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Rare First Bronze Issue!


David Atherton
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Unbelievably I came across this fabulous coin in trade a couple of weeks ago ... I am absolutely thrilled beyond measure!

 

V10.jpg.887a8008f4a0ec8d9d71734c81807de1.jpg

Vespasian

Æ As, 10.12g
Rome mint, 70 AD
Obv:
IMP CAESAR AVGVIISPASSIAN ; Head of Vespasian, bare, r.
Rev: PROVID in exergue; S C in field; Altar
RIC 10 (R2). BMC -. BNC -.
Acquired from London Ancient Coins, May 2022.

A rare Rome mint first bronze issue as struck for Vespasian in early 70. The standardised legend formula and portrait for Vespasian had yet to be developed. Instead, we have an unusual obverse legend featuring the odd misspelling VIISPASSIAN(!) paired with a bare headed portrait of the newly throned emperor. Although attributed to Rome, RIC speculates this could be an early Spanish issue, however, there are no Spanish findspots attested. The reverse copies a Provident Altar type struck for Divus Augustus by Tiberius which was later revived during the Civil War by Galba and Vitellius. This is the first occasion of the type on Flavian coinage. Bronze coinage was not the Rome mint's primary concern at the outset, as evident by the extreme rarity of this early as. It may have predated the massive denarius issues which were struck later that same year. Missing from both the BM and Paris collections. Obverse die match with the lone Oxford specimen cited by RIC.

I can forgive the off-centre obverse legend and worn state, especially for such a scarce piece!

Feel free to post your own 'first' coins.

Thanks for looking!

 

Edited by David Atherton
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What an interesting subject matter for a first bronze issue for the new emperor! Of course, it was to remind the Roman people of this earlier type, a dupondius issued under Tiberius for Augustus featuring an altar-enclosure with antefixae on the corners of the roof. This design must have been purposeful, of course, calculated to remind the Roman citizen of an earlier, less turbulent, time.

[IMG]
Divus Augustus, 27 BC - 14 AD.
Roman Æ as, 9.30 g, 28.4 mm, 7 h.
Rome, issued under Tiberius, AD 22-30.
Obv: DIVVS·AVGVSTVS·PATER, head of Augustus, radiate, left.
Rev: PROVIDENT S C, Altar-enclosure with double paneled door; surmounted by uncertain ornaments.
Refs: RIC 81; BMCRE 146; Cohen (Augustus) 228; RCV 1789.

But you asked for "first issues." I'm a Faustina fanatic. Here are the first bronze issues for Faustina the Younger, issued to celebrate the birth of her first child on 30 November, AD 147.

Faustina Jr VENERI GENETRICI S C Sestertius.jpg

Faustina Jr., Augusta AD 147-175.
Roman orichalcum sestertius, 22.96 gm, 30.4 mm, 11 h.
Rome, December AD 147-early 148.
Obv: FAVSTINAE AVG PII AVG FIL, bust of Faustina II, draped and wearing stephane, right.
Rev: VENERI GENETRICI SC, Venus Genetrix standing left, holding apple and child in swaddling clothes.
Refs: RIC 1386b; BMCRE 2145; Cohen 237; Strack 1306; RCV 4718.


Faustina Jr IVNONI LVCINAE S C (Pius) as.jpg

Faustina II, AD 147-175.
Roman Æ as or dupondius, 8.68 g, 25.9 mm.
Rome, December AD 147-early 148.
Obv: FAVSTINAE AVG PII AVG FIL, bust of Faustina II, draped and wearing band of pearls, right.
Rev: IVNONI LVCINAE S C, Juno, veiled, standing left, holding patera and scepter.
Refs: RIC 1400A; BMCRE 2153-54; Cohen --; Strack 1299; RCV 4728.

 

Faustina Jr LAETITIAE PVBLICAE S C MB.jpg

Faustina II, AD 147-175.
Roman Æ as or dupondius, 10.71 g, 27.6 mm, 12 h.
Rome, December AD 147- early 148.
Obv: FAVSTINAE AVG PII AVG FIL, bust of Faustina II, draped and wearing band of pearls, right.
Rev: LAETITIAE PVBLICAE, Laetitia standing left, holding wreath in in right hand and vertical scepter in left hand.
Refs: RIC 1401b; BMCRE 2155-56; Cohen 158; Strack 1300; RCV 4729.
Edited by Roman Collector
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Interesting issue! Even with the wear I think it has lots of eye appeal.

