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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ Themes & Provenance ▸ Numismatics ▸ CountermarkedView 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.


The Pangerl Collection: Catalog and Commentary on the Countermarked Roman Imperial Coins

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A primary reference for countermarks on Roman imperial coins. Essential for dealers and countermark collectors.
BK43206. Collezione Pangerl: Contromarche Imperiali Romane (Augustus - Vespasian) by Rodolfo Martini, Nomismata 6, (The Pangerl Collection: Catalog and Commentary on the Countermarked Roman Imperial Coins), hard-bound, Milan, 2003, large format, 352 countermarks, 348 pages, 19 plates, Italian text with English translation; SOLD


Thebes, Boiotia, Greece, 425 - 395 B.C.

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The largest city in Boeotia, leader of the Boeotian confederacy, and rival of Athens, Thebes sided with Persia during Xerxes' invasion in 480 B.C. Thebes ended Sparta's power at the Battle of Leuctra in 371. The Sacred Band of Thebes famously fell to Philip II at Chaeronea in 338. After a revolt in 335, Alexander the Great destroyed the city, except, according to tradition, the house of the poet Pindar.
SH69940. Silver stater, BCD Boiotia 437 - 438, SNG Cop 284, BMC Central p. 74, 58, Winterthur 1906; see CNG Sale 63, lot 316 for a similar countermark on an archaic stater, gVF, toned, porosity, weight 11.674 g, maximum diameter 20.5 mm, die axis 0o, Thebes mint, 425 - 395 B.C.; obverse Boiotian shield, countermark: ivy leaf in round punch; reverse Θ−E, bearded head of Dionysos right, wreathed in ivy; ex Heritage Auctions, auction 3031, lot 27032; SOLD


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

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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


Augustus, 16 January 27 B.C. - 19 August 14 A.D., VAR Quinctillus Varus Countermark

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The Altar of Lugdunum and the Sanctuary of the Three Gauls was dedicated by Augustus on 1 August 10 B.C., the very same day Drusus' son, the future emperor Claudius, was born in Lugdunum. All the notable men of Gaul were invited. Caius Julius Vercondaridubnus, a member of the Aedui tribe, was the first priest of the new imperial cult. The altar, which was engraved with the names of 60 Gallic tribes, was featured prominently on coins from the Lugdunum mint for many years.
CM84471. Copper as, BnF I 1485 (with c/m), RIC I 230, BMCRE I 549, SRCV I 1690, Cohen I 240; countermark: Pangerl 52e (Publius Quinctilius Varus), aF, rough, edge crack, c/m: aF, weight 8.852 g, maximum diameter 27.0 mm, die axis 180o, Lugdunum (Lyon, France) mint, c. 10 - 6 B.C.; obverse CAESAR PONT MAX, laureate head right; countermark: VAR ligature (Varus) in a rectangular punch; reverse ROM ET AVG (in exergue), the Altar of Lugdunum, the front decorated with the corona civica between laurels and figures; flanked on each side by a Victory on a column standing facing center, raising a wreath and holding a palm frond; SOLD


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

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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 was founded by Julius Caesar about 45 B.C. and disappeared after its occupation by Sextus Pompey in 35 B.C. Marcus Turius was the legate (governor) of Asia, 42 - 40 B.C. The countermark is listed in RPC I on other issues of the colony.
RP85355. Bronze as, RPC I 2272 (2 specimens), Grant FITA 246(4), SNG BnF -, SNG Cop -, SNGvA -; Countermark: Howgego -, F, a little rough with some smoothing, only three specimens known to Forum, weight 4.044 g, maximum diameter 17.8 mm, die axis 45o, Lampsacus mint, 42 - 40 B.C.; obverse head of Janus, C G - I L (Colonia Gemella Iulia Lampsacus) divided across field, countermark: cornucopia, C - C flanking at sides, within a roughly square punch; reverse galley prow right, Q LVCRETI / L PONTI IIVIR (duumvirs) above, M TVRIO LEG (Marcus Turius, legate) below; extremely rare; SOLD


Antioch, Roman Provincial Syria, Autumn 48 - Autumn 47 B.C., Cleopatra Countermark

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From McAlee, The Coins of Roman Antioch, p. 74, note 25: "The coins of this year (Pompeian Era 19 = 48/7 BC) and of Year 3 of the Caesarean Era are frequently seen with a countermark on the obverse, which was previously described as "head of Apollo r." in an oval. As discussed in the text, it now seems likely that the countermark portrays Cleopatra, and was used to mark coins circulating in the Syro-Phoenician territories, which were given to her by Mark Antony."
CM25063. Bronze tetrachalkon, McAlee 43; RPC I 4216; BMC Galatia p. 155, 35; Cohen DCA 384; HGC 9 1366; SNG Cop -; countermark: McAlee p. 74, note 25, VF/F, countermark VF, weight 14.149 g, maximum diameter 24.8 mm, die axis 0o, Antioch (Antakya, Turkey) mint, Autumn 48 - Autumn 47 B.C.; c/m: c. 36 - 30 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Zeus right; countermark: bust of Cleopatra right in an incuse oval; reverse ANTIOXEΩN THΣ MHTPOΠOΛΩΣ, Zeus Nicephorus enthroned left, chest bare, himation around hips and legs, Nike offering wreath in his extended right hand, long scepter vertical in left hand, fulmen (thunderbolt) above, cornucopia (control symbol) inner left, IΘ (Pompeian Era year 19) below, all within laurel wreath; SOLD


Aspendos, Pamphylia, 370 - 333 B.C.

