Interesting Roman As reverse types - Trajan Restores Italy

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by The Meat man, Jun 8, 2023.

  1. The Meat man

    The Meat man Supporter! Supporter

    Recently, I’ve been collecting Roman As coins with interesting and unusual reverse types.

    Part of this new focus comes from my interest in the coins as ancient story-tellers - small artifacts that mark a moment in time, long past, commemorating certain people, places, or events. The Romans especially made constant use of coins as mediums for official news and propaganda.

    Why the As? Well, to me the denomination seems to strike a nice balance. Aureii are nowhere within my range. Denarii are somewhat small, and tend to be more expensive. The sestertius boasts the largest canvas and superb artistry, but they tend (accordingly) to be very expensive, especially the more unusual types. As for dupondii, for some reason I’ve never really cared for the look of the radiate portrait (more so on earlier Roman coins; it’s more or less unavoidable on later coinage.) Very generally, the As tends to be the most affordable, with laureate portraits and a wide range of different types.

    One of my most recent acquisitions is an as struck under Trajan, with a very rare and interesting reverse type:


    (At this point, I’d like to thank @curtislclay and @Coinmaster for their invaluable assistance in helping me identify and learn more about this type!)

    This “ITALIA REST” or “REST ITALIA” type was struck in aureii, as well as all three bronze denominations (I’m not sure about the denarius; I don't think so) All types are quite scarce; searches on return just four different aureii and one dupondius. I could not find either of the two sestertius types on acsearch; though there is one currently for sale on

    The As is perhaps the rarest of all; it is not even listed in RIC. The only one on is this one (mine), sold a few years ago. The only references I know of are from Woytek, the great authority on the coinage of Trajan, and Paul L. Strack, who wrote in the 1930’s. Woytek cites just two specimens - one in the Munich collection, and one in the Vienna collection, with the Vienna coin illustrated:


    (Woytek, photo courtesy of @Coinmaster)

    I am assuming that the coin cited by Strack is the Munich specimen - or possibly the Vienna coin, but as of yet I have been unable to confirm that. If anyone has access to Strack (412) and can check for me, I’d be much obliged!

    I reached out to both collections asking about the coins; Vienna was very helpful and confirmed that they had one specimen. I haven’t heard from Munich, which is a pity since I’d love to get a look at the coin! Unfortunately, neither collection happens to have that particular coin displayed in their online virtual collections (although Vienna offered to do that for me! I hope to see it soon.)

    So, does my coin make three known specimens? Not quite! As it turns out, there is a specimen on


    With the following text:

    "Trajan AE As. 25/26mm. 8.8 g

    Obv: IMP CAES NERVAE TRAIANO AVG GER DAC P M TR P COS V P P, laureate head right.

    Rev: S P Q R OPTIMO PRINCIPI, Trajan, togate, standing left, raising

    kneeling figure of Italy, between them, two children; in exergue, ITALIA


    Strack 412; (not in RIC or Cohen as AE As); RIC 470 var.

    Further examples are in Munich and Vienna.

    Contributed by Bogdan Cacuci, Oct. 2010."

    This coin is in considerably worse shape than either mine or the Vienna specimen, but it is clearly identifiable as the same type. It also appears to be a reverse-die match to the Vienna coin, and to mine as well. (Looking in particular at the damaged? "C-I" and the "P" in "PRINCIPI", as well as other areas.) What do you all think? Are all three a reverse-die match? I would love to hear your opinions!

    (Also what about the obverse?)

    This begs the question: how many reverse-dies were used? Could they all have been struck from only a single reverse die? (If only I could get a good look at the Munich coin!)

    In any event, this means that - as far as I’ve been able to ascertain - my coin is apparently only the fourth one known to exist - and the second in private hands, which I think is pretty neat, especially for an interesting 2nd-century Imperial bronze issue.

    So, enough about the rarity - what about the reverse design?

    Well, not surprisingly, I couldn’t find much specific information about this exact reverse type. In some ways it is similar to the more common “ALIM ITAL” coinage, which, according to Sear, referred to the “scheme under which needy children were provided support through the investment in agriculture of funds donated by wealthy philanthropists (including the emperors Nerva and Trajan).” (David Sear, Roman Coins and Their Values, Vol. II, p. 95)

    The most direct reference I could find was in a paper titled “Trajan, Hadrian and Antoninus Pius: Patterns of Interpretation and Perspectives” by Gunnar Seelentag. The focus of the paper is in comparing how the various Emperors presented themselves to the Roman world and how they wanted to be perceived by their subjects. In it, Seelentag also compares the two similar coin types:

