Featured Nerva: A Rare Common Coin

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Curtisimo, Oct 30, 2019.

  1. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    I bought this coin as part of my Nerva-Antonine Dynasty in Imperial Silver sub-collection. It was one of my favorite coins of 2018. I am currently attempting to catch up on research and write ups for this sub-collection because I would like to have a reference thread for each one. As such, I hope you won’t mind me reposting another coin you saw back in 2018.

    Roman Empire
    Nerva (AD 96-98)
    AR Denarius, Rome mint, struck October AD 97
    Dia.: 17 mm
    Wt.: 3.47 g
    Obv.: IMP NERVA CAES AVG P M TR P II COS III PP; Laureate bust right
    Rev.: SALVS PVBLICA; Salus, seated left, holding grain ears
    Ref.: RIC II 20

    Ex Naville Numismatic Live Auction 44 (Nov. 2018)

    A Tale of Two Dies
    Even a casual inspection of this coin is enough to see that the obverse is in a much better die state than the reverse. The reverse shows signs of reaching the end of its usefulness while the obverse is relatively fresh. Doing a little research leads me to believe that there is an interesting story here.

    RIC lists Nerva coins with this reverse type as follows:
    • Denarius with SALVS PVBLICA reverse + TR P on obverse = common
    • Aureus with SALVS PVBLICA reverse + TR P II on obverse = common
    • Denarius with SALVS PVBLICA reverse + TR P II on obverse = not listed
    What are we to make of this?

    My guess is that that the SALVS type denarii issue was reaching its end, with most of the reverse dies being used up by the time Nerva accepted his second tribunista potestae in October 97. Dies with new types were made along with new obverse dies to reflect his new titulature.

    ...this is where Kevin from quality control’s lazy brother Stan enters the story. Fresh off a bender with Kevin the night before and sporting an impressive hangover, Stan was NOT feeling up to standing in line to get a fresh new die with the approved reverse type. With a quick rummage through the junk heap Stan pulls out a SALVS whose figure is starting to look more like a poltergeist than a person. “That’ll do” says Stan disinterestedly as he lumbers back to his anvil, hammer in hand.


    In all seriousness, it does seem that this particular reverse design was reaching the end of its issue for silver around October of AD 97 and someone made the decision to continue striking with a handful of mostly worn dies. A look through ACSearch shows that this reverse is fairly scarcely coupled with the TR P II legend. Many of the examples that come up are misattributed to RIC 20 or listed as a RIC 33 variant with a note that they are “rare.”

    So perhaps this is a rare common coin struck by Kevin’s brother?

    Some Notes on Nerva’s Coins
    Nerva was only emperor for about 16 months. Most of his coins are also dated which means that in many cases we can pinpoint the date a coin was struck to a remarkably narrow window. My coin is just such a case. Nerva started using TR P II in October 97 and started using the title GERM after he adopted Trajan in late October. Therefore my coin was likely struck in mid-October of AD 97.

    Nerva also seems to have adopted the “warts and all” style of portraiture (holy nose-beak batman!). According to RIC this is a noticeable departure from the later coins ofDomitian, which had increasingly artistically idealized portraits.

    I took both of these photos at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence when I was there in 2018. The portrait is thought to date from Nerva’s lifetime. While on the trip I got in the habit of taking pictures of statues in the profile view so I could compare to the coin portraits later. I did this even when it was sometimes awkward to do so... some people looked at me funny.

    Some Notes on Nerva and his Legacy
    For those interested in a summary of Nerva’s life see here.

    Because Nerva was emperor for such a short period of time there are very few physical remains that are associated with him or his reign. One exception is the so called “Forum of Nerva” started under Domitian but completed during Nerva’s principate. This was the last of the imperial fora in Rome and connected the old republican forum to the neighborhood of the Sabura.

    He probably would have been happy to know that even though he is a lesser known emperor today his name still lives on in one of the surviving spaces of the ancient city.

    This is an engraving by Luigi Canina made in the early to mid 1800s. The Royal Academy website says it may be based on an original drawing by Palladio from the mid 1500s. At that time Rome was in one of its cycles of architectural cannibalism where ancient structures were being destroyed for building materials. Therefore, it is possible some of the drawings details are based on remnants of the structure that no longer exist. In fact if you read through the link posted below you will note there was a lot more of the forum left even in the late 16th century.

    Here is a picture I took in 2018 from a similar vantage point as the above drawing. As you can see, other than the two columns (far right), there is not much left of the forum.

    Another fun fact about the Forum of Nerva is that the interior open space was used for the construction of small domestic buildings in the early Middle Ages. There were some fabulous drawings in the museum attached to Trajan’s market that were reconstructed from the archeological remains. I have always found this period of the city fascinating. A tiny population of people living in the ruins of the giant, deserted city, building modest houses surrounded by some of the greatest buildings that had ever been constructed.

