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Soul of an Ancient Collector


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Julia Cornelia Salonina, wife of the Imerator Gallienus, marble bust, middle of the 3rd century AD. A29 Hermitage, Jupiter Hall. St. Petersburg, Russia. Photo by George Shuklin 16 June 2007, used under CC BY-SA 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

In a 1903 handbook on ancient coins, Francesco Gnecchi grumbled:

"The first collectors did not lay much stress on the state of preservation of their specimens, to which in the present day very great, and I might say excessive importance, is attached."

-Roman Coins, Elementary Manual by Francesco Gnecchi, translated by Alfred Watson Hands

Perfectly centered and well preserved coins, are certainly worthy of admiration and I am happy to even own a few.  However, as a collector of ancients, I find beauty in this coin and a perfection of its own, earned over centuries. 

An Ancient Tetradrachm


Roman Provincial, Egypt, Alexandria, Salonina, AD 254-268, Potin Tetradrachm (22.5mm, 10.13 g, 12h), dated RY 12 of Gallienus (AD 264/265)

Obv: Draped bust right, wearing diadem

Rev: Eirene standing left, holding branch and scepter; palm frond to left, IB/L (date) to right

Ref: Köln 2969; Dattari (Savio) 5331; K&G 91.33; Emmett 3855.12


Salonina's Portraits from Alexandria

Portraits of Salonina varied over the years, making this coin easy to identify as RY 12 although the date is obscured by the reddish brown encrustation.  Coins of Salonina with Eirene (Peace, daughter of Zeus and Themis - Justice) were issued in RY 3, 12, 13, 14, and 15, with the most common coin being RY 12.  This coin also can be mistaken for a similar RY 12 coin with Elpis (Hope) if you don't look closely.  Elpis looks similar but does not have a scepter.



Eirene & Elpis

Eirene and Elpis compared side by side (Left is Eirene, right Elpis) from Alexandrian Tetradrachms.



The Empress Salonina

There is not much known about Salonina, her birthplace and even family origins a bit obscure.  And only a few hints and speculations that she was politically a good choice of wife for Gallienus, that she was well educated, that she was sympathetic and even curious about Christianity, that she tolerated Gallienus' concubine (Pipa, daughter of the Marcomanni king Attalus), that she was the loyal partner to Gallienus in reign, she had three sons with Gallienus (Valerianus II, Saloninus, Marinianus), her death in Mediolanum at the end of Gallienus' reign is unconfirmed .

Salonina and Gallienus are credited with in intellectual renaissance in art and philosophy.  Plotinus, a Platonic philosopher, was a friend of the court:

"The Emperor Gallienus and his wife Salonina greatly honoured and venerated Plotinus, who thought to turn their friendly feeling to some good purpose. In Campania there had once stood, according to tradition, a City of Philosophers, a ruin now; Plotinus asked the Emperor to rebuild this city and to make over the surrounding district to the new-founded state; the population was to live under Plato's laws: the city was to be called Platonopolis; and Plotinus undertook to settle down there with his associates. He would have had his way without more ado but that opposition at court, prompted by jealousy, spite, or some such paltry motive, put an end to the plan."

-Porphyry, On the Life of Plotinus


This imperfect coin of Salonina fueled modern speculation about the Christianity of the empress - however there is no other evidence and it is unlikely that the conversion of a Roman empress would not have been recorded elsewhere.


Salonina. Augusta, AD 254-268. Antoninianus. Mediolanum (Milan) mint, 1st officina. 5th emission, AD 265.

Obv: SALONINA AVG, Draped bust right, wearing stephane, set on crescent

Rev: AVGVSTA IN PACE, Salonina seated left, holding olive branch and scepter; P in exergue.

Ref: RIC V 60

Here's more information on the type from Lukas Blois, The Policy of the Emperor Gallienus, Leiden, Brill, 1976.


Francesco Gnecchi in 1908 was among the challengers of the Christian reference, with the explanation: "This interpretation appears, to me, strained, at least, and that of Augusta sotto le spoglie della Pace appears to me a rather more obvious meaning." more context at the link above. 

Historian John Bray in his posthumously published book on Gallienus also rejects the suggestion: "These coins have been exhaustively discussed by SL Cesano in an article entitled "Salonina Augusta in Pace".  I agree in general with her conclusions about them except for the final one, that the coins prove the Christianity of Salonina." (Bray, Gallienus, 1997, p.162)

The Soul of an Ancient Collector

"XXVIII. On Travel as a Cure for Discontent Do you suppose that you alone have had this experience? Are you surprised, as if it were a novelty, that after such long travel and so many changes of scene you have not been able to shake off the gloom and heaviness of your mind? You need a change of soul rather than a change of climate."

-Seneca the Younger, Letters, XVIII

Seneca goes on to explain "your faults will follow you whither-so-ever you travel".  Faults are part of the beauty of ancient coins, and perhaps Seneca would agree that if you are discontented with coins with faults, you might not have the soul of an ancient coin collector.

