Featured Can this be the very same gold coin? Roman original or Gothic imitation?

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Julius Germanicus, Nov 3, 2019.


Is this the same coin, and what is it?

  1. 1) These two are not identical

    3 vote(s)
  2. 2) These are identical

    18 vote(s)
  3. 3) This is a genuine Roman coin from the Cyzucus mint

    0 vote(s)
  4. 4) This is a Gothic imitation struck from barbarian-made dies

    0 vote(s)
  5. 5) This is a Gothic imitation struck from official Roman dies

    0 vote(s)
  6. 6) This is a Gothic imitation struck with a Roban obverse and a barbarian-made reverse die

    0 vote(s)
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. Julius Germanicus

    Julius Germanicus Well-Known Member

    During my research on Gothic imitative coinage I came across these two coins:

    Nr.1 (weight: 5,54 g) was found in the western Ukraine (Chernivtsi region, Sokiryansky district) and was identified as the barbaric imitation of a Roman Aureus.

    Bildschirmfoto 2019-11-03 um 21.01.50.png

    Nr.2 (weight 5,49 g) was sold as a genuine Aureus of Maximianus (RIC 610, from the Cyzikus mint) by Nomos for 2.200 SFR:

    Bildschirmfoto 2019-11-03 um 11.42.51.png

    Now tell me, doesn´t this look like the very same coin with the traces of mounting on the obverse and the detail below the figure on the reverse filed away?

    If so, what is this? To me the obverse looks official in style, while the reverse has a "first generation barbarian" appeal.
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  3. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    They are either one and the same coin or at least one (maybe both) is a cast copy.
  4. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    I thought cast right away, and yes, they look to be the same coin with some modifications.
    Ryro and Julius Germanicus like this.
  5. Factor

    Factor Well-Known Member

    I don't think it is cast, the upper one has signs of whear quite typical for coin used as jewelry for long time. Reverse suggests goog style imitation, either made for circulation or jewelry. And yes, I think Nomos sold that particular coin, after very extensive tooling.
    Julius Germanicus likes this.
  6. Julius Germanicus

    Julius Germanicus Well-Known Member

    But doesn´t this certainly official Aureus here look like an obverse die match to the OP coin(s)?

    Nr.3 (6,39 g):


    On the other hand, doesn´t this certainly barbaric imitation (different reverse type) look very much like an obverse die match also?

    Nr.4 (gold-plated silver, 5,1 g, found in western Ukraine, Vinnytsia region, Shargorodsky district):

    Bildschirmfoto 2019-11-04 um 14.38.42.png

    How can that be? Did the ancient Goths have the ability to produce dies or casts of Cavino-like quality (see the obverse of coin Nr. 2)???
    Volodya and Andres2 like this.
  7. CaptHenway

    CaptHenway Survivor

    Fascinating. I eagerly await the answer to the OP's question.
    Julius Germanicus likes this.
  8. Ken Dorney

    Ken Dorney Yea, I'm Cool That Way...

    The coin is genuine and a Roman product, not a barbarous imitation. A quick look through sold examples show many obverse die links to other coins. I did not check for reverse die comparison. The two coins are clearly the same, only it has been tooled, smoothed and repaired by the last sale you point out. I tried to look at the website you found the first one on but my browser couldn't translate it to English so I cant comment on that.
  9. Julius Germanicus

    Julius Germanicus Well-Known Member

    If the OP coin is indeed an original, it must have ended up in the hands of the Goths who not only added a loop and smoothed the reverse down by wearing it with the portrait side up, but who also for whatever reason must have added what looks like an extra pair of legs underneath the Victoria (a detail that was tooled away after registrating the find but before selling it via Obolos).

    Then would this make coin Nr.4 also an original? It has what looks like the same obverse die again, but coupled with a clearly barbarous reverse (the original should read COS II and not COS III).

    Here are more specimens from a similar (if not the same) obverse die, but coupled with dubious reverses:

    Most of these must have been struck by the barbarians with what looks like an obverse die of the Cyzicus mint or an exact copy of it! How is this technically possible considering the crude style of other imitations?

    Click on the bottom left line and a window will open that will show you the first 18 of 379 imitative Aurei of the Chernyakov culture. You con look at the others if you click the respective numbers in the bottom line of that page. Click the last line under any coin to see more specimens of the respective type. I use Google translator for the Russian :)
  10. Ken Dorney

    Ken Dorney Yea, I'm Cool That Way...

