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Less than a Nummus: The Bronze/Copper coins of the Diocletianic Reforms.


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Posted (edited)

Although there are many experts on coinage here, with many years of experience behind them, for less experienced collectors attempting to collect Diocletian the whole endeavour can get rather confusing. If we choose to ignore his partner Tetrarchs and all his other more valuable denominations, we are still surrounded by several different denominations that have no particular proper naming.  Antoninianus, Follis (Nummus), Argenteus, Solidus... All those are well known names, accepted by the entire community, however, when we start to get even more speciffic, other terms may arise, like the now common Aurelianiani, used to describe coins from Aurelian's reform onwards. These are easily distinguishable by the change in portraiture from the previous Antoniniani, as well as by the silver wash they often received, even if the actual silver content was near to none. 

For Diocletian, we find an amalgamation of different coin types, created during his short-lived reform, which resulted in the introduction of the Follis (Later described as Nummus) as the proper base coin. The follis was often Silver washed, like the Aurelianiani. However, the following coins, which are much rarer, weren't even silvered. 

Before those coins were minted there were Aurelianiani, which he minted for a while. first one is, of course, the Aurelianiani. He, along with Maximian, minted those while he planned his many reforms and fought against Carausius, who also minted Aurelianiani of his own. However, by 294 it was obvious a change was needed, so he decided to create a whole new coin that maintained the aesthetic essence of the Antoninianus, but still was different from the original. 
Below are the ones I own:

ImagenImagen

What are these ones called? Post-Reform Radiate, Radiate Fraction... There are many names for these but none that sound particularly...good? I'm not going to propose any as that's beyond me. I have seen it called Radiatus, which sounds (Excuse the pun) quite Rad. But I'm not fully convinced. 

These coins show a bigger head while maintaining the Aurelianiani's slow decay in portraiture (still intentional, unlike 5th century mintage) and often share the same reverse. This was mostly for standardization purposes. They are also often confused with previous Aurelianiani because of their similar looks. I sure was, as I thought I had bought a Maximian Aurelianiani when I bought the one on the right. 

The next coin in line are Laureates or Laureati. There's not much information about these other than what their name mentions: the shown emperor wears a laurel, rather than a radiate crown. They were often identified as Sestertii or Ases, yet they are so late and distinct that eventually they began to be called Laureates. The one below was taken from Augustuscoins.com

Diocletian1IOVICONSCAES9935.thumb.jpg.77dcb17893f99365d90b62750987f909.jpg

It is also mentioned that some coins called "Denarii" existed during this time, apparently worth 1/1,000 of a Solidus, which is basically worthless. These are, of course, not related in any way to the Pre-Reform Denarii, which had become ever so scarce which every emperor past the 250s. In fact, this denarius most of the time wasn't even silver, but mere copper. This coin is from an auction in 2001, proving how rare these are. I have seen these called Laureati B, in comparison to the previous one, called Laureati A.

image01473.jpg

 

And that would be all from my part. I don't know much about these coins but I'm very interested in their obscure history so I thought I'd make a post to get the ball rolling. Do any of you own one of these rare coins?

 

Most of the info was taken from Augustuscoins.com

Edited by GordianAppreciator101
Few typos.
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The post-294 radiates are just the continuation of the 'aureliani' (the most common of them minted in large amounts in the early 290s) with the CONCORDIA MILITVM reverse. If you look closely you can easily separate the pre-reform from the post-reform: the pre-reform still have the Aurelian 274 reforma markings of XXI. The laureate large denomination is the 'follis' or the 'nummus' and the small copper 'denarius' is so rare that its purpose in the actual trade is rather obscure, if it even had any and it wasn't just used for public donatives on certain particular occasions. The gold coin of Diocletian was not the solidus, but rather the aureus. The solidus is introduced later by Constantine. The argenteus, which was likely a coinage with a specific function, very likely military first and foremost, was initially ca. 294-5 struck in silver alloy on Nero's title. One could say that it was the reinterpretation of the earlier denarius but in contemporary terms it was worth many denarii communes, that by the 4th century had become not an actual coin but rather monies of account. Some coinage have their denomination in denarii communes marked, like for instance the fractional folli/nummi of the 310s minted for Constantine at Rome or the 321 issue of radiate coppers in the East for Licinius.

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Posted (edited)

I love the difficult topic of Diocletian's reform and have a few relevant coins.

First, you're right about the close similarity between the last antoniniani/aureliani and the post-reform radiates (esp. in the east).  Here's an early Diocletian antoninianus (I prefer not to change the name with Aurelian's reform), then a late one, and then a post-reform radiate of Constantius I (I don't have a Diocletian, should get one):

image.thumb.jpeg.a9d333afaf780292beb18497b2c693f9.jpeg

image.thumb.jpeg.aa4558cbe96658e52770a19a337c26c9.jpeg

image.jpeg.340c3fa8176cfcfe412ad95f88c06e7a.jpeg

The first two coins are both from Antioch, but you can see how the portrait style has changed from something quite Probus-like to the stark tetrarchal style.  That's in about ten years, the first coin dates to 284 and the second to 293-5.  The third coin, the post-reform radiate, obviously continues the tetrarchic style (Heraclea this time) and dates to 295/6. (Dates are -ish.  I'm just following RIC here.)  As Seth says, it now lacks the XXI in the exergue.

The small laureate you show with the Jupiter reverse is actually a pre-reform denarius.  I have one of these of Carinus (18mm and 2.09g):

image.thumb.jpeg.4c02b0196765b830ae30b570ec5715b9.jpeg

Pre-reform there was an even smaller coin normally called a quinarius.  Here's my Diocletian dating to 284-5.  It's only 1.83g and 16mm:

image.thumb.jpeg.5f07bd259cb592d44dc310c55f2a5b40.jpeg

 

I do have one of the rare small post-reform laureates as well, probably the best candidate for the denarius communis.  The type is always VTILITAS PVBLICA I think.  Mine is 1.42g and 17mm (issued 294-ish, Ticinum mint):

image.thumb.jpeg.31cb9f9645d508f284a3d3160cdd3a8e.jpeg

 

Finally, here are some of my early issue large post-reform laureates, i.e. the follis/nummus that we're all familiar with - these are 1st issues unless otherwise mentioned):

image.thumb.jpeg.fe5b5e3a8d103532a81811949f38d463.jpeg

OK, I'll stop there so I leave some space for others to post too. ☺️

Edited by Severus Alexander
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