NGC ANCIENTS: ATTRIBUTIONS
Attributions are based upon the experience of NGC’s graders and, when required, members of its network of consultants. NGC Ancients will use what it considers to be the most valid attribution provided in standard references. However, it is essential to recognize that more than one opinion is often current, and that the standard attributions are subject to change based upon new research. Principally for this reason we do not record reference numbers on our labels, and we do not guarantee our attributions (please visit our terms and conditions page).
Our labels usually include:
- Category (culture, kingdom, empire, etc.)
- Ruler or Issuer (when applicable)
- Distinctions (when applicable)
- Pedigree (when applicable)
Typical examples include Achaemenid Empire, Macedonian Kingdom, Chalcidian League, Roman Republic, Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire, etc. For Greek civic and Roman provincial coins, this line identifies the region and mint city. Mints that are uncertain will be described as such.
The dates for most ancient coins will be expressed as a range, such as AD 198-217, c. 350-300 BC, or 1st-2nd centuries AD; they will thus describe a monarch’s reign or the estimated period of issue. When a date is listed precisely as AD 55/6, for example, it indicates the coin was struck within a one-year period that overlaps the two years cited (in this case, part of AD 55 and AD 56). Precise dates will occasionally be recorded on the label, notably for Shekels of Tyre, and coins of the Jewish War and the Second Revolt. See also the discussion of posthumous issues (below).
Ruler or Issuer
Typically this includes kings, queens, tyrants, emperors, empresses, Roman Republican moneyers and others in whose authority coins were issued. It also can include the circumstance of issue, such as revolts, civil wars or other specific historical events. In these cases, both the issuing authority and the dating will be included. See also the discussion of posthumous issues.
All ancient coins were produced using metal planchets. Since the compositions of these planchets vary, they will be described using the following abbreviations:
- AV: Gold (high purity)
- AR: Silver (ranging from high purity to +/- 25% pure)
- AE: Copper and its alloys (bronze, brass, leaded-bronze, etc.)
- EL: Electrum (an alloy consisting principally of gold and silver)
- BI: Billon or 'Potin' (heavily debased silver coins)
- NI: Nickel composition
- Plated: Plated/Fourrée (base metal core with a thick gold or silver plating)
Denomination names of ancient coins fall into two categories: those based upon ancient evidence, and those created by numismatists. For many types of coins there is no universal agreement on the correct denomination name, and in each case NGC Ancients will use the one it considers most appropriate. Often this will follow the most common usages (such as stater rather than nomos), but other times not (and in the case of Late Roman bronzes, nummus instead of follis).
The weight of a coin is helpful in determining authenticity and for the purposes of academic study and publication; it will be recorded in grams, to the 100th part, and will be included on all express and regular service coins.
Every effort will be made to identify the designs that appear on coins graded by NGC Ancients. Due to space limitations on the label, peripheral aspects of the design usually will not be described. On portrait coins from empires and kingdoms that habitually issued coins with portraits of their current rulers, the portrait will not be identified unless it is of someone other than the issuer. Designs will not be identified when space does not permit due to the need to include other information considered more vital, such as circumstances of issue, specific dates (on select coinages) and pedigrees (when requested by the submitter).
When supplementary information must be provided to allow for the full identification of a coin, NGC Ancients will provide as much data as possible within the space limitations. Prime examples include the distinction between lifetime and posthumous issues, coins issued for Romans holding subordinate rank, restoration issues, etc.
The discovery and / or verification of pedigrees is not included in the grading fee, so under most circumstances the submitter must provide supporting documentation (photocopies from auction catalogs, etc.) in order for a pedigree to be included on the label. Since the descriptive portion of the label is limited to five lines, the inclusion of a pedigree may require the elimination of other non-vital data.
Pedigrees that typically can be requested include museum de-accessions, major private collections, important auctions, recognized hoards that are published (or that are verifiably on track to be published) and private labels.
Ancient coins are attributed based upon the conclusions in standard references. In order to maintain a reasonable submission fee, and to avoid the problems associated with individual requests for different references, NGC Ancients typically does not include reference numbers on its labels. Exceptions to this rule include die identifications for decadrachms of Syracuse, and some other important coinages that have been exhaustively studied, and for which die identifications are both practical and universal.
Quite often ancient coins bearing the name and / or the portrait of an individual were produced after that person died. Depending upon the circumstances, one of two approaches will be taken: 1) If an early memorial issue by a relative or a successor (typically within the same governmental entity), the coin will be categorized under the name of the individual named and/or portrayed on the coin, and will be identified as a posthumous issue. 2) If there is no significant tie between the issuer of the coin and its subject (such as restoration issues, "anonymous" issues of civil wars, late copies of Alexander III and Lysimachus issues, etc.) the coin will be categorized based upon the issuing authority, with an appropriate notation of the designs and/or the circumstance of issue.
The vast majority of ancient plated coins — commonly called fourrées — are contemporary counterfeits, though some, such as the plated "emergency" coinage issued by Athens during the Peloponnesian War, were official mint products. Often the diagnostic ruptures of the plating have not yet occurred, but through the analysis of weight or specific gravity it may be determined that a coin is plated. To earn this designation the plating must be sufficiently thick; thus, gilt coins do not qualify, though at the discretion of NGC Ancients, such coins may still be graded and described as "gilt."