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Serrated

Having notched or toothed edge. The predominant "serrati numi" types are Seleucid Kingdom bronzes and denarii of the Roman Republic. The fabric of the two types is quite different. The Seleucid bronze flans appear to have been open cast in wells shaped like an old-fashioned bottle cap. The purpose of the serrated edge appears to have been purely decorative. The Roman Republic denarii appear to have been cast as regular flans and then notches were cut into the edge before striking. The Roman effort appears to have been an anti-counterfeiting measure; showing the inside of the coin. This effort was, however, not completely successful as silver plated with copper core denarii serrati are known.


FORVM's Seleucid Serrate Bronze Quick Attribution Tool

Ruler, reign Obverse (right unless indicated) Reverse Spaer pg SGCV II HGC 9 SC II
Seleukos IV, 187 - 175 BC Apollo long hair, laureate & diad Apollo leaning on tripod, examining arrow (AE21-24) 122 6968 584 1315
Seleukos IV, 187 - 75 BC Dionysos w/ivy Prow left 126 6970 586 1316/1321
Seleukos IV, 187 - 175 BC Artemis w/quiver Artemis standing, torch in left, stag right 128 6971 591 1317
Seleukos IV, 187 - 175 BC Veiled female (Laodike IV) Elephant head left, ΣΕΛΥΕΚΟΥ below 128 6972 592 1318/1332
Antiochus IV, 175 - c. 165 BC Veiled female (Laodike IV) Elephant head left over prow left, ΑΝΤΙΟΧΟΥ below 138
686 1477
Antiochus IV, 175 - c. 165 BC Apollo diad, control mark l Apollo std l on omphalos, arrow in r, left on bow, apluster l 146
725 1478
Antiochus IV, 175 - c. 165 BC Antiochus rad & diad, fillet border Veiled & draped goddess (Hera?), long torch or scepter in r 156 6994 726 1479
Demetrius I, 162 - 150 BC Apollo Tripod (AE24-27) 180 7026 821 1644/1648
Demetrius I, 162 - 150 BC Artemis w/quiver Bow and quiver 180 7027 826 1645
Demetrius I, 162 - 150 BC Horse head left Elephant head right 180 7028 833 1646
Demetrius I, 162 - 150 BC Artemis w/quiver Apollo standing left, arrow in r, left on grounded bow 180
852 1647
Alexander I, 150 - 145 BC Alexander diad Zeus enthroned left, Nike in r, long scepter in l 198 7043 909 1818
Alexander I, 150 - 145 BC Alexander diad Athena standing left, Nike in r, left on grounded shield 198
900 1793
Alexander I, 150 - 145 BC Alexander diad Prow left 198
925 1814
Alexander I, 150 - 145 BC Alexander diad Tripod (AE16-19) 198
926 1819
Alexander I, 150 - 145 BC Alexander diad Apollo seated l on omphalos, arrow in r, left on bow 200
907 1816
Alexander I, 150 - 145 BC Alexander diad Owl standing facing 202 7045 920 1794
Demetrius II, 145 - 138 BC Demetrius diad, youthful Demeter veiled & draped, long torch in r 235 7069

Antiochus VI, 144 - c. 142 BC Antiochus diad & rad Elephant left (AE19-24) 240 7081 1043 2006
Antiochus VI, 144 - c. 142 BC Antiochus diad & rad Apollo leaning on tripod, examining arrow 240 7082 1046 2023
Antiochus VI, 144 - c. 142 BC Antiochus diad & rad Panther walking left, palm in mouth, right fore-paw raised 240 7083 1048 2007
Antiochus VI, 144 - c. 142 BC Antiochus diad & rad Nike walking l, wreath raised in r, palm in left 240 7084 1052 2024
Antiochus VI, 144 - c. 142 BC Antiochus diad & rad Horse walking l, right foreleg raised 242
1054 2025
Alexander II, 128 -123 BC Dionysos w/ivy Tyche standing left, rudder in r, cornucopia in l 312 7133 1166 2242
Alexander II, 128 -123 BC Elephant head Eagle l, wings open 318
1178 2243


