Publications of CMNS

A very attractive decadrachm, often thought of as the jewel of the classical coinage of Greece, appeared on the scene in the middle of 1992. The following article was included in the September 1, 1992 issue of The Anvil, the bi-monthly publication of the Society. (Volume 2, No. 5). It is part of the CMNS continuing educational program aimed at assisting members to identify and guard against counterfeit ancient coinage. It and the following article are examples of the quality material appearing in the Society's publications.

Counterfeit of a Decadrachm of Syracuse by Kimon, 405 - 380 B.C.
by John R. Gainor

Physical Characteristics.
Attractive dark old toning. The coin appears to have been polished at some time (this is common among some older collections). The weight is 43.1 gm. and is proper for this coin. The metal is of good silver and the coin rings true when tapped.

The Edge.
The edge is rounded with some nicks and scratches but free of any filing or signs of casting.

The Style.
The obverse and reverse die link to coins in major museum collections. Deterioration of the obverse die is apparent from the die cracks and loss of detail typical of a rusted die. This is common with the series and this die fits right in. The reverse is correct except for some parts of the dolphins and the beading between 5 o'clock and 11 o'clock.

The second dolphin running clock-wise at about 6 o'clock has an abnormally long tail that extends far past the truncation of the neck. When compared to the linked die this tail should end just at the truncation of the neck and to the left. The nose of this dolphin is more of a dot in the border and there is a pointed, almost horn-like part turning up from the head.

The next dolphin clock-wise seems to have the tip of its tail cut off and also its fin is cut off just before the beaded border. The beading is also rather small and uneven in this area of the coin. All this would seem to indicate a re-cut die.

The Faces.
The obverse fields exhibit a rough texture with several features of a rusted and damaged die. There are relatively strong flow lines at the front of the chariot and its wheel. The reverse of the coin has a relatively flat field except for the area just above the first dolphin which is raised up like a plateau. This would seem to indicate tooling of the field of the die at this point perhaps to remove some blemish. There is also a small ridge running just above the border below the second and third dolphin which seems to mark the boundary between the style which is faithful to the die link and the portions of the coin that seem to have been re-cut. In the upper hair of the reverse device there are three very small crevices similar to casting flaws.

This coin is a struck forgery from cast dies. It die links to known genuine coins. It exhibits several characteristics of re-cutting of the die. The area of the reverse, below the dolphins, including the border, would seem to have been off the flan on the source coin and was added afterwards to the die. The re-cutting of the field above the first dolphin would seem to indicate an attempt to remove a flaw possibly caused by casting the die. The two crevices in the hair would also seem to indicate a cast die. The sharpness, however, would indicate a pressed die. It is most likely though, that this is a forgery from cast dies but we cannot be absolutely positive of this. There is little doubt, however, that this coin is a struck forgery.

This particular coin was first identified as a forgery by the Greek & Roman Department of the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada and later confirmed by Martin J. Price, Keeper of the Coins, the British Museum, London, England.


Notes on the Coinage of the Roman Republic
by Bruce R. Brace

By the early third century B.C., Roman military adventures in southern Italy brought Rome into contact with the Greek cities of "Magna Graecia". Silver didrachms were coined in the Greek style. In 289 B.C., a college of moneyers was established in Rome. The first silver didrachm to be struck in Rome proper (the "Hercules/wolf and twins" issue) was coined in 269 B.C. Altogether, six didrachm types were issued, the last being called a "quadrigatus" from its reverse type, Jupiter in a four-horse chariot.

Central Italy favoured bronze as a medium of exchange, and crude copper lumps ("aes rude") were used. The Romans produced heavy cast coins ("aes grave") starting about 289 B.C. In an attempt to equate the value of bronze to silver, the bronze issues gradually decreased in size and weight. Eventually, the smaller denominations reached sizes where it was technologically possible to strike rather than cast them. Cast bars ("aes signatum") appear to have been produced for ceremonial purposes about the same time.

The Second Punic (Hannibalic) War started in 218 B.C. and greatly strained the economy. About 211 B.C. a major monetary reform occurred and the famous "denarius" was introduced. The obverse portrayed the head of Roma and the reverse the heavenly twins, Castor and Pollux. According to Roman mythology, the twins had assisted the Romans to defeat the Latins. Silver quinarii (1/2) and short-lived sestertii (1/4) were produced along with an unusual denomination, the "victoriatus". In addition, a range of bronze denominations based on the "as" accompanied the silver. The denarius was a 10 as ("X") coin but was revalued to 16 in the 140's, BC.

The earliest issues also showed symbols, letters, and monograms which probably indicated different mints and moneyers although, in most instances, identification remains impossible. Eventually, the names of the moneyers appeared, often in abbreviated form.

Gold was only occasionally coined during the republic and then only for emergency and military purposes. It appeared more commonly during the Civil War period that ended the republic.

The Castor and Pollux type was used for many years in keeping with the conservatism of the period, but about 190 B.C., Luna (the moongoddess) in a biga (two-horse chariot) appeared. Soon, other deities were used and quadrigae (four-horse chariots) appeared. Shortly after 140 B.C., a moneyer T. Veturius presented an oath scene reverse and other moneyers followed his example. Most moneyers started selecting particular types and the denarius coinage for the next century is a delightful parade of designs containing mythological, religious, and historical themes. Eventually, moneyers became bolder and started to include references to their families and the propaganda purposes of the annual issues became more personal.
The role of the moneyer merits brief attention. The three moneyers, elected annually, were originally part of the "Vigintisexviri" (26 men) who occupied minor magistracies usually early in their careers. For some, this led to the higher offices of the "cursus honorum". Some, like Brutus, became well-known. Three men constituted the annual college but not all coined. For a while, Caesar had four moneyers in the college. The moneyers usually represented the better known republican families.

It is also important to note that, as well as the annual issues of the moneyers, exceptional issues for specific purposes were produced "by decree of the senate" by aediles and quaestors. These are often identified by the use of "(EX) S. C." on them to indicate their special nature.

It will be noted that some issues of denarii have edge notches. The actual purposes for these are conjectural and one suggestion was that it was a check against plated coins which were rampant.

The period of Sulla in the early first century witnessed the rise of military issues and this was accelerated by Pompey and Caesar. In 44 B.C., the year of his assassination, Caesar took the bold step of putting his portrait on the coinage, the first time that the head of a living Roman had so appeared. During the chaos of the imperatorial period which followed, the rival commanders (such as Brutus, Sextus Pompey, Antony, and Octavian) quickly followed suit and many of their coins featured their portraits. The republic collapsed in a welter of civil wars. It was left for Octavian in his new guise as Augustus to restore order to the state and this he did. His reforms included careful attention to the coinage. A remarkable range of denominations in gold, silver, orichalcum (brass), and bronze was produced thereby setting the pattern for the imperial issues for almost three centuries.

Reference: Michael H. Crawford, Roman Republican Coinage, Cambridge, 1974, 2 volumes.


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