    “Various types of coins with the inscription ALIM(entatio) ITAL(iae) depict the emperor distributing his gifts to the children of Italy. In the piece depicted here, the personification of Alimentatio stands in front of the seated emperor, holding a child on her hand and on her arm; the latter stretches out his arms to Trajan. At the same time as these representations, and typologically closely related to them, pieces with the inscription REST(itutio) ITAL(iae) were emitted, in which the emperor repeals the personification of the country that has sunk to the ground. In her left, Italia holds a globe, and in front of her is another child stretching out his arms to the princeps. Taken together, these two accounts stated that Italy's newfound prosperity was the result of the innovative extension of Trajan's care to Italy. If one looks at the common core of the two innovations in Trajan's depiction of power just outlined, one thing becomes clear: the emperor acted as a caretaker, no longer only for Rome, but now also for Italy – and even the empire flourished, as he emphasized with the depictions of the prosperous provinces.”

    (Apologies for the awkward web translation - the paper was originally in German)

    It should also be pointed out that this ITALIA REST type is very similar to a later coin struck 60-some years later under Marcus Aurelius:



    (Notably, there are no children depicted on this type - perhaps another indication that Trajan's coin has the "Alimentatio" program in mind?)

    With the later coin, the type is generally thought to be in recognition of Marcus Aurelius’ efforts in holding back the barbarians which, by that time, had begun to exert considerable pressure on the borders of the Empire.

    However, no such conditions prevailed under Trajan. I suppose the conclusion is that Trajan’s type is a more general recognition of Trajan’s beneficent leadership, including the “Alimentatio” scheme - Italy lifted up and restored to peace and prosperity.

    Thanks for reading, and please feel free to post your thoughts and comments!
    Dafydd, cmezner, svessien and 11 others like this.
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  3. Clavdivs

    Clavdivs Well-Known Member

    Wonderful coin and an interesting collecting focus.
    I enjoyed the write up. Thank you.
    paschka, The Meat man and Curtis like this.
  4. Curtis

    Curtis Well-Known Member

    Congratulations on the very interesting rarity & on the good research!

    The AE As is a great area for collecting. I can't find a reference now (though hinted at in the Intro to BMCRE 1), but I believe I've read that the AE As was the most frequently used coin in everyday transactions during the first century or two of the Roman Imperial Period. So you might say this is the coin through which the Empire communicated most directly with its population (both army and civilian), and with which they were most familiar.

    Some can be quite interesting, but they do tend to be heavily worn, like my Trajan AE As depicting (maybe?) the historic "Bridge over the River Danube":

    Trajan-AE-As-Danube-Bridge (ARC Photo E).jpg

    Digging around I noticed many more Asses in my drawers than I remembered. (They were once plentiful in the glory days of "unopened bags of 1,000 uncleaned coins," so I acquired many that way.) Few are very nice.

    I don't have any of Trajan's ITALIA coinage, but I found this AE As which is of a somewhat similar spirit, an Arabia specimen never before photographed:

    Trajan AE As Camel Arabia 1k 500p.png

    I like the little camel of course, but as a collector of Roman captives coinage, I'm also fond of the contrast with Trajan's Dacia coinage, which showed Dacia as a conquered captive. Arabia is shown in a much gentler, more "inclusive" light. (See esp. Woytek's [2015] "The Camel Drachms of Trajan in Context.")

    I also collect Roman Provincial & Imperial countermarks, and the most frequently countermarked coins were probably Asses:

    And, if you collect Roman Provincial coins, there are many coins that roughly approximate the AE As as a local denomination (sometimes called an Assarion, though the size of that denomination -- or label, as we don't necessary know what they were called -- varied dramatically by location and after the first century).

    Here's one of my favorites:

    Strictly speaking, it's not considered a Roman Imperial type (it's classified in RPC vol I, 1256) because it's struck in provincial Patras, Achaea. But BCD Peloponnesos II 2782 (this coin) classifies it as an AE As (11.56g, 25mm, 1h), and it's often labeled as such. The legends are Latin, the style is Imperial, and it was struck for veterans who were settled at "Colonia Augusta Achaica Patrensis" -- those of Legio X (prob. Fretensis) and Legio XII Fulminata.

    BCD Peloponnesos II 2782 Claudius Patras Achaea ex BCD Merani.jpg
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2023
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  5. The Meat man

    The Meat man Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks! You have some great coins there - would love to get my hands on a Danube? bridge as; unfortunately they're quite a bit more scarce than the sestertius version.
    Also love that Claudius coin - fascinating history behind it. I will definitely add that type to my wish-list!
    Curtis likes this.
  6. The Meat man

    The Meat man Supporter! Supporter

    I must express my thanks and appreciation once again to the curators of the Vienna Museum coin collection. I just noticed that since communicating to them about this coin they have uploaded both their As and Dupondius specimens to their collection website. With much better photos, I was able to better compare the dies between the different coins.

