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Research Coins: Feature Auction

Triton XXI, Lot: 252. Estimate $3000.
Sold for $9500. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

EGYPT, Alexandria. Domitius Domitianus. Usurper, AD 297-298. Potin Octadrachm(?) (22mm, 11.00 g, 12h). Dated RY 2 (AD 297/298). ΔOMЄTI ANOC CЄB, radiate head right / Sarapis standing right, wearing kalathos, raising his right arm in salute, holding transverse scepter with his left hand and arm; palm frond to right, L B (date) to left. Köln –; Dattari (Savio) 10824 (this coin); K&G 126.1; Emmett 4241.2; Staffieri, “Testimonianze sulla fine della monetazione autonoma alessandrina (296-298 d.C),” Proceedings of the XIII International Numismatic Congress (Madrid, 2005), pp. 937-45, Fig. 1 (this coin); Staffieri, Alexandria In Nummis 264 (this coin). EF, dark brown patina with traces of silvering showing through. Rare and exceptional. Probably one of the finest known.

From the Giovanni Maria Staffieri Collection, purchased from Dr. Piero Beretta, Milan, July 1973. Ex Dr. Piero Beretta Collection (Milan); Giovanni Dattari Collection, no. 10824.

The revolt of Domitius Domitianus in Egypt destabilized a vitally strategic region by interrupting the grain supply to Rome and opening the possibility of a Persian (Sasanian) invasion. For almost a year, Domitius Domitianus controlled Alexandria and its mint, striking aurei and folles, as well as a series of pre-reform provincial denominations.

A major question regarding these latter coins has been what were their specific values. For the most part, scholars agree that the larger coins featuring the radiate bust must be a double, and thereby call it an octodrachm. At half the weight, then, the smallest coins with the Nike on the reverse must be tetradrachms, though these coins have erroneously been called heretofore didrachms. The weights of these tetradrachms appear consistent with the final issues of pre-reform tetradrachms of the Tetrarchs. The middle denomination poses the largest challenge to this arrangement. By weight, it should be a hexadrachm. However, no such denomination was known to have been struck in Egypt, though tetradrachms earlier in the third century achieved this weight. The obvious problem here would be the confusion caused in circulating the same denomination in two different weights. As this type is the rarest of the group, it is possible that it was meant for a special occasion, or more remotely, a stalled attempt to reinstitute the pre-reform coinage on an earlier weight standard. Further investigation may shed more light on this subject.