Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Ocatarinetabellatchitchix, Jul 11, 2021.

  1. Ocatarinetabellatchitchix

    Ocatarinetabellatchitchix Supporter! Supporter

    With the hundreds of thousands of dies used by the Romans to produce the coins, we hardly have anything left, a handful at most. And it must be admitted that many of these dies were those made by ancient forgers or modern counterfeiters. This is quite normal given the fact that the normal fate of a coin die was either to break naturally or to be broken after use to avoid counterfeiting. Conversely, the discovery of many Gallic dies constitutes an indicator of a strike much less subject to control, perhaps of a private nature.

    Cavino's die, BNF Paris.

    The study of monetary dies constitutes the very foundation of a large number of numismatic research and in any case of those aimed at providing the corpus of a coinage. This tool was not popularized until the end of the 19th century, at a time when the development of photography made it possible to compare specimens preserved in different places. The study of dies quickly established itself as a particularly effective research tool. Classifications had in fact remained until then based mainly on style and sometimes on discoveries of hoards. During the 20th century and to the present day, it can be considered that almost 30% of all gold and silver issues of Greek coins have now been subject to die study. This percentage is much lower for Greek bronze (less than 10%) and much lower still for Roman coinage, inhibited both by the size of the material to be considered and by the possibility of better extrapolating the productions from the hoards.

    The subject of this thread is to discuss the use of dies in a particular situation: when an emperor died (often assassinated) and was replaced by his successor. The procedure in place in all mints was the destruction of all the dies of the late ruler and the production of new ones displaying the portrait of the new emperor and also reverses with often a modified propaganda message. One can sometimes imagine, based on the artistic style, that the same engravers kept their jobs even after the change of direction at the head of the Empire.

    Two of my coins from Lyons, and I believe the same engraver worked on the obverse dies...?

    But can we think that some dies were kept for a certain period of time, especially in times of civil war, then reused on the coins of the new Emperor? And by carefully examining the dies of certain periods, could we discover numismatic evidence for this hypothesis? We can answer yes to these two questions. How ? By scrutinizing the research of two very patient numismatists, Colin.M. Kraay, who studied in detail the Aes de Galba coinage, and also H.H.Gillham who specialized in Laelianus coins.

    Here are some very interesting examples that I hope you will appreciate.
    I'm very pleased to have been able to find a die match between my old Marius and a Laelianus. Note the wear on my example compared to the almost brand new die of the other usurper...


    (Not my coin)

    Now can you find the difference between the two coins below ? The Galba is dated from 68 AD, the Vespasian from 71, a difference of 2 1/2 years but definitely a die match !

    British Museum London

    Münzkabinett Berlin

    The world record of all time: the same die reused for three different Emperors
    : Galba, Vitellius and Vespasian. (Plate pictures from Kraay's study)


    A last example of two Medallions; I know they were not produced for circulation, but anyway it shows the fact that dies were not always destroyed, even after 6 years ! The first reverse is from Marcus Aurelius dated 162AD, the second one (
    they added the legend TRP VIII IMP IIII COS III) from Lucius Verus dated 168 AD. Look at them carefully...same dies...

    Please show us your own examples of die-matches or post your comments about this thread !
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2021
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  3. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Dominic, Excellent article :happy:. The three reverse die matches on the sestertii are remarkable :jawdrop:! I posted the obverse die match on the coins pictured below a long time age. The reverse dies are different.

    Antioch-Syria, Caracalla, AD 205-207. AR Tetradrachm: 14.32 gm, 27 mm, 11 h. Prieur 202. Ex Michel Prieur Collection.
    Caracalla, AD 205-207, Antioch, Syria, AR Tet., 14.32 gm, 27 mm, 11 h. Prieur 202.jpg Ex Hirsch 284, lot 2939, Sept. 2012 (2).jpg

    Antioch-Syria, Caracalla, AD 205-207, Ex Hirsch 284, Lot 2939, Sept 2012.

    The two Republican denarii pictured below are reverse die matches, but the obverse dies are different. I'm pretty sure the bottom denarius belongs to a CT member, but I can't find the file info (I'm a bad book keeper :().

    Q. Antonius Balbus, 83-82 BC, Rome Mint. AR Serrate Denarius: 4.07 gm, 19 mm, 5 h. Crawford 364/1d.
    Serrate Denarius, AR 4.07 gm 19 mm, Crawford 364-1d.jpg

    364.1d     Q. Antonius Balbus (82 BC).jpg
    Crawford 364/1d.

    PeteB, Bing, FrizzyAntoine and 5 others like this.
  4. Ocatarinetabellatchitchix

    Ocatarinetabellatchitchix Supporter! Supporter

    FrizzyAntoine likes this.
  5. Heliodromus

    Heliodromus Active Member

    According to RIC VI, there's a solidus reverse die that was used both for Constantius I as caesar c.300 AD, and for his son Constantine I as augustus c.310 AD - some 10 years later !

