Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Blake Davis, Jun 12, 2021.

  1. Blake Davis

    Blake Davis Well-Known Member

    I have read that in the 19th century collectors were much more interested in rarity (as opposed to condition) than today - it could be that most ancient coins were not available in higher grades in an era before the metal detector and organized hoards of diggers (sorry for the pun). Or it could be that history was more important and a coin that had historical value would be prized much higher than a more common coin in splendid condition.

    My area of interest is Severan sestertii. One of the interesting aspects of this area is the rarity of coins from the period approximately 199/200AD to 207/208AD when the Rome mint ceased production of sestertii in all but small quantities, perhaps for special celebrations. Some types are only known by a handful or even a single specimen. The provinces supplied the bronze coins for the empire. In fact, despite searching for a number of years for sestertii from this era I have only a single sestertii of Septimius Severus, the Di Patrii type which I have posted on this site and a single example of Geta, also posted. DSCN9057 (2).JPG DSCN9058 (2).JPG Caracalla as Augustus Sestertius RECTOR ORBIS 34mm 22.51 grams, ANTONINUS AUGUSTUS/RECTOR ORBIS RIC 410

    And until a few days ago, I did not have any of Caracalla.

    The reverse of the above coin roughly translates as "Leader of the World," an irony given the youth of the newly minted emperor. The coin would likely have been struck soon after (??) Septimius Severus elevated his ten year old son Caracalla to Augustus in January 28, 198. This would have been shortly after Septimius's seasoned legions bested Clodius Albinus in 197AD. Septimius' prior appointment of Caracalla as Caesar and forthcoming elevation of other son Geta a few years later echoed Vespasian's famous statement that either his sons would succeed him or no one

    I apologize that time is too short to put in a full description of the historical events that gave rise to this coin. I would urge readers to check into it - the happenings of the time period from 193AD to Caracalla's assassination in 217AD are fascinating.

    This bust type of the above coin is among my favorite in the imperial series - this type is readily available as a denarius and high grade examples are relatively inexpensive. That is unfortunately not true for sestertii of this type - despite a diligent search, there is only one other RECTOR ORBIS sestertius known to me - in the British Museum, also a worn example.

    Aside from my coin, of the three types of sestertii of Caracalla from 199-201AD I have only seen one other, an unlisted Miner Victrix which was sold on German ebay a few years ago. That coin still haunts me. I do not believe I have ever seen an example of the third type, although I have not done much of a search.

    The above coin is a die match to the BM example, and purportedly shows the face of Caracalla on the reverse figure. The two existing examples are not clear enough to confirm this. The coin is very nearly medallic, which supports the notion that it was struck in limited quantities. And yes, the coin is worn, but to me it is beautiful . Yes, I would have loved to buy the same type in a top grade but it is only the fact that it is worn that made it affordable, and it still took over seven months of begging and borrowing to raise the purchase price!

    I much hope that those who have studied coins from this period, such as Mr. Clay and Mr. Smith, will be able to provide more information on the coin and the circumstances under which it was struck. The BM example came to the museum though a gift in 1927 - since then not a single other example has been found, to my knowledge. But then again, it is the nature of this hobby that dozens of examples could come to market tomorrow - all it takes is one hoard. Or possible there are several others in existing collections. I would of course welcome it if other examples are found - anything that brings more knowledge of the type and period in which it was struck is good news indeed. Right now my knowledge of the coin is very limited - I do not know its pedigree, I do not know if there are other die examples - what I have put down here is it.
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2021
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  3. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    It is kind of surprising that the pattern of minting sestertii after Pertinax and Didius Julianus kind of comes to a halt. But the provincial bronzes of Caracalla are quite plentiful. Also note that the drachms of Alexandria, already rare under Severus, seem to have been minted in only very minor quantities as the debasement of the tetradrachm continued until it became a potin coin, eventually disappearing entirely.
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  4. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I find the interesting question to be why they made any at all if the economy was still satisfied with the leftovers from the previous century. Some of the special occasions seem served by asses which I wonder might be equated with UK Maundy coins. What hands first received the sestertii in this period? We have buckets of worn Antonines and quite a few early SS sestertii. Did prices jump making them as useful as US half dollars today? Not counting tax. What use is any US coin?
  5. Blake Davis

