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It was Twenty Years Ago This Month

David Atherton

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I purchased my first Roman coin from Henri Delger of Old Roman Coins in March of 2003. I stumbled across Henri's website while doing a yahoo search for books on Roman coinage. Little did I know you could actually own these fascinating pieces of history! As a university student at the time I had little money to spend ... but this coin called to me.




AR Denarius, 3.40g
Rome Mint, 75 AD
Obv: IMP CAESAR VESPASIANVS AVG; Head of Vespasian, laureate, r.
Rev: PON MAX TR P COS VI; Pax, bare to the waist, seated l., holding branch extended in r. hand, l. hand on lap
RIC 772 (C3). BMC 161. RSC 366. BNC 139.
Acquired from Old Roman Coins, March 2003.

One of Vespasian's most common Pax types continuing a major theme in his coinage of peace and prosperity, courtesy of the Flavian house. Probably the most common denarius type struck for Vespasian.

In hand.



I even saved the print out of the web page listing the coin from all those years ago.


There was no doubt from the start about which time period I wanted to collect: coins of the Flavian dynasty! Ever since I was a young teenager I was fascinated by the events that occurred during the Flavian era - the Jewish War, Masada, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, the opening of the Colosseum, the battle of Mons Graupius ... all of these events captured my imagination! A lot has changed in my life over the past twenty years, but my love for these wonderful coins of the Flavians has not, if anything it is stronger today than ever before!

Please show your first coins!

And as always, thank you for looking!

Edited by David Atherton
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A wonderful coin, whether it was your first or your 1000th purchase! 

These were my first two Roman coin purchases (one Republican and one Imperial), both made at a coin show here in New York City on April 12, 1986, from a Florida company called Sarr Coin Co. I knew nothing whatsoever about ancient coins, and was there to look at British and other European coins. But these two coins appealed to me for some reason, and I paid $50 apiece for the two of them -- probably an overpayment for the 1980s! -- in addition to buying a Regensburg city thaler. See the receipt below.

Roman Republic, Ti. Veturius, AR Denarius 137 BCE. Obv. Helmeted head of Mars right, TI. VET (monogrammed) and X behind head. / Rev. Youth holding pig, kneeling left, head right, between two soldiers who touch the pig with their swords, ROMA above. RSC I Veturia 1, Crawford 234/1, Sydenham 527, Sear RCV I 111 (ill.), BMCRR Italy 550. 18 mm., 3.8 g. [First Republican denarius to have head of anyone other than Roma on obverse.]  


Trajan Decius AR Antoninianus, 249-251 AD. Obv. Radiate bust right, draped and cuirassed, IMP C M Q TRAIANVS DECIVS AVG/ Rev. Uberitas stdg. left, holding purse and cornucopiae, VBERITAS AVG. RIC IV-3 28b, RSC IV 105, Sear RCV III 9384. 23 mm., 4.9 g.  





Edited by DonnaML
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The first coin in my collection was an 1862 halfpenny of Great Britain, very worn, which my mother gave to me.  Soon after some friends of my parents presented me with some coins they had saved as souvenirs from their honeymoon, which they had spent in Panama.  After that I amassed various foreign coins.  I also had the ubiquitous blue Whitman folders into which I pressed the circulating Lincoln cents.  My father had a workmate who collected coins, and Dad was able to obtain from him the last 3 San Francisco mint coins I needed to complete the second folder, which contained the dates from 1940 or so till the then present day, which was probably 1965.  The coins’ condition was not at all important, and I remember “cleaning” some Lincoln cents using a pencil eraser.  Obviously, I did not have an adult mentor.  

I became serious about collecting in college, when I purchased my first medieval gold coin from John Barton, of Owl, Ltd.   This was an imitative ducat of Andrea Dandolo, thought at the time to have been struck by Robert of Anjou for the Duchy of Achaea.  Now it is believed it was struck by Turkish Beyliks in Anatolia.  It is one of the “K” ducats as both the obverse and reverse inscriptions have an extra K.  I believe they are rather uncommon as they were the first issue, of varying gold fineness, and were recalled and melted, according to what I have read.  I couldn’t afford it, so John knocked $25 off the price, and let me pay the balance off over time.


Two years later I purchased my first Byzantine gold coin, also from John Barton.  Again, I could not really afford it, but I traded some other coins toward a portion of the purchase price, and my mother also helped a bit.  This is Constantine VIII, a flat stamenon nomisma, before they began to be scyphate.  It would be several years before I would get anything equivalent.  


These two coins have been in my collection for over 40 years.  


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I admire your discipline. The Flavian „dynasty“ is basically Vespasian and his two sons. How you managed to focus on such a narrow field for 20 years is incomprehensible to me. My interest is shifting back and forth across the whole 500 years of western Roman imperial history, not to speak of the migration period and certain fields of medieval numismatics and even 18th century Russia and Prussia. 

