Tiberius Bronze As (Pontif Maxim), "R3" in RIC: Q. re Authenticity

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by DonnaML, Aug 1, 2021.

  1. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    I recently purchased, from a dealer in the UK whom I believe to be reputable, what purports to be an example of the Tiberius bronze As with the "Pontif Maxim"/seated Livia design that's the equivalent of the design on the so-called "Tribute Penny" denarius. I have not yet received the coin; in fact, I don't believe the dealer has sent it out yet. Here is my description, together with the dealer's photo:

    Tiberius, AE As, 15-16 AD, Rome Mint [bronze equivalent of “Tribute Penny” design]. Obv. Bare head right, TI CAESAR DIVI AVG F AVGVST IMP VII / Rev. Draped female figure [Livia, or Livia as Pax or Justitia]* seated right,
    with feet on stool, holding long sceptre with left hand and patera with extended right hand, PONTIF MAXIM TRIBVN POTEST XVII, S-C across fields. RIC I (Rev. ed. 1984) Tiberius 33 [listed as “R3”; see p. 96], BMCRE I Tiberius 65, cf. Sear RCV I 1769 (var. with Tiberius facing left). 28 mm., 10.9 g.

    Tiberius As Pontif Maxim (Pax - LIvia) COMBINED.jpg

    *See RIC I Tiberius, Introduction at p. 87: “As a type, the ‘Pontif. Maxim.’ design was far from informative. Modern scholars are not agreed upon its interpretation, some regarding the seated female figure as Livia in the guise of Pax, some as Pax-Justitia, some simply as the priestess Livia, revered as the wife of the first imperial pontifex maximus and the stepmother of the second. Its significance in the ancient world can hardly have been much more immediate than it is to the modern, and it was probably viewed as a type suggesting (in association with the legend) nothing more definite than sanctity.”

    I've purchased from this dealer before, and it didn't occur to me to question this coin's authenticity until I realized that the version of this As with Tiberius facing right is listed in RIC I as "R3" (see Tiberius 33, p. 96), meaning only "up to about 10 specimens" probably known (see id. p. xxii), with the left-facing version (Tiberius 34) merely listed as "scarce." I could find only five examples of Tiberius 33 on acsearch. (See https://www.acsearch.info/search.ht...de=1&fr=1&it=1&es=1&ot=1&currency=usd&order=1.) Comparing the example I bought to this example on acsearch sold by Bertolami in 2020 (28 mm., 11.16 g.), the details on mine look quite a bit softer and less sharp than on the Bertolami example (especially on the reverse), making me worry that mine might be a cast fake:

    Tiberius RIC 33 ACsearch example 1 from Bertolami.jpg

    I have little doubt that the dealer will issue a refund if the coin he sold me turns out to be a fake, especially under the rules of the Ancient and Medieval Coins Sales group on Facebook where I made the purchase. However, I don't want to raise the issue without first soliciting opinions more expert than mine. Nobody questioned the coin when it was posted in the group, despite the presence in the group of some very well-known dealers and other experts (not that I can assume that any of them looked closely at this particular coin). I would be happy to learn that my suspicions are unfounded! What do people think?
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2021
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  3. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    The letter styles on the coin you are considering are markedly different from the coin sold by Bertolami. They are quite crude and weak in certain areas, such as the upper loop of the "P" on the reverse. The portraits of Tiberius are different as well, as is the seated Livia on the reverse. The dots comprising the border on on the first coin's obverse don't seem crisp and separate, when compared to the border on the reverse of the second coin, but that might be just poor die engraving or die wear.

    On the other hand, the weight of the first coin seems to be in the acceptable range, at 10.9 grams.

    I really am not knowledgeable on this type. Perhaps there are die varieties, and more than one mint might have produced this type? If it is a provincial coin, that might explain the crudeness.

    I know there are provincial or branch mint sestertii and other bronzes of Claudius, but I am not sure about Tiberius.
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2021
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  4. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks. As far as I know, these were all minted in Rome, unlike the "Tribute Penny" denarii.
  5. JPD3

    JPD3 Well-Known Member

    If it is proven authentic, then you have quite a rarity. Having purchased from this dealer before I gather all of your prior purchases have been acceptable, no fakes. And if it is a cast replica and you get your monies refunded, then nothing is lost and the hunt continues for "The stuff that dreams are made of" (The Maltese Falcon, 1941). :)
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  6. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Though I have studied the various "tribute penny" denarii, I don't know much about the bronzes of this reverse type and whether the coin is truly rare or not.

    I do caution you, however, that the rarity designations in RIC are based upon the number of museum specimens in existence and not upon how often a coin is encountered in coin dealers' stock or auction listings. There are lots of coins that RIC labels as "common" even though they are next to impossible to buy and lots that RIC claims are "rare" but which one could purchase any day of the week.
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  7. Roerbakmix

    Roerbakmix Well-Known Member

    I don’t see any red flags - the pits look like corrosion and not the effects of casting.
    Could you share some photos of the sides? A casting ridge, or file marks to hide it are suggestive of casting.

