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Ivan Varbanov

         Every collector looks for the quickest and easiest way to determine the type and value of an acquired Greek Imperial coin. At present, there is no problem for Roman State coinage, because there are many catalogues on the market with full description of Roman central coins. However, when the coin belongs to a local Balkan mint, the question remains open.
         Only the "General Catalogue of local Balkan mints" by Nikola Moushmov, published in 1912, gives the opportunity to approximately assess Balkan provincial coins. A century after the catalogue was published, there are no other new catalogues to help collectors easily identify their Balkan Greek Imperial coins. Besides, during this long period many new coin types missing in the above-mentioned work have been found. This is the reason that motivated me to compile a catalogue, which can meet the growing requirements of the present day collector to the highest degree.
       This book examines all mints in Dacia, Moesia Inferior, Moesia Superior, Thracia, Chersonesos Thraciae, Insula Thraciae and Macedonia, where Greek Imperial coins of the Roman Imperial period were minted. At the beginning of this period (in the time of Augustus) active were the mints in Macedonia (Amphipolis, Edessa, Pella, Philippi, Thessalonica), while in Moesia Inferior, Moesia Superior and Thrace only three mints worked (Byzantium, Mesembria, Tomis), which issued only small quantities of Greek Imperial coins. This trend of scarce coinage continued until the time of Hadrian. Small issues were also released for the first time in Abdera (in the time of Tiberius), Sestus (in the time of Caligula), Perinthus (in the time of Claudius), Callatis, Maroneia (in the time of Nero), Anchialus, Odessus, Philippopolis (in the time of Domitian), Deultum, Nicopolis ad Istrum, Trajanopolis (in the time of Trajan), Bizya, Coela, Hadrianopolis, Istrus, Marcianopolis (in the time of Hadrian), Apollonia Pontica, Pautalia, Plotinopolis, Topirus (in the time of Antoninus Pius), Augusta Trajana, Dionysopolis, Serdica (in the time of Marcus Aurelius), Nicopolis ad Nestum (in the time of Caracalla), Viminacium (in the time of Gordian III) and the last mint, which worked for a short time, was the mint in Dacia (in the time of Philip II).
         As was mentioned above, in the time of Hadrian the Balkans were already a place with steady local coinage, but a real apogee of activity seems to have been reached at the beginning of the third century A.D., under the Severan Dynasty, after a gradual build-up during the preceding century. Subsequently, only in the time of Gordian III the Balkan mints worked as actively again. After the time of Philip I and Philip II, the Greek Imperial coinage at the Balkan mints came to an abrupt halt and gradually all mints ceased working.
          The Greek Imperial coins were of purely local nature and circulated only within a limited territory, but for all that, they exhibit much greater diversity in types and inscriptions than the contemporary Roman State coinage. Many types were issued in connection with the celebration of sacred festivals and public games, some types depict buildings, bridges, temples and statuary associated with their place of mintage. Other types illustrate various aspects of local mythology. The reverse legends of these coins give much information on the organization of local government within the Balkan provinces of the Roman Empire, because the names and titles of magistrates and religious dignitaries feature prominently in the reverse legends of many issues.

. . . . . . . This book presents all emperors and members of theirs families whose portraits occurred on the Greek Imperial coins in the mints of  Dacia,  Moesia Inferior,  Moesia Superior, Thracia, Chersonesos Thraciae, Insula Thraciae and Macedonia. After a short historical review of the respective mint, 43 Balkan mints are presented  in  detail and extensively illustrated with photographs. There is a considerable amount of new and fascinating coin types which because of  bad conditions and damaged legends are impossible to identify precisely, and they are not presented in this catalogue. Unpublished types are printed in italics.
           The determination of the value of the coins in this catalogue is based on five basic factors: the nominal of the coin, the rarity of the emperor or his represented relatives, the interest in the coin type and legends, the rarity of the mint and the number of detected and described coins of the same type in world museums, collections and auctions. However, the individual price of each specimen depends on many other factors, such as relief, condition of the patina, diameter of the coin, etc. As far as the diameter of a certain type of coin is concerned, it can vary in size, especially for nominals over 30 millimeters in diameter, where the difference can reach 5 or more millimeters. For this reason in the book, I have given the average diameter which is most frequent.        
         Denominations in this catalogue have been priced on the basis of specimens in VF (Very Fine) condition, and prices are in Euro. Collectors must bear in mind that exceptionally well preserved examples are worth substantially more than the prices quoted, whilst very worn or damaged specimens can be almost valueless. There is no relationship between the values and the condition of the coin illustrated.
         I would like to thank Bistra Bozhkova, Stavri Topalov, Ivan Karayotov, Gospodin Zhekov, Hristo Haritonov, Jordan Tachev, Igor Lazarenko and many other experts and collectors for their assistance in the preparation of this catalogue.
         I hope that this catalogue will help collectors to easily identify their Greek Imperial coins from all Balkan mints. I am sure this book will popularize these remarkable issues, because Balkan Greek Imperial coins are some of the most attractive coins in the Roman world.