    The two coins are RIC VI Antioch 16, and RIC VI Antioch 126 (see RIC VI footnotes on pages 614 and 634). The reverse type is a clasped hands design with "AVGG" legend, but I've never been able to find a photo of either type.
  6. Ocatarinetabellatchitchix

    Ocatarinetabellatchitchix Supporter! Supporter

    Very interesting details. For the difficulty to find a picture, it's often complicated in the greatest Collections. Imagine in Budapest ! I know there is another medallion in Berlin from Marcus Aurelius reused by Commodus 11 years later...but can't find a picture. I also read somewhere that a small provincial mint (can't remember which one) reused a die over 50 years after it was first used !
  7. Ryro

    Ryro The last of the Diadochi Supporter

    Wonderful coins, write up and well thanks for sharing your talent to this our CT polis.
    And cause, let's be honest, Greek Coins are just more sexy:kiss::artist:
    I'd also like to know what % RR's dies have been studied compared to the Emperors:bookworm:
    And pardon the recent repost but this is on target.
    In his excellent post on die breaks,
    @Sulla80 made this hilarious gif of my coin and two others, perhaps double die matches:

    And like the hour (that's how you spell it, right?) I am I will also repost this, one of my three most recent ex @bcuda and @Ardatirion wins from CNG, ancient die:woot::wideyed:
    Antoninus Pius. AD 138-161. Forger’s PB impression or die for a sestertius (35mm, 53.60 g, 12h). Copying a Rome mint issue of AD 161. CONSECRATIO, four-tiered funeral pyre topped by facing quadriga; S C in exergue; all in incuse and retrograde. Cf. RIC III 1266; cf. Banti 75 (for official strike). A few scratches on reverse, spot of roughness. VF.

    From the WD Collection, purchased from David Vagi, January 2007. Ex New York Sale XI (11 January 2006), lot 374.

    When a counterfeiter prepared his dies, he could either engrave them himself, in a style easily to be distinguished from official mint issues, or he could use a genuine, mint-issued host coin. He would then impress this design into a piece of piece of metal and affix it to the iron die-shaft. This object may represent a counterfeiter’s first attempt, a practice strike in lead, as lead is generally too soft a metal for striking coins.
  8. Ocatarinetabellatchitchix

    Ocatarinetabellatchitchix Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks @Ryro for the link about die breaks; I've missed it !
    Ryro likes this.
  9. Clavdivs

    Clavdivs Supporter! Supporter

    Another wonderful article that deserves to be featured. Thank you of your efforts. So very interesting.
  10. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Dominic, Thanks for that info :happy:.
  11. Ricardo123

    Ricardo123 Well-Known Member

    My 2 crispo twins. X 2 die match !

    PeteB, Ryro, Heliodromus and 3 others like this.
  12. J.T. Parker

    J.T. Parker Well-Known Member

    Great article but I can't help but wonder if in all the excavation of Ancient Greek (500-300 B.C.E.) sites, have there ever been Greek coin dies come to light? One would assume they are out there. Maybe I'm just ill informed.
  13. Ocatarinetabellatchitchix

    Ocatarinetabellatchitchix Supporter! Supporter

    @J.T. Parker this is the one and only picture of a Greek coin die I've been able to find:

  14. J.T. Parker

    J.T. Parker Well-Known Member

    Thanks chitchinx,
    I have never seen such an early die. Do you think there are others that have survived and been found?
  15. Blake Davis

    Blake Davis Well-Known Member

    Terrific article! I have noticed, however, in examining Roman coins that in many instances where I saw a die match on first examination, further inspections revealed small differences indicating different dies. This illustrates the skill of the celator in keeping uniformity among the coins. For example, I think you are saying that the reverse dies of Marius and Laelianus are the same but I am not so sure - there are several differences - such as the curve of one of the arms, and lines in the dress. Still even if different the similarity may indicate it was the same person who made the dies, whether the same or not.
    I will try to post an interesting die match later.
  16. Blake Davis

    Blake Davis Well-Known Member

    PS Doug Smith has an excellent article on die studies that I went back to again after reading this piece.
  17. Ocatarinetabellatchitchix

    Ocatarinetabellatchitchix Supporter! Supporter

    I may be wrong about the matching, I didn't superposed the two coins to be sure. One thing we have to remember is that often worn dies were recut by the die-engravers to give them a "new life", so we can find tiny differences between them. But even if my two specimens don't match, one thing is for sure: in his remarkable work, Mr. Gilljam recorded 24 reverse dies inherited by Laelianus' usurpation and reused during the reign of Marius !
  18. Cherd

    Cherd Junior Member Supporter

    I'm fairly ignorant of how these things were/are done, so forgive me if these are stupid questions. But, it seems to me that, if possible, it would be way more efficient and consistent to create dies from master dies. For instance, use a master die in positive relief that is used to stamp production dies before hardening (Not sure if "hardening" only applies to steel, or if there was an equivalent with alloys used back then).

    So, when we say "same die" in this context, are we talking about dies that were somehow produced from the same master? Or are we talking about an individual object that was used multiple times? Is it possible that it could be a mix of both?
  19. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter


    In antiquity there were no master dies; each was hand-carved by a die engraver and die-matches came from the exact same dies.
  20. Cherd

    Cherd Junior Member Supporter

    I tend to find that I underestimate the state of technology in antiquity. But, even while taking that into account, I'm constantly blown away by the quality, detail, and overall aesthetics of ancient coins. The fact that they were able to accomplish the mass production of an even semi-consistent product with those technological limitations is really impressive.
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