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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ Byzantine Coins ▸ Unofficial & ImitativeView Options:  |  |  | 

Unofficial and Imitative Byzantine Coins

Unofficial and imitative Byzantine coins include counterfeits as well as imitative types struck by the Vandals, Goths, Lombards, Sassanian Persians, Crusaders, Arabs, Bulgarians and other ancient and medieval cultures.


Normans, Southern Italy, Anonymous, Dukes of Apulia or Counts of Sicily & Calabria, c. 1060 - 1080 A.D.

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This coin is certainly imitative, as it weighs less then 1/3 the weight of the even the lightest official Class B Byzantine anonymous follis Forum has handled. Attribution to the Normans in Italy is based on the reputed find location and some similarity to other Byzantine imitatives issued by the Normans in Southern Italy and Sicily.
ME73353. Bronze follaro, apparently unpublished, imitative of Class B Byzantine anonymous follis (SBCV 1823, Constantinople, 1028 - 1041); MEC Italy III -, MIR -, et al. -, F, weight 2.163 g, maximum diameter 23.3 mm, die axis 180o, uncertain Italian mint, c. 1060 - 1080 A.D.; obverse facing bust of Christ, wearing nimbus cruciger, pallium, and colobium, holding book of Gospels; reverse IS - XS / bAS-ILE / bAS-ILE (Jesus Christ King of Kings, mostly off flan), Cross on three steps, dividing legend; from a California collector; $215.00 (€191.35)
 


Crusaders(?), Imitative of Zangids of Syria, c. 1146 - 1200 A.D.,

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This coin is a crude imitative of an Islamic fals of the Zangids of Syria, Nur al-Din Mahmud, struck at Halab (Aleppo, Syria), 1146 - 1173 (Spengler-Sayles 73, Album 1850). That type was itself also imitative, copying a Byzantine follis of Constantine X, struck at Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey), 1059 - 1067 (DOC III 8, SBCV 1853). The quality of the Zangids fals vary greatly and it can be difficult to distinguish between Halab mint issues and imitatives. This example is very crude and if any can be attributed to the crusaders, this is one.
BZ77974. Bronze follis, Malloy Crusaders -; cf. Spengler-Sayles 73 (notes "barbaric" imitations), Album 1850 (notes imitations are perhaps struck by the Crusaders), F, desert patina, tight flan, weight 2.798 g, maximum diameter 22.0 mm, die axis 180o, uncertain mint, c. 1150 - 1200 A.D.; obverse two Byzantine style imperial figures (Constantine X and Eudocia) standing facing, supporting between them labarum resting on three steps, EX downward on left, imitation of Kufic legend inner left; reverse Christ standing facing, nimbate, book of Gospels in left hand, right hand on hip, IC - XC flanking head, blundered imitation of legend around; from the Butte College Foundation, ex Lindgren; $140.00 (€124.60)
 


Sasanian Empire, Khusro II, Occupation of Egypt, 618 - 628 A.D.

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During his temporary domination of Egypt, 618 - 628 A.D., Khusru allowed the Alexandria mint to continue issuing the normal Byzantine coinage, but substituted his portrait for the Byzantine emperor's. The sun and moon replaced the obverse legend, just as on contemporary Sasanian coinage. It may seem strange that a Persian king would wear a crown surmounted by a cross; however, his wife Sira was a Christian, he was a benefactor of the church of St. Sergius in Edessa, he honored the Virgin, and he sometimes wore a robe embroidered with a cross which he had received as a gift from the Emperor Maurice Tiberius. The Byzantine emperors resumed the imperial coinage of Alexandria after their recapture of Egypt in 628 A.D.
WA77071. Bronze 12 nummi, DOC II, part 1, 191; Hahn MIB 202b; Wroth BMC 277; Tolstoi 109; Ratto 1316; Morrisson BnF 10/Al/AE/32; SBCV 855; Sommer 11.92, aVF, as-found slightly rough near black patina, well centered, weight 10.428 g, maximum diameter 18.2 mm, die axis 180o, Alexandria mint, 618 - 628 A.D.; obverse bust of the Sassanid King Khusru II wearing a crown with pendilia and surmounted by a cross, star left, crescent moon right; reverse large I B with cross potent on globe between, AΛEZ in exergue; from the J. Berlin Caesarea Collection, Caesarea Maritima surface find; $135.00 (€120.15)
 


Normans, Southern Italy, Anonymous, Dukes of Apulia or Counts of Sicily & Calabria, c. 1081 - 1087 A.D.

