Beginning in April 2004 a considerable number of Palaeologan bronze coins (over 600 to date) were offered for sale on Ebay and elsewhere by a number of sellers. Most of the coins offered were Thessalonican trachea of Andronicus II, but there were also some earlier types and also a few trachea normally attributed to Andronicus III. Most of these coins derived (so I have been informed) from one particular wholesaler, who apparently acquired them as part of one lot, or perhaps a series of related lots, of 13th and 14th cent. material which was then offered to various retailers.
Despite the fact that much of this material was apparently acquired together, and for the most part has a similar appearance, it appears to be ultimately derived from a number of separate caches dating from several differing periods. Thus it ranges from material from the later 12th and earlier 13th century, mainly official Byzantine types and Bulgarian imitatives, with some earlier Latin types, to Andronicus II types from the earlier 14th century. Generally lacking are issues from the mid 13th cent, notably the later Latin types and the Series III types of John Comnenus-Ducas, although of course these are not all that common to start with. Michael VIII and Constantine Tikh Asen types are present, but again not in large numbers. It therefore appears that we are dealing with a number of separate finds, deposited at various times, but perhaps in one particular area.
The “2004” Palaeologan Finds.
The late 12th/early 13th Cent. material in the original wholesale lot was presumably derived (as this material usually is) from one or more separate hoards. The later Paleologan material, as offered by the various sellers, probably derives largely from one single find, or at least a number of related finds. In any case, whether or not the Palaeologan material derives from one source or several, it is clear that almost all of it derives from the same general period of time, and probably the same general area, and hence for our purposes it can validly be referred to overall as the “2004” find, or more accurately, finds. (Note that the various retail offerings generally also included a small number of Palaeologan coins with quite different patinas which obviously don’t belong with the bulk of the material – these appear to have come from quite separate finds and are mostly not considered here).
Whether or not this Palaeologan material derives from one find or several, it clearly constitutes a valuable sampling of the Thessalonican coinage of the period from c.1290 to c.1330, and hence is of considerable interest to the various numismatic problems of that time, particularly in view of the well known fact that recorded hoards of Palaeologan petty coinage of any period are almost unknown. I have therefore collated and listed below as much of the material as I can. As most of the material was offered on the internet by various sellers at various times, it is listed below according to the time of offering as “Find” A, B, C etc. Find A, which is characterised by a particular smooth dark brown patina, and which constitutes a major part of the overall find, is further subdivided by seller and period of sale. Finds B, C and E contain material which appears similar to, but somewhat different from, that in Find A – these finds seem to be separate from Find A, but are very possibly related to it. The coins listed as Find D are rather different from those in the other finds, but are possibly just more corroded examples from one or more of the other finds.
Also listed below is a small but interesting group of Andronicus II and Andronicus II & Michael IX types offered by CNG in Sept. 2004 (Sale 67, lots 1904-14, ex. 1913).
Note also that a considerable number of similar Palaeologan types were also offered on Ebay by certain other sellers, but most of these coins have quite different patinas from the material discussed above, and appear to be drawn from two different general accumulations (of stray coins presumably) laid down over several hundred years. As a result they are of less relevance to the dating problem, and hence, except for one discrete group of coins (Find A2 below), they are not considered here.
(Note that the identifications of all the coins detailed below are my own, not those of the sellers, which are often unspecified and sometimes incorrect).
Offered by sellers “A.” and “S.”, from April 2004 to May 2005, with one or two more from Nov. 2005. Most coins have a thin smooth dark brown patina (although they actually looked anything from brassy-yellow to grey-blue on the scans), usually with varying amounts of verdigris, although some are more corroded.
