Michael Shutterly - 2nd Place ANA 2018
"Buy the Books for the Coin"
Below are images of Michael Shutterly's Second Place Exhibit at the 2018 ANA World's Fair of Money
Buy the Books for the Coin
The first and best advice most coin collectors receive is "Buy the book before the coin." But why stop with just "the book"? After all, no single book can provide all the
information and insights about a coin that a dedicated collector wants or needs.
Let's see how a single coin - in this case, a gold solidus struck by the Byzantine emperor Theophilos - could trigger a collector's bibliomania.
The first books our collector would acquire would be general guides to collecting Byzantine coins: she wants to understand just what, exactly, constitutes a "Byzantine" coin in the first place. She would start with a pair of books from a pair of experts.
The Beginner's Guide to Identifying Byzantine Coins by Prue M. Fitts, (on the left) a founder and the Empress of the Association of Dedicated Byzantine Collectors, covers the coins of the Byzantine Empire from Anastasius I (reigned 491-518) to the fall of Constantinople under Constantine XI (reigned 1448-1453). It teaches the budding collector how to identify Byzantine coins by ruler, by denomination, by mint, and by general type. Fitts explains the meaning of many of the symbols and inscriptions on the coins and provides historical context for them. She also provides guidance on several different ways to collect Byzantine coins and advises on the best methods for storing them. Perhaps most important, the Beginner's Guide includes high-quality photographs and line drawings of representative coins, making it easy to identify them. Our collector's solidus is mentioned but not pictured in the text.
Ancient Coin Collecting V: The Romaion/Byzantine Culture (on the right) is the fifth volume in the Ancient Coin Collecting Series by long-time ancient coin
dealer and numismatic writer Wayne G. Sayles. It provides the beginner with a road map for collecting Byzantine coins (which, Sayles notes, is a misnomer: the word
was not applied to the Empire until more than a century after its demise; its citizens were "Romans" to the end). Sayles provides almost encyclopedic information about
Byzantine coin denominations, mints, iconography and history; a gallery of emperors and empresses, with a bibliography for each ruler; descriptions of coins struck by other
nations imitating Byzantine coins; and 16 "Masterpieces of Romaion Coinage" that demonstrate the artistic heights the coinage could reach.
Collector Reference Catalogs
Having become well-grounded as a beginner in the field of Byzantine coins, our collector will expand her knowledge by acquiring reference catalogs intended for collectors. She will begin with the earliest catalogs published.
A Handbook of the Coinage of the Byzantine Empire (on left) by Hugh Goodacre was originally published in three parts between 1928 and 1933; the parts were collected and published as a single volume in 1957. It covers the coins from Arcadius to Constantine XI, as well as the coins of the Latin emperors (1204-1261) and the emperors of the breakaway states of Thessalonica (1204-1246) and Nicaea (1206-1261).
Goodacre's work was the first reference catalog published in English for collectors of Byzantine coins. In many respects Goodacre tracks Justin Sabatier's earlier Monnaies Byzantines (at right), but he goes beyond Sabatier in providing more extensive biographies of the emperors, putting the coinage in better historical context: our collector would learn that Theophilos was a highly cultured, well-educated man, who reigned from 829 to 842 as the second emperor of the Amorian Dynasty.
Goodacre identifies our collector's solidus as the product of a "Provincial" mint but does not name the mint. He describes but does not picture the coin, pricing it at £35 (approximately US $152.00 in 1931).
Byzantine Coin Values by Dr. Paul F. Rynearson was originally published in paperback in 1967 with a hardback second edition appearing in 1971. It was intended to serve as a price guide for collectors. It covers Byzantine gold and silver coins from Arcadius to the end of the Empire but begins coverage of the bronze coins a century later with Anastasius I.
Rynearson lists each emperor's coins by metal, denomination and (major) mint, but does not break out coins by sub-types. This was the first guide to note that the gold coin attributed to Manuel II might not be genuine.
Rynearson assigned a rarity level to each coin and estimated its value as of 1971; his rarity levels are still generally valid, but the prices became obsolete long ago. Rynearson identified our collector's solidus as coin #309 and gave it rarity level R3 ("Common"), pricing it at $40 - $65.
Description Générale des Monnaies Byzantines Frappées sous les Empereurs D'Orient, (center) written by Justin Sabatier in 1862, was the first published catalog dedicated to Byzantine coins. It describes the coins of the emperors Arcadius (reigned 395-408) through John VIII (reigned 1423-1448).
