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  1. Another quick update on my NGC Ancients Custom Set "The Roman Empire". I have posted my Owner's Comments on my ancient bronze representing Matidia. Since we don't know very much about Matidia, my comments are pretty short for this coin, which may be one of as few as nine remaining.
  2. After a bit of a hiatus, I managed to finish another Owner's Comments (Note: I am trying to keep up, as I try *not* to add any more new coins until I post Comments for all the current ones!) This time, the essay is about my ancient bronze featuring Empress Plotina, wife to Emperor Hadrian. This coin is part of Page 6 = GOLDEN AGE I. This coin graded as XF, Strike = 4/5, Surface = 4/5, which is a very respectable grade for this issue. It was struck in Gordus-Julia around 112-117 AD. I have seen about a dozen or so examples illustrated, and I would say that this specimen could be among the finest. It has a very nice observe portrait, replete with imperial pompadour (about which I also provide some further commentary in my essay!) As I detail in my Owner's Comments, Plotina was a fascinating Empress. She should be considered a "good" Empress, complementing her "good" Emperor. As an indication of her virtue, she refused to be called Augusta when Trajan first became Augustus. Instead, she chose to earn the honor. She was also highly intelligent, in particular, I was fascinated by her devotion to the Epicurean "Garden" school of philosophy. In her old age, she even kept active correspondence with her husbands successor, Hadrian, regarding who should be leading the school. As an excerpt, here is my final paragraph on my Owner's Comments... Through her actions, Plotina played a critical role in sustaining Rome’s Golden Age. In 117 AD, she convinced her dying husband to officially name Hadrian as successor. Evidently, Trajan was too weak to execute the appropriate documents, so Plotina signed the will in his stead. An alternative, highly unlikely viewpoint is that Plotina forged the will to place Hadrian on Rome’s throne. Either way, Plotina, who did not bear Trajan any children, secured the Empire another good Emperor. .
  3. RMW Collection of England and Great Britain

    Mike, I am very sorry to read your post, and I am finding it difficult to put my thoughts to words (and, as you know, I can really say a lot when I put my mind to it). I have barely come to know you - of course - since I am a relative newcomer to the Registry and these Journals. Even so, I have come to look forward to seeing your presence here. I hope you don't mind my saying that I find your enthusiasm, numismatic and otherwise, contagious. Understandably, you need to focus now on what is most important. Best Wishes, -Rick
  4. NGC Registry Awards

    Thanks gherrmann44, I really appreciate your comments. I am not a teacher, but I was thinking it would be an interesting strategy for a class on ancient Roman or Greek culture to pass out ancient coins to the students and have them present an essay on their coin to their fellow students, say, as like an oral exam. The teacher could not only give a grade, but maybe even give accolades to best, most creative, inventive, etc., or even better, have the students vote.
  5. NGC Registry Awards

    I wanted to send out a particular congratulations to rmw, jackson64, and gherrmann44 for distinction on their excellent Collectors' Journals! Regarding this Journal Entry, I am pleased to see my own Roman Empire collection receive a second-time Best Ancients Set (my previous accolade was in 2014, so this ends a bit of a "dry spell" for me!). I wonder about what it would take to be acknowledged as Most Informative or Most Creative NGC Custom Set, and I always find myself amazed when I check out the winning sets in those categories (this year, it was Mohak's Avians and Siah's Colorado-based Collections). Again, congrats to all winners, and also thanks to everyone for participating. Having such an eclectic and interesting community is one many aspects that makes this hobby entertaining!
  6. RMW Collection of England and Great Britain

    Indeed a nice coin, and I truly appreciate the comments on being happy to "be in the game. Happy New Year everyone!
  7. The latest update to this page is that I finally finished up and posted my Owner's Comments regarding my ancient bronze "half unit" struck by Herod Antipas. As is the case with many ancient rulers, Antipas' legacy is quite complex and open to interpretation, even to the extremes of villain or victim. If anyone is interest in learning more, I encourage you to check out my Owners Comments. I have only two more coins to procure (Nero Claudius Drusus and Tiberius) and one more Owner's Comments to complete (Agrippina Sr) in order to finish this page of the Roman Empire collection.
  8. Roman Empire, Page 9 = CRISIS II

    rmw: I shudder at that thought - often!
  9. RMW Collection of England and Great Britain

    RMW, sorry to hear you were ill, and glad to see you back! Once again, well done - that is a very beautiful coin you have there!
  10. Roman Empire, Page 4 = DECADENCE

