Value of and Acceptability of Roman Provincials

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by kevin McGonigal, May 6, 2022.

  1. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    I was going over my collection recently and noticed something I had not thought of earlier. What I noticed was that if one pairs Roman Provincial coins and Roman Imperial coins of approximately the same time period with each other they often look so similar, at least to my eyes, that I started wondering if they were enough alike that they passed at par with the coins of the Imperial mints and if so would they have passed at par or at a discount if presented in the market place at other provincials cities or in the Latin speaking Western portion of the Empire. In the case of silver coins the value may have been different enough that one had to find the local money changer to make necessary changes but in the case of the bronze, the weights of the local coinage and that of the Imperial mints was so close, and the Imperial portraits on the coins so similar, that they may have passed at the Imperial value. I have pictured below some of the coins I think might have passed at par with Imperial issues in the Latin speaking West.

    I guess what I am looking for is information on how provincials were valued. Would an Eastern, Greek inscribed brass provincial of about the same weight as an Imperial issue be accepted in the West as the simulacrum of coins from an Imperial mint? Are there any literary or numismatic hints of this from ancient times? Anyone make any studies on this aspect of Provincial coinage, their value outside the city of issue? Do readers have any Provincial coins that are very similar in appearance and weight to the Imperial coinage and might have passed at par with them and if so could you post them?

    Now, for some of these coins. First I have paired (top, left) an As of Augustus with what is usually considered a provincial issue, one from a Spanish mint and legends in Latin. The weight of the Imperial As is 10.6 grams, and that of the Spanish mint is 10.8 grams. The second pairing (top, right) is that of sestertius sized coins of Caracalla with his father Septimius Severus. The bronze of Caracalla weighs 17.5 grams (mint of Serdica) and the Imperial of Septimius 23.8 grams. The third grouping (lower left is of three dupondius weight coins of Geta at 13.72 grams from (Nikoplis) Caracalla at 12.67 grams (from Stobi) and an Imperial dupondius of Commodus at 13.9 grams. Lastly are two silver coins, a denarius of Caracalla at 2.8 grams and a drachma from Caesarea (Cappadocia) of Septimius at 2.94 grams. So, what think you? You are a merchant at a stall in Rome and these Provincials are what your buyer wants to pay in. Do you accept them at all? At par? At a discount? Send him to the corner money changer? Of course the real question is what did the Romans do in such a situation.
    IMG_2223Roman Prov. obv..jpg IMG_2224Roman Provincials rev..jpg
    Last edited: May 6, 2022
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  3. medoraman

    medoraman Supporter! Supporter

    I don't have anything handy sir, but I would postulate that PM coins would trade at par, and copper not. Remember bronze and orichalcum always were token coinage, trading at a value in excess of metal content. PM coins, at least until the great 3rd century debasement, effectively traded at PM value. I have read both Greek and Roman accounts of trips where the travelers would make sure to have PM coins in their purse, as local bronze would not be accepted at face value at other locations. Also to influence my opinion would be the fact that if bronze were accepted across the empire at face value, why aren't their more eastern token coins found in western sites? Legions and traders moved around constantly, if they circulated at par there should be more Eastern provincials found in the UK, France, Spain, etc. Sure, occasionally, but they are unusual enough to warrant special attention.

    Just my thoughts sir. In my head, I envision travelers converting all money to PM based before leaving an area to ensure maximum value, then using local token coinage only locally once they arrive somewhere.
  4. Terence Cheesman

    Terence Cheesman Well-Known Member

    Daniel Sperber in his book "Roman Palestine 200-400 Money and Prices" argued that the Imperial aes were overvalued against those aes coins minted by the cities in Roman Palestine. 417KAX5Xj1L._SL500_.jpg
    This may have been close to 25%. This had the effect of driving out the Imperial aes coinages from the east, leaving the region open for local coinages. This policy would also have the effect of discouraging the eas from the east from circulating in the west. Now Sperber's book really only discussed Roman Palestine, however to varying degrees this would be true throughout the empire where local coins are being used. There have probably been efforts made to create a local coinage that would trade on par with the Imperial aes. This may be one such coin. Septimius Severus Ae 30 "Sestertius" Antioch in Pisidia 205- 211 AD Obv Head right laureate Rv. Victory flying right holding trophy in both hands. Kryzanowska XXX/41 22.62 grms 30mm Photo by W. Hansen pisidant septsev5.jpg This coin is roughly the size and weight of an Imperial sestertius however what sets it apart is the inscription S R I wonder if this might be a reference to Sestertius Romanum. As my Latin is non existant I would really love to hear from anyone if my theory has any validity. If it is nonsense Please shoot it down.
    Last edited: May 6, 2022
  5. DonnaML