Note that this material lacks any definite mid to late period Andronicus III types (although it does include a significant number of examples of the assarion S.2481). “A.” did in fact offer an S.2483 amongst their other material, but this was a clipped coin with a patina quite different from any of the coins in Find A, and hence it is not included here. In late 2004- early 2005 seller “S.” also offered a corroded S.2486 (overstruck on a Frankish denier) with a thick rough patina, and an S.2487 with a (different) thick patina, but both of these seem to have came from two small groups of coins which were probably separate from the main 2004 finds. (From early 2006 “S.” has also offered more Palaeologan types from a variety of sources. Most of these seem to be part of an accumulation of poorer quality strays of various types and are clearly not part of the 2004 finds).
Offered by seller “G.”. Shiny black-brown (or dark brown) patina, similar to but somewhat different from that of Find A. “G.” has in fact offered similar Latin and Bulgarian material from the 13th century on and off over some time, but the coins listed here generally have a somewhat different appearance to that of the earlier material, and were offered over a limited period (from April to August 2004), so that they seem to be from a separate cache of mainly Palaeologan issues, which is possibly related to the Find A material.
This is the first of several tranches of material from seller “T.”, appearing in May and June 2004 (other material appeared from March to May 2005, occasionally in late 2005, and from July 2006). The material from this seller is rather mixed in appearance – the later material (see Find C2 below) has a smooth dark brown patina similar to Find B, but the first tranche has a rather different appearance, although this may just reflect extra cleaning. Note the presence of several Michael VIII types.
This first tranche is not tabled below, but it included S.2269(1), S.2270(1), S.2277(1), S.2283(6), S.2360(2), S.2372(1), S.2383(1), LPC80:23(2), S.2458(1), S.2490(1), S.2492(1) and Your.37-40. (As well we can record here some odd coins offered by “T.” in December 2004 and January 2005, namely S.2385(1), S.2387(1) and S.2482(1) – these appear very blue on the screen but are presumably from the general find).
Some other coins from this seller with yet another different appearance (including an example of the mid 1330’s type S.2487 of Andronicus III), are detailed separately in the next paragraph as Find D – these may or may not be related to the other “2004” finds.
Offered primarily by “T.” from May to November 2004. Corroded red-brown material, often with green verdigris. Possibly mostly corroded coins from the other finds. This material is not tabled below, but consisted of S.2259(2), S.2265(1), S.2269(1), S.2274(1), S.2370(1), S.2374(1), S.2383(1), S.2384(1), S.2385(1), LPC80:23(1), S.2432(2), S.2437(1), S.2440(2), S.2444(1), S.2446(1), S.2315(1), S.2458(1) and S.2487(1). Note the wide range of material, particularly the trachea of Michael VIII, the assaria of Constantinople and the S.2487 of Andronicus III.
Offered by “T.” from March to May 2005 (with a few more in later 2005), and again from July 2006 to January 2007, and occasionally since. This material (like the material in Find B) has a fairly smooth, dark brown patina with tan highlights, and is similar to, but somewhat different from, that of Find A (it lacks the green verdigris). If these coins are not part of Find A they are possibly at least related to it, and were certainly laid down in much the same period, and hence can be conveniently grouped with the rest of the material considered here under general aegis of the “2004” finds. But note the preponderance of Michael VIII types in all the “T.” offerings, which might suggest a separate history for this material.
From late 2005 “T.” has also offered a lot of late 12th/early 13th cent. material, including Bulgarian and early Latin Imitatives, with a smooth brown patina similar to this find – this is noted under Find C2 in the table below, although it may only be coincidentally related to the Palaeologan material.
Find A2 .
A small cache of coins appearing on the screen with a light brown patina, but darker in reality, offered by seller “X.” in June-July 2005, and also Nov.-Dec. 2005. Unlike most of the other recent material from this seller, this offering appears to be part of Find A.
This offering is not tabled below, but it contained S.2261(1), 2360(2), 2370(1), 2373(2), 2377(4), 2384(5), 2392(1), 2395?(1), LPC80-23(1), S.2435(1), 2439sc(1), 2457(2), 2458(1), 2482(2) and 2492(1), as well as three worn small Latin types, and an odd unidentified flat assarion style flat coin (not Byzantine, but apparently not Bulgarian either).