    Another Update on Page 3... I received and updated the grading for the "Sisters of Caligula Sestertius". The grade was deemed Ch F, Strike = 4/5, Surface = 2/5. It was pretty much what I expected, although I admit to be slightly bummed at the surface grade of 2/5 - "smoothing" was noted (but not my doing, of course). Even so, I am satisfied with the grade, this is a very difficult coin to obtain in any grade, and, like many of this same issue, it is prone to smoothing, cleaning, etc. This coin in particular is a very important historical coin, and I look forward to someday finishing and posting my Owner's Comments.
  11. Roman Empire, Page 3 = SUCCESSION

    Grading came back on the Herod Antipas bronze = XF, Strike =4/5, Surface = 2/5. Pretty much what I expected - the XF is a great grade for an ancient bronze, particularly an ancient Judaean example from this era. I am a bit puzzled by the 2/5 surface grade since no comments were made on the slab (no remarks about tooling, smoothing, etc). In any case, a relatively worthy grade.
  12. Roman Empire, Page 9 = CRISIS II

    This new "Journal Entry" provides an update on the 9th Page of my NGC Ancient Custom Set entitles "The Roman Empire". This Page is 82% complete (12 coins out of 15 slots). Two of the twelve coins are pending my detailed Owner’s Comments. Here is a link to the Collection… https://coins.www.collectors-society.com/wcm/CoinCustomSetGallery.aspx?s=16365 Here is the synopsis for the Page, entitled "CRISIS II”… The Crisis of the Third Century intensifies as numerous Augusti fall by the hands of their own disaffected troops; a new record of six Emperors in one year (238 AD) is established. .The follow are comments on the coins I choose for this Page and why… Elagabalus. This denarius, with a grade of Ch MS *, Strike = 5/5, Surface = 5/5, features one the Roman Empire’s most decadent and frivolous rulers of all time, and that's saying something. While he certainly wasn’t Rome’s first transgender Emperor, he was probably the most flamboyant. Honestly, I don’t want to give away too much here in case you don’t know much about Elagabalus, but as a teaser for you to check out my Owner’s Comments here is an excerpt that explains why I choose this particular coin…“The reverse of this coin proudly presents MARS VICTOR, heroic and nude, donning a gloriously crested helmet, brandishing a fierce-looking spear, and nonchalantly carrying a military trophy atop his shoulder. The numismatic juxtaposition of Mars and Elagabalus is quintessential Roman propaganda; it is difficult to imagine a more dissimilar pairing…” This slot is a denarius featuring Julia Cornelia Paula, first wife of Elagabalus. This coin graded Ch AU, Strike = 5/5, Surface = 4/5. This coin is one of many in the collection that I choose for its irony, if not for tragicomic relief. Specifically, the reverse features Concordia, the Roman goddess personifying related concepts such as concord, agreement, and harmony, accompanied by an inscription signifying the same. On Roman coins, Concordia was often employed to convey concord of the Emperor with his subjects, and/or, more importantly, with the Roman military. In this instance, the exact intent is not certain; probably, it refers to concord of the new imperial couple and their extended families. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately - depending on perspective – Julia Cornelia Paula lost her title soon thereafter as Elagabalus found his first wife not ‘bodily suited’ for him, so he divorced her in favor of… Julia Aquilia Severa, a vestal virgin, who, as such, was sworn to celibacy. In a reign filled with outrageous follies, Elagabalus’ decision to carry out Rome’s first-ever imperial-celestial double-wedding (in parallel, the Syrian sun god Heliogabal married Vesta, Rome’s virgin goddess of the hearth, home, and family) ranks among the most over-the-top. One can only imagine the outrage both parings must have caused to the average Roman. This denarius graded CH XF, Strike = 5/5, Surface = 3/5. I still need to post my Owner’s Comments for this coin. This interesting ancient bronze features Elagabalus’ third wife, Annia Faustina. This coin graded VF, Strike = 4/5, Surface = 3/5. Perhaps the Emperor was trying to appear a bit more conventional in his choice of an Empress, after all, Annia Faustina hailed from Antonine lineage from both sides of her family. Alas, things didn’t really work out, since Elagabalus’ true desires apparently swung in other directions. Of particular interest is this coin’s reverse which appears to commemorate the Actian games. These quadrennial Olympic games were established by Augustus (actually, he was re-instating what was an earlier, Greek tradition) to commemorate his 31 BC defeat of Mark Antony at Actium. Assuming Augustus held the first such gala around 27 BC, the year 221 AD (this coin’s strike) not only marked Annia's tenure as Augusta, but also the 64th anniversary of the Actian Games. This slot features a high grade (MS*, Strike = 5/5, Surface = 5/5) denarius struck in the name of Julia Mamaea, yet another powerful women of the Emesean clan. She apparently convinced her nephew Elagabalus to name her son (hence, his cousin) Severus Alexander as Caesar. The latter’s ascension was hastened not long thereafter, thanks to murderous Praetorian Guards. I choose this coin also for an ironic reverse, featuring