An Interesting Vespasian

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Orfew, Apr 8, 2021.

  1. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    The attribution given by the auction house used the old RIC. In the old RIC this coin was RIC 102. In the newest RIC for the Flavians, the listing is RIC 1477. I think many have seen this coin and did not question it. They just assumed the mint was Rome. Actually, I understand this because the auction house indicated that the mint was Rome.

    Maybe I have looked at too many Flavian denarii in the last few year because as soon as I saw the coin I knew it was definitely not struck in Rome. Usually when I question the mint I find that the coin is of Ephesus. However, the style of the Ephesian portraits is quite easily identified and this coin definitely does not immediately look like a denarius of Ephesus. It also looks nothing like an issue of Antioch. These denarii are very distinctive and can usually be identified in relatively short order. It also does not resemble the denarii of France or Spain.


    vespasian ric 544.jpg

    Lyon (Lugdunum)
    V1120 .jpg


    Vespasian RIC 1340.jpg

    Now take a look at my most recent acquisition.

    Vespasianus (69 - 79 CE).
    Denar (Silber). 76 CE Uncertain ‘o’ mint, possibly Ephesus
    (18mm. 2.92g)
    Obv: Kopf mit Lorbeerkranz rechts; IMP CAESAR VESPASIANVS AVG. Kopf mit Lorbeerkranz rechts.
    Rev: Geflügelter Cadeceus; PON MAX TR P COS VII.
    RIC 1477; BMC 483; RSC 375a
    Ex: Solidus Auction 76 April 6, 2021 Lot 1247

    Now this one does not look like any of the examples I have shown above. However, I have seen similar busts before. This coin is a rare 'o' mint denarius. RIC places this coin in the mints of Asia Minor (Uncertain) and states that this coin was possibly struck at Ephesus, but I do not see any definitive evidence of this. To me this coin does not look at all like a coin of Ephesus.

    While the 'O' is not visible under the neck truncation (its usual location), the style is an identifier here. These 'O' mint denarii have portraits of a very particular style. I am very happy to have added this denarius to my collection. I am even happier that it seemed to fly under the radar because the price I paid was quite inexpensive for an 'O' mint issue. This is my third 'O' mint denarius and I hope to add more.

    Please post your coins where the attribution is contested or uncertain in the literature.

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  3. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Excellent acquisition, @Orfew! I know -- and love -- the feeling of finding a rarity that slips under the radar.
    The issues of Trebonianus Gallus with the IMP CC VIB TREB GALLVS AVG legend have been traditionally attributed to the mint at Mediolanum (Milan).

    Sear (RIC 5, vol. III, p. 227) notes there is considerable uncertainty about not only the location of the mint traditionally attributed to Mediolanum, but its actual operation during Gallus' reign. He writes,

    "Rome continued to be the principal mint throughout this reign and was supplemented ... by antoniniani from Antioch .... Attempts have been made to identify a second provincial mint which produced silver coinage with a more abbreviated form of obverse legend than the regular products of Rome (IMP C C VIB instead of IMP CAE C VIB). Both Milan and Viminacium have been proposed as the source of these coins and it is also possible that they represent a separate issue from Rome itself. In the following listings they are described as 'uncertain mint'."​

    I don't believe the coins with the IMP CC VIB TREB GALLVS AVG legend are simply a product of the Rome mint with an alternative obverse inscription. In addition to stylistic differences in the portraits, the silver content of these issues is different than those of the Rome and Antioch mints. Gallus's coins of the Antioch mint average only 18.9% silver, whereas those issued in Rome were less debased (30.9%), with the least debased being the unknown branch mint previously believed to have been Mediolanum (37.9% silver). See Pannekeet's interesting paper about debasement here.

    The issues raised about the circumstances and location of its mintage resulted in a thought-provoking discussion.

    I have five such coins, but I'll only show the one with the most photogenic bust. So photogenic, in fact, that T-Bone insists he's "too sexy for Milan."

