Question about cuts/gouges around Medusa's mouth in Plautius Plancus Denarius

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by DonnaML, Mar 26, 2020.

  1. DonnaML

    DonnaML Well-Known Member

    I purchased this example of the Plautius Plancus denarius with Medusa on the obverse a while back. It's certainly not in the greatest condition (especially the reverse), but the obverse is better than many I've seen, despite the cuts/gouges around Medusa's mouth mentioned in the thread title.

    Roman Republic, L. Plautius Plancus, AR Denarius, 47 BCE, Rome mint. Obv. Facing head of Medusa with coiled snake on either side of face, L. PLAVTIVS below/ Rev. Winged Aurora flying right, holding palm frond and conducting the four horses of the sun, PLANCVS below. RSC I Plautia 15, Crawford 453/1a, Sydenham 959, Sear RCV I 429. 18 mm., 4.0 g.

    Seller's image, followed by my own photo of the obverse:

    Plautius Plancus - Medusa denarius (seller image) jpg version.jpg

    Plautius Plancus-Medusa denarius Obv. 3.jpg

    Plautius Plancus-Medusa denarius Obv. 2.jpg

    The cuts and gouges around Medusa's mouth look deliberate to me; it's difficult to imagine how they could have happened accidentally. My question is whether people have any opinion on whether the damage is more likely to have been inflicted in ancient times -- perhaps to make Medusa look more fearsome -- or more recently. It's not the only case I've seen of similar damage in the same area on this coin type, which might suggest the former. See, for example, these links:

    Thanks for any thoughts anyone may have.
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  3. svessien

    svessien Senior Member

    The similarity in toning between the original surface and inside the cuts suggests that the damage is old. How old, and what may have caused it, is hard to answer. Perhaps a frustrated man feeling particularly misogynic that day, who knows. :)
    I would be happy to have it in my collection.
    DonnaML likes this.
  4. SeptimusT

    SeptimusT Well-Known Member

    Could it be a banker’s mark? Those are punches applied to a coin to test its silver content. Usually rather angular or having some sort of shape, which this looks like it might, as opposed to random slashes.

    The condition is actually pretty nice for the type, too! These have a lot of weak strikes or worn dies on the reverse, but this one is pretty bold.
  5. DonnaML

    DonnaML Well-Known Member

    Interesting idea. Although I can't see any kind of recognizable shape in the cuts -- unless maybe there's some kind of stem and flower extending off to the left?
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2020
  6. SeptimusT

    SeptimusT Well-Known Member

    Sometimes they're recognizable shapes or letters, other times they aren't so recognizable; here's a couple random examples from Vcoins, one showing a letter and another showing... I don't know. As far as I know, no one has ever tried to catalogue the different marks.
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  7. J.T. Parker

    J.T. Parker Well-Known Member

    Even still, a nice coin despite the botched cosmetic surgery
    I like it DonnaML,
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  8. DonnaML

    DonnaML Well-Known Member

    A collagen injection gone wrong?
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  9. Orielensis

    Orielensis Well-Known Member

    It looks like "banker's marks" to me.

    The main theory on these is that a coin tester and money changer (nummularius) would test coins with with a small punch to make sure they weren't only silver-plated fourrées.

    Cicero (In Verrem 2.3.181) mentions fees for testing money ("pro spectatione"), and Petronius (Satyricon 56) writes of a coin tester who sees the bronze beneath the silver ("nummularius, qui per argentum aes videt"). Furthermore, a number of "tesserae nummulariae" have been found, which were presumably used to seal bags of checked coins and guarantee their authenticity (see the images in this article by Andrew McCabe).

    I'd assume that your coin has been tested by such a nummularius in antiquity. The punches used for this come in many different designs – maybe to see whether a coin had already been tested by the same person before?

    Below are some examples of such punch-marks from my collection.

    Crescent on Titus Tatius' cheek:

    Römische Republik – Denar, L. Titurius Sabinus, Victoria in Biga mit Kranz.png
    Roman Republic, moneyer: L. Titurius L. f. Sabinus, AR denarius, 89 BC, Rome mint. Obv: SABIN; head of king Titus Tatius r. Rev: L. TITVRI; Victory in biga r., holding reins in l. hand and wreath in r. hand; in exergue, control-mark (branch). 18mm, 3.84g. Ref: RRC 344/3.

