Learning to use Szaivert (MIR 18)

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Roman Collector, Sep 20, 2020.

  1. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    As an Antonine collector, I figured I'd best track down a copy of Szaivert, Wolfgang, Die Münzprägung der Kaiser Marcus Aurelius, Lucius Verus und Commodus (161/192), Moneta Imperii Romani 18. Vienna, 1989.


    The book is in German, which I studied for years, albeit decades ago. The catalog's listing is very complete when it comes to coins, but in an attempt to limit the book's length, there are a number of tables and charts to which the individual listings refer and you have to do quite a bit of flipping back and forth between the various pages.

    Since a picture is worth a thousand words, let's just work an example to see how it's done. Let's try it out with this sestertius:

    Marcus Aurelius TR POT XXI IMP IIII COS III S C Victory sestertius.jpg
    We're out of luck when it comes to obverse legend, but the reverse legend is intact enough to identify some key information with regard to dating the coin: TR POT XXI IMP IIII COS III. Let's look at the table in Szaivert on page 23:

    So, this TRP 21, IMP 4, COS 3 coin is dated 10 December, 166-9 December 167. Szaivert calls this an issue of AD 167. We note that this was the joint reign of Marcus and Verus, so we go to the "Samtherrschaft Marcus - Lucius" (Joint reign Marcus - Lucius) listings beginning on page 94 and thumb through it until we get to the year 167, and then we search for the TR POT XXI IMP IIII COS III reverse legend and the Victory walking left and holding a wreath and palm branch reverse figure.


    Okay, we see this sestertius must be no. 151, because that's the only possibility that matches the reverse legend exactly. We see that this was issued as part of the 14th emission for Marcus and Lucius, AD 167. We see this reverse type was used for sestertii (column 6) and dupondii (column 8) for Marcus aurelius, and that the associated obverse legend must be legend 14 (M 14), "M ANTONINVS AVG ARM PARTH MAX." We note that there are two "Büsten" (bust types) used for sestertii of the 14th emission: bust type 30 and 32. And we note the reverse figure is "Victoria 1."

    Now we need to go to the descriptions of the various Victoria types on pages 54-55 to confirm this matches the coin in question:

    The Victoria 1 type is "l. gehend mit Kranz und Palmzweig" (walking left with wreath and palm branch). So far that checks out. But does our coin have bust 30 or 32, which are the two types noted for sestertii of the 14th emission? Now we have to go to the table of bust types on pages 237 and 238.

    The bust type on the coin in question is a laureate head, right. This would be the Lkr bust (for "Kopf mit Lorbeerkranz" "rechts"; laureate head, right). Looking at the table, we find bust type 30 in the "barhäuptig" column (best translated here as "plain") and bust type 32 in the P ("Paludamentrest auf der linken Schulter"; slight drapery on the left shoulder) column. The coin in question has bust type 30.

    So, we see this coin is no. 151, denomination 6 (sestertius), bust type 30 (laureate head, right). Therefore, its MIR catalog listing is 151-6/30.

    Szaivert's catalog has concordances that work from MIR number to RIC3 and BMCRE4 number, as well as from RIC number to MIR number, so that makes cross-referencing possible and relatively easy.

    The big advantage this reference has over RIC3 or BMCRE4 is that it provides an overview of the entire coinage issued simultaneously in any given emission/year, without separating out the coins by denomination or person on the coin, as does RIC and BMCRE. Moreover, the coins of Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus or Commodus are listed on facing pages and given the same numbers for the same reverse types. This overview -- that Victoria walking left types were also issued simultaneously in the aureus denomination for Marcus and in the aureus, half-aureus, denarius, quinarius, sestertius, and dupondius denominations for Lucius Verus -- is very important to understand the coins in their historical context. Just because an aureus and sestertius are in different trays in the British Museum doesn't mean their catalog listings should be separated by a hundred pages in a book.

    Another advantage is that the catalog features a few bust types that are unlisted in these older references. In addition, it notes varieties with different hairstyles for Faustina II, Lucilla, and Crispina, which BMCRE and RIC do not generally do.

    Is the catalog worth a hundred bucks? That's for the individual collector to decide.
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2020
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  3. PlanoSteve

    PlanoSteve Supporter! Supporter

    Excellent anecdote, further proving that the journey can be as fulfilling as the destination! :happy:;)
    Roman Collector likes this.
  4. rrdenarius

    rrdenarius non omnibus dormio Supporter

    Interesting book, thanks for sharing the attribution process.
    Is there an equivalent book for Roman Republican coins?
    Alegandron and Roman Collector like this.
  5. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Not by the same publisher. This book by Szaivert is volume 18 (Only five have been published so far and they have not been released in order) of the Moneta Imperii Romani (Roman Imperial Coins) series.
    rrdenarius likes this.
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