Sabatier based his work on his study of his own collection and the collections of other major collectors, many of whom were his friends; on his review of the major published works then available; and on his examination of the great collections in the museums in London, Paris, Vienna, Berlin and Copenhagen. Despite the occasional error (he attributed a gold coin to Manuel II, the father of Constantine IX, but Manuel never struck gold coins), our collector will learn a great deal from Sabatier, including how much her coin was estimated to be worth in 1862 (15 francs, or approximately US $8.70; our collector probably paid a bit more for her coin). Her solidus is pictured in a line drawing on Plate XLIII, #7 of Volume 2 (the text mis-identifies the location as Plate XLII).
Collector Reference Catalogs
After thoroughly absorbing as much information as she can from the earliest numismatic catalogs, our collector will explore the work of more current researchers.
Le Monete Siciliane dai Bizantini a Carlo I d'Angiò (582-1282) (on left) by Rodolfo Spahr covers Byzantine coins struck in Sicily, as well as the coins of the Arabs, the Normans and the Hohenstaufens of the Holy Roman Empire who later ruled Sicily in their turn. This book, with Spahr's Le Monete Siciliane dagli Aragonesi ai Borboni (1282-1836), is the standard work on the coins of medieval and modern Sicily, and our collector would be sure to include it in her library.
She will learn from Spahr that Theophilos was the last emperor to strike a gold solidus in Sicily: the island was under attack by the Arabs throughout his reign, and Syracuse, the Byzantine capital and principal mint in Sicily, finally fell to them in 878. Spahr provides photographs of three gold solidi that are similar to our collector's coin, which he cataloged as Spahr 422.
Monete Byzantine di Sicilia (on right) by Marco Anastasi was intended to add to, and perhaps surpass, Spahr's Le Monete Siciliane, at least with respect to the Byzantine coinage. Anastasi took a different approach from the writers who came before him: he focused more on the numismatic market itself, consulting coin dealers and reviewing sales and auction catalogs. As a result, his catalog is somewhat less "scholarly" than the others, but it is more attuned to what collectors regularly encounter. Anastasi lists 589 principal Byzantine coin types (Spahr listed 445), with the final coin being a never-before-published bronze of Basil I (reigned 867-886). Anastasi lists several coins of the same general type as our collector's solidus; Anastasi 524b is the closest to her coin. He dates it to 830-831, which is probably a bit too early in Theophilos' reign, but our collector will need to study more to know that. Anastasi estimated the market price for her coin in EF condition to be €700 as of 2008, approximately $1,026.00.
Byzantine Coins and Their Values by David Sear was first published in 1974 and revised and re-published in 1987. It lists 2,645 coins - virtually every major Byzantine coin type known at the time of publication - with over 600 photographs. Sear covers all of the emperors and empresses from Anastasius I to Constantine XI. The first edition was the first collector catalog to include coins of Constantine XI, which first became publicly known just three months before the book was published. Sear fully describes each coin and provides the coin's inscription in the same text fonts the Byzantines used. Byzantine Coins and Their Values has been the standard catalog for collectors of Byzantine coins since its first publication.
Sear cataloged our collector's coin as Sear 1670 and estimated its value in EF condition at £300 in 1987, equivalent to about US $491.00. Our collector would learn from Sear that coins of the same type as hers can be found in the collections of the British Museum in London, the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, and the Dumbarton Oaks in Washington.
The references in Sear's Byzantine Coins and Their Values to the major museum collections of Byzantine coins would lead our collector to pursue the published catalogs of those collections. While her single coin would be no more than a small speck in one of the great museum collections, it is her speck, and she wants to see how it fits in. She is also interested in the information that those catalogs could provide with respect to her coin.
She would begin with the very first museum catalog of Byzantine coins ever published, the two-volume Catalogue of the Imperial Byzantine Coins in the British Museum.
Presented here is a 1908 first edition of that catalog.
Façade of British MuseumThe British Museum is home to one of the world's finest collections of Byzantine coins, including three examples of our collector's coin.
Catalogue of the Imperial Byzantine Coins in the British Museum, (on left) often cited as "BMC," was written by Warwick Wroth, Senior Assistant Keeper of Coins and Medals in the British Museum. Wroth provides more than 100 pages of background material on Byzantine coins, followed by a detailed catalog of the coins from Anastasius I through the Fall of Constantinople in 1453.
The 1908 first edition of BMC, presented here, contains good quality collotype plates of the coins: Wroth was the first to use photographs rather than line drawings of the coins. BMC has been reprinted by various publishers during the 110 years since its original publication, but the quality of the plates in the original catalog is much better than the quality of the plates in the reprints.