    I think so, yes. COS III is known and is RIC 598. Again, I cant say anything about the accuracy of the information on that website. With so many known die links either what website is wrong and they are not barbarous but simply imported coins or everyone else is wrong and that the barbarous coins were imported into the empire and circulated as mint products (which seems unlikely).
    Julius Germanicus likes this.
  11. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    The two coins are one and the same. The coin picture on the barbarous-imitationsnarod.ru-website shows the original, unmodified coin. The coin was likely sold on an Ukrainian auction site. The buyer then had the coin modified, i.e. the fields were heavily smoothed and scratches on the bust were removed. The smoothing is clearly visible on the reverse below the small Victory figure. The coin is struck not cast.

    It is hard to say if the coin is official or a barbaric Imitation. My theory would be this: The coin was probably made from official dies, which barbarians looted in a Roman town. The obvers die was still in good condition and was hence left mostly in its original state (the letters may have been slightly recut, but the bust is beyond the capabilities of the barbarians). But the reverse dies had worn out and was more significantly recut (official mints would not do this with dies for gold coins). This Theory may seem strange, but it happened quite a lot with Roman dies, which the Goths looted for example during the raid of Alexandria Troas. This Theory accounts for the find spot and the slightly barbaric reverse. (I know the numismatist who is running the barbarous-imitationnarod.ru Website. The fact that the coin is on it is strong indication that it is ancient and that the find spot is correct)

    Overall, this an an interesting historical piece. Unfortunately, the best part of its history was erased by the modern smoothing and modifications. Personally, I would not buy this coin in the current state.
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2019
  12. Julius Germanicus

    Julius Germanicus Well-Known Member

    You are right, but RIC 598 always has a right facing obverse, while Nr.4 and the similar barbaric pieces with COS III always have the obverse facing left.

    Here is a double die match to coin Nr.4, and from the same obverse die as the OP coin. LEU Numismatic agrees it is barbaric:

    Nr.5 (Gold, 5,35 gr, 12 h):
    "UNCERTAIN GERMANIC TRIBES, Pseudo-Imperial coinage. Late 3rd-early 4th centuries, imitating Maximianus, Cf. Calicó 4634 (with COS II) and 4635 (COS III but head to right) for prototype. This is a very early imitation, with a finely engraved portrait and perfectly readable legends."

    Here is an original of the type with head to left (note COS II and the fact that it is from a different obverse die than coins Nr. 1-5):


    That is exactly what is puzzeling me. The barbarians certainly did like their Tetrarchic portraits to face left and used a relatively small emission from Cyzicus that was struck in ca. 293 AD as model for what looks like a mass production of left facing Aurei of Maximian, and, on a smaller scale, of Diocletian.

    But how did they come into the posession of an original Roman obverse die???

    Yes, that would indeed sound like the only plausible explanation!
    Pellinore, Alegandron and Bing like this.
  13. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    Actually, I had another close look at the coin. I think the barbaric look may just be the result of the extensive smoothing and "restoration". While it is true that the Goths used coin dies, which they capture during a raid of Alexandria Troas (I have an example in my collection), this is more likely to be an isolated event, even though the dies were used extensively for a long time. There is so far no evidence, that this happened again.
    So I think what happened is that an official aureus came to the Barbaricum. There a loop was attached to be used as pendant. The loop was later removed or lost and the coin was "restored" to the present state, without the scratch marks, but with some barbaric appearance because of some recutting of the reverse.
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  14. Ken Dorney

    Ken Dorney Yea, I'm Cool That Way...

    I dont think they did. I think this coin was simply booty taken back to their homeland where it was later found. The 'barbarous' appearance of the reverse is just simple wear. Gold wears unlike silver and bronze and can often lead one to think that it is cast rather than struck.
    Julius Germanicus likes this.
  15. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    I agree with Ken. In this case the most likely explanation is that the coin was produced by an official Roman mint. The coin reached the Barbaricum (be it as loot or payment of some sort), where it was used as pendant.

    However, the case of stolen dies is real and documented in the literature (look for articles by Aleksandr Bursche and Adam Degler). During the raid of Alexandria Troas (I think in about 262 AD) the Goths plundered the mint and took the dies used for provincial copper coins. Back home, the Goths used them to strike gold coins, which chieftains distributed to their retainers, who, in turn, would wear them much like modern military medals. When these stolen dies wore out they recut them several times to create increasingly barbaric images.

    The example below is from my collection of these Gothic gold coins. The dies are official, but the lettering on the obverse has been recut by illiterate barbarian die sinkers.

    Screenshot 2019-11-06 at 07.26.57.png
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2019
  16. Julius Germanicus

    Julius Germanicus Well-Known Member

    I can agree with the OP coin being struck by an official Roman mint (the one at Cyzikus, to be precise, which was not only the only mint that issued these left facing portraits on commemorative Aurei of Maximian and Diocletian, but which was also the closest roman mint to the Gothic territory). It is certainly struck from an obverse die cut and used at that mint, as can be seen on coin Nr.3 in my second post above.

