Sunday, July 29, 2007

New Pile: Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Holy Land And Arabic Ancient Coins

Hi! I have been very busy zapping for the past several weeks and I am sharing some of the products of my efforts. I learned it is very difficult to create a pleasing photograph with so many values and intensities of coins.
If you have suggestions for creating a more pleasing photograph, please share. If you want to learn the techniques I employ in cleaning these coins please join us at Coin Zappers. You have an open invitation. The CZ URL is as follows: Please feel free to make comments on or off blog. I really enjoy reader's comments.. God Bless.. Jerry..

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Ancient Greek And Ancient Roman Coin Collectors: Three Musts!

In this article I am listing my “Three Musts” for ancient coin enthusiasts. Please read and then download each FREE utility if you have not already. First on my list is Tiny is a freeware utility that allows one to shorten long, cumbersome URL’s to short and concise URL’s. Please click on the following Tiny URL and you will see an illustration of a very long URL and the results once it has been converted into a Tiny URL:

Next, I think every ancient Greek and Roman coin enthusiast needs a good photo manager and flickr is just that. Please go to and see how easy it is to become a member and see how easy it is to manage your coin photos. I can only say great things about this utility. Flckr speaks for itself!

And then we have Irfanview. Irfanview? Yep, As in, “have you Irfed” your coin photos. I only use Irf to “stitch” my ancient coin photos and I think the same is true of most other ancient coin vendors and collectors. Often we need to share our ancient coins with others and that is when we need to use the stitch or panorama program of Irfanview. The panorama program allows us to show the obverse of the coin right beside the reverse. Irf also allows us to show the obverse above the reverse. I would be lost about this little jewel of a freeware utility.

I am somewhat notorious amongst my coin friends when it comes to linear exercises. I think all my friends will agree that if old Jerry can perform the necessary exercises to operate these three utilities then anyone can! Please download (or is it upload?) the utilities and let me know what you think. Please bookmark my site and please share my blog with your friends. I am hot on the heels of developing what appears to be a great way to tone silver coins. Please watch for this one! God Bless.. Jerry..

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Ancient Coins: Photographing In The Shadows

Recently I have purchased several coins that were not as they appeared when I bought them. I am aware of some of the things being done to enhance the appearance of a coin and will address a few.

Most of the “bad” deals I have encountered came from Ebay. One silver coin I received looked great on Ebay but when I had the coin in hand there was an obvious flaw in the coin and the “hole” had been filled with a light gray metal that appears to be JB Weld. I received this coin from one of the Big Name dealers. I have written them and will be interested in seeing what they have to say.

One obvious ploy is use of a photo editing program to enhance the appearance of a coin. After receiving one coin I was able to go back to my Ebay records, view the image, and match it against what I had in hand. It is very obvious there had been touch ups. I call the next the “camera shake.” I found a silver denarius on Ebay I really liked with the exception of the photograph. The reverse photograph of the coin was great but the obverse had that blurred and “shaky” look.

I decided to fore go my reluctance to bid, and I won the coin. I soon found why the obverse was shaky once I received the coin. The shaky photo covered flaws on the obverse. I call the following “Photographing in the Shadows.” I was visiting a site and saw a coin with which I was somewhat enchanted. The coin images were great with the exception of one thing. The bottom edge of the coin was in heavy shadow.

I was a bit suspicious, wrote the dealer and was told by him I was looking at a VF coin in great condition. With a suspicious mind, I decided to save the photograph to my computer. I received the coin and sure enough, I found a pea-sized gap where the coin was in deep shadow. This cover-up was done really well too!

The following happened last week. Boy I got a bargain on Ebay of an AR Alex III! Or so I thought. Once the auction closed and I received my notice I took a closer look at the coin. I was surprised I had won an AR Alexander The Great for 30 bucks! Boy, great looking coin with no flaws whatsoever! Was I lucky? Wait, for the first time I noticed that in a very light gray font underneath the bold header the word ”Copy.” I had bought reproduction! Nah! That sounds too kind. I had bought a forgery!

