Featured Rare bust type? Septimius Severus IMP IIII sestertius RIC 670d var

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Salaethus, Jan 11, 2020.

  1. Salaethus

    Salaethus Well-Known Member

    Hey all, I'm new to this forum! A bit about myself: I've been collecting ancient coins for nearly 20 years, caught the bug as a kid when my parents gave me a few Roman bronze coins they purchased while traveling in France. I've built up and sold off several small collections at this point, and for a long time I was only interested in Greek silver. Recently I've started a new collection focusing on sestertii from the 2nd/3rd century.

    I believe this Septimius sestertius is a rare bust type, I've only found one near die match for it in online auction records. I've found a number of die matches for the reverse. There are several similar coins in the online British Museum catalog, though they are IMP V. I was hoping some of the experienced members might take a look and give me their opinions on the coin. This is the dealer photo, I do not have the coin in hand yet.

    1. Septimius Severus.jpg

    Septimius Severus, Æ Sestertius, Rome, 194-195 AD. L SEPT SEV PERT AVG IMP IIII, Laureate and cuirassed bust of Septimius Severus right / MO-NET AVG COS II PP, The three Monetae standing facing, heads left, each holding scale and cornucopia, SC in ex. RIC 670d. 30mm, 24.16g.

    Here are the die matches I've found:
    3. AMS example.jpg Closest (well, only) obverse die match in online auction records, note the legends, PERT behind the head instead of the more common PE-RT split across the top of the bust.
    Auktionen Meister & Sonntag
    Auction 16, Lot 1077, 27.11.2012
    Septimius Severus 193-211. Sesterz 194/195 -Rom-. L SEPT SEV PERT AVG IMP IIII. Belorbeerte Büste im Harnisch nach rechts / MONETA AVG COS II P P. Die drei Monetae mit Waagen und Füllhörnern nach links stehend, im Abschnitt SC. RIC 678 (R). 25,53 g selten, feine schwarzgrüne Patina, sehr schön-vorzüglich/sehr schön

    2. NN example.jpg
    Reverse die match. (note the spacing of the SC and the legends, and the negative space between the three monetae and their cornucopiae)
    Numismatic Naumann
    Auction 6, Lot 437, 04.08.2013
    SEPTIMIUS SEVERUS (193-211). Sestertius. Rome.
    Obv: L SEPT SEV PERT AVG IMP III. (it's actually IMP IIII)
    Laureate head right.
    Rev: MONET AVG COS II P P / S C.
    The Tres Monetae standing left, each holding scales and cornucopia.
    RIC 670.
    Condition: Very fine.
    Weight: 16.2 g.Diameter: 25 mm.

    4. Roma example.jpg
    another reverse die match
    Roma Numismatics
    E-Sale 36, Lot 639, 27.05.2017
    Septimius Severus Æ Sestertius. Rome, AD 194. L SEPT SEV PERT AVG IMP III, laureate bust right / MONET AVG COS II P P, the three Moneta standing facing, heads left, each holding a scale and cornucopiae; SC in exergue. RIC 670; C. 335. 24.77g, 30mm, 6h.
    Near Very Fine.

    6. Emp Ham example.jpg
    One last rough reverse die match.
    Emporium Hamburg
    Auction 69, Lot 283, 04.04.2013
    RÖMISCHES REICH, Septimius Severus, 193-211
    AE Sesterz IMP III =194, Rom. Belorb. Büste r. Rs.Drei steh. Monetae mit Waagen und Füllhörnern. 25,04g. RIC 670, selten, ss

    A similar IMP III sestertius:
    5. CNG example.jpg
    CNG Electronic Auction 69, Lot 138, 23.07.2003.
    SEPTIMIUS SEVERUS. 193-211 AD. Æ Sestertius (32mm, 26.57 gm). Struck 194 AD. Laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, seen from behind / The three Monetae standing facing, heads left, each holding a scale and cornucopiae. RIC IV 670d var. (no drapery); BMCRE 508; Cohen 335. VF, brown patina, porous.

    Here are the examples I found in the British Museum online catalog(both IMP V):
    7. BM example 1.jpg
    8. BM example 2.jpg

    Please take a look, and share your thoughts. Here's the coin again, with a slight edit to contrast, and resized so you can zoom in more:
    1. CDMA example.jpg
    RIC 670d. 30mm, 24.16g.
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2020
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  3. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I have nothing to add. You might contact Curtis Clay through Hrlan Berk. I believe he has a die study of these.
  4. Salaethus

    Salaethus Well-Known Member

    I'd be thrilled to have Mr. Clay's expert opinion, though I wouldn't want to bother him. Hopefully he will see the post and reply at his own leisure. I'd be interested though if people think I've identified the reverse die matches correctly, and please post your coins of Septimius or his family. Also, here is another coin from the BM with a few different views. Really a good show case of how much the photo can change the look of the same coin. 9. BM example 3 C.jpg 9. BM example 3.jpg 9. BM example 3 B.jpg
  5. Volodya