    Trebonianus Gallus, AD 251-253.
    Roman AR antoninianus, 3.14 g, 23.5 mm, 5 h.
    Branch mint (traditionally attributed to Mediolanum), AD 252.
    Obv: IMP C C VIB TREB GALLVS AVG, radiate, draped and cuirassed bust, right.
    Rev: IVNO MARTIALIS, Juno seated left, holding corn-ears (?) and scepter.
    Refs: RIC 69; Cohen 46; RCV 9631; Hunter 49.
    DonnaML, ancientone, Nemo and 10 others like this.
  4. Jay GT4

    Jay GT4 Well-Known Member

    Very nice Andrew. Welcome to the "O" mint club. There aren't many members :). I have a handful of "O" mints. Here are two:

    Laureate head right

    Hands clasped over caduceus, two poppies and two corn ears

    Uncertain eastern "O" mint

    76 AD


    RIC 1495 (R)

    Ex-Den of Antiquity; Ex-TC collection, Ex-Calgary Coin


    laureate head right, small 'o' below neck truncation

    winged caduceus.

    Uncertain eastern "O" mint
    76 AD


    RIC II 1496 (R2); BMCRE II, 489; RSC II, 369; RPC II, 1469.

    Apart from the COS IIII, these titles are appropriate for Vespasian, not Domitian as Caesar
    DonnaML, ancientone, Nemo and 12 others like this.
  5. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    I wonder if 'liminal mintage' would be an appropriate term for such mysterious issues?

    Great acquisition Andrew.
    Orfew and Roman Collector like this.
  6. svessien

    svessien Senior Member

    Congrats with the new coin, and thank you for an interesting post. Good to see the different portrait styles!
    Here’s the Rome version of the winged caduceus reverse:

    Vespasian 69-79 AD. Denarius, Rome 74 AD
    Obverse: IMP CAESAR VESPASIANVS AVG. Laureate head right.
    Reverse: PON MAX TR P COS V. Winged caduceus.
    Reference: RIC² 703. RIC 1 75
    Diameter: 19 mm. Weight: 3.32g. Condition: Very fine.

    As for coins where the attribution is contested, here’s one that I’m looking into now:


    It was sold as:
    «Justinian I (527-565), Solidus, Rome, AD 542-549; AV (g 4,48; 20,4 mm ; h 6); Helmeted and cuirassed facing bust, holding globus cruciger, shield over shoulder, Rv. Angel standing facing, holding long staff surmounted by staurogram and globus cruciger; on r., star. DOC 320e; Sear 291.»

    But could just as well have been described as:

    «JUSTINIAN I (527-565). GOLD Solidus. Constantinople

    Obv: D N IVSTINIANVS P P AVG. Helmeted and cuirassed bust facing, holding globus cruciger and shield decorated with horseman motif. Rev: VICTORIA AVGGG H / CONOB. Angel standing facing, holding globus cruciger and long staff surmounted by staurogram; star to right. Sear 140.»

    When searching auction archives, it has so far been difficult to find consistency. Sear uses «spread style» to distinguish between the Rome mint and Constantinople. Doc uses the pellets or lack of pellets in the breast plate to distinguish (in that case this coin is from Constantinople). B.M.C doesn’t assign this type to Rome at all. So I’m studying this coin a bit for the time.
    DonnaML, ancientone, Nemo and 6 others like this.
  7. Nemo

    Nemo Well-Known Member

    Great pickup @Orfew. I would have been bidding on that coin myself if I hadn't recently found one. I agree that the o mint denarii have a distinct and separate style all their own. Those Domitians are killer @Jay GT4 !
    Here's mine:
    Vespasian o mint cad.jpg

    O: IMP CAESAR VESPASIANVS AVG, laureate head right, small O below neck truncation
    R: COS VII, Pegasus standing to right with left foreleg raised.
    - RIC 1473; BMCRE 482; RPC II 1451
    Titus and some poppies.
    Obv: T CAES IMP VESP CENS; Head of Titus, laureate, bearded, r. 'o' mint mark below neck
    Rev: PVBL FIDES; Hands clasped over caduceus, two poppies and two corn ears
    - RIC 1485 (R). BMC p. 102 note. RSC 87. RPC 1459 (2 spec.).
  8. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    Wow @Nemo those are fantastic! Thanks for posting those great examples.
    Roman Collector and Nemo like this.
  9. Terence Cheesman

    Terence Cheesman Supporter! Supporter

    Denarius of Domitian Annulet issue 76 AD Ephesos?? mint Obv Head right laureate. Rv. Winged caduceus Hybrid reverse proper to Vespasian. RIC 1491 RPC 1463 3.49 grms 18 mm Photo by W. Hansen. domitd24.jpg It was this group of coins that caused some of my musings on the series to become a footnote in RIC. page 44 note 39 That volume had not yet been published but upon seeing my coin D. Carradice would have used my coin to illustrate the volume had it had a better reverse. Oh well its 15 minutes of fame was not to be.
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