Editor’s Note: Columnist Michael Bugeja follows up on a recent lot of ancients that he won with a bid of $75 in an online auction, or $100 with buyer’s and shipping fees. The second installment concerns whether those coins slabbed at NGC.
It is one thing to bid on or buy raw ancient coins in online auctions, shops, and shows, and another to have them holdered as authentic. Sometimes I think there are more counterfeit ancients on eBay and other sites as genuine ones.
I’ll be writing about those fakes for Coin Update.
Happily, the coins I won with a low bid last month were truly ancient and slab-worthy.
Using Doug Smith’s “Illustrated Ancient Coin Glossary” and other sites, I identified these coins in my NGC submission: three silgos (B.C. 420-375), Roman Empire Philip I double denarius (A.D. 244-249), Corinth AR stater (B.C. 345-307), Maximian Follis (A.D. 286-310) and Ptolemaic Kingdom Ptolemy III (B.C. 246-222).
After NGC received my submission, it posted descriptions, correcting two of my errors: I mistook Maximian for Philip I and a Corinth for an Ambracia stater.
Here are mint and age ranges with final grades:
- c.Fifth Century B.C. ACHAEMENID EMPIRE AR Siglos, G — countermarks
- c.Fifth Century B.C. ACHAEMENID EMPIRE AR Siglos, G — punch mark
- c.Fifth Century B.C. ACHAEMENID EMPIRE AR Siglos, VG — countermarks
- Trebonianus Gallus, A.D. 251-253 ROMAN EMPIRE AR Double — Denarius, Ch VF
- c.mid-Fourth Century B.C. EPIRUS, AMBRACIA AR Stater, VF — lt.graffito
- Maximian, A.D. 286-310 ROMAN EMPIRE BI Nummus, Ch VF
- Ptolemy III, 246-222 B.C. PTOLEMAIC KINGDOM AE27, F
Along with recent eBay auction prices for similar coins, here are photos of a siglo ($79), Treb. Gallus ($169), and Maximian ($59):
The Ptolemy III coin is somewhat higher priced, typically selling in this condition for about $150. I liked the strike on this coin and thought it could have gone one grade higher, VF. That would likely have increased the value by another $50-$75.
History is one of the joys of our hobby, and ancients provide that in abundance. For instance, the Achaemenid Empire was based in Iran, founded by Cyrus the Great. He is also mentioned in the Bible, liberating imprisoned Jews in Babylonia. See Isaiah 45, which begins: “Cyrus is my anointed king… I take hold of his right hand… I give him the power… to bring nations under his control.”
Gaius Vibius Trebonianus Gallus had a short rule with his son Volusianus, both of whom were reported killed by their own troops in a power grab by Marcus Aemilius Aemilianus (who had an even shorter rule of three months —again, killed by his own troops). What goes around comes around, and that works for coins, too. Eventually, they end up in our palms and holders.
Conversely, Maximian (aka Marcus Aurelius Valerius Maximianus) enjoyed a long co-reign (A.D. 286-305) with the Roman emperor Diocletian, an intelligent and nimble ruler. Diocletian was the brain; Maximian, the brawn.
Ptolemy III Euergetes was king of the Ptolemaic dynasty (B.C. 246-222), reuniting what is now modern-day Egypt with parts of Libya. Under his rule, the security of Egypt was his main concern, and as a result, his kingdom flourished and was stable for successors.
I enjoyed reading about these rulers.
In the end, I also enjoyed holding and then slabbing these ancient coins. I was pleased with most of the NGC grades, except one — as you might anticipate, the coin that I wanted for my personal collection, Epirus, Ambracia stater. NGC marked it with a graffito.
It is hard to see any without a loop. There are no marks whatsoever on the reverse. But I did notice something on the obverse, which is barely noticeable with a magnifier, a tiny contact mark under each hoof.
I contacted NGC to ask about its designation and was informed about the “It. Graffito” designation. This means there is a faint or shallow mark scratched into the coin.
At any rate, similar coins on eBay are being offered for $350-$500. A clean VF example of this coin would go for about $100-$200 more.
In total, my investment is worth about $800 retail. Not bad for a $100 bid with shipping and $250 holdering and mailing fees. Once again, numismatic knowledge is key in our hobby, and I continue learning.
In that regard, it is helpful to know NGC designations, like graffito, that may reduce the value of an ancient coin. NGC graders also document test cuts, banker’s marks, countermarks, surface marks and scratches, smoothing of surface or patina, polishing, cleaning hairlines, and mounting or jewelry marks. You can find a complete list here.
I will be writing about U.S., world, and ancient coins and my experiences in online auctions and with slabbing companies.
I hope my articles on ancients will inspire you to look into that aspect of the hobby. I also think ancients are a good investment, among the very best in numismatics, again because these coins have survived millennia and remind current and future generations about the rise and fall of empires.
They say coin collection is the hobby of kings. Ancients is the collecting of kings.