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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Roman Coins| ▸ |Roman Tesserae||View Options:  |  |  |   

Tesserae and Lead Coins

Tesserae (singular: tessera) are ancient tokens. Most were made from lead, but other materials including bronze, bone, ivory, clay, glass and wood were also used. They were used as tickets for theaters, gladiator fights, ferry passage and even brothels. Tesserae liberalitatis were distributed as gifts by the Roman emperor or local government, often to the poor, and used as vouchers to exchange for grain, oil, or other goods. Some ancient lead "tokens" may have been used as small change coinage.


Central Italy, c. 2nd Century B.C.

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Lindgren plate coin. The obverse copies a sculptural theme seen on coins, vases and other artwork. Iphicles was the mortal, anxious and timid twin half-brother of Hercules. Hercules protected him from serpents sent by Hera.
SH24952. Bronze tessera, Lindgren III 1646 (this coin, listed as unidentified); See Stannard, Local Coinages of Central Italy in the Late Roman RepubliC, F, weight 3.982 g, maximum diameter 18.9 mm, die axis 180o, obverse the two infants Herakles and Iphicles, attacked by the serpents sent by Hera; reverse IC O S, Hercules striking Hydra with club; SOLD


Roman Egypt, Nov 130 - c. 138 A.D.

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Both the obverse and reverse types on this tessera are published but the combination does not appear to be published. Nor did we find another example online. According to Milne, lead tesserae served as local small change in Egypt during the first to the third century A.D.

Euthenia is the Greek personification of abundance or plenty. To the Romans she was Abundantia. Her attributes are grain and the cornucopia. On Roman coins of Alexandria she often appears to be the spouse of the Nile; yet, in the Egyptian pantheon Euthenia did not exist and the Nile had no consort.
RX90574. Lead tessera, Unpublished; cf. Dattari 6444 and Geissen 3584 (for obverse type) and Dattari 6493 and 3575 (for reverse type), VF , weight 5.107 g, maximum diameter 22.5 mm, die axis 270o, Alexandria(?) mint, Nov 130 - c. 138 A.D. (possibly later); obverse Antinous on horseback right, wearing hem hem crown, caduceus in right hand; reverse Nilus reclining left on crocodile right below, nude to waist, himation around hips and legs, reeds in his right hand, cornucopia in left; before him at his feet stands Euthenia (prosperity) wearing chiton and peplos, offering wreath held in right hand; extremely rare; SOLD


Roman Egypt, Memphis Nome, 1st - 3rd Century A.D.

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RX38674. Lead tessera, Geissen 3501 (same dies); Dattari 6416 ff.; Milne 5279 var.; Emmett 4594 (R5) var., VF, weight 5.767 g, maximum diameter 24.6 mm, die axis 0o, Memphis mint, obverse Nilus seated left on hippopotamus right, himation around legs, reed in right, cornucopia in left; Euthenia stands right before him, wearing chiton and billowing peplos, crowning him with wreath; reverse MEMΦIC, Isis-Hekate standing facing, triple face crowned with disk and horns, wearing long chiton and peplos, uraeus in right, left arm around neck of Apis bull standing left with disk between horns; small figure behind her raising hands; rare; SOLD


Roman Egypt, Antinoopolites Nome?, Portrait of Antinous, c. 130 - 153 A.D.?

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On 30 October 130 A.D., Hadrian founded the city of Antinoopolis on the very bank of the Nile river where Antinous drowned. It was the capital of a new nome, Antinoopolites.
RX41306. Lead tessera, Dattari 6536, Geissen 3559 var. (11.23g), Emmett 4397 (R4), F, weight 3.809 g, maximum diameter 20.1 mm, die axis 75o, obverse draped bust of Antinous right, wearing hem-hem crown of Harpocrates, crescent before; reverse Serapis standing left, modius on head, right hand raised, long scepter in left; rare; SOLD


Roman Egypt, Arsinoiton Polis (Arsinoite Nome), Upper Egypt, 1st - 3rd Century A.D.

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The Ptolemies renamed Atef-Pehu (the Krocodilopolitan nome) to Arsinoe and the capital city Krokodopolis (the City of Crocodiles) to Ptolemais Euergetis. In Roman times the nome was the Arsinoiton polis and Krokodopolis was called Arsinoe.
RX38696. Lead tessera, Geissen 3495; Dattari 6423; Emmett 4366; Milne -, VF, cracked and repaired, weight 5.912 g, maximum diameter 25.4 mm, die axis 180o, Arsinoe (Krokodopolis) mint, 1st - 3rd century A.D.; obverse bust of Pharaoh right wearing wig, beard and uraeus (cobra) crown, reed before; reverse APCINOEITWN Φ ΠOΛEWC (retrograde), crocodile right on a pedestal, solar disk above, all within laurel wreath tied at the bottom, legend around within dot border; broken into two or more pieces and glued back together - nicely done with no fillers and only noticeable on close examination; extremely rare; SOLD


Lot of 9 Roman Egyptian Lead Tessera, 2nd - 3rd Century A.D.

