Friday, 11 December 2009

Severan Coinage

I thought as I had been so slack I would post an essay I wrote for my coins and inscriptions course at uni. It's a bit rough around the edges as due to computer troubles I had to rewrite it without access to many of my sources in 48hours.

How well do the images and legends of the coins of the reign of Septimius Severus reflect imperial policy and history of the time.

Roman coinage played a dual role in antiquity; functioning as both a currency and as an excellent platform for spreading political messages throughout the Empire. This can be seen most clearly at times of regime change, as new dynasties attempt to supplant their power by spreading their political ideals through the medium of coin types and legends. The coinage of Septimius Severus is an excellent example of how the politics and history can be reflected in the coin types or legends, as when viewed chronologically one can clearly see one of the most interesting political schemes in all Roman history unfold.

In 193 AD Septimius Severus was serving as Governor of Upper Pannonia when the succesor of Commodus, Pertinax, was murdered by the praetorians. The guard then offered the throne to the the highest bidder, a contest won by Didius Julianus who promised a donative of 25,000 sestertii to each man (1). This caused uproar in the city and the plebs protested in the forum before heading to the Colosseum where they remained over night calling upon the assistance of the provincial legions. Although the plebs named the governor of Syria, Pescenius Niger, as their chosen saviour; Septimius Severus also answered their call. In order to portray himself as the avenger of Pertinax he adopted the title Pertinax and this can be found on his early coinage in the form of "PERT" in the obverse legend. Upon entering Rome Septimius reaffirmed this idea by having Pertinax consecrated and minting a series commemorating this bearing the legend "DIVVS PERT PIVS PATER" (a) on the obverse. These coins clearly reflect the political stance of Septimius Severus by displaying him as avenger of Pertinax but other early coin types show the harsh reality of the period.

It is clear from the outset that Septimius Severus lacked any real claim to the throne and that avenging Pertinax was merely spin. His real claim was that he controlled the largest army within striking distance of Rome (2). The Historia Augusta's account of Severus' entry into Rome makes it quite clear that it was it was the fact that he was “accompanied not only by armed soldiers but also by a body of armed friends” (HA Severus 7.4) that ensured Severus' senatorial approval. It is clear that both the legions and Severus understood the real position of the power therefore Severus' coinage of 193-194AD clearly reflect his desperate attempts to maintain the loyalty of the troops. His issues display an almost exclusively military theme with military virtues such as "Virtus(b)" and "Victory"(c) being backed up by one of the clearest calls for troop loyalty the "FIDEI LEG(d)" or “loyalty of the legions” type. Most notably however Septimius Severus mints an entire series of legionary coinage depicting an eagle between two standards and bearing the titles the legions under his control(e). Of the sixteen legions in the Rhine-Danube region under his control fifteen have recorded coin types and only the X Gemina has no surviving types. This could mean that the X Gemina somehow lost favour with the Emperor (3), possibly through siding with one of the other contenders for the throne, but it is impossible to be sure. The fifteen legions represented all received denarii but alongside these Severus also minted aureii for three legions, the I Minerva, VIII Augusta and XIII Gemina Martia Victrix, the latter of which also received sestertii (f). The fact that Severus only minted for legions already under his control is a clear sign that, much like Marcus Antonius prior to Actium, he was attempting to honour them and ensure their loyalty. This is in contast to the legionary issues of Gallienus, Victorinus and Carausius, who minted for legions out of their control in the hope of gaining their favour (4). These issues of Severus clearly reflect the true history of the period as, having been forced into embarassing situations by his troops, Severus knew that they were key to his power and that he must maintain their loyalty at all costs.

Along with Severus two other pretenders for the throne answered the call of the plebs; the governor of Britain Clodius Albinus and the governor of Syria Pescennius Niger. Despite having the largest army Severus knew that he could not win a battle on two fronts and was forced to resort to diplomacy to avoid a war on two fronts. He offered the lesser of his two rivals, Albinus, the title of Caesar and even although he had also been declared Augustus by his troops he knew it wise to accept (Herodian II.15.3). The period of Albinus as Caesar is represented in the coin spectrum by a run of coinage from the mint of Rome from 193AD bearing both the title “CAES” and “SEPT” (g), showing Albinus adopted Severus' nomen to cement the link between the two. Upon closer inspection however the coinage hints that this was a purely political link entered into begrudgingly on the part of Severus. Mattingly argues that the lack of honorific titles on the coins of Albinus makes this clear (5). Albinus is never granted tribunician's power or invested into the pontifex. Neither is he “IMP” or, despite adopting Severus' nomen, described as his son. When viewed along side the coinage of Severus' sons as Caesars it is all the more clear, as their coinage displays “TR P” and “PONT” as soon as they are declared Caesars, that Albinus is merely a pawn in Severus' political game. The coinage of Albinus clearly reflects the tense relationship between the Augustus and his Caesar, which led to Albinus being declared Augustus in 195AD and a second round of civil war.

