Sunday, 23 April 2017

Two Messed-up Coins

Billon antoninianus of Claudius II Gothicus, 268-270 CE.
Billon antoninianus of Claudius II Gothicus, 268-270 CE.
I occasionally post something about ancient coins.  There are two in this post that I bought recently for very little money.  They both look rather messy and it's hard to make out their designs, which is why they were particularly cheap, though even well formed coins of this era are not at all expensive.

I bought them because they hold information.  You can visualise Roman mints of this era as being very busy and not very discriminating.  The dies they made and used were roughly figured and very stylised.  They didn't filter out mistakes; those went into circulation along with the good coins.

There might have been up to four people working with each die pair.  One would place the blank on the bottom die, which might be held by another worker or maybe fixed in place.  This die would have the head image hollowed out.  Another would place the top die with the reverse image on top of the blank, and yet another would hit it with a hammer, at least once, maybe more than once.

What's happened with the top coin is that instead of the struck coin being cleared out of the way, it has flipped over and has still been half in the die when it was hit again.  So, overlying the head image is part of the reverse design, and on top of the reverse, part of the head.  You can see a sideways image of the crown.

Double strikes are not rare, but they are usually a just a sideways shift of the coin between hits,  so that two similar images are superimposed.  This one is a bit more interesting.

Billon Antoninianus of Tetricus I or Tetricus II, 271-274 CE.
Billon Antoninianus of Tetricus I or Tetricus II, 271-274 CE.
This second coin is more complicated.  One side looks like a mirror image of the other.  The first coin has stuck in the lower die, and another blank has been placed on top of it.  This coin therefore has a normal, raised reverse image from the top die, and a sunken and flipped reverse image on what should be the heads side.  The raised image on the first coin has made a sunken image on this one.  This sort of minting error is known as a brockage.

These are not the only kinds of mint errors.  It is also possible to have a die clash, where there has been no blank between the dies when they have been struck.  This damages the dies themselves, and all subsequent coins made with those dies look wrong.  There's a good example on one of Doug Smith's pages here: Brockages and Clashed Dies which also shows some nice brockages.

You can tell a coin is a die clash if you can find more than one of exactly the same error, as Doug's page demonstrates.  In fact, I have one of the very same type as his:

Silver denarius of Julia Domna, "Emesa" mint, 194 CE.
Silver denarius of Julia Domna, "Emesa" mint, 194 CE.
And at least one other is known to exist. You can see from their outlines that this one and Doug's two are all different coins, but the error is identical.  So they must have been struck from the same damaged die.


Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Suburban Wildflowers

Field Forget-me-not, Myosotis arvensis.  Coney Hall, 10 April 2017.
Field Forget-me-not, Myosotis arvensis.  Coney Hall, 10 April 2017.
I have not been out to any new sites this year, but I keep taking photos of plants I see near my home.  Here are some photos of suburban wildflowers from one particular footpath that runs between two roads.  It's unusually rich in flowers, both showy and inconspicuous.

It's common to find Wood Forget-me-not in the suburbs because it is planted in gardens and seeds itself easily.  But this looks like its field relative, with smaller flowers. 

Field Forget-me-not, Myosotis arvensis.  Coney Hall, 10 April 2017.
Field Forget-me-not, Myosotis arvensis.  Coney Hall, 10 April 2017.
Most of these photos show several wildflowers because they all grow close together.  In this shot, surrounding the forget-me-not are some Cornsalads and, at bottom right, a Common Chickweed.  Just below the centre is a Petty Spurge, which has tiny green flowers that you can only make out in this shot if you already know they're there.

Cornsalad, Valerianella species.  Coney Hall, 10 April 2017.
Cornsalad, Valerianella species.  Coney Hall, 10 April 2017.
This is a bigger specimen of the Cornsalad.  I won't be able to tell the species until it fruits.  It's not at all common and is really a weed of arable land.  I was pleased to find one little plant on Hayes Street Farm last year, and then I could never find it again when it should have had fruits.  This one will be harder to lose track of.

Cut-leaved Crane's-bill, Geranium dissectum.  Coney Hall, 10 April 2017.
Cut-leaved Crane's-bill, Geranium dissectum.  Coney Hall, 10 April 2017.
A Cut-leaved Crane's-bill with a couple of small flowers.  Also in this photo are leaves of some other wildflowers.  In the centre, a Common Field Speedwell.  At bottom right, a Dove's-foot Crane's-bill.  At bottom left, a Lesser Celandine.  Middle left, some small Ivy-leaved Speedwells.

Common Field Speedwell, Veronica persica.  Coney Hall, 16 March 2017.
Common Field Speedwell, Veronica persica.  Coney Hall, 16 March 2017.
Here's a flower on a Common Field Speedwell.  There are half a dozen common speedwells.  You can tell this one by the leaf shape and that it has a single blue flower from each leaf axil.

Cow Parsley, Anthriscus sylvestris.  Coney Hall, 10 April 2017.
Cow Parsley, Anthriscus sylvestris.  Coney Hall, 10 April 2017.
This is just the start of the Cow Parsley season.  Many country lanes will be lined with a froth of white in a week or two.  It's very common and grows fast and well. 

In the foreground are some more Lesser Celandine leaves.  The blue flower in the background is a Garden Grape-hyacinth, and true to its name this is a garden escape.  The wild variety has a much more subdued flower colour.

Green Alkanet, Pentaglottis sempervirens.  Coney Hall, 10 April 2017.
Green Alkanet, Pentaglottis sempervirens.  Coney Hall, 10 April 2017.
This Green Alkanet is one of the commonest of our local wildflowers, as well as being one of the showiest.  It grows furiously all spring and summer, flowering all the time.  You could cut this down today and it would be flowering again in two weeks. 

Behind it is some Groundsel, which has no petals on its small yellow flowers.  In the foreground are some I've already shown: Cornsalad, Field Forget-me-not and Petty Spurge.  Growing up the fence are some stems of Cleavers, not yet in flower.

So, you can actually do quite a bit of botanising along 25 yards of one footpath!  And there are a dozen other species, too,  not all in flower at the same time.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Sleeping Cuckooflowers

Cuckooflower, Cardamine pratensis.  Withyham, 5 April 2017.
Cuckooflower, Cardamine pratensis.  Withyham, 5 April 2017.
I haven't been to many countryside sites recently as most of my driving has been up and down to a new house I am getting ready for occupation.  But I do still photograph things I pass by, and I could not resist taking my camera along to capture some of the banks of Cuckooflower that are flourishing on roadsides near my new place. 

The Cuckooflower is an early Spring beauty.  It's not rare in the London Borough of Bromley, where I live now, but you see it in much smaller numbers.

It's sometimes called Lady's Smock or Milkmaids.  And I discovered this year that it rests its flowers at night.  The photo above was taken just after noon.

Cuckooflower, Cardamine pratensis.  Withyham, 5 April 2017.
Cuckooflower, Cardamine pratensis.  Withyham, 5 April 2017.
This one was taken at 8 am in the same place.  Flowers all drooping, not yet awake.  Dew still on the grass.