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Different officinae, different portraits


Valentinian

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A friend asked me if I had noticed that some officinae had better portraits than others. I responded that I hadn't, but would consider the question. I now pose it to you. I solicit evidence and opinions.

I could imagine that, if there are several officinae, the first would be the best quality. For example, in the Constantinian era (RIC VII) sometimes the lessor people (sons and wives) had higher officina numbers and the first officina minted primarily for the senior emperor. I suppose that would make officina one the best. Whether this is actually the case and whether it generalizes is in question.

 Here is a case of two officina  having different portraits. Both are Galerius (293-305-311) from Alexandria in the same issue. The top one is from Γ and the bottom one from A.

Galerius1GENIOIMPERATORIS23115.jpg.4bb26faa9e742695b398e7876219083c.jpg
25-23 mm. 5.84 grams.
RIC VI Alexandria, 101a, officina Γ "late 308-310"

Galerius1GENIOIMPERATORISmmALE88227.jpg.a3bd47b86ce45c13c9543dfab167eacd.jpg
25-24 mm. 6.06 grams.
RIC VI Alexandria, 101a, officina A.
The surfaces are very much different, making comparison harder. However, they are from the same issue with the same legends, same design, same fieldmarks (K  P), only with different officina. The sizes of the heads are quite different.  I wonder if I had more examples from A and Γ if they would have the same differences that these two do (i.e. is their artwork consistent?).

In this RIC issue all the officina minted for each ruler, so the above scenario with officina A reserved for the senior emperor does not apply. Maybe if it were it would not do a better job anyway. So, I ask you "It is the case that sometimes one officina makes better artwork than the others?" Do we have any evidence?

I solicit your comments. 


 

Edited by Valentinian
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  • Valentinian changed the title to Different officinae, different portraits

Hmmm ... interesting question to ponder, @Valentinian. Consider the case of these antoniniani of Philip the Arab with officina marks. Officina numbers were introduced at the Rome mint late in the reign of Philip I (the Arab). There were six officinae at the Rome mint under Philip. Officinae 1, 2, 5, and 6 were devoted to striking coins for him. Officina 3 was dedicated to producing coins for his son, Philip II, and officina 4 to those of his wife, Otacilia. These six coins were all issued in 248 CE. They are all of reasonable style, without a clear difference between them when you take into account state of preservation.

Officina 1 (A):

PhilipIPMTRPVCOSIIIPPMarsAntoninianus.jpg.7240473331c51d09569f7322f04f6f64.jpg

Officina 2 (B):

PhilipITRANQVILLITASAVGGantoninianus.jpg.2cd63b301dbbe20325f5f1772260da38.jpg

Officina 3 (Γ):

PhilipIIVIRTVSAVGGantoninianus.jpg.8d48b9b9a3e8fe7a3938bc5314a560ca.jpg

Officina 4 (Δ):

OtaciliaSeveraPIETASAVGGstandingwaltaranddeltaantoninianus.jpg.637127944612935f0656bc57650ccf43.jpg

Officina 5 (Є):

PhilipIVIRTVSAVGGantoninianus.jpg.ce6c6452c8f95e1c57a5aac1e2005299.jpg

Officina 6 (Ϛ):

PhilipINOBILITASAVGGantoninianus.jpg.202aedfef548e6c793d1d9f92239c842.jpg

Edited by Roman Collector
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53 minutes ago, Roman Collector said:

Hmmm ... interesting question to ponder, @Valentinian. Consider the case of these antoniniani of Philip the Arab with officina marks. Officina numbers were introduced at the Rome mint late in the reign of Philip I (the Arab). There were six officinae at the Rome mint under Philip. Officinae 1, 2, 5, and 6 were devoted to striking coins for him. Officina 3 was dedicated to producing coins for his son, Philip II, and officina 4 to those of his wife, Otacilia. These six coins were all issued in 248 CE. They are all of reasonable style, without a clear difference between them when you take into account state of preservation.

