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Research Coins: Electronic Auction

180, Lot: 264. Estimate $300.
Sold for $1650. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Septimius Severus. AD 193-211. AV Aureus (20mm, 6.83 g). Uncertain mint. SEVERVS PIVS AVG, laureate head right / P M TR [P...] VII [..]COS III P P; VESTA in exergue; Septimius, Domna, Caracalla and Geta sacrificing at an altar before the Temple of Vesta; two vestals facing right standing on the left. RIC -; BMCRE -; Calicó -; Cohen -. Near Fine, pierced twice for stringing, rough surfaces, wavy flan. Unpublished reverse type.

The reverse type of this aureus is previously unpublished. Due to the wear, the exact identification of the six figures on the reverse is uncertain. The central figure on the left appears to be bearded, but the others cannot be identified even as to their sex. A similar aureus of Caracalla depicts him sacrificing before the temple of Vesta, but there are fewer figures and it does not have the legend VESTA in the exergue. It was struck in 215 AD, so a mule between a Septimius obverse and Caracalla reverse seems highly unlikely, since Septimius had been dead for 4 years.

Unfortunately, the two holes pierce the date on the reverse legend. If this is an issue of Septimius, there should be an X at the beginning of the date, because this obverse legend does not appear until TR P X (AD 202). A VII or VIII date would be too early. That being said, there appears to be room for an X before the V in the date. If the coin is dated TR P XVII or XVIII (AD 209-210), why would this type have been struck? This coin comes from a group of coins originating in India, so there is the possibility that this is an ancient imitation. The style of this coin, however, appears to be Roman and Indian imitations normally copy existing types. Plus, the reverse type seems too elaborate to have been created from scratch, and it seems unlikely that the Caracalla type was used as the prototype since that issue did not include the VESTA identification. Would they have known in India that the type they were copying showed the Temple of Vesta? An interesting coin, clearly deserving more study. Perhaps an obverse die link can be found, or hopefully a better preserved example will one day surface.