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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Themes & Provenance| ▸ |Numismatics| ▸ |Countermarked||View Options:  |  |  | 

Countermarked Ancient Coins

A countermark is a stamped or punched impression adding elements of design to a coin after it was originally struck. The practice of countermarking coins was widespread throughout antiquity. It was particularly common in the provinces of the Roman Empire. Countermarks were applied to coins for many reasons, including revalidation, revaluation, devaluation, and propaganda. Exactly when and why any individual countermark was applied is often uncertain.

Gallienus, August 253 - September 268 A.D., Irenopolis-Neronias, Cilicia

|Cilicia|, |Gallienus,| |August| |253| |-| |September| |268| |A.D.,| |Irenopolis-Neronias,| |Cilicia||7| |assaria|
Wandering the world in a panther-drawn chariot, Dionysos rode ahead of the maenads and satyrs, who sang loudly and danced, flushed with wine. They were profusely garlanded with ivy and held the thyrsus, a staff topped with a pine cone, a symbol of the immortality of his believers. Everywhere he went he taught men how to cultivate vines and the mysteries of his cult. Whoever stood in his way and refused to revere him was punished with madness.
RP96990. Bronze 7 assaria, Karbach Eirenopolis - (cf. 146-7 same obv. die, diff. rev. type); Leu web auction 12 (2020), 870 (same dies); SNG Levante -; SNG Paris -; SNG PFPS -, aVF/F, green patina with earthen deposits, weight 12.523 g, maximum diameter 27.7 mm, die axis 225o, Irenopolis (Düzici, Turkey) mint, 258 - 259 A.D.; obverse ΠOY ΛIK Γ/θ>AΛIHNOC, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right, seen from behind; uncertain round countermark; reverse IPHNOΠOΛE (or similar), Dionysos drinking with his entourage, standing facing, kantharos (wine cup) in his right hand, pedum (shepherd's crook) in his left hand, Pan on right supporting him, Satyr on left standing with outstretched right hand, panther seated left at feet on left, Z (mark of value) right; ex Leu Numismatik web auction 13 (15 Aug 2020), lot 921; the second known; $810.00 (€664.20)
 


Aspendos, Pamphylia, 370 - 333 B.C.

|Aspendos|, |Aspendos,| |Pamphylia,| |370| |-| |333| |B.C.||stater|
The countermark appears to be a Hoplite advancing right with sword in right and round shield in left, in oval incuse. The hoplite represents the soldiery for which Aspendus was famous. The astonishing abundance of the silver money of Aspendus is a proof of the commercial importance of the town; and the number of countermarks and barbarous imitations shows that it circulated widely in the region.22.6
SH95389. Silver stater, Arslan-Lightfoot 39; SNGvA 4561; Tekin Series 4, 11; SNG BnF 84; SNG Cop 231; SNG Berry 1224 (all same obv die), VF, attractive rainbow toning, typical slightly flat strike, weight 10.855 g, maximum diameter 22.6 mm, die axis 0o, Aspendos mint, 370 - 333 B.C.; obverse two wrestlers, the left one holds the wrist of his opponent with his right and right forearm with his left hand, AK between their legs; reverse slinger, wearing short chiton, discharging sling to right, triskeles on right with feet clockwise, EΣTΦE∆IIYΣ upward on left, countermark lower right: lion head right in a round 3.6mm punch; ex Forum (2011); $670.00 (€549.40)
 


Lampsacus (as Colonia Gemella Iulia Lampsacus), Mysia, c. 45 - 35 B.C.

|Lampsakos|, |Lampsacus| |(as| |Colonia| |Gemella| |Iulia| |Lampsacus),| |Mysia,| |c.| |45| |-| |35| |B.C.||as|
M. Grant (Grant FITA, p. 246) first and convincingly attributed this type to Lampsacus. P. Brunt (Italian Manpower, p. 600) argues convincingly that the colony at Lampsakos was founded by Julius Caesar about 45 B.C. (a twin colony to another at Parium) and disappeared after its occupation by Sextus Pompey in 35 B.C. The reverse legend identifies Q. Lucretius and L. Pontius as the colony's first duoviri. This type was likely struck at the time the colony was founded or very soon after.
RP96982. Bronze as, RPC Online I 2273 (7 spec.); Grant FITA p. 246, 5; Robinson NC 1921 p. 7, 6 (Parion); Imhoof MG p. 252, 126 (Parion), VF, green patina, earthen encrustation, inscriptions not fully struck, weight 3.550 g, maximum diameter 16.2 mm, die axis 0o, Lampsakos (Lapseki, Turkey) mint, dictatorship of Julius Caesar, c. 45 - 44 B.C.; obverse C G I L (Colonia Gemella Julia Lampsakos), bearded head of Janus, C G I L (Colonia Gemella Julia Lampsakos) divided across field, countermark: monogram; reverse Q LVCRET L PONTI-O IIVIR COL DED PR (Q. Lucretius [and] L. Pontius, duoviri colonia deducta primis), prow of war galley right; Coin Archives records only four sales of this type (two with this countermark) in the last two decades; very rare; $500.00 (€410.00)
 