    Blake Davis Well-Known Member

    I always assumed that since the soldiers were paid in silver and gold, Septimius could care less about the bronze, the coin of the provincial hoi polloi (am I using that correctly? - I don't know the Latin equivalent). But what about the poorer people of Rome? I have not a clue as to why he struck any sestertii at all during this period - it sure wasn't to satisfy the needs to future coin collectors. All I can think of is that these were special celebrations but why aren't there more of them?
    kevin McGonigal likes this.
  6. Blake Davis

    Blake Davis Well-Known Member

    By the way there is a very rare sestertius of Geta on German ebay, but it looks a bit....- anyone else see this and the others being sold?
  7. Blake Davis

    Blake Davis Well-Known Member

  8. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I did not see it but 'very rare' could refer to any sestertius of Geta as Caesar since that period pretty much lines up with the time they made so few bronze coins. There are many nice sestertii as Augustus including rare types that sell for high prices. I'd rather have a slick coin as Caesar. I have one common and junky sestertius as Augustus.

    Caesar bronzes are all rare. This 'Cast in Gaul' as with Minerva is lightweight and obviously not a mint official product.

    My other as is as Caesar, 8.26g and has been with me since 1990. I might rather have a sestertius. That is not going to happen.

    Does anyone find any 'interest' in the above Geta as Caesar listing?
  9. Blake Davis

    Blake Davis Well-Known Member

    The left facing As is beautiful - I like the bust type. I bought my Geta as Caesar on ebay for a reasonable price (far less than four figures). It had been listed for a very short time, the seller did not regularly sell ancient coins, and I do not think he realized its rarity. I should have but did not ask how he got it. I had found another, also reasonably priced, but the obverse portrait was very poorly tooled.

    And that is it - years of searching for an affordable example, scouring the listings and catalog sales. I tried to look for worn ones that most would pass over - Heritage had this one in 2019:


    But, to my surprise, the coin went for well over $1000.

    This is the one on German ebay, and is as Augustus and is quite rare:


    Sorry for the lengthy link - unfortunately whoever "cleaned" this coin did it far too well - although I am convinced the coin is genuine, coins in this condition simply do not exist in nature without tooling. Makes you wonder what it looked like when cleaned - the seller probably could have got close to this price even if worn.

    CNG sold this one for about $1800 - I think they were wrong about it being tooled, and it has subsequently been sold for many multiples of the CNG price with no mention of tooling:


    This wonderful example went for only a few hundred dollars - that isn't going to happen again!:


    The "dinner plate" medallions seem to come up every once in a while and sell for prices that would require a mortgage. You really have to wonder why these were struck - I recall reading history books in school where, once the battle was won, or the new King was installed, they would have a celebration, which included, among to her things, a coin being struck- maybe, like so many things this was an echo from ancient Rome. It may show that coins that were not regular mint issues, but struck to commemorate a specific one time event, are very rare. But these really must have been limited - plenty of coins struck for one time events are common or nearly so. Maybe the coins were only distributed in Rome and given to dinner guests? Sheer speculation without a shred of evidence.

    In short, as to why the sestertii were struck - I haven't a clue.
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  10. curtislclay

    curtislclay Well-Known Member



    Yours seems to be the eighth spec. known to me, all coming from one obv. and three rev. dies:

    Rev. 1, BMC 747A, Berlin, Vatican, your coin

    Rev. 2, Paris, Sofia, Lanz 60, 1992, lot 654

    Rev. 3, Triton 3, 1999, part lot 1715, not illustrated, ex Vermeule coll. and Fitzwilliam Sale

    Date of the coin must be 200 or very early 201, since the same rev. type also occurs on dated denarii of those years, with legend PONTIF TR P III (common) or PONTIF TR P IIII (rare).

    Type has often been described as youthful nude Caracalla assimilated to Sol, but my guess is that it's Caracalla assimilated to Alexander the Great, in a pose made famous by statues of that king.

    Please note the correct dates for the rare middle-period Severan sestertii, not 199/200 AD to 207/208 AD as you write, but rather early 198 to late 209. Don't overlook the sestertii of 198-9 and 208-9, which are just as rare as the others!

