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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Roman Coins| ▸ |Roman Tesserae||View Options:  |  |  | 

Tesserae and Lead Coins

Tesserae (singular: tessera) are ancient tokens. Most were made from lead, but other materials including bronze, bone, ivory, clay, glass and wood were also used. They were used as tickets for theaters, gladiator fights, ferry passage and even brothels. Tesserae liberalitatis were distributed as gifts by the Roman emperor or local government, often to the poor, and used as vouchers to exchange for grain, oil, or other goods. Some ancient lead "tokens" may have been used as small change coinage.

Roman Empire, Ostia (Port of Rome), Italy, Transportation / Shipping Token, Late 1st - 2nd Century A.D.

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In "Shipping Tesserae from Ostia and Minturnae?" in NC 175 (2015), Clive Stannard discusses small square single-sided bronze tesserae, like this one, which are usually found at Ostia, the port of Rome, and at Minturnae, the other major Roman port. He identifies 12 types of these tesserae with additional varieties. He suggests the horse types, like this one, may relate to the towing of boats [by horses] on a tow path.
AS91936. Bronze tessera, Stannard Shipping, type 2A, obv. die 9; 0.802g, 11.3 x 11.6mm, VF, rough green patina, light earthen deposits, edge chip, obverse horse pacing right, AT above, N below, I below raised left foreleg; reverse blank; from a New England collector, ex Phil DeVicchi collection; $90.00 (€79.20)

Roman Egypt, Antinoopolites Nome, Portrait of Antinous, c. 131 - 132 A.D.

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On 30 October 130 A.D., Hadrian founded the city of Antinoopolis on the very bank of the Nile river where Antinous drowned. It was the capital of a new nome, Antinoopolites. We believe the date on this coin is year 2 of an era beginning with the founding of Antinoopolis.

The Emmett reference has the bust of Hermes with a caduceus. Our coin could be Hermes with the features of Antinous and with an obscured caduceus behind. Emmett does not, however, note a crescent, which would be hard to overlook. There is no plate coin to compare. The reference may refer to our type or it may not.
RX39461. Lead tessera, cf. Emmett 4328 (uncertain match, Nilus obv, Hermes with caduceus rev, no crescent noted, year 2, R5); Dattari -; Geissen -; Milne -, Choice gF, weight 4.755 g, maximum diameter 20.3 mm, die axis 0o, Antinoopolis? mint, 131 - 132 A.D.?; obverse draped bust of Antinous right, wearing hem-hem crown of Harpocrates, crescent before, possibly caduceus behind, linear border; reverse Nilus reclining left on crocodile, raising Nike crowning him with wreath in right hand, cornucopia in left hand, L B (year 2) left, linear border; extremely rare; SOLD

Roman, Palmyra, Syria, Terracotta Plaque Tessera, 2nd - 3rd Century A.D.

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From the collection of Alex G. Malloy, former dealer in antiquities for 40 years.

Palmyra, in the heart of Syrian Desert. was the capital of Queen Zenobia. This tessera may have been made during the time of her short lived Palmyrene Empire.
AI59004. Terracotta plaque tessera, cf. E. De. Boccard, Les tesseres et les Monnaies de Palmyre; cf. Malloy, Writings of Mankind, 1990, 33; 3 x 2 cm, Choice, flat plaque depicting a lion lower left, palm tree in the center, crescent moon upper left, and star upper right, two lines of inscription of Palmyrene Aramaic; SOLD



Burnett, A., M. Amandry & P. Ripollès. Roman Provincial Coinage I: From the death of Caesar to the death of Vitellius (44 BC-AD 69). (London, 1992, and supplement).
Buttrey, T. "The Spintriae as a Historical Source" in NC 1973.
de Boccard, E. Les tesseres et les Monnaies de Palmyre. (Paris, 1962).
Cohen, H. Description historique des monnaies frappées sous l'Empire Romain, Vol. 8: Nepotian to Romulus Augustus, plus tesserae & cotorniates. (Paris, 1888).
Dattari, G. Numi Augg. Alexandrini. (Cairo, 1901).
Emmett, K. Alexandrian Coins. (Lodi, WI, 2001).
Farhi, H. "Note on Two Types of Byzantine Lead Currency" in INR 8 (2013).
Geissen, A. Katalog alexandrinischer Kaisermünzen, Köln|, Band 4: Claudius Gothicus - Bleimünzen. (Cologne, 1974-1983), pp. 178 - 213.
Hendin, D. Guide to Biblical Coins. (Amphora, 2010).
Hoover, O. "A Reassessment of Nabataean Lead Coinage in Light of New Discoveries" in NC 2006.
Milne, J. A Catalogue of the Alexandrian Coins in the Ashmolean Museum. (Oxford, 1933), pp. 125 - 130.
Milne, J. "The leaden token-coinage of Egypt under the Romans" in NC 1908, pp. 287-310, pl. XXII.
Rostowtzew, M. Tesserarum Urbis Romae et Suburbi Plumbearum Sylloge. (St. Petersburg, 1903).
Rostowtzew, M. Tesserarum Urbis Romae et Suburbi Plumbearum Sylloge, Supplementum I. (St. Petersburg, 1905).
Scholz, J. "Römische Blei Tesserae" in Numismatische Zeitschrift bd. 25 (1893).

Catalog current as of Wednesday, October 16, 2019.
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