Following this rift between himself and Albinus, Severus undertook one of his most ambitious political moves by attempting to have himself fictitiously adopted into the Antonine dynasty. Initially Severus was very blunt in his tactics, simply declaring himself the son of the Divine Marcus and changing Caracalla's name from Bassanius to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus. Both of these events can be found in the coinage, as Severus minted with the obverse legend "DIVI M PII F P M TR P III"(h) in 195AD and a large number of coins of Caracalla bearing his new title "M AVR ANTONINVS" can be found, as Severus grooms him in preparation for his rise to Caesar. These unsubtle coin types clearly played a large part in spreading this new political idea in an attempt to justify the prolonged civil war but it was not until after the defeat of Albinus that the true importance of the fictitious adoption became clear.

Following years of civil war Septimius Severus was left controlling a fractured Empire and the task of reuniting it would not be easy. The most imminent concern was ensuring the support of the remaining legions, which had previously been under the control of Albinus and Niger. By joining the Antonine dynasty he could now trace his lineage all the way back to the divine Nerva and that he became the rightful heir of Marcus Aurelius. With this theoretically came the loyalty of the troops (6) and in order to ensure that he was viewed as the rightful heir of the Antonine dynasty Severus employed several more subtle methods throughout the remainder of the reign. In 198AD we see the beginning a series of coinage depicting Julia Domna as the mother of the camp (i), a title which she received for accompanying Severus on his Parthian campaigns. This same title was awarded to Faustina the Younger, the wife of Marcus Aurelius, in 174AD to commemorate her accompanying Marcus on campaign. The coinage of both Julia and Faustina is remarkably similar and it is clear that Severus was attempting to subtly link not only himself to gens Aurelia but his family as a whole.

He takes this link further when, following the capture of Ctesiphon in 198AD, he accepted the title "Parthicus Maximus". The same title granted to Lucius Verus and Marcus Aurelius following their Parthian victories of 165- 166AD. Septimius initially adopted this title in place of "PERT" upon his obverse legends along with his eleventh imperial acclamation but buy 200AD had shortened his title to simply "SEVERVS AVG PART MAX" (j). Dropping Pertinax from his title not only reflects his new political agenda, as he attempts to align himself fully with the gens Aurelia, but offers support to the claim that the fictitious adoption was required to reunite the army. For Pertinax had been known as a strict disciplinarian and was not well liked by the troops, especially in Britain where he had previously put down a mutiny. Therefore by dropping the title and instead adopting a title more common with the Antonine dynasty Severus was able to shed the associations with the short lived Emperor.

Severus further attempts to link his entire house with that of Marcus Aurelius by following his adopted father’s model in the advancement of Carcalla. He carefully grooms his eldest son to become Augustus following the pattern of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. Dio tells us that Commodus received the toga virilis and was adopted as co consul before he was of age (DIO 72(71)22.2) and Severus follows this example by bestowing the toga virilis on Caracalla at age 12 and appointing him as co consul the following year in 202AD (HA SEV 26.8). This event is recorded in the coinage as Caracalla receives the title "COS". Caracalla is also taken on campaign with his father and his coinage even bears the title "PART MAX" (k)following his fathers second Parthian campaigns. This follows the model of Commodus, who received the title of Germanicus after his fathers victory over the Marcomanni in 172AD. The coinage of the period clearly paid an important part in Severus' attempts to depict his house as a continuation of that of Marcus Aurelius.