Concordia, (see above). Julia Mamaea helped her son rule over Rome, to the point that many started to doubt their latest Emperor’s abilities. As one can imagine, such growing unpopularity ultimately led to the demise of both mother and son. Lacking any more males of the line, the mother-and-son’s fall marked the end of the Severan dynasty. Severus Alexander. This breathtaking denarius graded Gem MS, Strike = 5/5, Surface = 5/5. On balance, Severus Alexander was a relatively “good”, if not ultimately effective, Emperor. His lack of pomp and circumstance and down-to-earth ruling style appears somewhat reminiscent of Marcus Aurelius. My favorite historical account of Severus Alexander is that he had his personal motto engraved throughout featuring Fides, the Roman goddess of trust and good faith. Clearly, the coin was meant to advertise, or at least promote, trust and faith in Rome's military forces. Not a very successful attempt at propaganda, considering the Severus Alexander and his mother were killed by their own forces. For this next slot I choose yet another denarius featuring Severus Alexander; this coin graded MS, Strike = 5/5, Surface = 5/5. I call it a denarius, although technically it is an ancient forgery (silver plated). But you might not know it is fake looking at the coin, the artistry and materials of construction remarkable resemble an official issue. I could not help the chance in my Owner’s Comments to discuss about the history of counterfeiting (which, not surprisingly, vastly pre-dates this coin) and to provide my own fabricated – yet plausible – history of this particular imitative coin. Orbiana. This slot needs to be filled. Maximinus. This coin is a denarius graded MS, Strike = 5/5. Surface = 5/5. I choose this coin for its particularly fine style - indeed, it eared a Fine Style designation from NGC, a rarity among ancient Roman coins. I also choose the coin for its reverse, again featuring Maximinus, replete with military standards, emphasizing his military prowess. After all, Maximinus was the quintessential “barracks Emperor,” meaning that he rose within the military to prominence – even achieving the ultimate (self) promotion to Rome’s Emperor. This coin’s fine style is somewhat in contrast to Maximinus’ historical reputation – some probably had a hard time telling him apart from his barbarian foes. You have to love the hyperbole around Maximinus, he reportedly was 8.5 feet tall and could singlehandedly pull an ox cart, i.e., literally he was as strong as an ox. As a model barracks Emperor, he ultimately was murdered by some of his own troops. Paulina. This slot needs to be filled. This slot comprises an ancient bronze featuring Maximus, son of Maximinus. Although of relatively modest grade, Ch VF, Strike = 5/5, Surface = 3/5, this coin is pleasing to me. It was struck in Troas, Alexandria, and the design invokes a sense of that city’s Hellenistic roots. The Troad (surrounding fertile plains covering northwest Asia Minor from Mount Ida to the Dardanelle Strait and the Aegean Sea) was very important to the ancient Romans. In my Owner’s Comments, I discuss the Troad’s significance, and also I could not resist the opportunity to contrast father and son. To me, this coin not only represents its own point in history, but also seemingly has a nexus to Rome’s founding as well as the fall of the Empire. I hope you are intrigued, if so, please read my Owner’s Comments for this coin. I think this is probably my favorite essay among all my Owners' Comments. Gordian I. This slot is an ancient bronze featuring the elder Gordian, who reigned with his son only weeks as part of the “Year of the six Emperors.” This coin graded Ch XF*, Strike = 5/5, Surface = 5/5 (a very respectable grade for its type). I still need to provide my Owner’s Comments for this coin. Gordian II. This slot needs to be filled. This denarius features yet another short-tenured Emperor who became one of those six Emperors in 238 AD, namely Pupienus. This striking denarius graded MS*, Strike = 5/5, Surface = 5/5, and it also earned an NGC Fine Style designation. Pupienus co-ruled with Balbinus. The two were assigned the (arguably unenviable) purple after the Senate held a committee meeting to discuss how to deal with the by-then-out-of-favor Maximinus (the latter was most displeased regarding the Senate’s acknowledgement of the Gordian’s uprising). I choose this coin in part for its fine style. I took the opportunity to write ‘parallel’ Owner’s Comments for Pupienus and Balbinus. If you want to see what I mean by that, please read my Owner’s Comments. This denarius features yet another short-tenured Emperor who became one of those six Emperors in 238 AD, namely Balbinus. Struck upon a large flan, this denarius graded Ch AU, Strike = 5/5, Surface = 4/5, and it also earned an NGC Fine Style designation. Balbinus co-ruled with Pupienus. The two were assigned the (arguably unenviable) purple after the Senate held a committee meeting to discuss how to deal with the by-then-out-of-favor Maximinus (the latter was most displeased regarding the Senate’s acknowledgement of the Gordian’s uprising). I choose this coin in part for its fine style. I took the opportunity to write ‘parallel’ Owner’s Comments” for Balbinus and Pupienus. If you want to see what I mean by that, please read my Owner’s Comments.
  13. Roman Empire, Page 8 = CRISIS I

