Gaius/Caligula (Augustus) Coin: Bronze Quadrans
C CAESAR DIVI AVG PRON AVG SC - Pileus flanked by S C
PON M TR P IIII P P COS TERT - Legend surrounding RCC large in center of field
Mint: Rome (40-41AD)
Wt./Size/Axis: 2.30g / 17mm / 180
RIC 1-Gaius 52
London Ancient Coins
obverse: C CAESAR DIVI AVG PRON AVG (Gaius Caesar, emperor, great-granson of Divine Augustus)
reverse: PON M TR P IIII P P COS TERT (high priest, holder of tribune power for 4 years, father of the country, consul for the third time)
There were four different issues of quadrans from Caligula:
PON M TR P III P P COS DES III- 39AD
PON M TR P III P P COS TERT-39-40AD
PON M TR P IIII P P COS TERT-40-41AD-This Coin
PON M TR P IIII P P COS QVART-January 1-24, 41AD
ODERINT, DUM METUANT (LET THEM HATE, SO LONG AS THEY FEAR). — CALIGULA
The purpose of the pileus and the (related or not) meaning of the RCC inscription remain in dispute and have led to differing hypotheses since the late 18th century, with most modern observers echoing the original hypotheses of Eckel from 1796, who thought that the RCC inscription referred to Caligula's remission of the 0.5% sales tax (hence remissa ducentesima), with the pileus a reference to restored liberty deriving from return of elections to the popular comitia from the Senate. Eckel thus thought the obverse and reverse commemorated separate distinct acts of the emperor.
David Woods' interpretation of the Caligula quadrans is that the liberty it celebrates is the liberty of all free Roman citizens, with the pileus as a their symbol. He reasons that it was Caligula's crackdown on those illegally claiming citizenship that is the focus of the coin's commemoration. This proper enforcement of the rules of citizenship would theoretically play well among the greater masses of the population who normally encounter the quadrans in everyday exchange.
As for the meaning of the RCC reverse inscription, Woods posits that it could be Res Civium Conservatae (The interests of the citizens has been preserved), or something closely related to this.
From The Dictionary of Roman Coins:
R CC Remissa Ducentesima. - Initial letters inscribed on the reverse of a third brass coin of Caligula, commemorative of a tax having been abolished by that Emperor. - The treasury of the state having been exhausted by the civil wars, Augustus, to assist in replenishing the public revenues, had established an impost of the hundredth denarius on all sales. But this burden in the year AD 17, Tiberius, yielding to the petitions of the people, had reduced on-half, that is to say to one denarius for 200. At length, in the year A.D. 39, the whole tax was taken off by Caligula as the inscription, on this small brass coin, of Remissa CC. plainly tells; and Suetonius confirms the fact in saying ducentesimun auctionum Italia remisit, although he does not specify the time.
And that this act of liberality was permanent is proved by medals struck in subsequent years of Caligula's reign, on which the memory of this benefit is gratefully renewed by the Senate. - The obverse is in scribed C CAESAR DIVI AVG PRON AVG S C (Caius Caesar Augustus, great grandson of the Divine Augustus) and the type is the pileus or cap of liberty, an allusion made to the right of suffrage granted to the people in the year AD 38.
From COINWEEK: Small Change
Perhaps the most enigmatic coin of Caligula’s reign was the smallest regular Roman denomination, the quadrans. It took 64 of these little coppers to equal the value of one silver denarius – a day’s pay for a manual worker. On the obverse, the emperor’s name and titles surround a “liberty cap” – the felt hat worn by freed slaves – bracketed by the letters “SC”. The reverse inscription continues the emperor’s titles, surrounding the large letters “RCC”.
For many years, the consensus of numismatic scholars was that this abbreviation stood for remissa ducentesima, celebrating Caligula’s repeal of an unpopular one-half percent sales tax (“one part in two hundred” – “CC” being the Roman numeral for 200). A brilliant 2010 study by David Woods argues that this interpretation is unlikely, and RCC probably stands for something like res civium conservatae (“the interests of citizens have been preserved”).
The quadrans is probably the most affordable coin of Caligula, with decent examples appearing at auction for under $100.