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Congratulations on achieving this milestone! And your first purchase was a really neat one. Interesting to read that you had an early interest in the Flavian dynasty. 

This is my very first ancient coin. I've posted it before, it still needs better photo's. A friend of mine brought it with him from his holiday in Italy. It was somewhere 2009/2010? After that I made a few stupid purchases at local fairs, turning out to be fakes. I took a break after that, reviving the collecting interest in 2015 on our trip to Rome, where I purchased my Augustus AE As from Pedoni Numismatica e Arte, located behind the Vatican city. 


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My first Vespasian was the same Pax seated reverse type. I purchased it about 20 years ago during the heyday of eBay ancient sales. I lost the provenance information when my computer crashed some years ago.

Vespasian, AD 69-79.
Roman AR Denarius, 2.73 gm, 17.7 mm.
Rome, AD 70.
Obv: IMP CAESAR VESPASIANVS AVG, laureate head, r.
Rev: COS ITER TR POT, Pax seated l., holding branch and caduceus.
Refs: RIC 10D; BMCRE 26; RCV 2285.

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I only got my first Roman coin back in 2019, this worn Constantine follis that I bought from ebay because of the Lupa Capitolina as I was reading a book on Julius Caesar and wanted a coin from Rome featuring something quintessential yet cheap.


My second Roman coin that I got was this unassuming denarius of Julia Domna back in 2020. When I first opened it out of the envelope and held it, it was pretty underwhelming to see a such a tiny coin that's smaller than a dime, as at that time I was focused on silver stacking and paying so much for such a tiny amount of silver felt crazy. 



Edited by JayAg47
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I was always fascinated by ancient coinage as for me it was an utopia to hold a coin minted and used 2000-2500 years ago.
I saw some ancient coins (just a handful) in some numismatic shows I attended. But they were extremely modest late roman bronzes. When I say extremely modest, I mean in Basal, Poor or in best case scenario, Fair condiition.

Owning a decent denarius (with attribution possible) was, in my opinion back then, not an option, as I was under the impression they are extremely rare and with obscene prices.

In September-October 2020 I decided to start learning about ancient coins and I was amazed to find out that my assumptions were far from the truth. And I understood that owning a Trajan denarius (Trajan is a very important figure for my country's history) is not nearly as difficult as I thought.

In that month I participated in my first auction and I bought a mixed lot of 34 coins and another 2 lots - containing 8 denarii in average condition and 4 denarii in very nice condition. So for me it was a head start!


Here is, officially, my first coin (I keep them in my album in the order I bought them)


Not sure if the toning is artificial or not, but it's not BD.


Here is what I was only dreaming about a few months prior to my first auction - a Trajan denarius! modest but I was overwhelmed!



And, in the same envelope, there was the same type of the OP coin, in 2 examples.



Edited by ambr0zie
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I bought my first ancient on 1st April 2002, so coming up to the 21st anniversary.

Severus Alexander denarius 

Obv:– IMP ALEXANDER PIVS AVG, Laureate head right
Rev:– MARS VLTOR, Mars advancing right, holding a spear and shield
Minted in Rome, A.D. 232
References:– RIC 246, RSC 161a

3.64gms. 19.91mm. 180 degrees


I bought this on an entirely egotistical basis. My name is Martin and this coin shows Mars. Who knew what it would start....

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I started back in 1980 with a coin of this exact type, purchased from Pearl City Stamp and Coin in Pearl City, Hawaii for $30. I parted with the coin in the late 80's when it was time to head off to college. I liked how Mars was featured on the reverse and spent some time trying to translate the Latin. I quickly learned that it was not the nominative case. In fact it was in the accusative. I eventually took 3 years of Latin in high school (Catholic school so they had to teach Latin, right?)



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I was an avid collector of British Colonial coinage and one day, a seller that I frequently bought from, put up a small group of strange looking coins!...I loved the look and bought this sweet little Licinius I, although I had no idea at the time what I was buying!...


Licinius I (RIC VII#155 Arles)-Unlisted-

Licinius I AE Follis 20mm/3.43gr (Emperors name Misspelled)

Obverse-IMP LICINVS PF AVG- laureate, cuirassed bust right

Reverse-REV SOLI INVICTO COMITI- Sol standing right, looking left, chlamys across chest and over his left arm, holding globe and raising right hand. C-S across fields

Exergue-PARL- minted 313-318AD Arles

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congrats David, on a long and fruitful 20 year journey...i will be at the 20 year mark next year...may you achieve as much in the next 20! :)..

my 1st bought 'coin'..that got me started in the field..(took off like a rocket from there :P)



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 Sometimes I feel like I got my first Roman coin immediately after it was minted. I have to force myself to figure out how to photograph some of my earliest ones - back when mailing lists did  not have photos of the coins one was purchasing.

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