Roman Republican Coins - Denominations, Size, Weight

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Topcat7, Mar 20, 2017.

  1. Topcat7

    Topcat7 Still Learning

    I was wondering if someone could assist me, (and others), please, by providing (or pointing to) a chart that details the various denominations of Roman Republican Coinage?
    For example, Denarii, years of mintage, and size and weight for those years, and relationship (value) to other denominations from the same period. (2x Quinarius etc.)
    Also for Quinarii, and Victoriatus, (and others)?
    I have been (trying) to follow these but have only succeeded in getting confused. I have a number of coins from this period and whenever I think that I know what I have I am thrown into doubt by reading more information (posts).

    of mine are (silver) Imperial coinage:
    20mm at 3.95gm, Denarius
    17mm at 3.18gm, Denarius?
    15mm at 2.10gm, Quinarius/Victoriatus?
    14mm at 1.50gm, Quinarius/Victoriatus?
    13mm at 2.10gm, Quinarius/Victoriatus?

    (Dr. Google has only confused me further.)

    Edit: While the 'mm' descend evenly, the 'gm' are all over the place.
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2017
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  3. Alegandron

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

  4. rrdenarius

    rrdenarius non omnibus dormio Supporter

    The answer is that weights varied a good bit. Heavy examples of the earliest denarii (211 BC) weighed 4.5 grams or more. The weight dropped to 4.0 grams about 200 BC and varied, but usually going lower. If you want to know about a coin you want to buy, look for examples on CNG, acsearch, wildwinds, VCoins, MA Shops, etc. You can see what other examples look like and get a feel for size and weight. I give 3 examples below. I just bought a Chilo. I stopped recording examples at 100, but you can see a plot of weights. Below are coins of NATTA and Balbus. It is interesting that the more recent coin weighs a bit more, but both average 3.8 grams with a 0.2 Standard Deviation.

    L. Flaminius Cilo, Cr 302/1, 109 BC
    CILO Roma 2.18.17.jpg

    NATTA, Cr 208/1, 149 BC
    NATTA AA 12.15.13 OBV.jpg NATTA AA 12.15.13 REV.jpg
    Max 4.08 grams; 20.7 mm
    Min 3.21 grams; 17.0 mm
    Avg 3.781 grams; 19.047 mm
    St Dev 0.222 grams; 1.064 mm
    examples = 62

    Balbus, Cr 316/1, 105 BC
    Max 4.06 23
    Min 2.79 15
    Avg 3.82 19.3
    St Dev 0.195 1.24
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  5. Alegandron

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

    I have a couple "hefty" Denarii that are above the 4.0g mark. Kinda fun to have a fat one!

    Since they made so many to a pound, then they would weigh out a batch. If there was too much weight for the quantity, then they started "scooping" silver off the coins. :) I always felt these may had been the earlier ones minted in the batch, and you got a little extra silver! :D

    None of my thoughts may be true, but being a manufacturing guy, I could just imagine the minting / production process and everyday issues... :)

    RR Aemilius Scaurus and Plautius Hypsaeus 58 BC AR Denarius camel scorpion quadriga 4.1g 19mm Rome Craw 422/1b

    RImp Julius Caesar Lifetime P Sepullius Macer AR Den Jan-Mar 44 BCE 4.03g. CAESAR – DICT PERPETVO Veiled - Venus Victory sceptre star Syd 1074a Sear Imperators 107e Craw 480-14 Rare -2
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  6. gregarious

    gregarious E Pluribus Unum

    haha! "kind of fun to have a fat one" ><
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  7. Carausius

    Carausius Brother, can you spare a sestertius?

    Don't worry about the weights too much. The weights varied throughout the Republican period, but the denominations remained mostly unchanged with respect to each other.

    The main bronze unit was the AE As, which initially equalled one Roman pound, but reduced over time. It is made up of 12 Unciae. The coins typically bear marks of value.

    As = 12 unciae. Mark of value I.

    Semis = 1/2 As or 6 unciae. Mark of value S.

    Triens = 1/3 As or 4 unciae. Mark of value oooo (4 pellets).

    Quadrans = 1/4 As or 3 unciae. Mark of value ooo (3 pellets).

    Sextans=1/6 As or 2 unciae. Mark of value oo (2 pellets)

    Uncia = 1/12 As. Mark of value o (1 pellet).

    Semiuncia = 1/24 As. Mark of value Sigma on some, or no mark on others.

    Quartuncia = 1/48 As. No mark of value. A shortlived denomination.

    AR Denarius=10 Asses, later reassessed at 16 Asses. Mark of value X or XVI. Later Republic, no mark.

    AR Quinarius = 5 Asses or 1/2 a denarius. Mark of value V. Later Republic, no mark.

    AR Sestertius = 2.5 Asses or 1/4 denarous. Mark of value IIS. Later Republic, no mark.

    There are some very rare denominations too like the Dupondius and the Dodans, which I'm not bothering with here! I hope this helps.

    The Victoriatus was a trade coinage, weighting about the equivalent of a southern Italian Greek drachm, which does not really fit in to the As/Denarius system. It was used for payments to cities, soldiers and trade who accounted in drachms.
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2017
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  8. Alegandron

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

    I have one of those weird AE Quincunx... 5/12ths of an As... 5 Uncia...

    WHY WHY WHY were these made??? Well, I just had to have it...

    RR Anon AE 23 Quincunx 6-96g Apollo P behind Dioscuri Luceria 5 pellets Cr 99-4 Syd 309 S 910.jpg
    Roman Republic
    AE Quincunx 210 BCE
    Apollo Pi (control behind)
    Dioscuri Lances Leveled 5 pellets 6.96g
    ex RBW
    Craw 99/4; Syd 309; Sear 910
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  9. gregarious

    gregarious E Pluribus Unum

    has anyone ever figured out why there were pellets on coins?
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  10. Carausius

    Carausius Brother, can you spare a sestertius?

