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Inexpensive Carausius turns out to be more interesting than I thought


CPK

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I was looking for a filler coin while putting together an order recently, and an antoninianus of Carausius caught my eye. It wasn't in the best shape, but it was recognizable and more importantly, it had the PAX AVGGG triple-G ending. I've always thought this type was interesting from a historical perspective, as an attempt by Carausius to portray himself as a legitimate Emperor along with Diocletian and Maximian. I don't think Carausius was so naive as to think the proclaimed "peace among the [three] Augusti" was a reality, but rather it was a clever piece of propaganda for his own subjects on the island of Britannia. To emphasize to them his own legitimacy as a bone-fide Emperor.

Aaaaandd...here's the coin.

 

Carausiusantoninianuspaxavggg.jpg.757cc22db7e0ef5be2112b5162401a70.jpg

When I received the coin, I began to research the type as I typically do. I found out that apparently, the obverse legend - IMP C CARAVSIVS AVG - is not very common. Most of his antoniniani also have the abbreviation P or P F in between his name and "AVG". 

The other interesting thing was the mintmark. RIC lists two different mintmarks for this type (336) of the Camulodunum mint: 'C' and 'II C'. However the mark on my specimen is clearly an M for 'M C'. RIC does list this mintmark for no. 335, but 335 is a different obverse legend (IMP C CARAVSIVS P AVG).

This makes me wonder if the 'II C' mintmark type given under 336 is a mistake due to a blundered engraving. I can easily see how a blundered 'M' might have looked like 'II'. What is the 'II' supposed to mean, anyway?

I was able to find a couple examples with an obverse legend and mintmark that matches my coin, but there aren't many. Here is perhaps the best specimen, from the British Museum:

00559331_001.jpg.6e5c421c12cfdec7e13be6f952e89061.jpg

 

The last interesting thing I discovered was, on both my coin and the BM specimen Carausius is clearly both draped and cuirassed - you can see a bit of the cuirass showing at 7 o'clock on the obverse, beneath the drapery. Moreover the BM describes the bust as draped and cuirassed. But RIC 336 clearly describes the portrait as radiate and draped only. 335, on the other hand, is listed either/or: draped, or draped + cuirassed.

This would mean that according to RIC, my coin could be described as either a 335 obv. legend variant, or a 336 bust and mintmark variant. 🤔  In my photo presentation I just listed it as "RIC V 336 var." but perhaps I should list it as a 335 variant instead. EDIT - decided to go with 335 var - seems to be closer to than 336.

Which would you say it is? Please be free with your comments and thoughts! 

And feel free also to post up your own coins of this fascinating rebel pirate emperor!

Edited by CPK
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Carausius is one of the very few whom I collect from the billon era.  I don't have many, perhaps a half dozen.

Indeed, Carausius was my (co) first mail-order coin, from Allen Berman.

Yours has rustic charm.  The patina is rather charming and it's actually a bit better than average condition for the type.  Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

 

Carausius-AEAntoninianus-25mm5.12g1h-London-PaxniceoliveS-PMLRICV98.jpg.95b5b0261a100a874067115e9b20a39d.jpg

Carausius - AE Antoninianus - 25mm, 5.12g 1h - London - Pax nice olive S-P ML RIC V 98

Here's my most recent example, acquired for the huge flan and relatively splendid patina.  It's tough (and expensive) to find a bulletproof example of said emperor.

 

 

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Very interesting with the AVGGG.

Here is my more common PAX AVG

Carausius BI Radiate. Uncertain mint (London?), AD 286-293. IMP C CARAVSIVS P F AVG, radiate, draped and cuirassed bust to right / PAX AVG, Pax standing to left, holding olive branch and cornucopiae; S-P across fields. RIC V.2 475; Webb 532. 4.50g, 24mm, 6h.

 

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Edited by Tejas
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I have another Carausius with PAX AVG reverse, but this one shows a somewhat different portrait style.  The "upright" portrait style (above) vs the "forward leaning" portrait style below. I suppose these two coins come from different mints.

 

2.PNG

Edited by Tejas
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Well, it's a Carausius but as a coin nothing to write home about.