The extent people have believed in this adoption will never be known by running concurrently is a series of coinage chosen by Severus in an attempt to call out directly to the people, who have been ravaged by civil war for 5 years. He attempts to portray the new Imperial House as a stable unit capable of restoring “SECVRIT ORBIS”(l). Every member of the Imperial Household has types minted representing their ability to return the Empire to normal. There are idealised types promising such prosperity such as; “SPEI PERPETVAE” (m) alongside more specific reference to real concerns. These include types minted showing the idealised forms of the vital services of the Empire, including the food and money supply. Severus mints “AEQVITAS AVGG, “ANNONAE AVG” and “MONETA AVGG” (n) to celebrate business as usual returning to the Empire, through the power of the Augustae. It is questionable whether these claims are truly accurate (7) but they do reflect an important part of Severus' imperial policy.

While Severus did mint several coin types depicting himself as the source of this return to greatness, including a “RESTITVTOR VRBIS” type bearing an image of himself sacrificing on the reverse (o), his advanced age meant that his mind was generally on the bigger picture. His focus was now on ensuring the acceptance of his new found dynasty after his death. Severus utilised coinage to reinforce the idea that the new found stability was the result of a stable imperial house. This idea is best represented though a series of dynastic aureii depicting Severus alongside various members of the imperial house all of which make some fairly drastic claims. Upon one type Severus appears on the obverse with his two sons on the reverse declaring “AETERNIT IMPERI”(p), essentially that the eternal survival of the empire relies on maintaining his new dynasty. This type is backed up by similar types making equally bold promises, such as “CONCORDIAE AETERNAE” (q) and “VICT AETERN” (r), all of which clearly express the idea that it is the unity and continuity of an imperial dynasty that ensures the survival of the Empire.

As a part of Severus' attempt to display the unity of the Imperial house; Julia Domna plays a significant role, which is clearly reflected on the coinage. She is now very much portrayed as the mother of the future emperors, as well as the wife of the current one. Her coinage begins to display a heavily maternal theme from 198AD, a theme which continues to the end of the reign of Severus and beyond. Although there are denarii which follow the style of the dynastic aureii mentioned above, which depict Julia on the obverse and either of her two children on the reverse (s), this is achieved largely through minting a significant number of different series of coin bearing maternal deities and legends. One can find several types depicting Hilaritas and even one where Hilaritas is depicted holding , the symbol of victory, a palm branch and a cornucopiae with two children at her feet (t). This type clearly symbolises the joy (hilaritas) Severus believes the people should feel that his great victory has brought a period of plenty to be continued by his heirs, represented by the two naked children at the feet of the Goddess. There is also several types depicting Venus Genetrix (u), representing Venus in her form as mother of the Roman people just as Julia is mother of the newly founded Severan dynasty. However the clearest representation of Julia's role as a mother can be found on a coin type depicting Julia as the Cybele found as both an aureus(v) and denarius. This type shows Julia, as, the Cybele riding in the Cybele's typical lion quadriga with the legend “MATER AVGG”. By depicting Julia as the “Magna Mater”, the mother of the gods and the original birth giver, with the legend “mother of the Augustae” (Even although Geta is not yet full Augustus) Severus leaves us in little doubt that he wishes to portray Julia as the mother of his new dynasty.

As a whole I believe that the coinage of Septimius Severus closely reflects both the history and policy of his reign. It allows valuable insight into the complex political scheming of Severus as he founds his new dynasty at each different stage. It also hints at the truth behind the propaganda of Severus both in terms of his true source of power and in his relationship with his Caesar.


1)Cassius Dio, lxxiv, 11.5
2) For an in depth study of Severus' position prior to the death of Pertinax see Birley 1999 pp88ff
3) For a further reading on the legionary coinage of Septimius Severus see Bruce R. Brace “The legionary coins of Septimius Severus” 2003 .
4)Oman “Coins of Severus and Gallienus commemorating the Roman Legions” 1918 and Mattingly “The Legionary Coins of Victorinus” 1938
5) Mattingly, BMC lxxxv (1950)
6)For an in depth study into the dynastic principle and the army see Baharal “VICTORY OF PROPAGANDA The Dynastic Aspect of the Imperial Propaganda of the Severi : the Literary and Archaeological Evidence, AD 193-235” 1996
7) Despite Severus’s claims reported in the Historia Augusta HA Albinus 12.7


Cassius Dio
Historia Augusta

Baharal “VICTORY OF PROPAGANDA The Dynastic Aspect of the Imperial Propaganda of the Severi : the Literary and Archaeological Evidence, AD 193-235” 1996
Birley “ Septimius Severus: The African Emperor” Routeledge 1990
Bruce R. Brace “The legionary coins of Septimius Severus” 2003
Mattingly “Coins of the Roman Empire in the British Museum vol 5” London 1950
Mattingly “Roman Imperial Coinage vol IV” Spink 1936
Mattingly “The Legionary Coins of Victorinus” 1938
Oman “Coins of Severus and Gallienus commemorating the Roman Legions” 1918


n.b Images are not to scale.

