From Tragedy to Triumph: Vespasian 'Dream Coin' Part 2

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by David Atherton, Jun 19, 2019.

  1. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    A few weeks ago I purchased a rare provenanced Vespasian sestertius. It was a personal 'dream coin' of mine.

    Alas, the coin turned out to be a 19th century cast forgery.

    I informed the seller and got a generous refund, plus I was able to keep the token for my Black Cabinet.

    Now, I'm happy to report I was able to recently acquire a superb replacement! Not only is it genuine, but also it's a rarer variant in finer style. I can honestly say this 'Dream Coin' is now one of my favourite coins in my collection!

    Æ Sestertius, 24.45g
    Lyon mint, 71 AD
    RIC 1132 (R). BMC 799.
    Obv: IMP CAES VESPASIAN AVG P M TR P P P COS III; Head of Vespasian, laureate, r.; globe at point of bust
    Rev: CAESAR AVG F DES IMP AVG F COS DES II; S C in exergue; Titus and Domitian stg. front, each with spear and parazonium
    Acquired from Romae Aeternae, June 2019.

    An iconic dynastic sestertius struck during Vespasian's great bronze issue of 71. The type was struck both at Rome and Lyon (ancient Lugdunum). Mattingly in BMCRE II calls it a 'famous' type placing the figures on the reverse as Titus on the left and Domitian on the right. While that is a conventional numismatic placement for the two Caesares, here we see the figure on the left holding a parazonium an attribute of an imperator, which of the two could only be Titus. Conversely, the figure on the left is holding something smaller (a roll?) that does not appear to be a parazonium, despite the above RIC description. The reverse legend corresponds for this placement of the figures with the first half of the legend CAES AVG F DES for Domitian on the left, the second half IMP AVG F COS DES II for Titus on the right. The legend has caused confusion over the years with some numismatists creating the possible phantom title Designatus Imperator for Titus. The title COS is implied for Domitian after DES in the legend, a kind of numismatic shorthand if you will. Gunnar Seelentag attempted to clear up the matter up in Numismatic Chronicle, Vol 167 (2007), but doubts remain. Curtis Clay has proposed that the traditional view of Titus on the left and Domitian on the right is correct, pointing out that both are holding a parazonium, theorising Titus' is hidden behind his body with only the handle showing. His arguments in full can be read here: The reverse type itself is fairly rare with only a handful of specimens coming to market each decade, this Lugdunese specimen is a bit scarcer than those from Rome. Flavian dynastic types are far more common in silver.

    I just love the reverse!


    In the end this all worked out for the best. Not only did I acquire a better specimen, I also got a bit of an education regarding old collections and forgeries.

    Feel free to show any coins or tell any stories where victory was snatched from the jaws of defeat.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2019
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  3. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    It's a great coin, congrats.
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  4. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

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  5. PlanoSteve

    PlanoSteve Well-Known Member

    Nice coin & exceptional story. :happy: Which goes to show anyone with extreme disappointment for "losing an auction target", or "not buying a target when it was available" (guilty!), or similar loss situations...there are always other opportunities down the road, & sometimes the loss actually turns into a blessing, as in this case.

    @David Atherton, thanks for sharing this story!
  6. Theodosius

    Theodosius Unrepentant Fine Style Freak! Supporter

    Great coin and story. I like the replacement better than the original.

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  7. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Sweet redemption!! Beautiful bronze, David :).
    David Atherton likes this.
  8. Parthicus Maximus

    Parthicus Maximus Well-Known Member

    Congratulations, that's a great and interesting coin! Glad it ended so well.
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  9. Ancient Aussie

    Ancient Aussie Supporter! Supporter

    Very nice indeed, I'm glad it worked out so well for you.
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  10. Eduard

    Eduard Supporter**

    Talk about a comeback:).
    This example is even more attractive (besides being obviously genuine) than the first (counterfeit) example.

    I think I am starting to want one, too....
    David Atherton likes this.
  11. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    Congratulations on the coin which strikes me as wonderful in all respects. You cover well the question of who's on which side but the beginner level of this board, myself included, would benefit from more on the other elephant in the room.
    I see no reason to question this coin except for the undeniable fact that rare coins are so frequently faked that we need to question each and every coin of this 'level' if not every coin 'period'. The fake was accompanied by a provenance that would seem to make it certainly good. How do you 'know' this coin is genuine? In hindsight the first (fake) did not have the sharpness that made it immune from question but a provenance would seem to make me think any reservation I might have was because I am being overly afraid of being fooled again (I recently confirmed a fake in my collection that I had been questioning for decades but had taken refuge in provenance and denial). In my case, the provenance was not to my specimen but to the coin from which it had been cast. Is that the case with your first coin or was it completely fake in those old collections just as it is now? I believe you would do a CT public service pointing out the differences between the two that allows you to say fake and genuine. You did point out the good matter of the seller handling the matter well.
    Of the last three coins I have returned to honest sellers for being fake, two gave me the fake in addition to the refund. These were not coins in question but one that were certainly and with no doubt 100% fakes that I have posted here hoping to warn others that the things existed. Fill us in.
  12. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    The first coin I shamefully did not do any homework on because of the old provenance. I wrongly assumed that the pedigree and the expert auction firm selling the piece were enough of a guarantor. I was wrong. After digging into it I realised that particular cast is fairly pervasive. One is actually pictured in the scholarly article by G. Seelentag I referenced above on the type as genuine! When I first had the coin in hand I admittedly was a bit puzzled over the fabric, most of which was covered in (what I believed then to be ancient) patina and wrote it off. After doubts were cast (no pun intended) and I got past my denial, I re-examined the piece and realised the flow lines that were visible were only the most prominent ones and fairly soft and the visible surfaces did not have the correct colour under that patina. After sitting in someone's trays for a century or more it certainly looked like an old coin, but upon closer inspection it did not look like an ancient one.

    My replacement on the other hand has minute flow lines, is the correct weight, has no known cast match, and the more exposed surfaces have that aged orichalcum look which the cast did not. A sharper coin overall. My second photo above actually is a better representation of the surfaces than the dealer's picture. It also literally rings true (if you have ever dropped an ancient coin on a table top you know what to listen for!). The cast had a 'heavier' sound to it. IMHO, the piece is as genuine as anything else in my collection.

    At any rate, I'm not sure if this is what you were asking for, but it's all I can offer.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2019
  13. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    I wholeheartedly agree! And I love the billowing capes behind Titus and Domitian. It must have took the engraver a lot of time to render them!
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  14. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    a most beautiful coin David!..:)
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  15. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    A wonderful coin. You just might convince me to start collecting bronze coins of the Flavians.
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  16. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    Nah, you'll want to stay away from them Andrew ... they're too risky. :angelic:
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2019
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  17. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    Thank you. For those about to begin chasing any rare coins 'worth faking', you have provided help.

    I can not suggest dropping coins to see how they thud. If you accidentally drop one, OK, but two halves are hard to reassemble.
  18. Ricardo123

    Ricardo123 New Member

    Your humility honors you sir.
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  19. Aunduril

    Aunduril Well-Known Member

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  20. Jay GT4

    Jay GT4 Well-Known Member

    +1 :)
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  21. Congrats it is a real beaut!
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