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This coin is certainly imitative, as it weighs about 1/3 the normal weight of an official Class J Byzantine anonymous follis. Attribution to the Normans in Italy is based on the reputed find location and some similarity to other Byzantine imitatives issued by the Normans in Southern Italy and Sicily.
ME68381. Bronze follis, apparently unpublished, imitative of Byzantine class J follis (SBCV 1900, Constantinople, 1081 - 1118); MEC Italy III -, Biaggi -, Wroth Western -, aF, on a very small thin flan compared to Byzantine proto-types, weight 2.200 g, maximum diameter 21.0 mm, die axis 180o, uncertain S. Italy mint, c. 1081 - 1087 A.D.; obverse bust of Christ facing, cross behind, wears pallium and colbium, raising right in benediction, Gospels in left, crescents above, IC - XC flanking, facing bust of Christ, wearing nimbus cruciger, pallium, and colobium, holding book of Gospels; reverse Cross with globule and two pellets at each extremity, large crescent below, four globules around each surrounded by pellets; from an American collection; very rare; $125.00 (€111.25)
 


Byzantine Empire, Palaestina or Syria, c. 450 - 500 A.D.

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This object, from the Alex Malloy Collection, was held by him for decades, only speculatively attributed as probably Islamic. The referenced recent article by Farhi indicates another possible attribution. As discussed by Farhi, in the second half of the 5th century, besides Byzantine nummi, low-value currency in Palaestina appears to have included similar sized centuries old Jewish prutah, cast Axumite imitations, and even bronze and lead blank flans. Many fragments of lead mirror frames, found over many years, appear to have been cut around decorative star-like or floral patterns to look like coins. They were almost certainly used as coins. The lead mirror frame fragment "coins" in Farhi have different patterns and are blank on one side, but this object is very similar.
BZ53343. Lead nummus, fragment of ornamented lead object coinage(?); See Farhi, H. "Note on Two Types of Byzantine Lead Currency" in INR 8 (2013) for similar examples, weight 2.836 g, maximum diameter 23.1 mm, ex Alex G. Malloy Collection; $60.00 (€53.40)
 


Bulgarian, Imitative of Alexis III, Billon Aspron Trachy, c. 1204 - 1220 A.D.

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Greek magnates in Thrace probably issued the earliest "Bulgarian" imitative types in the years immediately following the fall of Constantinople to finance their military operations against the crusaders in northern Greece. When the Bulgarians gained control of Thrace they continued production until sometime between 1215 and 1220, with issues becoming increasingly crude and smaller.
BZ79669. Billon trachy, Hendy, p. 218, Type C, pl. 25, 2(B) (imitative of SBCV 2012 of Alexis III, 1195 - 1203 A.D. ), VF, uneven strike, weight 2.848 g, maximum diameter 26.5 mm, die axis 180o, obverse + KεRO HΘεI, IC - XC, beardless nimbate bust of Christ, wearing tunic and colobion, raising right in benediction, scroll in left; reverse ΛΛEΣIW ∆ECΠ Θ TW KOMNHNW (or similar), emperor, on left, and St. Constantine, nimbate on right, standing facing, each holds a labarum headed scepter and they hold a globus cruciger between them; Constantine the Great on the reverse!; $32.00 (€28.48)
 


Islamic, Umayyad Caliphate, Damascus, c. 680s A.D., Arab-Byzantine Coinage

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Damascus is the capital of Syria and is now, due to civil war fighting in Aleppo, most likely the largest city of Syria. First settled in the second millennium B.C., Damascus was the capital of the Umayyad Caliphate from 661 to 750. After the victory of the Abbasid dynasty, the seat of Islamic power was moved to Baghdad. Damascus saw a political decline throughout the Abbasid era, only to regain significant importance in the Ayyubid and Mamluk periods. During Ottoman rule, the city decayed while maintaining a certain cultural prestige. Damascus today is a major cultural and religious center of the Levant.
BZ77975. Bronze fals, Walker BMC 7; SICA I 560; DOCAB 49; Album 3517.1 (S), Mitchiner WOI -, Fair, porous, weight 3.449 g, maximum diameter 19.2 mm, die axis 180o, Dimashq (Damascus) mint, c. 650 A.D.; obverse DAMACKOC, emperor standing facing, long cross scepter in left hand, globus cruciger in right hand, bird standing right atop T on left, ΛEO curving downward on right; reverse large M (40 nummi), rho-cross monogram above, arc over horizontal line below, ANO downward on left, X/Y/II (frozen pseudo regnal year 17) in three lines on right, ∆AM (Damascus) in exergue; from the Butte College Foundation, ex Lindgren; scarce; $7.99 (€7.11)