I can’t be too hard on the seller in this situation but it does serve to remind me that we must be on our toes as we make our purchases. Since the last mistake I made, I look everything over very carefully and make sure I read all copy! However, I am sure I will be bitten again by some unscrupulous dealer eager to make a buck. I wish it was not this way but I guess we have all types attracted to the hobby we love so much.

I imagine many of you have stories of bad deals I would never dream of. If so, please share them with us on our coin sites or post directly to me. I will be happy to listen. I think the unloading helps a lot.. God Bless.. Jerry.. PS: Be sure and bookmark my blog..

Monday, July 9, 2007

Photographing Silver Coins: A Problem?

A group of my friends and I have been discussing the difficulty of photographing Silver. I have a very bright mirror finish Grosh and I decided to work with it this evening. Actually it is 2:50 AM in the morning and that is when I am most creative for some reason.

I used one light to photograph the coin. I held the light at 11 o’clock left and at a distance of about 18”. I used a 15-watt fluorescent spiral bulb I buy at Wal-Mart. I was getting a bit of shadow on the right so I placed a white mat board to the right and it reflected just enough light back to the coin to lighten the area. Please see coin photo above.

I wanted a strong contrast with silver so I used a very dark color. I think the dark negative space works really well in the composition. I am not quite satisfied with the coin “glare” though. I think I will photograph again and change my f-stop. I shoot in manual mode with my Fuji S3000 and enjoy being able to make the change as opposed to the auto mode. Please let me know if you think the coin is too bright. Also, I will be most happy to hear what you have to say about photographing silver.

I am going to live with this photo for a day or so and see how I feel about the values and intensities. If I decide to revisit and photograph again, I will share. Thanks and I hope this article causes you to get out your digital and try a few “silver coin” shots! I would love to see what you come up with.. God Bless.. Jerry..

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Who Says Zapping Does Not Work?

Who says zapping does not work? I released the beautiful Roman Carinus Antoninianus you see above from a deep rock-hard encrustation just a few days ago. As with many of my zapped coins I was able to maintain much of the patina. I think it is a beautiful coin.

We become somewhat accustomed to making the statement that “the photo is not as good as the coin” and in this case it certainly is true. The obverse in slightly off center but I can find no other fault with this coin. I encourage all those engaged in zapping to continue to work at our craft and if you are not zapping then you should join us!

We have a great group with wonderful members at the following URL: You have a standing invitation to join us. We will have you cleaning coins in a new and expeditious way in no time. I truly think zapping is the kindest way to clean coins. I would never subject my beauties to hard tools as many do. I think ancient coin enthusiasts are an opinionated bunch and I know we all have our preferences. If you have tired other methods and are a bit frustrated, please give zapping a chance. I think you will enjoy.. God Bless.. Jerry..

Monday, July 2, 2007

Mosopoli's Abridged History Of The Kushan Empire

Moses Wildermuth is a great friend and I think most of us know "Moe" from one of the ancient coin groups we belong to. Moe, has a deep interest in Greek and Roman coins. He has now added another dimension to his repertoire and asked that I share it with our groups and readers. I readly agreed and I commend Moe for the great job he has done with his presentation.

Kushan Empire
The Kushan Empire (c. 1st–3rd centuries) was a state that at its height, about 105–250, stretched from what is now Tajikistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan and down into the Ganges river valley in northern India. The empire was created by the Kushan tribe of the Yuezhi confederation, an Indo-European people from the eastern Tarim Basin and Gansu, China, possibly related to the Tocharians. They had diplomatic contacts with Rome, Persia and China, and for several centuries were at the center of exchange between the East and the West.

Chinese sources describe the Guishuang, i.e. the “Kushans”, as one of the five aristocratic tribes of the Yuezhi, a loose confederation of Indo-European peoples. They were driven west by the Xiongnu in 176–160 BCE. The Yuezhi reached the Hellenic kingdom of Greco-Bactria, in northernmost Afghanistan and Uzbekistan around 135 BCE, and displaced the Greek dynasties there, who resettled in Indus basin (in present day Pakistan) in the western part of the Indo-Greek Kingdom.

