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Faustina Friday – A Denarius Struck with Aureus Dies


Roman Collector

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Friday felicitations, fellow Faustina fanatics! I hope you have a great weekend ahead of you. Again, I'm interrupting the recreation of Sulzer's collection of coins of Faustina the Younger – this time to discuss a fascinating issue of Faustina the Elder. The issue under discussion is the AVGVSTA/Fortuna standing left, holding patera and long rudder set on globe reverse type (RIC 372). This reverse type was officially minted only in the aureus denomination, in the "later 150s,"[1] toward the end of the reign of Antoninus Pius. It is a common aureus reverse type, and Beckmann identified thirty-five reverse dies used in its manufacture.[2] The reverse type is paired with many obverse dies, including veiled and right-facing and bare-headed and left-facing bust types in addition to the usual bare-headed and draped bust right portrait style. The sheer number of reverse dies and portrait styles indicates a rather lengthy period of mintage.

The numismatic community had long been aware of a single specimen of this reverse type struck in silver, which resides in the collection at the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The Hermitage's vast collection of coins, however, is not available for viewing online, unfortunately. However, a cast of the specimen was available to Strack, who illustrates it in his catalog, citing the Hermitage collection.[3]


FaustinaSrAVGVSTAFortunadenariusHermitage(Strack).jpg.b1f2e33f81e298f3155d1b477c9b926f.jpg

Silver denarius in the collection of The State Hermitage Museum featuring the reverse type AVGVSTA/Fortuna standing left, holding patera and long rudder set on globe (Strack 473).


This reverse type in silver is not listed in RIC, Sear, or Temeryazev and Makarenko, but is cited as a footnote by Mattingly (BMCRE 447n.)[4] and by Seaby (RSC 123a),[5] each citing Strack. The Hermitage specimen appears to be of official style in its artistry. However, its obverse die does not match any of the 133 DIVA FAVSTINA aureus obverse dies cataloged by Beckmann,[6] nor does its reverse die match any of the thirty-five reverse dies he catalogs of this design.[7] Moreover, I have examined several dozen specimens of the aureus of this type at various online databases such as acsearchinfo, Coin Archives, and OCRE, and have not identified an aureus which is a die-match to either the obverse or reverse of the Hermitage specimen.

So, what are we to make of this? It certainly looks official, but the lack of any die-matches to known aurei gives one pause. Moreover, the resolution of the illustration in Strack is very limited, making judgment about its authenticity difficult. Could it be a modern forgery? Of course. However, Strack makes no note about any concern for its authenticity, and I'm inclined to accept it as a silver coin accidentally made in the Rome mint in antiquity with dies intended for aureus production. Beckmann's catalog of dies, although extensive, is not complete.

A second denarius surfaced in 2000, when a silver coin of this reverse type was sold at Baldwin's / M&M's The New York Sale.


FaustinaSrAVGVSTAFortunadenariusTheNewYorkSale.jpg.28d0c466372d565acc57ec8ae818d6a1.jpg

Silver denarius, Baldwin's / M&M, The New York Sale Auction 3, lot 686, 7 December 2000. The engraving is of an unofficial style and the coin is likely an ancient imitative issue, a modern struck forgery, or a genuine official ancient issue that has been subjected to extensive tooling.


Note the very unusual style of the engraving, particularly in the way the hairstyle is depicted on the portrait and the details of Fortuna's drapery and the portrayal of her left foot on the reverse. It, of course, matches none of the obverse or reverse dies in Beckmann's die-study. This dramatic deviation from the style of the official dies indicates either an imitative issue produced in antiquity based upon the design of the corresponding aureus (RIC 372), a forgery struck in modern times from engraved dies, or that it is a genuine specimen that has been subjected to extensive tooling. I suspect that if it were a modern forgery, more than one specimen would have surfaced. I have a hunch the coin is a victim of tooling, but I cannot render a definitive opinion without examining the piece in hand.

A third specimen appeared at Roma's most recent auction and I had to acquire it for my collection. I illustrate it below with my own photograph.


FaustinaSrAVGVSTAFortunadenarius.jpg.572c5a74d2bcb66e7c7e4f72d1b0b382.jpg

Faustina I, 138-140 CE.
Roman AR denarius, 3.36 g, 17.6 mm, 12 h.
Rome, later 150s CE.
Obv: DIVA FAVSTINA, bare-headed and draped bust, right.
Rev: AVGVSTA, Fortuna, draped, standing left, holding patera in extended right hand and vertical rudder on globe in left.
Refs: RIC –; BMCRE 447n.; RSC 123a; Strack 473; RCV –; CRE –.
Notes: Roma Numismatics, E-Sale 108,
lot 950, 13 April 2023. Double die-match to aureus, Fritz Rudolf Künker GmbH & Co., eLive Auction 44, lot 110, 4 April 2017.


This coin was struck with a different die pair from the Hermitage specimen illustrated by Strack, above. It is, interestingly, a double die-match to an aureus sold five years ago, illustrated below. This is the only die-match I have been able to find after a comprehensive search of online databases.

FaustinaSrAVGVSTAFortunaaureusKunker.jpg.9730e858920b6a16bf3b48c8302d7689.jpg

Aureus of Faustina the Elder featuring the reverse type AVGVSTA/Fortuna standing left, holding patera and long rudder set on globe (RIC 371). Fritz Rudolf Künker GmbH & Co., eLive Auction 44, lot 110, 4 April 2017. The coin is a double die-match to a denarius, Roma Numismatics, E-Sale 108, lot 950, 13 April 2023.


