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Faustina Friday – From Misattributed Slab to Exemplar at RPC Online


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Raise Your Hand If You Love Fridays

Friday felicitations, fellow Faustina fanatics! I hope you have a joyous weekend ahead. It’s Mother's Day weekend here in the US and what better way to celebrate it than with a coin of the most maternal of Roman imperial mothers, Faustina the Younger? This installment, however, isn't about her children; I've already done a multi-part series about that. This is simply a Horatio Alger story about how a misattributed coin escaped from its plastic prison cell to become a "plate coin" in the most prestigious reference for Roman provincial coins.

I was at home, off work and recuperating after my heart attack last October when this one appeared on eBay. I have no idea how it came to be in the possession of the eBay dealer or who decided it should be sent to NGC Ancients to be slabbed.


FaustinaJrPhilippopolisDemeterObv.jpg.ea74587ed46c10393a496b85f228c4b3.jpg
FaustinaJrPhilippopolisDemeterrev.jpg.e606c7772bfc82dd4fce5b0996a6c641.jpg

The coin was attractive, and I didn't have a Faustina coin from Philippopolis in my collection, so I purchased it, even though the slab incorrectly identified the goddess on the reverse as Artemis. It had always been my intention to crack it out of its unnecessary slab anyway.

That's not Artemis; it's Demeter. Specifically, it is Demeter in her avatar as Phosphoros, the light-bearer, who carries a torch in each hand as she searches the dark underworld for her daughter Persephone, who was kidnapped by Hades. See, for example, this provincial coin of Tranquillina from Cyzicus.


TranquillinaCyzicusDemeterOlympus.jpg.aeb2b327e02e0e7f06fe40d4d3ab8193.jpg

Tranquillina, 241-244 CE.
Roman provincial Æ 21.3 mm, 5.79 g, 7 h.
Mysia, Cyzicus, Strategos Lepidus.
Obv: Φ ϹΑΒ ΤΡΑΝΚΥΛΛЄΙΝΑΝ, draped bust, right, wearing stephane.
Rev: ϹΤΡ ΛЄΠΙΔΟΥ ΚΥΖΙΚΗΝΩΝΕΩ, Demeter advancing right, holding a torch in each hand.
RPC VII.1,
31; McClean 7608.


In Latin, Demeter-Phosphoros is known as Ceres Taedifera (Ceres the torchbearer). Ceres Taedifera appears on the Republican denarii of M. Volteius (RRC 385/3, 78 BC), riding in a chariot drawn by two serpents, holding a torch in each hand as she seeks her daughter Proserpina, who was kidnapped by Pluto.

MVoltaiusBMC.png.28a0bfb3ac6eaf9bc770290cec995da3.png

AR denarius, M. Volteius, RRC 385/3. British Museum Collection.


Knowing that the coin depicted Demeter, not Artemis, attributing the coin was straightforward. I busted it out of its slab and took my own photo.

FaustinaJrPhilippopolisDemeter.jpg.97d4bb9c3d53cc17e4032ef4580cb2de.jpg

Faustina II, 147-175 CE.
Roman provincial Æ 26.4, 11.24 g, 7 h.
Thrace, Philippopolis, 157-175 CE.
Obv: ΦΑVϹΤΕΙΝΑ ϹΕΒΑϹΤΗ, bare-headed and draped bust, right.
Rev: ΦΙΛΙΠΠOΠOΛΕΙΤΩΝ, veiled Demeter standing facing, head left, short torch downwards with right hand and short torch upwards in left hand.
Refs: RPC IV.1,
7499 (temporary); Varbanov 886.


I noticed that despite being a reverse die match to the exemplar at RPC, mine was struck with a different obverse die. I thought this was something the editors of RPC might be interested in, so I sent in the photo of my coin and its information, and it is now one of the exemplars at RPC!

And that's how the coin went from misattributed coin at the flea-market of online coin sales to its rightful place in a scholarly reference work.

Do you have any coins that were misidentified by third-party grading services? Please post comments, coins, or anything you feel is relevant!

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I got most of my Indian coins being misattributed from ebay. In regards to Faustina, I found this one at a coin show without any indication of it being a life-time issue, but i recognised the lack of Diva so I bought it. 

Faustina.png.ded0d8b7a1f436358fbcc99873aedac5.png

Obv: FAVSTINA AVGVSTA

Rev: IVNONI REGINAE, Juno holding patera and sceptre, peacock at feet. 139-140 AD

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21 hours ago, JayAg47 said:

I got most of my Indian coins being misattributed from ebay. In regards to Faustina, I found this one at a coin show without any indication of it being a life-time issue, but i recognised the lack of Diva so I bought it. 

Faustina.png.ded0d8b7a1f436358fbcc99873aedac5.png

Obv: FAVSTINA AVGVSTA

Rev: IVNONI REGINAE, Juno holding patera and sceptre, peacock at feet. 139-140 AD

Thank you for the kind words, @JayAg47. It's always a pleasure to pick up a misattributed coin on eBay! Thanks for sharing that lifetime IVNO REGINAE denarius.

21 hours ago, Nerosmyfavorite68 said:

Nice detective work!  It looks much better out of the slab.

The patina on the Tranquillina is really something.  Wow!

I have less than 20 slabs, so there's probably not many bad misattributions.  Most were of the bare bones description slab types.

Thanks for your kind words and for reading, @Nerosmyfavorite68. The photo of the Tranquillina is the dealer photo, which is the one used at RPC online to illustrate the coin. In hand, it's not so apple green. Here's my own photo (which I probably should have used in the OP).

image.jpeg.89153c545883a455026448f97cbf8f04.jpeg

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