A multi-cultural Empire
The Kushans adopted elements of the Hellenistic culture of Bactria. They adapted the Greek alphabet (often corrupted) to suit their own language (with the additional development of the letter Þ “sh”, as in “Kushan”) and soon began minting coinage on the Greek model. On their coins they used Greek language legends combined with Pali legends (in the Kharoshthi script), until the first few years of the reign of Kanishka. After that date, they used Kushan language legends (in an adapted Greek script), combined with legends in Greek (Greek script) and legends in Pali (Kharoshthi script).

The rule of the Kushans linked the seagoing trade of the Indian Ocean with the commerce of the Silk Road through the long-civilized Indus Valley. At the height of the dynasty, the Kushans loosely oversaw a territory that extended to the Aral Sea through present-day Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan into northern India.The loose unity and comparative peace of such a vast expanse encouraged long-distance trade, brought Chinese silks to Rome, and created strings of flourishing urban centers.

Contacts with Rome
Several Roman sources describe the visit of ambassadors from the Kings of Bactria and India during the 2nd century, probably referring to the Kushans.
Historia Augusta, speaking of Emperor Hadrian (117–138) tells:
“Reges Bactrianorum legatos ad eum, amicitiae petendae causa, supplices miserunt”
“The kings of the Bactrians sent supplicant ambassadors to him, to seek his friendship.”
Also in 138, according to Aurelius Victor (Epitome’ XV, 4), and Appian (Praef., 7), Antoninus Pius, successor to Hadrian, received some Indian, Bactrian (Kushan) and Hyrcanian ambassadors.

The Chinese Historical Chronicle of the Hou Hanshu also describes the exchange of goods between northwestern India and the Roman Empire at that time: “To the west (Tiazhu, northwestern India) communicates with Da Qin (the Roman Empire). Precious things from Da Qin can be found there, as well as fine cotton cloths, excellent wool carpets, perfumes of all sorts, sugar loaves, pepper, ginger, and black salt.”

The summer capital of the Kushan in Begram has yielded a considerable amount of goods imported from the Roman Empire, in particular various types of glassware.

Contacts with China
The Kushan Buddhist monk Lokaksema, first known translator of Buddhist Mahayana scriptures into Chinese, circa 170. During the 1st and 2nd century, the Kushan Empire expanded militarily to the north and occupied parts of the Tarim Basin, their original grounds, putting them at the center of the profitable Central Asian commerce with the Roman Empire. They are related to have collaborated militarily with the Chinese against nomadic incursion, particularly when they collaborated with the Chinese general Ban Chao against the Sogdians in 84, when the latter were trying to support a revolt by the king of Kashgar. Around 85, they also assisted the Chinese general in an attack on Turfan, east of the Tarim Basin.

In recognition for their support to the Chinese, the Kushans requested, but were denied, a Han princess, even after they had sent presents to the Chinese court. In retaliation, they marched on Ban Chao in 86 with a force of 70,000, but, exhausted by the expedition, were finally defeated by the smaller Chinese force. The Yuezhi retreated and paid tribute to the Chinese Empire during the reign of the Chinese emperor Han He (89–106).
Later, around 116, the Kushans under Kanishka established a kingdom centered on Kashgar, also taking control of Khotan and Yarkand, which were Chinese dependencies in the Tarim Basin, modern Xinjiang. They introduced the Brahmi script, the Indian Prakrit language for administration, and expanded the influence of Greco-Buddhist art which developed into Serindian art.

The Kushans are again recorded to have sent presents to the Chinese court in 158–159 during the reign of the Chinese emperor Han Huan.
Following these interactions, cultural exhanges further increased, and Kushan Buddhist missionaries, such as Lokaksema, became active in the Chinese capital cities of Loyang and sometimes Nanjing, where they particularly distinguished themselves by their translation work. They were the first recorded promoters of Hinayana and Mahayana scriptures in China, greatly contributing to the Silk Road transmission of Buddhism.

The Rise of the Great Emperors (all dates are uncertain)

Heraios (1-30): Heraios was probably the first of the Kushan kings. He may have been an ally of the Greeks, and he shared the same style of coinage. Heraios was probably the father of Kujula Kadphises.