    DonnaML Well-Known Member

    I don't know about Provincial silver tetradrachms in general, like those issued in Antioch, Tyre, etc., but I believe that the cistophoric tetradrachms of Augustus -- which are classified both as Imperial and as Provincial coins -- were equal to three denarii, and traded at that rate. See the entry for "Cistophorus" in John Melville Jones’s Dictionary of Ancient Roman Coins (London 1990), at pp. 55-56.
  6. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    Is there consistent proof that local Greek and/or Roman colonial coinage from the Balkans and/or Asia was regularly used anywhere in the West? The purpose of the colonial coinage was to supply means of exchange in the city mainly and throughout the local chora, usually prior to the so-called 'recovery of the Empire'. Normally the most one would expect to use a local AE was inside the confines of the area and/or province. There were however periods of money shortage, mostly felt in the small economy at times. For instance Severan Imperial AE was never enough to supply the whole "West" let alone the whole Empire. As a result the Severan period is the most plentiful in local coinages in the Balkans and Asia. There were also provinces that had a shortage of ANY coinage -- Pannonia, Moesia or Dacia were in such predicament after ca. 220 -- which possibly encouraged the proliferation of the so-called 'limes falsa' downstream on the Danube and even the semi-official import of coinage from the most prolific Asian mints like Nicaea in Bythinia to be used on the Danube trade. This seems to stop with the establishment of the Dacia and Viminacium coinages in the 240s.
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  7. medoraman

    medoraman Supporter! Supporter

    Good information. It would somewhat fit into my thinking, that AE coinage only had value at the point of a sword, and the empire could enforce its own coinage throughout, but local coinage traded at a discount. However, it also shows why provincial coinage disappeared, as it would always be a temptation to enforce the higher tariffed coins to more people to increase profit to the emperor, (just like Roman Egypt did).
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  8. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    Good point on the infrequency of provincial coinage found today in what was the Latin speaking half of the Empire.
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  9. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    I like this coin. I think I have to get one. The SR could stand for some variation of your suggestion, Sestertius Romanus, or alternatively Senatus Romanus. HOLD THE PRESSES. I just found out that the SR stands for Symmachos Romaion or Socia Romanorum (Roman ally or allies). This according to an earlier post here on Coin Talk. Wayne Sayles has it as SR standing for Senatus Romanus in his Vol IV, p.51 of his Roman Provincial Coins. Take your pick but it began with Septimius and was used for several decades on coins of Pisidia.
    Last edited: May 6, 2022
  10. robinjojo

    robinjojo Well-Known Member

    This is an interesting thread. I am not familiar with the relationship that Roman imperial coinage had in the empire vis a vis provincial Roman coinage. Certainly goods and services were paid through a combination of the two, since it is hard to conceive of any way imperial and provincial coinages were relegated to their individual spheres of circulation.

    With Athenian owls, which circulated through a wide swath of the eastern Mediterranean and beyond, the situation was totally different: the owls supplanted whatever local coinage existed, in silver at least, as the premiere coin of commerce. This dominance lasted until the flood of Alexandrian tetradrachm was issued from the later 4th century BC and beyond. Even with that, owls and their imitations continued to be issued in some parts of the East, notably Arabia, to the first century BC.

    It is hard to draw conclusions abut where and ancient coin was found, lacking proper documentation, which is the heavily predominant case, but coins do come to the market in what is pretty close to "as found" condition, which suggests a find of a local or regional nature.

    This Caligula AE As came as part of a small lot of rough and somewhat dirty Roman bronzes from Israel. I think it can be reasonably assumed that it circulated within the Levant, perhaps an within an even broader region.

    D-Camera Caligula AE as Vesta 37-38 AD 10.25 grams eBay 1-23-22.jpg

    What value did this As have in relationship to other coinages of this period and later periods?
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  11. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    I’m pretty sure that eastern drachms, such as those camel ones from Bostra were traded at equivalent values to the imperial denarius.
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  12. DonnaML

    DonnaML Well-Known Member

    That would be inconsistent with the idea that the Eastern tetradrachm (outside Egypt, which had a closed monetary system) equaled three denarii rather than four, but I don't know how universally that rate of exchange applied. Those Trajan camel drachms -- which Butcher and Woytek strongly argued were either struck in Rome or had their dies engraved in Rome -- certainly looked a lot like his "Arabia with camel" denarii, and were very close to them in both weight and diameter.
    Last edited: May 6, 2022
  13. Blake Davis

    Blake Davis Well-Known Member

    beautiful coin and a great series!
  14. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    When local coinage stops could also provide some insight into why it stops. For instance in the Danube provinces and the Balkan area it stops with the Gothic invasions of the late 240s, when many issuing cities that have continued their Greek tradition of issuing local AEs were either utterly destroyed or impoverished to the point of destitution. In certain places in Asia Minor and the general East like Smyrna, Cyzicus, Sagalassos or some other places in Pisidia or Pamphylia local coinage goes as far into the 3rd century as Claudius II Gothicus and Aurelian. When these stop it might have to do with two things - the Palmyrene Empire revolting against Aurelian and Aurelian's reformation of the Imperial coinage. The last local coinage stops at Alexandria in 294, again due to the general reformation of the monetary system under Diocletian.
    Last edited: May 11, 2022
  15. dltsrq

    dltsrq Grumpy Old Man

    One contemporary note on relative value can be found in the Gospel of Mark, composed in the 60s CE. In the parable of the widow's mite, the evangelist mentions (12:42) that two (Judaean) lepta equal one (imperial) quadrans.
    Last edited: May 11, 2022
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  16. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    There is a book that might answer the question:

  17. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    Do you know if this book is on line?
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