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He started over 1000 new threads on CoinTalk, if you have a question about Greek or Latin language, he’s the « go to person », he’s also young at heart even if he recently became a grandpa. But IMHO his greatest achievement was to interest us in the different women’s hairstyles dating back almost 18 centuries… this week let’s talk a bit with Roman Collector.


RC, can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you’re from, your family, hobbies, work…?

I'm 60 years old and an American.


How did you get interested in ancient coinage ?

I work in a STEM field [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] now but I was once enrolled in a Biblical languages and literature Ph.D. program. In grad school in the 80s, I naturally became attracted to art and literature of the ancient world. I used to collect US coinage as a kid with a limited budget and I've always had a collecting bug. In grad school, I was surprised at how affordable ancient coins were and I bought a few from time-to-time, starting with ...


What was the first coin you ever bought ?

The tribute penny that is my avatar. It's my avatar, not only because the coin is special to me, but because I kind of look like Tiberius.



Can you tell us an anecdote about a coin you own ? Your best bargain ? Your rarest   coin ? The specimen you will never sell ? The one you dream of acquiring ?


This is perhaps the best bargain in my collection. I'm not talking flyspecking, such as "rare with this hairstyle" or similar. No. A genuine rarity. There are three other examples known: 1. Paris specimen cited by Cohen and Strack, 2. Naples specimen cited by Strack, 3. Yale University Art Gallery 2009.110.36 = Münzhandlung Basel (Auction 1), June 28, 1934, pl. 29, 1171, 4., cited by Strack. Mine is the fourth known example.

It was overlooked by the condition cranks at auction and hammered for 45 GBP. Including shipping and all fees, it was less than $100.

Here is my specimen, ex-Bertolami.



Faustina Senior, AD 138-141.
Roman orichalcum dupondius, 16.19 g, 26.1 mm, 10 h.
Rome, AD 140-141.
Obv: DIVA AVGVSTA FAVSTINA, bare-headed and draped bust, right.
Rev: CONSECRATIO S C, Funerary ustrinum in three stories, set on base, ornamented and garlanded, surmounted by Faustina in biga right.
Refs: RIC 1189; BMCRE p. 236 *; Cohen 187; RCV --; Strack 1238.
Notes: Bertolami E-Auction 61, lot 550, 9 September 2018.

Here is the Paris specimen, Cohen 187.



The Yale University specimen. It has quite a provenance: Evans, Lawrence, von Koblitz, and Dr. Hans Steger, to 1933; Cahn, Frankfurt, Feburary 27, 1933, cat. 80, lot 740; Erzherzog Friedrich; Munzhandlung Basel, Basel, June 27, 1934, cat. 1, lot 1171; Walter Niggeler, to 1967; Bank Leu–Munzen and Medaillen (?), and ultimately to Yale University, 2009.



Here is the same coin, as illustrated in Strack, citing the Münzhandlung Basel specimen.




Unsurprisingly, all these examples were struck with the same reverse die. I have been unable to find an image of the Naples coin cited by Strack.

Although the building depicted on the reverse of this coin is often called a "funeral pyre," that is incorrect. It actually depicts the ustrinum of Faustina the Elder. An ustrinum was not a crematorium, but rather a monument that marked the site of the wooden funeral pyre, called a rogus in Latin, that was used to cremate the corpse.


*Since I first did this interview, a fifth specimen has been found, by collector captnCoin at Coin Talk. Here's a link to his post on my nearly four-year-old thread.


What do you collect exactly ? What is the size of your collection ?

I've always been primarily a collector of Roman coins (duh!), by which I mean the entire Roman area: Republic, Empire, and provincial coinage. I also have some ancient Greek bronzes with interesting iconography. I tend to go down various rabbit-holes in my collecting, and at various times I have worked on the following subcollections: The various deities and personifications on the reverses of Roman coins of the Imperial series, Roman provincial coins from The Seven Cities of Asia (Revelation 1:11), the CONSTANTINOPOLIS commemoratives, the Gallienus zoo series, the officinae of the Rome mint under Gallienus, the officinae markings of Philip I, Severan women, Trebonianus Gallus and Volusian, Nerva denarii, and Antonine women. The subcollection I have worked on for the longest period and in the greatest depth has been my collection of Faustina I and II, which I started some 25 years ago but which has been my focus for the last three years. Eventually, I'll find another rabbit hole to go down and I'll pursue that for a while.


What did you write about ?

I suppose I am best known for my weekly Faustina Friday essays. I have been writing them for more than three years now and am approaching 170 installments!!


What part of the history are you interested in ?

The aspect of history that interests me most is the stuff that isn't celebrated directly on coinage. I'm most interested in how ordinary folks lived from day-to-day in antiquity: the languages they spoke, the clothes they wore, how they styled their hair, the food they ate, the utensils and tools they used, the designs of their houses, their religious beliefs, and so on. My interest in numismatics is but a part of this broader interest in archaeology.