    So far, if I am not mistaken, I am only seeing one reverse die used for this type on all examples I can find of both denominations. I'd like to submit the following and would greatly appreciate any feedback!

    I have so far only been able to find photos of 3 asses and 3 dupondii. If anyone knows of any other specimens, please let me know, and post here if you would!

    (I resized and combined the photos, hopefully making comparison easier!)
    NOTE: the CPK coin is my coin. :)


    First of all, apologies for cutting off the very bottom of the last row! I guess I didn't notice that in Paint. Oh well.

    In particular I would draw your attention to these areas: (Using the Vienna coin as an example)


    To my (admittedly) amateur eyes, all pictured specimens appear to have been struck from the same reverse die; one of the strongest similarities is the "I" in "PRINCIPI" running strongly into the "C", which is visible even on the heavily worn Wildwinds coin. But I would like to get opinions from my fellow CoinTalk members.

    I would also like some feedback on whether or not my coin is an obverse die match to the Vienna coin, as well. (I think it is.) Here is an obverse comparison:


    For the obverse I'm looking at the "AVGGER" section above Trajan's head: the style and positions of the "G"s, the funky looking "E" on mine seems to be the same on the Vienna coin; and on both specimens the "R" seems to run into Trajan's laurel wreath. Also, the shape, proportion, and position of the bust, as well as other details.

    To summarize, I'm asking the following questions:

    In your opinion(s),

    1. Are all the pictured as/dupondius reverses struck with the same die?

    2. Is my coin a double-die match to the Vienna/Woytek coin?

    cmezner, svessien and Curtis like this.
  7. Curtis

    Curtis Well-Known Member

    Well done again, assembling the known specimens. I do think that they are all die matches, and that yours is a double-die match to Vienna/Woytek. (Of course, it's hard to be sure with the Wildwinds, but looks very likely a match. You could overlay it in photoshop or similar and fade it in and out -- that technique can work well, once you try it a few times.)

    On the Apostolo Zeno specimen, others may have a better sense if some metal in the exergue legend could've been "moved around" (not quite tooled), or if the the characters were just much finer before being worn like the others. But their relative placement & the orientation of each is identical, so I would feel confident it's the same die.

    Seeing it again, I think your coin stands up very well! Quite a nice specimen.
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  8. The Meat man

    The Meat man Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks! I'm really curious now to see the Munich Collection coin - if it's also a double-die match that would seem to indicate that the type was struck with only a single pair of dies. I emailed them again tonight, and hopefully I will get a response this time.
    Curtis likes this.
  9. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    This is a great thread and exemplifies why ancients are such a joy to collect!

    A fantastic coin that would be the envy of any Trajan specialist!
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  10. The Meat man

    The Meat man Supporter! Supporter

    *** UPDATE ***

    Since the last time I posted here, I've been doing a little more digging, trying to uncover more information about additional specimens (both As and Dupondius) for die comparison. I also wanted to know exactly which coins were cited in Strack (the only reference besides Woytek given for the As). Plus I wanted to learn more about the history behind the type itself.

    I've made some progress, but am finding myself stuck again. So...


    I've emailed the Munich Collection information mailbox three, four times now asking about the coin in their collection, which is the fourth and final 367b specimen I've yet to see photos of. So far, no response. I guess I will keep trying.

    I also reached out to David Sear, and he very kindly offered to look the coin up for me in Strack, and sent some pictures of the relevant page. I can't thank him enough for taking the time to help me out on this! The coin is No. 412, towards the bottom of the page:


    And a picture explaining some of the abbreviations:


    As you can see, on line 412 there is the abbreviation "MuW" which, I take it, stands for "Munchen Staatliches Munzkabinett" and the W "Wien Staatliches Munzkabinett" - i.e., Munich and Vienna, which are the coins cited in Woytek.

    However, there is a big jumble of abbreviations and symbols right above - LW?Fi( )BPNa( ) - with what look like Greek letters with subscripts in parentheses. Does anyone know what this is supposed to mean? David Sear agreed that Strack's notations could be confusing and he said he would get back to me if he found out anything more.

    But in the meantime, what do you make of it? Can anyone here reveal the mystery?

    ALSO, I have acquired photos of two more of the 8 dupondii cited by Woytek, bring my total to five. One of them is pretty worn, but from what I can tell, they seem to be die-matches with all the others - what do you think?


    Thanks again for all your help!
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  11. The Meat man

    The Meat man Supporter! Supporter

    It has just occurred to me that perhaps the LW?Fi( )BPNa( ) line is referring to the Dupondius variant? Looking at the column on the left, you can see "Dp" above, but in the same row, as "As".

    In which case, we have for the Dupondius: London, Vienna ?, Florenz (Florence?), Berlin, Paris, and Neapel (Naples?)
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