    MC: Thanks for your comments, I appreciate it. The coins on this particular Page are relatively high grades for ancients. In my opinion, I find it comparatively more accessible to obtain high-grade coins from 3rd vs earlier centuries of the Roman Empire's history. It is also my opinion that this reflects, at least in part, the rapid debasement of silver coins and the large quantity of them that were struck during the great "Crisis of the Third Century." It follows that there are more coins in high grades available, not to mention the increased tendency to start to hoard coins (i.e., remove them from circulation) around this time. It is astonishing to think that as a ballpark number about 100 million denarii were needed annually during this period to maintain Rome's military machine. Just to put in perspective, I don't think the US produced that many dollar coins annually until late 20th century?!
  14. Roman Empire, Page 8 = CRISIS I

    This new “Journal Entry” provides an update on the 8th Page of my NGC Ancient Custom Set entitled “The Roman Empire.” This Page is 73% complete (11 coins out of 15 slots). Here is a link to the Collection… https://coins.www.collectors-society.com/wcm/CoinCustomSetGallery.aspx?s=16365 Here is the synopsis for the Page, entitled "CRISIS I”… The Empire heads into turnoil, marked by the tumultuous Year of Five Emperors (193 AD) and the subsequent rise of the Severan-Emesan Dynasty. The follow are comments on the coins I choose for this Page and why… Didius Julianus. This Emperor learned the hard way that purchasing the purple does not come with a money back guarantee. This slot needs to be filled. Manlia Scantilla, wife of Didius Julianus. This slot needs to be filled. NOTE: I also thought about adding a slot for Didius’ and Manlia’s daughter, Didia Clara – but that would mean I would have to eliminate another coin from the Page, and the best candidate to remove would be the denarius featuring the youthful looking Geta. However, I love the opportunity to present coins featuring both young and old looking versions of his Geta, and his brother Caracalla. So…I am a bit constrained here since I am trying to fit into using the “15 coins per Page” format for this collection. This is my list for this Page, at least for now. Since this is a custom collection, I reserve the right to change my mind later (indeed, having full choice over content is a great pleasure of an NGC Custom Set!) Pescennius Niger. This slot needs to be filled. Clodius Albinus. This slot needs to be filled. Septimus Severus. Besides having one of the all-time coolest names for an Emperor, Severus represents one of Rome’s most fascinating, if rather brutal, Emperors. In many ways his reign set the mold for an Augustus’ reign during the great Crisis of the Third Century. This coin is special to me since it is one that I purchased at a shop among several choices, rather than at auction (and I can’t explain but it seems so satisfying to see and hold the coin in your hand before buying it rather than from a picture). I was thrilled to see this coin graded by NGC as Ch AU*, strike = 5/5 and surface = 5/5. Appropriately for Severus, the reverse of this denarius features Virtus, the Roman deity of bravery and military strength, holding Victory, and decked out with a shield and a spear. Interestingly, NGC notes that an alternative interpretation is that the figure on the reverse is not Virtus but instead Roma. Take a close look at the uploaded image - a wonderful engraving regardless of the actual identity - and you can decide for yourself. Julia Domna. No doubt about it, ancient Rome was a male-dominated society. Even so, the history of the Roman Empire comprises numerous examples of powerful and/or otherwise remarkable women. Of particular note are the women of the Emesean clan, several of whom were very powerful in their own right, and among them first to be Roman Empress was Julia Domna - even the name tells you something, she re-invented herself employing the feminine form of <i>dominus</i>, or Latin for Lord, when she married Septimus Severus. She arguably became the most honored and influential Empress in the history of the Roman Empire. Highly intelligent, she earned the nickname “the Philospher,” and socialized