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Author Topic: Roman Litra Description?  (Read 1359 times)

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Offline Paddy

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Roman Litra Description?
« on: August 31, 2013, 12:48:19 pm »
Hey.

Just "won" this coin at an auction. In the description it says something about "half litra" but the coin is also described as Litra. I don't understand the attribution, can someone help me?

Anonymous Æ Litra. Rome, 234-231 BC. Laureate head of Apollo right / Horse rearing left, wearing bridle, bit, and reins; ROMA below. Crawford 26/3; Sydenham 29 (Half-litra); Kestner 56-65; BMCRR Romano-Campanian 70-74 (Half-litra). 3.43g, 15mm, 5h. Attractive dark-green patina, Good Very Fine.

Edit: It's important to me not only to have an attribution but to understand it as well.

Offline Carausius

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Re: Roman Litra Description?
« Reply #1 on: August 31, 2013, 01:28:45 pm »
Paddy:

Nice coin. I almost bid on that one myself!

According to Crawford, the weight standard of the series 26 litra and half litra are based on a litra of 3.375 grams . The half litra in Crawford is described as having a dog on the reverse rather than a horse, and the average weight of the half litra of several specimens is described as 1.65 grams.  BMCRR does refer to these as half litrae; but keep in mind that Grueber was writing circa 1900 and based on older scholarship. Sydenham was writing in the 1950s. Of the three major works cited, Crawford is the most current and likely based on a greater number of more recent finds. I hope that helps!

Offline Andrew McCabe

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Re: Roman Litra Description?
« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2013, 02:10:24 pm »
It's very doubtful to me that the word "litra" is correct. Much more likely, these small bronze coins were simply fractions of the Aes Grave cast coinage system, as they come in weights of 1/4, 1/8 and 1/16 ounce, and the Aes Grave coinage generally had denominations from As down to Semuncia (1/2 ounce). So this coin would be 1/8 ounce coin. That's my view, which differs from their long term designation as "Litra", which presume them to be overvalued token bronze coinage on the Sicilian model, whereby bronze coins had value names that indicate a relationship to the silver coinage.

Litra, the word, is from the same stem as Libra, i.e. pound, would suggest a denomination of a (light) Sicilian pound of bronze, which sometimes equates in value to a small silver coin in Sicily weighing about 1/12 didrachm (about 0.6 grams) so by this definition, a Litra = an Obol. But it hardly stands up to scrutiny that such a tiny bronze coin, weighing 3.375 grams, could have been equivalent to a 0.6 gram silver obol. It would imply a massive overvaluation of bronze that just does not seem credible.

So. throw out the Litras, and call these coins 1/8 ounce pieces, and I think we have a sensible answer.

Offline Paddy

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Re: Roman Litra Description?
« Reply #3 on: August 31, 2013, 02:48:22 pm »
So call it 1/8 ounce, but I stick with Crawford 26/3 in my description?

I will ask a question that is probably a bit .. I don't know.. dense, but is this coin cast or struck?

Edit: I am very happy to be the new owner of this coin. I think it's amazing that I own a coin that was minted before the second punic war!

Offline Andrew McCabe

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Re: Roman Litra Description?
« Reply #4 on: August 31, 2013, 02:55:28 pm »
So call it 1/8 ounce, but I stick with Crawford 26/3 in my description?

I will ask a question that is probably a bit .. I don't know.. dense, but is this coin cast or struck?

Yes. It's still 26/3, which refers to this coin. What you call the coin is irrelevant. It remains 26/3 whether you call it a Litra or 1/8 ounce or anything else.

You can also choose to call it any name you want. Litra, or 1/8 ounce, or both. I've explained where the term Litra comes from, and why I think it is wrong, but it's your own choice what you write on your coin ticket. Bear in mind that we've no idea what the Romans called this coin. No idea at all. So we are just using modern logic to try and work out its name

It is struck.

Cast (aes grave) coins were considerably cruder, here is a cast semuncia in comparison: it would be impossible to have such detail engraving as the portrait, text and horse on a cast coin:



Offline Paddy

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Re: Roman Litra Description?
« Reply #5 on: August 31, 2013, 03:03:54 pm »
So call it 1/8 ounce, but I stick with Crawford 26/3 in my description?

I will ask a question that is probably a bit .. I don't know.. dense, but is this coin cast or struck?

Yes. It's still 26/3, which refers to this coin. What you call the coin is irrelevant. It remains 26/3 whether you call it a Litra or 1/8 ounce or anything else.

You can also choose to call it any name you want. Litra, or 1/8 ounce, or both. I've explained where the term Litra comes from, and why I think it is wrong, but it's your own choice what you write on your coin ticket. Bear in mind that we've no idea what the Romans called this coin. No idea at all. So we are just using modern logic to try and work out its name

It is struck.

Cast (aes grave) coins were considerably cruder, here is a cast semuncia in comparison: it would be impossible to have such detail engraving as the portrait, text and horse on a cast coin:




Sir - I did not question your answer, just trying to understand it completely. I rather ask a couple of follow up questions that might seem redundant to others than guessing.

Thank you both so much for your feedback. Now I know more about the coin and understand the attribution made.

Offline Paddy

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Re: Roman Litra Description?
« Reply #6 on: August 31, 2013, 03:09:59 pm »
I think I will use parts of this thread in my description of the coin, if that's OK.

Offline Andrew McCabe

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Re: Roman Litra Description?
« Reply #7 on: August 31, 2013, 03:16:41 pm »
I think I will use parts of this thread in my description of the coin, if that's OK.

Maybe I also was not clear enough. What you, or anyone, writes on a coin ticket is a personal choice. You could write "litra" if the link to the old Sicilian coin types sounds appealing. You could also write "lovely little bronze coin with a horse". You could write "uncertain denomination". Coin tickets/descriptions are a purely personal matter and there's no rules. It's also good to know that although I shared my opinion, I might be completely wrong (and I often am wrong, sometimes without even knowing that I'm wrong). There's no written evidence of what these coins were called, only our own powers of logic. So, take the various sources of information available to you, your books, the internet, and these internet chats, and your own intuition and preferences, and write what feels good to you. Some collectors don't keep written records at all - again, a personal choice!
 :)

Offline Paddy

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Re: Roman Litra Description?
« Reply #8 on: August 31, 2013, 03:36:35 pm »
I tried to include as much as possible of the information given in this thread as possible. Here's the end result:

https://www.forumancientcoins.com/gallery/displayimage.php?pos=-101355




 

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