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Faustina Friday – Researching a Rare Variety


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Friday felicitations, fellow Faustina fanatics. I hope you have an enjoyable, coin-filled weekend. Today I'm going to discuss the roadblocks that can arise when researching an unprovenanced and scarce coin. The item in question is a dupondius of Faustina the Younger issued end of summer AD 151 to about June AD 152.[1]

FaustinaJrVENVSSCappleandscepterMBleft-facingbustANTONINItype3hairstyle.jpg.e847c890618327d4663564fa0b33f766.jpg

Faustina II, 147-175 CE.
Roman orichalcum dupondius, 11.76 g, 26.3 mm, 6 h.
Rome, mid-151 to mid-152 CE.
Obv: FAVSTINA AVG ANTONINI AVG PII FIL, bare-headed and draped bust, left (Beckmann type 3 hairstyle).
Rev: VENVS S C, Venus standing left, holding apple and scepter.
Refs: RIC –; BMCRE 2171n.; Cohen –; RCV –; Strack 1311;
Lückger, Deutsche Mzbl. (1940), p.119, no. 11.


I purchased the coin because it features a left-facing bust of Faustina the Younger, which is a scarce variety. It depicts the young empress wearing the Beckmann Type 3 hairstyle and the short-lived obverse inscription FAVSTINA AVG ANTONINI AVG PII FIL. Its reverse depicts Venus standing left, holding an apple in her right hand and a scepter in her left. I have previously written about the various bust and inscription varieties on the various denominations of this reverse type, so I won’t rehash this information in today's installment of Faustina Friday. Rather, I want to discuss what little progress I've made in conducting research on this variety with the left-facing bust.

Citations in the Numismatic Literature and Inventory of Known Specimens


The left-facing bust variety is not listed in Cohen, RIC, or Sear. Strack notes four museum specimens but does not illustrate the coin.[2] It is listed in a 1940 article by Jos. Lückger in Deutsche Münzblätter listing various Roman imperial coins not listed in Cohen or RIC,[3] but the coin is neither cited from a specific museum or auction specimen, nor is it illustrated. Mattingly notes the existence of the coin in a footnote in BMCRE and cites the Riechmann Sale (Max von Bahrfeldt) 18 September 1922, lot 733.[4]. A search at the usual online databases reveals a single auction specimen, Dr. Busso Peus Nachfolger, Auction 417, lot 335, 2 November 2016.[5] Interestingly, examination of the Peus auction specimen reveals it to be the same coin sold in the Riechmann Sale cited by Mattingly. Paul Dinsdale's catalog in progress illustrates the Peus specimen and cites Strack.[6] This brings the number of known specimens to six:

 

The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia (cited by Strack)
Staatliches Münzkabinett, Vienna (cited by Strack)
Herzogliches Münzkabinett, Gotha (cited by Strack)
University of Bologna (cited by Strack)
Dr. Busso Peus Nachfolger, Auction 417, lot 335, 2 November 2016 = Riechmann Sale (Max von Bahrfeldt) 18 September 1922, lot 733.
The specimen in my collection (Munthandel G. Henzen fixed price sale).


Apart from my coin, illustrated above, the only specimen illustrated online is the Peus specimen, making an accurate die study impossible.

FaustinaJrVENVSSCappleandscepterMBleft-facingbustPeus.jpg.21fa29d556e8c16c34221be94aa3b33d.jpg

A dupondius once owned by Max von Bahrfeldt and recently sold by Dr. Busso Peus Nachfolger. It is a double die match to the specimen in my collection.


Conclusions

The variety appears to be scarce, with only six known specimens.

Because my coin is a double die match to the Peus specimen and the Peus specimen is unambiguously a dupondius, my coin must be a dupondius as well.

Questions Remaining

Was this issue the product of a single variant obverse die? I would need to examine the four museum specimens cited by Strack as well as any future specimens that may come on the market. If you are aware of additional specimens not cited or illustrated in this installment of Faustina Friday, please let me know.

Was this coin struck contemporaneously with the usual, right-facing bust variety of this reverse type? Given what we already know about the operation of the Rome mint in the early Antonine period, the answer is that it quite likely was produced in tandem with the usual type. However, finding a reverse die linkage to a specimen with a right-facing bust would establish the chronology with certainty.

Was Lückger simply passing on what was already known to Strack or from the Max von Bahrfeldt collection, or was he reporting a seventh specimen of the coin?

What was the significance, if any, in the occasional production of obverse dies depicting Faustina the Younger with a left-facing bust?

Do you have any Faustina coins with this reverse type? Please post coins, comments, or anything you feel is relevant!

~~~

Notes


1. Curtis L. Clay elucidated this chronology by comparing the denarii of Pius, Marcus Aurelius and Faustina and their representation in the Reka Devnia hoard, personal communication, 13 September, 2021.

2. Strack, Paul L., Untersuchungen zur Römischen Reichsprägung des Zweiten Jahrhunderts, vol. 3, Die Reichsprägung zur Zeit des Antoninus Pius. Stuttgart 1937, s.v. no. 1311.

3. Lückger, Jos. "Zum Korpus der römischen Kaisermünzen. Abweichungen und neue Stücke zu Cohen II. Auflage und Mattingly and Sydenham." Deutsche Münzblätter, vol. 60, no. 451/451, 1940, pp. 117–123. https://sbc.org.pl/de/dlibra/publication/702932/edition/661785/deutsche-munzblatter-1940-jg-60-nr-451-452

4. Mattingly, Harold, Coins of the Roman Empire in the British Museum, vol. IV: Antoninus Pius to Commodus. Introduction, indexes and plates. London, BMP, 1968, p. 377.

5. Sites explored included OCRE, Wildwinds, acsearchinfo, Sixbid archive (Blue level only, however), Coinarchives (not pro level, however), V-Coins, MA-Shops, and The Coin Project.

6. Dinsdale, Paul H. Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius Caesar AD 138-161; First Edition. Leeds, Paul H Dinsdale, 2018, p. 352.

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Posted · Supporter

Thank you, very interesting @Roman Collector

It could be relatively simple to statistically estimate the probability of whether a die comes from a one-die issue or a multiple-die issue. Assuming that coins from different dies had the same chance of survival, all dies were used to produce the same number of coins;  if 2 dies were used for the issue, the following probabilities should apply:

  • 25% of 2 known coins being from the same die and none from another die
  • 12.5% of 3 known coins being from the same die, and none from another die
  • 6.25% of 4 known coins being from the same die and none from another die
  • 3.125% of 5 known coins are from the same die, and none from another die

So if there are 5 coins of the same type, all produced from the same die, there is less than 3% chance that there was a second die and c. 97% probability it was as single-die issue. I use this 5-coin rule for my (non-scientific) considerations whether the type is likely to be a single-die issue.

On 3/29/2024 at 10:44 AM, Roman Collector said:

The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia (cited by Strack)

State Hermitage Museum (relatively) recently published much of their ancients online at http://collections.hermitage.ru

It could be a use potentially useful source to check references, with limitations of 

  • In my area of interest, the published collection does not include the key coins expected to be there. Are they still in the museum?
  • One side of coins shown for many coins
  • The website could not be accessed today. Hopefully, this does not mean it is permanently disabled.

 

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