Offered by “A.” from August 2005 to April 2006, and occasionally more recently. These coins have a dullish, often mottled brown patina somewhat like that of Finds A and C2, but rather duller (on the screen at least). It seems likely that this material is separate from that in the finds listed above, but it was certainly laid down in the same period, and possibly in the same general location, and hence for the present purposes it can be grouped with the rest of the material as part of the “2004” finds. Unlike most of the earlier offerings, these coins were offered along with a considerable amount of earlier Byzantine material with a similar patina (mostly official issues from the late 12th century and some Bulgarian imitatives from the early 13th). This earlier material presumably come from the same general location as the Palaeologan types, but is probably only fortuitously related to them, i.e, we are apparently dealing with two or more separate finds from essentially the same place.
Offered by seller “C.” on Ebay and Vcoins from October 2005 to January 2006, and occasionally more recently (July/October 2006). Most of these coins have a smooth dark brown patina, often with some verdigris, and are clearly part of Find A.
A further small group of coins offered by “C.” through Ebay in late 2008. These coins are evidently part of the residue of Find A. Note the example of DO1190 (Longuet 22) which is overstruck on S.2368.
This offering is not tabled below, but it contained S.2280(1), S.2373(1), S.2391(1), S.2440(1), S.2457(2), S.2458(2), S.2465(1), S.2482(2), S.2490(1), S.2315(1) and DO1190(1).
A small group of coins with (on the screen) a yellow-brown or olive-brown patina, including some interesting items. From a (probably non-representative) find apparently dating from the mid 1320’s at the latest, and probably earlier. This group is of course quite unrelated to the other finds listed here.
The Dating of the “2004” Finds.
As stated at the beginning, the original wholesale lot included material from a number of sources from differing periods. However, the Palaeologan material clearly all comes from a single period, consisting as it does mainly of Andronicus II types from the early 14th century, terminating around 1330, or perhaps somewhat earlier. However, it is not clear that we are dealing with a discrete “snapshot” hoard (or hoards) here – there are difficulties in reconciling the composition of these finds with the quite different composition of Longuet’s “Thessalonica” hoard of mainly Andronicus III types, which apparently dates from barely a dozen or so years later. Also, the statistical composition of the material, taken as a whole, is very similar to that of the stray Thessalonican coins of Andronicus II found at Turnovo by Dochev (which presumably constitute a representative sampling of the Thessalonican issues of the period). Taken together, these facts suggest that we must consider the possibility that the finds considered here could represent accumulations of some sort, rather than “snapshot” hoards.
However, even if we are dealing with accumulations, then they clearly cover only a limited period. The bulk of the material involved evidently covers only the middle to late periods of the reign of Andronicus II. The earliest Andronicus II types in the find (S.2365, 2371 and 2376) are heavily worn, as are many of the Michael VIII’s – this certainly suggests we are dealing with a simple hoard, or hoards, but the later types often show a range of wear from heavy to light, suggesting that these hoards were actually formed as accumulations put together c.1310 to 1330 (or over an even longer period in the case of Find C2), perhaps as the savings of households. In other words, these could be domestic rather than commercial hoards (although it has to said that the similarity in the compositions of the various finds seems to be rather more than we might expect from the result of separate domestic saving over a long period).
But whatever may be the explanation of these finds, we note that as compared with Turnovo, they include only a couple of possible instances of types that post-date 1330, so that whether we are dealing with discrete hoards or accumulations, the material effectively terminates in the early 1330’s at the latest (except for the single Ivan Shishman coin). It is therefore tempting to conclude that most of the material considered here comes from a region or regions in Thrace or Macedonia lost by the Byzantines in the wars of the early 1330’s with Serbia and Bulgaria. However, we have no specific information to support this idea, and it is not impossible that some at least of the finds actually terminate some time before 1330, as in the last analysis they include no coins which can be definitely dated.to the later 1320’s (even the S.2481’s could, in theory at least, date from the earlier 1320’s).