Islamic, Umayyad Caliphate, Damascus, c. 680s A.D., Arab-Byzantine Coinage

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While the Muslims administered the city, the population of Damascus remained mostly Christian—Eastern Orthodox and Monophysite—with a growing community of Muslims from Mecca, Medina, and the Syrian Desert. The governor assigned to the city which had been chosen as the capital of Islamic Syria was Mu'awiya I. After the death of Caliph Ali in 661, Mu'awiya was chosen as the caliph of the expanding Islamic empire. Because of the vast amounts of assets his clan, the Umayyads, owned in the city and because of its traditional economic and social links with the Hijaz as well as the Christian Arab tribes of the region, Mu'awiya established Damascus as the capital of the entire Caliphate. With the ascension of Caliph Abd al-Malik in 685, an Islamic coinage system was introduced and all of the surplus revenue of the Caliphate's provinces were forwarded to the treasury of Damascus. Arabic was also established as the official language, giving the Muslim minority of the city an advantage over the Aramaic-speaking Christians in administrative affairs. It is critical to note that, at the time Damascus was conquered by the Muslims, the majority of Arabs were either pagans or Christians. Damascus itself was predominantly Aramaic with Arab speaking people.
BZ77973. Bronze fals, Walker BMC 7; SICA I 560; DOCAB 49; Album 3517.1 (S), Mitchiner WOI -, aF, rough, weight 3.450 g, maximum diameter 17.7 mm, Dimashq (Damascus) mint, c. 650 A.D.; obverse DAMACKOC, emperor standing facing, long cross scepter in left hand, globus cruciger in right hand, bird standing right atop T on left, ΛEO curving downward on right; reverse large M (40 nummi), rho-cross monogram above, arc over horizontal line below, ANO downward on left, X/Y/II (frozen pseudo regnal year 17) in three lines on right, ∆AM (Damascus) in exergue; from the Butte College Foundation, ex Lindgren; scarce; $6.49 (€5.78)







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REFERENCES

Album, S.A. Checklist of Islamic Coins. (Santa Rosa, CA, 1998).
Album, S. & T. Goodwin. Sylloge of Islamic Coins in the Ashmolean Museum, Volume 1, The Pre-Reform Coinage of the Early Islamic Period. (Oxford, 2002).
Bellinger, A.R. & P. Grierson, eds. Catalogue of the Byzantine Coins in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection and in the Whittemore Collection. (Washington D.C., 1966 - 1999).
Foss, C. Arab-Byzantine Coins: An Introduction, with a Catalogue of the Dumbarton Oaks Collection. (Harvard University Press, 2008).
Goodwin, T. Arab-Byzantine Coinage. Studies in the Khalili Collection. (London, 2005).
Hahn, W. Moneta Imperii Byzantini. (Vienna, 1973-81).
Hendy, M. Coinage and Money in the Byzantine Empire 1081-1261. (Washington D.C., 1969).
Hennequin, G. Catalogue des monnaies musulmanes de la Bibliotheque Nationale. (Paris, 1985).
Malloy, A.G., I.F. Preston, & A.J Seltman. Coins of the Crusader States. (New York, 2004).
Metcalf, D.M. Coinage of the Crusaders and the Latin East in the Ashmolean Museum Oxford. (London, 1995).
Mitchiner, M. Oriental Coins and Their Values Volume One : The World of Islam. (London, 1977).
Sear, D. R. Byzantine Coins and Their Values. (London, 1987).
Spengler, W.F. & W.G. Sayles. Turkoman Figural Bronze Coins and Their Iconography. (Lodi, 1992).
Ratto, R. Monnaies Byzantines et d'autre Pays contemporaines à l'époque byzantine. (Lugano, 1930).
Tolstoi, I. Monnaies byzantines. (St. Petersburg, 1913 - 14).
Walker, J. A Catalogue of the Muhammadan Coins in The British Museum. Volume 2: A Catalogue of the Arab-Byzantine and Post-Reform Umaiyad Coins. (London, 1956).
Wroth, W. Catalogue of the Imperial Byzantine Coins in the British Museum. (London, 1908).
Wroth, W. Catalogue of the Coins of the Vandals, Ostrogoths, Lombards and of the Empires of Thessalonica, Nicaea, and Trebizond in the British Museum. (London, 1911).

Catalog current as of Saturday, May 27, 2017.
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Unofficial and Imitative Byzantine Coins