Kujula Kadphises (30-80): According to the Hou Hanshu: “the prince of Guishuang, named Kujula Kadphises attacked and exterminated the four other princes. He set himself up as king of a kingdom called Guishuang.”

He invaded Anxi (Parthia) and took the Gaofu (Kabul) region. He also defeated the whole of the kingdoms of Puda, and Jibin (Kapisha-Gandhara). Kujula Kadphises was more than eighty years old when he died.”

These conquests probably took place sometime between 45 and 60, and laid the basis for the Kushan Empire which was rapidly expanded by his descendants.
Kujula issued an extensive series of coins.

Vima Taktu (80-105): alias Soter Megas or “Great Saviour,” Vima Takt[u] (or Tak[to]) expanded the Kushan Empire into the northwest of the Indian subcontinent. The Hou Hanshu says: “His [Kujula Kadphises’] son, Vima Taktu, became king in his place. He conquered Northwestern India and installed a General to supervise and lead it. The Yuezhi then became extremely rich. All the kingdoms call [their king] the Guishuang (Kushan) king, but the Han call them by their original name, Da Yuezhi.”[3]

Vima Kadphises (105-127): Vima Kadphises added to the Kushan territory by his conquests in Afghanistan and north-west India. He issued an extensive series of coins and inscriptions. He was the first to introduce gold coinage in India, in addition to the existing copper and silver coinage.

Kanishka I (127-140): The second great Kushan emperor, fifth Kushan king, upon his accession, Kanishka ruled a huge territory (virtually all of northern India), south to Ujjain and Kundina and east beyond Pataliputra.

His territory was administered from two capitals: Purushapura (now Peshawar in northern Pakistan) and Mathura, in northern India. He is also credited (along with Raja Dab) for building the massive, ancient Fort at Bathinda (Qila Mubarak), in the modern city of Bathinda, Indian Punjab.
The Kushans also had a summer capital in Begram (then known as Kapisa), where the “Begram Treasure”, comprising works of art from Greece to China, has been found.

Huvishka (140-183): Huvishka was a Kushan emperor from the death of Kanishka (assumed on the best evidence available to be in 140 CE) until the succession of Vasudeva I about forty years later. His rule was a period of retrenchment and consolidation for the Empire. In particular he devoted time and effort early in his reign to the exertion of greater control over the city of Mathura.

Vasudeva I (183-225): Vasudeva I was the last of the “Great Kushans.” Named inscriptions dating from year 64 to 98 of Kanishka’s era suggest his reign extended from at least 191 to 225 CE. He was the last great Kushan emperor, and the end of his rule coincides with the invasion of the Sassanians as far as northwestern India, and the establishment of the Indo-Sassanians or Kushanshahs from around 240 CE.

Decline of the Empire
From the 3rd century the Kushan empire began to fragment.
Kanishka II (c. 226 – 240)
Vashishka (c. 240 – 250)
Kanishka III (c. 255 – 275)
Vasudeva II (c. 290 – 310)
Vasudeva III reported son of Vasudeva III, a King, uncertain.
Vasudeva IV reported possible child of Vasudeva III, ruling in Kandahar, uncertain
Vasudeva of Kabul reported Possible child of Vasudeva IV, ruling in Kabul, uncertain.
Chhu (c. 310? – 325?)
Shaka I (c. 325 – 345)
Kipunada (c. 350 – 375)

Around 225 Vasudeva I died and the Kushan empire was divided into western and eastern halves. Around 224–240, the Sassanids invaded Bactria and Northern India, where they are known as the Indo-Sassanians.
Around 270, the Kushans lost their territories on the Gangetic plain, where the Gupta Empire was established around 320 and to the Sassanians during Shapur II’s reign, notably the area that comprises Afghanistan.

During the middle of the 4th century a Kushan vassal, named Kidara, rose to power and overthrew the old Kushan dynasty. He created a kingdom known as the Kidarite Kingdom, although he probably considered himself a Kushan, as indicated by the Kushan style of his coins. The Kidarite seem to have been rather prosperous, although on a smaller scale than their Kushan predecessors.
These remnants of the Kushan empire were ultimately wiped out in the 5th century by the invasions of the White Huns, and later the expansion of Islam.