Share your coins that are beautiful in their imperfection, coins of Salonina, or anything else that you find interesting or entertaining.

Edited by Sulla80
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Salonina (254 - 268 A.D.)

Billon antoninianus
O:CORN SALONINA AVG, diademed and draped bust right, crescent behind.
R: CONCORDIA AVGG, emperor and empress standing confronted, clasping hands.
Syrian mint, 258 - 260 A.D
Göbl MIR 1691p (Samosata), SRCV III 10630 (uncertain Syrian mint), RIC V-1 63 (Antioch), RSC IV 31

Very Heavy


Salonina (254 - 268 A.D.)

AR Antoninianus
O: CORN SALONINA AVG, Draped bust right, wearing stephane, set on crescent.
R: VESTA, Vesta standing left, holding patera and scepter.
RIC V 39A ; RSC 137


Salonina (254 - 268 A.D.)

Egypt, Alexandria
Potin Tetradrachm
O: KOPNHΛIA CAΛWNEINA CEB. Diademed and draped bust right..
R: No legend. Eagle standing right, holding wreath in beak, palm above left; in right field, LIE (= regnal year 15 267-268 A.D).
Alexandria Mint
Dattari; 5346, Milne; 4189, Curtis; 1642, BMC; 2280, Emmett 3854

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This rather porous example from my novice (2007-08) collection is the only Salonina I have owned.



"The first collectors did not lay much stress on the state of preservation of their specimens, to which in the present day very great, and I might say excessive importance, is attached."

Hm.  Guilty as charged.  I certainly was less selective in those early days of my Roman coin collecting.  I raced to fill as many holes in my portrait collection as possible, and condition was a secondary concern.  Most were the basic "someone standing there" reverses, as well.  But it was fun and educational.

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Nice thread, wonderful examples and an interesting text. I have an Eirene reverse of an Alexandrian tetradrachm of Diocletian

Diocletian AD 284-305. Potin Tetradrachm (19.5mm, 7.38 g.)
Egypt, Alexandria mint, dated RY 6 (AD 290/1).
Obv. A K G OYA ΔIOKΛHTIANOC CEB, laureate, cuirassed bust right
Rev. Eirene looking left, holding branch and scepter, SL (date) across field. No reverse legend.
Scarce variety with unusual date order,SL instead of LS


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Great post, @Sulla80! Here is my one Cornelia Salonina coin from Roman Alexandria, a Year 14 with a very distinctive nose:

Cornelia Salonina (wife of Gallienus), Billon Tetradrachm, 266-267 AD (Year 14), Alexandria, Egypt mint.  Obv. Draped bust right, wearing stephane (Milne obv. type t4), KOPNHΛIA CAΛѠNЄINA CЄB / Rev. Tyche wearing long chiton and peplum, crowned with modius, reclining left on lectisternium* adorned with double garland, resting right hand on rudder, resting left elbow on arm of lectistermium and supporting head with left hand, LIΔ (Year 14) in left field, palm branch in exergue. 23.6 mm., 10.94 g. Emmett 3865.14 (R2), Milne 4140 at p. 99, K&G 91.47 (ill. p. 323), BMC 16 Alexandria 2266 at p. 294, Sear RCV III 10716, Dattari (Savio) 5342, Köln (Geissen) 2982.  Purchased from Marc R. Breitsprecher Oct. 2021. Ex Stack’s Coin Galleries Mail Bid Sale, Nov. 13, 1985, part of Lot 209 (with original coin tag). 


Original Coin Tag:


*Definition of lectisternium at https://www.forumancientcoins.com/numiswiki/view.asp?key=Lectisternium:

“Lectisternium, a species of sacrifice, at which, in times of great public calamity, the gods themselves were invited to a solemn feast. Their statues were taken from their pedestals, and they were laid on pulvinaria, or lecti, that is to say, on beds prepared purposely for their reception in the temples, with pillows under their heads, and in this posture they were each day of the festival served with a magnificent banquet, which the priests never failed to clear away in the evening. There were tables set out in all the different quarters of the city, to which everyone, without distinction, was admitted. . . .

The word lectisternium signifies the act of making or preparing beds. It is derived from lectus, a bed, and sternere, to raise, prepare, and spread. The word also designates sometimes the bed itself, on which is placed the statue of the divinity in honour of whom the above mentioned ceremony of the lectistern was celebrated.” (Emphasis added.)

