Author Topic: Collecting Greek coins  (Read 8492 times)

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Offline lusomosa

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Collecting Greek coins
« on: July 05, 2007, 10:18:12 PM »
Is anyone in the forum collecting or interested on ancient Greek coins, history or symbols and meaning of what is coined on Greek coins ?

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Collecting Greek coins
« Reply #1 on: July 05, 2007, 10:42:05 PM »
I don't collect them, but there isn't a coin I don't like. Try ghipszky and maybe tonyclayton for this area.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline lehmansterms

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Re: Collecting Greek coins
« Reply #2 on: September 29, 2009, 08:26:16 PM »
Lusomosa,

I have a bit of experience in Greek coins - I assume you mean ancient Greek coins, modern Greek coins are collectible too, but a copy of Krause should be plenty to get you started if that's what you're interested in.

One of the most important things to remember is that much of what we lump into the category of "ancient Greek coins" came from places, peoples and cultures which were not in Greece as we know it, and in fact many of these folks would be anywhere from amused to horrified to outraged that they had been so categorized.  There really was no "Greece" as we conceive it as a modern nation.  The folks who make up the body of cultures we think of as "Greek" were all fiercely independent (and usually warring) city states.  This proceedes naturally from the geography of the area.  The interiors of the islands and mainland areas in the Agean and Eastern Mediterranean tended to be mountainous and very difficult to cross.  Centers of population tended to be upriver just a bit (to try to discourage invasion) from natural harbors at the mouths of rivers.  Transportation was primarily by sea from one city-state to another.  In the early days, all were in competition with each other, only occasionally uniting briefly against common enemies.

So, in order to understand the history of coinage in the area we tend to call "Greek", you need to take a couple different perspectives into account.  One is chronological, of course, there is a natural progression of development in style and artistry in most places from Archaic to Classical to Hellenistic and eventually to Roman Provincial and other Post-Hellenistic styles.  The other perspective is geographical, and to understand the coins properly, you need to have an approach to understanding the distance between or the closeness or affinity of individual city-states and their colonial settlements. 

In order to do this, the traditional manner of arrangement views the Mediterranean basin rather like a large clock-face and the larger areas are listed in a clockwise manner, Western European areas first, then central and Eastern European, Thrace, Asia Minor, "The Levant", Egypt and North Africa.  Cities and towns within these areas tend to be arranged alphabetically.

As for getting started collecting, as in any other branch of numismatics - and more importantly here than most - "buy the books before you buy the coins!!".  Your knowledge is crucial as highly desirable and expensive Greek coins have been copied for centuries.  Getting to know what the coins of any given area or era should look like is crucial in keeping from making expensive mistakes.  Take every opportunity to look at real coins in person in shops or at coin shows, or in other collectors' collections.  Read all you can and look at as many pictures as possible.

Greek coins, like any other field, contain some really expensive rarities as well as some very common and inexpensive types.  You could assemble a nice set of bronzes from many eras and areas for $10-$25 apiece and have a relatively large collection for the price of a single Syracusan Tetradrachm of good style.  So you need to set some collecting goals and limits - mostly dictated by the limits of your budget, since the sky is really the limit on prices.

Also, as is more and more important in any field, work on your networking.  Being in touch with others interested in the same or similar fields can be crucial.  Forums like this are one good way to reach out and get in touch, the listserv-type discussion groups on yahoo and google are similarly a good place to meet others of similar interest.

But I can't stress enough how important it is to keep reading, particularly if you're interested in things like the symbolism and history of Greek coins - you can assemble a network of knowledge, too, wherein what you know about the coins is a part of and complements what you know of the history, art, mythology and cultures of the places they're from.

Good luck,

Mark


Offline Figleaf

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Re: Collecting Greek coins
« Reply #3 on: October 06, 2009, 05:31:29 PM »
Great contribution. Thanks Mark. I you were to advise an absolute beginner with a limited budget, which book(s) would you recommend?