I wonder what the fallout would be for making such a spelling error. Would there have been a personal cost to the engraver? Would the die have been retired, possibly increasing the scarcity of the issue? I suppose we'll never know.

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David,

Congratulations! That is indeed a highly interesting Flavian rarity.

For over 50 years, I have been on the lookout for Rome-mint bronze coins of Vespasian of the year 70, but without great success, since all of them are very rare!

Colin Kraay, whose dissertation was on the bronze coinage of Galba to Titus, gives a useful summary of Vespasian's bronze coinage of 70 in his essay in C.H.V. Sutherland's honorary volume of 1978, pp. 48-50:

"During A.D. 70 only two small issues of aes were minted. The first was certainly made before Vespasian's arrival in Rome [c. Oct. 70], and is probably to be dated at the very beginning of the year since it employs in the titulature a sequence IMP CAES(AR) AVG otherwise unknown except on a very small group of undated aurei and denarii [of provincial (Spanish?) mintage]."

I have only ever had one such sestertius, acquired from Peus 406, 2012, lot 284; see their picture below. Note COS II in Vespasian's titles, specifying the year 70 AD:

IMP CAES AVG VESPAS COS II TR POT. 

Kraay knew four such sestertius obverse dies, coupled with my FORTVNAE REDVCI reverse type and three other types; my Peus coin brings a fifth obverse die and a new, second, FORTVNAE REDVCI reverse die.

"With these sestertii", Kraay continues, "must be associated a small group of undated middle bronzes on grounds of similarity of portraiture and obverse legend."

Only two obv. dies were involved, one with portrait laureate and legend 

IMP CAESAR AVG VESPASIAN,

probably meant for dupondii, and the second with portrait bare and the strange variant legend of your coin,

IMP CAESAR AVG VIISPAS.SIAN,

probably meant for asses.

With reverse PROVID S - C, Altar, Kraay, like RIC 10, listed only one specimen, in Oxford ex Ryan Sale, 1952, lot 2740 and ex Niklovits Sale, 1925, lot 655. I think yours is from the same dies on both sides, not just on the obverse. RIC's rarity ranking "R2" rather than "R3" should mean that Carradice and Buttrey knew at least one other specimen too, but if so they unfortunately do not say where it resides.

I have had two coins related to this issue of middle bronzes. First an obverse brockage from the VIISPAS.SIAN die, that I acquired from MMAG Basle from their large stock of Niggeler coins that were not fine enough to gain entry into the 1967 Niggeler Roman Sale. I believe Oxford later acquired this coin from my sale of my first collection to Oxford and the BM in 1992.

Second an ordinary dupondius of Vespasian in 71 (COS III), struck from the same CONCOR AVG S C, Concordia seated reverse die that had been used the year before for asses struck with the VIISPAS.SIAN obverse die. See RIC pl. 14, 8 (obv. VIISPAS.SIAN) and pl. 26, 263 (obv. COS III). That Vespasian RIC 263 coin is now in my second collection, ex CNG E169, 2007, J.S. Wagner Coll., lot 230 (see their photo below), earlier in the Hall Sale of 1950, known to RIC from Colin Kraay's plaster cast of the Hall coin in Oxford. This die link is important for showing that the VIISPAS.SIAN obverse die must surely have been engraved at the mint of Rome, since it was coupled with the same reverse die as a quite standard Rome-mint dupondius of 71.

Returning to Kraay: "Vespasian's second aes  issue of A.D. 70  was minted late in the year, for Vespasian is now pontifex maximus, a title probably assumed only after his arrival in Rome, and his third consulship is envisaged. On the single die made for sestertii, his titulature is now recorded in the sequence which had become orthodox in the course of the year:

IMP CAESAR VESPASIANVS AVG P M T P P P COS II DES III.

This obverse die was combined with five reverse dies. Similarly dated is a small issue of Asses produced from a single obverse die."

My only coin from this second bronze issue of 70: a sestertius with reverse FORTVNAE REDVCI  S - C, Fortuna standing, of which I do not have a photo, but which is from the same dies, though a little less fine, than the Naville coin illustrated below from CoinArchives Pro.

Kraay's summary: "Up to the end of A.D. 70 the aes coinage had thus clearly been minted on a very modest scale, for the examples listed above include all that could be located in a prolonged and thorough, though certainly not exhaustive, search."

