Monday 22 March 2010

The Emperor has a Funny Hat

Students of the pictures on loose coins ("numismatists") just love those coins which have a little detail different. They can talk among themselves for hours about them. One coin dealer in the USA (Zachary Beasley [aka "Beast"], New Berlin, Wisconsin, 53151, US) is the proud posessor of a decontextualised LRB (Late Roman Bronze) where the emperor Constantine the Great has a fez on his head. He calls it a "Pannonian hat" and thinks it is awfully significant. He's not too sure though it is not a modern fantasy piece. Too bad it was not recorded as from a good sealed archaeological context.

Now another turned up on a Pegasus auction, but most people feel that this latter one is a fake made by somebody trying to cash in on the spin put on the earlier one. Some people however say this new one (photo) looks better than the one which was so widely discussed earlier. That one has problems, I do not like the way the hat covers the ears and I hear there are problems with the style of the eye. The fact that the legend is scrunched up to accomodate the hat also looks suspicious.

In fact not a single one of these variant coins has yet been shown to have come from a sealed archaeological deposit under controlled conditions. They have all been dug up by metal detector-wielding artefact hunters supplying the international market, and of course the possibility of the "numismatic database" being contaminated by skillfully created modern made-up pieces (and thus history distorted) is enormous. many owners will fight tooth and claw to defend the authenticity" of their purchase.

Another thing of course, if this IS actually a rare example of the depiction of the emperor in something akin to a national dress of one of the peoples of southern Europe by what right has it been taken out of the region where it was found and shipped across the Atlantic to now rest in the private coin cabinet of a US dealer in dugups? Can he show us the export licence?
Photo: The Pegasus coin (unprovenanced of course)

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