It is worth noting that the material considered here, both in the range of types, and in the relative numbers of each type, is in fact very similar to Bendall’s reconstructed hoard of 2000, as reported in Num. Chron. 2001 (cf. “Bendall’s 2000 Hoard”).
* Note that in this column “worn” indicates relatively heavy wear, and “joint reign” means the joint reign of Andronicus II and Andronicus III, from 1325 (or 1322) to 1328.
a: The imitative material noted here is probably only coincidentally related the Palaeologan material from this vendor.
b: Hendy Pl. 46; 10-11. Similar to the silver trachy S.2076 of John III (Ratto 2286), but B. Christ, and the tsar wears a diamond panelled chlamys and holds a sceptre cruciger.
The appearance of this type here is significant. Because of its fine style, and the fact that it is mainly found in Macedonia (rather than Bulgaria proper), it is generally thought that this type was struck in Thessalonica, or maybe Ochrid, in the 1230’s and circulated in Macedonia for propaganda purposes (Manuel Comnenus-Ducas was of course Ivan Asen’s vassal in this period). This in turn raises the question of why Ivan didn’t strike coins in his own name in Bulgaria itself – but that’s a problem for another day.
c: Note that this type is not S.2186, since the latter (as defined by Metcalf in N. Chron. 1973) is actually the small module version of S.2183, not 2180.
d: For another example see BBS116-716 (= BBS107-435, so not from Bendall’s 2000 hoard).
e: This small module (c.1.5g) type has a 6-winged seraph on the obverse and a half length ruler in a loros and waist-band on the reverse holding a full labarum (with right hand high) and a globus cruciger. The module is usually cut to an octagonal shape, and hence presumably dates from the early period of Constantine’s reign, before the issue of the large module reform types.
f: On the variant type the obverse is exactly as S.2277 (complete with A’s left and right), but the emperor wears a loros? and sagion with a single collar piece, and holds a full labarum (right hand high) and an ordinary globus (the legends are columnar but unclear).
g: The eight examples here suggest that this type is probably an issue of Thessalonica rather than Constantinople. The model city held by the emperor is of course an attribute typical of Thessalonica. The number appearing here is surprisingly large, suggesting perhaps that this is a late issue of Michael VIII.
In fact this type was originally attributed to Thessalonica in LPC, but was reattributed to Constantinople in Sear and PCPC, presumably because the seated Christ obverse and columnar legend were regarded as characteristic of that city. I prefer the hard evidence of actual finds to arguments based on style (alone). Dochev also gives it to Thessalonica.
h: For the dating of this type see Article “The Thessalonican Trachea of Andronicus III”. The Find A3 example had a thicker and harder patina than is usual with this find.
i1: See Note “Some Unlisted Palaeologan Types” for this type. The coin listed under Find A3 here had a rather darker and thicker patina than the rest of Find A, and possibly comes from a separate but possibly related find.
i2: The obverse of the two examples of this type in these finds is a double-lined mediaeval “shield” with a star in the centre – either these coins represent a new type, or the description of S.2363 in LPC is incorrect. See Coin 5 in Note “Some Unlisted Palaeologan Types” for details.
j: As LPC 210:9, but with the saint on the left (as on S.2367 and 2368), and a garbled legend above centre, rather than a star. This coin is the same type as BBS117-49, and the only other similar coin known to me is BBS107-429, which also has the saint on the left, although in this last case my notes don’t say anything about the star. It is therefore reasonable to surmise that LPC210:9 is misdescribed in LPC (which quotes only from a description by Gerasimov).
On the other hand Dochev lists a single example of this type from the excavations at Turnovo, drawn with the reverse as per Gerasimov and LPC, and with a starred monogram obverse as per S.2395. However, he doesn’t show a photograph of the actual coin, so for the moment my guess is that his coin is misdescribed, and possibly a composite of two different types.
k: There is a model city at the base of the large cross on the reverse of this type. The city is often not visible, and may not have been present on all examples, but it can clearly be seen in the example from Bendall’s 2000 hoard in the Gorny & Mosch Sale 104 (Lot 1474), and in the Dochev photo (Pl. 18, 6). Another example showing the city clearly was offered (Sept. ’05) on Ebay, and this coin is shown below. (Sear and D.O. don’t give the the obverse of this type, but it is B. Archangel holding a jewelled sceptre and globus).
