Featured The first year denarii of Domitian

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Orfew, Aug 29, 2019.

  1. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    The denarii of Domitian’s first year as Augustus


    Obverse Legends

    IMP CAESAR DOMITIANVS AVG (Group 1)

    A)IMP CAES DOMITIANVS AVG PONT (Groups 2,3,& 4)

    B)IMP CAES DOMITIAN AVG PONT (Groups 2,3,& 4)

    C)IMP CAESAR DOMITIANVS AVG PM (Groups 2,3,& 4)

    D)IMP CAES DIVI VESP F DOMIT AVG PONT (Groups 2,3,& 4)

    E)IMP CAES DIVI VESP F DOMITIAN AVG PM (Groups 2,3,& 4)


    Reverse Legends


    1)TR P COS VII (Group 1)

    2)P P COS VII DES VIII (Group 2)

    3)COS VII DES VIII P P (Group 3)

    4)TR P COS VII DES VIII P P (Group 4)


    Reverse Types

    1)Curule chair with wreath

    2)Dolphin coiled around anchor

    3) draped seat with winged thunderbolt

    4a)Seat with semi-circular frame and 3 crescents

    4b) draped seat triangular or semicircular frame with corn ears (the triangular option only applies to RIC 14 in Group 2)

    5) Triangular frame with palmettes

    6a) Tripod with fillets and dolphin

    6b) Tripod with fillets, dolphin, wreath and ravens.

    7) The lighted altar

    8a) Minerva advancing right with spear and shield

    8b)Minerva standing left with Victory and sceptre with shield at feet.


    NB: All of the information above with the exception of the list of reverse types comes from Carradice & Buttrey, RIC II Part 1 (2007)


    Introduction

    I was looking over my first year denarii for Domitian as Augustus, and was surprised to find that I had collected 10 of these coins. While there are some common coins in this first year, my examples are either R or R2. (R3 is the highest level of rarity and means one example was known to the authors of RIC at the time of publication).


    I am very interested in the denarii of the first year because there are a few mysteries to be solved. First is the order of the groups. The order of the 4 groups of denarii in 81 CE discussed here comes from RIC II Part 1 (2007). RIC comments that the order of the groups is for convenience only. The denarii of Group 1 provide the titles that Domitian would have started with immediately after his accession. These are AVG, IMP, and TR P. So here is the mystery. If group 1 denarii were struck first then why do the denarii of groups 2 and 3 omit TR P from the list of titles in the legend only to have it reappear in group 4 ? However, this is not the only interesting feature of these denarii. For example, when you look at groups 2 and 3 what separates them is where the P P is placed. On group 2 denarii the P P appears before the rest of the reverse legend. On group 3 denarii the P P appears after the rest of the reverse legend. Why change the position of P P in the reverse legend? Also, since groups 2 and 3 both use the same obverse legends, is it possible that group 3 was actually struck before group 2? Group one includes another mystery. RIC 3 is a very interesting coin. It is a group 1 denarius so it was supposedly issued before the PONT denarii that occur in Groups 2-4. However, this coin has Litvvs on the reverse. On coins with Pontifical implements such as the famous Caesar elephant denarius, the inclusion of a device such as a Litvvs represents the priestly responsibilities of the leader. If Domitian had not yet added PONT or PONTIFEX MAXIMVS, why would he have included a Litvvs signifying pontifical power? The answer might be as simple as Domitian copying the reverses for Titus. Denarii are known for Titus that include the triangular frame both with and without the Litvvs (RIC 124). If Domitian copied the other denarii for his Group 1 denarii, then I suppose that this one too was copied.