    This one looks like it was just given a strong punch with a graver or something similar. Could this possibly be an example of a private citizen checking a coin with whatever tool they had at hand?

    Römische Republik – Denar, L Julius Burso, Genius or Apollo:Quadriga.png
    Roman Republic, moneyer: L. Iulius Bursio, AR denarius, 85 BC, Rome mint. Obv: male head r., with attributes of Apollo, Mercury and Neptune; behind, control-mark (grapes). Rev: L.IVLI.BVRSIO; Victory in quadriga r., holding reins in l. hand and wreath in r. hand; in field, controlmark (FI). 21mm, 3.76g.

    Broken circle and semicircles on obverse and reverse, interesting cornucopia-punch on Venus' head:

    Römische Republik – Denar, Norbanus, Venu::Ähre, fasces, caduceus.png
    Roman Republic, moneyer: C. Norbanus, AR denarius, 83 BC, Rome mint. Obv: C. NORBANVS; head of Venus, diademed, r.; to l., control number LXXIII; banker’s mark: cornucopia? Rev: ear of wheat, fasces, and caduceus. 19mm, 3.53g. Ref: RRC 357/1b.

    Horrible surfaces – I only bought this coin because there are at least eight different banker's marks visible, most of them on the obverse in the right field.

    Römische Republik – Denar, Longinus, Wähler (neues Foto).png
    Roman Republic, moneyer: L Cassius Longinus, AR denarius, 63 BC, Rome mint. Obv: veiled head of Vesta (or Vestal Virgin) l.; behind, culullus; before, retrograde S (control mark); multiple banker's marks. Rev: voter standing l., dropping tablet marked V into cista; on r., LONGIN III V downwards. 19.5mm, 3.56g. Ref: RRC 413/1.

    Line of four triangles and "wave" on obverse, three crescents as well as a "V"-graffito on reverse.

    Römische Republik – Denar, Julius Caesar, Elephant.png
    Roman Republic, Imperatorial Coinage, Julius Caesar, AR denarius, 49–48 BC, military mint moving with Caesar. Obv: [CA]ESAR; elephant walking r., trampling snake. Rev: priestly implements: culullus, aspergillum, axe, apex. 20mm, 3.70g. Ref: RRC 443/1.

    Crescent on Concordia's veil:

    Römische Republik – Denar, Mussius Longus, Concordia und Venus Cloacina.png
    Roman Republic, moneyer: L. Mussidius Longus, AR denarius, 42 BC, Rome mint. Obv: Head of Concordia r., wearing veil; behind, CONCORDIA upwards. Rev: Shrine of Venus Cloacina with two statues, inscribed CLOACIN; above, L M[VSSID]IVS LONGVS. 17.5mm, 3.68g. Ref: RRC 494/42a.
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2020
  10. DonnaML

    DonnaML Well-Known Member

    Thank you. I am now beginning to think that this is the most sensible explanation.
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  11. Orielensis

    Orielensis Well-Known Member

    It also isn't uncommon to see multiple banker's marks clustered together. Unfortunately, my bid was blown out of the water when this coin came up in an Artemide auction last year – still, it illustrates the point.

    Bildschirmfoto 2020-03-26 um 15.28.54.png

    Your denarius seems to have been subject to a similar treatment.
  12. red_spork

    red_spork Triumvir monetalis

    I also think they are bankers marks. Some coins have many of them, sometimes spread across the coin and sometimes concentrated in a single area. I've got a few with them:

    This one almost looks like Roma got a teardrop tattooed on in prison. It circulated for a while and picked up multiple marks:

    This coin on the other hand can't have circulated long at all. Even so, it has a few including one that's just a tiny square on the reverse and a tiny crescent:
    20180314215925-18491157-me (1).jpg

    A sort of T shape with a very long bar at the top:

    A very prominent E on obverse(with some sort of mark under it) and a circular punch on the reverse:
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  13. SeptimusT

    SeptimusT Well-Known Member

    Banker’s marks also appear on coins from Ancient India, probably inherited from the Achaemenids. Indian texts mention money authenticators similar to those in Roman texts, and it was done for the same reason, to authenticate that the coin was not a plated (fouree) copy.

