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Strange London Coin in Triton XXVII


John Conduitt

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A coin that has puzzled me a lot has reappeared in CNG's Triton XXVII - lot 925. It's billed as a unique coin of Magnus Maximus from the Roman mint of Londinium (known as Augusta at the time). It certainly is unique.

CNG previously sold it in 2010 and it's featured on Wildwinds. Otherwise, there's no mention of it anywhere. Most coins from Augusta have been known since the first half of the 1900s. All the other types have been known around 100 years longer than that and all examples - except around half of the positively common VICTORIA AVGG solidi - are in museums. At least one of these types has doubtful authenticity. This is therefore a bit of an outlier. But it must have been found in the last 30 years to have escaped comment.

Magnus Maximus Siliqua,  383-388
image.png.0850cc7d15146f6ae66208ce134bf0a4.png
Londinium (London/Augusta) mint. Silver, 15.5mm, 1.46 g, 6h. Pearl-diademed, draped, and cuirassed bust right; D N MAG MA XIMVS P F AVG. Victory, draped, seated right on cuirass, supporting shield with left hand and left knee and inscribing VOT/ V/ MVLT/ X on it with stylus held in right hand; winged Genius to right, standing left, supporting the shield with both hands; [VICT]ORIA AVGVSTORVM; [AV]GOB (RIC IX –; RSC –). Toned, crystallized. VF. Unique and unpublished. Fragile.

What's particularly strange about this coin is the reverse. As CNG note:
"While this reverse type is known for a Treveri mint semissis of this emperor, the mint mark of this coin corresponds to London. The similarity of reverse types suggests that Maximus may have intended to strike semisses at London in addition to his issue of solidi. If this was the case, the idea was evidently abandoned in favor of using the reverse die to strike this siliqua."

I don't know if it's a die match for any semissis - I can't find a single example of the most relevant semissis (RIC IX, Treveri 78) to compare it to, even in RIC. (Does anyone have a photo of one?). But it is the type described.

Putting aside the assertion that the mintmark corresponds to London - the mintmark is not exactly complete and unambiguous - but is using the reverse of a semissis on a siliqua something that could happen or has happened before? At a different mint? Did they test ideas like this?

What's just as unbelievable is CNG's assertion that the mintmark is AVGOB, which means Augusta pure gold. On a siliqua. That could be got around by suggesting the mintmark is AVGPS (Augusta pure silver) or TRPS (Trier pure silver), but CNG go for the idea that the die was already made for an Augusta semissis and they didn't change the OB.

There are a few more questions I have. The obverse is of a style not found on other Augusta or Trier coins, with a small-faced Maximus looking upward. The reverse doesn't seem to fit on the flan, while the obverse does. Other semisses fit nicely onto their flans, which are about the same size. It's quite crude, although not unbelievably so, but not like the few similar semisses I can find (most are from the Imperial Court Mint and have the mint letters in the fields, which are just spaces on the CNG coin). This, from Milan, is as crude as they get. The elements still seem to fit together better:
image.png.b8cbdc0519f9c5ad7123ecb9935306f6.png

I haven't said everything there is to say. There is an interesting fact I've left out, and a few comments I might make about Augusta siliquae in general. But I wanted to hear what other people think of the coin as it is and the suggested story of how it came into being.

Edited by John Conduitt
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I've seen some deformed-looking Victorias and Cupids on late Roman coins before, but the pair on this reverse take the cake. (Is that supposed to be hair on her head?) Especially for a die supposedly created to be struck in gold! Have you ever before heard of such a die being used to strike an official coin in silver while leaving the "OB" instead of recutting the die to replace it with a "PS"?

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10 hours ago, DonnaML said:

I've seen some deformed-looking Victorias and Cupids on late Roman coins before, but the pair on this reverse take the cake. (Is that supposed to be hair on her head?) Especially for a die supposedly created to be struck in gold! Have you ever before heard of such a die being used to strike an official coin in silver while leaving the "OB" instead of recutting the die to replace it with a "PS"?

Yes the style is off. It surely can't be for a gold coin. The OB thing just seems to be CNG getting carried away as there's little mintmark to go on. But then what is it? An ancient forgery? A modern forgery?

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Posted (edited)

Another Augusta coin has made an appearance at auction recently. It's just as baffling as the original coin posted.

Hess-Divo AG auction. Hammer 13,000 CHF. It was described as extremely fine. If genuine, it would be the only example in private hands. The reverse is very different to the two genuine (die matched) examples I know about. Victory looks like a dismembered doll. What's going on with the emperor's foot? Is it a claw? The obverse looks like it was created by Disney. It also has Maximus's name split incorrectly, if you need to get into details.

This coin, I believe, was used as the plate coin in Volume 5 of Sear's Roman Coins and their Values.

Magnus Maximus Solidus, 383-388
image.png.cc1a95da3927db619b955160baf58e31.png
Augusta. Gold,  4.37g. Draped, cuirassed bust right with laurel-rosette diadem; DN MAG MAX - IMVS PF AVG. Emperor, wearing military costume and cloak, standing facing, head turned right towards Victory with wreath on globe on his left hand, holding labarum in his right hand; RESTITVTOR - REI PVBLICAE; AVG (Bastien Donativa 100, a; Depeyrot II, 106, 1/1; RIC IX, 2, 1).

Just so this post isn't too depressing, here's the Copenhagen example. Lovely coin. There's another in the Saint-Omer Musée de l'Hôtel Sandelin, if you happen to be in Calais. They have some pretty impressive coins. Genuine, too.

image.png.5f96f247a0d6b151f81496aea7008534.png

Edited by John Conduitt
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