    I am unaware of the Minerva Victrix sestertius of young Caracalla as Augustus that you mention as having appeared on German eBay a few years ago. Would you be able to send me a picture, or post it here? Or do you perhaps mean the PONTIFEX TR P II sestertius showing Caracalla standing left with captive seated at feet, which was sold by Lanz on eBay in Dec. 2017?
  11. Mammothtooth

    Mammothtooth Stand up Philosopher, Vodka Taster

  12. Mammothtooth

    Mammothtooth Stand up Philosopher, Vodka Taster

    This is wrong, error…..Sorry I did this all wrong.. I cannot get the hang of copy paste
  13. Blake Davis

    Blake Davis Well-Known Member


    I apologize for taking so long to get back to you - I suspected you would know alot about the type and I was not disappointed. Thanks also for setting the correct dates for rare Severan - my search for these goes on.

    You are also correct about my reference which was to the PONTIFEX TRP II and NOT the Minerva Victrix - I had neglected to photograph the coin when it was sold by Lanz on ebay -

    Thank you again for taking the time to set forth the background of the coin and most important, where I might find photographs of other examples. I am working on purchasing a rare sestertius of Geta, but it will likely be September before I finish paying for it - assuming it can be purchased at all. I will find out shortly.

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  14. Blake Davis

    Blake Davis Well-Known Member

    The number of multiple coin lots shown on Tritan III are shocking!! So many hundreds of sestertii for what today seems absurdly low estimates - I have asked in the past about what happened to all these coins but of course they reside in collections and hopefully will eventually find their way to market.
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2021
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  15. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    Yes, you are using the term, "hoi polloi" correctly. It literally means , "the many" and describes the masses, what the Romans would call the "plebs" or common folk or later on the "humiliores", the humble ones. Oddly enough, quite a few folks think the term means something like, high falluten or stuck up, the exact opposite of its real meaning.
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  16. Blake Davis

    Blake Davis Well-Known Member

    Wasn’t there a Three Stooges episode called “Among the Hoi Polloi”? Wonder if they used it correctly.
  17. Kentucky

    Kentucky Supporter! Supporter


    Hoi Polloi
    "Hoi Polloi" (1935) is the 10th short made by the Three Stooges for Columbia and we still see the spelling "Curley" in the credits. It contains the hoary plot of two professors betting on whether training can improve upon heredity, one of them risking $3 million on making gentlemen of you-know-whom. Their training sessions might have been based on those in Pygmalion, while the chaos the Stooges cause at the high-class party is predictable. The ending, however, is most curious, with the high-society group taking up all the Curly mannerisms as a new fad. The slap count, according to Michael Flemming's The Three Stooges, an Illustrated History, is 48, Moe being particularly aggressive in this offering. "A Gem of a Jam" (1943, #76) concerns a wounded crook whose accomplices mistake the Stooges for doctors. The highlights of this entry are a plaster- covered Curly looking like the silent film monster Der Golem and the racially stereotyped but truly funny fright reactions of the black comedian Dudley Dickerson, who plays a night watchman. "Half-Shot Shooters" (1936, #14) manages some social commentary as the Stooges, recently discharged from the Army, cannot find food or a job. Having bidden a violent farewell to their commanding officer, they are tricked into re-enlisting and guess who their new C.O. turns out to be. Using a few vaudeville routines that would be repeated by Abbott & Costello in Buck Privates and several other World War II comedies, this film ends with the boys actually being killed. The Columbia transfers are as good as you can get. --Frank Behrens
  18. Blake Davis

    Blake Davis Well-Known Member

    You do know your Stooges! I remember watching the movie “Trading Places” and thinking that it was nothing more than a remake of the HOI POLOI Three Stooges short.

    While it may be difficult to connect the Three Stooges to ancient coins, I sort of recall there being some Stooges shorts - or maybe just one - that took place in ancient Rome but I could be mistaken.

    By the way, some women starred as what I thought was well done shorts called the “Three Stoogettes” - maybe I better not say more since we are far far afield from ancient coins.
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  19. Kentucky

    Kentucky Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks, but just from Google
  20. Blake Davis

    Blake Davis Well-Known Member

    Yes but it was almost worth the loss of the types from the Rome mint given the spectacular examples that were struck in the provinces!
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