Figure a: Silver Denarius depicting Divus Pertinax RIC IV 24a

Figure b: Silver Denarius depicing Virtus on the reverse RIC IV 24

Figure c: Silver Denarius depicting Victory RIC IV 425

Figure d: Bronze Sesterius depicting Fides on the reverse RIC IV 1

Figure e: Silver Legion denarius of XIIII Minerva RIC IV 14

Figure f:AE Setertius of XIIII MInerva MV RIC IV 652

Figure g: Silver Denarius of Albinus as Caesar RIC IV 7

Figure h: AE Sestertius with obverse legend "DIVI M PII F" RIC IV 702

Figure i: AR Denarius depicting Julia Domna as mother of the camp RIC IV 164

Figure j: AR Denarius bearing legend "SEVERVS AVG PART MAX" RIC IV 171a

Figure k: AR Denarius depicting Caracalla with the title PART MAX RIC IV 54a

Figure l: AR Denarius of Caracalla depicting Securitas RIC IV 351a

Figure m: AR Denarius of Geta depicting Spes RIC 96

Figure n: AR Denarius depicting Moneta RIC 135b

Figure o: AR Denarius depicting the emperor sacrificing RIC IV 167

Figure p: AV Aureus depicting the three male members of the dynasty RIC IV 174

Figure q: AV Aureues depicting the imperial couple. RIC IV 52

Figure r: AR Denarius with "VICT AETERN" RIC IV 170

Figure s: Denarius depicting Julia on the obverse and Geta on the reverse RIC IV 394

Figure t: AR Denarius depicting hilaritas with two children RIC IV 577

Figure u: AR Denarius depicting Venus Genetrix RIC IV 578

Figure v: Aureus depicting Julia as Cybele RIC IV 562

Please note: due to a computer error I have lost my list of references for images. If you own the rights to any of these images and would like accredited or that they be removed please contact me and I will do so immediately.

Monday, 5 October 2009


As I promised last night I will try and chat a bit about dynasty and Imperial succession.

I mentioned last time that there was no such thing as a hereditary position in the Republican period yet Augustus was clear that this was exactly his plan. How he went about this was very clever but led to the problems I discussed before.

For Augustus wished his rule to fit within the original Republican framework, so he could not declare his intent in any legal form. There was no mention in his will or legislation passed, so he had to be more cunning.

Augustus chose instead to adopt his chosen heir and then allow them to share in his powers. Take Tiberius as an example

" He was adopted as a son, as a colleague in empire and a partner in the tribunitian power, and paraded through all the armies" (Tacitus Annals 1.56)

Augustus is clearly declaring his intent for Tiberius to follow in his footsteps (even if he wasn't his first choice). Augustus then further displayed his dynastic intent by forcing Tiberius to in turn adopt his nephew Germanicus, rather than his own son.

It was not merely the wish to keep the Empire in the hands of the gens Ivlia for his own sake but in fact vital for the survival of the entire system. Augustus realised that in order to hold power the military was critical. He had to ensure the loyalty of the legions for they were his only tool to ensure the senate never changed their mind about all the powers he had been granted.

Since the time of the Republic the legions had felt deeply loyal to their commanders and were willing to follow them through hell and high water. Look at Caesar's famous Gallic legions, willing to be declared enemies of the state and march upon Rome, all out of loyalty to their general. Augustus harnessed this loyalty to raise him to the purple and realised that the legions loyal to Caesar were now loyal to him upon his adoption. Not only was he the son of their beloved general but he was also now the son of the Divine Caesar.

This was the formation of the imperial cult which is tomorrow's topic.

For now I'm going to leave you with a couple of Antoniniani from the period of Military Anarchy.

Gordian III. Rome, A.D. 239.

Obverse: IMP CAES M ANT GORDIANVS AVG, Radiate head of Gordian right
Reverse: ROMAE AETERNAE, Roma seated left on shield, holding Victory and sceptre

RIC IV 38. 3.53g 22mm

Probus Æ Antoninianus 276-282 AD Antioch mint

Obverse: "IMP C M AVR PROBVS AVG radiate draped bust right
Reverse: "CLEMENTIA TEMP, Probus standing right with scepter & receiving globe from Jupiter, D• between, XXI in ex.