Serrati Republican Denarii ©

by Alexandru Marian

Those of you who are familiar with the republican coinage, surely know a particular type, called "serrati." Since I saw my first serrati, I have been fascinated by them, wondering the purpose of the serration and what manufacturing process was used to create them. After discovering the internet, and upon the acquisition of my first serrati, I started looking for information about them. The questions I wanted to answer were: Why were they made? And how were they made? Despite my efforts, I did not find a satisfactory answers. A few lines here and there, only stating that it is not known how they were made of if they had a special purpose. It was implied that the flans were probably cut with a chisel, before striking.

Since I am a "technical guy", I said, "let's give it a try." I carefully examined the cuts on a sample of serrati. It was immediately clear the cuts were made before striking. What struck me is, the cuts were not perpendicular to the coin surface, but they fell from right (on the bottom) to left (on the top), like this:

\\ \\ \\ \\ \\ \\ \\ \\ \\

Now let's have a look at the edge of an actual coin. All the images below can be enlarged by clicking on them.

I will refer to the angle between each serrati cut and perpendicular to the coin's surface as the alpha angle. The alpha angle is present on every serrati coin I have studied. With only one exception, each coin had the cuts falling from right to left as in the image above. On the single exception, the cuts were also angled, but fell in the opposite direction.

Speculating on the cause for of the alpha angle and the single variation from the normal right to left angle, I developed my hypothesis. The cuts were made by striking the flan on the edge with a sharp tool, most likely a chisel in a form similar to a butcher's cleaver. One hand held the cutting tool and the other hand held the flan with pliers and rotated the flan by rolling it on a surface. If the flan was held in comfortable natural way, in front of the body, the normal arm movement would create cuts with the alpha angle. The right to left alpha angles would result from cutting by men holding the cutting tool in the right hand. Since most men are right handed, this explains why most serrati have a right to left alpha angle. The single reversed alpha angle observed would be the result of a left handed worker holding the cutting tool in the left hand. The diagram below illustrates my hypothesis.

I was determined to test my hypothesis. First, I made an iron tool resembling the tool above. Then I took a modern silver coin, of the same thickness as a republican denarius and copied the process. The image below shows the result after cutting.

The next step was to imitate the die strike process. I placed the coin on an iron surface and smashed it with a hammer. You can see the results after striking in the images below:

My test coin serrati features are almost identical to Roman serrati denarii. Since I am right handed, the alpha angle is from left to right. The cuts are somewhat narrower than on the ancient coins, apparently because my cutting tool was thinner than those used by the Roman mints. My test results provide convincing evidence to support my hypothesis.


Dictionary of Roman Coins


Please add updates or make corrections to the NumisWiki text version as appropriate.


Serrati Nummi.--Coins are thus called which have their edges regularly notched round like the teeth of a saw. These serrated or denticulated; medals are common amongst the products of the consular mint up to the time of Augustus, after which scarcely one is to be found.

Thus specimens of this ancient practice are seen on the coins of Antonia, Aquilia, Claudia, Cornelia, Domitia, Mamilia, Maria, Memmia, Papia, Porcia, Postumia, Procilia, Roscia, Sulpicia, and other moneyers.

It was a precaution adopted, as Pinkerton observes, by incision; to prevent forgery, by showing the insides of the coin. "But," adds this scientific numismatist, "the old forgers also imitated this; and I have a serrated consular coin, of which the incisions, like the rest are plated with silver over copper."--From a brief passage in Tacitus (l.v. De Mor. Germ.), it would seem that the Germans had a partiality for this class of Roman money--"Pecuniam probant veterem et diu notam, serratos, bigatosque."

The brass coins of the Syrian kings (such as the Seleucidae) also exhibit the same peculiarity; but this probably was done to them as an ornamental feature, and the metal was cast in that shape before they were struck.


View whole page from the Dictionary Of Roman Coins