 

 

VespSestCOSIIFORTREDPeus.jpg

VespDup71CONCORAVGCNG.jpg

VespSestDESIIIFORTREDNaville.jpg

Edited by curtislclay
Number of obv. dies and rev. types on sestertii of earliest issue added.
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1 hour ago, curtislclay said:

David,

Congratulations! That is indeed a highly interesting Flavian rarity.

For over 50 years, I have been on the lookout for Rome-mint bronze coins of Vespasian of the year 70, but without great success, since all of them are very rare!

Colin Kraay, whose dissertation was on the bronze coinage of Galba to Titus, gives a useful summary of Vespasian's bronze coinage of 70 in his essay in C.H.V. Sutherland's honorary volume of 1978, pp. 48-50:

"During A.D. 70 only two small issues of aes were minted. The first was certainly made before Vespasian's arrival in Rome [c. Oct. 70], and is probably to be dated at the very beginning of the year since it employs in the titulature a sequence IMP CAES(AR) AVG otherwise unknown except on a very small group of undated aurei and denarii [of provincial (Spanish?) mintage."

I have only ever had one such sestertius, acquired from Peus 406, 2012, lot 284; see their picture below. Note COS II in Vespasian's titles, specifying the year 70 AD:

IMP CAES AVG VESPAS COS II TR POT

"With these sestertii", Kraay continues, "must be associated a small group of undated middle bronzes on grounds of similarity of portraiture and obverse legend."

Only two obv. dies were involved, one with portrait laureate and legend 

IMP CAESAR AVG VESPASIAN,

probably meant for dupondii, and the second with portrait bare and the strange variant legend of your coin,

IMP CAESAR AVG VIISPAS.SIAN,

probably meant for asses.

With reverse PROVID S - C, Altar, Kraay, like RIC 10, listed only one specimen, in Oxford ex Ryan Sale, 1952, lot 2740 and ex Niklovits Sale, 1925, lot 655. RIC's "R2" rather than "R3" should mean that Carradice and Buttrey knew at least one other specimen too, but if so they unfortunately do not say where it resides.

I have had two coins related to this issue of middle bronzes. First an obverse brockage from the VIISPAS.SIAN die, that I acquired from MMAG Basle from their large stock of Niggeler coins that were not fine enough to gain entry into the 1967 Niggeler Roman Sale. I believe Oxford later acquired this coin from my sale of my first collection to Oxford and the BM in 1992.

Second an ordinary dupondius of Vespasian in 71 (COS III), struck from the same CONCOR AVG S C, Concordia seated reverse die that had been used the year before for asses struck with the VIISPAS.SIAN obverse die. See RIC pl. 14, 8 (obv. VIISPAS.SIAN) and pl. 26, 263 (obv. COS III). That Vespasian RIC 263 coin is now in my second collection, ex CNG E169, 2007, J.S. Wagner Coll., lot 230 (see their photo below), earlier in the Hall Sale of 1950, known to RIC from Colin Kraay's plaster cast of the Hall coin in Oxford. This die link is important for showing that the VIISPAS.SIAN obverse die must surely have been engraved at the mint of Rome, since it was coupled with the same reverse die as a quite standard Rome-mint dupondius of 71.

Returning to Kraay: "Vespasian's second aes issue of A.D. 70  was minted late in the year, for Vespasian is now pontifex maximus, a title probably assumed only after his arrival in Rome , and his third consulship is envisaged. On the single die made for sestertii, his titulature is now recorded in the sequence which had become orthodox in the course of the year:

IMP CAESAR VESPASIANVS AVG P M T P P P COS II DES III.

This obverse die was combined with five reverse dies. Similarly dated is a small issue of Asses produced. from a single obverse die."

My only coin from this second bronze issue of 70: a sestertius with reverse FORTVNAE REDVCI  S - C, Fortuna standing, of which I do not have a photo, but which is from the same dies, though a little less fine, than the Naville coin illustrated below from CoinArchives Pro.

Kraay's summary: "Up to the end of A.D. 70 the aes coinage had thus clearly been minted on a very modest scale, for the examples listed above include all that could be located in a prolonged and thorough, though certainly not exhaustive, search."

 

 

VespSestCOSIIFORTREDPeus.jpg

VespDup71CONCORAVGCNG.jpg

VespSestDESIIIFORTREDNaville.jpg

Just wonderful! Thank you Curtis for the Kraay comments concerning this rare issue. And your Concordia die match really leaves no doubt these coins were struck at Rome, despite the odd obverse legend. 

Also, I'm glad to see you made it to the new discussion forum!

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