    Also, I recently noticed that @Barry Murphy posted in some other thread: perhaps he could weigh in?
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  8. Ignoramus Maximus

    Ignoramus Maximus Nomen non est omen.

    Are any pics of the right-facing variety available? If it is rare indeed, then chances are one of them is a (partial) die match to yours.
    I agree yours looks a bit soapy ( the 'B' in tribvn' looks odd as well), but I don't feel qualified to make any sensible statements on authenticity.
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  9. IMP Shogun

    IMP Shogun Well-Known Member

    I think it’s real but fits the category of having work done that impacts the style. I can see the argument for casting bubbles but it looks like the smoothed and tool corrosion to me.
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2021
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  10. Ryro

    Ryro The last of the Diadochi Supporter

    It would be pretty silly to smooth and possibly tool a fake (I certainly see signs of smoothing on the obverse behind and in front of the portrait).
    Screenshot_20210801-102838_Chrome.jpg Screenshot_20210801-102903_Chrome.jpg
    Was it disclosed?
    If not and it bothers you as much as me I'd reach out before he sends it and request a refund and save some time.
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  11. cmezner

    cmezner do ut des Supporter

    At Forum Ancient Coins you can ask for their opinion. That's what I would do. They are very forthcoming and professional. Have asked them myself in the past.

    You can find at Jochen's Asses a Tiberius Pontif Maxim / Livia seated :

    Tiberius RIC 31 - yours seems to be like this one:confused:
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  12. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    I agree that it looks mostly authentic, but with some corrosion pits. Of course, if you want to absolve yourself from all doubt you could choose not to take delivery of it.
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  13. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks. I'm aware of that distinction, but in this case I found only five examples on ACSearch. Which certainly suggests rarity, given how many coins have hundreds of examples there.
  14. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks. The pits certainly concern me as possible casting bubbles. I don't have the coin yet, so I can't tell you what the sides look like. I could ask the seller if he has any, or could take some given that he wasn't planning to mail the coin out until tomorrow.
  15. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    I included a photo of one of the right-facing variety in the OP, and gave a link to four others at acsearch. I haven't compared them closely, but no die matches jump out at me. As I mentioned, what strikes me is how soft/soapy the details look compared to the five examples at acesearch.
  16. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks. I don't believe for a moment that this dealer either knowingly sold me a fake, or engaged in any smoothing or tooling himself. But I can easily see a previous owner smoothing and/or tooling a fake if he didn't know it was a fake and/or to improve his chances of selling it.

    In general, smoothing alone doesn't bother me that much, especially since I know how common it is with ancient bronzes. Tooling is another matter -- I wouldn't knowingly purchase a tooled coin.

    I do think I will email the dealer today and ask him not to mail the coin out tomorrow, or until the issue of authenticity, etc. is resolved. In fact, I will send him a link to this thread so he can see the discussion. I am contemplating simply asking him for a refund at this point. Alternatively, I could suggest raising the same question in the Facebook group where I made the purchase, and asking people's opinion there.
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  17. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks. That's another possibility. @Jochen1's example is actually also RIC I Tiberius 33; the 31 must be a typo. Here it is; the reverse looks a bit more like mine than the ones at acsearch do, I think:

    tiberius_33 Jochen example.jpg
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2021
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  18. ominus1

    ominus1 When in Rome, do as the Romans do Supporter

    ..i'd say its legit...a lil smoothing i can live with, yours doesn't look too bad...but its your call in the end...i have a Ti pontif max Divi Augustus As. not quite the same as yours Donna..(and i swear, every time i dig it out, its more worn than the last time:p) IMG_0543.JPG IMG_0544.JPG 24mm, 10.92gms Ref. Sear 1770
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  19. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    I have written to the dealer to ask him not to mail out the coin, and for a refund, on the basis of the authenticity (and/or smoothing and tooling) issue. At this point, even if people think it might be authentic, I can't get the issue out of my mind. I suggested that if he's not willing to issue a refund without further consideration, I should raise the issue in the Facebook group where I made the purchase, and/or on Forvm Ancient Coins. (I didn't give him the link to this discussion, because there's really nothing definitive either way so far, but did send him the photo of the Bertolami coin and the link to the other examples at acsearch.)
  20. curtislclay

    curtislclay Well-Known Member

    Judging from the photos, the coin looks definitely authentic to me, and not smoothed. Almost all ancient bronze coins have been cleaned, but "smoothed", strictly defined, means "with metal removed to eliminate pitting or corrosion". In my opinion that has not happened to Donna's piece, nor to Jochen's illustrated above, though both of them have had deposits removed from their surfaces.

    I don't think this As is particularly rare with portrait right; RIC's "R3" rating is probably just an error. Vindonissa excavation coins catalogued by Kraay: 9 head l., 9 head r. BM: 2 head l., 3 head r. Paris: 2 head l. (1 an obverse brockage), 2 head r. Verona: 3 head l., 3 head r.
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2021
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  21. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks, Curtis. That's very reassuring.
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