A 'Run-of-the-Mill' Rarity

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by David Atherton, Jul 30, 2021.

  1. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    Rare Flavian coins can be found quite easily in bronze. Types and variants are seemingly endless. My latest acquisition is one such coin - a scarce variant of a common reverse type. It pretty much went unnoticed.

    Æ Dupondius, 8.76g
    Lyon mint, 77-78 AD
    Obv: IMP CAES VESPASIAN AVG COS VIII P P; Head of Vespasian, radiate, r.; globe at point of bust
    Rev: PAX AVG; S C in field; Pax stg. l., leaning on column, with caduceus and branch
    RIC 1218A (R3). BMC -. BNC -.
    Acquired from Aegean Numismatics, July 2021.

    In 77-78 Lugdunum (modern Lyon) after a hiatus of several years struck a decently sized issue of bronze coinage, presumably to address a shortage in the Western provinces. The Pax leaning on column type was fleetingly struck on the dupondius for the issue. One unique laureate specimen is cited by RIC (#1219) and the unpublished Addenda & Corrigenda cites one unique radiate example (#1218A). This dupondius is the second known radiate specimen and a die match with coin cited in the A&C. The reverse is likely based on a well known cult image of Pax.

    Feel free to share your run-of-the-mill rarities!
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2021
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  3. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    Congrats. You and @Orfew have eyes for Flavian rarities. I would gladly have this coin in my collection, rarity or not.
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  4. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    Thanks @Bing. To be fully honest, I purchased the coin away from home without access to RIC. I vaguely recalled the type was rare for this issue and it wasn't until after I got home I realised just how rare!

    But like you I would've purchased it rare or not. It's such a super piece in hand.
  5. ambr0zie

    ambr0zie Dacian Taraboste

    Congratulations, @David Atherton . I like these situations, where a collector only suspects a coin is rare and after buying it realizes this was correct. Even that thought indicates a collector knows the game.

    On OCRE your coin is not listed at all or I can't find it.
    Found one where the portrait is described as left and also radiate, but the picture doesn't load

    You mentioned "One unique laureate specimen is cited by RIC (#1219)" - is there a difference between the book and OCRE?
    David Atherton likes this.
  6. Limes

    Limes Supporter! Supporter

    Nice addition! The the portrait is quite expressive.
    I'm not a specialist like you (and Orfew) but more of a generalist I guess, so I'm not always seeing the more rare variants of the more available coins unless specified by the auctioneer. But sometimes, when researching specific specimens of types I'm after, I get lucky. Like with this one, below. I was after a VIC PAR sestertius of L. Verus, and found out that this one is a more scarce variant with some slight drapery. It's however the strong portrait, nicely preserved reverse and overall colour and look of the coin that led me to pull the trigger. The 'scarcity' is an extra bonus.
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  7. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    The OCRE coin is woefully misattributed. Photo below.


    It's actually RIC 1216 - portrait radiate l., Fortuna on the reverse.

    RIC 1219 is the Pax/column reverse, but paired with a laureate r. portrait.

    The OP coin type was discovered after the publication of RIC, hence why it is only listed in the as yet unpublished A&C.

    Online references are very convenient, but it's essential to have access to the physical catalogues.
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2021
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  8. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I recognize two classes of rarities. The first are coins made rare because of some minor point that means nothing to the best of our knowledge other than it is different and there are not many examples known to us. The second are coins different like the first group but having some additional point of interest. That could mean the 'difference' indicated a mint, date or workshop change. It could mean a completely different type. These are the 'best' rarities. Certainly a rarity can be transferred from the first group to the second when scholarship identifies a meaning. For example, a dot that seems meaningless might make a coin rare in the first sense but that same dot realized to be a code for a second mint or coins issued on a different weight standard has the added meaning to qualify as the higher level rarity (again, assuming that there are not many of them).

    My best example of this is the only known (to me) Alexandria mint (by style) denarius of Septimius Severus with INVICTO IMP reverse.
    Since the coin is from a different mint, I consider it of special interest (even though it is in horrid condition). In comparison, the same reverse is quite common from the mint called 'Emesa'.

    Another 'Emesa' coin shows a relatively rare variation where the second I was cut as L. Since I know of no reason of meaning for this difference, the coin is in the lower level interest group.

    We do have a special class of lower interest 'rarities' when style suggests barbarous production. The example below is not of as great interest to me as the Alexandria coin but would be elevated to the higher level if someone could demonstrate, for example, that it was produced by some specific unofficial or official mint (possibly during some siege of a city???) rather than just someone wanting to make some coins but lacking the proper skills to do so. They may be rare but they are relatively 'boring' until understood.

    Is this coin official on a bad day (omitting the P)? Associating the style with some meaning might add interest now lacking.

    I'm told the added dots (here triangular) mean nothing beyond some die cutter disliked blank spaces. I still like these coins in the unlikely hope someday the dots will be deciphered.

