|Sale: CNG 60, Lot: 1774. Estimate $1500.
Closing Date: Wednesday, 22 May 2002.
Sold For $2750. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.
HOARD. A find of 55 contemporary false silver denarii of Severus Alexander (11), Julia Mamaea (42) and blank planchets (2). Reportedly found near Rome, and apparently struck in Italy in AD 227 or soon after. The hoard consists of coins struck from just two pair of dies. Severus Alexander. Laureate and draped bust right / P M TR P VICOS II P P, Aequitas standing facing, head left, holding scales in right hand and cornucopiae in left, fold of drapery over left arm. Cf. RIC IV 64; BMCRE 398; RSC 312 // Julia Mamaea. Draped bust right, wearing diadem and hair in five horizontal tight waves / VESTA, Vesta, veiled, standing facing, head left, holding patera in right hand and transverse sceptre in left. Cf. RIC IV 360; BMCRE 441; RSC 81. I. Vecchi, "A Hoard of Contemporary Roman Forged Denarii," Minerva, vol. 11, no. 6, (November/December 2000), pg. 55. Mostly EF, some with excavation deposit. Fifty-five (55) pieces in lot. ($1,500)
Ex British Museum exhibition, Illegal Tender: Counterfeit Money Through the Ages (16 August 2000-7 January 2001).
The reverses of these imitations ironically celebrate Aequitas, the allegorical personification of Equity or fair dealing, and Vesta, goddess of the family hearth, mater sancta and one of the most honored deities of the Romans. The coins are all struck on debased silver planchets from well-cut dies and could be mistaken for original but for the facts that there are only two sets of dies used and two blanks were found with the group. The average weight of silver denarii of this period is slightly over 3 grams, while the average weight of these unofficial denarii is slightly under 3 grams. The date of their manufacture must be soon after AD 227, when Alexander received the tribuncian power for the sixth time. They would have been good enough to pass as genuine once dispersed in commerce.
The forgery of coins with intent to deceive for profit by low weight and fineness is as early as the invention of coins itself. Occasionally, as during the reign of Claudius (AD 41-54), the Roman state seems to have tolerated imitations of bronze coins, but in theory the counterfeiting of gold and silver had long been regarded as criminal and severely punished. Cicero and later sources speak of a Lex Cornelia testimonia nummaria, also called de falsis, ascribed to the dictator Cornelius Sulla in a general program of legislation in 81 BC, dealing with the falsification of wills, documents, titles and coins. An interesting anecdote in Pliny, Nat. Hist. 33. 46. 132, mentions that statues were erected by the plebs to Marius Gratidianus, praetor in 85 BC, for passing a law to improve the coinage by assaying for false and adulterated denarii. Pliny goes on to say "[and] it is a remarkable thing that in this alone among the arts spurious methods are objects of study, and a sample of a forged denarius is carefully examined and the adulterated coin is bought for more than genuine ones."