A LAUREATE TACITUS BRONZE

The above coin was recently found amongst the stock of a British coin dealer. It has a laureate bust on the obverse and was ticketed, quite reasonably, as a denarius of Tacitus. When the coin is compared to the "denarii" of the previous ruler, Aurelian, the diameter is somewhat larger and my thoughts were that it was an abschlag, a base metal strike from dies intended for the gold coinage.

A consultation of the appropriate volume of Roman Imperial Coinage (RIC) did not come up with any coin of Tacitus with the PM TRP COS PP reverse legend but, given that the book was published in 1927, there was plenty of opportunity for new coins to have been discovered.

An enquiry to the British Museum confirmed my initial thought. The coin is an abschlag from the Siscia mint in the Balkans. The obverse die links to a gold issue, the reverse being known only from one other base metal striking located in Vienna.

The role of base metal abschlags is uncertain. They could be "medallic" pieces from a period when the gold coinage had a much more ceremonial use rather than as simply money or they could be trial strikings (see King, C.E; 'Denarii and quinarii, AD 253-295' in Carson, R.A.G & Kraay, C.M; Scripta Nummaria Romana, Essays Presented to Humphrey Sutherland (1978) pp.75-104).

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RJB 2002