Note that Bendall has suggested that the “model city” on the reverse is actually the Hetoimasia (Sacred Throne) – cf. N. Circ. 2005, p. 249, but a well-informed reader has pointed out that it is more likely the well-known (but now lost) reliquary of St Demetrius.
l1: This apparently unlisted type appears to be the same type as BBS116-687, and is similar to GM104-1456, which (like the BBS coin) was a part of Bendall’s reconstructed hoard of 2000. One of the coins from Find A is shown in the Note “Some Unlisted Palaeologan Types“.
At first sight this type is a variant of S.2369, with the lis sceptre in the right hand and the large patriarchal globus in the left. But 2369 is a large and presumably early type, while the variant is clearly smaller and later (with only a short garbled legend). None of the variant examples known to me show a clear obverse, but there is a reversed B to the left and a B to the right.
l2: This coin is the same type as a coin from Bendall’s 2000 hoard (N. Chron. 2001, p. 266, #144), and is possibly struck from the same reverse die. The reverse appears to be as S.2371 but with the winged emperor holding the orb in his right hand and the labarum? sceptre in his left. The obverse is unclear in both examples. For a picture of this coin see the Note “Some Unlisted Palaeologan Types”.
m. This type (and some others) often appear to have been clipped to an oblong shape – this may have occurred in the 1320’s, but perhaps these coins were issued on reduced flans to begin with.
n1: This apparently unlisted type, which is illustrated as Coin 3 in the Note “Some Unlisted Palaeologan Types”, is basically very similar to the billon trachy of Alexius III, but is clearly Palaeologan. It is apparently an issue of Andronicus II and Michael IX, possibly of Constantinople.
n2: This type is unknown in the west, but is possibly the same as Dochev p.255,12. The obverse is a Palaeologan monogram with pellets; the reverse has the two emperors holding a labarum between them (see Coin 4 in Note “Some Unlisted Palaeologan Types”). Similar to the assarion S.2433, but clearly different in detail. On the basis of its general design this type is listed here as an issue of Constantinople, but the fact that the only two examples of the type known to me outside Turnovo both turned up in the “2004” finds suggests that it could be an issue of Thessalonica.
o: This coin seems to be a scyphate version of S.2435 – for another example cf. Num. Circ.’77, p.143,13. This type could possibly be the Constantinople equivalent of S. 2465, but see also following note on S.2439sc.
p: This type comes in both flat and scyphate forms. Given that the three S.2439’s in Finds A1 and A3 are all scyphate, it is tempting to surmise that the scyphate version is actually a trachy of Thessalonica. (Also BBS116-710, presumably from Bendall’s hoard of mainly Thessalonican types, could be a flattened example of this type). Similar considerations may apply to the scyphate version of S.2435 also listed here, although in both cases the weights are more consistent with Constantinople than Thessalonica.
q: Given their commoness in these finds, and in Bendall’s Hoard of 2000, it seems likely that these anonymous types are relatively late issues of Andronicus II and Michael IX. In fact it is tempting to surmise that at least one of them may reflect the crowning of Andronicus III by Michael IX in Thessalonica in 1315 or 1316, not long before the beginning of the civil war with Andronicus II, although this now seems unlikely (See also “Sequencing the Thessalonican Trachea”).
r: S.2465 seems to come with legends of varying lengths, or sometimes no legend at all (above the emperors at any rate). The fullest legend I have seen reads “Andronikoc -Decpotic”, and contra Bendall, I have yet to see an example where both emperors are clearly identified as Andronicus (on one interesting example the right hand legend begins with a small but clear Palaeologan monogram, followed by “Dec…”, on another the monogram follows the legend). The presence of the legends, the absence of the type from Longuet’s hoard, and a recently discovered overstrike on S.2377 or 2379 (see Data Page “Overstrikes & Mules”) all suggest that S.2465 predates 1320, although the beginning of the joint reign of Andronicus II and III (perhaps in 1322, rather than 1325) is still not out of the question.
