Featured A hybrid Roman Republican denarius -- could it possibly be real?

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by DonnaML, Aug 6, 2020.

  1. cmezner

    cmezner Supporter! Supporter

    Donna, You said you like it, and I think that is the most important reason - which leads me to suggest #3 :)

    and it is a very beautiful denarius for which you did an extensive and interesting research that we all here enjoyed. Thank you so much for sharing :happy:
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  3. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    I take it that there's nobody who thinks my coin is a modern forgery? Of course I would return it if I believed that that's what it is.
  4. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    You're very welcome!
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  5. abc123

    abc123 Member

    I decided to look at this from a different angle. I searched the databases and found examples of authentic RRC 378/1c control number matched examples of CIIII and CXXIII coins and then compared the obverse and reverse of each of these, respectively, to @DonnaML 's hybrid coin in question. If they are a die match then this would at least suggest the hybrid coin was struck from official dies. In the midst of this search I also found the Paris (BnF) example of the CIIII/CXXIII hybrid cited by Crawford. Below are my observations:

    1) Focusing on the CIIII obverse die, the drapery on Ceres and the form of the torque control symbol differ significantly. The torque is closed on the matched coin, whereas it is open on the hybrid coin.

    2) Focusing on the CXXIII reverse die, there are differences in the form of the oxen (compare the neck of the ox in the background). Also, differences can be seen in the lettering. The control number matched example uses serifs. The hybrid does not. The form of several letters also have subtle differences (look at the M and SC).

    3) The BnF CIIII / CXXIII hybrid coin matches DonnaML’s coin in all respects, including the open torque, form of oxen, letter forms, and lack of serifs. Importantly, the obverse appears to have a break in plating within Ceres’ hair indicating it is a fourree.

    4) The two control number matched examples are of higher weight (3.79 g and 3.64 g) than the two hybrid coins (3.44 g and 3.37 g).

    Taken together, I believe this is evidence for the CIIII / CXXIII hybrid coin being an ancient plated forgery using dies that differ from authentic control number matched dies. The skill of engraving is on par with the authentic dies. Was this the side work of a mint worker? Interested to hear the thoughts of others.


    Coin sources:
    NAC, CIIII matched = https://www.acsearch.info/search.html?id=3886120
    BnF, CIIII matched = https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b10437196w
    Numismatics Varesi, CXXIII matched = https://www.acsearch.info/search.html?id=4875386
    BnF, CIIII / CXXIII hybrid = https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b104372627
  6. eparch

    eparch Well-Known Member

    @DonnaML, thank you for an interesting article.
    Mine is Cr. 378/1a, ( and cost £155 (say $180) three years ago -have prices of Republican denarrii gone up that much in 3 years ?).
    It weighs 3.91g. , so I don't think the weight of yours is far out.

    Would someone making a fouree with intent to deceive have
    made such an obvious error as using different control numbers on obverse and reverse ?
  7. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    Donna, my father was a master metallurgist for a Swedish owned ball bearing concern, from shop floor to laboratory. Though I did not follow in his footsteps I have always had an interests in this science and skill. Studying the metallic makeup of everything from ancient swords to flintlock musket barrels is an interest of mine. I would like to recommend a book for you and those similarly inclined, the Metallurgy of Roman Silver Coinage by Kevin Butcher. It is not exactly the typical coffee table book but if one likes facts and figures backed by impeccable research and study, this is your book. Just to cite what I mean. Did you know that even the purest of silver coinage has traces of lead, gold, sometimes even nickel in it? That determining the actual silver content of coinage of silver alloy coins requires that the coin be drilled into its interior for an accurate reading as the surface alloy is different from the interior alloy (for a variety of reasons)? As for your, and others' questions about the plated coins of antiquity, there are any number of questions (and even more answers, all of them imprecise). Just as counterfeiting today can be done in somebody's basement or in the bureau of printing and engraving of some rogue governments, so too plated coins could be made by crooks with the bare basement basics to do so, or by official moneyers of city states and kingdoms (and an empire or two) putting in some unauthorized overtime to supplement their incomes to official coinage of adulterated bullion by governments trying to keep the economy afloat in times of great stress. Some of these plated coins had such thick plating that they show signs of having circulated for quite some time until detected, and probably even then in some dark taverns of an evening or two for some time after their initial unmasking. Other coins had such a flimsy wash applied that they must have been detected almost at once. What that means for us as collectors is that plated coins, the fourees, represent a fascinating part of numismatics all their own. I do not shy away from them and will acquire them for what they are, among other things, showing that the counterfeiting of money is one day older than the minting of money.
  8. abc123

    abc123 Member

  9. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    @DonnaML - whatever you choose to do with the coin it is certainly a puzzle. I like the approach taken by @abc123 to compare to other dies.

    Here is another coin to add to the puzzle - is has the "open torque" and is paired with the proper CIIII reverse, it is a double die match to the NAC coin from @abc123 (GHF - Gerhard Hirsch Nachfolger 2019)
    Also worth noting that that your obverse die, the NAC-CIIII obverse die and the GHF-CIIII coin all line up well - here's an overlay of NAC-CIIII on yours:

    "open ring" is a die/strike issue or a flaw in die copying? As the question/ambiguity over the authenticity of this coin would bother me (especially at the price you shared), I would return it.