    They were marks of value. See my post above. One pellet = one uncia.
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  11. Alegandron

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

    OOps, @Carausius beat me to it.

    12 Uncia to an As, each pellet denominated as an Uncia. Hence, 6 Uncia was a Semis (Half-As), 4 Uncia was a TRIENS (third of an As), 3 Uncia was a QUADRANS (4th of an As), 2 Uncia was a Sextans (6th of an As)... shown as number of pellets on the coin...

    Hence, my WHY-the-Hades did they make a Quincunx (5 pellets or 5/12ths of an As)???

    The Dodans was 10/12ths (kinda weird), and the Dupondius was 2 As or 2 Libral POUNDS of Bronze... around 600+ Troy Ounces... or approaching a KILOGRAM as a COIN! LOL
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  12. Alegandron

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

    NAILED it! Thanks!
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  13. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    This is the important part. There was relatively little effort to have every coin weight exactly the same as every other coin in that batch. The idea was to make a number from a pound of silver. With practice, I suspect the workers got pretty good pouring out the right amount but the scoop idea was even more accurate. Lets say they wanted to get 72 coins from a pound. They would start with very slightly more than a pound of silver to allow for what was lost in the process (stuck to the tools etc.). Then they would pour 72 blanks and weigh the whole batch. If it weighed over a pound, they would scoop a little silver from some coins and weigh the batch until the total was finally exactly a pound. There seems to have been little effort to scoop from the heaviest flans and there are even rare examples that were scooped twice. This system was explained in a paper by Clive Stannard so we call these adjustments 'Stannard scoops'. After a while, the mint stopped doing it as suddenly as they started. Why they did not just take silver from the edges I do not know but it might be that doing so would allow coins to be trimmed or 'clipped' by people outside the mint while the scoops were done before striking. Many people consider scooped coins to be damaged and ill not own one. I collect them but pay less in most cases unless the scoop is interesting in some way. They vary in the number of stutters made by the scooping tool and I find added interest in those with more stutter marks but more collectors who will own one just want one to demonstrate the idea. Some are cut more deeply and some are nearly erased by the striking with dies. Often the thin spot creates a weak spot on the opposite side of the coin.
    r14800bb3113.jpg r26400bb0514.jpg

    My example with the most stutters (10?)
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  14. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    For the record, the Romans did not invent the dot idea. Greek cities of Magna Gracea were doing it in the fifth century. They used different names for the fractions but they still used one dot for 1/12 of the larger unit.

    Hexas of Syracuse

    Trias (1/3 or 4/12) of Akragas

    Tetras (1/4 or 3/12) of Akragas
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  15. Alegandron

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

    LOL, well now I have to go get some Stannard Scooped Denarii! I knew about this, but never really thought to have some. Now, I want... :)

    I agree with your comment about the mint NOT clipping the edges, that it would encourage everyone to clip the coins in circulation.

    Thanks for the super explanation!
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  16. red_spork

    red_spork Triumvir monetalis Supporter

    There are a few things to remember here. First: the weight standards declined over the years. The earliest struck bronze asses for instance started out around 60-70 grams and the earliest denarii about 4.5 grams. The bronze quickly declined to a 40 or so gram as and a 4 gram or so denarius. By the time of the social war the bronze as was about 10 grams and the denarius about 3.9g and during the Imperatorial period you had issues like Antony's at an event lower weight standard. On top of that, single coin weights evidently mattered little to the Romans. Coins were made a certain number to a pound of silver or bronze, so the weight of the batch was more important than the weight of a single coin and while the denarii are almost always in the 3.5g-4.5g range there are exceptions and it is even weirder with the bronzes. I have in my photofile die matched pairs where one example is nearly twice the weight of the other. Both were on the extreme end of the weight scale but it goes to show that these things are flexible.
  17. Carausius

    Carausius Brother, can you spare a sestertius?

    That's true! I didn't mean to imply otherwise, though I may have inadvertently done so by saying "one pellet = 1 uncia".
  18. rrdenarius

    rrdenarius non omnibus dormio Supporter

    The Quincunx I have is a five dotter. According to Vecci, ICC, this coin series was based on a 10 uncia coin. The 5 dot coin weighed 30 to 43 grams.
    P8171257.JPG P8171259.JPG
    Central Italy cast Quincunx, mint - Apulia, 217 - 212 BC
    O & R - wheel with 4 spokes
    TV - 281
    V - 345
  19. Alegandron

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

    Nice Quincunx Gene!

    I have a Lucuria Quincunx also, and I understand some of the Greeks and some of the Central Italia used 10 Uncia to an As. But the Romans? They were always 12 Uncia to an As...

    Apulia Luceria AE Quincunx 23mm, 14.75g - Spoked Wheel 250-217 BCE Athena-Wheel Grose 443 HN Italy 678 SNG ANS 699.JPG
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2017
  20. Topcat7

    Topcat7 Still Learning

    My thanks to all who responded, (esp. @Alegandron and @Carausius and @dougsmit .)

    You have all given me a lot to assimilate. I have already started to construct my own 'reference' list from which I can re-assess my 'Republic' coins.

    Thanks to you, I have done a lot more reading and I can already see that this is not a 5 minute 'fix', but something for me to 'grapple' with on an on-going basis.

    Thank-you to all, again.
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2017
  21. gregarious

    gregarious E Pluribus Unum

    O ok thanks:) i suppose this is something that was copied by or from the Carthage coins?
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