RIC 921, 21mm, 3.77g

Sunday, 4 October 2009

The Principate System...

Last time I rambled about the problems with the Principate system without really giving any background on it so I thought today I would look at that in a bit more detail.

During the Roman Republic there was no such tyhing as a hereditary office. In fact the Republic was all about the elections. They loved them. Every year the people would gather on the Campus Martius and vote for a range of offices, the highest of which was the Consulship. Each year two consuls would be elected and power would be shared between them, this meant that no man could hold absolute power.

This system was for the most part successful for some 450 years.

It was in 27BC Augustus declared to the senate that he wished to resign from his position as perpetual consul in order to enjoy a more private life. The senate was having none of it though. They refused to accept his resignation and instead asked him to remain as head of the Republic, giving him the titles "Augustus", "princeps", "pater patriae" and "imperator".

As we all know he accepted these honours but all these titles are literally just that. No powers came directly attached; the senate had to instead attach powers to the office. The gave the princeps:

1) Tribunicians power or "tribunicia potestas". This is often recorded on the coins of various emperors, such as this denarius of Vespasian

Vespasian Denarius. 70-72 AD.

Obverse: IMP CAES VESP AVG PM laureate head right
Reverse: TRI POT Vesta seated left holding simpulum

RIC II 37 3.23g 18mm

This power gave the princeps the right, call a meeting of the Senate, to involve himself in almost any legal matter and to veto motions in the Senate. .

2) Proconsular Power "imperium proconsulare maius"

The power gave Augustus imperium over several provinces, allowing him to command the armies within. While initially this was only a few provinces most of Rome's legions were contained within these provinces; effectively giving Augustus power over Roman military. Over time this power obviously extended so that the Emperor was supreme commander of all of Rome's military.

3) The head of state religion "Pontifex maximus"

This allowed the princeps to ensure that auguries were always favorable and that the right ideals were being promoted by the state religion. This was often portrayed on coins a "PM", "PON M" or "PON MAX", as seen on these coins of Septimius Severus, Claudius and Vespasian.

Septimius Severus, Silver Denarius, Rome Mint, 195 AD

Obverse: L SEPT SEV PERT AVG IMP V, laureate head right

Reverse: P M TR P III COS II P P, Mars advancing right with trophy over shoulder & spear

RIC 60, 3.12g, 18mm

See on the reverse the continuation of Severus' title includes "P(ontifex) M(aximus)

Claudius Quadrans 41AD

Obv: "TI CLAVDIVS CAESAR AVG" around modius
Rev: "PON M TR P IMP COS DES IT" around large SC

RIC 84, 2.18g, 16-18mm

On this quadrans of Claudius we can (or would be able to if the photo wasn't so poor) again see "POM M"

Finally we have this example of Vespasian

Vespasian Denarius. 69-79AD.

Obverse: IMP CAESAR VESPASIANVS AVG laureate head right
Reverse: PON MAX TR P COS V Vespasian seated right with branch & scepter

RIC II 77, 3.13g, 18mm

Now even with all these powers Augustus wasn't happy. He assumed a few extra powers to boot including; managing the treasury (Aerarium) and censor. This gave him power over the money supply as well as the justice system.

This basically leaves us with a senate for show as one man now controls all of the Empires vital organs. The money, the law, the religion, the justice and (possibly the most important) the military. I will look at the military in depth in a few days but first I will look at the idea of dynasty tomorrow.

I will leave you with a couple pieces from my collection;

A Spes denarius I have fallen in love with. It may not be the finest example but it has real character and wonderful tones.

AR Denarius, Severus Alexander (222 – 235 AD) Rome 231 - 235 AD.

Obv.: IMP ALEXANDER PIVS AVG; draped and laureate bust of emperor right.
Rev.: SPES PVBLICA; Spes walking left, holding branch in right hand, lifting skirt with right hand.

RIC 254, 19 mm. 2.89 g.

Also my new favourite piece a lovely Republican denarius C. Valerius Flaccus. I have spent a lot of time reading up on the legionary denarii of Septimius Severus and in one excellent article I saw a reference to this earlier denarius with a similar reverse and when I saw it I had to have one. The photo really does not do this coin justice with the wonderful high relief of the legionary eagle anyway....

