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Dolabella Semis – The Type Discovery Coin

432, Lot: 215. Estimate $200.
Sold for $475. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Anonymous. 211-209 BC. Æ Semis (26mm, 9.92 g, 12h). CN COR and Dolabella series. Mint in Spain. Laureate head of Saturn right; S (mark of value) to left / Prow of galley right; S (mark of value) above, dolabella to right. Crawford 81/(2); Sydenham –; Type as RBW 332; Russo, Essays Hersh pl. 18, 39 (this coin). VF, dark green and brown patina with earthen highlights/deposits. Discovery coin.

From the Andrew McCabe Collection. Ex JHE (Jencek) Auction 15 (November 2012), lot 78; RBW Collection Duplicate.

This is the discovery coin of the Dolabella series fractions, and the plate illustration in Roberto Russo's essay on unpublished bronzes in Essays Charles Hersh (plate 18, no. 39), at which time it was the only known example. Russo in Essays Hersh, p.142: “These four unpublished coins are the fractions of the [CN. CO dolabella RRC 81] as, which was otherwise the only denomination known. The shape of the prow and the symbol are so similar to those of the as to leave no room for doubt.” These coins are now recognized by their occasional rare appearances in commerce and in museum collections to be certainly from Spain – contra RRC, which placed the as in Sicily(?). It is, to say the least, highly unusual for RRC to have completely omitted an entire series of fractions, but there are other series where only a single fraction was listed such as RRC 151 S. FV, which only had a triens (as, triens, quadrans, and sextans now known). Access to the museum collections in Spain in the 1960s and early 1970s was difficult – the author of RRC was shown what they wanted to show him, and if one didn't know of the existence of a series such as dolabella, then one could hardly ask for it. One Cnaeus Cornelius Dolabella was made Rex Sacrorum in Rome in 208 BC, a role which was not consistent with military leadership, but perhaps in the years just prior to 208 BC he authorized the issuance of this small coinage in Spain. Very rare, and important for the history of Republican numismatics. [Andrew McCabe]