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ANCIENT ROMAN COINS

Roman Republican Coins

Coins from the ancient Roman Republican period, between 300 BC and 27 BC.

*Click on images to see larger images.*

(Reference : S=Sear Roman Coins and Their Values (2000 edtion), RSC=Roman Silver Coins, RIC=Roman Imperial Coinage, MILNE=Catalogue of Alexandrian coins; GIC=Greek Imperial Coinage by Seaby)

 M. Aemilius Scaurus and P. Plautius Hypsaeus. ca. 58 BC. Silver denarius.
M. Aemilius Scaurus and P. Plautius Hypsaeus. ca. 58 BC. Silver denarius.

Denomination : Silver denarius.  Date : 58 BC.

Reference : Sear-379, RSC-Aemilia 8.

Size : 15.9 x 17.1 mm.  Weight : 3.89 grams.  Slightly small but full weight.

Grade : Over all Fine but part of the inscription are more heavily worn at the edges.

Obverse : King aretas of Nabataea, kneeling right beside a camel, presenting an dolive branch in a symbol of supplication, with M SCAVR AED CVR In two lines above, EX and SC across the fields, and REX ARETAS below.  Parts of the inscriptions are off the edges of the flan.

Reverse : Jupiter driving a quadriga left, brandishing a thunderbolt, with P HVPSAEVS AED CVR in two lines above, CAPTVM to the right, and C HVPSAE COS PREIVER in two lines below.

This coin commemorates the surrender of Aretas III to Scaurus in 62 BC, and is the earliest Roman coin to commemorate events of the life of the issuing moneyer.


SOLD

Order # 5603

 Roman Republic.  cast Aes Grave Semis.  ca. 215 to 216 BC.
Roman Republic. cast Aes Grave Semis. ca. 215 to 216 BC.

Denomination : Bronze Semis.  Date : ca. 215 to 212 BC.

Mint : Rome.

Reference : BMCRR 1 page 18, #40.  Syd. 102.  Cr 41/6a.  TV 71.  Sear 576.

Size : 29.9 x 33.0 mm in diameter and 9.8 mm thick.  Weight : 32.59 grams.

Grade : XF.  Very dark green patina with minor encrustations.  As with most Aes grave, air bubbles trapped in the mold create gaps in the coin.  This specimen has such a gap, which is a little larger than usual and includes a spot where it goes right through the coin (clearly visible on the image). While this is a signficant flaw, the over all coin is still very eye-appealing with an attractive patina.

Obverse : Head of Saturn left, with the denomination mark S behind.

Reverse : Ship's prow left, with an S above.

Because the designs on this type are coursely rendered, they can be difficult to decern if the coin is viewed up close be become clear if it is held at a short distance.


SOLD

Order # 5205

(Reference : S=Sear Roman Coins and Their Values (2000 edtion), RSC=Roman Silver Coins, RIC=Roman Imperial Coinage, MILNE=Catalogue of Alexandrian coins; GIC=Greek Imperial Coinage by Seaby)



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ancient moneyerCalgary Coin

THE AES RUDE COINAGE

AES RUDE (crude bronze), the earliest type of Roman money, was probably first used about 400 B.C. as small, irregular lumps of bronze broken from cast thick sheets. There is no set weight standard, nor normally any mark of an issuing authority, so they cannot be called true coins. They would have circulated as bullion items which would have been weighed at each transaction, in much the same way that gold nuggets were used as currency during the 19th century gold rushes in Alaska and California.

Although no longer available for sale, the specimen we recently had (link to image) was unusual because on it's single flat surface there is a stamped incuse leaf pattern which was on the original block of bronze prior to it being broken into fragments. The exact meaning of this stamping will probably remain unknown, although it may have been some type of quality control mark on the bar. Assuming each bar had a single stamping of this nature (which is by no means certain), this is a feature that should only be found on a small percentage of the Aes rude.


