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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Numismatic and History Discussions  |  Roman Coins (Moderator: Severus_Alexander)  |  Topic: Septimius Severus Sestertius with Aeternitas Reverse 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: Septimius Severus Sestertius with Aeternitas Reverse  (Read 114 times)
Rupert
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« on: February 14, 2020, 04:11:40 am »

I just picked up this sestertius from the post office, and I’d like to show it to you for opinions.

Obv. L SEPT SEV PER - T AUG IMP VIII
Laureate, cuirassed bust right
Rev. AETER - ….., S – C
Aeternitas standing left, holding globe with Phoenix in her right, and a fold of her dress in her left hand
18.7 g, 29 mm; die axis 12 o’clock

This is an odd coin, mainly since a sestertius for Severus with an Aeternitas reverse is neither attested in RIC nor online (wildwinds.com or acsearch.info). The only mention of Aeternitas in Severus’ City of Rome coinage is on the dynastic denarii bearing the portraits of Caracalla and Geta on the reverse with the legend AETERNIT IMPERI (loosely translated as “The Severan dynasty will rule forever!”). The legend AETERNITAS AUG (with variants) occurs in Emesa with moon and stars reverse. The figure of Aeternitas standing had so far extensively been used for the two divinized Faustinae only.

When such an unknown type surfaces, it is bound to raise suspicions about being fake or unofficial. Let’s look for giveaways.

Surfaces: The surfaces are just slightly pitted; they seem absolutely natural and untouched, like they should be for a coin that never developed much patina.

Technique: The coin is, in parts at least, flatly struck; the letters on the left half of the obv. are flat but legible, the right half of the rev. inscription is illegible. The portrait is well struck, the rev. figure is somewhat flat; the sudden transition from relief to flat surface points to a flat strike as opposed to wear. Also, the obverse portrait is hardly worn at all. The reverse, although weakly struck, was made from a fresh die, as the sunken lines around the letters show. The letters, or their single dashes, were chiseled into the die with hubs, and this procedure raised material from the die’s surface around the letters, which was quickly worn down once the die was in use. This die was so fresh that, on the coin, you see more impression from the displaced material than from the actual letters in some places – note the S in S-C! This effect is most often visible on sestertii of Antoninus Pius.

Style: I’ll leave it to experts to judge the style; in my opinion, the portrait style is perfect for the mint of Rome, but the wreath ties are rather sloppily and unconvincingly engraved, as is the collar of the cuirass. The lettering is fine, but the legend division PER – T AUG is unusual. On acsearch, I found only PE – RT AUG and PERT – AUG as partings for the eighth imperatorial acclamation. Maybe Curtis knows the obv. die?
The reverse is, well, almost normal in style. Just a little bit rougher, little bit more stylized than one would expect for a Roman sestertius. For example, the Phoenix on globe is poorly rendered; I had at first mistaken it for a jug on the palm of the figure.

So we have an ALMOST normal looking sestertius. Odd features are:
1. The obv. legend parting (PER – T)
2. The poorly done wreath ties
3. The unusual rev. type
4. The slightly inferior rev. style.
Lesser oddities are: The weight which is low, but not out of range; the strike which is tilted, and therefore weak on one side (obv. left, rev. right). These two things could happen on normal sestertii too – many Severan sestertii were well engraved but carelessly struck.

So if we assume an unofficial production: Who would have made this, and why? Who would have invested a lot of fine work, used prime materials and employed good workmen to strike imitative sestertii? We know many fake denarii of the time made of inferior material for profit, but what would have been the gain of sestertius forgers? Just for their size, sestertii were hardest to make and least profitable. It is for a reason that virtually all cast Limes bronzes are asses.

If the coin is official, how do we explain points 1 to 4 above? A product of the Mint of Rome Rookie Training Workshop?

A modern forgery? Nah. This is not Bulgarian style, and Cavino did not produce weak strikes. Somebody who can engrave a portrait like this, and who has the technical knowledge to produce this, could easily have avoided the mistakes listed above and made a sestertius that would fool everybody without raising any suspicions. Also, the coin is certainly not cast, nor tooled.

I’m eagerly waiting for your ideas, since I’m puzzled with this coin.

Rupert
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curtislclay
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« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2020, 07:22:36 pm »

Rupert,

An ancient imitation, I am afraid, for exactly the reasons you list. Sorry to have to disappoint you!

The main points are that the style and fabric are good, but not quite official; and that the rev. type of Aeternitas standing seems extremely unlikely on a sestertius of Septimius in 196-7. Where are the corresponding aurei, denarii, and middle bronzes? Almost all types of these years appear on several denominations. Copying a type of Diva Faustina I also seems suspicious; AETERNITAS AVG standing holding busts of Sun and Moon, as for Trajan and Hadrian, would seem a better choice if such a type was wanted. No, the obv. die is not otherwise known to me, nor do I know the division PER - T on any other sestertius obv. die of these years. But these ancillary arguments are really beside the point: the style and fabric are in my eyes clearly not quite right, so the coin cannot be official.
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Curtis Clay
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« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2020, 11:24:31 pm »

Hi Rupert,

Interesting coin! Smiley

If I were in your position, I wouldn't be disappointed to learn that it is an ancient imitation.

Meepzorp
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Rupert
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« Reply #3 on: February 15, 2020, 03:46:14 am »

Thank you Curtis for your judgment, and Meepzorp for your encouragement!

If I'm disappointed, it's only a little bit, since I had absolutely considered this, and can totally live with it. To put it in context, I paid 132 Euros for this coin. I would be REALLY disappointed if Curtis had pointed out convincingly why it is a modern fake. Also, I'm glad that I got my analysis right.

What I'd really still like to know (but I don't know whether anybody knows this): Who did that, and why? It must have taken a lot of expert work to make this, and I fail to see any profit in it (as opposed to producing cast white metal denarii).

Best regards,

Rupert
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