Officina 1 (A):

PhilipIPMTRPVCOSIIIPPMarsAntoninianus.jpg.7240473331c51d09569f7322f04f6f64.jpg

Officina 2 (B):

PhilipITRANQVILLITASAVGGantoninianus.jpg.2cd63b301dbbe20325f5f1772260da38.jpg

Officina 3 (Γ):

PhilipIIVIRTVSAVGGantoninianus.jpg.8d48b9b9a3e8fe7a3938bc5314a560ca.jpg

Officina 4 (Δ):

OtaciliaSeveraPIETASAVGGstandingwaltaranddeltaantoninianus.jpg.637127944612935f0656bc57650ccf43.jpg

Officina 5 (Є):

PhilipIVIRTVSAVGGantoninianus.jpg.ce6c6452c8f95e1c57a5aac1e2005299.jpg

Officina 6 (Ϛ):

PhilipINOBILITASAVGGantoninianus.jpg.202aedfef548e6c793d1d9f92239c842.jpg

Interesting indeed. Judging from that rather unflattering portrait of Otacilia Severa, one might think that Officina 4 wasn't doing a great job that year. But here's another portrait of her from the same Officina in the same year (with the Officina number rendered in Roman rather than Greek numerals), in which I think she looks quite fetching:

image.png.6c3213855aa2cfd09bd34b406e9336a9.png

So I'm not sure if any conclusions can be drawn. 

Edited by DonnaML
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Interesting observation, @Valentinian.  If I got my attribution right, I have one like the OP but officina B.  The style is mediocre in my opinion and the reverse is double-struck as well.  Not the mint's best work, not as nice as either of yours - note the heavy-limbed, stiff cartoonish Genius on the reverse of this one.  Maybe it is an "unofficial" imitation?  

Galerius-FollesGeniusDec.2018(0).jpg.d52626925cd987637228cbffdd46ac16.jpg

Galerius   Æ Follis (308-310 A.D.) Alexandria Mint IMP C GAL VAL MAXIMIANVS PF AVG, laureate head rt. / GENIO IMPERATORIS, Genius standing left, holding patera and cornucopiae, K left, B/P right, ALE in exergue. RIC VI Alexandria 101a, B. (6.45 grams / 24 mm) eBay Dec. 2018      Lot @ $1.18

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Hi All,

Here are two showing Officina S (6). One official, and one a cast imitation, like that of @Marsyas Mike from Officina B (2). Overall, the coin portrait looks pretty good.

image.png.9e2a591074e6e328f2408ef09f66c3cb.png

 

MAXIMIANUS I HERCULIUS AUGUSTUS (With DIOCLETIAN: Jul 285 - 305)
ALEXANDRIA, EGYPT ca Dec 308 - May 311 CE
Æ Follis
Size: 24x2 5mm
Weight: 7.15 g
Axis: 11:00
Broucheion Collection R-xxxx-xx-xx.065

Obv: Galerius Maximianus laureate head facing right. Legend: IMPCGALVALMAXIMINVSPFAVG. Dotted border.
Rev: Zeus, nude, standing facing with head turned to left. Holds patera pouring a libation in outstretched left hand. Liquid from patera. Legend: GENIOIMP - ERATORIS. In left field: K; In right field: S over P. In exergue: ALE. Dotted border.
Refs: RIC VI, Alexandria, 101a (OFF S).
Provenance: Ex Imperial Coins & Antiques (David S. Michaels)
Note: Reverse legens error, looks like "SRATORIS" instead of "ERATORIS".

The cast imitation:

image.png.33da0813398630c48a93247b4f20b396.png

MAXIMIANUS I HERCULIUS AUGUSTUS (With DIOCLETIAN: Jul 285 - 305)
ALEXANDRIA, EGYPT ca Dec 308 - May 311 CE
Æ Follis
Size: 23x27 mm
Weight: 6.69 g
Axis: 6:00 ( ! )
Broucheion Collection R-2019-09-13.001

Obv: Galerius Maximianus laureate head facing right. Legend: IMPCGALVALMAXIMINVSPFAVG. Dotted border.
Rev: Zeus, nude, standing facing with head turned to left. Holds patera pouring a libation in outstretched left hand. Liquid from patera. Legend: GENIOIMP - ERATORIS. In left field: K; In right field: S over P. In exergue: ALE. Dotted border.
Refs: RIC VI, Alexandria, 101a (OFF S).
Provenance: Ex eBay
Note 1: From CEV Nixon (Journal of the Numismatic Association of Australia, vol 24, 2013) : "Technique of manufacture: To cast coins individually would have been very time-consuming, so ways were devised to speed the process. In the method used to make the moulds discussed here, a coin (or coins) would be pressed into a disc of moist clay to form a clear impression, then the process would be repeated, the coins removed, and the clay discs bound together carefully to form a sausage-like cylinder. A furrow would then be cut into the side of the cylinder so that many casts could be made one from one pour. The utmost care would be needed to bind the moulds together without distorting the impressions. This hypothesis neatly explains why each mould has impressions on both sides. Upon their cooling, the moulds would be broken apart and the cast coins extracted."


