Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Note on Rarity

At the end of the description of each Type, there is a regularly updated listing of the specimens that I know of. This Corpus contains coins from published and private collections, scholarly studies and catalogues, auctions, eBay, VCoins, and many other commercial sources, though I have been cautious with unreliable information souces like Mionnet. The references to RPC IV are to the ongoing online documentation of the material, and the catalogue numbers given are provisional.

I have been surveying the material for some years, but these listings are obviously not complete or even particularly systematic. However, they should give an approximate idea of the respective rarity of different items. In the style of R.I.C., I have described coins known to me from only 1-2 specimens as extremely rare; 3-4 specimens as very rare; 5-6 as rare; and 7-10 as scarce. Where I know of more than 15 specimens I have closed the documentation, indicating the total as (X). 

One weakness of this approach is that great rarities are over-represented in public collections and auction catalogues, while the commoner items tend to be on dealers’ trays or even in rummage boxes. (By this method, highly desirable coins like the EID. MAR. denarii of Brutus or the decadrachms of Syracuse would have to be described as common.) Another is that certain cities have been much more exhaustively studied and catalogued than others—thanks to David MacDonald, the coins of Aphrodisias, for example, would appear to be rather commoner than practical experience shows.

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