    I won't say that this RR coin is my favorite - clearly I have problems choosing favorite RR coins. I do find interesting the story of Sulla and the fleas from Appian:

    Then Sulla assembled the people and said to them, "Know, citizens, and learn from me, that I caused the death of Lucretius because he disobeyed me." And then he told the following story: "A husbandman was bitten by fleas while ploughing. He stopped his ploughing twice in order to clear them out of his shirt. When they bit him again he burned his shirt, so that he might not be so often interrupted in his work. And I tell you, who have felt my hand twice, to take warning lest the third time fire be brought in requisition."
    - Appian Bellum Civile 1.11.101
    C Marius Capito denarius.jpg
    C. Marius C.f. Capito, 81 BC, AR serrate denarius, Rome mint
    Obv: Wreathed and draped bust of Ceres right; LXXXXVIII at end of legend, control symbol below chin
    Rev: Husbandman with yoke of oxen ploughing left; LXXXXVIII above
    Ref: Crawford 378/1c
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  10. red_spork

    red_spork Triumvir monetalis Supporter

    Yes, sometimes forgers would mix up dies. This forger may have started with matched die pairs and combined them incorrectly. There are many plated hybrids known that combine two different issues.
  11. rrdenarius

    rrdenarius non omnibus dormio Supporter

    I am impressed with your overlay photo. That is a great way to check die matches.
    DonnaML likes this.
  12. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    Credit to @TIF for the lesson in how to do this - reduce one image to two colors so that you get the outline. Overlay with gif animator.
  13. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    I think one might as well tell me to fly to the moon by flapping my arms as to learn to do that!
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  14. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    @abc123, thank you so much for this fantastic work! First and foremost, so much for my theory that there are no known examples of a Marius Capito denarius with the control number CXXIII on both the obverse and reverse, given the example you found on acsearch from Numismatica Varesi. Definitely a different reverse die from the hybrid examples (including mine) with CXXIII on the reverse. Obviously, we have nothing to which we can compare the obverse die. (Unfortunately, the obverse control-symbol is either off the flan or I can't enlarge the photo enough to see it, so the nature of that control symbol appears still to be unknown.)

    I feel like a complete idiot for not having found that example myself, and I know exactly what I did wrong: instead of searching just for "378" and "Capito" and "CXXIII," I included "Ceres" in my search for some reason, and, therefore, the search failed to capture any coin with a description in a language in which Ceres is spelled differently -- as in the example in question, spelling her name "Cerere" in Italian. I hate making mistakes like that; it's exactly the sort of thing for which my boss at my last law firm job used to yell and scream at me whenever it happened, while never saying anything positive when I did something well. The main reason I eventually quit that job!

    Thanks also for finding the Paris (BnF) example of the same hybrid as mine and the German example I found that was sold three times in the last 10 years. (I wonder if it's been sold so often because someone figured out that it's plated, although none of the auction descriptions mention that.) I didn't realize that one could search for the BnF's coin holdings at Gallica, even though I've used Gallica many times for genealogical research.* I do think that of the three CIIII - CXIIII hybrid examples I've seen, mine has the most eye-appeal, not to mention the highest weight (3.44 compared to 3.41 and 3.37). As the old saying goes, that and $2.75 will get me on the subway! The only other known example of this hybrid appears to be the one at the British Museum (according to Crawford), although it didn't show up on my search of their numismatic collection. At least now I know how Crawford was able to be so confident that the Paris example is plated, given the spot in Ceres' hair where the plating is broken and the copper shows through.

    In any event, I completely agree with @abc123 that "[t]he skill of engraving [of the hybrid] is on par with the authentic dies." Whether that means that it was a mint worker working on the side who made it, I have no idea. Although surely a mint worker would have known better than to create a hybrid (out of entirely new dies created for that purpose) accidentally, and, if it was such a person, must have made it that way on purpose -- whether because he wanted to make sure he didn't accept the hybrid coins himself (as @dougsmit suggests), or for some other unknown reason. On the other hand, I'm sure that private forgers with great skill existed in antiquity, as much as they do in modern times.

    As I mentioned, I also wonder why anyone would have created a fourree using as much silver as mine seems to have, resulting in plating sufficiently thick to remain intact for 2,100 years. (Although it could, of course, have been buried not long after it was made rather than circulating for a lengthy period of time.)

    * For example, I used Gallica to find a picture of the official coat of arms from 1696 belonging to my 6th great-grandfather Abraham "Le Roux" Brunschwig (1671-1740) (a/k/a "the Red Jew"), one of only two or three Jewish men in all of Alsace who had coats of arms under Louis XIV. (From my understanding, it was basically something even a Jew could buy for enough money, so he must have been pretty pretentious!)

