A tiny little sestertius

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by red_spork, Jan 9, 2016.

  1. red_spork

    red_spork Triumvir monetalis Supporter

    The coin I'm sharing today is a silver sestertius, an often overlooked denomination dating back to the introduction of the denarius. This particular sestertius is part of the Crawford 44 series, the first series of denarii, quinarii, sestertii and victoriati, struck circa 211 BC during the Roman coinage overhaul of the Second Punic War. The silver sestertius, much like the later bronze sestertius, was worth 2.5 asses(note the interesting "IIS" value mark for two, II, and a half, or Semis), or one-quarter of the 10-as denarius being struck at the time. Much like the denarius a the time, the devices are Roma/dioscuri but this thing is much tinier than a denarius, weighing approximately 1.14 grams and measuring only about 12.7mm in diameter. While this was not the only issue of sestertii, they were struck extremely infrequently throughout most of the Republican period except for a small resurgence near the end of the Republic(and even with this resurgence, these later sestertii are extremely rare). The sestertius then became the bronze or brass coin we all know and love during the coinage reform of Augustus in 23 BC.

    Those of you who are familiar with this coin will quickly realize why I chose this particular one: it has amazing detail and great metal that is not often seen with silver sestertii. On top of that, the flan is quite broad, leading to all but part of the border and the tips of the value mark being on-flan and even so, the value mark is nice and bold. This coin really shows the skill and attention to detail paid by the celators of the period, that this level of detail could be engraved by hand at this scale seems unreal.


    Roman Republic AR Sestertius(12.75 mm, 1.14 g). Anonymous. After 211 B.C. Rome mint. Helmeted head of Roma right; behind, IIS. Border of dots / Dioscuri galloping right; in linear frame, ROMA. Line border. Crawford 44/7; Sydenham 142; RSC 4.

    Please share if you have anything similar! A quick note on the photo: my usual photo setup wasn't quite cut out for such a small coin. The thing I use to hold the coin up above the surface was simply too big for such a small coin but I didn't have anything else on-hand and I was excited to share the photo, so I just did a quick crop and called it a day until I have time to make a smaller coin holder.
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2016
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  3. Bojan

    Bojan Well-Known Member

    Isn't Sestertius bronze coin?
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  4. red_spork

    red_spork Triumvir monetalis Supporter

    That's what most people know it as, but it started out as a tiny little silver coin until it became a bronze coin as part of the coinage reform of Augustus in 23 BC.
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  5. stevex6

    stevex6 Random Mayhem

    Very cool addition, red_spork (congrats)

    Oh, and thanks for informing me about the AR sestertius (I didn't know that lil' factoid)

    Sadly, I don't have an example of an AR sestertius ... ummm, but I do have an example of an AR Victorianus from around this same 211 BC time period (wanna see it?)

    Roman Republic, Anonymous AR "Victoriatus"
    (Rome mint)
    Date: circa/after 211 BC
    Diameter: 17.9 mm
    Weight: 2.9 grams
    Obverse: Laureate head of Jupiter
    Reverse: Victory standing right, crowning trophy
    References: Crawford 53/1
    Characteristics: Good style, perfect centering and high grade …

  6. red_spork

    red_spork Triumvir monetalis Supporter

    I'm always jealous of that victoriatus. One of these days I'm going to find an example that nice!
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  7. chrsmat71

    chrsmat71 I LIKE TURTLES! Supporter

    how cool RS, i had no idea there was a silver sestertius. just looking at the pic without the size and weight i'd assume it was some denarius.
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  8. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Excellent! You really don't see these around everyday.
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  9. rrdenarius

    rrdenarius non omnibus dormio Supporter

    Nice Sestertius RS. Mine are shown below. I also compared the diameter of the 211 BC sestertius to two Octavian 32 BC quinarius and a 211 BC quinarius.
    The sestertius was worth 2.5 asses until 141 BC when the denarius was revalued to 16 asses as shown by the marks of value of XVI. From then the sestertius was worth 4 asses. I am not aware of any quinarius or sestertius after 141 BC that showed the larger marks of value.
    obv.JPG rev.JPG IIS and V.JPG
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  10. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    The lack of an IIII sestertius for so long brings up a point I fail to understand. The Republic had a lot AE denominations from semuncia to as but was slow to see a need for change between the as and the quinarius. Even of the smaller series, eight asses is a handful and quinarii are not common enough to have been all of the answer. The hundred years between the revaluation to 16 as denarii and the start of a few larger bronzes in the Imperatorial period would seem to have needed a coin I'm not seeing. Is this like the US abandoning the half dollar which was a major circulating item when I was young?
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  11. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    Fantastic little coin RS!
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  12. Volodya

    Volodya Junior Member

    A very rare Luceria sestertius, Crawford 98A/4a:

    Phil (31).JPG
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  13. rrdenarius

    rrdenarius non omnibus dormio Supporter

    You have looked longer than me, but it is interesting that I have seen several "half asses" like the lot I bought last year, but I rarely see halved or quarted RR denarii.
    my half as collection.jpg
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  14. red_spork

    red_spork Triumvir monetalis Supporter

    It's an interesting question to ponder and one that I've thought about myself. Unfortunately I don't have a concrete answer, but my educated guess would be that the sestertius is too small to be practical, and a 4-as bronze coin would be too big to be practical as a single coin. Attempts seem to have been made to reintroduce the sestertius before the Imperatorial period such as this one minted in 91 BC under D. Junius Silanus L.f. and this one of L. Calpurnius Piso Frugi in 90 BC. It seems to me that these were possibly experiments in seeing if a sestertius could catch on and the decision was made not to continue minting them because they weren't popular with the masses.
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  15. red_spork

    red_spork Triumvir monetalis Supporter

    I did a small comparison pic this morning as well against the contemporary "H" quinarius and "Spearhead-up" victoriatus and a slightly later denarius of Pinarius Natta from 150 BC. I need to acquire an Octavian quinarius myself. I had one but it was worn to the point that all that was left was remnants of the bust of Octavian.
  16. Carthago

    Carthago Does this look infected to you?

    Here's mine.

    Anonymous AR Sestertius NAC 5-2014.jpg
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  17. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Dombes collector Supporter

    My only silver sestertius

    Republic, Sestertius Rome mint, ca 211-208 BC
    Head of Roma right, IIS behind
    Dioscuri riding right, two stars above, ROMA at exergue
    1.06 gr, 13 mm
    Ref : RCV # 46, RSC # 4

    And, just for the pleasure on comparison in size (a bit of show off too, I confess), a virtual tray of some silver RR I have


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  18. swamp yankee

    swamp yankee Well-Known Member

    Red Spork,you did a great job on the photos of this one,congrats on this beautiful find!
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