    There is yet another mystery. How did the mints manage to produce coins so quickly after the death of Titus? Titus died September 13th81 CE. All of the denarii from the 4 groups were struck between the death of Titus and the end of the year. So how did the mint manage the turn around so quickly? There is a clue in the Group 1 denarii. RIC 6 is a mule. It has an obverse for Domitian but uses a Titus reverse with TR P IX. This is very interesting because at first glance this would seem to be impossible. The TR P IX coins (RIC 100-132) were all supposedly struck before June 30 of 80 CE, because Titus assumed TR P X on July 1 of 80 CE. How then could TR P IX be used on a Domitian denarius from over one year later? Carradice & Buttrey suggest that for some reason TR P IX dies continued to be used after Titus assumed TR P X ( p. 185). They also state that “Mules usually combine dies in parallel or at least in closely contemporaneous use…” ( p. 185). So the mints were possibly already turning out a large output of coinage near the time that Titus died. The mint then used their resources to strike the coins of Domitian using many of the same reverse types struck for Titus. This is all speculation of course. The actual explanation for how the coins of Domitian were produced so quickly is still a mystery. The other mystery as to why coins with TR P IX were used after Titus assumed TR P X may be solved one day but more work is to be done.

    PONT Denarii

    Another interesting feature of these denarii is the use of PONT in the obverse legends in groups 2, 3, and 4. If group 1 denarii were struck before the addition of the title PONT it makes sense that group 1 denarii do not include this title. However, groups 2,3, and 4 all contain denarii that have both PONT and denarii that use PM in the obverse legends. The speculation is that PONT was used as a placeholder of sorts until Domitian was formally granted the title of PONTIFEX MAXIMVS or PM. If this is the case the why do denarii in each group use both PONT and PM? Remember that these groups are ordered by the reverse legends and not the obverse legends. Group 2 contains only denarii and is comprised of 12 types. Of these types 9 of them contain PONT in the obverse legend. All of the coins in Group 2 are R2 or R3. (In other words Group 2 denarii are either very rare or extremely rare). In 2 years I have seen 1 come to market for sale. Unfortunately, I missed it and so I have no Group 2 Domitian denarii. David Atherton has 2 I believe, after years of searching for them.


    I have 3 of the PONT denarii, RIC 21, RIC 40, and RIC 68. RIC 21 is in Group 3; RIC 40 and RIC 68 are in Group 4.On 2 of my PONT denarii (RIC 21 and RIC 40) the legend reads IMP CAES DOMITIANVS AVG PONT (Obverse A). On RIC 68 the legend reads IMP CAES DOMITIAN AVG PONT (Obverse B). There are 10 types of Domitian denarii using DOMITIAN and 18 for DOMITIANVS. These PONT denarii use one other legend: IMP CAES DIVI VESP F DOMIT AVG PONT (Obverse D). I do not have an example using this legend. There are only 3 types with this legend and they all R2 (very few examples known). Of the group 2 PONT denarii 5 are obverse A, 3 are obverse B, and 1 is obverse D. Within the Group 3 PONT denarii 7 are Obverse A, 3 are Obverse B, and 0 examples for Obverse D. In the group 4 denarii, 6 are obverse A, 4 are Obverse B and 2 for Obverse D. So within each group Obverse A examples are always more prevalent than Obverse B. Also, Obverse B examples are always more plentiful than Obverse D examples.

    Reverse types

    The reverse types for these first year Domitian denarii re-use many of the reverses for Titus as Augustus. These reverse types include: 1)Curule chair with wreath, 2)Dolphin coiled around anchor, 3) draped seat with winged thunderbolt, 4a)Seat with semi-circular frame and 3 crescents, 4b) draped seat triangular or semicircular frame with corn ears 5)Triangular frame with palmettes, 6a)Tripod with fillets and dolphin and 6b) Tripod with fillets, dolphin, wreath and ravens. In Group 1 there is 1 example of reverse type 1, 1 example of reverse type 2, 1 example of reverse type 3 and 2 examples of reverse type 6b (one is a mule with a reverse legend for Titus). In group 2 a new reverse type appears for Domitian and a variation of a previous reverse type is also added. Type 7 has a lighted and garlanded altar. This and All other reverse types in Group 2 are carry overs from the reign of Titus with the exception of a modification to reverse type 4 which I am calling reverse type 4b. Group 2 has one example of Type 7, it is a PONT denarius obverse A. Type 7, the lighted altar, also occurs in groups 3 and 4. In group 2 there are 4 examples of reverse type 1. Three of these are PONT denarii. There is one each for Obverses A, B, C, D. Only the Obverse C example is not a PONT type. There are 2 examples of the type 2 Obverse (dolphin and anchor) and both are PONT denarii. One is Obverse A, and one is Obverse B. There are 2 examples of reverse type 4b (draped seat triangular or semicircular frame with corn ears). One is a PONT denarius with Obverse A, and one uses Obverse C. There are 2 examples of reverse type 4a (Seat with semi-circular frame and 3 crescents). One is a PONT denarius with Obverse A, and 1 uses Obverse E. The use of obverse legend C which includes PM, while prominent in Groups 3 & 4 and used on both common and rare coins, is present on only 2 examples in Group 2 and both are R2. In Contrast, Obverse legend E, which also uses PM is only used on rare coins in groups 2, 3, and 4.


