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Fourrée Roman Republican Denarius...but with Die-Matches to Official Issues? L. Calpurnius Piso Frugi

Marsyas Mike

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My latest Roman Republican denarius is a fourrée issue (silver foil over a base-metal core) of L. Calpurnius Piso Frugi (90 B.C.).  I was hoping the reverse damage was just some really bad case of planchet lamination, as the damage was covered in dirt when I got it.  A gentle cleaning in distilled water revealed a very cruddy base core, probably bronze.  The weight is low too.  So yep, fourrée.

Lately I've been hunting up die-matches to my purchases, and given this was presumably not an "official" issue, I didn't think I'd have much luck.  Furthermore, this issue is enormous.  But to my surprise, I found several obverse die-matches and one obverse-reverse.  

So here's mine with attribution, including die-matches:


Roman Rep.  Fourrée Denarius L. Calpurnius Piso Frugi  (90 B.C.) Rome Mint Laureate head of Apollo right; H at throat / L• PI[SO FRV]G I ROM[A], horseman galloping right carrying palm frond, no control mark above.  Crawford 340/1; Calpurnia 11. (2.75 grams / 17 x 16 mm) eBay Sep. 2023  

Die-Match Obv. & Rev.:

 Numismatik Lanz München Auct. 141; Lot 267; 26.05.2008 Note:  no control mark above horseman.

Die-Match Obverse Only:

American Numismatic Soc. Silver Coin, 0000.999.618

Leu Numismatik Web Auct. 3; Lot 767; 25.02.2018

A. Tkalec AG Auct. Oct. 2003; Lot 174; 24.10.2003

Numismatica Ars Classica Auct. 125; Lot 399; 23.06.2021

Numismatica Ars Classica  Auct. 136; Lot 35; 15.12.2022

Here are photos of several obverse die-matches, the H-under-the-chin control mark - all of these had reverse control marks over the horseman, whereas mine does not have one - these are all from acsearch auctions:


This is another obverse die-match from the American Numismatic Society Collection: 


This is the only obverse/reverse match I found, including the absence of a reverse control mark above the horseman - the reverse is so damaged on mine that I could be mistaken:


I've heard theories that fourrée issues were actually issued by the Roman mint as a way to stretch the bullion supply - in other words, rather than debasing the entire issue, just minting a certain number of them with a base-metal core; this would explain the die-matches.  Or counterfeiters made them outside official channels - but if so, why the die-matches?

So I was wondering what NF members' opinions are about this.  Feel free to share your favorite fourrées.

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On 9/10/2023 at 7:15 PM, Ocatarinetabellatchitchix said:

Hello Mike. This is a very good question. It reminded me this old thread on Forvm. Hope it will help.



Thank you so much for providing that link, Dominic.  That was a very interesting and instructive discussion.  

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