

d. Reform of Anastasius I (491-518 AD). From the late third century AD, it became increasingly common to divide the administration of the Roman Empire among two or more Emperors. After Constantine I founded Constantinople, the most common division was an eastern portion consisting of those provinces roughly east of a line from Belgrade, Serbia to Benghazi in Libya, and a western portion consisting of the remaining provinces. On the death of Theodosius I in 395 AD, the last man to rule the entire Roman Empire, the Empire was divided between his two sons, a division that proved to be permanent. Over the next century the western half of the Empire succumbed to invasion by Germanic tribes. The eastern division, however, survived, and was not finally extinguished until the Turks conquered its capital, Constantinople, on May 29, 1453.

The eastern portion of the Roman Empire which survived the invasions of the fifth century is known to modern historians as the Byzantine Empire, after the Greek city of Byzantium, which Constantine I refounded as Constantinople. The term "Byzantine" is a misnomer, as the so-called Byzantine Empire, with full justification, considered itself to be the Roman Empire, and her citizens considered themselves to be Romans. Nevertheless, the Eastern Roman coinage soon developed into forms very different from anything issued in Classical times.

The cut-off between the coinage of ancient Rome and the later coinage of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire normally is assigned to the reign of Anastasius I, who circa 498 AD reintroduced large bronze coins which, for the first time in the Roman Imperial series, were stamped with a numeric mark of value. The value was a multiple of the tiny bronze AE4 "nummus" coins which had circulated over the past century, and was designated as a Greek numeral. Thus, "M" equaled 40 nummi, "K" equaled 20 nummi, "I" equaled 10 nummi, and "E' equaled 5 nummi. Since at some point one has to divide ancient coinage from medieval Byzantine coinage, and since the use of a value mark was a highly novel innovation in the Roman Imperial series, the reform of Anastasius is generally accepted as the dividing line between the Roman and the Byzantine coinages.

VIII. METHODS OF PREPARING UNCLEANED ANCIENT COINS

a. General Principals Applicable To All Coin Preparation.

1. Time and Patience. These are the two most important techniques for cleaning ancient coins. The best way to destroy coins is to rush the process and take unnecessary risks. It is not uncommon for a coin to require several hours of careful work to clean it properly.2. Ascertain the Metal of the Coin. Figure out the metal of the coin before proceeding, as the metal of the coin will determine the correct cleaning methods to employ.

3. Be Willing to Shift Gears. If a particular method is not working well and indeed seems to risk injuring the coin, stop it immediately and try something else. Even for coins of the same metal, different methods work for different coins.

4. It Is Better to Underclean than Overclean. Too much cleaning can hurt the patina of the coin, cause scratches or marks, and generally make the coin less desirable. Also, many coins are improved in appearance by leaving deposits in the recesses to accentuate the design of the coin. Know when to stop.

5. When in Doubt, Punt. If you are not sure how to clean a particular coin, put it aside until you have a reasonably viable game plan for cleaning it. The coin has sat in the ground for centuries; it can wait a few more months until you have gained more cleaning expertise.

b. Cleaning by Soaking. Many coins can be cleaned by soaking them in distilled water for a few days, with regular changes of the water, and then brushing them with a toothbrush. Distilled water has no dissolved ions or minerals, so it gently dissolves such materials from the deposits encrusting your coin, thereby loosening and even removing these deposits. Another method is to soak coins in olive oil for a few days, and then scrub away the oil (and hopefully the deposits) with a toothbrush, distilled water and non-detergent Ivory dishwashing soap. Both of these methods can be repeated until the coin is cleaned to satisfaction. There are a number of hard or difficult deposits, however, that will not respond well to these treatments.

c. Mechanical (Hand) Cleaning. There are many methods of hand-cleaning coins with various tools, which methods often can be used in conjunction with the soaking methods. These include:

1. Toothbrushes. Gentle brushing with a toothbrush often will go a long way toward cleaning a coin.

2. Wood and Plastic Tools. Toothpicks, plastic picnic knives cut with scissors into scraping surfaces or sharp points, and similar tools of wood or plastic can be used in many instances to scrape deposits from coins. Such tools, being softer than the coin itself, pose a minimal risk of scratching or injuring the coin. SAFETY GLASSES ARE A MUST WHEN USING THIS METHOD, TO AVOID HAVING MATERIAL FLICKED INTO THE EYE.