    Group 3 introduces us to a new type for Domitian as Augustus, the Minerva reverse. The Minerva reverse was used earlier for Domitian as Caesar. The Minerva reverse comes in 2 varieties. Reverse Type 8a) has Minerva advancing right with spear and shield. Reverse type 8b) has Minerva standing left with Victory and sceptre with shield at feet. It is worth noting that while 8a) becomes the M1 type Minerva when the Minerva reverses dominate the denarii of Domitian, type 8b) does not become a standard type. I think is a shame as I quite like the Minerva with Victory reverse. In Group three RIC records only one example for each of 8a) and 8b). In both cases they are Obverse A Pont denarii. The altar type (Type 7) seen first in Group 2 is shown in 2 examples in group 3. One is obverse A (a PONT denarius) and one is obverse C, and both are R2. Type 1 (Curule chair and wreath) has 3 denarii. There is one each from obverse groups A, B, (both are PONT denarii) and C. All are at least R2 regarding rarity. There are 2 denarii for type 2 (dolphin and anchor). One is Obverse A (a PONT denarius) and one is Obverse C. There are 2 examples of reverse type 4a denarii. One is obverse A (a PONT denarius) and the other is Obverse C. There are 2 more types that appear in Group 3: One is reverse type 3 with the Thunderbolt, and the other is 6a the type with the seat semi-circular frame and 3 crescents. For type 3 there are 3 obverse legends used, A, B, and C. The first 2 are PONT denarii. For type 6a obverse types A, C, and E are used. A is a PONT denarius. All of these denarii are very rare to extremely rare. What is interesting here is that in 2 cases (obverses C and E) use PM in the legend.


    Group 4 introduces only one new type. It is 8b) Minerva standing left with Victory and sceptre with shield at feet. There are 3 types of denarii, RIC 60, 62 and 63. There is 1 for Obverse A (a PONT denarius) 1 for Obverse C and 1 for Obverse E. Both Obverse C and E use PM in the obverse legend. However, RIC 62 with Obverse C is a much more common coin than RIC 63 with Obverse E. What is interesting is that the coins in Groups 2 and 3 that use Obverse C are all rare coins. In Group 2 Obverse C is sparsely used. In group 3 Obverse C is used for 8 types of denarii and all of these are rare to very rare. In Group 4 Obverse C is used for 7 types (RIC 43, 48, 54, 58, 62, 70, and 74). All of these coins are rated common. So what can we say here? The evidence supports the assumption that regardless of Obverse legend, it is the reverse legend that seems to control the relative rarity of the denarii. While true that PONT denarii are rare to extremely rare, it is telling that these rare coins appear in groups like 2 and 3 which are generally dominated by rare coins. In general it is possible to say that Coins in Groups 1, 2, and 3, are generally rarer than coins in Group 4. Or perhaps we should say that Group 4 contains a higher percentage of common coins that the other 3 groups. Therefore, we can get a general idea of rarity by using the reverse legends.


