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Licinius I - AE vs. Argenteus (CNG Mail Bid Sale)

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  • Licinius I - AE vs. Argenteus (CNG Mail Bid Sale)

    Hello folks,

    I was just checking to see how the CNG bids are doing for Sale 79 which closes tomorrow and was looking at the description on Lot 1228:



    Sale: CNG 79, Lot: 1228. Closing Date: Wednesday, 17 September 2008. BID Estimate $300

    Licinius I. AD 308-324. BI Argenteus (2.89 g, 11h). Treveri (Trier) mint, 1st officina. Struck AD 317-318. Laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust left, holding mappa and scepter / Eagle standing right on wavy line, head left, bearing Licinius, standing left, who is carrying a thunderbolt and scepter; PTR. RIC VII 211; Schulten em. 18; RSC 99. Good VF, toned. Considerable silvering remains. Very rare.

    The next bid is $880 for this coin. Note the description of Billon Argenteus. To me, from the photo, this does look like a billon argenteus module.

    I just had one of these in my VCoins store (which has since been consigned to Barry for an upcoming VAuction), with a different attribution:



    Licinius I, AR Argenteus (Base Silver), c.310-313, Group IV, Class I, Treveri, Officina 1
    IMP LICI_NIVS AVG
    Laureate, cuirassed bust left, thunderbolt in right hand, scepter in left over shoulder
    IOVI CONSERV_ATORI AV_G
    Licinius as Jupiter, laureate head left, thunderbolt in right hand, scepter in left over shoulder, seated facing on back of eagle standing right on filleted exergual line, wings spread and looking back
    PTR in exergue
    18mm x 19mm, 2.83g
    RIC VI, 825 (R3)

    Here's the rub - this type was issued in two modules: the base argenteus and a regular silvered AE (follis). Here is the other type:


    Image courtest CNG Mail Bid 58, Lot 1355, September 2001.

    LICINIUS I. 308-324 AD. Billon Argentius (2.51 gm). Struck 318-319 AD. Trier mint. Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust left, holding mappa and sceptre / Eagle standing right, bearing Licinius who is carrying a thunderbolt and sceptre; PTR. RIC VII 211. Good VF, fully silvered, lightly porous. Scarce. ($500)

    Note the differences in the flan and even the description ("fully silvered"). The celator for CNG's AE module had to have also cut the reverse die on my billon argenteus module example as the eagle style and position are clearly the same. So, that may help in actually dating both series a little better.

    Anyway, my question is, do you think the specimen CNG is currently offering is really RIC VI 825 and not RIC VII 211 (and I'm not being pedantic - there really are two very distinctly different modules for these coins and do need separate RIC numbers and to be attributed appropriately to each, just as the Constantine Argenteus/Silvered AE from the VLPP series do as well).

    Thanks for your thoughts,

    --Zach Beasley
    Last edited by BeastCoins; Sep 16, 2008, 09:17 PM. Reason: Typo.
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  • #2
    Zach,
    I tend to doubt that the mint would have made coins in 25% silver and 3% silver that were indistinguishable (given the potential confusion between a silvered AE and the naturally silver appearing 25% alloy), even if the pseudo-argenteus may have been demonetized by the time the latter was produced. At the time of the pseudo-argenteus (310-313) Trier was only using a single officina (with PTR referring to Pecunia of Trier) as opposed to the dual officinas in use at the time of the 3% silver coins/VLPP.

    My working hypothesis is that any coins fitting the pseudo-argenteus description in terms of bust type with a PTR mintmark are ALL of this earlier type, and it goes without saying that those with STR mintmark must be of the later type. I recall reading (after I formed my own opinion) one of the metallurgical studies of these coins that came to the same conclusion about the PTR and STR mintmarks on these. It's also worth noting that RIC VII 210, where the different bust type precludes any confusion, is also only attested for second officina.

    Of course it's possible that they may have initially reused earlier reverse dies, or even cut fresh ones with PTR mark, before quickly realizing the potential for confusion and from that point using the second officina exclusively.

    If anyone has ever had a PTR piece (fitting the RIC VI 825 or downward wing variant, or misdated RIC VII 208A VLPP descriptions) tested and found it to be 3% silver I'd be very interested to hear it.

    Ben

    Comment


    • #3
      Ben,

      I do actually have the Billon Argenteus and Silvered AE issues of RIC VII 208a and they are, without a doubt, two completely different metallugical compositions without having to test them:



      Constantine I, AR Argenteus, 318-319, Trier, Officina 1
      IMP CONSTANTI_NVS AVG
      High-crested helmet, two pellets in crossbar and pellets in both helmet fields, draped, cuirassed, bust left, spear in right hand over shoulder, mappa in left
      VICTORIAE LAETAE PRINC PERP
      Two Victories, standing facing each other, inscribing shield with VOT | PR set on altar with box design
      PTR in exergue
      17mm x 18mm, 3.46g
      RIC VII, 208a (R3)
      Ex Barry Murphy, CICF, April 2008



      Constantine I, Silvered AE3, 318-319, Trier, Officina 1
      IMP CONSTANTI_NVS AVG
      High-crested helmet, two pellets in crossbar and three pellets in both helmet fields, draped, cuirassed, bust left, spear over right shoulder, mappa in left hand
      VICTORIAE LAETAE PRINC PERP
      Two Victories, standing facing each other, inscribing shield with VOT | PR set on altar with box design
      PTR in exergue
      18mm x 19mm, 2.65g
      RIC VII, 208a (R3)
      Ex Moses Cohen, eBay, May 2004

      Both the AE3 module and AR argenteus are listed under the same RIC number.

      And yes, I agree that if these were actually minted at the same time, it would have been confusing to the daily user of these coins in mint state condition!

      --Zach
      Last edited by BeastCoins; Sep 17, 2008, 09:08 AM.
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      • #4
        Zach,
        The trouble is that the 20-25% silver content of the pseudo-argenteus, as I understand it, is about the minimum required to give a silver-bronze alloy a naturally silverish color, and differences in precise composition can therefore result in differences in appearance. While those two coins do appear slightly different, I'm still not concinced that they are not in fact both of this approximate composition. You can see a similar thing with the Maximinus (SOLI INVICTO facing quadriga) type from this series - which (since he died in 313) can only be of the earlier high silver content type - yet the appearance of these also varies from specimen to specimen.

        It's also notable that while the majority of VLPP's don't survive fully silvered, that most/all of these PTR marked "RIC 208A" pieces do appear "silvered", which makes me think that the color is more than skin deep - due to composition rather than surface silvering. I've got the Daia type with a patina just as dark as any I've seen on the less obviously silver colored "RIC 208A" VLPPs.

        You're certainly right that there are two entirely different series here, and RIC is hopelessly confused about them, not just about metallic content (Bruun later apologized for the confusion due to not being able to test them at the time) but also the descriptons of the eagle pose on the Licinius types (RIC VII Arles also only lists 2 of the 4 extant variants).

        I'd encourage you to get that "silvered AE" VLPP tested for composition!

        Ben

        Comment


        • #5
          Thanks Ben - I'll check to see if I can schedule the two pieces to get in (or if this series was recently tested).

          --Zach
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