Featured Faustina II hairstyle confusion -- RIC 721 or 722?

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Roman Collector, Nov 3, 2019.

  1. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Faustina II wore her hair in more than half a dozen ways and the standard references (RIC, BMCRE, Cohen and Sear) do not typically note variants in hairstyle or assign separate catalog numbers to them. Some catalogs do, however, such as Temeryazev and Makarenko (CRE). That's why it's odd that her denarius with the VENERI AVGVSTAE reverse type is assigned two separate catalog numbers by RIC and Cohen on the basis of hairstyle, whereas CRE makes no such distinction! It's confusing not only to me, but to coin dealers when listing their wares and the curators of such websites as Online Coins of the Roman Empire (OCRE). I found this out while trying to attribute this well-worn denarius.

    Faustina Jr VENERI AVGVSTAE denarius.jpg
    Faustina II, AD 147-175/6.
    Roman AR denarius, 3.14 g, 17.7 mm, 12 h.
    Rome, AD 161-176.
    Obv: FAVSTINA AVGVSTA, bare-headed and draped bust, right, without wavy forelock.
    Rev: VENERI AVGVSTAE, Venus seated left, holding Victory in extended right hand and vertical sceptre in left hand.
    Refs: RIC 721; BMCRE 159-160; Cohen 226; RCV 5264; MIR 38; CRE 237.

    Sulzer's collection lacked a specimen, but Wiczay notes an example in his catalog, but does not describe the bust whatsoever. The first to make a distinction between hairstyles is Cohen, who assigns them separate catalog numbers, 226 and 228. He says little about the bust on 226, merely "her bust, right." The French national collection did not have a specimen at the time and he cites Wiczay's example:

    Faustina Jr VENERI AVGVSTAE denarius Cohen listing 1.JPG

    But on 228, he notes, "the same coin with the hair waved," and cites Rollin's collection.
    Faustina Jr VENERI AVGVSTAE denarius Cohen listing 2.JPG

    Cohen noted the coin was rather scarce and assigned it a value of 20 franc, which was quite pricey at the time.

    Many decades later, Mattingly and Sydenham, in the course of writing RIC, cited Cohen and assigned two separate numbers, 721 and 722, to the variants.

    Faustina Jr VENERI AVGVSTAE denarius RIC listing.JPG

    RIC illustrates neither specimen. The first reference to illustrate one of the coins is BMCRE, which notes two specimens of the same coin, 159 and 160.

    Faustina Jr VENERI AVGVSTAE denarius BMC listing.JPG

    The British Museum does not have an example of Cohen 228 with the wavy hair, but Mattingly notes that Cohen reports the existence of such in the footnotes. BMCRE4 159 is illustrated in the plates and online.

    Faustina Jr VENERI AVGVSTAE denarius BMC 159.jpg

    No. 160 is not online and a search for "Faustina VENERI AVGVSTAE" at the British Museum website yields only no. 159. Number 160 is apparently no longer part of their holdings.

    Seaby confirms that BMC 159, RIC 721 and Cohen 226 are one and the same coin -- without the wavy hair.


    That's my coin for sure.

    So what does the wavy hair one look like? GOOD QUESTION! You'd think it would be easy to answer by going to OCRE and looking up RIC 722. When you do, you see this coin.

    Faustina Jr VENERI AVGVSTAE denarius Valencia.jpg

    Might those things dangling across the empress's cheeks be what Cohen had in mind? I doubt it. I think it's more likely that OCRE is wrong. For when you go to the OCRE listing for 721, they (correctly) illustrate the British Museum specimen, but also this one from the ANS collection:

    Faustina Jr VENERI AVGVSTAE denarius ANS.jpg

    And that hairstyle looks more wavy than on the British Museum specimen, the example of "RIC 722" at OCRE, or my coin. But is that coin really RIC 722? I don't think so, because there's yet another variety of hairstyle which has a better claim to being 722. Tameryazev and Makarenko illustrate CRE 237 with this coin from a CNG auction. Remember, CRE (uncharacteristically) does not assign different listings to this coin based upon hairstyle. It also cross references this to RIC 721 and RSC 226 -- the one without the wavy hair.

    Faustina Jr VENERI AVGVSTAE denarius CRE (CNG).jpg

    Note that on this coin, the waves in her hair are in front of a strand of pearls, whereas on the ANS coin, above, they are further back on the head. I suspect it is THIS coin Cohen describes as 228; it would therefore be RIC 722.

    In conclusion, I have noted the following:

    - OCRE's listing for RIC 722 is wrong; it illustrates 721.

    - CRE's cross-references to RIC 721 and RSC 226 are wrong; it illustrates RIC 722/RSC 228.

    - Cohen 226/RIC 721 describes a hairstyle that appears with many minor variations, including some that are more wavy than others. I think OCRE's listing for RIC 721 appropriately shows a range of styles.

    - The coin Cohen thought worthy of a separate listing is the type as illustrated in CRE (from the CNG auction). It is characterized by a strand of pearls and waves in the front-most part of the hair, in front of the pearls.


    Cohen, Henry. Description historique des monnaies frappées sous l'Empire Romain, Tome III: de Marc Aurèle à Albin (161 à 197 après J.-C.). Paris, 1883.

    Mattingly, Harold, Coins of the Roman Empire in the British Museum, vol.IV: Antoninus Pius to Commodus. Introduction, indexes and plates. London, BMP, 1968.

    Mattingly, Harold; Sydenham, Edward A, The Roman imperial coinage, vol. 3: Antoninus Pius to Commodus, London, Spink, 1986.

    Seaby, H. A. Roman Silver Coins, vol II: Tiberius - Commodus. London, B. A. Seaby, LTD, 1968.

    Sear, David R. Roman Coins and Their Values II: The accession of Nerva to the overthrow of the Severan dynasty AD 96 - AD 235, London, Spink, 2002.

    Sulzer, Johann Caspar, and Jacob Sulzer. Numophylacium Sulzerianum numos antiquos Graecos et Romanos aureos argenteos aereos sis tens olim Iacobi Sulzeri. Ettinger, 1777. Available online here.

    Temeryazev, S. A., and T. P. Makarenko. The Coinage of Roman Empresses, Volume I: Antonia Minor – Didia Clara, 41 – 193 AD, San Bernardino, CreateSpace, an Amazon.com Company, 2017.

    Wiczay, Michael A. and Felice Caronni. Musei Hedervarii in Hungaria numos antiquos graecos et latinos descripsit. Vol. 2, Caronni, Vienna 1814. Available online here.
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2019
    eparch, randygeki, PeteB and 12 others like this.
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  3. ancient times

    ancient times Legatus Legionis

    Great write up, Terrific research !
    Roman Collector likes this.
  4. happy_collector

    happy_collector Well-Known Member

    Nice research info. Thanks for sharing!
    I'll surely keep note of the hairstyle when acquiring more Faustina II coins.
    Roman Collector likes this.
  5. randygeki

    randygeki Coin Collector

    Great post
    Roman Collector likes this.
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