Saturday, February 1, 2020

Steelyard Weight with Bust of Byzantine Empress

I found this piece at the New York International Numismatic Convention (NYINC) in January. I went to buy coins and maybe a VNCIA coin weight. This piece jumped across the table and said: "Buy me!"

Bronze steelyard weight

I am not an expert on cast bronze statues, but I find several similar examples when I search the internet for: Bronze Byzantine Empress Steelyard Weight. A list of similar weights is given below1. I am also not an expert on Women’s fashion during the late Roman and early Byzantine period. I did find a web site that describes women’s fashons2.

With the two qualifiers above, my description of the statue:
Steelyard scale in the form of a late Roman or early Byzantine empress. Most of the attributions call the empress anonymous. Byzantine empresses were used for weights to encourage the public's belief the state ensured fair and prosperous trade. She is wearing a tunic (a bit like a T-shirt) that is covered by a Stola (Shawl, Himation, Cloak, Toga or some sort of outer garment.). The tunic drapes from her left shoulder to her right hip and from her right shoulder under her right arm. Her right hand is open in the center of her chest. In her left hand she holds a mappa, an official symbol of imperial authority, or a scroll, reflecting the state's emphasis on learning. Her jewelry is:
·         A beaded necklace
·         A second necklace (this might be jewels at the top of her toga).
·         A crown with strings of jewels cascading down the right and left side of her face.
Her hair is braided in two strands and rolled to the top of her head, see pic below3. It is hard to tell what is hair and what is jewelry on this statue.

·         8-1/8” tall (7-1/4” empress plus 1” hanging ring)
·         4.25” wide; Some of the base has been bent due to being dropped and is a bit wider.
·         3.0” thick
·         Oval base. Some weights have a circular or irregular shape.
·         1411 grams = 3.1 US pounds = 4.5 Roman pounds (As or Libra)
·         Cast bronze shell. Most catalogers say produced by lost wax method, followed by cold working.
·         Some, but not this one, are filled with lead to increase their weight.


1.      Similar examples I have found on line.
a.       The Metropolitan Museum of Art NYC has three
b.      The MFA, Boston has one
c.       Harvard University has one
d.      The MFA Budapest has one
e.       The Research Library at Dumberton Oaks has one
f.       Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore has one
g.      Cyprus Medieval Museum
h.      ebyzantinemuseum
i.        Christies

2.      Info on Byzantine women’s dress.
3.      Hairstyle similar to Roman / Byzantine women.

4.   I found some women on Byzantine coins on acsearch. There were no exact matches to my weight.
Aelia Flaccilla 383AD

Aelia Pulcheria 414AD

Aelia Pulcheria sister of Theodosius II 414AD

Aelia Verina 471AD

Eudoxia 395AD

Fausta 324AD

Licinia Eudoxia wife of Valentinian III 439

Aelia Flaccilla 379AD 

Monday, January 27, 2020

One VNCIA sized Aes Grave Fragment

I recently purchased a piece of a broken Aes Grave coin. The piece is 27.31 grams. A Roman As is 327.45 grams. One twelfth of an As is 27.29 grams. For my collection, I call it a VNCIA. The first two pics are from the seller (Artemide Aste) and the next pics are mine.


Aes Premonetale. A fragment of unidentified Aes Grave As, after 280 BC. AE.
27.39 grams (I measured 27.32 grams +/- .002 due to scale drift)
40.00 mm
RR. A very interesting and intriguing example. VF.
Possibly cut to provide small change, just like the cast bronze ingots were usually cut for payments of smaller amounts in the 3rd century. The weight of this fragment is close to one uncia = 1/12th of an As (27.29 gr).
3” (7.62 cm) circle drawer
2.74” (6.96 cm) camera cap cover
Small lines = 0.5” (1.27 cm)
Cut Aes dimensions - 40.64 X 18.79 X 10.23 mm
Inner radius 5.3 mm smaller than outer
Estimate outer Dia = 64 mm
Estimate inner Dia = 54 mm
I estimate the diameter of the coin to be 66 mm (2.6 ") and the inner ring to be about 10 mm smaller. I found 14 examples of Cr 35/1 in Grueber, BMCRR. The diameter of 13 listed coins was 2.51".
I looked in Vecchi, ICC and found several Asses that have an inner rim and a straight line near the edge of the rim: TV-1, TV-6, TV-16, TV-36, TV-37, TV-51a (cR 35/1), TV-57. These are the most likely to my cut coin.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Year in Review, 2019

A Roman Republican Collector’s Year in Review, or 
Who collects that stuff, 2019?

            I collect Roman Republican coins1, cast bronze from Central Italy2 and Roman scales and scale weights3. I have been collecting old stuff for about a decade and have posted some of my collection in a blog4. My top 10 list of acquisitions is below.