    RIC 64 and 65 are interesting because of the reverse types they use in combination with 2 different Obverse legends. RIC 64 uses 4b) draped seat, semicircular frame with corn ears while RIC 65 uses reverse type 4a) Seat with semi-circular frame and 3 crescents. Note that only in the case of RIC 14 in Group 2 does RIC offer the option of triangular or semi-circular frame. RIC 64 uses Obverse legend C) IMP CAESAR DOMITIANVS AVG PM. This legend occurs 12 times on the denarii of group 4. Note that all of the common coins in group 4 use Obverse C. RIC 65 uses Obverse legend A)IMP CAES DOMITIANVS AVG PONT. Note that RIC 64 is R while RIC 65 is R2. This is not surprising as all PONT denarii are at least R2. However, just because all common coins use Obverse legend C does not mean that all coins using this obverse legend are common. RIC 64 uses Obverse legend C and is given a rarity designation of R for rare. Another interesting piece of information about these reverse is that while Groups 2 and 4 have both revers types (4a and 4b), group 3 only has examples of 4a (Seat with semi-circular frame and 3 crescents). RIC 31 is a PONT denarius using Obverse legend A (IMP CAES DOMITIANVS AVG PONT), and RIC 32 which uses Obverse legend C (IMP CAESAR DOMITIANVS AVG PM). Both are rare coins with RIC 31 rated as R2 (as one should expect with PONT denarii), and RIC 32 rated as R for rare.


    The other reverse types in Group 4 are all carried over from the reign of Titus. Perhaps this solidifies the notion that Group 1 had to be first because it used already existing types while all subsequent groups, regardless of the order, added types under Domitian such as Minerva with Victory which was not used by Titus and therefore not used in group 1. In other words perhaps Groups 2, 3, 4 show the beginnings of some experimentation with the coinage under a new emperor.


    Conclusion

    I find the coins of Domitian’s first year as Augustus fascinating. There are mysteries here including the use of or omission of titles, the ordering of the 4 groups of denarii, and the appearance that coins with PONT and those with PM instead were struck near the same time (if the groupings in RIC are correct). According to David Atherton one possible explanation for this is thatmany of the groups were struck contemporaneously, probably due to different workshops using separate dies. Another possible explanation comes from RIC. Perhaps PONT and PM denarii were struck at the same time because “of the survival of unused PONT dies after PM was introduced” (Carradice and Buttrey, 2007 p. 239). Coins with reverse legend 2)P P COS VII DES VIII (Group 2) are generally rarer than coins in groups 1, 3, and 4. Coins with reverse legend 3)COS VII DES VIII P P (Group 3) are generally rarer than coins in groups 1 and 4. All coins with PONT in the obverse legend are rare. In fact in groups 2, 3, and 4 where PONT denarii occur they are always at least as rare as the rarest coins of other Obverse legends. In Many cases the PONT denarii are the rarest coins in the group.



    Group 1 denarii


    Domitian, Denarius, 81 Rome (Group 1)
    Obv: Laureate head of Domitian right., IMP CAESAR DOMITIANVS AVG
    Rev: Dolphin coiled around anchor.,TR P COS VII
    RIC: 2 (R); BMC 3 RSC 551
    Purchased from Numiscorner on Vcoins
    February 23, 2019

    Domitian RIC 2.jpg

    Domitian. AR denarius (18.15 mm, 3.36 g, 7 h). Rome A.D. 81. (Group 1)
    Obv: IMP CAESAR DOMITIANVS AVG, laureate head right
    Rev: TR P COS VII, draped throne, back decorated with grain ears. RIC 3 (R); BMCRE 2; RSC 554a.
    Ex: William Rosenblum Coins Ex:Agora Auctions March 22, 2016 lot 52-174
    Purchased from Agora Auctions March 22, 2016.

    new domit combined small.jpeg
    Domitian. AR denarius 81 CE (Group 1)
    (16.88 mm 3.02 g,). Rome mint, struck A.D. 81.
    Obv: IMP CAESAR DOMITIANVS AVG, laureate head right
    Rev: TR P COS VII, draped throne, back decorated with grain ears Lituus beneath
    the frame.
    RIC 3 Var (R);. RSC 554a Var BMC 2 Var
    Ex: Akropolis Ancient Coins June 22, 2017.
    Domitian Ric 3 Var.jpg