Ar Denarius of C. Valerius Flaccus 82-81BC

Obverse: Bust of Victory Right, Symbol in front of head.
Reverse: "C.VAL.FLA.IMPERAT" Legionary eagle between two standards inscribed H and P, EX S.C between them.

3.49g, 19mm, RSC Valeria 12a

Vale habeque somnia suaves!

Monday, 28 September 2009

The Year of the Four Emperors....

In AD68 the Roman Empire hit a slight snag when the death of Nero brought the Julio-Claudian dynasty came to an end. This created all sorts of problems as to who would rule...

Between June 68AD and December 69AD there were 4 occupants of the imperial throne, as Rome witnessed the rise and fall of Galba, Otho and Vitellius before Vespasian finally managed to hold the throne. This raised a few very important questions about how the prinipate system really worked.

1) There is no legal system to determine a successor. How then is the next princeps chosen in this type of situation?

2) The princeps main powerbase is no longer the people but actually the army.

3) The troops actually have the real power as they decide who they acclaim emperor.

This is clearly a far cry from the founding ideals of the Roman Republic; which seems to be what the coinage of Galba, Otho and Vitellius promise. For example Galba struck coins with legends promising "LIBERTAS POPVLI ROMANI" (freedom to the Roman people) or "ROMA RENASCENS" (Rome Reborn) yet any change in the system can't have been his main focus given that he so quickly apponted Piso as his successor.

What happened next displays exactly the problems I mentioned above. The praetorian guard turned against Galba, as they never recieved the usual donative after the adoption of Frugi, and without the support of the military Galba was defenceless. He was murdered by the supporters of the new favorite of the Praetorians, Otho, in the Forum Romanum after a reign of only 221 days.

Here we see how crazy a situation the principate had caused. The Senate was not even consulted until after Otho had been raised to the purple, the power had shifted and it would never be returned.

Why does this interest me, as a Severan enthusiast?

Well because it shows the signs of the slippery slope that explains the propaganda of the Severan dynasty...

That however is another nights writing. so I'll end with a few new coins of Vespasian I just received for my shop.

Vespasian Fouree Denarius. 77-78 AD.

Obverse: IMP CAESAR VESPASIANVS AVG laureate head right
Reverse: COS VIII in Exergue, yoke of oxen left

RIC II 107, 2.66g, 19mm

Vespasian Denarius. 71 AD.Tarraco

Obverse: IMP CAES VESP AVG PM laureate bust right
Reverse: TRI POT II COS III P P Pax seated l., holding branch and cornucopia

BMC 354, 17mm, 3.14g

Sunday, 26 July 2009


Yesterday I received a package from a metal detectorist with some uncleaned's and a couple silvers described as "silvered and not solid silver". The picture showed what I thought to be a couple of Severan fourees and some regular uncleaned coins as you can see below.

Imagine my suprise when I get them home and discover that the coin on the left is definately not Severan but actually far earlier. It is actually a fouree with a Domitilla the Younger obverse and a reverse of Domitia.

I have never seen a coin of Domitilla before as the number of zeros on the end of the price tag makes the the few coin types known of her well out of my league. Anyway here is the obverse...

DIVA DOMITILLA AVGVSTA, draped bust right

and the reverse...

Pietas seated left, holding scepter, a child before

Anyway even if it is an ancient fake this coin is still in pretty damn good condition with only a couple of minor breaks in the silver. It's definitely the closest I'll get to owning a denarius of either Domitia or Domitilla. Also it is pretty much unique afaik making it an excellent addition all round.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Loss of

This week collectors lost a very valuable free resource. For those of you who are unfamiliar, was a repository of coins featured in most major numismatic auctions. With over 900,00 records, which included images and information as well as pricing, coin archives was a vital tool to a collector without access to reference catalogues. It also offered the major benefit of being up to date, allowing a user to study pricing trends and decide if a coin was worth purchasing rather than relying on a 20 year old publication. has now become a commercial venture meaning that it's massive content is now restricted to free users. Now free users can only search the last 6 months worth of data and it would appear that the admin don't feel the need to entice the masses to use their site. Instead of a reasonable $20-60 a year that most people would be happy to pay they opt for a massive $600 per year fee.

I mean clearly there is going to be more than 10 people out there who would pay $5 a month for every one who can afford $50 a month. So really this is just a sign that would rather cater only for the larger dealers and auctioneers and not for the individual collector.