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According to Milne, lead tesserae served as local small change in Egypt during the first to the third century A.D.
LT90877. Lead tessera, 9 Roman Egyptian lead tessera, 2nd - 3rd century A.D., Fair to Fine, the actual coins in the photograph, as-is, no returns; SOLD


Roman Egypt, Nov 130 - c. 138 A.D.

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Antinous probably joined the entourage of Hadrian when it passed through Bithynia in about 124. He became Hadrian's constant companion and lover but in October 130 Antinous drowned in the Nile. Hadrian's grief knew no bounds; he enrolled him among the gods, erected a temple, and on 30 October 130 A.D., Hadrian founded the city of Antinoopolis on the very bank of the Nile river where Antinous drowned. It was the capital of a new nome, Antinoopolites. Artists vied with each other in immortalizing his beauty. Temples and statues to his memory were erected all over the Empire, and there began a Cult of Antinous. On this coin he is depicted in the guise of Hermanubis.
RX90585. Lead tessera, Geissen 3584 (same obverse die), Milne 5420, Savio 11711, Emmett 4398 (R4), F, weight 5.252 g, maximum diameter 19.7 mm, die axis 45o, Alexandria(?) mint, Nov 130 - c. 138 A.D. (possibly later); obverse Antinous on horseback right, wearing hem hem crown, caduceus in right hand; reverse Nike taking flight left, wreath in extended right, palm frond upright in left; rare; SOLD


Augustus, 16 January 27 B.C. - 19 August 14 A.D.

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RP32319. Bronze tessera, T.V. Buttrey, "The Spintriae as a Historical Source," Numismatic Chronicle 1973, 6; cf. Cohen VIII p. 252 (radiate head), aVF, weight 3.893 g, maximum diameter 20.8 mm, die axis 90o, reign of Tiberius, c. 22 - 37 A.D.; obverse radiate head right; reverse XI in circle of dots; rough dark patina, scrapes on the high points of the obverse; ex Stack's Coin Galleries, Dec 2007, lot 336; rare; SOLD


Roman Egypt, Antinoopolites Nome, Portrait of Antinous, c. 130 - 153 A.D.

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On 30 October 130 A.D., Hadrian founded the city of Antinoopolis on the very bank of the Nile river where Antinous drowned. It was the capital of a new nome, Antinoopolites. Perhaps the date is from the founding of Antinoopolis.
RX39457. Lead tessera, Geissen 3567; Emmett 4291.2 (R4?); Dattari-Savio -; Milne -, F, weight 5.205 g, maximum diameter 23.0 mm, die axis 0o, Antinoopolis mint, c. 130 - 153 A.D.; obverse draped bust of Antinous (as Hermes) right, wearing hem-hem crown of Harpocrates, crescent before, ΘW upward behind; reverse Nike advancing left, wearing chiton, raising wreath extended in right, palm frond over shoulder in left hand, L - B (year 2 of uncertain era) across field; rare; SOLD


Roman Empire, c. 3rd - 4th Century A.D.

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RL54501. Bronze tessera, cf. Kircheriano 1005 - 1006 (Sol / crescent and star), VF, holed, weight 0.745 g, maximum diameter 13.0 mm, die axis 180o, obverse radiate bust right; reverse crescent and star; rare; SOLD




  




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REFERENCES|

Burnett, A., M. Amandry & P. Ripollès. Roman Provincial Coinage I: From the death of Caesar to the death of Vitellius (44 BC-AD 69). (London, 1992, and supplement).
Buttrey, T. "The Spintriae as a Historical Source" in NC 1973.
de Boccard, E. Les tesseres et les Monnaies de Palmyre. (Paris, 1962).
Cohen, H. Description historique des monnaies frappées sous l'Empire Romain, Vol. 8: Nepotian to Romulus Augustus, plus tesserae & cotorniates. (Paris, 1888).
Dattari, G. Numi Augg. Alexandrini. (Cairo, 1901).
Emmett, K. Alexandrian Coins. (Lodi, WI, 2001).
Farhi, H. "Note on Two Types of Byzantine Lead Currency" in INR 8 (2013).
Geissen, A. Katalog alexandrinischer Kaisermünzen, Köln|, Band 4: Claudius Gothicus - Bleimünzen. (Cologne, 1974-1983), pp. 178 - 213.
Hendin, D. Guide to Biblical Coins. (Amphora, 2010).
Hoover, O. "A Reassessment of Nabataean Lead Coinage in Light of New Discoveries" in NC 2006.
Milne, J. A Catalogue of the Alexandrian Coins in the Ashmolean Museum. (Oxford, 1933), pp. 125 - 130.
Milne, J. "The leaden token-coinage of Egypt under the Romans" in NC 1908, pp. 287-310, pl. XXII.
Rostowtzew, M. Tesserarum Urbis Romae et Suburbi Plumbearum Sylloge. (St. Petersburg, 1903).
Rostowtzew, M. Tesserarum Urbis Romae et Suburbi Plumbearum Sylloge, Supplementum I. (St. Petersburg, 1905).
Scholz, J. "Römische Blei Tesserae" in Numismatische Zeitschrift bd. 25 (1893).

Catalog current as of Wednesday, August 21, 2019.
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Tessera