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Interesting cut coins


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These arrived during the week from a Jesús Vico auction - they are much darker in reality, overexposed in the photo'.   They were sold as "REPÚBLICA ROMANA. Lote de 3 denarios recortados para circular como fracciones. Pesos de 0,4 a 0,9 g. MBC."   I realised when I got them that they were probably cut from the same coin - a Q. Marcius Libo denarius (Cr. 215/1) of 148 BC.

The little coins:


An example of Cr 215/1 that hasn't been cut up:


As they came from Vico, I'm guessing they came from Spain.   As they appear to have been all cut from the same coin, is it likely that the host coin was cut up in ancient times or more recently?   Has anyone seen anything similar?



Edited by akeady
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@akeady That's an interesting pick up!...I've not seen this before?..

Normally change is just cut/clipped from the coin leaving straight line edges yet these seem to have been formed into circular units ....From what I can make out from the photos the peripheral edges don't seem to have been cut using modern tooling? Maybe some edge photos will help determine?

Either way a cool find...

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Very interesting! I've never heard of anything quite like that. I'm assuming solid AR not fourree? They must be tiny (something else I enjoy in coins). If those are from one denarius (it sure looks like it), that's amazing. I'd love to have coins like that -- especially once I found out what was going on!

I've got a couple of the kind of clipped late Roman siliquae where you can no longer see any legend (from Britain?). I've seen bronze coins like that too. From what I've heard, old Roman coins were being clipped for centuries down to smaller weight standards, then the clippings were used to strike new coins in the same reduced size, using the "good metal" from old Roman AE and AR coinage. (I suppose @John Conduitt might know if that's an accurate account.)

In my biblio file I do have a couple references for clipped coins and hacksilver hoards from Iberia (specifically in the Roman Republican period/Second Punic War):

"...two reports of cut coins and hacksilver from Second Punic War in the Republic and Iberia:

My own favorite cut coin from Punic Spain: My pet theory is that it was cut down to the prevailing Denarius-Drachm standard after the Carthaginians were driven out (~4.09g, remaining piece would've been comparable to a light Victoriatus).

It was cut skillfully in one strike (probably a hammer/mallet striking the back of a knife or chisel placed against the surface), preserving the face (happily these have a 12h die-axis, so the horse is saved), apparently then bending by hand to break any "connective tissue":



Whenever cut coins come up I also like to show these two, which were both cut sometime between 2005 and 2009. They were from the Jyrki Muona Collection, then donated to science for Butcher & Ponting's 2014 book on the Metallurgy of Roman Silver Coinage and several related journal articles. Their alloys were measured and the cross-sections photographed microscopically to determine how the silver-content varied between surface and core of Roman denarii:

Before-and-after photos:


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Ah yes!   I bought an Otho denarius that was used for that paper in 2010 - Grotjohann, then on Vcoins, sold several of them.   I got one with only a tiny hole drilled into the edge - RIC 2, Ceres, a rare type with 7(?) known, so it was spared more radical mutilation.   HJB had more of the cut Othos from that study about a year ago in a Bid or Buy sale as a lot of ten or fifteen.



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20 hours ago, akeady said:

 I got one with only a tiny hole drilled into the edge - RIC 2, Ceres, a rare type with 7(?) known, so it was spared more radical mutilation.   HJB had more of the cut Othos from that study about a year ago in a Bid or Buy sale as a lot of ten or fifteen.

Yup, that group exactly! I have additional info on the entire dataset you might be interested in (I'll message you directly). It's an important and really interesting dataset and study.

Harlan J. Berk's 212th BBS (Lot 511) started out with a fantastic group lot of 35 of them for $22,500! The full description is on ACSearch.info -- including the % silver -- but not the photo. (The pdf catalog is on their website archive, or right here on Issuu, p. 38 -- and with better resolution than image I pasted below! I'm sure your coin will be pictured.) I assume it went unsold and a few groups were sold to dealers (Marc Breitsprecher also sold several) and a number appeared solo in later lists. (I got the Otho from HJB's 215th and then the Titus from a group lot from CNG, previously A. Short Collection [AKA "Orfew"], who bought it from Breitsprecher on VCoins.)