 

carausius1.jpg.9406884e541d41e609730303ae03b644.jpg

carausius2.jpg.c235431406d0af3e33f6ea07222bec83.jpg

 

I really like the Carausius with his two "brothers" - fratres, Diocletian and Maximian, even more hopeful about AVGGG then your coin @CPK. One of this type is on my one-day wish list if they ever come up for sale... 

carausius3.jpg.d79eb53e7759dd675e84b67fd5d458a4.jpg

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Happen to have this to hand. Carausius "three emperors" series from the C mint. It also sports the relatively scarce S/P//MC mark (most C coins of this series are simply S/P//C or, where the field is occupied by design, SPC all in the exergue). 

RIC -;  Carson (Naster festschrift) -; Bourne 166

Screenshot_20230908-165211~2.png

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In 2009 I published in Spink Numismatic Circular all "three emperors" coins known to me, building on R A G Carson's paper in the Naster festschrift. Your coin is not in that list, nor in my supplement. The BM specimen you show is different to your coin as it has the vertical sceptre reverse (Bourne 164, Rogiet 997) whereas yours has the transverse sceptre reverse. A good find. 

Richard Bourne

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3 hours ago, Mauseus said:

Richard Bourne

Welcome aboard Rich ! We will all appreciate your numismatic expertise here. And for members who do not yet know your fantastic Carausius’ collection and your blog, here are the links.

Dominic

https://www.forumancientcoins.com/gallery/thumbnails.php?album=157

http://mauseus.blogspot.com

 

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Just now, ominus1 said:

..i didn't know there was such a creature as 'a inexpensive Carausius' ^^

The earlier issues that may or may not be barbarous are less expensive. Just don't go for anything that isn't Pax.

Carausius Antoninianus, 286
image.png.e0738b609a5dbfdaa32475a205976185.png
Londinium. Silver, 19mm, 2.32g. Radiate bust right; CARAVSIVS AVG. Pax standing left holding branch and sceptre; PAX AVG (cf RIC 878-91).

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The AVGGG coins he struck of the other emperors are less expensive too.

Maximian (under Carausius) Antoninianus, 287-293
image.png.36579fd9c0f5c9c6312e1ef548fef599.png
Londinium. Bronze, 22mm, 4.29g. Radiate and cuirassed bust right; IMP C MAXIMIANVS PF AVG. Pax standing left, holding olive branch and long sceptre; PAX AVGGG; S-P; MLXXI in exergue (RIC V, 34).

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9 hours ago, Mauseus said:

In 2009 I published in Spink Numismatic Circular all "three emperors" coins known to me, building on R A G Carson's paper in the Naster festschrift. Your coin is not in that list, nor in my supplement. The BM specimen you show is different to your coin as it has the vertical sceptre reverse (Bourne 164, Rogiet 997) whereas yours has the transverse sceptre reverse. A good find. 

Richard Bourne

Thanks!

Do you know of any specimens like mine, since then?

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4 hours ago, CPK said:

Thanks!

Do you know of any specimens like mine, since then?

No I don't. I maintained a supplementary list through to 2021 when it became clear that the new RIC volume to cover the period was imminent (early next year hopefully). Attached the relevant part of my listing, Red entries are supplementary pieces. 

IMG_20230908_172209.png

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16 hours ago, Ocatarinetabellatchitchix said:

This is a fantastic Carausius/Allectus collection and a great resource. Thanks for posting the links.

 

What I wonder a bit about is the metal standard of coins of Carausius and Allectus. I think the realm of Carausius and Allectus suffered severe economic difficulties with a rapid inflation (i.e. reduction in the coin standard). 

My top coin below has some silver content, i.e. the metal is a grey-silvery billon. The coin below appears to be made of pure copper.

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I think that these economic diffulties worsened under Allectus, who seems to have introduced a "reduced Antoninian", a coin that is (probably) wrongly refered to as Quinarius. The top coin below (from my collection) appears to be pure copper, but it is heavy at nearly 6 gr., while the bottom coin weighs only half that. 

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Edited by Tejas
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7 hours ago, Tejas said:

Maybe your coin would benefit from professional cleaning.

Maybe. I think some of it is the patina chipping. I did some poking with a toothpick when it arrived, and it didn't really help anything.

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