    Volodya Junior Member

    I've sent a link of this thread to Curtis. I'm sure he'll have something to add.
    Pellinore and Salaethus like this.
  6. Julius Germanicus

    Julius Germanicus Well-Known Member

    Alberto Banti (I Grandi Bronzi Imperiali, Vol. IV-1) found 12 specimens of your type (Banti 71 = Cohen 338 = RIC 678 d = BMC 522 note) in museums and important collections in 1986 and illustrates the coin from Ars Classica 18, 1938 (from different dies) on p. 40.
  7. Salaethus

    Salaethus Well-Known Member

    Thank you very much for this further attribution. Banti is hard to get a hold of, but it sometimes seems very useful.
    Julius Germanicus likes this.
  8. curtislclay

    curtislclay Well-Known Member

    An interesting rev. type and a nice specimen, scarce like all sestertii of Septimius, apparently not in BM with this cuirassed only bust type, but as Banti's figures indicate (last post), not particularly rare.

    My 1972 die study found 29 IMP IIII sestertius obv. dies, 7 of them with cuirassed bust type (4 with legend division PERT - AVG, 3 with PE - RT). With this bust type and the Monetae rev. type: 14 specimens.

    Your dies: no. 1021 in my catalogue, obv. die 153, rev. die 231, 2 spec. known to me in 1972, in Paris and Naples.
  9. Salaethus

    Salaethus Well-Known Member

    Thank you mr clay for taking the time to offer your expertise. This further attribution is exactly the kind of info I was looking for. I greatly appreciate your input and that of J.G. above.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2020
  10. Julius Germanicus

    Julius Germanicus Well-Known Member

    Here is my cuirassed Sestertius, but with a different reverse type:

    L SEPT SEV PE-RT AVG IMP VIII – Laureate and cuirassed bust of Septimius Severus right, seen 3/4 from behind
    ADVENTVI AVG FELICISSIMO S C - Septimius Severus, in military attire, on horse prancing right, raising right hand in salute; in front a helmeted soldier advancing right, looking left, leading the emperor´s horse by holding it´s bridle in right hand and vexillum in left hand
    Sestertius, Rome 196 aD.
    30 mm / 19,06 gr
    RIC 719c; BMCRE 596; Cohen 8 var. (draped and cuirassed), CSS 227; Sear 6403, Banti 4
    ex Auctions Jean Elsen Nr. 142, 14.09.2019, lot 513 and Nr.143, 07.12.2019, lot 454

    Despite being rated "R2" by RIC and priced 25 F by Cohen, Banti lists a staggering 26 specimens for this type.
    The vast majority feature the legend division PERT - AVG, while the three other specimens with PE - RT that I could locate are from the same reverse die as my coin.

    I would be very interested about your die study on this type, too, Curtis :)

    It seems that while the early and late Sestertii of Severeus may be scarce, the bronzes from the middle of his reign are very rare and hard to come by.
  11. curtislclay

    curtislclay Well-Known Member

    I found 59 spec. of this sestertius with all bust types, from 17 rev. dies; plus 7 spec. from 2 rev. dies without Virtus leading the horse, as on the common denarii.

    Your dies: obv. 313, rev. 459, a new combination to my 1972 catalogue. I knew 3 spec. from this obv. die, coupled with 3 other dies of the same Arrival rev. type.

    Cohen gave retail prices for the types listed, not rarity ratings, so his 25 francs for the arrival type with Virtus, three times his base price of 8 francs for a sestertius of Septimius, was justified. It is not a rare type, but an elaborate one (two figures plus a horse!) commemorating a specific historical event, so considerably more interesting than say the two other sestertius types of the same issue, FORTVNAE REDVCI seated and TR P IIII Victory advancing, each priced at just 8 francs by Cohen.

    It was misleading of the authors of the of the original editions of RIC vol. II-IV, however, to treat Cohen's prices as straight rarity ratings without the necessary adjustment for desirability and saleability, and so to arrive at R2 for this comparatively common sestertius type, just because Cohen gave it a high price! On the other hand many very rare coins get low rarity ratings in these early RIC volumes, because they were ordinary-looking and of little interest to the average collector, so were priced at only a franc or two or were called "common" by Cohen!

    Yes, Severan bronzes, especially sestertii, are very rare for the middle period of his reign, from 198 to 209. Maybe 100 types are known for all five members of the imperial family, but only in a total of around 250 specimens, so averaging only a couple of specimens known per type, usually only from one rev. die. Maybe you are aware that I have written quite a lot about such matters in the Forum Ancient Coins discussion group and in the German Numismatikforum.
  12. Salaethus

    Salaethus Well-Known Member

    It's awesome to have experts like @curtislclay on this forum that can offer great insight into our ancient coins. Thank you and J.G. for all of the input you've given. I mainly wanted to identify die matches for my coin, and have gotten a lot of additional very useful information. I also apologise for any incorrect info in the original post. Thanks!
    Julius Germanicus likes this.
  13. Julius Germanicus

    Julius Germanicus Well-Known Member

    Thank you so much for the info, Curtis!!! This is the icing on the cake for any serious collector. Do you have any plans to publish your research?

