Unique Byzantine Die
|Sale: Triton XI, Lot: 1080. Estimate $30000.
Closing Date: Monday, 7 January 2008.
Sold For $18000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.
518-527. Iron die for Æ 40 Nummi – Follis. Nicomedia mint. Dimensions: length, 88mm; width, 37mm, of octagonal form commencing 35 mm at the face and widening to 40 mm at the center and then tapering down to 33mm. Weight: 790 grams. Die engraved: Large M; cross above, stars to flanking, G
/NIKM in exergue. Published: M.D. O'Hara, "A Unique Byzantine Coin Die of Justin I (AD 518-27)," Minerva
XII/5 (September/October 2001), p. 54. For coin type, see MIB 35; SB 83. Die face is clear. Extremely rare, the only known Byzantine coin die.
From the Dennis O’Reilly Collection. Ex Triton V (15 January 2002), lot 2253.
The only officinae letters recorded in the various national collections, and in the standard works, for this variety with two stars are A, B, Δ, and E, the first, second, fourth, and fifth workshops. The third workshop, represented by the letter Γ, has so far only been noted for the variety with two crosses (MIB 37). This may go some way to suggesting that some event, administrative or otherwise, could account for the fact that this die somehow escaped destruction.
Iron dies are by their very nature a rare and valuable commodity and, in most cases, they would have been melted down and reused. There are only about a hundred Roman dies extant, mainly of the first century (bronze or iron). For the one thousand years of the Byzantine Empire this is the first and only die to have come to light (there are, however, rare tongs known for making lead seals but no actual coin dies - for one of these dies see lot 1106 below). This spectacular discovery of a very large early Byzantine coin-die is of major numismatic importance and of the highest rarity, and it is of the greatest interest since it allows an unprecedented glimpse behind the scenes of coin production.