This year has been interesting. I joined the International Society of Antique Scale Collectors: ISASC5 and attended their annual meeting in Austin TX. I met lots of interesting people from around the US and world. I did not find a Roman scale weight expert I was hoping to find. I found several books and web sites on Roman scale weights. The best is: Pondera, An Online Database of Ancient and Byzantine Weights6. Two scale weights are on my top 10 list.
My wife and I traveled to London and the Shetland Islands in the fall. I became a friend of the British Museum and was able to visit their coin room. The BM has an excellent collection of cast bronze that is interesting to see online7, but much better to see in hand. While in London, I visited Roma’s office to see the cast bronze in auction XVIII on September 29, 20198. I won lot 776 and it made #1 on my list below.

1        Cast Æ Semis Pegasus / Pegasus
This coin is #1 because it is a great coin and it reminds me of how much fun we had on our trip. Below you can see the two denarii I bought at the COINEX coin show in London and the Wool Week hats my wife made for our trip to the Shetland Islands.
Anonymous Cast Æ Semis. Rome, circa 270 BC.
Obv - Pegasus flying right; below, S in retrograde
Rev - Pegasus flying left; below, S
VF; well centered, high profile casting, small casting flaw near top sprew, good style, dark brown patina on obv & a bit lighter on rev
140.7 grams
52.7 X 49.7 X 16.6 mm This is a thick coin!
12 h – Note - All of the Cr 18.2 coins I have seen on line & in books (about 50) are medal turn. The top of the obverse and top of the reverse are at 12 on a clock dial.
Crawford 18/2
T&V 9

2     In 2019 I dived deep into Roman scale weights. The highlight was a barrel weight with silver inlayed AA. The one pound Roman weight (= Libra or As) was part of the 10 piece lot shown below.
 One As = 12 VNCIA

half As = 6 VNCIA

 Two cast coins next to scale weights of same denomination.

3  ΟΥΝΓΓΙΑ (UNCIA or ounce)



half, quarter and eighth ounce

Roman and Byzantine weights:
According to Bendall, two of the weights are Roman and 8 of the weights are late Roman to early Byzantine. The earlier weights indicate denominations in VNCIA (ounces). The later weights use Greek letters and monograms.
Lot of 10 bronze barrel weights, 8 inlaid with silver, denominations: 1/8th uncia (ounce) to one Libra (Roman pound). See dimensions below.
= OY in monogram, OY is an abbreviation for ΟΥΝΓΓΙΑ (UNCIA or ounce).

Wt Gr
Eq Ass
H X D, mm
As or Libra,
12 ounce
32.8 X 43.2
23, 27
6 ounce
26.7 X 34.5

6 ounce
28.5 X 33.9
23, 28
= OY
3 ounce
20.5 X 26.5
2 ounce
18.9 X 22.5
1 ounce
14.5 X 18.3
23, 33
1 ounce
13.0 X 18.7

½ ounce
11.3 X 15.1

¼ ounce
9.7 X 11.6
1.5 Solidus
1/8 ounce
7.2 X 9.4
3 Scripula
3 Grammata


3     Roma Wheel Aes Grave As
In most years, this would be my top coin. It is has high relief and is well preserved.

 Roman Republican AE Cast As, Roma/Wheel series, Rome, c. 265-242 BC.
Obv - Head of Roma right, wearing Phrygian helmet with pinnate crest; behind, mark of value I, set horizontally.
Rev - Six-spoked wheel; between two spokes, I.
Cr, RRC          24/3; wt std = 270 grams
204.48 grams
66.0 mm
12 H
A light example. Very rare. Lovely earthen emerald green patina. Good VF/About EF.

4  I have had a RR denarius with voting on the reverse for several years. In 2019, I added three more. The two coins on the left are 4a & 4b.

Clockwise from top left:

C. Cassius Longinus, 126BC, Cr 266/1;

P. Licinius Nerva, 113BC, Cr 292/1;
Lucius Cassius Longinus, 63 BC, Cr 413/1;
C. Cassius Longinus, 55 BC, Cr 428/1

5     Romano - Byzantine One Pound Weight

This weight is a few centuries older than the Libra above. The cross was probably not used on official weights when the AA barrel weight was made.

Romano - Byzantine One Pound Commercial Weight, 4th-6th centuries. Æ
Obv - Cross flanked by ÎA (some say Î is LI in ligature = one Roman pound or Libra = 12 ΟΥΝΓΓΙΑ (UNCIA or ounces); all within wreath.  
Rev - Blank.
Cf. Bendall 51.
VF, green-brown surfaces, a few scrapes.
323.8 g

The one Libra weight fits in the following series.
Clockwise from upper left: 12, 3, 2, 1 & 1 ounces.
I do not know when the Romans switched from lower case gamma to upper case for ounce.

6     Hercules / Prow Quadrans that was struck over a Roma, left  Prow, right Semilibral Uncia.  
  • understrike - Crawford 38/6, 217 – 215 BC, Rome mint. 
  • overstrike - Crawford 56/5 (variety G1.Qd.110), after 211 BC, Rome mint.
  • #43 in Crawford's list of overstruck coins

 The Roman Republic, AE Quadrans, (the seller said Staff series Cr 106/7, but I think it probably Cr 56/6), after 211 BC, Rome.