     Ivan Varbanov



. . . . . . . The Romans set foot on the Balkan Peninsula as early as the end of the 3rd Century BC, when Republican Rome crossed swords with the Macedonian kings, successors to Alexander III. After the battle of Cynoscephalae in 197 BC, the Roman consuls took advantage of their victory over the acclaimed Macedonian phalanx and imposed heavy provisions on Philip V of Macedon (221 - 179 BC). The very next year, 196 BC, Rome made a populist move and liberated the Greek poleis (city-states). It was this act that had decisive effect on minting in the cities in the Balkan Provinces of the Roman Empire, which followed Augustus' Principate.

. . . . . . . In 168 BC after the battle of Pydna, the Macedonian Kingdom lost its independence completely. It is true that in 149 BC there was an attempt to regain its freedom, but it was unsuccessful. In 72 BC the Roman army defeated Mithradates VI Eupator of Pontus (121 - 63 BC) and after the campaign of Marcus Lucullus, the whole of Thrace and the Black Sea Greek city-states came under the rule of Rome. In the second part of the 1st Century BC the rulers of the Thracian Odrysian Kingdom became vassals to Rome, but three decades after the inauguration of the Roman province of Moesia (11 - 15 AD) the last Odrysian Kingdom with a capital in Bizya lost its vassal rights and in 45 AD became the Province of Thracia. This historical development preceded the impressive urbanization of the Balkans in the times of the Roman Empire. The urbanization was particularly strong after the Dacian Wars of Marcus Ulpius Trajanus (98 - 117 AD), when most of the cities in the Balkan provinces were granted their city status and subsequently the right to mint their own base metal coins. This was the reason why Trajanus' second name, Ulpius, became an invariable part of the inscriptions on the majority of Balkan Greek Imperial coins. The definition "ΥΛΠΙΑΝΩΝ", however, remained strange to the old Greek poleis on the coasts of the Black and the Aegean Seas. They were still "free" following the tradition from the long-gone 196 BC.

. . . . . . . Most of Ivan Varbanov's catalogue (three volumes) is devoted to the rich base metal minting in Balkan cities and colonies. Nearly a century after the research of Behrendt Pick and Kurt Regling, of Max Strack, as well as of Bulgarian numismatist Nikola Mushmov, collectors have in their hands a standard catalogue which has fully used the old publications and added to their categorization the results from the research of dozens of scholars, authors of single volumes from the authoritative German series Griåchisches Münwerk, and the numerous auction catalogues that appeared in the later part of the 20th Century.

. . . . . . . To assess the rarity of each coin type, Varbanov has used his experience as a collector and the personal collections in Bulgaria, which he has had the chance to see. This has helped him to greatly enrich the typology of the different city mints. Often, his volumes describe coin types not published anywhere else before. This is of particular interest for the numismatics scientists who are still preparing corpora for the Griåchisches Münwerk series.

. . . . . . . The newly described types are also important for the compilers of auction catalogues. Varbanov's standard catalogue gives them the chance to more accurately establish the frequency of occurrence of hundreds of coin types looking at their averse and reverse descriptions.

. . . . . . . Particularly richly presented is the minting in the cities around the Burgas Bay: Anchiallo, Messembria, Apollonia, and the colony of Deultum (Colonia Flavia Pacis Deultensium).

. . . . . . . The present edition in English, prepared for a wide range of collectors around the world, will reveal to them the unbelievable variety of Roman coins struck in the cities of the Balkan provinces. In another volume, the author also offers a detailed description of the mints in the other provinces of the Roman Empire. This allows the collector to make his own comparisons and gain precise knowledge of the Roman urbanizing genius, who first linked European cities with convenient roads. And although to an extent the Roman Empire globalized the world, the coins described in this three-volume catalogue are a proof that these imperial ambitions did not totally eradicate the specific creative spirit of the ancient cities. To the greatest extent, it found expression in the majority of their coin types, collected in Ivan Varbanov's catalogues.


Prof. Ivan Karayotov, Doctor of Science


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