Sunday, March 2, 2008

Myth - Special Marriage Denarii of Gordian III

RIC 127 RIC 129 RIC 129A RIC 130 RIC 131

In 1894, Otto Voetter published, Die römischen Münzen des Kaisers Gordianus III und deren antiken Fälschungen (The Roman coins of the emperor Gordianus and their contemporary forgeries). In his study he suggested that a series of six denarii were minted in 241 AD to commemorate the marriage of Gordian III to Furia Sabinia Tranquillina and that those included the 5 examples above plus the example of FELICITAS PVBLICA, now known as RIC 128.

In probably the 1930s, Dr. Karl Pink disputed the existence of the FELICITAS PVBLICA issue, regarding the the Kolb specimen, quoted by Cohen 79, as false leaving only 5 verifiable isssues of denarii for the so-called special marriage issue.

Fast forward to 1949 and the issuance of, The Roman Imperial Coinage, Vol. IV, Part III, Gordian III-Uranius Antoninus. Mattingly accepted Voetter's suggestion that these undated denarii were part of a special marriage issue despite the presence of only 5 verified reverses, where six would be expected.

One day a few years ago, I responded to a posting on one of the groups commenting on a denarius that was associated with the "special marriage issue" which evoked a response by a noted numismatist which read, in part: " Gordian's two issues of common denarii were struck in 240, so can have had nothing to do with his marriage to Tranquillina in the FOLLOWING year, 241! RIC 127 adn 129-131, misattributed there to 241, actually go with the TR P III Horseman denarius, RIC 81, so belong in 240. RIC 128 does not exist, so this issue of 240, as expected, contains exactly six reverse types, each struck in similar volume. I the Eauze Hoard, for example, the six types were represented by 26, 22, 29, 32, 26 and 30 spec. respectively. The mistaken association of the undated denarii in this issue with the marriage to Tranquillina, a suggestion of Voetter's that Mattingly accepted in RIC, was corrected by Ken Elks in his booklet on the coinage of Gordian in the 1970s, and in Num. Chron. 1971, 99309-10. the correct dating of the issue is also given in the Eauze Hoard report, p. 163 and p. 244, note 78, though p. 245 by a slip still gives the wrong date 241."

RIC 81 RIC 127 RIC 129 RIC 129A RIC 130 RIC 131

So when viewed with the correct six reverse types associated with this issue, it becomes more apparent these issues were in fact minted in 240 AD, not 241 AD, a year in advance of Gordian III's marriage to Tranquillina.

I had the pleasure of being able to correspond with Ken Elks who graciously sent me copies of one of his booklets on the financial collapse of the Roman currency of and the 1971 Num. Chron. article. He also suggested his belief that there was a third mint issuing antoniniani and those ants with the ugly portraits are likely candidates for attributing to a third mint.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Dynastic Provincial Issue of Septimius Severus

Septimius Severus and Caracalla (Magistrate Ovinus Tertullus)
Nikopolis ad Istrum, AE27, 12.07 gms, die axis 7h
AMNG -, Varbanov -, SNG Cop -, Lindgren -, Sear GIC -

Obv: [AV K L CEP CEVHPOC] P [AV K M AVPH ANTWNINOC]Septimius Severus and Caracalla facing

Who said uncleaned coins never yield anything interesting? One of the ugly but historically significant coins I found among a lot of large uncleaned coins. The dual bust obverse of Septimius Severus and Carcalla depicted on this example is a dynastic issue from Nikopolis in contrast to the more common denominational coinage found on other provincial dual bust issues.

The inscription in the wreath, EVTVXWC TOIC KVPIOIC, reads "Good luck to the emperors!", a reference to the elevation of Caracalla and Geta to Augustus and Caesar in 198 A.D. A similar issue with an obverse of Caracalla and Geta, see AMNG 1625, but with a different reverse die is known to exist.

Given Severus' fondness for portraying all members of his family on special issues, the existence of a dual bust obverse also featuring Severus and Julia Domna is expected. At present, no examples of that type are known to exist. This coin was originally thought to be that missing link, but a closer examination by two respected numismatists attributed the coin correctly as Septimius Severus and Carcalla.

As noted by one numismatist who assisted me with this mediallion: "These unique coins are special issues, celebrating the two augusti, the two sons-and-heirs, the augustus and the augusta. They aren't larger, and they aren't marked E (denominational mark). Septimius, one feels, may have thought it was the best year of his life."

A better example of this issue is shown on

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Very First Time......

As a student, I had an interest in history which with age faded away. Almost 35 years later that interest was rekindled, fueled because of a round piece of rock with a little metal buried within.

Probably like some of you, I started off surfing through Ebay and saw an auction offering “Uncleaned Ancient Roman Coins”. Truth be known, I was dating a woman who sold collectible salt and pepper shakers on Ebay, and was seeing what she was selling. How I got from salt and pepper shakers to ancient coins, I’ve never quite figured out.

It all looked interesting, but I had no idea of what I was going to with a handful of dirty coins. A little research gave me the idea it couldn't be too hard to do (Rookie mistake #1), so I purchased a cleaning kit, complete with a free coin and set off with my new hobby. I did manage to get that coin cleaned without destroying it only to discover I now owned a very old coin and I had no idea of how to identify it or where to start (Rookie mistake #2). The coin had no lettering on it I could read (not that I would have understood it anyway), a portrait on the front, and a completely obliterated reverse that looked like it had gone through an ancient battle itself and lost. I thought I would never know just what I had uncovered. Luckily, a dealer that I had purchased a few dirt encrusted pieces of metal from took the time to tell me who the figure was, pointed me towards and, in the process, I learned how to attribute coins by a number of different means. In the time since then, that lonely coin has been joined by too many big and little brothers and sisters.

Thank you Eddie for your help getting me started in this hobby. I never would have made it this far without you.

For the record, that first coin wasn't exactly an ancient coin. It was a bronze Byzantine Class E Anonymous Follis , minted during the reign of Constantine X (1059-1067), Sears BCV 1855. What I couldn’t recognize on the obverse was a portrait of Jesus Christ.

It still has a special place in my collection, even though I don't collect the Byzantine Period. In fact, it remains the only Byzantine in my collection.

Carpe Diem.