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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Themes & Provenance| ▸ |Denominations| ▸ |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.

Judean Kingdom, Alexander Jannaeus (Yehonatan), 104 - 76 B.C.

|Alexander| |Jannaeus|, |Judean| |Kingdom,| |Alexander| |Jannaeus| |(Yehonatan),| |104| |-| |76| |B.C.||tessera|
This coin is listed in Hendin's Guide to Biblical Coins as extremely rare and without a price. Struck from the same dies as the Zurqieh example on the Menorah Coin Project. Meshorer reports the lead tesserae of Alexander Jannaeus are found almost exclusively in Transjordan, as was this example.
JS08257. Lead tessera, Hendin 1156, Menorah Coin Project type III, HGC 10 640, VF, weight 1.370 g, maximum diameter 13.5 mm, Transjordan mint, obverse Central elevated dot surrounded by six loop rays, all within a circle.; reverse blank; extremely rare; SOLD


Roman Egypt, Antinoopolites Nome(?), Portrait of Antinous, c. 137 - 138 A.D.(?)

|Roman| |Egypt|, |Roman| |Egypt,| |Antinoopolites| |Nome(?),| |Portrait| |of| |Antinous,| |c.| |137| |-| |138| |A.D.(?)||tessera|
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 on this coin is year eight of an era beginning with the founding of Antinoopolis.

The date on our coin is not clear but is probably L - H, which is the same as the referenced coins. The Geissen tessera is about half the size of our example. The Dattari coin is 21mm but there is no image in Dattari or Savio to verify if it is the same or similar to our tessera.
SH90378. Lead tessera, cf. Dattari 6445, Geissen 3579 (3.54g), Emmett 4357 (R5), Milne -, Blum -, SNG Milan -, SNG Cop -, aVF/F, rough, weight 6.888 g, maximum diameter 22.1 mm, die axis 0o, Antinoopolis (or Alexandria?) mint, c. 30 Oct 137 - 29 Oct 138 A.D.(?); obverse draped bust of Antinous right, wearing Hemhem crown, date (L - H?) across fields; reverse bust of Serapis right, Kalathos on head, date (L - H?) across fields; extremely rare; SOLD


The Triumvirs, Mark Antony and Cleopatra, c. Autumn 34 B.C.

|Cleopatra| |VII|, |The| |Triumvirs,| |Mark| |Antony| |and| |Cleopatra,| |c.| |Autumn| |34| |B.C.||tessera|
This lead seal clearly copies the portrait of Cleopatra VII as represented on the denarius type RRC 543/1 - everything from the countenance of the face, the hairstyle, and the drapery matches closely. The seal is made to a much higher standard than is usual with lead tesserae - it may have been struck from an unknown coin die - and the presence of the caduceus may relate to the cult of Isis. -- Andrew McCabe
SH95312. Lead tessera, apparently unpublished, but cf. Crawford 543/1 for a similar portrait, VF, brown patina with touches of red, weight 6.491 g, maximum diameter 21.7 mm, c. autumn 34 B.C.; obverse diademed and draped female bust right (Cleopatra?), winged caduceus before; reverse blank; ex CNG e-sale 458 (18 Dec 2019), lot 305; ex Andrew McCabe Collection, ex Marc de Cock (Belgium); SOLD


Roman Egypt, Antinoopolites Nome(?), Portrait of Antinous, c. 137 - 138 A.D.(?)

|Roman| |Egypt|, |Roman| |Egypt,| |Antinoopolites| |Nome(?),| |Portrait| |of| |Antinous,| |c.| |137| |-| |138| |A.D.(?)||tessera|
Antinous probably joined Hadrian's entourage when it passed through Bithynia about 124 A.D. He became Hadrian's constant companion and lover. 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, 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. There began a Cult of Antinous. Artists vied with each other in immortalizing his beauty. Temples and statues dedicated to him were erected all over the Empire.
SH90379. Lead tessera, cf. Geissen 3583, Dattari 2093, Emmett 4290 (R5), Milne -, SNG Cop -, SNG Milan -, aVF, weight 5.023 g, maximum diameter 21.7 mm, die axis 0o, Antinoopolis(?) mint, c. 30 Oct 133 - 29 Oct 134 A.D.(?); obverse draped bust of Antinous right, wearing lotus crown, crescent-nimbus before, Nike on globe behind crowning him; reverse bust of Horus right, draped and wearing the double crown of Egypt, date L - ∆ (year4 [of the era of Antinoopolis?]) across fields; very rare; SOLD


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

|211-100| |B.C.|, |Central| |Italy,| |c.| |2nd| |Century| |B.C.||tessera|
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), 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


Byzantine Empire, c. 10th Century A.D.

|Byzantine| |Antiquities|, |Byzantine| |Empire,| |c.| |10th| |Century| |A.D.||tessera|
The various anonymous coin weights or tesserae are normally assigned to the period following the introduction of the lighter weight gold tetarteron by Nicephorus II 963 - 969 A.D.
BZ31140. Bronze tessera, Bendall, Weights 17 note; Hendy, Studies, p. 508, gVF, encrusted, weight 3.599 g, maximum diameter 18.6 mm, Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey)? mint, obverse + ∆VO in three lines, reverse TETAPTWN in three lines, SOLD


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

|Egypt|, |Roman| |Egypt,| |Antinoopolites| |Nome,| |Portrait| |of| |Antinous,| |c.| |130| |-| |153| |A.D.||tessera|
Antinous probably joined Hadrian's entourage when it passed through Bithynia about 124 A.D. He became Hadrian's constant companion and lover. 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, 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. There began a Cult of Antinous. Artists vied with each other in immortalizing his beauty. Temples and statues dedicated to him were erected all over the Empire.
RX97546. Lead tessera, apparently unpublished, Dattari-Savio -, Geissen -, Milne -, Emmett -, Blum -, SNG Cop -, SNG Milan -, gF, gray-brown patina with highlighting earthen deposits, reverse off center, weight 4.994 g, maximum diameter 23.8 mm, die axis 180o, Antinoopolis(?) mint, c. 130 - 153 A.D.; obverse draped bust of Antinous right, wearing hem-hem crown of Harpocrates, large crescent before with horns left; reverse Nilus reclining right on sphinx, reed in his left hand curling up behind his shoulder and head, cornucopia before him in left hand; Euthenia on right, standing left, crowning Nilus with a wreath; ex Classical Numismatic Group e-auction 476 (9 Sep 2020), lot 287; ex BLS Collection; extremely rare, perhaps unique, this is the only specimen of this type known to FORVM; SOLD


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

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

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

|Roman| |Tesserae|, |Roman| |Egypt,| |Antinoopolites| |Nome?,| |Portrait| |of| |Antinous,| |c.| |130| |-| |153| |A.D.?||tessera|
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, kalathos on head, right hand raised, long scepter in left; rare; SOLD




  




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REFERENCES|

Burnett, A., M. Amandry & P. Ripolls. 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 frappes 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 Kaisermnzen, Kln|, Band 4: Claudius Gothicus - Bleimnzen. (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. "Rmische Blei Tesserae" in Numismatische Zeitschrift bd. 25 (1893).

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