Featured An Unlisted Sestertius of Septimius Severus

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Blake Davis, Feb 26, 2018.

  1. Blake Davis

    Blake Davis Well-Known Member

    One of the oddities in our hobby is the concept that a coin can be "unlisted," in other words, not documented in the major catalogs. For those who collect Roman imperial coins, that means the volumes known as..."Roman Imperial Coins" a series of books that started publishing in the 1920's and ended (I believe) in the very early 1960's, or thereabouts. Updated editions have come out for Volumes I and II, which included many types unknown to those writing the initial volumes.

    How something is defined as listed or unlisted can depend on how much detail is in the reference work. This concept is addressed in Doug Smith's article, " 'Unlisted' Denarii of Maesa & Elagabalus?" In my almost 20 years in this hobby I have only come across one sestertius for which the references were completely silent - in other words a reverse scene completely unknown to RIC. This was a sestertius of Caracalla, sold a year or two ago by the European company Pecunum. The reverse showed a figure with an ax about to sacrifice a bull, among other details. There is nothing in RIC that described that scene for any year in any metal, hence it was completely unknown. It was also in high grade, which made the coin completely out of the reach of most collectors, myself included.

    Recently Heritage - it had previously been offered by another company - posted an "unlisted" Septimius Severus sestertius, this one with a stunning "IN CARTH" scene with INDVLGENTIA AVGG, IN CARTH, Dea Caelestis in elaborate headdress riding right on lion, holding thunderbolt & scepter. Although this reverse is known for another year or date, it is is not known for the "IMP XI" ending obverse inscription. The coin is magnificent, especially for someone like me who has tried to specialize in the sestertii of Septimius Severus. However, at $3,700.00 it was well beyond my reach.

    As usual, this note has skidded all over the place before getting to the point. I just purchased what I am relatively certain is another "unlisted" sestertius of Septimius Severus. The reverse shows Victory walking left with wreath and palm - a common type for Septimius Severus sestertii. However, this reverse is not known with the "IMP X" obverse inscription. For comparison purposes I have also listed another "IMP X" sestertius of Septimius Severus, of PAX, which I had previously posted.

    One other point - IMP X is from ca. 198 AD. Walking Victory with wreath and palm is unlisted as one of the types with IMP X not only as a sestertius but also is not known for an As or dupondius. One would expect that if a reverse was known for one of these two types it is only a matter of time before a sestertius is found with the same reverse. The Walking Victory type, however, is not known for "IMP X" for any imperial bronze.

    Oddly enough, this coin came very close to being completely missed - all it would take is a little more wear at the end of the obverse inscription and this coin would have been one of those unidentifiable pieces that this collector would spend hours trying to read. However, here the "X" is clearly visible, as is the "P" before it, from "IMP". And there is no other inscription that matches the remainder of the inscription that fits.

    Let me add that the hope of a find just like this that is one of the reasons I decided to collect sestertii of the family of Septimius Severus - it may be being "unlisted" doesn't mean much because the series is not well documented (finds in the last decade have made it outdated) but I like looking for coins that aren't in the reference. The great thing about this hobby is that all you need much of the time is the knowledge to know the coin is unusual, and it is that knowledge that makes looking for the coins even more fun.

    Fortunately, the condition of this coin isn't such that it would generate much demand - still for me it is a wonderful find indeed. Nevertheless, I was figuratively biting my nails waiting for the end of the auction but the bidding was relatively modest. The seller didn't say anything about the coin being unlisted, and it doubtful he knew or even cared. But then again, who would care other than an obsessed collector of ancient coins?

    DSCN1429 (2).JPG septunlisted).jpg DSCN3167 (2).JPG
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2018
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  3. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    ...it says "coin error" when i hit 'view attachment 74699'..for some reason...
  4. Blake Davis

    Blake Davis Well-Known Member

    Fixed it - it should not have been there and I do not know how it got there - I'm still learning the system - thanks for letting me know - Blake
    ominus1 likes this.
  5. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    you're welcome:)
  6. Ancient Aussie

    Ancient Aussie Supporter! Supporter

    Very nice S/Severus coins, I especially like the appealing brown patina of the top one.
  7. randygeki

    randygeki Coin Collector

    Indeed, nice coins!
  8. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Very engaging writeup, which makes the coin all the more interesting!

    So true :)
    Theodosius and Blake Davis like this.
  9. Blake Davis

    Blake Davis Well-Known Member

    Thanks! I was hoping to hear from some Septimius specialists to confirm my conclusion, but no luck thus far!
  10. curtislclay