    Group 3 denarii


    Domitian AR Denarius 81 CE September 13-December 31
    Rome
    Obv: Laureate Head right: IMP CAES DOMITIANVS AVG PONT
    Rev: Curule chair, above wreath; COS VII DES VIII P P
    RIC 21 (R2), RSC 58, BMC 7* p. 299 Not in RIC plates
    Purchased from Ebay, August 4, 2019.
    Submitted to Wildwinds
    Domitian RIC 21 new.jpg

    Domitian AR Denarius 81 CE
    2.9 g
    Obv: Head laureate r; IMP CAES DOMITIANVS AVG PM
    Rev: Minerva adv r with spear and shield; COS VII DES VIII P P
    RIC 28 (R2) RSC 56a BMC p. 433
    Purchased from Ebay

    Domitian ric 28 new.jpg
    Domitian
    A.D. 81 CE (Group 3)
    AR Denarius
    (18x19) mm (3.2) g
    Obv: IMP CAES DOMITIANVS AVG P M; laureate head right.
    Rev: COS VII DES VIII P P; Seat, draped; above, semicircular triangular frame decorated with three crescents.
    RIC II Rome 32 (R); BMC 10; RSC 60
    Purchased from Victor Clark January 19,2018
    Domitian RIC 32.jpg

    Group 4 denarii

    Roman empire - Domitian (81-96 AD.) silver denarius
    (2.87 g 18 mm). Rome. 81 AD
    Obv: IMP CAES DOMITANVS AVG PONT, laureate head right
    Rev: TR P COS VII DES VIII P P, a lighted altar
    RIC II 40. (R2) Not in RIC plates
    Purchased from Lucernae on Catawiki auctions May 2019
    Domitian RIC 40 new 2.jpg

    Domitian AR Denarius 81 CE (Group 4)
    Obv: Laureate head right, IMP CAES DOMITIANVS AVG PM
    Rev: Seat draped, above semi-circular frame decorate with three crescents TR P COS VII DES VIII P P
    RIC 67 (R); BMC 17
    Purchased from Romanrum.com
    March 1, 2019
    domitian RIC 67.png

    Domitian AR Denarius
    (3.13gr 18mm)
    Obv: IMP CAES DOMITIAN AVG PONT; laureate head right
    Rev: TR P COS VII DES VIII P P; seat, draped, above, a winged thunderbolt placed horizontally.
    RIC 68 (R2) BMC --, RSC--
    Ebay: August 24, 2019
    Domitian ric 68.jpg

    Domitian, as Augustus (AD 81-96). AR denarius Rome
    13 September-31 December AD 81
    (18mm, 3.02 gm, 6h).
    NGC Choice Fine 4/5 - 4/5.
    Obv: IMP CAES DIVI VESP F DOMITIAN AVG P M, laureate head of Domitian right Rev: TR P COS VII-DES VIII P P, pulvinar of Jupiter and Juno, draped, surmounted by thunderbolt.
    RIC II 72 (R2), BMC--, RSC--, Cohen--
    2019 August 18 Ancient Coin Selections from the Morris Collection, Part II Monthly Online Auction #271933Lot # 35169

    Domitian RIC 72.jpg
     
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  3. furryfrog02

    furryfrog02 Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the write up!
    I gotta say, my favorite of all the coins posted is the first. I've not seen that reverse before. Thanks for sharing!
     
    Orfew likes this.
  4. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic Supporter

    My thoughts on the matter as we previously discussed:

    There is no easy answer to this problem. The conventional wisdom states the mint shuttered in mid 80 because it was damaged to some degree during the great fire of Rome that summer. The Titus/Domitian mule, plus the fact the mint was instantly up and running for Domitian from day one, sit uneasily with that traditional view.

    Personally, I believe the answer lies with the bronze coinage of Titus, which may very well have been struck right up until Titus' death.
     