The coin is lightly double struck on the reverse. The reverse type is that catalogued by Beckmann as AF18. This reverse type is rare; Beckmann cites a single coin struck with this reverse type, Arquennes 703.[8] Beckmann's coin is paired with a different obverse die, df22, than the Künker specimen.[9] The Künker specimen uses an obverse die which does not appear in Beckmann's catalog of DIVA FAVSTINA obverse dies. Here is the relevant die-linkage chart in Beckmann's text.

20230423_065412.jpg.f44ba9342f7514e5ff8bb66b00544a21.jpg

Die-linkage chart illustrating Beckmann aureus reverse die AF18, which is a die-match to the reverses of the denarius and aureus illustrated above. This is the only specimen in Beckmann to use this reverse die. Note the obverse die with which it is paired, df22, is not a die-match to the denarius and aureus illustrated.


Upon close examination, the coin appears to be struck in good silver, without evidence of casting. This is unlikely to be a die-transfer fake, simply because there appear to be only two aurei in existence struck with this reverse die, one of which is paired with a completely different obverse die and the other of which has been double-struck, a feature of the coin that would have been transferred to the fake die. If this is a die-transfer fake, there is no evidence of this on the denarius and no known exemplar from which a fake die could be transferred. Thus, this appears to be what it seems: a denarius struck with officially produced aureus dies in the Rome mint.

I propose that mint workers in the denarius workshop inadvertently grabbed a pair of dies intended for aureus production and struck silver coins with them before the error was discovered. Some of these coins were released into circulation and one ended up in Roma's most recent auction without a noted provenance.

If you have any information about any of the coins I have discussed, especially if you are aware of any other examples of this denarius or of any aurei that are die-matches to the coins illustrated, please let me know. Please post comments, coins, or anything you feel is relevant!

~~~

Notes


1. Martin Beckmann discusses the dating of this reverse type and its relationship to other late aurei, such as the CERES standing, AETERNITAS/Fortuna standing with patera and rudder on globe, and CONSECRATIO/peacock reverse types. Beckmann, Martin. Diva Faustina: Coinage and Cult in Rome and the Provinces. American Numismatic Society, 2012, pp. 69-71.

2. Beckmann, op. cit., Plates 2-4.

3. Strack, Paul L., Untersuchungen zur Römischen Reichsprägung des Zweiten Jahrhunderts, vol. 3, Die Reichsprägung zur Zeit des Antoninus Pius. Stuttgart 1937. pl. 7, no. 473.

4.
Mattingly, Harold, Coins of the Roman Empire in the British Museum, vol. IV: Antoninus Pius to Commodus. Introduction, indexes and plates. London, BMP, 1968, p. 63.

5. Seaby, H. A. Roman Silver Coins, vol II: Tiberius - Commodus. London, B. A. Seaby, LTD, 1968, p. 164.

6. Beckmann, op. cit., Plates 11-15.

7. Beckmann, op. cit., Plates 2-4.

8. Beckmann, op. cit., p. 128.

9. Beckmann, op. cit., Die Chart 8.

Edited by Roman Collector
Correcting obverse legend
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Fascinating read, thank you. I have no Faustinas so I read these each Friday and learn so much.

One point, the 3rd example that you purchased, the attribution you have written says, Obv: FAVSTINA AVGVSTA when the coin is DIVA FAVSTINA.

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1 hour ago, expat said:

Fascinating read, thank you. I have no Faustinas so I read these each Friday and learn so much.

One point, the 3rd example that you purchased, the attribution you have written says, Obv: FAVSTINA AVGVSTA when the coin is DIVA FAVSTINA.

Doh.jpg.3602ee1c4e78f9f471cdbcca5fcd5a2a.jpg

Thank you for the kind words and for catching my error! I've corrected the obverse legend in the OP!

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1 hour ago, ambr0zie said:

Is this example, that we discussed last year, in the same category, @Roman Collector? You must remember it

image.png.499908101bf80267103928e36121f118.png

That's a double die match to my coin! Astonishingly, I had forgotten about that coin when I wrote this week's installment. I hope I'm not becoming demented. 😞

At the time, that was the only known example of the coin and I discovered the die-matching aureus. However, it was the only example of the coin I was aware of at the time and I postulated it was an old-time forgery cast from an aureus. However, now that a second example has surfaced (the Roma one in my collection), I have examined it in hand and see no evidence at all of casting and its flan shape is different and is not simply a copy of the one from the one we discussed. It's very interesting and I think the two known examples of this die-pair are likely genuine (though I'm not positive).

 

1 hour ago, arizonarobin said:

@Roman Collector This one is also currently for sale: (same as the Baldwin sale coin)

Picture 3 of 5

That's an interesting development!!! So much for the tooling theory. It is such an unusual style that I suspect it's unofficial.

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The second coin that surfaced in 2000 was definitely a modern Bulgarian forgery. I have two of them in my "black cabinet" that I purchased back around that time. The flans are different but they are reverse and obverse die matches to the Baldwin's / M&M coin. They must also have been struck with some silver content as they have both toned in the ~20 years I have had them.

IMG_0414.JPG.8d7e312d932c1630944c30250e97ae4e.JPGIMG_0415.JPG.28cf9d498eeb128e577ff5c46ecc021e.JPG

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4 minutes ago, Romismatist said:

The second coin that surfaced in 2000 was definitely a modern Bulgarian forgery. I have two of them in my "black cabinet" that I purchased back around that time. The flans are different but they are reverse and obverse die matches to the Baldwin's / M&M coin. They must also have been struck with some silver content as they have both toned in the ~20 years I have had them.

IMG_0414.JPG.8d7e312d932c1630944c30250e97ae4e.JPGIMG_0415.JPG.28cf9d498eeb128e577ff5c46ecc021e.JPG

Thank you for sharing that info -- it confirms my impression that they are not of official style.

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