Note 2: From B. Lichocka "Forgery on the Nile" (ACADEMIA, 2006) : "Copies were produced in at least several workshops strewn throughout the province of Egypt, but the same technology was used everywhere. There can be no doubt that the forgers had an excellent grasp of the properties of metal, and it is possible that official mint employees were involved in producing imitations. Such a suspicion finds support in the Theodosian Code, although previous legal regulations had also instituted penalties for dishonest mint employees."


Note 3: Codex Theodosianus 9.21.3 [ed. T.Mommsen] : "The same [Augustus = Constantine I] to Tertullus, Proconsul of Africa: if anyone should fashion a coin by deceitful casting, we command that all his property be surrendered to the treasury, and that he himself should be punished with statutory severity, in order that such zeal for striking coins should be resorted to only in the mints. Issued on July 6th at Milan in the seventh consulship of Constantine A[ugustus] and the consulship of Constantius Caesar. [326]

Other laws in 9.21 refer to counterfeit [adulterinus] coins: e.g. in years 319 and 321 and again in 389 and 393. Clearly, counterfeiting was an ongoing problem for the Roman authorities.

The threat of being dispossessed of property or banished, or having other sanctions imposed, including against the individual in whose home coins were forged, did not provide a sufficient deterrent. Most likely, the death penalty was rarely employed against forgers of bronze coins. Perhaps the administration was so tied down with extracting and collecting numerous taxes, that it did not put much effort into punishing those who forged bronze coins, only useful in small, day-to-day transactions."

- Broucheion

 

 

 

 

Edited by Broucheion
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48 minutes ago, Broucheion said:

Note 2: From B. Lichocka "Forgery on the Nile" (ACADEMIA, 2006) : "Copies were produced in at least several workshops strewn throughout the province of Egypt, but the same technology was used everywhere. There can be no doubt that the forgers had an excellent grasp of the properties of metal, and it is possible that official mint employees were involved in producing imitations. Such a suspicion finds support in the Theodosian Code, although previous legal regulations had also instituted penalties for dishonest mint employees."

Very interesting - I had no idea cast counterfeits were so prevalent in Egypt during this time.  

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7 hours ago, Marsyas Mike said:

Very interesting - I had no idea cast counterfeits were so prevalent in Egypt during this time. 

Hi @Marsyas Mike,

I have over 20 articles in my library on the topic of Roman Egyptian cast fakes. Most are in French but enough are in English. The earliest I found was the 1905 article by Milne (Roman Coin-Moulds from Egypt), see JSTOR https://www.jstor.org/stable/42662134; the latest from 2020 by Irene Soto-Marin (Coin Molds and a Decentralized Monetary Policy in Tetrarchic Egypt) available at JSTOR (https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/27113062).

Just search Google or Bing for "coin molds", "coin molds", or "cast coins"  and Egypt".

EDIT: I forgot to mention @Valentinian (Warren Esty)'s Ancient Roman Coin Molds (Moulds) at http://augustuscoins.com/ed/numis/molds.html

- Broucheion

Edited by Broucheion
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9 hours ago, Broucheion said:

Here are two showing Officina S (6). One official,

The first coin, 7.15 grams, is RIC VI Alexandria 101a, as stated. But it is of Galerius (RIC page 676) , not Maximianus Herculius (the GAL VAL is the difference), and the obverse legend has MAXIMIANVS in it, not MAXIMINVS (ditto for the cast imitation). The date is given as Dec. 308 - May 311, which are dates for Galerius, not Maximian. So that coin is a good coin to compare with the OP coin of Galerius because it is the same type and has the same field marks, only with officina S instead of Γ.  

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On 7/19/2023 at 7:26 PM, Valentinian said:

But it is of Galerius (RIC page 676) , not Maximianus Herculius (the GAL VAL is the difference), and the obverse legend has MAXIMIANVS in it, not MAXIMINVS (ditto for the cast imitation). The date is given as Dec. 308 - May 311, which are dates for Galerius, not Maximian.

Yes, although notably the disgraced Maximianus does also appear in this issue c.308-309 (RIC VI Alexandria 102) as part of Daia's post-Carnuntum political posturing. Much rarer from Alexandria than the corresponding coins which also appear at Antioch. The legend used for Maximianus here is IMP C MAXIMIANVS PF SEN AVG, or sometimes "EN AVG", as on my specimen below.

image.png.c247b6378c5d93ef421127616896a6bb.png

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On 7/16/2023 at 7:23 PM, Valentinian said:

A friend asked me if I had noticed that some officinae had better portraits than others. I responded that I hadn't, but would consider the question. I now pose it to you. I solicit evidence and opinions.