    In the foreground of my above photo (to the left of the column) you can still see the remains of the portico of a house that was built in the 9th century. Between the column and the portico you can see ruts in the stone where wagon wheels made indentions in the early Middle Ages before the house was built. This shows this was a relatively busy street. What those people must have thought about the state of the world!


    Check out this fascinating link and scroll to the bottom for a more in depth overview on the forum in the Middle Ages.


    Please post your
    • Nerva-Antonine silvers!
    • Coins of Nerva
    • Giant noses (come on, I had to)
    • Any other thing!
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2019
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  3. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    Very nice @Curtisimo

    Nerva 2.jpg
    AR Denarius
    OBVERSE: IMP NERVA CAES AVG P M TR P COS III P P, laureate head right
    REVERSE: IVSTITIA AVGVST, Justitia seated right, holding scepter & branch
    Struck at Rome, 97 AD
    3.2g, 20mm
    RIC 18, C 101
  4. Clavdivs

    Clavdivs Supporter! Supporter

    Excellent coin and a great write up.. I really enjoyed it.


    Nerva (96-8 AD), brass dupondius, Rome mint, struck Jan. - Sep. 97 AD, 28mm, 11.08g
    Obverse: Radiate head of Nerva to right,
    Reverse: Fortuna standing l., holding rudder and cornucopiae,
  5. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Enrich the soldiers...ignore all others

    Here's one from Egypt:

    Type: Billon Tetradrachm, 25mm, 12.7 grams, mint of Alexandria year 96-97 A.D.

    Obverse: Bust of Nerva facing right, KAIS SEB AVT NEPOVAS

    Reverse: Agathodaemon serpent coiled with head right, holding caduceus and grain ear within coils, wearing the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt. In exergue, LA.

    Reference: Milne 542, Dattari 638

    This coin is listed as "rare".

  6. Shea19

    Shea19 Supporter! Supporter

    Great post and very interesting pictures (and nice coin too!). Here is a Nerva denarius, and an early issue of Trajan with a strong resemblance to Nerva.


    Nerva, AR Denarius (17 mm, 3.45 g), Rome, 97. IMP NERVA CAES AVG P M TR P COS III P P Laureate head of Nerva to right. Rev. LIBERTAS PVBLICA Libertas standing left, holding pileus in right hand and scepter in left. RIC 19

    Trajan, AR Denarius. Rome, 98-99 A.D., (17mm, 3.22g), RIC 30
    Obv: IMP NERVA CAES TRAIAN AVG GERM P M., Laureate head right./ Rev: TR P COS II PP., Pax seated left on throne, holding branch and caduceus.
  7. Roerbakmix

    Roerbakmix Well-Known Member

    Well of course you had to!

    My largest nose on one of my smallest coins.
    AE drachm, Danubian Kelts, "Kugelwange" type. 200-100 BC. Obv: Very big-nosed imitation of Phillip II (probably). Rev: not much left.

    To illustrate how big this nose actually is:
  8. Ancient Aussie

    Ancient Aussie Supporter! Supporter

    Great coin and presentation Curtis, I like the bust of Nerva at the gallery, unfortunately did not go into Uffizi when I visited Florence as I only had time for either that or an archeology museum up the road I chose the later which was good and had a great ancient coin display. Here's my Nerva very much like the marble bust where the bottom tip of his nose is just about level with top lip. 000577_l.jpg
    ominus1, Deacon Ray, Spaniard and 8 others like this.
  9. Ryro

    Ryro They call me the 13th Caesar Supporter

    Dang it Stan! Cool mule:cool:Excellent coin and, as always, entertaining and educational write up. Thanks C man.
    4258E905-5B4E-4CE4-8B44-5276B069C43D.jpeg 937E74D7-3E0C-4AB5-9D9E-5C5EB3749B47.png
    and his greatx234 grandson:
    Deacon Ray, Spaniard, Shea19 and 7 others like this.
  10. Spaniard

    Spaniard Well-Known Member

    @Curtisimo ...Super write up! Found it really interesting thanks...Here's my 'NOSE'
    Nerva AR Denarius. Rome, AD 97.
    Obverse..IMP NERVA CAES AVG P M TR POT, laureate head right
    Reverse..COS III PATER PATRIAE, Priestly emblems: simpulum, aspergillum, guttus, and lituus.
    RIC#34 3.12g, 17mm, 6h.
    Near Very Fine.
    From a private Swiss collection.
    ominus1, Deacon Ray, TIF and 9 others like this.
  11. TypeCoin971793

    TypeCoin971793 Just a random guy on the internet

    Curtisimo likes this.
  12. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    That really is a great portrait, Curtis.
    Excellent idea! Which I will be stealing. :D
    Same here. I imagine it'd have been like a scene from a 2nd century dystopian future fictional novel. Now that'd be a book I'd love to read! Oh, wait, that book's already been written... it's called History. :shame:

    Nerva - Den Clasped Hands.jpg
    AR Denarius. 2.88g, 17.4mm. Rome mint, AD 97. RIC 14; Cohen 20. O: IMP NERVA CAES AVG P M TR P COS III P P, laureate head right. R: CONCORDIA EXERCITVVM, clasped hands.
    Ex Ratto sale January 1956, lot 366

    Nerva - x6 Didrachm Cappadocia Club 2591.jpg NERVA
    AR Didrachm. 6.69g, 22.1mm. Metcalf, Caesarea 45. Sydenham, Caesarea 153. CAPPADOCIA, Caesaraea-Eusebia, AD 96-98. O: AYTOKPAT NЄPOYAC KAICAP CЄBACTOC, laureate head right. R: YΠATOY TЄTAPTOY, Club set on ground.
    Ex stevex6 Collection
  13. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    Thanks for all the kind words everyone. Some great coins posted... and even an epic Monty Python reference :D

    One of the things I noticed about Nerva’s coin issues when I was searching for my example was that there aren’t many of his coins that reference specific historical events.

    Does anyone have one that does? (Just because my want list isn’t already long enough!) :rolleyes:
    Roerbakmix likes this.
  14. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    Steel away my friend... but be prepared for the funny looks :oops: people probably thought I was casing the joint Ocean’s 11 style :cool:

    Exactly, this is what I tell people who think it’s strange I like history so much. It’s like reading a story... only the story really happened. Take that Harry Potter.

    Nice coins btw. I especially like the 1956 provenance :wideyed:
  15. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    I don’t blame you. The line to get into the Uffizi was so long it was daunting. Once we got in it wasn’t bad though. All the tourists just wanted to camp out around the birth of Venus painting!
    5E55DD1F-AF7B-49A6-835A-17B1A7025F2E.jpeg Simply baffling to me. It’s not even in the top 200 interesting things in that building for me. To each their own I guess. You were probably better off in the archeological museum!
  16. cmezner

    cmezner do ut des Supporter

    Excellent write-up and such beautiful coins, thank you all so much for sharing:)

    Have two common Salus denarii:

    Rome January - September 97 AD, struck shortly before his death on January 29, 98 AD.
    17 x 18 mm, 3.10 g
    Ref.: RIC II Nerva 20 (Denarius); Cohen 134;

    Ob.: IMP NERVA CAES AVG P M TR P COS III P P Head of Nerva, laureate, right
    Rev.: SALVS PVBLICA, Salus draped, seated left on throne, holding two corn-ears downwards in extended right hand, left arm resting on arm of throne

    upload_2019-10-30_22-47-50.png upload_2019-10-30_22-48-45.png
    Rome 96 AD
    17 x 18 mm, 3.08 g
    RIC II Nerva 9; Cohen 132/Fr.2;

    Ob.: IMP NERVA CAES AVG P M TR P COS II P P, Head of Nerva, laureate, right
    Rev.: SALVS PVBLICA Salus draped, seated left on throne, holding two corn-ears downwards in extended right hand, left arm resting on arm of throne
    upload_2019-10-30_22-51-52.png upload_2019-10-30_22-52-32.png
    Bing, Johndakerftw, Spaniard and 5 others like this.
  17. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    The TR P II COS III issues at the end of Nerva's reign tend to be scarcer than those earlier.

    This reverse type, for example, occurs three times throughout his reign -- as TR P COS II (Oct-Dec AD 96; RIC 6), as TRP COS III (Jan-Sep AD 97; RIC 18) and as TR P II COS III (Oct-Dec AD 97; RIC 30).

    Of these, the last is the most scarce. The British Museum does not have a specimen in their collection and only a handful of examples have been sold at auction over the past few decades. Here's my example:

    Nerva IVSTITIA AVGVST denarius RIC 30.jpg
    Nerva, AD 96-98.
    Roman AR denarius, 3.37 g, 16.5 mm, 7 h.
    Rome, Oct-Dec AD 97.
    Obv: IMP NERVA CAES AVG P M TR P II COS III P P, laureate head right.
    Rev: IVSTITIA AVGVST: Justitia, draped, seated right on low backed chair, feet on stool, holding long straight scepter in right and branch extended in left.
    Refs: RIC 30; Cohen 103.
    cmezner, Deacon Ray, Bing and 6 others like this.
  18. thejewk

    thejewk Well-Known Member

    Great write up, thanks. Loved the pictures as well. Here's my only Nerva so far, but of course I hope to add more.
    Nerva Denarius.png
    RIC 19
    3.21g, 18mm, 97AD
  19. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    Fantastic rarity RC!
    Thanks @cmezner . Nice examples.

    Nice example thejewk. I particularly like the portrait. Very beakish nose!
    Roman Collector, thejewk and cmezner like this.
  20. Deacon Ray

    Deacon Ray Denarios Sancti Terram Supporter

    Superb article, @Curtisimo ! Just let me know when you’d like to go into the coffee table book publishing business. ;)

  21. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    You are too kind DRay. :shy:

    That is a fantastic portrait on your Nerva and as always a wonderful presentation.
    Deacon Ray likes this.
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