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An Eastern Mint Mystery

David Atherton

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An as yet unidentified Asia Minor mint struck a small issue of bronze coins under Vespasian in 77-78 AD. Various theories abound about its location. All of the coins from the series are quite scarce, with new varieties surfacing from time to time (so, we really don't have a full picture yet). My latest addition is from this 'mystery mint'. It may not win any beauty contests, but I love this kind of coin!




Titus as Caesar [Vespasian]
Æ25.5, 8.02g
Ephesus (?) mint, 77-78 AD
Obv: T CAESAR IMPER PONT; Head of Titus, laureate, bearded, r.
Rev: TR POT COS VI CENSOR; S C in field; Mars adv. l., with spear and shield
RIC 1513 (R2). BMC -. BNC -. RPC 1482 (1 spec.).
Ex Harlan J Berk BBS 225, 30 November 2023, lot 95. Ex Curtis Clay Collection. Ex Ritter List 46, August 1996, no. 654.

Late in Vespasian's reign a rare series of orichalcum bronze coins were struck in Asia Minor at an unknown mint. Although imperial in appearance, the style, weight system, and metal used all point to a mint other than Rome. Due to their extreme rarity today, they could not have been struck for any great length of time (the date cannot be narrowed down any further than Vespasian's COS VIII, 77-78 AD). The types consist of ones variously copied from either Rome or local provincial issues. A stylistic similarity with the earlier 'o' mint denarii possibly struck at Ephesus has been noted by both RIC and RPC. Admittedly, the link to the infamous 'o' mint is tenuous at best*, but it is the most sound theory proposed so far (M. Grant, 'Asses of Orichalcum', Centennial Publication of the American Numismatic Study, pp. 285-302). Further, metal analyses by Carradice and Cowell ('The minting of Roman Imperial Bronze Coins for Circulation in the East: Vespasian to Trajan', NC 147, pp. 26-50) strongly supports an Asia Minor origin for the issue. Only one specimen of this Mars type is cited by both RIC and RPC from Oxford. Missing from the BM and Paris collections.

*One objection to this link is the fact the 'o' mint series is riddled with mules and mixed up titles, something we don't see with the bronze issue.


In hand.


As always, thank you for looking!

Edited by David Atherton
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