    They say there is nothing more common than a rare ancient coin. Not all rarities are rare in the same way or carry equal interest based on their low census. We each must define "run of the mill" as we see fit.
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  9. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    This reverse type is really common with a right-facing bust. There were 122 examples in the Reka Devnia hoard.

    Faustina Jr AVGVSTI PII FIL Venus denarius.jpg
    Faustina II, AD 147-175.
    Roman AR denarius, 3.27 g, 17.8 mm, 6 h.
    Rome, August, AD 156-157.
    Obv: FAVSTINA AVGVSTA, bare-headed and draped bust, right.
    Rev: AVGVSTI PII FIL, Venus standing left, holding Victory on right hand and resting left hand on shield set on helmet.
    Refs: RIC 495a; BMCRE 1099-1101; RSC/Cohen 15; RCV 4700; Strack 519; CRE 235.

    But it's very rare with a left-facing bust.

    Faustina II, AD 147-175.
    Roman AR denarius, 3.21 g, 17.1 mm, 5 h.
    Rome, August, AD 156-157.
    Obv: FAVSTINA AVGVSTA, bare-headed and draped bust, left.
    Rev: AVGVSTI PII FIL, Venus standing left, holding Victory on right hand and resting left hand on shield set on helmet.
    Refs: RIC 495b; BMCRE 1102; RSC 15a; Cohen --; RCV --; Strack 519; CRE 235.
    Note: Thread about this coin.
  10. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Interesting thread.

    Yesterday's mail brought me one that might be categorized as "Rare But Who Cares?". It is an as of Commodus with a Minerva standing reverse; this was a popular type for Commodus in various denominations.

    When I started attributing it, I narrowed it down to RIC 391 and RIC 491 based on the TRP number (I can make out only three I's, so I think it is RIC 391). No examples for either one are illustrated with examples in OCRE and acsearch yielded only one of each.

    So I am guessing it is rare or at least scarce. But with an abundance of Minerva standing types available, only a Commodus (or Minerva) specialist would get very excited about it. I like Commodus (his coins, I mean) so I am pretty pleased with it, and it was less than five bucks, so very affordable.

    Commodus - As Minerva Std. July 2021 (0).jpg
    Commodus Æ As
    (183 A.D.)
    Rome Mint

    M COMM[ODVS] ANTON AVG PIVS, laureate head right / P M TR P VIII [IMP VI C]OS III P P, S-C: Minerva standing right, leaning on spear, resting
    left hand on shield
    RIC 391 (see notes).
    (9.05 grams / 23 x 21 mm)
    eBay July 2021
    Attribution Notes:
    Reverse legend starts with P M, which means these two:
    RIC 391: TR P VIII
    RIC 425: TR P VIIII
    This one looks like VIII. Both are scarce? Only one each found in acsearch; no examples for either illustrated in OCRE.
  11. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

    a variation of the OP , Dupondius Vespasian Pax but without column:

    Vespasian Pax 2v.jpg
  12. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    Sorry I missed this thread earlier. Rare or not that is a very expressive portrait.
  13. curtislclay

    curtislclay Well-Known Member

    @Marsyas Mike

    If your rev. legend definitely starts with P M, then the tribunician number will be VIIII rather than VIII, because P M was only added to Commodus' rev. legend in the course of his TR P VIIII: all TR P VIII coins still omit it, TR P VIIII coins partially omit it and partially include it, all TR P X coins include it.

    It follows that RIC 391, quoted from Cohen 419 who cites the Gnecchi Collection, must be a misread TR P VIIII coin, not TR P VIII, because its rev. legend starts with P M. The same should be true of the alleged RIC 391 you found in ACSearch, which I'd be grateful if you could show us here on CT, since I don't find it in CoinArchives.
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  14. curtislclay

    curtislclay Well-Known Member


    According to RIC 1219 and their photo on pl. 66, that coin too is in fact radiate not laureate, but the radiate portrait faces left, not right as on your acquisition and Addenda 1218A.

    It is interesting that this Pax type is so rare in this COS VIII Lugdunese issue for Vespasian, and that it so far occurs for him only in the variant "leaning on column". For Titus Caesar as COS VI, in contrast, the Pax type is commoner, and also occurs in a variant without column (RIC 1258-60). Apparently the type was struck mainly for Titus; maybe the examples for Vespasian are just mules, or if intentional were part of a small initial issue that was soon discontinued.
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  15. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    Thanks Curtis. I've incorporated your correction and mule theory in my gallery write-up. https://www.forumancientcoins.com/gallery/displayimage.php?pid=171427
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  16. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    My unassuming rarity is the VICT AVG issue of Constantius II. He's one of the most common emperors available, if not THE most common, but the Victory left reverse is pretty rare, as far as common coins go.
    I can't even find this particular one in Wildwinds.
    Constantius II Heraclea.JPG
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