Here's a Salonina from the Gallienus Zoo Series:

Cornelia Salonina (wife of Gallienus), Billon Antoninianus, 267-268 AD, Rome Mint, 4th Officina. Obv. Diademed and draped bust right, on crescent, COR SALONINA AVG / Rev. Antelope [Wolkow], doe [RIC & Sear], hind (female red deer) [Cohen], Capreolus (European roe deer) [Cunetio], or European elk (moose) [Münzen & Medaillen] walking left, IVNONI CONS AVG; in exergue (offset to right), Δ [Delta = 4th Officina]. RIC V-1 16, RSC IV 70 [doe or hind], Cohen 70, Sear RCV III 10643, Wolkow 29aa4 (ill. p. 98) [Cédric Wolkow, Catalogue des monnaies romaines - Gallien - L'émission dite "Du Bestiaire" - atelier de Rome (BNumis, édition 2019)], Göbl MIR [Moneta Imperii Romani] Band 36, No. 725; Cunetio 1418-1419 [Besly, E. & R. Bland, The Cunetio Treasure: Roman Coinage of the Third Century AD (London, 1983)]. 20 mm., 3.01 g. Purchased Sep 2023 from Münzen & Medaillen GmbH, Weil am Rhein, Germany; acquired from Münzen & Medaillen AG Basel, Switzerland (before 2004) (with coin tags from both)*; ex Collection M. Wedel.  


Finally, I have nothing with Elpis, but here's my one Roman Alexandrian coin with Eirene on the reverse:

Probus, billon tetradrachm, 277-278 AD (Year 3), Alexandria, Egypt Mint. Obv. Laureate and cuirassed bust right, A K M AV ΠPOBOC CEB / Rev. Eirene [= Pax] standing left, wearing long chiton and peplos, holding long scepter obliquely with left hand and olive branch with right; L Γ [Year 3] in lower left field. Dattari 5529, Emmett 3986, Milne 4550 at p. 109 [Milne, J.G., Catalogue of Alexandrian Coins (Oxford 1933, reprint with supplement by Colin M. Kraay, 1971)], Köln (Geissen) 3132, Sear RCV III 12124 (ill.). 23 mm., 8.7 g., 12 h.  Purchased from JAZ Numismatics Auction 183, May 2021, ex Sallent Collection, ex Bertolami e-auction 41, lot 292, April 30, 2017.


Edited by DonnaML
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What a great thread, @Sulla80. And thanks for mentioning Francesco Gnecchi's book. Never heard of this until now and it would be a good read. 

2 hours ago, Sulla80 said:

Share your coins that are beautiful in their imperfection, coins of Salonina, or anything else that you find interesting or entertaining.

I think many of my coins fill the first condition - or at least I see it this way. And Alexandrian coins, with their distinct style, are beautiful by definition. 


An Alexandrian tetradrachm that many collectors would skip because of the corrosion on the obverse - of course I notice it too but since it doesn't affect the portrait (and I find this portrait a work of art) I didn't think twice when buying it. Not even mentioning the Cerberus reverse, that is the strong point of this coin. 


A Maximianus with blue and green highlights - is this an imperfection? Don't think so 


A thick and beautiful Carinus, with Elpis/Spes. 

As for Salonina, when I saw this emerald antoninianus, I knew that even if I buy other Salonina imperial coins, it will be next to impossible to find one I like more. The bigger surprise is that in the auction photos, the color was not highlighted at all. 


Edited by ambr0zie
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Many lovely Saloninas, tetradrachms, and antoniniani, from all - thank you! @Kali, the heavy weight Salonina antoninianus is a stand-out with the royal couple reassuring the public that they are getting along! (see Bray p.124-125 https://archive.org/details/gallienusstudyin0000bray/page/124/mode/2up)

@ambr0zie that does look like a fabulous green on the bearded and antlered goat and it is good to know that @Al Kowsky is still susceptible to a jade and emerald follis!  In addition to the color, I especially like the grapes on your coin!

Edited by Sulla80
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7 hours ago, ominus1 said:

.now i'm an ancient coin collector

Yes, we should distinguish between an "ancient-coin collector" and an "ancient coin-collector," although some of us are both. 

Salonina at Roman Alexandria.
23 mm. 10.70 grams.
Year 14 (266/7), Fortuna/Tyche standing left with rudder, cornucopia, and palm branch behind. 
(Gallienus's last year is LIE, year 15)
KOPNΗΛIA CAΛWNEINA CEB   [Cornelia Salonina Seb[atsa]]
From Baldwin's in London, Jan. 16, 1996. 

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14 minutes ago, Valentinian said:

Yes, we should distinguish between an "ancient-coin collector" and an "ancient coin-collector," although some of us are both.

Lol - I was going for collectors of all ages - and I think we probably have more "seasoned" "ancient coin" collectors than "ancient" (which must be at least 600 years old)



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Great thread and postings!  I like to think that collecting ancient coins fosters a degree of humility and appreciation on the part of collectors in terms of preservation along with other aspects such as artistic style and historical significance.  The imperfections that almost all ancients coins possess in varying degree serve as confirmation that they are true time travelers having been passed along for millennia. 

I really like many of the Salonina coins posted here.  I only have two.

First my much shown (and worn) AE As:

Salonina, AE As, Rome, 260-268 AD.  IVNO REGINA SC 

RIC 49

10.04 grams


And my only antoninianus:

Salonina, antoninianus, Rome, 260-68 AD.

RIC 5(Gallienus); MIR 36, 581aa;RSC 39a

2.43 grams



Edited by robinjojo
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