    That makes total sense. I just took a closer look and it looks like the OP coin might also be from the same reverse die as coin Nr.3 which would make it less likely that the Goths ended up with an original obverse die and coupled it with their own barbaric reverse die for this issue.

    HOWEVER, this still does not explain the existance of Aurei struck from the same obverse die but coupled with the Emperor-on-horse-reverse and COS III, like coin Nr.5 (shown in my last post).

    That coin has a reverse which is worn down to the same degree of the OP coin, but looks to be of official style and therefore Roman origin. Following Ken and Tejas, it would likely also be an official coin that ended um in the Barbaricum, where it was fitted with a loop and had it´s reverse smoothed by wear. Then LEU´s opinion that it´s dies were engraved by the barbarians would be wrong.

    BUT how can it be that this die combination (portrait left and COS III) seems is to be unknown for intact Aurei from the official roman (Cyzicus) mint, while half a dozen pierced or looped specimens were found in the western Ukraine that were obviously struck with the very same official Roman obverse die like the OP coin?

    Nr 6) Here is another exampe of this type (note the fine style portrait identical to the OP):

    Bildschirmfoto 2019-11-05 um 18.15.59.png

    It this is indeed from official dies, why is it EXCLUSIVELY found in the Barbaricum?
    The only possibilities I see are

    1) It was an emission exclusively struck for payment to the Goths.

    2) This is indeed an official emission that is not yet included in the references because by coincidence no unpierced / unlooped specimens have been found on Roman territory yet, as none survived the melting pot while several of the specimens in Gothic hands survived in warrior´s graves that were only discovered in the age of metal detecting.

    3) The Goths did indeed acquire one single Aureus obverse die and a couple of reverse dies from the Cyzicus mint and combined these to strike semi-official Aurei.
    Note that there has been at least one attack on Cyzicus by the Goths in the late 3rd century. It would not have been the first time that barbarians visited the mint in order to take dies and precious metal, as Tejas´specimen prooves.

    That is great! Does he speak English? It is interesting that most specimens are said to be of "silver, plated with gold". Maybe you can ask Oleg if that is indeed the case.
  17. CaptHenway

    CaptHenway Survivor

    Still admiring this thread.

    Be aware that in U.S. numismatics there have been documented cases whereby some crook buys a genuine but damaged vintage coin, repairs it, and then used the repaired coin as a model to make counterfeit dies from. That was my first thought when I saw the OP photos, but I do not have the expertise to say that this was done.
    Julius Germanicus likes this.
  18. Julius Germanicus

    Julius Germanicus Well-Known Member

    I think this here shoud proove that the OP coin´s obverse die was indeed in the hands of the Goths and was used to produce and inspire a whole series of semi-barbaric designs:

    Bildschirmfoto 2019-11-05 um 18.15.45.png

    The obverse of this coin (found in the western Ukraine again and with traces of the attachment of a loop) was once again obviously struck with the OP coin´s obverse die, but is coupled with yet another reverse type, one which is neither official (like the OP type), nor could (theoretically) be an unrecorded official variety (like the COS III coins I discussed above), but one that is totally unknown on official Aurei of the Tetrarchy.
    Why on earth would only one single obverse die of the several used for the official type (see coin Nr.3 above) be used to strike coins with other reverses, exclusively of types unknown on official coins, which would be exclusively found in graves of the gothic Chernyakov culture?

    The SAECURITAS SAECVLI reverse type is taken from Aurei of Probus, another Emperor whose gold coin designs were frequently copied by the Goths. Here is a specimen from the Cyzicvs mint:


    I think the history of this barbarian coinage has to be rewritten to some extent.

    The known case of the dies from Alexandria Troas was not a singular event.

    Some popular designs from the dawn of Germanic coinage were not just merely inspired by roman designs, but at first directly struck from official Roman dies.
    Bing likes this.
  19. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    J.G. I completely agree with you, "I think the history of this barbarian coinage has to be rewritten to some extent", & your independent study in this thread should be included in that history. A new historical study on Gothic barbarian coinage, including recent finds, would be a monumental undertaking but it certainly merits the time & effort.
    Julius Germanicus likes this.
  20. Julius Germanicus

    Julius Germanicus Well-Known Member

    Here is a base metal imitation from what might very well be the same dies as the OP coin:

    Bildschirmfoto 2019-11-12 um 08.44.55.png

    If so, this would would further proove that the the Goths used official dies for the production of first-generation imitations of this type.

    PS.: I expanded the poll so you can vote for the origin of the OP coin as well :)
  21. Incharge

    Incharge Active Member

    The top curl of the ear, and the line in the ear, and the thickness at the bottom of the ear look different, but they look almost identical
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