Why do sestertii cost more than the denari?

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by JayAg47, Oct 18, 2020.

  1. JayAg47

    JayAg47 Well-Known Member

    I always see on average a sestertius going for higher than a low-mid grade denarius, is it because it's hard for a sestertius to survive decent enough, or is it due to its elaborate artwork compared to a denarius (at least the imperial ones), or because they simply just weigh more than a denarius despite the difference in the metal?
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    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    You're dead on both of the first two times. Weight? not so much.
  4. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    The intrinsic value of the metal has nothing to do with an ancient coin's price. Collectors appreciate the artistry of the coins and a sestertius is simply a bigger canvas for the artist. A high-grade, problem-free sestertius with an interesting artistic motif will bring well over a thousand dollars at auction. For this reason, this is NOT my coin:


    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    ...You might be venturing just a little into the hyperbole end of the pool, @Roman Collector. Ancient gold coins...? But no, @JayAg47, he speaks truth!
  6. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter I dig ancient coins...

    I agree that it is largely about the artistical pallet and room for more interesting reverse devices. As you may know, in ancient times a sesterce was worth 1/4 denarius. This fixed relationship blew up with the crisis of the third century when in Gallienus' time the sestertius was was suddenly not issued anymore, corresponding with the final, and total, debasement of the antoninianus.
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  7. Hamilcar Barca

    Hamilcar Barca Well-Known Member

    Like a coin dealer friend of mine says, bigger and brighter is better.
  8. dltsrq

    dltsrq Grumpy Old Man

    The sestertius did survive as a unit of account. The AE3 centenionalis of Constantine, for example, is believed to have been valued at 100 sestertii.

    At one time, the word "centenionalis" was thought to connote 1/100 but more recently, Latin linguists have noted that the construction of the word implies a multiple rather than a fraction.
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2020
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  9. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter I dig ancient coins...

    I'd trade one AE3 of Constantine for 100 sestertii any day!!!
  10. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    Perhaps people hoarded silver coins rather than brass because if the bottom fell out they would retain intrinsic value, especially relative to the size, portability and weight of base metal sestertii. Thus, more silver coins likely to survive to today as most of the coins we have today have come, and are coming, from hoards buried and never recovered until more recently. One silver denarius of about 3.5 grams is worth the same as four 20 gram brass pieces. Which coins would be easier to carry, hide and bury? Also bronze coins could be demonetized and become almost worthless whereas those denarii are still of silver. More silver denarii buried back then, equals more silver denarii in the market today.
  11. Theodosius

    Theodosius Unrepentant Fine Style Freak! Supporter

    Silver is a less reactive metal so it tends to survive in better condition. The heavier weight of the sestertius lends itself to more impact dings and wear. I think there is also a psychological factor where buyers feel they are getting more value buying a large and heavy coin too.
  12. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter I dig ancient coins...

    Good point. Just think about all of the sestertii, dupondii, and ases that were melted down or oftentimes just overstruck by the Byzantines. I think that the bad money drove out the good resulting in hoarding for the rainy day, especially for intrinsically valuable silver. Because of the troubled times a lot of the stuff that was buried in pots or amphoras was never recovered...
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  13. IdesOfMarch01

    IdesOfMarch01 Well-Known Member

    Personally, I'm not sure that this generalization is 100% statistically accurate. It might be possible to support this by analyzing sales posted on ACSEARCH, CNG, etc., but I'm not sure that it would be worth the effort. It also would depend on your definition of "average" and "mid-grade."

    I do believe that high grade sestertii tend to command higher prices than high grade denarii, with some notable exceptions in the latter category such as the Ides of March denarius. This might be due to any number of reasons, not the least of which is (as has been mentioned) that due to the more reactive nature of copper as compared to silver, fewer of these coins survive in VF+ condition than denarii.
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  14. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    ..all good answers....bottom line...it all boils down to what one is willing to pay and what the other is willing to accept..and how many know about it..:)
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  15. Kentucky

    Kentucky Supporter! Supporter

    In buying ancients from e-bay (OK, I know not good), I often see dealers who have bad feedback from customers saying "It was so small"
  16. Terence Cheesman

    Terence Cheesman Supporter! Supporter

    I would follow Roman Collectors thoughts about sestertii. I think overall they are more scarce and more difficult to acquire in high grade. Furthermore because of the larger canvass that these coins provide there is greater scope for the Roman die cutters to display their skills both on the obverse but as well as on the reverse. One can see some rather interesting vignettes of Roman political life in action such as this one. Sestertius of Hadrian 119-120 AD Obv. Bust of Hadrian right laureate. Rv. Lictor standing left before three citizens torching a heap of documents to the obvious delight of his audience. RIC 592a (old) RIC 264 25.61 grms 32 mm Photo by W. Hansen hadrians9.jpeg
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2020
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  17. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    There's a reason I own two sestertii and close to 100 denarii, and it's not that I have anything against sestertii. It's that the ones I really like are too expensive for me. If I'm looking at a denarius and a sestertius that cost about the same, the denarius has about a 99% chance of being significantly more appealing to me.
  18. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    Me, personally? I like larger coins. I enjoy feeling the heft of the coin, enjoy running my fingers over the details, and ejoy the larger canvas for artistry.

    I don't mind small coins; I have an Anastasius I nummus I adore, but I would rather have a big coin than a small one.

    I know that if I melted down a Julio-Claudian denarius I would get a great deal more melt value than if I melted down a similar sestertius, but I don't care about metal value - I care about a big, heavy coin that I can touch. (sort of how I like my women?)
  19. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    This is a bit TMI for me. But I have to ask, which collection is larger?
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  20. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    This is where Roman Provincial coins come it! Big, beautiful, and affordable!

    Gordian III, AD 238-244.
    Roman provincial Æ Pentassarion, 13.30 g, 27.1 mm, 7 h.
    Thrace, Anchialus, AD 238-244.
    Obv: ΑVΤ Κ Μ ΑΝΤ ΓΟΡΔΙΑΝΟC ΑVΓ, radiate, draped and cuirassed bust, right.
    Rev: ΟVΛΠΙΑΝWΝ ΑΓΧΙΑΛΕWΝ, Nude athlete standing facing, head right, holding palm branch and wreath.
    Refs: AMNG II, 632.3, p. 276; Mionnet Suppl. 2, 136; RPC VII.2, — (unassigned; ID 48982); Corpus Nummorum Thracorum cn.anchialus.4915.
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  21. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    @DonnaML, between @hotwheelsearl's post, and yours, I'm not done chuckling. ...Glad, on both counts, that you said that, and I didn't!
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