THE AES SIGNATUM COINAGE

AES SIGNATUM (signed bronze) replaced the aes rude sometime around the beginning of the third century B.C. as cast, generally rectangular ingots, with raised designs. These may have been true coins as they appear to meet the three basic requirements: First, they had an intrinsic value related to their circulating value (otherwise they would be tokens). Second, they appear to bear the mark of an issuing authority (The locals must have known the meanings of the symbols, and one type is even inscribed "ROMANOM"). Third, they were cast to a weight standard (ca 1600 grams), so they would not have to be weighed for each transaction. Unfortunately, there appears to have been only one denomination, so they are often found cut into fragments, the only way of making change. The system was unwieldy, and doomed to failure.

THE AES GRAVE COINAGE

The AES GRAVE were cast bronze coins, generally round, with several different denominations. They replaced the Aes Signatum almost immediately, probably after only a few years. Through several changes in design and weight standards, this was probably the principal coinage used in the city of Rome until about 215 B.C., overlapping with the earliest struck silver coins which were probably used primarily for trade with Greek cities and not used much in Rome.

ANONYMOUS STRUCK COINAGE

ANONYMOUS die struck coins first appear around 280 B.C. The earliest examples were generally silver, and except for being inscribed for Rome, were very similar to the didrachms and drachms struck in Metapontum and some other Greek cities in southern Italy. The types and style are in fact so close that the dies were almost certainly cut by the Greek die engravers in those cities, and it is possible that they were struck there for the Romans. It seems likely these coins were made for trade purposes and seldom used in Rome. Later, probably around 250 B.C. struck bronze coins were first made, but of distinctly Roman designs.

About 225 B.C. saw the introduction of a didrachm usually referred to as a quadrigatus. This was the first Roman silver coin that was distinctly Roman in style, and almost certainly minted in Rome. The name quadrigatus comes from the quadriga or four-horse chariot on the reverse, which was the prototype for the designs most used on Roman silver coins for the next 150 years.

Around 211 B.C. we see the introduction of the silver denarius and a short-lived denomination called the victoriatus. Denarii were struck for use in areas under Roman control and would remain the principal coin of the Mediterranean world for the next 450 years. Victoriati were probably struck for use in trade with the Greek cities of southern Italy, and ceased to be struck as soon as the Romans conquered those territories.

Although most references list the first big issues of denarii as occurring in about 211 BC, I personally believe a date of about 209 BC is more likely. Prior to that the Romans did not control any area rich in silver, which is why silver coins were not generally issued in earlier periods. In about 209 BC, during the 2nd Punic War, the Roman captured the Spanish city of Carthago Nova and took control of the silver mines associated with that city.

COINAGE NAMING MONEYERS

MONEYERS, under the Roman Republic, were elected officials who were responsible for the minting of coins. After about 206 B.C. they were allowed to place their names on the coins, although some anonymous issues were struck as late as the early first century BC. The early inscribed denarii tended to have a helmeted bust of Roma on the obverse, with either Victory in a galloping chariot, or the Dioscuri (Castor and Pollux) galloping right on the reverse. The victoriatus was always struck with the head of Jupiter on the obverse and Victory crowning a trophy on the reverse.

The bronze coins also used conservative formal designs, usually with a ship's prow on the reverse, with several of the Roman gods and goddesses on the obverse. The basic bronze coinage remained largely unchanged until the end of the Republic, except for fewer denominations and a gradual reduction in weight. There were also silver quinarii (half denarii) and silver sestertii (quarter denarii) being struck, but they are uncommon and probably played only a minor role in Roman commerce.

IMPERATORIAL COINAGE

In 49-48 B.C. the fabric of the Roman Republic was coming apart with a civil war being fought between the Pompeian forces lead by Pompey the Great, and those of his former allies, Julius Caesar. The coinage of this period is commonly known as the Imperatorial Coinage, but is actually still a sub-group of the Republican series.

For the next twenty-two years, several warring factions vied for control of Rome and a series of very famous people appeared on the coinage. As well as Pompey, the list includes Julius Caesar, Brutus, Mark Antony (occasionally with Cleopatra on the reverse), Octavian (later known as Augustus, the first Emperor) and a number of other less-known, but important people.

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