Roman Republic, Anonymous, Second Punic War, 211 - 206 B.C.

|211-100| |B.C.|, |Roman| |Republic,| |Anonymous,| |Second| |Punic| |War,| |211| |-| |206| |B.C.||as|
Janus (or Ianus) was the god of gates, doors, doorways, beginnings and endings. He is most often depicted as having two faces or heads, facing in opposite directions. Janus is believed to be one of the few major deities in Roman mythology that does not have a Greek origin or counterpart.
RR88221. Bronze as, Crawford 56/2, Sydenham 143, BMCRR Rome 373 ff., SRCV I 627, F, green patina, crack, porous, weight 29.386 g, maximum diameter 33.3 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 211 - 206 B.C.; obverse laureate head of bearded Janus, I (mark of value) above, countermark: head right in round punch; reverse war galley prow right, I (mark of value) above, ROMA in exergue; ex Moneta Numismatic Services; $100.00 (€82.00)
 


Hadrian, 11 August 117 - 10 July 138 A.D., Antioch, Seleucis and Pieria, Syria

|Antioch|, |Hadrian,| |11| |August| |117| |-| |10| |July| |138| |A.D.,| |Antioch,| |Seleucis| |and| |Pieria,| |Syria||AE| |28|
The obverse legend abbreviates AYTOKPATΩP KAICAP ΘEOY TPAIANOY ΠAPQIKOY YIOC ΘEOY NEPOYA YIΩNOC TRAIANOC A∆PIANOC CEBACTOC - The Emperor Caesar, son of the divine Trajan Parthicus, grandson of the divine Nerva, Hadrian Augustus.

The countermark with laurel-branch with four leaves in a rectangular punch, 4.5 x 6 mm, is Howgego 378 (69 pcs). The countermark was applied before 132 - 135 A.D.
RY93148. Bronze AE 28, McAlee 536b (scarce); RPC Online III 3694 (13 specs.); BMC Galatia p. 186, 299; SNG Fitz 5890; Butcher 231; c/m: Howgego 378, F, oval flan, clear countermark, legend weak/off flan, rev. flattened opposite c/m, green and red encrustations, weight 14.595 g, maximum diameter 27.7 mm, die axis 0o, Antioch (Antakya, Turkey) mint, 11 Aug 117 - c. 132 A.D.; obverse AVT KAIC Θ TP Π YI Θ NEP YIW TP A∆PIANOC CEBAC, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right; countermark: laurel branch with four leaves within rectangular incuse punch; reverse S C (senatus consulto), Γ∆ below, all within laurel wreath; from the Errett Bishop Collection; scarce; $80.00 (€65.60)
 


Aegina, Saronic Islands, Greece, c. 525 - 485 B.C.

|Aegina|, |Aegina,| |Saronic| |Islands,| |Greece,| |c.| |525| |-| |485| |B.C.||stater|
The turtle coin type is considered a "must have" by many ancient coin collectors because Aegina was probably the first place in Europe to issue coinage.
SH87351. Silver stater, Meadows Aegina group IIb; Asyut group IVb; BMC Attica p. 127, 10; SNG Delepierre 1509; SNG Mün 532; Dewing 1657; HGC 6 429 (S); SNG Cop -, VF, well centered on a tight flan, light toning, light marks and scratches, uncertain countermark or banker's mark on shell, weight 12.066 g, maximum diameter 19.2 mm, Aigina mint, c. 525 - 485 B.C.; obverse sea turtle, head in profile, straight raised heavy collar, smooth shell with a row of pellets down center, countermark (acanthus pattern?) on shell; reverse square divided by wide bands into eight triangular compartments, every other compartment a deep incuse (mill sail pattern); ex Hixenbaugh Ancient Art (New York); scarce; SOLD


Claudius, 25 January 41 - 13 October 54 A.D.

