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I Need Help with My New Aelius Caesar Denarius


Marsyas Mike

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This seems like it should be easy, but attributing this coin is really confusing me - here is a denarius of Aelius I picked up on eBay - it has some issues, but the portrait is quite nice, and the price was affordable.  It is a fairly common coin (for Aelius): 

Aelius-Den.PietasAltarJuly2023(0).jpg.86635769077f2da57beffe057245e263.jpg

I'll try to break down my confusion:

Overview:  There are a lot of Pietas types for Aelius Caesar's short reign. The main attributions of this one are: Obv.  Bare head right / Rev.  Pietas standing right, alter at feet left.  TR POT COS II legend.  Pietas is either holding an incense box or her garment (more below).

Why I'm Confused Part I:  OCRE/RIC contradictions, errors.

As most of you know, Hadrian was recently updated with all new RIC numbers (Aelius is included in this update).  OCRE reflects these new RIC numbers, but here is where the confusion starts.  My coin fits the following two descriptions (kind of):  

***

Subtype  RIC II, Part 3 (second edition) Hadrian 2641

Obverse: L AELIVS CAESAR Head of Lucius Aelius Caesar, right

Reverse: TR POT COS II Pietas standing leftraising hand and holding incense box; to left, altar

CONFUSION NOTE:  All four examples of 2641 are from the British Museum, which cross-references old RIC 432 (but OCRE cross-references RIC 2644 to RIC 432 - see below.)  So the British Museum and OCRE do not agree...

***

RIC II, Part 3 (second edition) Hadrian 2644

Obverse: L AELIVS CAESAR: Head of Lucius Aelius Caesar, right

Reverse: TR POT COS II: Pietas standing right, raising hand and holding incense box; to right, altar

Reference RIC II Hadrian 432

CONFUSION NOTE:  This says "to right, altar" BUT every single specimen of 2644 has altar to left (except one complete error; a seated fig. sestertius used as main photo to boot!)  The only altar to the right types are the common type with PIE-TAS in the field on either side of Pietas.  This whole section seems to be in error (for sure about the seated AE!).  Five acsearch auctions reference the new number, and call them RIC 2644 - and all five have the altar to the left, contradicting the OCRE description: 

 https://www.acsearch.info/search.html?term=aelius+pietas+denarius+2644&category=1-2&lot=&date_from=&date_to=&thesaurus=1&images=1&en=1&de=1&fr=1&it=1&es=1&ot=1&currency=usd&order=0

Does RIC 2644 even really exist?   I have not found any Pietas/altar right denarii - OCRE says it, then shows 10 examples that do not match the description!  Even if this is a rare variant, why does OCRE cross-reference it to the old RIC 432, which is the common Pietas/altar left?  Again, the British Museum, incidentally, cross references their RIC 2641 specimens to old RIC 432, which seems correct to me (see above). 

Why I'm Confused Part II:  What is Pietas holding? 

All the OCRE/RIC descriptions say Pietas is holding an incense box (see above).  Indeed, I would agree with this, for many, but not all examples.  Many of them - including mine - do not show a box, just a fold of fabric.  Quite a few auctions (acsearch) note this an delete the box, substitute a fold in the garment, etc.  None of the auctions I found bother with calling it a "var."  Which seems odd - it is a rather big difference.  Anyway, these are always attributed as RIC 432 (most auctions being from the past use the old numberings RIC 432 is now RIC 2644, per OCRE).  

@Roman Collectorpointed this box/no-box issue with a Faustina I sestertius in a recent PM.  He sees it as a variant of the same type, and I'd agree with that. 

So that's a confusing account of my confusion - I've looked at this so long I'm afraid I've talked myself into a morass that does not exist.  An actual paper copy of the new RIC for Hadrian would probably clear this up (assuming the errors are all OCRE).  Any help greatly appreciated, and feel free to share some Aelius Caesars.  

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Ocre is full of errors like this in the descriptions. The images can also be wrong if one reference became two in the new RIC and the wrong one is used (amongst many reasons). RIC itself will very likely be correct. It might be that 2641 is Pietas and 2644 is Salus, given what's listed under 'deity', even though the descriptions are both Pietas.

Edited by John Conduitt
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7 minutes ago, John Conduitt said:

Ocre is full of errors like this in the descriptions. The images can also be wrong if one reference became two in the new RIC and the wrong one is used (amongst many reasons). RIC itself will very likely be correct. It might be that 2641 is Pietas and 2644 is Salus, given what's listed under 'deity', even though the descriptions are both Pietas.

Thank you, John.  I had not noticed the Salus listed under deity.  And yep, OCRE is a great resource in many ways, but it does have a lot of errors.  

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Thank you for your help with this @John Conduitt and @shanxi - at this point I'm going with the British Museum for attribution, since they seem to make the most sense to me (and heck, it's the British Museum).  Like John says, I think all of them in OCRE are RIC 2641...

Aelius (Caesar) Denarius (137 A.D.) Rome Mint L AELIVS CAESAR, bare head right / TR POT COS II, Pietas standing left, raising right hand and holding drapery in left (not incense box), altar to left. RIC II, 3 Hadrian 2641 (old RIC II, Hadrian 432); BMCRE 972-974; Cohen 53. (2.64 grams / 17 x 16 mm) eBay July 2023 Note:  Confusing, error-filled OCRE listing.  See NF post July 28, 2023. Some of these have Pietas holding incense box, others, like this one, drapery.  Four British Museum citations: RIC II, 3 Hadrian 2641; RIC II, Hadrian 432corr.; BMCRE 972-974 (plus one without BM no.; Strack 393)

 

@ominus1, I'm going to hang on to this one for now - if I got rid of it now it would reduced my Aelius silver collection by %50!  😁

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