    curtislclay New Member

    Blake, It's a rare sestertius, and a nice example, but not unpublished, just underpublished! Reverse legend is VICT AVGG COS II P P S C, a very common type on IMP X denarii (without the S C). Paris has a specimen of the corresponding sestertius, but with much legend off flan, with the result that Cohen 686 completely misread it, as obv. IMP II, rev. VICT AVG TR P II COS II S C! The 1950 edition of BMC reported a specimen from Num. Circular 1927, where Victory was mistakenly said to be advancing right rather than left, and the bust was said to be laureate, draped, right, doubtless also a mistake, since the only IMP X sestertius bust types I know are Head laur. r., ditto with fold of cloak on front shoulder, Bust laur., draped, cuirassed r., and Bust laureate, cuirassed r. Cambridge (GB) has a VICT AVGG sestertius with cuirassed bust, which is mentioned in the BMC second ed. of 1975, p. 154, however mistakenly calling the bust draped. I expect that it was I who reported this coin to Robert Carson and Philip Hill when they were working on the new BMC edition, but they misreported the bust type. In 1972 I knew four spec. of Septimius' IMP X / VICT AVGG COS II P P sestertius, from three rev. dies. Probably five or six additional specimens have turned up since then. It would be nice to obtain a plaster cast of your specimen, since I think it may be from a new obv. die, and a cast would make the rev. die easier to compare too! That is a very nice IMP X / Pax sestertius you show, and you will doubtless be interested to hear of its provenance: it comes from the collection of Captain W. H. Smyth of the Royal Navy, who published his outstanding collection of Roman sestertii ("Roman Imperial Large-Brass Medals", as he called them) in 1834, and also provided sulfur casts of his coins, one set of which is today in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, while I acquired another set for Harlan Berk about 20 years ago. So your coin is no. 70 in the Addenda to Captain Smyth's collection, and there are sulfur casts of it in Oxford, Chicago, and the BM too, though I don't think the BM has the full set of Smyth's sulfur casts. For those interested in Septimius' IMP X sestertii: I happen to have written a full account of the types and specimens known to me by 1972, under Roman Coins in the Forvm Ancient Coins discussion group, search for IMP X Sestertii of Septimius Severus! (Cited from: https://www.cointalk.com/threads/an-unlisted-sestertius-of-septimius-severus.311940/#post-3008448)
  11. Blake Davis

    Blake Davis Well-Known Member

    Thanks so much Curtis, I was not sure you were an active member. This is exactly the kind of information I was looking for, and I plan on following up - also I'll send the coin so you can make a cast
    Theodosius and Roman Collector like this.
  12. ro1974

    ro1974 Well-Known Member

    someday i have a septimius severus sestertius to:happy:
  13. ro1974

    ro1974 Well-Known Member

  14. Blake Davis

    Blake Davis Well-Known Member

    I did see the Lanz coin of Caracalla and was the high bidder on it until the last day or two. I recall being surprised at how high the bidding went and was extremely unhappy about being unable to afford the coin - just bad timing, but I doubt I would have taken it as high as your top bid. I really wanted the coin, but couldn't afford where the bidding went, even though the coin deserved it.

    As my friend from Seattle has advised, the next one is coming along soon. However, that coin is special - only the second completely unlisted Caracalla I have come across - I forgot about it when I posted my note about unlisted coins.
  15. kaparthy

    kaparthy Well-Known Member

    It might be unusual for American coins, of course, but in Confessions of a Numismatic Fanatic, Frank Robinson says that any active collector of world or ancient coins can own items rarer than a Brasher Doubloon. I have an archaic electrum 1/12 stater from Miletus that is not exactly like any of the catalog entries for others of this series. It's a museum piece. But it cost next to nothing when I bought it, all things considered, and could not be sold for much more today.
  16. Blake Davis

    Blake Davis Well-Known Member

    You are right! I am a collector of relatively modest means and still have a number of coins that have either unique attributes or exist with examples in the single digits. But it doesn’t mean too much in this hobby - condition is far more important. For example I have an “As” from the Lugdunum mint of Clodius Albuinus - the only other one is in the British Museum. Yet when I showed it to a major coin dealer (not to sell just showing off) I was told that its value was only about $300 because the condition was only fine plus. This for a coin that was only the second known of its type!
    Alegandron likes this.
  17. Blake Davis

    Blake Davis Well-Known Member

    Curtis - I just read your interesting post on the "IMP X" coins of Septimius. I had actually rejected the purchase of two IMP X coins because of condition, including a die match of my PAX on VCOINS, (the other was the Mars reverse you reference in your note), but will not do so again. One of the reasons I decided to focus on Septimius Severus was that I thought there would be few others with the same interest since these coins are generally very hard to find in higher grades. Your article confirms that. Nevertheless, I will be scouring the listings for others, and will post any that I find. Blake
  18. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I love the term: Underpublished! If there is something harder to find than rare coins it is rare write-ups in obscure journals in languages most of us don't read. About the time you think you have searched everywhere you find out someone wrote a dissertation covering it before you were born. Today, we have a new venue for underpublication: the Internet. Every so often we see a coin offered for sale by a 'name' seller or even discussed on Coin Talk that is not known from what would be called the usual resources. Is the coin below unpublished? Underpublished?
    TJC likes this.
  19. Blake Davis

    Blake Davis Well-Known Member


    Curtis - I have two sestertii of Septimius Severus that are from the same obverse die - one coin has the reverse of RIC 652 and the other has the reverse of RIC 657. I was just going through the catalog of the Friedrich collection of Roman Imperial sestertii and noticed that #1657 has the same obverse die but a different reverse die, although of VIRTUS (RIC 657). So this obverse die is associated with three different reverses of two different types - unusual?

    If I can find the time I will post the two I have - RIC 652 and 657.
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