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Let's See Some Cuds and Die Damage!

Roman Collector

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The subject of this post is too narrow for a Faustina Friday feature, but it also illustrates a more general feature of ancient coinage: die deterioration. So, I decided to post this in the "General" forum. I hope you'll share your coins exhibiting die damage, too, to illustrate this aspect of numismatics.

I recently acquired a sestertius of Faustina the Younger with a left-facing bust. The coin depicts Faustina in her Beckmann Type 5 hairstyle, which she wore from autumn, AD 154 until shortly after the birth of her twin boys on 31 August, AD 161. Faustina the Younger always wore her hair in a chignon on the back of her head. Now, at various times the chignon varied in size, but on the Type 5 bust, it's rather tight and small. The empress's chignon on this coin appears too large at first glance. That's because it has something on top of it -- a cud resulting from a die break. There is also a tiny hyphen-like cud below the chignon, behind the empress's neck.


Faustina II, AD 147-175.
Roman orichalcum sestertius, 25.21 g, 31.2 mm, 12 h.
Rome, autumn AD 154-December AD 155.
Obv: FAVSTINA AVG PII AVG FIL, bare-headed and draped bust, left, with Beckmann Type 5 coiffure.
Rev: S C, Diana, draped, standing front, head left, holding out arrow in right hand and resting left on bow, set on ground.
Refs: RIC ; BMCRE –; Cohen 208; Strack 1325 (Paris); RCV –; Banti (Paris) 114.

This coin is an obverse die-match to a specimen in Nomos Obelos Web Auction 7, lot 347, 7 September 2019 (shown below). The Nomos Obelos coin was struck before the die damage occurred. Perhaps there is a hint of a little chip in the die above the chignon. I might just be imagining it in light of the specimen in my collection.


This isn't a ground-breaking discovery in the field of numismatics, I know. But I think it's interesting. I'd love to see some other examples of die deterioration and I hope this will become a big pile-on thread.

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A well documented cud resulted from the deterioration of the reverse die Boehringer R481 that formed progressively behind and above the head of Arathusa.  Mine is a mid range example and was minimized by the striking crew favoring that side with an uneven strike which made the lower right face and legend better.  Later examples show the break extending over into the tail of the top dolphin.  My coin shows R481 combined with obverse V345 producing Boehringer 703 c.420 BC.  I got mine in 1991 from a dealer who considered it ugly which it is but I prefer the term 'interesting'. 


Also shown many times before is the Clodius Albinus as Augustus denarius recently shown here in the thread on Lugdunum mint where the error that produced the die clash incuse letters also knocked a chunk out of the reverse die producing the cud on the upper right.  Clashed dies are common but they usually are less severe than needed to break the die to this extent or the mint usually retired such dies.  Stuff happened at the mint but the question is why they kept using such dies.  We can only assume that they needed coins (now!) and did not have a replacement die in reserve.  


I consider the above two examples to add interest or value to the coin because they are extreme.  Below is an AE2 of Valentinian II with a small cud below his nose that I consider more of a detraction than a bonus.  I have no idea if this die was retired before it got worse.


  When we see a coin with a cud, the obvious question is how many coins were made before the quality control people made them stop.  I have seen enough of the Syracuse tetradrachm to make me wonder why it was allowed to continue.  I have not seen other examples of the other two.  I really like coins that show things about 'bad days' at the mint.  

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My EID MAR shows a cud before Brutus’ forehead. @AncientJoe’s previous example also had one (he’s had a major upgrade to a superb one without flaws - I really want his “cast-offs”). Cahn’s treatise on the EID MAR shows at least 4 coins with this die break (mine is #9b in that work). If you look behind Brutus’ neck, it looks like there is a vertical line that is another die break.


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