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Research Coins: Feature Auction


First Civic Issue of Venice

Triton XXI, Lot: 1110. Estimate $4000.
Sold for $4500. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

ITALY, Venezia (Venice). temp. Agnello Participazio to Pietro Tradonico. 811-864. AR Denaro (20mm, 1.31 g, 2h). Struck 822-840. + DS CVSERVA Ro(MA)No (IMP), cross pattée, pellets in quarters / XPE SALVA VE(HE)CIAS, temple façade. Coupland, Money, Class III, Group G; Depeyrot 1116G (attributed to time of Louis II); Haertle 11/243; M&G -; MEC -; CNI VII 5; cf. Papadopoli 5; Paolucci 1; Biaggi 2748. Good VF, lightly toned, a few light marks, slightly crimped flan. Extremely rare and of great historical interest.

This coinage has long intrigued numismatists, because while it looks like a typical Carolingian coin type of the early-mid ninth century, it does not bear the name of a Frankish ruler, but instead the legends Deus conserva Romanorum imperium (“may God preserve the Roman empire”) and Christe salva Venecias (“may Christ save Venice”). The design, a pelleted cross on one face and a temple on the other, is very familiar from Carolingian coins. It was first introduced in this developed form by Louis the Pious in 822 or 823, after which every mint throughout the empire struck the Christiana religio type. Only one hoard is known to have contained any of these rare Venetian coins. Found at Hermenches in Switzerland in 1921, it contained two coins of this type and over 320 of Louis’ Christiana religio issues. There were no coins minted after 840, and none of the temple coins struck on a larger flan which can be attributed to Louis II. This indicates that the hoard was deposited before the death of Louis the Pious in 840, and thus that this Venetian coinage also dates from the same period.

Although the coinage was dated to the reign of Louis II (855-875) in the nineteenth century, several other factors confirm a date between 823 and 840. First, the weights of these coins and the silver content are lower than those usually found under Louis the Pious. An important study in the Revue Numismatique in 2008 showed that Louis the Pious’ Class 2 coins from Venice were likewise struck to a lower weight standard than coins from other mints, and also contained less silver. Second, nearly all Louis’ Class 2 coins, with the mint-name in field, bore an unpelleted cross on the obverse, while virtually all Christiana religio issues included pellets around the cross, like these coins. It is interesting to note that a small number of other mints are known to have produced a mint-signed temple coinage late in Louis’ reign: Dorestad, Maastricht, Verdun, Cologne and now (an as yet unpublished find), Aachen. Third, most of Louis’ Class 2 coins from Venice have MP ligatures, as these coins do, a feature which is hardly ever seen on coins of other mints.

A final reason for ascribing these coins to the 820s or 830s is the similarity of style which permits the attribution of a large group of Louis the Pious’ Christiana religio coinage to the Venice mint (Coupland Group G). Some of these similarly have the MP ligatures characteristic of Venice, but above all it is the chunky, block-like lettering of the inscriptions and the flattened appearance of the cross and temple which strongly resembles the style of this independent Venetian coinage. Large numbers of these Group G coins have been found in hoards and as single finds, while these Venetian coins remain extremely rare.

(Many thanks to Simon Coupland for the crafting of this note)