We can only hope they shall see the error of their ways and offer a more sensibly priced subscription in the near future.

Anyway back to a few coins. I've been sorting out the images for my new webshop, which should be online soon and I thought I'd share a few I particularly liked.

Maximianus Æ radiate fraction 295-299AD Cyzicus Mint

Obverse: IMP C MA MAXIMIANVS P F AVG, radiate draped bust right
Reverse: CONCORDIA MILITVM, emperor standing right receiving Victory on globe from Jupiter, Ke between.

RIC 15b, 20-21mm ,2.98g

Valentinian II 375-392 AD

Obverse: D N VALENTINI-ANVS P F AVG, diademed, draped and cuirassed bust right
Reverse: VRBS ROMA, Roma seated left on cuirass, holding Victory on a globe and a sceptre

RSC 76b. 0.84g 10

Heavily clipped but I really like the toning on the portrait.

Claudius II Gothicus Æ Antoninianus Antioch mint

Obverse: IMP C CLAVDIVS AVG, radiate, draped and cuirassed bust right
Reverse:FIDES AVG, Mercury standing left with purse & cauduceus, Z in ex.

RIC 207, 20-21mm, 4.12g,

As you can probably guess I'm a big fan of contrast. Hence yet another desert patina.

Finally before I go one that I just bought for my own personal collection....

Diocletian AE Follis. 295 AD Trier Mint

Obverse: IMP DIOCLETIANVS AVG, laureate head right
Reverse: GENIO POPVLI ROMANI, Genius standing left, holding patera & cornucopiae, A left TR in ex.

I don't often buy of this period for myself but the portrait style is definitely growing on me. Plus this coin has some degree of silvering whether it was once silvered or is billon I can't decide as it's almost 3am.

Anyway I have work tomorrow...

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Barbarous Radiates

Today I got two new barbarous radiates through the mail.

For those who don't already know barbarous radiates (or barbs as I'll call them from now on) were imitations of the antoninanus mostly produced during the anarchy of the third century.

As you can see below the locals were not so adept at cutting ides and the result is often a wonderfully picasso-esque portrait. Unfortunately on these two examples the die cutter was unable to form letters so I can't tell exactly who they are supposed to be but all the same they are a fun addition to any collection due to their individual style.

Why they were made is a bit of a mystery as they are not the same as a contemporary forgery. They are generally much smaller in size than an actual antoninanus. The two examples above are only about 15mm across in comparison to another ant I have of Tetricus which is about 19mm and a lot thicker.

Some argue that these coins were minted as small change during a period where the Empire was so unstable that usable coinage was limited. The coins would not be used in trading with Romans and were instead reserved as a local currency.

Anyway as I have to go to work I will leave you with a link to some good articles and sources on imitations for you to glance through and get a better picture of these wonderful specimens.

Saturday, 6 June 2009


Welcome to my new blog. I'm about to start writing my dissertation on Severan coingae so when I start that I will be posting up my take on my research but until then I will mostly be posting new additions to my collection.

To start off with here are a few pieces I bought a few days ago.

Septimius Severus AR Denarius "Restitvtor Vrbis"
Septimius Severus Denarius. 201-210 AD.

Obverse: SEVERVS PIVS AVG laureate head right
Reverse: RESTITVTOR VRBIS Roma seated left holding palladium & spear, round sheild below.
RSC 606. 2.95g 18mm

Severus Alexander Æ Sestertius "SPES PVBLICA"

Obv: IMPALEXANDERPIVSAVG - Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right.
Rev: SPESPVBLICA - S C across field, Spes advancing left, holding flower and raising skirt.

232AD (Rome).

Maxentius AE Folles. 307-308AD, Ticinum Mint

Obverse: MAXENTIVS PF AVG, Laureate bust right
Reverse: CONSERV VRB SVAE, Roma seated facing, head left, in hexastyle temple, PT in ex.

RIC VI 91, 6.83g, 25mm

I usually only buy Severan coinage but the style of the text on the Maxentius Folles was just so beautiful I had to have it.

I also buy a lot of uncleaned coins as I find it really fun trying to find out what is underneath centuries of dirt so hopefully once my new tripod arrives I will start posting up pictures of some of my works in progress for you to follow. If anyone wants to join me in this then you can find uncleaned coins and the occasional other treat in my ebay store here