    I found this interesting identification of the second figure on the reverse design as Roma herself in a NAC catalogue:

    "This important reverse type celebrates the arrival (adventus) of Severus at Rome following his first Parthian war in A.D. 196. On the reverse of the coin, Septimius Severus, now the undisputed emperor of the Roman world, enters Rome on horseback, raising his hand in greeting and led by a figure often described as a soldier, but who is clearly Roma, the personification of Rome. She is distinguished by her Amazonian dress and bared breast — features not in line the common Roman soldier of the second century. Similar adventus scenes, in which emperors on foot greet or are accompanied by Roma are known from earlier coins of Hadrian (A.D. 117-138) and a relief panel from the Arch of Marcus Aurelius. As such, the reverse type of Severus’ aureus casts him in the tradition of the ”good” emperors of the second century, but his mounted depiction gives his entry into Rome a somewhat greater triumphal quality than the earlier representations of Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius on foot."
  14. curtislclay

    curtislclay Well-Known Member

    Yes, Roma makes sense, since it was to Rome that Septimius was returning. Roma and Virtus are often hard to tell apart in coin types.
  15. Blake Davis

    Blake Davis Well-Known Member


    I had thought that this bust type was not overly rare - scarce yes. I have been collecting sestertii of Septimius for quite some time now and have seven examples of this bust type - of which I have posted two of the ones in nicer condition, including an IMP III of the Moneta type. One of these has an interesting double strike that is shown around 6 o’clock on the reverse. I have been unable to find another example of this reverse die.

    As a complete aside one thing that has been puzzled me is the scarcity of high grade sestertii of Septimius- I had assumed this was due to the lower relief of his earlier coins - but I could be wrong. I believe that the coins of Commodus in the last couple of years were rather poorly done and perhaps Septimius got some of that - but only as to relief - in other respects his sestertii are quite beautiful. And relief does not equal beauty - I had some high relief sestertii of Severus Alexander that were poorly executed. Should have saved them for illustration.

    I have also posted a very rare bust type of RIC 677 - Anonna. This bust type, is more common under Elagabalus.

    I have only seen in one other example of this bust type on a sestertius - on another RIC 677 I have also seen this type on medallions of Septimius. Why? This is one of those bizarre issues for which you do not have a clear answer until a clever numismatist figures it out or at least posits something credible. And this is one of the reasons why collecting ancient coins is so great - I paid maybe $40 for this coin for which there are probably only a handful of examples known with this type of obverse - but that doesn’t make it much more valuable (that is the nature of this hobby) but its rarity may be indicative of an unknown historic fact for which an answer may be found by a smart collector - who is also a student of history - since in order to fully enjoy this hobby you should also love history. Otherwise collecting these items is a barren occupation indeed.

    Not the most articulate post but I think the idea comes across- wish I had more time to post but work has been interfering with my time for the “hobby.”

    One more question - has anyone ever seen an ”Aequitas” reverse for Septimius on a sestertius? There are three types that I am looking for Septimius: Septimius alone on a horse (did he strike another Profectio type?), Liberalitas platform scene for two dates, and Aequitas (and while I am at it, the IMP X missing from my collection - I have only three). There are many rarities among the sestertii of Septimius but these are now at the top of my list. I had a chance at the Platform type but didn’t bid enough, and then the purchaser doubled the price. Se la vie. It’s a lifetime project.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jan 21, 2020
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  16. curtislclay

    curtislclay Well-Known Member


    Yes, that cuirassed bust seen from front comes from only one obv. die, my 161, and was known to me in 1972 combined with four rev. dies, one showing the Three Monetae, in Berlin, and the other three showing Annona standing, in Paris, BM, Vienna, and Bologna.

    Yours seems to be from my rev. die 251, so cat. no. 1041, previously attested by just BMC 521.

    AEQVITATI PVBLICAE Three Monetae is indeed a very rare sestertius type. I had it for Julia Domna and Caracalla in my first collection, but not for either Septimius or Geta.
  17. Salaethus

    Salaethus Well-Known Member

    The coin arrived today - nothing quite beats a nice heavy sestertius in hand! I think even this quick picture with my phone captures the dark brassy tone better than the dealer's photo. @Julius Germanicus, I think am starting to appreciate why you like these patina-less brass coins so much! Thanks again for the correction to my attribution, this is RIC 678d not 670d as the dealer had described it. I am still searching for a photo of a true die match for this obverse, as I like to have them in my files. 20200122_194937.jpg

    Septimius Severus, Æ Sestertius (30mm, 24.16g), Rome, 194 AD. L SEPT SEV PERT AVG IMP IIII, Laureate and cuirassed bust of Septimius Severus right / MONET AVG COS II PP, The three Monetae standing facing, heads left, each holding scale and cornucopia, SC in ex. RIC 678d, Banti 71, Cohen 338, BMC 522 note.
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