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Christian Cup Coins: A Medieval Mystery Set of Two Coins
For 11 centuries, the Byzantine Empire was a center of learning, culture, trade, and Christian faith - arguably the brightest light in the Dark Ages. But not everything was illuminated. The Byzantines acquired a well-deserved reputation for secrecy and intrigue. To this day, much about them remains unknown. One enduring mystery involves the origins of the unusual scyphate - the cup-shaped coins known as aspron trachea - produced by its medieval mints. The Byzantines inherited what remained of the eastern territory of the once - unified Roman Empire, and always referred to themselves as Romans.

Initially, their money reflected the classic coin design of Constantine the Great, who established Constantinople - "New Rome" - as the imperial capital in 330 CE. During the reign of Anastasius I (491-518), large numbers of bronze coins began being issued featuring prominent crosses, presumably intending to increase the publics confidence in coinage that was devoid of precious metals. Later Byzantine coins went further, featuring full-facing portraits of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. It was hoped that faith in these icons would transmit to faith in the currency.

Then, in the 11th century, Emperor Constantine IX began producing this radical new design, the scyphate - a strange new shape that persisted for most of the next 200 years. In 27 centuries of coin issues, nothing remotely like this design has appeared either before or since. The coins typically show religious portraits and imperial figures. No original written document on the subject of the scyphate's origins has survived. For centuries, numismatists and historians have vigorously debated the shape's intended purpose. Was it meant to symbolize abundance? To suggest that the emperor was lower than God? Or was there some practical purpose? The answer is lost to history. Whatever the reason for the design, the new Byzantine currency was copied by the neighboring Kingdom of Hungary.

The 12th century Magyar King Bela III, who was educated in Constantinople and was the brother-in-law of Byzantine Emperor Manuel I Comnenos, was heavily influenced by his time there, and his money reflected that. In both its scyphate shape and its iconography of the Virgin, Bela's copper folles were clearly inspired by the Byzantine design used by Manuel and his successors. All coins in each set are protected in an archival capsule and beautifully displayed in a mahogany-like box. The box set is accompanied with a story card, certificate of authenticity.


  • Coin Type: Aspron Trachea
  • Grade: Circulated
  • Diameter: 15-18mm
  • Denomination: Ancient
  • Mintage Year: 1123 - 1328 CE
  • Obverse: Religious Portraits
  • Reverse: Imperial Figures
  • Specifications:

  • Coin Type: AE Follis
  • Grade: Circulated
  • Diameter: 26-27mm
  • Denomination: Ancient
  • Mintage Year: 1172 - 1196 CE
  • Obverse: Virgin Mary Seated
  • Reverse: Bela III & Stephan IV
  • Measurements: 4"W x 4"H

    Distributed by American Collectors Mint, LLC.

    Coin Glossary:

    Die: An engraved piece of metal used to stamp a design on a coin.

    Die crack: A small, raised imperfection on a coin resulting from a crack in the stamping die.

    Early release: The Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) uses this designation for U.S. Bullion Coins during the first month of release from the U.S. Mint. To qualify for Early Release designation, NGC must receive the coins within 30 days of their release by the US Mint or properly documented as being received by an NGC approved entity within the same 30-day release period.

    Encapsulated coin: A coin graded and authenticated by a professional coin service, then sealed in plastic.

    Field: The typically flat area surrounding the relief and not used for legend or inscription.

    Legal tender: Official money issued by the government.

    Legend: The coin's primary lettering.

    Lettered edge: An inscription added to the edge of a coin.

    Luster: The quality of the surface brilliance on a Mint State or Uncirculated coin.

    Mercury dime: Issued from 1916 to 1945, this U.S. dime featured a representation of Liberty in a winged hat that was commonly mistaken for the ancient god, Mercury.

    Mint: A government controlled coin production facility.

    Mint mark: A small letter stamped on a coin that indicates its mint origin, ex. "D" for Denver.

    Mint Set: One coin from each of the available denominations in a particular year, produced by a single mint and made for circulation.

    Mint State (Uncirculated): A regular production coin never used in trade and existing in its original condition.

    Mintage: The number of coins produced.

    NGC: Numismatic Guaranty Corporation.

    Numismatics: The collection and study of monetary objects such as coins and paper bills.

    Obverse: Heads, or a coin's front side.

    Patina: Surface discoloration, typically green or brown, caused by oxidation over time.

    PCGS: Professional Coin Grading Service.

    Planchet: A blank metal piece used to produce a coin.

    Proof: Expertly polished planchets and dies produce these coins which feature an extremely high quality strike, resulting in unmatched detail and brilliant surface finish.

    Reeded edge: A coin edge finish featuring parallel vertical grooves all the way around.

    Relief: The raised portion of a stamped design that sits above the coin's field.

    Reverse: Tails, or coin's back side.

    Rim: The raised ring around the perimeter of a coin designed to reduce wear on the relief.

    Strike: The act of stamping a coin.

    Truncation: The bottom edge of a portrait or bust.

    Wheat penny: Lincoln cents issued from 1909 to 1958 bearing the wheat ear design on the reverse.