I could imagine that, if there are several officinae, the first would be the best quality. For example, in the Constantinian era (RIC VII) sometimes the lessor people (sons and wives) had higher officina numbers and the first officina minted primarily for the senior emperor. I suppose that would make officina one the best. Whether this is actually the case and whether it generalizes is in question.

 Here is a case of two officina  having different portraits. Both are Galerius (293-305-311) from Alexandria in the same issue. The top one is from Γ and the bottom one from A.

Galerius1GENIOIMPERATORIS23115.jpg.4bb26faa9e742695b398e7876219083c.jpg
25-23 mm. 5.84 grams.
RIC VI Alexandria, 101a, officina Γ "late 308-310"

Galerius1GENIOIMPERATORISmmALE88227.jpg.a3bd47b86ce45c13c9543dfab167eacd.jpg
25-24 mm. 6.06 grams.
RIC VI Alexandria, 101a, officina A.
The surfaces are very much different, making comparison harder. However, they are from the same issue with the same legends, same design, same fieldmarks (K  P), only with different officina. The sizes of the heads are quite different.  I wonder if I had more examples from A and Γ if they would have the same differences that these two do (i.e. is their artwork consistent?).

In this RIC issue all the officina minted for each ruler, so the above scenario with officina A reserved for the senior emperor does not apply. Maybe if it were it would not do a better job anyway. So, I ask you "It is the case that sometimes one officina makes better artwork than the others?" Do we have any evidence?

I solicit your comments. 


 

I don't think it can be denied that different officina within a mint will vary in quality & style 😊. Which officina produced the better portrait or finer engraving might be hard to pin down 🤔. Sometimes quality will vary within the very same officina. Pictured below are two coins of Constantius I from the Cyzicus mint. All the coins are from my collection.

NGC2491172-014AlKowskyColl..jpg.746351d37914e8c22e09eb8473c4d002.jpgConstantiusICaesarAECyzicusGenius697Pete.jpg.ada6c65959e22ef76881413803e39c1d.jpg

Pictured below are two coins of Constantius I from the Lugdunum (Lyon) mint.

NGC2491170-027AlKowskyCollection.jpg.da7429f208daebefeaf1800aa1957240.jpg2491170-026AKCollection.jpg.cb5c39442af87d7723dc4c3859173732.jpg

Pictured below are three different nummi of Constantine the Great from the Trier mint.

ConstantineI3coins.jpg.e96d39e4fea2ae5330c340d6d76322d0.jpg

 

 

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How many engravers were there in an officina? It would be odd if there was such a difference in skill level between each one to notice. London mint coins almost all have the same recognisable style (there was only one officina) but it wasn't all from the same person.

If the medieval period is anything to go by, moneyers sometimes went around different mints, so presumably could switch officina regularly. They shared dies and made dies for each other. If you wanted flexibility to deal with different volumes or to set up new operations, you couldn't specify who worked where too strictly.

Constantine I Follis, 309-311
image.png.bc9d3cad1037019d88fb97d1876a82de.png
Londinium. Bronze, 24mm, 4.32g. Laureate and cuirassed bust right; IMP CONSTANTINVS PF AVG. Sol standing left, holding globe and raising hand;  SOLI INVICTO COMITI; T F; PLN in exergue (RIC VI, 121a). Ex Ken Bressett; from the Little Orme’s Head (North Wales) Hoard 1873 of 5,000 coins found in an urn in Penrhyn Bay.

Maximinus II as Augustus AE2, 310-312
image.png.3b6e9c8ab17a2b4d2240f952a97db2c0.png
Londinium. Bronze, 22mm, 4.90g. Laureate and cuirassed bust right; IMP MAXIMINVS PF AVG. Genio standing left, tower on head, loins draped, holding patera and cornucopiae; star in right field; GENIO-POP ROM; mintmark PLN (RIC VI, 209b).

Helena Follis, 324-325
image.png.e9007cd1a2cca719883636920f873652.png
Londinium. Bronze, 20mm, 2.93g. Bust of Helena, wearing necklace and mantle, right; FL HELENA - AVGVSTA. Securitas, draped, standing left, raising pallium with right hand and lowering branch with left hand; SECVRITAS - REIPVBLICE; PLON in exegue (RIC VII, 299).

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