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline lehmansterms

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Re: Collecting Greek coins
« Reply #4 on: October 08, 2009, 12:28:42 AM »
Peter,

With beginning Greek coin collectors it's a little more difficult than for collectors of Roman coins to recommend the most basic library items - remembering that the term: "Ancient Greek" covers such an enormous amount of time, breadth of geography, and so many different peoples and cultures, it's really difficult (impossible, in fact) to have a single broad overview-type book which is also really useful for attributions. 
As an introduction to the subject, Zander Klawans' Handbook of Ancient Greek and Roman Coins and Wayne Sayles' Ancient Coin Collecting, 2nd Edition are both inexpensive, excellent introductory, broad overview-style treatments of the field of Ancient Coins in general and I would recommend both highly to anyone just getting started in collecting or studying ancient coins.
Each has a good section explaining some of the features of the major fields, types and common "points of interest" typically included under "Greek" coins.  Neither, however, is really good for more than the most basic and generalized classification or identification.

For the person who has decided that Greek coins are a field of specific interest (as opposed, or in addition to, say, Roman or Byzantine, the other two most common fields in Ancient numismatics), I'd recommend Greek Coins and Their Values - a 2 volume set by David Sear.  With luck, a used set in good shape might cost in the neighborhood of $100.  Last updated in 1978, the prices seem more than a little bit wishful in this brave, new millennium, but these books are better for general identification and elementary attribution than for pricing.  The prices, however out-of-date the may be, let you see right off which types will tend to be more expensive or difficult to acquire.  In addition to these 2 volumes, I recommend beginners also acquire Greek Coin Types and Their Identification by Richard Plant.  Long out-of-print and difficult to find, it's recently been re-printed and is available relatively inexpensively (maybe $35, new, in cardcover).  This book combines line-drawings of nearly 3000 Greek coin types with listings of their places of origin, dates, etc.  It's organized far differently from any other book on Greek coins with which I am familiar.  Instead of, as is more usual, being chronologically or geographically organized, it takes the approach of grouping together coins of vastly different sizes, metals, times, places and cultures by similar reverse types.  When faced with a Greek coin with very little by way of legends (ancient Greek coins are pretty skimpy on legends in general as opposed to the laundry-lists of names, titles and accolades the Romans loved to put on their coins) or any other way to "get a handle" on it, being able to narrow you search down to a group of ten or twenty locations which used, for example, an eagle on the reverse, and showing in line drawings both the comparative styles of the eagles and the various sorts of obverses with which these reverses might be paired, is a great help and can go a long way towards getting you started in making a positive identification.  Obviously neither Sear nor Plant can possibly hope to cover more than a small representative sample, but they provide a place from which to start on an otherwise dauntingly difficult search process.  I often use Plant as a "threshold" volume for Sear.  Plant suggests where to look.  Sear can then be used to confirm or refute the theories you developed looking in Plant.  Once you have a good idea of where a coin may have originated, then it's time to turn to the more specialized works which deal in detail with the coinages of specific areas or city-states.  These are usually known as "SNG's" - Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum and are typically large-format (folio size is common) photographic and descriptive catalogs of all the coins in a specific collection, like "SNG Copenhagen" which enumerates the coins in the Danish Royal Collection.  There are dozens of recent works and hundreds of books overall which deal with various facets of the ancient Greek numismatic corpus, so until and unless you find an area or other specialty in which to concentrate, assembling a useful library can be a rather daunting and expensive task. 
This is a situation in which networking via forums like this and/or the discussion groups on yahoo, google, etc, can really pay off - instead of having to own many several-hundred dollar sets of specialty books in order to cover every facet of Greek numismatics, you can turn to your good friend so-and-so, who just happens to specialize in that area and would be glad of the opportunity to help you pin an attribution on your coin.

For Roman coins, it's pretty easy to make a "most bang for the buck" recommendation in David Van Meter's The Handbook of Roman Imperial Coins or the 4th edition of David Sear's Roman Coins and Their Values - unfortunately no broad overview of Greek coins exists which is anywhere nearly so complete as either of these overview catalogs.  Barclay Head's landmark Historia Numorum although more than a century old, has possibly the greatest amount of information in a single volume, but is almost useless as an aid fro a beginner in identifying unknown coins.

Mark

Offline lusomosa

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Re: Collecting Greek coins
« Reply #5 on: October 22, 2009, 08:31:34 AM »
rigth you are Mark,

Ancient Greek coins cover such a wide spectrum of coins and time that one can not always know everithing EXCEPT if you work for many years with them.
Greek coins and their values is indeed a very good beginners book. But because the subject is so uge you will need some extra books to eventually cover the gaps.
The best is to limit your interest to a particular time frame or theme as most coins are rather of very expensive and as well to really understand wath you are buying and to avoid forgeries.
I would as well avoid buying coins on EBay ( except from known world dealer that have a shop there ).