Wroth provided a full verbal description of our collector's coin type (BMC Theophilus 31) on page 424 of Volume II of the catalog; the volume is open to a collotype image of the coin, which appears on Plate XLIX as coin #4 (see top right-hand corner of the plate). Wroth identified the coin as the product of a "Provincial" mint but was uncertain as to the precise location of the mint, suggesting "Sardinia and Sicily may possibly have had a share in it."
The Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection holds the finest collection of Byzantine coins in the world, and the collection of France's Bibliothèque Nationale is not far behind. Our collector will be certain to add their catalogs to her numismatic library.
The Dumbarton Oaks
The Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection in Washington, DC, is home to the finest collection of Byzantine coins in the world. The Dumbarton Oaks Conferences held here in 1944 led to the formation of the United Nations.
Ancient Coin Collecting V: The Romaion/Byzantine Culture (on left) is the fifth volume in the Ancient Coin Collecting Series by long-time ancient coin dealer and numismatic writer Wayne G. Sayles. It provides the beginner with a road map for collecting Byzantine coins (which, Sayles notes, is a misnomer: the word "Byzantine" was not applied to the Empire until more than a century after its demise; its citizens were "Romans" to the end). Sayles provides almost encyclopedic information about Byzantine coin denominations, mints, iconography and history; a gallery of emperors and empresses, with a bibliography for each ruler; descriptions of coins struck by other nations imitating Byzantine coins; and 16 "Masterpieces of Romaion Coinage" that demonstrate the artistic heights the coinage could reach.
Catalogue des Monnaies Byzantines de la Bibliothèque Nationale, published in 1970, is a catalog of the French national collection of Byzantine coins. The work is based upon the doctoral dissertation of Cécile Morrisson, who was a student of Philip Grierson; in 1998 Morrisson succeeded Grierson as Advisor for Byzantine Numismatics at the Dumbarton Oaks.
The Catalogue begins with a history of the French national collection of Byzantine coins, tracing its origins to a bequest of fifty Byzantine gold coins to Louis XIV in 1660. It then catalogs the coins of each emperor from Anastasius I to Alexius III (reigned 1195-1203).
Our collector would find that the Bibliothèque Nationale holds four coins similar to her solidus, each superbly photographed in the plates; her coin is BN LXXII, 2. She would also learn that the solidi that the Byzantines struck in Syracuse in the 8th and 9th Century consistently weighed less than the contemporary solidi struck in Constantinople.
Now thoroughly grounded in the field of Byzantine coins, our collector will move on to more scholarly works that analyze the coins themselves and their historical context.
Byzantine Coins (on left) by Philip D. Whitting surveys Byzantine coinage from Anastasius I through John VIII (the book appeared the year before the announcement of the first known coins of Constantine XI). Whitting describes the metals, denominations and mints of the Byzantines, explains Byzantine minting practices, and provides a bibliography of important works, followed by a reign-by-reign "Chronology, Comment and Description" of the coins. He concludes with four Appendices which cover common coin and weight names, the robes and regalia that appear on the coins, a description of the Byzantine (Greek) numbering system and alphabet, a few of the more common inscriptions, and a list of Byzantine emperors and dynasties. Whitting also provides 92 black and white plates and 20 color plates, displaying over 400 exceptional photographs.
Whitting explains to our collector the significance of the robes which Theophilos wears on the coins. On the side of the coin usually identified as the obverse, Theophilos wears the chlamys, a long purple cloak that an emperor first put on at his coronation ceremony to represent his political authority. On the reverse, Theophilos wears a loros (Wroth called it a "robe of lozenge pattern"), originally a toga worn by the Roman consuls, but in the Byzantine period representing Jesus' burial cloth; the loros indicated the emperor's religious authority.
The coin on the cover of the book is a gold solidus from Constantinople struck on behalf of Michael III (reigned 842-867), the son and successor of Theophilos.
Byzantine Coins. (on right) Philip Grierson published his own Byzantine Coins nine years after Whitting. He intended for his work to serve as a handbook that would provide a general history of Byzantine coinage and a descriptive guide to the coins for an audience of general readers, as well as historians, numismatists and general collectors.
Grierson begins with a study of the origins and background of the coinage of the late Roman Empire. He then describes the phases of Byzantine coinage, identifies the metals, denominations and marks of value of the coins, reviews the mint marks and dating systems used on the coins, and explains generally the types, inscriptions and accessory symbols. The bulk of the work examines the coinage during various historical periods and dynasties.
Grierson's 95 plates picture 1,527 coins, one of which is a solidus that is the same type as our collector's coin. Grierson displays it next to a "barbarous" coin, one with a blundered inscription and very crude portraiture: this is probably an Arab imitation of the official Byzantine coin. Our collector is pleased to see that her coin very closely resembles the genuine coin in its design and weight but is very different from the imitation.
