Cross-above-head Byzantine coins: The Dan Clark Collection
Here is a typical Byzantine copper follis except for one thing--the cross above the head. Most early Byzantine coppers do not have that feature.
(See all the coin photos of Anastasius, Justin, or Justinian.)
Justin I, 518-527 AD
DN IVSTI-NVS P AVC
M = 40-nummia.
30 mm. 16.81 grams
Clear cross above the head.
Stars on either side of M. Cross above.
Weak B below M.
NIKM = Nicomedia mint, in exergue.
Sear 84, which is listed with the cross above head.
Sear 83 is the same type without the cross.
Coin varieties with profile bust and "cross above head" were issued by early Byzantine emperors until the reform of Justinian in his year 12 when profile busts were replaced with facing busts. There are many crosses above facing heads, and this site does not address them, nor does it cover the profile cross-above-head varieties of later emperors.
Anastasius (491-518), Justin I (518-527), and Justinian (527-565) minted cross above head varieties at three mints:
Constantinople, Nicomedia (Nikomedia), and Antioch (Antioch was renamed "Theopolis" under Justinian. Here is a page on why the name of the city changed and the coins before and after the change.).
All three mints that issued copper coins under Anastasius sometimes used a cross above the head. Thessalonica and Cyzicus began issuing coins under Justin, and Alexandria and Carthage began under Justinian, but those four mints did not use the cross-above-head varieties. Why those four mints did not mint cross-above-head varieties remains unexplained, as does why some coins have it when others of the same type do not.
This site illustrates more cross-above-head coins than all the major reference works put together. The types illustrated in the reference works are listed here.
Citations, Types, and Varieties: This web site has seperate pages for the coins of each emperor.
This site is organized by Sear number and notes if
1) that type always has a cross-above-head, or 2) sometimes has a cross-above-head, or 3) the possibility of a cross-above-head is not noted.
The Hahn number of the type is given with that information, and the Dumbarton Oaks catalog number is given with that information. Grierson numbers are given if and only if they illustrate the cross-above-head.
So, a citation like
"Sear 68" means Sear 68 at least mentions the possibility of the cross-above-head variety, but does not illustrate it.
"Sear 17, illustrated" means the Sear illustration shows the cross-above-head.
"Sear 91variety" means it is a variety of Sear 91 because Sear 91 does not mention the possibility of the cross-above-head.
"Sear 23-24 type variety" means it is a variety for some reason other than just the cross-above-head. In a new edition, it might have its own number for being different, regardless of the cross-above-head.
When it comes to Sear numbering for Anastasius at Constantinople (specifically at this mint), the designation "variety" does not mean it is otherwise unknown or even rare. Often Hahn has it when Sear did not. Also, Sear is not consistent about whether or not the cross-above-head deserves its own number. Under Anastasius at Constantinople, the possiblity of a cross-above-head is not mentioned even though it is common, so some Constantinople types have a Sear "variety" suffix here without being rare. However at Nicomedia, Sear explicitly mentions the possibility of cross-above-head. For example, listings may say "Sometimes with cross above head," which acknowledges two varieties in one Sear number. Sometimes the distinguishing cross gets its own number. For example, Sear 84 is exactly as Sear 83 except for having the cross-above-head.
On the other hand, Hahn attempts to be complete and if Hahn does not note or illustrate the possibility of the cross-above-head and the other references do not mention one, the variety can be regarded as "unlisted" and rare.
Sear numbers of all the copper types of Anastasius, Justin, and Justinian for the three mints (not just those with cross-above-head).
Anastasius: At Constantinople, Sear 13-29B. At Nicomedia, Sear 31-45. At Antioch, Sear 46-53A.
Justin I: At Constantinople, Sear 62-77. At Nicomedia, Sear 83-93B. At Antioch, Sear 100-111.
Justin I and Justinian I: At Constantinople, Sear 125-126B, Nicomedia, Sear 127-128, and Antioch, Sear 130-133.
Justinian I: At Constantinople, Sear 158-173, Nicomedia, Sear 198-206A, and Antioch/Theopolis, Sear 213-245.
Begin with coins of Anastasius or skip to the coins of Justin or Justinian.
Here is a very short biography of Dan Clark who assembled this collection.
Main Reference works
The types illustrated in the reference works are listed here.
Sear, David. Byzantine Coins and their Values. Second edition, 1987. Abbreviated "Sear" in the listings.
The primary collectors' handbook, with a nearly complete listing of Byzantine coin types and many photographs, especially of the main types.
Hahn, Wolfgang. Money of the Incipient Byzantine Empire (Volume I: Anastasius I - Justinian I, 491-565), second edition, with the collaboration of M. A. Metlich. 2000. Abbreviated "Hahn" in the listings.
Volume I of a series intended to provide a complete list of Byzantine types with photos of most types and dating as close as possible. Volumes I through III were published in German (under the title Moneta Imperii Byzantini) and then volumes I and II were revised with the addition of many new varieties and published in English. Volume III is unlikely to be updated anytime soon because the author retired. Only volume I is relevant to the period of this web site.
Bellinger, Alfred R. Catalogue of the Byzantine Coins in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection and the Whittemore Collection, volume I, Anastasius to Maurice, 491-602. 1966. Abbreviated "DO" on this web site.
Grierson, Philip. Byzantine Coins. 1982. (A large hardback book, not to be confused with his pamphlet of the same name.)
The best one-volume scholarly work that explains Byzantine coins. It is organized by broad time period, geographic region, and denomination, not by emperor. It includes many plates with 1527 illustrations of the major types during the whole empire, but has few illustrations of the cross-above-head varieties. Abbreviated "Grierson" on this site.
Other reference works are less important and mentioned here.
For other pages on other ancient-coin topics, visit the table of contents.
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