OF THE MEDITERRANEAN WORLD
Written by John E Ryan, Philadelphia, PA. for
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
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.
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
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
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
3. Adulterate the precious metal content of the coin with base
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
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
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
b. Electrum - an alloy of gold and silver, occurs naturally in
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!