Grierson tells our collector that "[t]he commonness of Theophilos' Sicilian gold may be attributed to military needs, for gold would have been required to pay for troops and equipment and the constant warfare with the Arabs would result in much of it being concealed." (p. 187).
As she continues her quest for knowledge about her coin, our collector will find that scholarly research into Byzantine coins is ongoing. The final addition to her Byzantine numismatic library (for the time being …) is a treatise that was published just one year ago.
Theophilos Punishes the Assassins
Theophilos' father, Michael II (reigned 820-829) had been imprisoned by his former friend and ally Leo V (reigned 813-820), but came to throne when Leo was murdered before the high altar of Hagia Sophia on Christmas Day 820. Theophilos, who had a strong sense of justice, ordered the execution of the assassins for the murder of God's annointed (the Emperor Leo) and for committing the crime in such a holy place.
Byzantine Coinage in Italy by Alberto D'Andrea is a 3-volume work that covers the entire history of Byzantine coinage in Italy. It begins circa 540 with the coins of Justinian the Great (reigned 527-565), following Justinian's reconquest of Italy from the Ostrogoths, and ends in 1072 when the Normans took control of Bari, the last Byzantine outpost in Italy, during the reign of Michael VII Dukas (1071-1078). Volume III, coauthored with Cesare Costantini and Andrea Torno Ginnasi, covers the period from the reign of Philippicus Bardanes (711-713) to the fall of Bari, and thus includes our collector's coin.
She will learn that the gold content of her coin was significantly debased: while the solidus Theophilos struck in Constantinople was almost pure gold, the solidus he struck in Syracuse was only about .600 fine (60% gold). According to D'Andrea, the fineness of the gold in the solidus of Theophilos' father, Michael II (reigned 820-829), was as high as .750 (75% gold).
D'Andrea describes and provides color pictures of two different examples of our collector's solidus, identified as D'Andrea 876a and D'Andrea 876b. In January 2017 he valued the coin in EF condition at €1,200 (approximately US $1,270).
Theophilus coin obverse and reverse.
Decisions, decisions, decisions…
Thanks to her bibliomania, our collector is now an expert numismatist, or at least, she is an expert with respect to the Sicilian gold coins of the Byzantine Emperor Theophilos. She now has an important decision to make: should she purchase another coin, and buy the books to go along with it? Or should she just buy some more books, and let them direct her next coin purchase? But that's a decision for another Exhibit…
- P.M. Fitts. The Beginner's Guide to Identifying Byzantine Coins. Spink. London. 2015.
- W.G. Sayles. Ancient Coin Collecting V: The Romaion/Byzantine Culture. Krause Publications. Iola, WI. 1998.
- J. Sabatier. Description Générale des Monnaies Byzantines. Buchhandling Gustav Fock. Leipzig. 1930.
- P.F. Rynearson. Byzantine Coin Values. Malter-Westerfield Publishing. San Clemente, CA. 1971.
- D. Sear. Byzantine Coins and Their Values. 1st Edition. Seaby. London. 1974.
- D. Sear. Byzantine Coins and Their Values. 2nd Edition. Seaby. London. 1987.
- H. Goodacre. A Handbook of the Coinage of the Byzantine Empire. Spink & Son. London. 1957.
- R. Spahr. Le Monete Siciliane dai Bizantini a Carlo I d'Angiò. Association Internationale des Numismates Professionnels. Graz. 1976.
- M. Anastasi. Monete Bizantine di Sicilia. Catania. 2009.
- W. Wroth. Imperial Byzantine Coins in the British Museum. British Museum. 1908.
- C. Morrison. Catalogue des Monnaies Byzantines de la Bibliothèque Nationale. Bibliothèque Nationale. Paris. 1970.
- P. Grierson. Catalogue of the Byzantine Coins in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection and in the Whittemore Collection, Volume III, from Leo III to Nicephorus III, 717-1081 A.D. Dumbarton Oaks. Washington, D.C. 1973.
- P.D. Whitting. Byzantine Coins. Putnam. New York. 1973.
- P. Grierson. Byzantine Coins. Methuen & Co. London.1982.
- A. D'Andrea, Ed. Byzantine Coinage in Italy. Studio Bibliografico Bosazzi. Garda, Italy. 2017.
- Image of British Museum courtesy of Ham and Wikimedia Commons.
- Images of Theophilos from the Chronicle of John Skylitzes courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
- Image of Dumbarton Oaks courtesy of Library of Congress.