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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.
SH49939. Silver stater, SNG Cop 231, SNGvA 4561, SNG Berry 1224, VF, typical 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 EΣTΦE∆IIYΣ on left, slinger, wearing short chiton, discharging sling to right, triskeles on right with feet clockwise; countermark below; rainbow toning; SOLD


Eastern Celts, Audoleon Imitative, Honter type, 2nd Century B.C.

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CE40505. Silver tetradrachm, Lanz 690, Göbl OTA 381/8, gVF, weight 13.580 g, maximum diameter 24.3 mm, die axis 225o, obverse laureate head of Zeus right; reverse rider trotting right, MT above, ΛE in front, ∆ below, square countermark and test cut; SOLD


Knidos, Caria, 1st Century B.C.

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Based on only the single worn example known to the authors, RPC I attributed this type to Livia from an uncertain mint. Based on the Mabbott coin with a clear poppy on the obverse and ethnic on the reverse, the RPC I Supplement corrected the attribution to Demeter and Knidos. Similar countermarks are known on coins from Chalkis, Laodicea, Antioch, Selucia, and Damascus, cities under the control of Cleopatra. We believe it is her portrait. Cleopatra and Marc Antony spent considerable romantic time together around Knidos. It is said that Marc Antony sent ships to the Nile to retrieve sand for a beach, which is known today as Cleopatra's Beach. Click here to read about this coin on NumisWiki.

RP21181. Bronze AE 32, RPC I 5436 (1 example known to RPC, attributed to Livia, 2nd example and corrected to Demeter in supplement), F, countermark VF, weight 17.192 g, maximum diameter 32.1 mm, die axis 0o, Knidos (near Tekir, Turkey) mint, 1st century B.C.; obverse veiled and diademed bust of Demeter right [holding poppy], oval countermark of Cleopatra VII? right; reverse KNI..., Nike advancing left with wreath and palm; rare; SOLD


Knidos, Caria, c. 100 - 40 B.C.

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This type struck by this magistrate appears to be unpublished and we do not know another example. The referenced similar type struck under the magistrate Apollonios is also extremely rare with only a few known examples. Similar countermarks are known on coins from Chalkis, Laodicea, Antioch, Selucia, and Damascus, cities under the control of Cleopatra. We believe it is her portrait. Cleopatra and Marc Antony spent considerable romantic time together around Knidos. It is said that Marc Antony sent ships to the Nile to retrieve sand for a beach, which is known today as Cleopatra's Beach.
RP76800. Bronze AE 32, Apparently unpublished; cf. Mabbott 1715 (magistrate), RPC I suppl. 5436 (same); SNG Cop -, SNGvA -, SNG München -, SNG Tüb -, SNG Keckman -, aF, porous, scratches, corrosion, weight 18.277 g, maximum diameter 31.6 mm, die axis 0o, Knidos (near Tekir, Turkey) mint, c. 100 - 40 B.C.; countermark: c. 36 - 30 B.C.; obverse veiled and diademed bust of Demeter right, poppy before her (covered by countermark), oval countermark: female head (Cleopatra VII?) right; reverse Nike advancing left, wreath in extended right hand, palm frond in left hand, MOΣXΩN (magistrate's name) downward on left, KNI∆IΩN downward on right; one of only two known, the other without the countermark!; 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).
Barag, D. & S. Qedar. "A Countermark of the Legio Quinta Scytica from the Jewish War" in INJ 13 (1994).
Bauslaugh, R. "Cistophoric Countermarks and he Monetary System of Eumenes II" in NC 1990.
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.D. "Heraclian Countermarks on Coins Found in Caesarea" in AJN 5 (1993), pp. 97-104, and AJN 6 (1994), pp. 102-104.
Goehring, J.E. "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).
Krusy, H. Gegenstempel auf Münzen des Spätmittelalters. (Frankfurt & Mainz, 1974).
Lampinen, P. "Countermarked Byzantine Folles and the Identification of a New Imperial Family Member" in Caesarea Papers 2. (Portsmouth, 1999), pp. 399-404.
Lowick, N.M., S. Bendall, & P.D. Whitting. The Mardin Hoard. (London, 1977).
Mac Dowall, D.W. "Two Roman Countermarks of A.D. 68." in NC 1960, pp. 103 - 112, pl. VII.
Martini, R. Nomismata 6: The Pangerl Collection Catalog and Commentary on the Countermarked Roman Imperial Coins. (Milan, 2003).
McAlee, R. The Coins of Roman Antioch. (Lancaster, PA, 2007).
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).
Sear, D. Greek Coins and Their Values, Vol. 2: Asia and Africa. (London, 1979).
Seyrig, H. "Monnaies contremarquées en Syrie," in Syria 35 (1958), pp. 187-197.
Topalov, S.A. New Contributions to the Study of the Countermarking of Coins in the Area of the West Pontic Cities, 3rd-1st c. B.C. (Sofia, 2002).
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.
Werz, U. Gegenstempel auf Reichs - und Provinzialprägungen der römischen Kaiserzeit - Katalog der Sammlung Dr. Konrad Bech, Mainz. (Speyer, 2004).
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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Countermarked