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Focusing collection

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  • Focusing collection

    I have been collecting ancient Roman coins now for about a year.
    My primary collecting area is the silver denarii of the Flavians.

    However I also collect Trajan Denarii and would not be oppossed to collecting any silver Denarii of any 1st or 2nd century emperors.

    Most of the beginners literature on collecting ancients advise you to focus your collection.
    My question is how do I focus this interest. Some ideas for collecting themes from more experienced collectors would be very helpful.


    David Atherton

  • #2
    You'll have your focus when you can tell an interesting story about the coins in your primary collection. For example, if you want to collect the silver denarii of an emperor or family, pick an family whose military exploits and monuments are interesting to you. Be able to say what victories are commemeratored by each reverse.

    Usually what happens is that you don't pick your focus. The focus picks you. You see coins you think are undervalued so you start buying them. Those coins aren't really undervalued -- you merely appreciate them more than most collectors. You start buying books for more information on the coins in your collection, leading you to greater appreciation of those coins.

    Something you've read suggests a 'set' of coins that complete a story, and you realize you are halfway to completing the set. That is your focus.


    • #3
      I have focussed my collection on those funny little control and field marks. I love em! I found many of my late Romans to have them, and I started to get interested in them. Another thought of mine is also to eventually attempt to get at least one from each mint. In my gallery is an awesome coin for control marks that I got for my birthday last year!
      Each coin is a history lesson....learn something from each one you conserve and attribute!


      • #4
        I too found it very difficult to find a focus for my collecting. As has been mentioned earlier in this thread my focus(es) found me. I originally took the shotgun approach to collecting - if I liked it and I had some money left, then I would buy it. I have ended up with a scattered collection but with some themes emerging from the chaos.

        I have narrowed my collecting down to :-

        Eastern mint denarius of Septimius Severus (I know a few people who are also in this area and I am just starting out). I latched on to this as a collecting focus after having bought a couple and not knowing much about them and then buying one that was unlisted in RIC. I then made contact with others who are knowledgable in this field, namely, Curtis Clay, Doug Smith and Barry Murphy. I then became aware of the diversity of legend variations and types and was hooked.

        The coinage of Probus from Lugdunum. In an attempt to create a focus or theme for my collection I started trying to find depictions of Mars and acquired some examples from Lugdumun under Probus and suddenly realised the diversity that could be had just in this narrow field. My interest then expanded into the rest of the Lugdunum coinage of Probus and now I am hooked on this too. I have just taken delivery of Bastien Volume 9 to increase my knowledge in this area (my biggest challenge being that it is written in French).

        An so my collection has become Bi-Polar with a couple of other minor sub-themes aling the way. My biggest problem now is how to bring myself to part with the other coins I have collected along the way to help fund my current collecting drives.

        Martin Griffiths


        • #5
          focus? what focus?

          I collect Roman Imperial bronzes by portraits. I like the "sweep of history" approach in my collection. It is only limited by metal (only bronze/copper/oricalcum) and the fact that the later coinage, after the fall of the Severin dynasty, starts to deteriorate in style, and the denominations become smaller and smaller. I don't have anything past Philip I.

          Bronzes are more interesting because of the size of the flan and the colors and textures of the metals. Denarii just dont float my boat, unless they are VF+ - EF and nicely toned, which is rare. Most have dull, overcleaned surfaces. I am attracted by the "eye appeal" of a coin as well as its historical significance.

          I used to have some very nice Provincials from Moesia, and will probably collect them again at some point, but am too poor to collect everthing my heart desires.

          I have not found myself to be terribly interested in only one emperor as of yet, but I fear it may happen. The problem is that once that happens, all my resources will have to go towards completing a series, which I fear will be very expensive. Imperial sestertii in VF+ and EF condition are usually out of my price range, so I have had to be very creative in order of finance this hobby -- so far it is going well. All the coins in my collection are at least F+ condition, with a few VF and VF+.

          I collected American coins for years, which is why I am still somewhat obsessed with the condition of a coin, but honestly, you might have the rarest as of Augustus in your collection, but if it's an ugly hunk 'o junk, who cares?

          Just my opinion.

          Rob Rutherford
          Antiquarian Coins


          • #6
            Thanks everyone for the input. I did get some new Ideas on where to go with this collection.

            tke96 your idea on collecting coins from different mints seems very interesting. Vespasian before 75 had many different mints stricking coins. Including Ephesus which produced some of his better looking coins.

            Like you thasos I also am concerned with grade. I only buy coins that are VF/VF+ or higher. I think having a collection of Flavian coins from many different mints and in the highest grades I can find would be stunning. Maybe I'll even expand into the bronze coins.

            Thanks again,

            David Atherton


            • #7

              The wisest collector I ever knew put it this way: "I collect coins I like that sell for less than I'd pay."

              I always recommend beginners have two collections. One has some focus while the other includes coins that were appealing for some reason or for no reason at all.

              My first focus was the Eastern denarii of Septimius Severus. That expanded in two directions. I also like Eastern mint denarii of anyone else AND the legionary series of Septimius from Rome. My 'other' collection whent along without focus for a while and I noticed that I was drawn to coins that could serve as technical examples of some point. That led to a second focussed collection including fourrees, mint errors and issues with unusual fabric. This group, too, spawned sub collections in tiny Greek silver (smaller than obols) and fourrees.