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2019
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  5. Ryro

    Ryro You'll never be lovelier than you are now... Supporter

    Wonderful write up, coins and some intriguing mysteries!:artist:
    Thanks so much for sharing:)
    I have, admittedly, ignored his coinage due to ancient hyperbolic negative propaganda left to us by senators and individuals who's power he had castrated.
    Here is my lone denarius of the Flavian who scoffed at the over fed up upperclasses to the point of damning his own legacy all for, what he perceived as, the good Rome.
    9A516932-2803-4B5D-860C-2DE826A10F0F.png
    Domitian
    81-96 CE. Denarius, 3.44g. (h). Rome, 81 AD. Obv: IMP CAES DOMITIANVS AVG P M Head laureate right. Rx: TR P COS VII - DES VIII P P Wreath on curule chair, the legs of which terminate in lions' paws. RIC 48 (C ). BM 18. Paris 17. Cohen 570 (2 Fr.). Not a common coin: just five specimens in RekaDevnia hoard. Good VF

    PS, your last coin has a toning to kill for!
     
  6. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic Supporter

    I suppose this can be added here - Ian Carradice's arrangement of Domitian's first year issues from his Coinage and Finances in the Reign of Domitian A.D. 81-96 (1983).

    20190829_200235.jpg 20190829_200302.jpg

    It's pretty much the template for which the new RIC II.1 arrangement is based.
     
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2019
  7. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    Thanks David. I appreciate your posting that information. I would love to have that book, but the only examples I could find were over 200.00 USD.
     
  8. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic Supporter

    If you're planning to specialise in Domitian it is well worth foregoing the purchase of a coin or two.
     
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  9. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic Supporter

    I had to go back and look, but actually I have three Group 2 denarii. This one being the jewel of the bunch.


    D16.jpg Domitian
    AR Denarius, 3.43g
    Rome mint, 81 AD
    RIC 16 (R2). BMC - . RSC - .
    Obv: IMP CAES DOMITIANVS AVG PONT; Head of Domitian, laureate, bearded, r.
    Rev: P P COS VII DES VIII; Seat, draped; above, semicircular frame decorated with three crescents
    Acquired from Germania Inferior, June 2018.

    Here are my notes concerning the type:

    Domitian seems to have been somewhat in a hurry to strike coins as Augustus after Titus' death in mid September 81 AD, presumably for a legionary donative. This denarius was struck before Domitian had been awarded the power of the tribunate (TR P) and pontifex maximus (PM). Here his only titles are Augustus (AVG), Imperator (IMP), Consul for the 7th time (COS VII), and pater patriae, father of the country (P P). Perhaps it may have taken a few days for the Senate to award the power of the tribunate to Domitian because they had assembled at the small town of Reate where Titus had died and needed to be in Rome in order to vote him the right. The religious ceremonies required for Domitian to assume the title pontifex maximus had not yet finished by this time either, here he is simply PONT, or in other words a member of the College of Pontiffs. Some have argued that PONT is the same as PM, I disagree. Titus as Caesar early on had also used the title PONT on his denarii and he was never pontifex maximus under Vespasian - only the emperor can be Pontifex Maximus or greatest priest. Although this Group 2 denarius is not part of Domitian's first RIC issue, it is very likely to have been struck within the first few days of him assuming the purple. RIC notes the chronology is not precise with these issues from 81 and they are grouped only for 'convenience'. Judging by the rarity of the Group 2 denarii they could not have been struck for any great length of time.
     
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  10. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    Wow David, that is a fantastic coin! I love the toning on it and that portrait is great! Thanks also for posting your commentary. The more I learn about these first issues for Domitian, the more I am intrigued by them.
     
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  11. Terence Cheesman

    Terence Cheesman Supporter! Supporter

    I have only one coin from this period.
    Aureus of Domitian Obv IMP. CAES. DOMITIANVS AVG. P.M. Rv. Lighted and garlanded altar. TR. P. COS VII DES VIII P.P. RIC 42 7.17 grms 19 mm I believe this reverse type is also seen on coins of Domitian as Caesar though with a different legend. 5994321 (2).jpg
     
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  12. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    A very lovely coin. Yes, you are right. RIC 265 (Titus) is an aureus has the lighted altar with the reverse legend PRINCEPS IVVENTVTIS. The Denarius is RIC 266. If you could only have one that is a beautiful one to have.
     
  13. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    Thanks for the kind words @Ryro . Thanks also for posting that coin. I really like it.
     
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  14. Clavdivs

    Clavdivs Supporter! Supporter

    That was a very interesting read @Orfew - thank you.
    Great coins!
     
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