Another possible candidate for the period of the joint reign is the similar but rare type S.2453, which seems to lack the full legend of the early Andronicus II & Michael IX two figure types – however this type is doubtful as a late issue of Thessalonica as it hasn’t appeared in any of the recent finds.
Other possible candidates for the joint reign are the common anonymous types S.2457, which is known overstruck on the late Andronicus II type S.2492, and S.2458. However, even more than S.2465, these types certainly seem to be rather too common for the 1320’s (see Article on the Andronicus III types).
s: Given that the main finds listed here include no other coins that can be definitely attributed to Andronicus III, the fact that Finds A1 and A3 included examples of the Constantinople assarion S.2481 suggests that this type could well be an issue of Andronicus II, perhaps from the second sole reign. Against this is the fact that although 2481 is a common type it is not known to be involved in overstrikes of the assaria of Andronicus II and Michael IX, unlike many of the other issues of that period, and in any case without it we effectively have almost no petty coinage for Constantinople in the the 1330’s.
However, if this type really is an issue of Andronicus III alone, then what petty coinage did Constantinople use in the 1320’s? – perhaps some of the “Avtokratec Pwmaiwn” assaria currently attributed to Andronicus II & Michael IX are really issues of Andronicus II & III.
t: For the suggested datings and reassignments of the Andronicus III and “John V” trachea see the article “The Thessalonican Trachea of Andronicus III”.
u: Seated emperor type with emperor holding large patriarchal cross and large B – see S. 2485 in the article “The Thessalonican Trachea of Andronicus III” for this type.
v: These coins have heavy patinas rather different from the bulk of the other material, and hence are probably only fortuitously related to the rest of the finds listed here.
x1: See Note “S.2315 of Michael VIII & S.2486 of Andronicus III” for this type. It is now (Oct. ’06) known overstruck by S.2387, and hence is clearly an issue of Andronicus II.
x2: For the “scyphate” version of S.2486 see “Bendall’s Hoard of 2000” – this type is possibly just S.2315 with the reverse stars omitted, and hence an issue of Andronicus II, although Andronicus III is certainly not out of the question.
y: S.2492 is known overstruck by the two emperor type S.2457 – cf. N. Chron. 2001, p.277, Addendum, and also a coin in my possession. See Data Page “Overstrikes & Mules”.
z: Grierson 1473 (DO 936-40) is very similar to S.2459: – the obverse is a Palaeologan monogram (Pi before A), with a large B to the right; the reverse has half -length figures of St Demetrius left and Andronicus holding a Lis on a shaft between them. The saint also holds a short spear and the emperor a sceptre cruciger. If the B is an indictional date, then this issue probably dates from 1304-05, but it seems more likely that the B has only its usual dynastic significance here, as on the similar type S .2367. For a reasonable example from the 2000 hoard showing the B clearly see GM104-1494.
aa: This scarce type is assigned to John V in DOC V on stylistic grounds, but its presence in Finds A4 and C here, in Bendall’s Hoard of 2000, and in Longuet’s Thessalonika hoard (as Longuet 22) suggests that it is probably an issue of Andronicus III, or the joint reign of Andronicus II and Andronicus III. See the article “The Thessalonican Trachea of Andronicus III“.
15 Aug. ’06 Generally revised, with the Finds relabelled again.
7 Oct. ’06 Gr.1468 & unlisted? “Shield” type added – totals updated.
5 Nov. ’06 Dating discussion revised – again.
21 Apr. ’07 S.2371a added.
15 Mar. ’08 Totals updated – S.2277 deleted.
11 Oct. ’08 Totals updated.
8 Jan. ’09 Find A4 added.
28 Nov. ’09 Totals updated.
12 Mar. ’16 S.2368 note revised.