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A Rare Vespasian Ephesian Bronze

David Atherton

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Recently, there has been a small influx of Flavian brass coins provisionally attributed to 'Ephesus' appearing in the marketplace. I would assume a hoard or two has been discovered and is now being dispersed. Prior to this, these eastern bronzes were fantastically rare, hardly showing up in trade or in most major collections. Whenever I come across one I try to scoop it up as best I can. It certainly helps that many of them are misattributed, owing to the fact that they often copy reverse designs from contemporary imperial mints and are confused with those more common varieties.



Æ20, 3.89g
Ephesus (?) mint, 77-78 AD
Obv: IMP CAESAR VESPASIAN AVGVST; Head of Vespasian, laureate, r.
Rev: PON MAX TR P P P COS VIII CENS; S C in field; Victory adv. l., with shield
RIC 1507 (R2). BMC -. BNC -. RPC 1477 (0 spec.).
Ex Numismad Auction 12, 5-6 January 2024, lot 817.

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 Lugdunum (such as this Victory type) 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. The entire issue is very rarely encountered in trade. This particular Victory variety is missing from all the major collections.

My assumption is that a smaller piece like this did not have wide circulation beyond the region of mintage. Orichalcum was not used for such small bronze denominations at Rome and would have been a baffling coin to your average Roman pleb.

In hand.


For comparison, here is a dupondius from Lugdunum featuring the same reverse type.



As always, thank you for looking!

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