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A New Titus Mars Reverse Variety

David Atherton

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A few weeks ago I posted a unique Titus Judaea Capta sestertius from a newly discovered issue.


By a lucky coincidence I was recently able to add the other reverse type newly recorded for the issue. I am very overjoyed to have won it!




Æ Sestertius, 23.85g
Rome mint, 80 AD
Obv: IMP T CAES VESPASIAN AVG P M TR P P P COS VIII; Head of Titus, laureate, bearded, r.
Rev: S C in field;
Mars, with cloak over shoulders, adv. r., with spear and trophy
RIC 135B, BMC -. BNC -.
Ex N&N London Auction 16, 1 May 2023, lot 454.

An extremely rare sestertius struck for Titus in early 80 as part of a newly discovered transitional issue. The first issue of 80 (Group 1) consists of three rare reverse types: Judaea Capta with standing captive, Pax, and Mars all with outwardly inscribed obverse legends starting counter clockwise from the lower right. Group 2 is the massive bronze issue Titus struck between 80-81 with inwardly inscribed obverse legends clockwise starting from the lower left and featuring 'VESP' instead of the previous issue's 'VESPASIAN'. With the recent discovery of this Mars type along with the newly discovered Judaea Capta sestertius T135A I previously shared, we can now say for certain that there was a brief transitional issue struck between the two groups, (now called Group 1A) featuring inwardly inscribed legends with 'VESPASIAN'. This is the second known example of the Mars type for Group 1A, it would later be more commonly struck at the Thracian mint. RIC II.1 co-author Ian Carradice has assigned the new variety as RIC 135B in the Addenda & Corrigenda. It must be noted this Mars type was not struck for the subsequent Rome mint Group 2.

Curtis Clay has proposed (Gemini IX, lot 448) a Thracian origin for the Group 1 issue because of the flat fabric of the flans (a trademark of the Thracian mint), many of the specimens came to market after the fall of the Iron Curtain, and the reverse designs match those struck later at the Thracian mint. He further argues the 'Rome mint' style can be explained by Roman die engravers being transferred to Thrace. The style indeed mirrors contemporary Rome mint denarii, which can only be a result of the same engravers working on both issues. Despite the flat fabric of the flans, the style does not match up to the later Thracian issues (heavily seriffed letters, large portraits), and the circulation pattern appears to be similar with the Rome mint issues. For the time being I'll attribute Group 1 and 1A to Rome until further evidence comes to light.


Here it is 'in hand'.



Once again, thank you for looking!

Edited by David Atherton
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  • David Atherton changed the title to A New Titus Mars Reverse Variety

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