My First 'Grail' Coin of 2018: A Vespasian Military Issue

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by David Atherton, Apr 17, 2018.

  1. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    When I first received my copy of BMCRE II in 2003 I noticed a rare, early military coinage struck for Vespasian at an unknown mint. It intrigued me. The types and style were unlike anything else in Vespasian's numismatic canon. One type in particular, Vespasian on horseback, seamlessly combined the elements of both propaganda and the military. I desperately wanted one. Patiently I waited. 15 years later my chance came when a specimen was recently offered at auction. No expense was spared! It became mine and arrived over the weekend.

    V1368sm.jpg Vespasian
    AR Denarius, 3.60g
    Uncertain mint, 69-71 AD
    RIC 1368 (R2). BMC 419. RSC 221.
    Obv: IMP CAESAR VESPASIANVS AVG; Head of Vespasian, laureate, r.
    Rev: IMPER below; Vespasian riding l., r. hand raised
    Ex künker 304, 19 March 2018, lot 1085.

    In late October of 69 the Second Battle of Cremona was fought between the legions of Vitellius and Vespasian. It resulted in the utter defeat of the Vitellian side and their slow retreat towards Rome. Not long afterwards the Spanish legions went openly for Vespasian, which up until that point had only been neutrally friendly toward him. Coins were quickly struck for Vespasian in the newly won province. Most of these are attributed to Tarraco and an unknown Spanish mint. Intriguingly, a small military issue was contemporaneously struck at an uncertain mint somewhere in the western empire - Mattingly thought perhaps Aquileia. The issue contains some stylistic affinities with the Spanish series, but more importantly, recent metal analysis by K. Butcher and M. Ponting show the silver content is almost identical to that of the Spanish coins. It is very likely these early military denarii were also struck in Spain in late 69 soon after the province went over to Vespasian.

    Here we have an extremely rare denarius from that uncertain military issue showing Vespasian in military dress riding left in the act of addressing his troops. Clearly, this is a propaganda type that was produced to help consolidate the legions in a newly won province. The type occurs no where else and is unique to the series. The high relief portrait bears no resemblance to Vespasian, which is further evidence of the coin's early mintage.

    It will be extremely hard to top this coin in my year end 'best of' list!
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2018
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  3. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    How unusual! A real standout among your other Vespasians-- congrats! :)
    David Atherton likes this.
  4. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

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  5. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

    Congrats David , your 15 year quest finally ended !

    Possible a good young portrait of Vespasian in top fit condition imho, after a couple of years in Rome and hundred of banquets later , he added 40 pounds in weight :)

    P1170829new heads.jpg
  6. Jwt708

    Jwt708 Well-Known Member

    Love it man!
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  7. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    I see you have it listed as "uncertain mint". It does not have the appearance of a Rome minted coin. Outstanding find.
    galba68 and David Atherton like this.
  8. TheRed

    TheRed Supporter! Supporter

    Congrats on such a great coin! It must feel wonderful to hold it in your hand after 15 years of waiting.
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  9. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    Congrats on the acquisition, a neat coin all around.
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  10. Ryro

    Ryro Another victory like that will destroy us! Supporter

    Wow! Beautiful piece of militaristic propaganda of one of my favourite emperors:woot:
    David Atherton likes this.
  11. dadams

    dadams Supporter! Supporter

    Congratulations on acquiring that sweet Vespasian!!

    "Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet." - Jean-Jacques Rousseau


  12. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    Wherever the location, it was struck early enough that the die engravers had no portrait busts or paintings of the new princeps to go by. The silver content says Spain, which fits neatly with the stylistic similarities the issue has with denarii attributed to that region.
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2018
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  13. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    Oh, I love that woodcut! How perfect!
    dadams likes this.
  14. Orfew

    Orfew Supporter! Supporter

    A superb acquisition David. I love both the portrait and the energetic reverse.
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  15. Jay GT4

    Jay GT4 Well-Known Member

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  16. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    WOW, just fantastic @David Atherton ! REALLY like the Historical perspectve... great capture!

    Vespasian cleaned up the MESS that Nero started...
    David Atherton likes this.
  17. Ancient Aussie

    Ancient Aussie Supporter! Supporter

    Great denarius David Atherton, and so interestingly different from Vespasian's usual coinage. Congrats.
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  18. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    That is why I love it! My hunch is it was struck before the other Spanish issues, which is why it looks so 'different'. Both the style and the nature of the reverse point to it being from a very early issue.
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  19. AncientJoe

    AncientJoe Supporter! Supporter

    I love the style! What a distinctive and dramatic coin, on both sides. It's also interesting to see where designs are used/reused, probably because they're effective for the general population. Here's a "before and after" from my collection which also feature the riding motif:

  20. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    Fantastic coins!

    It looks like the same die engraver worked on this obverse too.

    Domitian as Caesar
    AR Denarius, 3.46g
    Rome mint, 73 AD
    RIC V541 (R2). BMC V129 var. RSC 664.
    Obv: CAES AVG F DOMIT COS II; Head of Domitian, laureate, bearded, r.
    Rev: No legend; Domitian on horse l.; r. hand raised, sceptre in l.
    Ex Gemini X, 13 January 2013, Harry N. Sneh Collection, lot 701. = Helios, ebay, 29 November 2010 (A. Lynn Collection).
    AncientJoe, TIF, Johndakerftw and 6 others like this.
  21. randygeki

    randygeki Coin Collector

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