|Claudius|, |Claudius,| |25| |January| |41| |-| |13| |October| |54| |A.D.||sestertius|
R. F. Kenyon in "The countermark PROB on coins of Claudius from Britain" (NC 148, 1988) writes that the PROB countermark, which was applied only to sestertii of Claudius, can be expanded to PROBatum, meaning "approved." The Claudian sestertii bearing this countermark are found almost exclusively in Britain and Italy. His study did not find shared punches between any coins with known provenances from Britain and Italy, suggesting that the Claudian sestertii circulating in Britain were countermarked there. The countermarks were carefully applied, always in the right obverse field and never overlapping the imperial portrait. Coins were countermarked before they had seen much, if any, circulation.
SH85461. Orichalcum sestertius, RIC I 99; BMCRE I 124; SRCV I 1853; Cohen I 85; c/m: Kenyon 1 - 7 (same coin type, same placement), Pangerl 23 (Gallia), Martini 40, Choice VF, c/m: EF; Tiber toning, bumps and scratches, light corrosion, reverse double struck, weight 25.951 g, maximum diameter 36.4 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 42 A.D.; obverse TI CLAVDIVS CAESAR AVG P M TR P IMP, laureate head right, countermark: PROB in a rectangular punch; reverse SPES AVGVSTA, Spes walking left, flower in right hand, raising skirt with left hand, S C (senatus consulto) in exergue; rare countermark; SOLD


Byzantine Empire, Maurice Tiberius, 13 August 582 - 22 November 602 A.D.; Palestina Prima Countermark

|Maurice| |Tiberius|, |Byzantine| |Empire,| |Maurice| |Tiberius,| |13| |August| |582| |-| |22| |November| |602| |A.D.;| |Palestina| |Prima| |Countermark||follis|
Due to new finds around Caesarea Maritima, Wolfgang Schulze re-attributed this countermark from Egypt to Palestina Prima. David Woods proposes that "Nicetas, the cousin of the future emperor Heraclius, ordered the countermarking of these coins as he advanced from Egypt into Palestine during the summer of 610 in order to signal the change of government from Phocas to the Heraclii." Another possible date is after the recovery of Syria from the Persians in 628. Schulze dates it to the Arab siege of 637 - 640 A.D., to which Caesarea succumbed. This is only the third example known of this eagle countermark applied to a coin of Maurice Tiberius. Woods identified the other examples, as "a careless accident."
SH77069. Bronze follis, Hahn MIB II 65b, DOC I 22 var. (no 4th officina), SBCV 494; for countermark see Schulze INR 2009, and Woods (Heraclius, Palestina Prima), countermark: VF, coin: aF, areas of corrosion, weight 11.287 g, maximum diameter 31.5 mm, die axis 180o, 4th officina, Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey) mint, coin c. 583 - 584, countermark c. 610 - 637; obverse DN mAV - RC P P AV, crowned bust facing, crown with cross and pendilia, globus cruciger in right hand, shield on left shoulder; reverse large M (40 nummi) between ANNO and II (regnal year 2), ∆ (4th officina) below, CON in exergue; countermark: in exergue, eagle standing facing, head right, wings raised, in a round punch; from The Jimi Berlin Caesarea Collection (found at Caesarea, Israel); very rare countermark; SOLD


Trajan, 25 January 98 - 8 or 9 August 117 A.D., Parion, Mysia

|Parium|, |Trajan,| |25| |January| |98| |-| |8| |or| |9| |August| |117| |A.D.,| |Parion,| |Mysia||AE| |19|
Plotina was Trajan's wife, married to him before he became emperor. She was renowned for her virtue and simplicity. Marciana was Trajan's eldest sister and the mother of Matidia. She was an accomplished woman who lost her husband before her brother's succession. Matidia lived as a widow with Plotina and they were united by the tenderest and most uninterrupted friendship. Both were awarded the title Augusta at the same time in 105. Marciana died c. 112 - 114. Plotina died in 129 A.D.
RP87105. Bronze AE 19, RPC III 1543 (17 spec.), SNG BnF 1468, Weber 5151; countermark: Howgego 304 (11 or 17 of this type in RIC have this countermark), VF, rough and porous, off center, area on reverse flattened by counter marking, area of corrosion on reverse, weight 2.772 g, maximum diameter 18.7 mm, die axis 180o, Parium (Kemer, Canakkale, Turkey) mint, c. 105- 114 A.D.; obverse TRAIAN AVG, laureate bust right slight drapery on far shoulder; countermark: capricorn right in an oval punch; reverse MARCIANA ET PLOTINA AVG, confronting draped busts of Plotina and Marciana; rare; SOLD