3. Art-Gum (Soft) Erasers. On occasion, rubbing areas of the coin with an Art-Gum eraser can safely remove trace deposits, but be careful, as too much rubbing can damage the coin's patina.

4. Masking Tape. Placing a piece of masking tape over the surface of a coin, rubbing the tape against the surface with a ballpoint pen, and then pulling the tape away often will remove deposits. This technique can work "too well", however, by exposing pits and surface imperfections when the deposits are pulled away.

5. Brass Cleaning Tools. This technique, which is by far the single most useful method I have found for cleaning encrusted bronze coins. The method is discussed in detail in an article I have on the web at: http://www.geocities.com/brass_e_ryan/Brass.html. SAFETY GLASSES ARE A MUST WHEN USING THIS METHOD, TO AVOID HAVING MATERIAL FLICKED INTO THE EYE.

6. Steel Tools. An advanced technique is the sparing use of steel tools such as small Xacto knives and dental tools to reduce stubborn deposits. The problem with these tools is that all but the very slightest touch against the coin surface will leave scratches or gouges, since steel is much harder than any of the metals used in ancient coins. Definitely a technique reserved for the expert cleaner. SAFETY GLASSES ARE A MUST WHEN USING THIS METHOD, TO AVOID HAVING MATERIAL FLICKED INTO THE EYE.

7. Limitations Regarding Silver Coins. Methods 4, 5 and 6 above should not be used on silver-washed coins. Methods 5 and 6 (brass and steel tools) should never be used on silver coins due to the softness of silver as a metal.

c. Chemical Cleaning Methods. As a general rule, using chemicals to clean coins is an absolute no-no. I would offer the following as three limited exceptions, each nevertheless bearing a certain amount of risk:

1. Coca-Cola. Coins encrusted in heavy, limey deposits sometimes benefit from an overnight soak in Coca-Cola (or any other carbonated cola beverage). Coca-Cola contains weak concentrations of citric and phosphatic acid, which can help to loosen these hard deposits. Once the solution reaches the actual coin surface, however, it can damage the coin patina - particularly on bronze.

2. Lemon Juice. Lemon juice, diluted by at least 50% with distilled water, is a good method for cleaning silver coins. The coins should be soaked in lemon juice for intervals of approximately 10 minutes, with removal and brushing with a toothbrush until the coin is clean. Excessive exposure to lemon juice can result in porosity on a silver coin, particularly if the silver is heavily debased with copper. Lemon juice should never be used on copper or bronze coins.

3. Noxon Brass Polish. Occasionally one encounters silver coins with copper corrosion deposits, presumably left by other copper coins with which the silver coins were buried. Applying a drop of Noxon brass polish to these copper deposits for a few minutes often will successfully remove these deposits without damaging the silver coin, but one should be careful with this technique as it always poses a certain level of risk.

4. EXCEPT FOR COCA-COLA, LEMON JUICE AND NOXON AS DESCRIBED IN ITEMS 1, 2 AND 3 ABOVE, AND EXCEPT FOR THE LIMITED USE OF NOXON TO REMOVE BRASS STREAKING AS PROVIDED IN THE BRASS TOOLS ARTICLE, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD ANY OTHER CHEMICALS OF ANY KIND BE USED TO CLEAN COINS. THIS INCLUDES ACIDS, BASES, DETERGENTS, AND METAL POLISHES. ALL OF THESE METHODS ALMOST CERTAINLY WILL RUIN YOUR COIN, AND IN THE CASE OF STRONGER CHEMICALS SUCH AS ACIDS, CAN BE DANGEROUS TO USE. STAY AWAY FROM THEM!

d. Safety Glasses, Lighting and Magnification. While preparing coins, one should have safety glasses and a comfortable work bench with good lighting. Also a magnifying glass or a stereo microscope is essential.

e. Retoning Bronze Coins. One salient objective in cleaning bronze coins is to avoid injuring the underlying patina, which is the dark black or green toning beneath the deposits. I do not know of any reliable method for restoring toning to large areas of a coin. For very small areas of patina damage, such as the exposure of bright metal on letters or hairlines, a mixture of household "3 in 1" oil and powdered sulphur, painted over the injured spot, can achieve excellent retoning results. Paint the mixture only on the small area to be treated, leave the coin exposed to sunlight for 1-2 days, and then wash the oil/sulphur mixture off with non-detergent Ivory Soap. For small areas, the retoning is so effective that most likely you no longer will be able to distinguish the area of the original patina damage.

f. Preserving Ancient Coins. Many collectors wax cleaned coins with a clear preservative wax, such as Renaissance Mini-wax. The wax is rubbed over the coin and then buffed with a soft cloth. This treatment provides an invisible coating which shields the coin from subsequent adverse effects of moisture or handling.

