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Fun 4½ assaria dual-portrait coin of Tomis

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I think these odd denomination coins of Tomis on the Black Sea are interesting, so I pick them up when I can. This is not a new acquisition, however. I purchased it some five years ago, but I rephotographed it today for use in a future Faustina Friday installment. (Can you believe it?) It's fun, so I thought I'd post it today.

In many cities of the Black Sea region, coins of 1 assarion, 2, 3, 4 and 5 assaria were struck, bearing as digits Α, Β, Γ, Δ and Ε. Coins with intermediate values were also issued. The denomination value on these examples is marked by letter Δ together with a semis sign <. The letter Δ, being the fourth letter of the Greek alphabet, stands for the value of 4. Half of an assarion was marked by a semis sign, <, so these coins were worth 4½ assaria; these signs may appear separate or ligate, depending on the issue.

The coins of 4½ assaria are specific to Tomis, while the design with confronted busts was in widespread use throughout the eastern Roman Empire. A possible explanation for this odd denomination is proposed here @dougsmit's page. The value of 1 denarius was, officially, 16 assaria and the coins may have been used when converting the local bronzes into silver denarii. Moneychangers typically bought and sold denarii at slightly different rates. For example, a denarius might be bought at 16 assaria and sold for 18 (or four of these 4½ coins).

I can’t think of a more plausible explanation, and I think Doug’s explanation is more than reasonable.

Post your coins bearing numerical denominations, fractional denominations, bizarre denominations, or anything you feel is relevant!


Gordian III, with Tranquillina, 238-244 CE.
Roman provincial orichalcum assaria, 12.80 g, 28.2 mm, 7 h.
Moesia Inferior, Tomis, 241-244 CE.
Obv: AVT K M ANTΩNIOC ΓΟΡΔΙΑΝΟC // CABINIA TPA / NKVΛΛINA, confronted laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Gordian right and diademed, draped bust of Tranquillina left.
Rev: MHTPOΠON-TOV TOMEΩC, Hygieia standing right, feeding serpent from patera; Δ< (ligate) in lower left field.
Refs: RPC VII.2, 1699; AMNG I (Pick) 3534; SNG Righetti 249.
Note: Easily confused with the more commonly encountered RPC VII.2, 1698; AMNG 3535, which does not bear a mark of value and may have been tariffed at four assaria.

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Educational post - I did not know of this denomination. 

I knew that the denomination is written on Black Sea coins, most common one being the pentassarion. 


28 mm, 11,42 g.
Moesia Inferior, Marcianopolis. Septimius Severus, with Julia Domna 193-211 AD. Pentassarion Æ. 210-211. Flavius Ulpianus, legatus consularis. AV K Λ CEΠ CEYHΡOC IOYΛIA ΔOMNA CEB, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust of Septimius Severus and draped bust of Julia Domna facing one another / ΥΦΛ ΟΥΛΠΙΑΝΟΥ ΜΑΡΚΙΑΝΟΠΟΛΙΤΩΝ, Tyche standing left, holding rudder and cornucopia; Є (mark of value) to left.
H&J, Marcianopolis; AMNG I 601; Varbanov 868; Moushmov 411.

Here is one of the first coins in the history where the denomination is specified on the coin - a tetartemorion from Kolophon


6 mm, 0,23 g.
Ionia, Kolophon. AR tetartemorion. Circa 450-410 BC.
Laureate head of Apollo right / TE monogram (mark of value) in incuse square; stork in left field.
Milne, Colophon, 36; SNG Kayhan 360.

Back to provincials - one of the reasons I bought this coin for is the unusual denomination - tridrachm. This is not mentioned anywhere, but the size and weight are clear clues - too light for a tetradrachm (common denomination) and too heavy for a didrachm (more common than tridrachms)


24 mm, 10,98 g.
Syria, Seleucia Pieria, Antioch. Trajan 98-117. AR tridrachm. 100 AD.
AVTOKP KAIC NEP TPAIANOC CEB ΓEPM, laureate head right / ΔΗMAPX EΞ YΠAT Γ, Roma seated left on pile of arms, holding Nike on her extended right hand, parazonium in left leaning on round shield.
RPC III 3578; S 179 (Caesarea); McAlee 478, Ganschow X11a.

The most unexpected denomination from my collection is a Byzantine 2/3 miliaresion. 


17 mm, 0,87 g.
Byzantine Empire. Romanus IV Diogenes 1068-1071. AR 2/3 miliaresion. Constantinople.
MHP-ΘV (barred), nimbate facing bust of the Virgin Mary, wearing pallium and maphorium, holding with both hands medallion of nimbate bust of infant Christ; dotted single border / + ΘKЄ / BΘ, PΩMA/NΩ ΔЄCΠO/TH TΩ ΔΙΟ/ΓЄΝЄΙ, legend in five lines; three pellets below, linear single border. Sear 1865.

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I really have enjoyed reading about these.  Aside from the 1990's Matt Kreuzer bag full of them, I haven't picked up that many over the years, although the ones I do have generally been ones with great patinas.  It's a fun series, and probably my favorite provincials, other than Alexandrian Drachms.

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This is from the last phase of local minting during the reign of Philip the Arab:


AE28mm 11.44g bronze tetrakaihemiassarion(?), c. 245-9.
AVT M IOVΛ ΦIΛIΠΠOC AVΓ M WT / A CЄBHPA CЄB; Draped busts of Philip, laureate and cuirassed, and Otacilia Severa, wearing stephane, facing one another.
MHTPO - ΠO - NT TOMEΩC; Homonoia in chiton and himation, standing facing, head left with kalathos, holding cornucopia and patera.
AMNG 3583, Varbanov 5765; RPC VIII unassigned ID 28170

There are 25 on RPC and some more on acsearch but somehow so they are far from rare, but you dont see that many on trade at the moment.

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18 minutes ago, O-Towner said:

Another 4-1/2 Assaria of Gordian III and Tranquillina type from Tomis (Ref: Varbanov 5702). I was wondering what that sideways lambda represented on the reverse.



I have one of those, too, but the denomination marks are placed differently.


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