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Obolos 18: The Trausnitz Collection

To coin a phrase, albeit one not very newly minted, or freshly struck, how time flies! Nomos last sale, obolos 17, closed just before Christmas: since then the office staff have sent out lots and lots of purchased lots to the successful bidders in that sale (which, as I mentioned previously, did very well, indeed) and both Dimitris (who took a well-deserved vacation in the sun for a jumbo three days) and John have been furiously preparing the manuscript for the present obolos 18 sale, which will be closing on 21st February 2021. What have I been doing? Well, we’re pretty much locked down here thanks to Covid, and my wife insists that I stay safe in the basement with my library (she does feed me and lets me out a few times a day to walk the dog and get some sunlight, when it’s not snowing or raining). Needless to say, that means I am able to help with our cataloguing by checking references, correcting various grammatical infelicities (like turning the rather casual “a couple of scratches” to the more scholarly “a few scratches”), and acting, in general, like a kindly elder helping and mentoring his often over-enthusiastic young successors. To be a bit more serious, having three pairs of eyes look at each coin means that the three points of view behind of them tend to catch all sorts of interesting facts that might otherwise be missed.

In any case, this auction is devoted in its entirety to coins from a single source: the Trausnitz Collection. This is rather unusual for one of our e-sales, but given how extensive and varied the Trausnitz Collection is, having a single-owner sale is certainly the right thing to do. The elderly collector, who died about 8 years ago and, with few exceptions, closed his collection by 2007, was passionate about his coins. He loved looking at them, studying them and handling them: just like all enthusiastic collectors! At times he may have been a bit too enthusiastic: he had a habit of cleaning coins, or sometimes rubbing them with a fine cloth. We do mention this when necessary, and the conservative starting prices are a reflection of that fact.

In any case, there are no less than 1016 lots in this sale:

  • Celtic (lots 1-31),
  • Greek (32-413),
  • Roman Republican and Imperatorial (414-528),
  • Roman Imperial and Ostrogothic (529-765),
  • East Roman and Byzantine (766-980) and
  • early Modern European (981-1016).

Going through the sale you will find many, many coins of real interest, often with interesting pedigrees. For now, here is one truly interesting and rare piece!

Lot 819: Byzantine. Maurice Tiberius (582-602). Half Tremissis, 583/4-602, Constantinople mint. Extremely rare. Near very fine. Starting price: 500 CHF.

A Half Tremissis of Maurice Tiberius

It does not look like much, does it? Well, three pairs of eyes really helped here, because it was initially dismissed as a kind of imitation, coming from a German sale in 1989. In the end, we discovered that it was actually one of a series of very rare Half Tremisses, which were produced from the 6th through the early 8th centuries (examples are known of Justin II, Maurice Tiberius, Phocas, Heraclius, Constans I, Constantine IV, Philippicus, Anastasius II and Leo III: all mined in Constantinople – there is a Tiberius III from Rome). While it would be natural to assume that these low weight pieces (this one is 0.74 g, and the others are comparable) were, somehow, mint mistakes, this is quite impossible given the very careful way gold coins were regulated by the mint authorities. Had they not been intended, they would surely have been recalled and minted down. In addition, the fact that pieces are known from 10 different emperors over a period of about 150 years makes it clear that they were deliberately minted. But for what purpose? They are not especially well designed and struck – they are basically the same as standard full weight tremisses – so their use for special, festive issues in Constantinople itself is debatable, though not impossible. They might, however, have been intended as donatives to “barbarian” groups, like the often contemporary light-weight solidi, with a low weight more in tune with local preferences. Another piece in the name of Maurice, very possibly by the same die engraver who made the dies for this one, appeared as lot 153 in Sincona 37 in 2017. This is a true specialist rarity!

Some more highlights:

All lots of the auction can be viewed online on the Nomos-website.