    Abraham Bronsvich detail(Brunschwig), Juif - coat of arms, 1696.jpg

    Abraham Bronsvich (Brunschwig), Juif - coat of arms, 1696 - written description, 1861.jpg
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  15. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Actually, there's a pretty big difference between 3.91 and 3.44. See my list above of the weights of all my Republican coins -- 3.44 is the lowest by far, except for a couple in the 3.6 range.

    I have the same question as you about why someone making a fourree with intent to put it in circulation would have created a hybrid. I see @red_spork's response about mixing up dies, but my coin doesn't seem to be a match to any known official dies, so it seems to be a case of dies being created specifically to make the coin. In which case, the question about "why would anyone -- whether a mint engraver working on the side or a private forger -- deliberately create new dies that are so skillful, with the specific intention of creating a hybrid?," remains unanswered, I think.

    In terms of the cost, I've bought lots of Republican coins at prices equal to or less than what you paid. And some for more. Ironically, I think the great condition of this one played a large part in the price. (Compare it to other examples of Crawford 378/1 available on VCoins.)* Obviously, the price the dealer paid him or herself, and his or her minimum necessary profit margin, are factors too.

    * See this one available for $195: https://www.vcoins.com/en/stores/pr...1_bc_ar_serrate_denarius/1332137/Default.aspx. I don't think the surface is nearly as appealing as mine. And -- equally ironically -- when I enlarge the photo, I see a number of spots that look very much like a coppery color showing underneath the silver!
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2020
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  16. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    I understand what you're saying about nothing being certain absent drilling, but obviously people make estimated determinations about ancient coins without doing that. To me, what's significant is not so much the absolute accuracy of the SG numbers I got with the new scale, but the relative numbers I got by measuring the Capito coin against a couple of others from the same time period -- consistently yielding a materially lower number for the Capito than the others. Taken together with the visible copper showing through on the Paris example of the same hybrid that @abc123 found, I don't think there's much doubt that my example is also plated. And that it has such thick plating -- for whatever reason -- that for all we know its true nature may never have been discovered.
  17. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    I think the two properly matched CIIII obverses are very similar to the obverse of my coin, but not identical. As @abc123 points out, there seem so be some slight differences in the hair. However, they're close enough that it makes me wonder if the person who was the engraver of the CIIII obverse die used on the coins that match their reverses was the same engraver who created the hybrid.

    As for the relationship of the plow theme to Sulla, this was the omitted second footnote to my description of my coin:

    **Regarding the general symbolism of a husbandman plowing with oxen, as depicted on the reverse of this coin, see Jones, John Melville, A Dictionary of Ancient Roman Coins (Seaby 1990) at pp. 121-122 (entry for “Founder”), explaining that the Romans “inherited a custom from the Etruscans of defining the boundaries of a new city by marking them with a plough,” so that certain coins showing plowing can be interpreted as a reference to the founding of colonies.

    Regarding this coin-type in particular, Grueber states at p. 353 n. 2 of BMCRR Vol. I that “[t]he type of the head of Ceres [the goddess of agriculture] and the husbandman refers to the foundation of a colony” by Sulla’s veterans. Crawford disagrees, stating at Vol. I p. 392 that “I do not believe that there is any reference to Sulla’s colonies” on these coins, and that the obverse and reverse images simply complement each other. Harlan (see RRM I Ch. 2 at pp. 10-12) disagrees with Crawford and prefers Grueber’s interpretation, stating at p. 12 that this type “not only depicts the expectations of the veterans who were to receive land, but also expounds the benefits to be found in the return to peace, masking in bucolic tranquility the terrible exactions that procured the soldiers’ rewards. Besides the land given to the veterans in those new colonies established among the Italians, Sulla also had to pay his troops their back wages and maintain them until they were discharged. This special S•C issue may well represent some of that money distributed to the soldiers and the design on the coin also may be heralding the expected grants of land.” See also Sear RCV I at p. 128 regarding the S•C in the exergue on the reverse: “It would seem that during his term of office this moneyer was authorized by the Senate to effect a substantial increase in the originally-produced volume of his coinage.”
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2020
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  18. red_spork

    red_spork Triumvir monetalis Supporter

    I think the same reasoning can be applied even if the forger was creating new dies. Such forgers' operations likely had multiple such dies, and it would be easy to mix up similar dies such as these. When I collected silver imitations I had one such coin in my collection where a forger had combined an obverse of another issue with a reverse of L Thorius Balbus. I was aware of a die matched coin with the correct obverse. The forger evidently mixed up the dies later.

    The control mark rules are apparent to collectors today with nice reference books like Crawford but I'm not so sure they would have been as apparent to a forger or merchant 2000 years ago since plenty of contemporary issues did not use matched dies.
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  19. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    It would be interesting if an official reverse die matching the hybrid CXXIII examples ever turned up with a proper CXXIII obverse.
  20. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    After all this, and even now that i know there's a 99% chance that my coin is plated/a fourree, I'm still not sure what I want to do!
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  21. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    Start a fourree collection. A number of ancients collectors have a section of their collection of likely and definitely plated coins. I have found that the average person is quite interested in them. One caveat. If one has good reason to think they are, they should be labelled in such a way that a future buyer will know that, as they do tend to trade at a significant discount over officially issued coins.
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