IX. WHERE TO BUY UNCLEANED COINS

a. Kinds of Uncleaned Coins. Most groups of uncleaned coins are composed almost entirely of copper and bronze coins, with an occasional silver or billon coin having escaped the initial sorting of the coins in the country where they were found. Occasionally one sees groups of uncleaned silver coins which are marketed as such. Uncleaned coins sometimes are marketed by general type as well, such as groups composed of uncleaned ancient Greek coins or uncleaned Byzantine coins. Prices for uncleaned coins range from pennies each for low-grade "culls" to three dollars or more each for coins of premium quality. Most uncleaned lots consist mainly of 3rd and 4th century Roman bronzes, with a few others mixed in; lots composed principally of Greek, earlier Roman, Roman provincial or Byzantine coins are harder to find and are more expensive.

b. Coin Shows. Occasionally one will find groups of uncleaned coins from dealers at major coin shows. A dealer may have a large group of coins where most of the coins have been cleaned, but the group also includes uncleaned material. Often the uncleaned coins can be purchased at an advantageous price.

c. Internet. Internet auction sites such as eBay and Yahoo have many vendors selling uncleaned ancient coins. This is where most uncleaned coins are obtained.

d. Relationships with Established Vendors. Once you find a dealer who is reputable and consistently supplies quality material, it is worthwhile to cultivate a relationship with that dealer, whereby hopefully the dealer will notify you directly of quality uncleaned coins as he acquires them.

e. It's a Buyer's Market! As of 2003, ancient coins are widely available in both cleaned and uncleaned condition at highly favorable prices. A collector who resolves never to spend more than $25 on a single coin nevertheless can assemble a diverse and highly desirable collection at today's prices. The current market situation in part arises from the present economic recession, but more importantly reflects that over the past decade, vast quantities of material have emerged from former areas of the Roman Empire such as the Balkans and the Levant. Material is also regularly encountered from other countries such as England and Spain. It's a great time to be a collector!

X. RESOURCES ON THE WEB

a. Internet Discussion Forums. There are a number of discussion forums on the internet where collectors share views on ancient coins in general and cleaning coins in particular. Three I would recommend are:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Moneta-L (the premier discussion group n the net concerning all aspects of ancient numismatics).

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/UncleanedCoins and http://groups.yahoo.com/group/UncleanedAncientCoins Two discussion boards on preparing uncleaned coins, with decidedly different styles, but both being highly worthwhile. Both groups welcome questions from persons new to the hobby, and you will find both groups to contain many friendly and helpful people.

http://www.groups.yahoo.com/group/ACEhelp The discussion forum for the Ancient Coins for Education project ("ACE"). A wonderful resource where you can interact with the coin-cleaning "diehards" who sponsor the ACE project.

b. Scott Uhrick's "Joviel" Website. This is the "Consumers Reports" of the uncleaned ancient coins circuit, and provides ongoing evaluations of the various sellers of uncleaned coins. Scott does not cover every worthwhile vendor (for example, he never has evaluated the uncleaned Greek coins offered by Herakles Numismatics, Inc), but his reviews are quite extensive, and I never have found anything I have bought from the various vendors to be markedly inconsistent with Scott's evaluations. Scott also posts extensive discussion of coin-cleaning techniques, as well as numerous links to other cleaning and attribution websites. The site may be accessed at: http://www.joviel.com Herakles Numismatics, whom Scott has yet to evaluate, but who I have found to be a superlative dealer, is: http://www.herakles-inc.com

c. Other Dealer Websites. Two dealers who both sell quality uncleaned ancient coins and maintain extensive websites full of useful articles, cleaning information, and links to other great web pages, are William Peters of Aeratus and Joe Sermarini of Forum Ancient Coins. The respective links to their websites are: http://www.aeratus.com and http://ancient-coin-forum.com

d. ACE Homepage. Last but not least, ACE maintains a highly informative website, in addition to its discussion board at yahoo, which may be accessed at: http://ancientcoinsforeducation.org/

HAPPY CLEANING AND COLLECTING!