Archaic coins ( down to 480 BC ) are generally expensive.
Classical coins ( 480-323 BC ) range from VERY VERY expencive to affordable
Hellenistic coins ( 323 and later )  are generally cheaper. ( mass production )

The most beautifful are from the last two periods.
You do need some knowledge of greek/meditarranean history and mitology to help understand the coins.

I would as well olny buy ( at the biginning ) from known dealers till you get the hang of it.

I have no more time now... I'll come back to this toppic later.

All the best,

LP

Offline lusomosa

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Re: Collecting Greek coins
« Reply #6 on: January 21, 2010, 01:21:35 PM »
I intend here to give some idea of what is needed to know/have is house if one decides to collect ancient greek coins. Books are very very important. Without books, catalogues and other sourses of info like internet and price lists and so you will not be able to understand what you collect, recognize fakes ( by weight standardts, style etc ) and be aweare of the market value of what you want to buy.
Here are two nice general books with lots of pictures and some info about Greek coin in general.

- Greek coins and their values comes in two volumes I Europe , II Asia and Africa
  Like Mark already mentioned you find coins from places that little or nothing have to do with Greece ( specially on book I )
  It is whoever a very good book to discover the huge diversity you may find on the subject and to decide which way to go with your collection.

- the second book is from a pivate collection of Mr. Pozzi An Italian born in the 19th century wich amassed a huge collection of greek coins. He really collected everyting he saw and liked. It is one of the last "general" Greek collecters. Today people tend to restrict themselfs to towns or regions ( because greek coins are in general expensive ) . Those for which money is no problem tend to buy the most butiful works of art amont greek coins and normally do not collect fractions or small bronze coins.

I'll comtinue the thread later.

LP
« Last Edit: January 21, 2010, 01:36:11 PM by lusomosa »

Offline lusomosa

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Re: Collecting Greek coins
« Reply #7 on: January 21, 2010, 01:38:32 PM »
here are 3 other books :

- the first is from Jenkins and you have lots of illustrations from the British Museum.
  It gives lots of information about coins, history, geography. It is very good and at the same time general enough for everyone.
  It is not a book where you can go and look a particular coin, it deals more with numismatics in general.
- the secont book displays some importand coins from the british museum but gives no historical background.
  The whole catalogue of the british museum is very huge divided in sections and very expensive.
- the last on this list is one book from the American numismatic society . They are published in small volumes by geographical area.
  lots of pictures from all the coins from their collection but very little historical facts. This in the one book where you really look for that little coin you have in your hand.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2010, 01:48:39 PM by lusomosa »

Offline lusomosa

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Re: Collecting Greek coins
« Reply #8 on: January 21, 2010, 02:08:12 PM »
To finish I add that you need to follow the market, in order to know what is out there and not to pay more than you need.
That's why the big boys decided to limit the seach engine : www.coinarchives.com  because everyone could follow what was sold where and for who much.....
You can aproach dealers with the request for catalogues of see them on line when they are there.
There are plenty of good auction houses and I do not which to give much publicity.
There was one auction whoever that was so important and so well build up that it deserves some mention.
This pic bellow is from a very extensive and importand collection. It had many coins never put in auction before because they had been privately handled among 2/3 persons from they discovery some 100 years ago and even longer.

You do need to see catalogues in order to be able to compare ( on your mind or with the books/pics before you ) the state of conservation , how well centered the coin is , relief, patination, etc of what you intend to buy .

I bit of historical and religious knowledge does help. The most expensive coins you will probably neber buy but you don't need to buy something in order to like the subject. I personally enjoy a lot all the research .

LP


Offline natko

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Re: Collecting Greek coins
« Reply #9 on: August 29, 2013, 02:01:14 PM »
I (am planning to) collect them, but narrowed my interests to mints from the territory of my country, as I did for Roman, Byzantine and medieval coins.

That made my collecting tough, practically I've got chance of getting only three different towns, if I'm patient for years and cash out enough money, while others are extremely rare.

Wrote quite a lengthy post about whole eastern Adriatic here.
http://www.worldofcoins.eu/forum/index.php/topic,23067

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Collecting Greek coins
« Reply #10 on: August 29, 2013, 06:08:24 PM »
God luck, Natko. If you get any of the books mentioned above, consider writing a review, please.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.