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Orichalcum Coins that show their color


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As I understand, most sestertii were minted in orichalcum, a sort of golden-colored bronze alloy. When fresh, these coins would have shone bright gold, not unlike the "golden" dollars of the US since 2000.

Most sestertii after 2,000 years have a variety of patina, coloration, or deposits that obscure the original striking color. It is unusual to find one with anything close to its original color.

I have this sestertius of Trajan, which started off with encrustations and oxidation out the wazoo. After a gauntlet of chemical treatments, I revealed the original, shiny, brassy color.




I would absolutely love to see your coins that retain their original coloration!

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Faustina II
Obv.: FAVSTINA AVGVSTA, Draped bust right, wearing stephane, hair in chignon at the back of the head.
Rev.: SAECVLI FELICIT / S - C, The twins T. Aurelius Fulvus Antoninus and Commodus facing on throne
AE, 23.94g, 32.2mm
Ref.: RIC 1665, C 193



Obv: GERMANICVS CAESAR, Germanicus with eagle-tipped sceptre in slow quadriga to r.
Rev: SIGNIS RECEPT DEVICTIS GERM / S – C, Germanicus in military attire walking to l. with raised r. hand and carrying aquila in l. hand.
AE, 10.88mm, 28.1g
Ref.: RIC 1, p.112, 57



Sestertius, Rom
Obv.: ...MODVS AN...., Laureate head of Commodus right;
Rev.: ....., Minerva advancing right brandishing javelin and holding shield.
AE, 20.96g, 28mm
Ref.: possibly RIC III 410
Ex collection Gevers Deynoot
Ex coin gallery Leiden, inventoried 20. August 1877

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Julia Domna. Augusta AD 193-217. Rome
Sestertius Æ. AD 193-196
30 mm, 25,51 g
IVLIA DOMNA AVG, bust of Julia Domna, hair waved and coiled at back, draped, right / VENERI VICTR S C, Venus, naked to waist, standing left, holding apple in extended right hand and palm sloped over left shoulder in left hand, resting left elbow on column
RIC IV Septimius Severus 842; Cohen 195; BMC 488.


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10 hours ago, hotwheelsearl said:

As I understand, most sestertii were minted in orichalcum

Apparently, all Imperial sestertii were orichalcum, while during the Republic they were silver up until Augustus. Only Marc Antony made any in bronze (if I’m reading it right). Much easier than dupondii and asses, which look the same and can be either orichalcum or bronze.

Edited by John Conduitt
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Sometimes I come across a yellow Provincial.  This chunky one from Antioch struck for Claudius is very brassy (thanks to an overly-enthusiastic cleaning):


Claudius Æ 24 (Dupondius) (41-54 A.D.) Syria, Seleucis & Pieria Antiochia ad Orontem  IM[P·TI·]CL[AVD·CA]E AV·GER·, laureate head right / S·C; inscription within laurel wreath of eight leaves RPC I 4277; McAlee 445a. BMC Galatia 168; SNG Cop 150  (15.36 grams / 24 x 22 mm) eBay March 2023  Notes:  Several auctions date this issue to 41-42 A.D., although I am not sure why (GER in legend?). 

And its distinguished pedigree (beyond eBay, I mean):




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Some years ago I bought this remarkable series of orichalcum coins from a venerable old seller, whom I have known since I was a boy of 15. Now in his eighties, he still has his little stand at coin fairs offering remainders of his once grand collections. When I came home, I noticed his coin holders all carried the same code: "Jakob Istanbul Dec. 1974." Apparently the four all came from the same seller, bought (at the day I acquired them) 43 years earlier from a coinseller Jakob in Istanbul. They probably were kept together for some time, or maybe cleaned injudiciously together, to account for the same accretions of milky and vermilion (or red cabbage) colors, not to mention the fresh green pea spots. 


Caracalla (198-217). AE Sestertius, Caracalla. Minted in Rome, year 211. Obv. Laureated bust to the right. M AVREL ANTONINVS PIVS AVG BRIT. Rev. Fortuna seated to the left, shield under throne (the model for the early modern English farthing and some pennies). FORT RED P M TR P XIIII COS III P P / SC. Orichalcum 30.5 mm, 26.18 gr.  


Caracalla. AE Antiochia in Pisidia. Obv. Laureate (bearded) bust r. IMP CAE M AVR AN TONINVS PIVS AVG. Rev. Victory walking left, holding wreath. V(ICT D N) COL  ANTIOCH/ S R. 33.5 mm, 25.06 gr. 


Caracalla. AE Antiochia in Pisidia. Laureate (bearded) bust r. IMP (CAE M AVR) ANTONINVS PIVS AVG. Rev. Emperor on horseback t.r. VIRT AVG C(…)/ S R. 24.80 gr. (Looks much like a die link on both sides with the Wildwinds coin - SNG France 1138). 


Caracalla. AE Antiochia in Pisidia. Obv. Bust r. PIVS AVG ANTONINVS. Rev. Tyche, kalathos on her head (this is a reed basket you can carry on your head, also interpreted as a fertility symbol), with palm and cornucopia t.l. GENIVS COL ANTIOCH /S R. Red stains. Orichalcum, 32 mm, 24.86 gr. This type not on Wildwinds. 


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Here's a Galba sestertius with patches of the original orichalcum color amid generally brownish black patina, which at one time probably covered the entire coin.

Galba, orichalcum sestertius, 68-69 AD. Rome. From Roma E-Sale 86, lot 931.

RIC I 456

24.35 grams


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2 hours ago, Ancient Coin Hunter said:

Julius Germanicus is truly the man for the shiny sestertii 🤩

Here are some Sestertii made of pure yellow Orichalcum (it is noteworthy that unpatinated Sestertii from Marcus Aurelius to Septimius Severus and from Severus Alexander to Decius usually consist of a more reddish alloy due to an increased content of copper and a reduction of zinc, while those of the later soldier emperors appear darker and darker due to containing no more zinc but lead and other cheaper metals)










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I have only one coin, a dupondius, that shows the original orichalcum color.

Julia Titi Flavia (daughter of Titus), AE (orichalcum) Dupondius 80-81 AD, Rome Mint. Obv. Draped bust right with hair bundled high in front and coiled in chignon high in back, IVLIA IMP T AVG F AVGVSTA/ Rev. Vesta seated left, holding palladium in right hand and long transverse scepter in left arm, VESTA below, S C across fields. RIC II.1 398 at. p. 223 (Titus) (2007 ed.), old RIC II 180 (Titus) (1926 ed.), Sear RCV I 2617 (ill.), BMCRE Titus 257. 26 mm., 12.23 g., 6 h.


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