Trajan, 25 January 98 - 8 or 9 August 117 A.D., Parion, Mysia

|Parium|, |Trajan,| |25| |January| |98| |-| |8| |or| |9| |August| |117| |A.D.,| |Parion,| |Mysia||AE| |17|
Plotina was Trajan's wife, married to him before he became emperor. She was renowned for her virtue and simplicity. Marciana was Trajan's eldest sister and the mother of Matidia. She was an accomplished woman who lost her husband before her brother's succession. Matidia lived as a widow with Plotina and they were united by the tenderest and most uninterrupted friendship. Both were awarded the title Augusta at the same time in 105. Marciana died c. 112 - 114. Plotina died in 129 A.D.
RP42037. Bronze AE 17, RPC III 1543 (17 spec.), SNG BnF 1468, Weber 5151; countermark: Howgego 304 (11 or 17 of this type in RIC have this countermark), VF, tight flan, cut across face of Plotina, weight 2.038 g, maximum diameter 17.2 mm, die axis 180o, Parium (Kemer, Canakkale, Turkey) mint, c. 105 - 114 A.D.; obverse TRAIAN AVG, laureate head right; countermark: capricorn right in an oval punch; reverse MARCIANA AVG PLOTINA, confronting draped busts of Plotina, on left, and Marciana, on right; rare; SOLD







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REFERENCES|

Baker, R. "The Countermarks Found on Ancient Roman Coins: A Brief Introduction" in SAN XV (1984). pp. 52-58.
Barag, D. "The countermarks of the Legio Decima Fretensis" in Kindler Patterns. (Tel-Aviv, 1967).
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Bendall, S. "An 'Eagle' Countermark on Sixth-century Byzantine Coins" in NC 136 (1976), p. 230.
Calciati, R. Corpus Nummorum Siculorum. The Bronze Coinage. (Milan, 1983 - 1987).
Davesne, A. "Une contremarque au trident sur certaines monnaies de Ptolémée II Philadelphe" in BSFN 42/2 (Feb. 1987), pp. 145-149.
Elayi, J. & A. Lemaire. Graffiti et contremarques ouest-sémitiques sur les monnaies grecques et proche-orientales. Glaux 13. (Milan, 1998).
Evans, J. "Heraclian Countermarks on Coins Found in Caesarea" in AJN 5 (1993), pp. 97-104, and AJN 6 (1994), pp. 102-104.
Goehring, J. "Two New Examples of the Byzantine 'Eagle' Countermark" in NC 143 (1983), pp. 218-220.
Howgego, C.J. Greek Imperial Countermarks. RNS, Special Publication No. 17. (London, 1985).
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Lampinen, P. "Countermarked Byzantine Folles and the Identification of a New Imperial Family Member" in Caesarea Papers 2. (Portsmouth, 1999), pp. 399-404.
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Mac Dowall, D. "Two Roman Countermarks of A.D. 68." in NC 1960, pp. 103 - 112, pl. VII.
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Rosenberger, M. The Rosenberger Israel Collection Vol. IV: The Coinage of Eastern Palestine, and legionary countermarks, Bar-Kochba overstruck. (Jerusalem, 1978).
Schulze|, W. "The Byzantine 'Eagle' Countermark - Re-attributed from Egypt to Palestine" in INR volume 4 (2009), pp. 113-120.
Schulze|, W. & T. Goodwin|. Countermarking in Seventh Century Syria|. (Supplement to ONS Newsletter, 183). (2005).
Schulze|, W., I. Schulze|, & W. Leimenstoll. "Heraclian countermarks on Byzantine copper coins in seventh century Syria" in Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, Vol. 30, No. 1 (2006), pp. 1-27.
Sear, D. Greek Coins and Their Values, Vol. 1: Europe. (London, 1978).
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Thompson, M. "A Countermarked Hoard from Büyükçekmece" in ANSMN VI (New York, 1954), pp. 11 - 34, pls. I - VII.
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Waggoner, N. "The Propontis Hoard" in NR XII, 1979, pp. 7 - 29, plates I - X.
Werz, U. "Die Gegenstempel von Kalkriese und der Münzumlauf in frühtiberischer Zeit in der Germania inferior und superior" in Wiegels, p. 237 - 252.
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Woods, D. "The Byzantine Eagle Countermark: Creating a Pseudo-Consular Coinage under the Heraclii" in Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 55 (2015), pp. 927-945.

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