The Roman Government was pretty good at doctoring the silver coinage (gold coinage seemed immune to these changes) in such a way that the full extent of the debasement was not apparent to the average consumer or housewife. The average Roman would have had some difficulty assaying the fineness of his coinage but he was probably cognizant of weight which he could more easily determine, and the Roman state was careful to keep up the weight of the denarius of the Third century. The denarius of Severus Alexander, though only of about .500 fine silver, usually weighed a bit over 3 grams which and compared favorably to the denarii of Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius, at least in weight. Looking at the circulating coinage of Severus Alexander, circa 230 AD (first line of coins pictured below) shows an As of some 10 grams, a Denarius (.500 fine) and 3.1 grams and a comforting sestertius of almost 21 grams. The gold aureus (not shown) might be of variable weight but remained of the highest fineness but was not often handled by average Romans in the marketplace. The system seemed to be working fine. There was a cryptic criticism of the circulating medium by the historian Herodian at this time but it is so obscure that few could have seen it as meaningful in their lives. Moving forward to the reign of Gordian III about a decade later the system still seemed to be working smoothly though an observant shopper might have noticed that the Gordian III denarius of about three grams appeared to be somewhat less frequently encountered and was being replaced by the supposedly double denarius (second line below) which was tariffed at two denarii but at about 4.4 grams clearly contained less silver than two denarii. Also the As (or its double,the dupondius) was also less commonly encountered, though the Sesterius still seemed, at close to twenty grams, a substantial coin. Over the next fifteen years the changes were so dramatic in appearance of the coinage (these same changes can be seen in the provincial coinage of the East as well) that even the most obtuse of Romans could see that their coinage was being so altered in weight, fineness of metal and even appearance that something very wrong was going on (third line below). How could they protect themselves? In some cases they tried to obtain and then hoard some of those earlier coins which helps explain why there are a number of double denarii from the 240's available to collectors today, as many of these coins were pulled from circulation for hoarding before they were much worn. But also one of the strangest, to us, anyway, was the pulling from circulation and hoarding of the token brass coinage from the 230's, the 240's and 250's. At the old ratio of copper to silver (41 grams of copper to one gram of silver in the Augustan system) the copper or bronze in a sestertius, like that of Gallienus pictured below, was worth far more as metal than the heavily debased light weight double denarius of Valerian, Gallienus and the myriad of emperors right after them. The sestertius was supposed to be eight to the double denarius when actually just one sestertius was worth more in metal than the fast becoming worthless double denarius.The sestertii of Valerian and Gallienus were being treated as bullion and were quickly pulled from circulation (Gresham's Law) and the emperors of the 270's produced few of them, even when they tried to pass off light weight sestertii as Double Sestetrii. Who would have thought in the early Third century AD that token coinage copper, bronze and brass would become bullion coins? Perhaps readers interested in this period have their own coins showing the change in weight, fineness and appearance which illustrate this what must have proved a traumatic experience to the Roman people. The coins below are (first line) a Denarius an As and a sestertius of Severus Alexander, (second line) a double denarius and sestertius of Gordian III and lastly a double denarius and sestertius of Gallienus, whose profile we rarely see as large in the most common examples of his coins.