    Cross and lunar marks on the center obverse of a shatamana of the Gandhara Janapada (circa 600 - 300 BC):


    A steelyard scale (?) shaped mark on the reverse of a karshapana of the Maurya Empire, also countermarked with the ‘three men’ symbol (circa 272-232 BC, countermarked circa late third century BC):

  14. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    Just from my MA Legionary denarii collection alone: Marcus Antonius  Leg IIII.jpg Marcus Antonius  Leg XVIII (2).jpg MARCUS ANTONIUS Legion XII 2.jpg marcus antonius Leg XXI.jpg Marcus Antonius Leg XVII.jpg Marcus Antonius CHORTIS SPECVLATORVM.jpg Marcus Antonius Leg III.jpg Marcus Antonius 10 a.jpg Marcus Antonius Leg XI.jpg
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  15. Alegandron

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

    Agreed, @DonnaML , I believe it is a bankers mark. But, I never cared when I captured my coins, rarely noticed them. Rather, I feel you have a fantastic specimen of this coin! Well done!

    A few bankers marks I like to ponder...

    India Matsya AR Vimsatika 650-600 BCE stamped bankers

    Egypt Ptolemy I Soter Tet Delta bankers marks.jpg
    Egypt Ptolemy I Soter Tet Delta bankers marks

    Persia Achaemenid Type III spear over shoulder Darius I to Xerxes II Ca 485-420 BCE AR Siglos Bankers Marks Incuse rev

    RImp Marc Antony 32-31 BCE AR Legio X Equestris - Caesar Denarius B bankers mark Eagle Galley Standards
  16. Ignoramus Maximus

    Ignoramus Maximus Active Member

    I have this specimen, a very worm Achaemenid siglos.
    More an example of 'banker's rage':


    I have often wondered what the point of more than one banker's mark could be.
    Test it once, have it tested once more to make sure, that I understand. But twelve, as on this coin??? After to or three testmarks, wouldn't it be obvious to all respective owners of the coin that the coin had been well tested before and was found to be genuine by all? What is the point of more test-cuts after that? Or was there perhaps (in certain places and certain times) a mandatory testing to provide extra revenue for the coin tester? Either way I find it enigmatic.
  17. Alegandron

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

    This one is cool. I agree... wow, lotsa tests!

    I see 2-3 marks that look from India ... perhaps yours traded OUTSIDE of the Achaemenid Empire, no one understands the original testmarks, and had to prove the silver.

    I personally think that due to bankers marks on my Athena's face, these were tested OUTSIDE the Greek world...

    Athens Owl 16.8g  22x6-5mm Late Classical 393-300 BC, Sear 2537, SNG Cop. 63.jpg
    Athens Owl ~17g 22mm x 6.5mm thick, Late Classical 393-300 BC, Sear 2537, SNG Cop. 63
  18. red_spork

    red_spork Triumvir monetalis

    The forgers in ancient times were smart enough to make plated coins with test cuts and bankers marks built in so the plating would be on top of the fake mark. Because of this, someone testing coins couldn't be too careful and it made sense to test some coins again even if they had seemingly already been tested by someone else.
  19. Ignoramus Maximus

    Ignoramus Maximus Active Member

    Do you recognise any of the countermarks, Alegandron I have to plead ignorance here...
    If you can attribute them that would be super.
    Exciting to trace a 2300-2400 year old coin's travels through time and space!
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  20. Ignoramus Maximus

    Ignoramus Maximus Active Member

    Makes sense. Thanks!
  21. Alegandron

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

    I regret I am no expert. This is a Hobby for me. However, I read a lot, save scraps of info into my email, and the marks are remeniscent of many of the marks on my or other's coins I have seen.

    Do some Google Searches on Karshapana, Mauryan, Punch marks, etc. and there are several charts that possibly define their usage and meanings. Pretty cool.

    India Mauryan or Sanga 3.jpg
    India Mauryan or Sanga 3

    India Mauryan or Sanga 3.4g Rect.JPG
    India Mauryan or Sanga 3.4g Rect

    India Maurya ser VIB AR Karshapana punchmark 270-175 BC ASHOKA.jpg
    India Maurya ser VIB AR Karshapana punchmark 270-175 BC ASHOKA
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