Obv – The top coin: Head of Hercules right, wearing lion's skin; behind, three pellets. The bottom coin: Head of Roma left, behind 1 pellet.
Rev - Prow of galley right, ROMA above, 3 pellets below.
11.17 grams
25.5 mm
Very rare. Dark patina. About VF.
This coin is #43 in Crawford's list of overstruck coins – Cr 56/6 over Cr 38/6. Also in Crawford's list, #99, is Cr 106/7 over Cr 38/6.

The following coin is a similar overstrike and was purchased earlier. You can see a different side of Roma in this coin but only one ship of the reverse.

7     L.ROSCI.FABAIT with scale and modius. Last year the coin on the left made my top 10. It had a standing scale on the obverse and a weight box on the reverse. This year’s coin has a hand scale on the obverse and a modius on the reverse. A modius was used to measure by volume.

Roman Republic AR Denarius (Serratus); L. Roscius Fabatus;  64 BC, Rome
Obv - Head of Juno Sospita r. in the goatskin cap that is tied in front, behind balance / scale, below: L.ROSCI; border of dots
Rev - Girl stands r. feeding snake that is raised in front of her, behind box for weights / modius, In Ex: FABATI; border dots
Crawf. 412/1

8     Capis Pedium Aes Grave Uncia

 Mint – Uncertain Central Italy.
Denomination - AE Cast Uncia
Mint date - 280-260 BC
Obv – Pitcher (also called Jug, Jug with handle, Capis, Oinochoe, Oenochoe, kanne mit Henkel11); pellet (mark of value) to left.
Rev – Shepherds crook (also called Pedum, Sistrum, curved club); pellet (mark of value) to left.
Vecchi ICC 308
31.32 grams, this is the heaviest coin I found in web searches. This weight corresponds to an As of 375 grams (vs 327 standard). Only two of 44 coins in Haeberline were heavier.
30.5 X 31.2 X 8.1 mm
A superb cast in high relief. Dark green patina. Good VF.

the picture above shows scale weights and corresponding aes grave coins (except for 3 oz which has a cast bronze shell)

9     Hybrid Denarius
A hybrid coin has an obverse from one coin series and a reverse from another. The coin looks like a fourree. It is likely that the coin was minted by ancient forgers.

Roman Republican AR / AE Denarius, mint uncertain, after 100 BC. M. Servilius/L. Sentius.

3.28 grams, 21.0 mm
A very rare and interesting example. Broad flan. Brilliant and lightly toned, with golden hues. VF.

Obv. Helmeted head of Roma right; behind, Φ (M. Servilius C.f., 100 BC).

Rev. Jupiter in prancing biga right; below horses, uncertain letter (partially off flan); in exergue, L SENTI [C F] (L. Sentius C.f., 101 BC).

10     Two Ship’s Prow Coins - This pair of coins were purchased together and show Roman (coin of Luceria) and Macedonian (coin of Perseus) ship’s prows. The cover of a book by Christa Steinby14 shows the prow (ramming end) of an ancient war ship. These coins are pictured on the book.

Left Coin
Macedon, time of Philip V – Perseus (187-168 BC). AR Tetrobol; Pella or Amphipolis. 
Obv - Head of maenad R
Rev - Prow of galley R.; above – MAKE; to right – Π; below – [D]ONON   Macedon in Greek!
2.52 grams

Right Coin
Roman Republican Uncia, L series, Luceria (214-212 BC). Æ
Obv - Helmeted head of Roma r
Rev - Prow right; L and pellet below
Crawford 43/5;

19 mm
6.55 grams

Notes & References:
1.      If an item is in Michael H. Crawford’s book: Roman Republican Coinage, I consider it worth collecting. Rome did not mint coins until about 300 BC. Some Greek colonies in Italy issued coins much earlier. Roman Republican money includes coins (cast and struck) and cast bronze bars and pieces.  
2.      I collect cast bronze that is in: Italian Cast Coinage: Italian Aes Grave, Aes Rude, Signatum and the Aes Grave of Sicily by Bradbury K. Thurlow and Italo Vecchi.
3.      Byzantine Weights an Introduction by Simon Bendall is the best book I have found on scale weights. I go by table on page 8 to determine if a weight would fit my collection. Other scale books are -
a.       Scales & Weights A Historical Outline by Bruno Kisch
b.      Ancient Scale Weights and Pre Coinage Currency of the Near East by David Hendin 
9.      Picture from Savoca 23rd silver auction lot 331.
10.  G1.Qd.1, from A. McCabe "The Anonymous Struck Bronze Coinage of the Roman Republic".
11.  kanne mit Henkel = pot with handle – English translation of German text
12.  picture from Artemide Asta auction 19.1E, lot 185
13.  picture from Artemide Asta auction 36E, lot 427
14.  Rome Versus Carthage: The War at Sea by Christa Steinby