              I still have that collection of coins that appeal and don't fit any of the focus groups. I recommend you keep yourself open to things that you don't collect at least to the point that you can converse intelligently at coin club meetings or recognize the deal of the century if it comes your way.

              Collect books and auction catalogs. They will make you stronger and often appreciate in value more than the coins.
              Doug Smith


              • #8
                Yes Doug, I cannot agree with you more. I do have a few books on ancient coins that I use constantly and couldn't imagine not having them. One of them being RSC II. I also ordered RIC II just incase I ever branch out into anything other than silver.

                Having more than one collecting area is a great Idea. I can have one area that is very specific and another that can be made up of anything that catches my eye.

                By the way, I checked out your web site and it is wonderful! What a goldmine of info.


                David Atherton


                • #9
                  Collection Focus

                  I have been collecting for about three years now and if my wife knew the amount of money I have spent she would probably want to shoot me.

                  I started off with uncleaned coins which got me alot of junk, but some really cool coins as well. I was hooked once I saw the first details emerging from the crust. I always loved ancient history, so my collection of coins seems to be "if it's over 1,500 years old". However, I too am noticing some themes emerging from the chaos.

                  First, I have developed a real interest in Claudius Gothicus. His coins are relatively cheap, they have quite a variety, and the styles can range from downright crude to stunning. The hardest part with this emperor is getting coins that satisfy my eye appeal requirement. In this period the empire seemed to be in quite a rush judging by the standards of workmanship (can you say "not even CLOSE to centered?" Sure, I knew you could).

                  My secondary interest seems to be provincial coins. I love the variety of the reverses, and they can present an exotic feel to the otherwise fairly standard imperial coinage.


                  • #10
                    Hocus pocus out of focus

                    Sorry about the subject, I am a Dr. Seuss Fan.

                    I have now been collecting for 5 years. I am focused on 3 major areas: The Republic - 90-80 BCE during the rise of Sulla; coins of Trajan; and, when I can afford it , greek silver.
                    When I was gathering in everything I could afford, I found I had 5 republican coins of that era, so I just went with the flow. I chose Trajan over Hadrian, the two emperors who seemed of most interest and whose coins were relatively affordable. The Greek coins are collected because they are older and beautiful.
                    Most would say that is not much of a focus, but that is the best I could do. I am still amazed by everything. When I saw the Artuqid coins with the Latin/greek combined with Islamic motifs, I was smitten. I also want to collect astronomical symbols, but must hold back. Maybe I will develop a super specialty, but I doubt it. oh, I do own about 50 Chinese coins, too. They are very affordable and interesting, but are often imitated. I only buy these from one dealer.

                    Next week I may go to greek fractions - who knows. Any direction you take will be fascinating and fun.



                    • #11
                      Athenian "Owls"

                      Is anyone else out there a sucker for Athenian "Owls" like myself? I guess that Old style tetradrachms have become my first, and current focus. Not exactly the most exotic, but I guess it's what rings my bell.

                      Due to the abundance of them out there, I try to look almost completely for style, so much that some of the favorites in my collection are quite cut and scarred. This also allows me to get some better deals.

                      So, does anyone have any interesting "niches" that they look for in collecting them?


                      • #12
                        I know a collector who loves the owls but won't think of having one that the face is even slightly off flan. He collects by smiles.

                        The way, as far as I am concerned, is to buy a copy of the book by J. Svoronos, Corpus of the Ancient Coins of Athens and try to place each of your coins in order with the thousands of owls shown on those 115 plates. Finding a copy for sale will not be the easiest thing you ever do but worth the effort.
                        Doug Smith


                        • #13
                          Missing Out?

                          I think a focus, like rules, is meant to be broken. I started out simply attempting to collect Imperial portraits. That will be a life-long objective, but there are other things I do along the way.

                          I adore Flavian and Severan coinage, but the SAECVLARES series by Philip seems to have relevance for non-numismatists, so I collect those just to tell stories (any good excuse will do).

                          Thasos, it is interesting that you collect bronzes, but nothing past Philip. Some of my favourite coins are large follis of Diocletian, Galerius, Severus II, Constantius, and many others of that era. A wonderful sharp follis of that time period is very pleasing, and not terribly expensive.

                          I attempt to buy the highest quality of coin my budget will allow. Therefore it may be a longer waiting period to collect a specific coin I am chasing, but that is the fun of the hunt.

                          Lastly, a Republican of Sulla will end up having a special place in a display case when I finally chase it down.

                          Like I said, I don't want to miss out on anything, so what focus?

                          Jeff Einarson


                          • #14
                            I believe a really good collection is based on a real good focus. However some times being too specialized has its pitfalls. My collection was started as a completeable collection, Most of the coins could be found for under $$50.00 and the original goal was 45 coins ( DOC has changed the goal to about 55) I am about 2/3rds complete with some extremly rare ones (Check out my gallery to see some examples.) but I sometimes go for months without finding a new addition. That is really frustrating. Sometimes you need a coin fix.

                            On the other hand I used to collect Roman Empresses they were easily obtainable but it got to the point that I could not afford the missing ones. So as you see focus can be a double edged sword.


                            • #15
                              If you wish to complete a series consider buying the rarest specimens first.

                              An interesting tale of this strategy is told by Wayne Homren in "The New Collector's First Coin."