I wanted an edge-drilled one too, maybe a "cheap" Galba or Vitellius since those are missing from my 12 Caesars coll., but it hasn't been the right time yet. Started with Otho because Jyrki Muona is very well known as an expert/author on Otho, so I wanted one from his collection.




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Yes - that's the recent lot I was thinking of.   I receive the HJB Bid or Buy catalogues and remember seeing the group - I'd got mine earlier, so I suppose this was a second batch from the study's authors.   I guess HJB had hoped to offload the coins to a dealer as one lot - I'd forgotten there were so many in the group and was too lazy to dig it up 😄

My coin isn't there as I got it in 2010 from Grotjohann - he was selling a similar batch of coins individually from the same study and he sent on the RIN paper from Butcher, Ponting & Muona.

This is mine from Jyrki Muona's Forum gallery - I was happy to comment on it 😄


This is where I store it online myself:



And the drilled hole...


I showed this at the Numismatic Society of Ireland's "Show & Tell" in September 2011 and wrote some blurb on it for a subsequent society Bulletin, which appeared some time after:

Like most people, I wanted an example of each of the Twelve Caesars of Suetonius - I still
don't have a Caligula - the silver ones are very expensive and I don't like any of the cheaper
bronze ones I've seen.   However, I do at least have an Otho, whose reign was the shortest
of the 12.

It was formerly owned by Jyrki Muona, a Finnish Otho expert, co-author of
"The Denarii of Otho: A Stylistic and Compositional Study" [1] which used destructive sampling
on 26 denarii of Otho to determine their content.   In spite of his short reign (3 months, from
15th January 69 AD to 15th or 16th April 69 AD), it's found that three distinct issues of coins
were made, with the first two being of ~90% fine silver and the final issue of ~80% fine silver, with
some evidence of a reduction in weight for the final coins also.   A point raised by John Stafford-Langan
in September is that it's usual to use different legends to distinguish between issues of different
fineness standards, so that the issuers can distinguish the finer coins and indeed the 3 issues are
distinguished by different obverse legends in the case of the first two (in some cases, the reverse dies
are shared between the issues), while the the third issue types all bear the legend PONT MAX, not
used in the earlier issues - again, issues 2 & 3 share some obverse dies.   (PONT MAX refers to the
pontifex maximus title received by Otho on 9th March).   This would have enabled the debased issue
to be easily distinguished from the earlier issues.

Most of the coins used in the study had small 0.6mm diameter holes drilled into their edges to remove
a small amount of metal for compositional analysis; some coins had quarter or half the coin removed
for additional microscopic examination - in some cases, voids in the metal were observed where the
copper alloyed to the silver had leached out.   In such cases, analysis of the metal would give higher
silver purity reading than the coin originally was, due to the preferential leaching of the copper.

After the work, a number of coins from Muona's collection were sold by Grotjohann Coins on Vcoins
in the summer of 2010 and that's how I ended up with my Otho [2].

The coin itself is rare - only 6 examples known, according to its previous owner - it's rated R4 in RIC.
It's quite a sacrifice for numismatic study to drill into and even cut up coins from a reign of only 3 months!

[1] "The Denarii of Otho: A Stylistic and Compositional Study", Butcher, Ponting, Muona,
RIN 110 (2009), pp. 291-310 (RIN - Italian Numismatic Review)

[2] http://www.tantaluscoins.com/coins/37901.php


I mostly collect Roman Republican coins nowadays, so haven't added to the Otho collection.   I believe there are either seven or eight examples of RIC 2 known now, though it's probably still the rarest Otho denarius (coin production rates were very high during Otho's short reign, so many types are relatively common, at least relative to the three month reign).

Glad you got one too, without having to buy them all 😄   A good provenance indeed.



Edited by akeady
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