with the best minds of her time. Not to mention she traveled with the troops to the point she earned another nickname of Mater Castrorum (Mother of the Camp). This coin of Julia Domna’s is a denarius that graded MS, Strike = 4/5, Surface = 5/5. I choose this coin for its interesting reverse - Pudicitia, the Goddess personifying modesty and sexual virtue. Julia Domna’s enemies accused Domna her sexual impropriety, and this coin represented a response to such accusations. Notably, Pudicitia’s right hand is on her breast and she faces frontward, directly towards the coin's viewer. These were unusual numismatic conventions at the time, reinforcing the legend’s message with a direct and unflinching gaze. Caracalla, Reign as Caesar. This is a spectacular denarius, graded Ch MS, Strike =5/5, Surface = 5/5. I choose this coin as an example to depict the “boyish” visage of Caracalla. In contrast… Caracalla, Reign as Augustus. This denarius is one of a few coins in this collection that graded Gem MS, the highest possible NGC ancients grade, Strike = 5/5, Surface = 5/5. Coins like this one that earn such a graded are truly breathtaking to behold, especially considering their age. Besides the grade, I choose this coin as an example to depict the mean-looking adult Caracalla after he “turned to the darkside”. Seriously, Caracalla by all accounts turned out to be a cruel ruler; after all, he murdered his own brother Geta. This coin features Apollo on the reverse (read my Owner’s comments for an interesting discussion of Caracalla’s visit to the shrine of Grannus, a Celtic deity identified with Apollo who was associated with spas, healing, and hot springs). The next slot is a denarius featuring Plautilla, wife of Caracalla. It graded MS*, Strike = 5/5, Surface = 5/5. I choose this coin as (one of many) examples of Roman propaganda. The reverse features Concordia, the Roman goddess personifying related concepts such as concord, agreement, and harmony. You can probably guess about Plautilla’s story…for details, see my Owner’s Comments. Geta, as Caesar - this denarius graded Ch AU, Strike =5/5, Surface = 5/5. I choose as an example of the boyish Geta. Geta, as Augustus - this denarius graded MS, Strike =5/5, Surface = 5/5. It earned a Fine Style designation, tough to achieve for Roman coinage. I choose as an example of the “adult” Geta. I find it very interesting to compare the two Geta coins and the two Caracalla coins. The brothers’ saga echoes the fable of Romulus and Remus. This slot is a denarius struck for Julia Maesa, one of the powerful Julias. It graded MS, Strike = 5/5, Surface = 4/5. I found the reverse a fascinating choice for the Emesean matriarch – once again, Pudicitia. Probably, the design meant to distance Julia Maesa from her grandson Elagabalus. Next up is a denarius featuring Emperor Macrinus, graded Ch AU, Strike = 4/5, Surface = 5/5. Macrinus hailed from the Equestrian class (not a patrician) and he made some sweeping changes in Roman politics, or at least he tried to…evidently, he went too far…see my Owner’s Comments for his interesting personal history. I happened to like the reverse image of Roman goddess Salus, daughter of Asclepius, god of healing. The particular engraving suggests comfort and confidence, nether of which, alas, was characteristic of Macrinus’ reign. The next coin is a Syrian bronze featuring Macrinus and his son, Diadumenian. While in far lower condition than others on this page (graded Ch VF*, Strike = 5/5, Surface = 5/5), this coin is nonetheless cherished by me. In particular it is a “plate coin,” i.e., the exact coin featured in a plate, or illustration, in an ancient coin reference book. Having your very own coin featured in such a fashion, besides the obvious confirmation of attribution and authenticity, also provides a certain thrill and satisfaction. For more details about the coin and Diadumenia, see my Owner’s Comments. Last coin for this page is a denarius featuring Julia Soaemias. It graded Ch MS, Strike = 5/5, Surface = 5/5. Of all the Emesean Julias, history is least kind to Soaemias. No wonder, since she was mother of Elagabalus. For some of the juicy details, see my Owner’s Comments.
  15. Roman Empire, Page 7 = GOLDEN AGE II

    rmw: Thanks again for your kind comments!