Do you have a numismatic goal for the next year ?

Keep working on my Antonine women collection. I may move on to Crispina and Lucilla (I have quite a few of these already), depending on how difficult it is to expand my Faustina I and II collection. People sometimes ask why I don't go into more depth in terms of collecting Antoninus Pius or Marcus Aurelius, but they have thousands of coins and it would simply be impossible to specialize in them with any hope of completeness. Moreover, I don't have the money for that. The Antonine empresses are less expensive to pursue than the Antonine emperors.


What numismatic books do you own / consult most often ? 

Sear for Roman coins as a whole, BMCRE for everything through the Severan period. It might surprise you, but I don't use RIC very much because it's little more than a translation of Cohen into English and it's full of misinformation. For very in-depth work on the Antonines, I use Dinsdale's catalog (in progress) and the Martin Beckmann volumes detailing his die-linkage studies of the aurei of Faustina I and II. But in terms of very in-depth analysis of bust varieties and dating of Faustina II, I have essentially had to write my own catalog.


Here is the Faustina the Elder album of my collection on my desk and some old auction catalogs. 


Thanks for your time and generosity RC. We hope you’ll continue for several years to write many more threads that are so informative and interesting to read. As usual, members, feel free to give us your comments about this week’s interview !


Edited by Ocatarinetabellatchitchix
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Excellent interview/ interesting to read about your collecting habits. I see Leu/ Elsen catalogues on desk/ great catalogues.

You store your coins same way as I do/ in binder/ with proper data labels/ 2X2 saflips. Really enjoyed your interview!


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A very interesting interview. I admire specialist/variety collections - a great way to deep-dive into the dynamics of the period and discover its secrets.

Faustina Friday is undoubtedly a highlight of the forum. I had read a few back issues when I joined.

I know the size does not matter… Still, from childhood, when meeting another boy (I wish there were girls) collecting coins, the first question was how many do you have? Please ingore is this was not part of the interview on purpose.

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Another great interview! Thanks @Ocatarinetabellatchitchix and @Roman Collector. I enjoy your "Faustina Friday" threads and the other massive contributions you make to the Forum here! 

A question: Have you ever considered publishing a more in-depth reference on the coinage of the Antonine women? You would have a lot of information and analysis to add to that field, for sure!

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Excellent interview RC & Ocat! Thanks for sharing.

Looking into stepping out on the Faustinas, you old dog. They're rolling over in their tombs. Though, I can't blame you Lucilla and Crispina look to have been 



LUCILLA Sestertius, RIC 1779, Vesta


REVERSE: VESTA, S-C, Vesta standing left, holding palladium and sacrificing with simpulum over lighted altar to left

Struck at Rome, 161-161 AD

30.4 mm, 21.89g AD ex @Bing CT



Augusta, A.D. 178-182. AE as Rome mint. CRISPINA AVGVSTA, draped bust right / IVNO LVCINA, S-C, Juno standing left, holding patera and long scepter. RIC 680

I'll be excited to see that part of your collection flourish!

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With thanks to @Ryro, another 


interview!  Thanks, @Ocatarinetabellatchitchix, for doing these, and for the sagacity both of your interviewing and your choices of subjects!  (To reiterate a personal message, No, Never Me; it would likely descend into digressive, stream-of-consciousness nonsense.)

But, @Roman Collector I'm really struck by the dynamics of your collecting.  First, the way you so seamlessly combine the purely esthetic dimension with the numismatics per se, and the full, broad range of the historical context.  Complementing that, the way in which your initial point of departure as a collector is the archeology, more than the history in the stricter sense.  Yes, it's that intuitive once someone like you mentions it --especially with social history as a kind of middle term of the dialectic-- but I had to sit back for a minute to appreciate its sheer resonance as an approach. 

 (Edit:  ...Well, actually, medievals really do have an esthetic side, too, but it tends to be an acquired taste!)

Edited by JeandAcre
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Thank you, @panzerman, @seth77, @Qcumbor, @Rand, @Tejas, @Al Kowsky, @Ancient Coin Hunter, @Ricardo123, @CPK, @Ryro, @JeandAcre, @Curtisimo, and @David Atherton for your kind words, encouragement, and Faustina coins! And thanks again to @Ocatarinetabellatchitchix for choosing to interview me for his interesting series of interviews.

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Great interview, @Ocatarinetabellatchitchix and @Roman Collector!

My apologies for just now getting to sit down and enjoy this interview.

I always look forward to your Friday Faustina posts, @Roman Collector your research and attention to detail is admirable. If you are not already the foremost authority on the Faustina coinage you’ll most certainly reach that milestone in the near future.

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