Jump to content

Faustina Friday – Adventures in Cherry-Picking

Roman Collector

Recommended Posts


Friday felicitations, fellow Faustina fanatics! I hope you have a coin-filled weekend. Today we'll discuss a lifetime denarius of Faustina the Elder that I never thought I would have the opportunity to acquire: the VESTA seated type of the second issue for the empress, struck after Antoninus Pius had assumed the title of Pater Patriae in early 139 CE but before the joint-consulship of Antoninus and Aurelius Caesar in 140.



Faustina I, 138-140 CE.
Roman AR denarius, 2.87 g, 18.1 mm, 6 h.
Rome, 2nd emission, 139-140 CE.
Obv: FAVSTINA AVG ANTONINI AVG P P, bare-headed and draped bust, right.
Rev: VESTA, Vesta seated left, holding palladium and scepter.
Refs: RIC 334a; BMCRE 48n.; Cohen 287; Strack 399; RCV –; CRE –.

Coins of the second emission bear the obverse legend FAVSTINA AVG[VSTA] ANTONINI AVG [PII] P P. The epithet PII, like the rare variant AVGVSTA spelled out in full, is found only on aes where the larger flans allowed for expansion of the legends.

The auction firm had misidentified the coin as a type of the first issue, which lack the title P P in the obverse legend, for Pius had not yet accepted the title of Pater Patriae which had been offered to him by the senate in early 139 CE. The dealer commented about the coin, "This denarius is from the extremely rare first issue of Faustina I not yet calling Antoninus Pius 'Pater Patriae.'" The dealer is correct about the
rarity of the coins of this first issue, which consisted only of denarii. There appear to be three known specimens of this reverse type from the first issue. Strack notes two specimens of this type, to which he assigns catalog number 393: The British museum specimen (BMCRE 37) and Vienna (11165), which is cited by Cohen (285). A third recorded example appeared in Gemini Auction II (lot 441, 11 January 2006). I would have welcomed the opportunity to purchase a fourth example, to be sure, because the type is lacking in my collection.

But the coin bears the title P P in the obverse legend, identifying it as a production of the second issue, not the first, and the dealer's description was in error. In general coins of the second issue are merely scarce, not rare. But that's not the case with the VESTA reverse type. Prior to the appearance of this coin at auction, it was known from only two specimens. Strack cites the collections in Berlin and Rome. The coin is listed in Cohen, but Cohen cites no source. I presume it was either the Berlin or Rome specimen, because had it been from another source, such as the French national collection in the Bibliothèque nationale de France, that would have been noted by Strack. The coin is not listed in Temeryazev & Makarenko’s comprehensive The Coinage of Roman Empresses (CRE). There were no examples of the coin in the Reka Devnia hoard, and none are listed among the collections of more than fifty European and North American museum collections that collaborate with Oxford University’s OCRE online project. A comprehensive search of internet auction databases, such as acsearchinfo and Coin Archives, yields nothing.

Strack illustrates the Berlin specimen. The specimen in the Nationalmuseum in Rome is not available online for comparison, unfortunately. Mine appears to have been struck from different dies than Strack 399.


Strack plate 6, no. 399. Staatliches Münzkabinett, Berlin.

Therefore, my coin appears to be the third known example of this type. The coin is admittedly well-worn and plagued with encrustations, scratches, and horn silver. For this reason, the coin generated only modest interest at auction (four bidders, including me) and it was affordable on my budget. I consider it an example of cherry-picking and I feel quite lucky to have been able to add it to my collection of Antonine women.

Have you cherry-picked anything lately? Tell us about it! Please post comments, coins, or anything you feel is relevant!

Edited by Roman Collector
  • Like 15
  • Clap 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...