Tuesday, April 8, 2008

An “Ugly Duckling” of a coin

AR Denarius. Marcus Porcius Laece 125 B.C. Rome (16mm, 3.58g)
Obv: LAECA Helmeted head of Roma right, ? (XVI monogram) in right field. “sexy” Banker marks on face and right field
Rev M. PORC Libertas in fast quadriga right, crowned by Victory flying left, ROMA in exergue. Bankers marks
Sear 146, RRC 270/1, CRR 513, RSC Porcia 3
Ex Vel Garnet collection

This rather rough but interesting coin, this “ugly duckling”, is one of my favorites for a couple of reasons. First, it was a Christmas Gift (2006) from my wife. It was the first coin she ever bought me. She has told me that I’m hard to buy for. (I don’t think I am!) I suggested that she pick out a coin she liked on Vcoins and make that my gift. She enjoyed the experience and has since given me other coins as gifts. It’s fun because I never know what I’m going to get! My two sons have also purchased coins for me (with Mom’s help!), it adds to the enjoyment of my collection.

Another reason I like it is that it is so ugly it’s beautiful! It possesses a certain “eye appeal”. We all enjoy pretty coins, nice fully struck, centered and detailed beauties. I enjoy the less than pristine examples also. I appreciate the nice ones for their beauty, the ugly ones I enjoy for their “character”. This denarius has character! The wear, scratches, banker marks and tarnish are all badges of honor this coin has earned in its 2000+ year journey. I can imagine the coin in a busy market place, the merchant and the coins owner transacting business, the coin changing hands, the cautious merchant punching the coin to make sure it’s good. I look at the coin and I can imagine it happening!

I also enjoy the history of it. It was minted by the moneyer Marcus Porcius Laece. Here we are 2000+years later and we know his name because it is there on the coin. How cool is that! Seaby notes "This moneyer was a descendant of P. Porcius Laeca, praetor in 195 BC, who proposed and carried the Lex Porcia de Provocatione. This granted the Roman citizen residing outside the city right of appeal in criminal matters against the magistrates acting in their military capacity and is commemorated by the reverse type." Ahh yes, propaganda, “Hey look how cool my ancestor was, I’m just as cool.” What good is being a moneyer if you can’t toot you own horn a bit? Little has changed in the world of politics in the last 2000 years!

So, this one little “ugly duckling” has brought joy and learning to me at several different levels. I have a special gift from my wife. That gift bears the marks of its journey through the centuries, sparking my imagination. The coin itself tells me who caused it to be made. I learn the story of his ancestor, and see that human nature hasn’t changed all that much over the centuries. This one ugly duckling sure is a swan in my eyes!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Moneyers Dupondius of Augustus

Orichalum Dupondius (28mm 11.36g) Struck 18 B.C. Rome C. Asinius Gallus Moneyer
Obv: AVGVSTVS TRIBVNIC POTEST Legend in oak wreath

Rev: C . ASINIVS IIIVIR A A A F F around S C

c.f. RIC 372 Ex. William C Boyd Collection, Baldwins Auction (196) 9/26/2005

I purchased this coin about a year ago from Vcoin dealer York Coins. It is from the Willam C. Boyd Collection, unfortunately the collectors tag was missing. As far as I can see, this coin is unlisted in RIC. I did find another example on coin archives and it appears to be a die match. Here is a link to the Coin Archives entry http://tinyurl.com/38q24s Below is a picture of that coin.

The coin was minted by C. Asinius Gallus for Augustus. He was one of three moneyers at that time, the other two were C. Cassius Celer, and C. Gallius Lupercus. The reverse legend of III VIR A A A F F is an abbreviation of tresviri aere argento auro flando feriundo which translate loosely as "three men for striking (and) casting bronze, silver (and) copper (coins)" The moneyers were part of the college of magistrates known as the Vigintisexviri which means “26 Men”

The Vigintiseviri was made up of six boards:
* The Tresviri Aere Argento Auro Flando Feriundo these were the three aforementioned moneyers
* Decemviri Stlitibus Iudicandis, a board of 10 men who judged lawsuits including those that dealt with whether a man was a free man or a slave
* The Tresviri Capitales, These three men handled the police functions of Rome. They ran the prisons and handle the execution of criminals
* The Praefecti Capuam Cumas The two Praefecti sent to Capua and Cumae in Campania to administer justice there.
* The Quattuorviri Viis In Urbe Purgandis, These four magistrates managed the road system in Rome
* The Duoviri Viis Extra Urbem Purgandis, these two magistrates handle road maintenance on the road system outside of Rome

So, here I am as an ancient Roman coin collector. I purchase a coin that catches my eye, a moneyers dupondius of Augustus. In researching my purchase I find that the coin is unlisted in RIC. So I hit the net and find another example that happens to appear to be a die match. Then I decide to learn about the name on the coin, C. Asisnius. (Gallus). I read through my limited reference library and research him on the net and learn about the
Vigintisexviri and the various boards it’s composed of. I also learn that C. Asinius Gallus was friend of Augustus, However, he was no friend of Tiberius, and went out of his way to make things difficult for Augustus’ successor. Finally weary of him Tiberius had him arrested. He died three years later while still in custody.

All of this from wanting to learn about one coin. It is one of the “fringe benefits” of collecting ancient coins. If we take the time to study our coins, it’s amazing what roads they will lead us down. When I first started collecting ancient Roman coins, I knew very little about the Roman Empire. As my collection expands, so does my knowledge of the Roman Empire, and the ancient world in general. They go hand in hand. Thanks for reading.