My Favorite Coins

Anonymous Byzantine overstruck on Gordian III as

Anonymous Class A3 follis (Basil II & Constantine VIII) Christ facing EMMANOVHL IC XC // +IhSUS/XRISTUS/bASILEU/bASILE

overstruck on

Gordian III 238-244 AD AE as Bust right IMP GORDIANVSPIVSFELAVG // Laetitia standing left LAETITIAAVGN SC

Anonymous folles of the 11th century AD are very often found overstruck on earlier coins but those undertypes are usually from the issues only a few years earlier. While it is a decent strike of an Anonymous Class A3 follis this coin only qualified by the identity of the coin on which it was overstruck. The as of Gordian III is approximately 780 years older than the follis. There is no question about the identity of Gordian III here. His profile is quite distinct from other Roman emperors and is quite bold here. The obverse of my image has been rotated to place Gordian right side up. To view the follis correctly, tilt your head 1/8 a turn to the right. Unfortunately, I do not own an as of Gordian III with the Laetitia reverse so my example below is the sestertius of the type. The spacing of the letters is a bit different but can give the idea of the undertype appearance.

In addition to the portrait, there are traces of a few letters of the original legends on both sides of the coin. To the right of Gordian's nose are flattened remnants of the letters SF from the right side of the original legend's PIVSFEL. On the reverse, you must invert the image to find faint evidence of AET from LAETITIA. The images below are enlarged to assist viewers find these letters.. The lower half of these images have yellow letters over the undertype. It must be noted that there are two Gordian as reverses that include AET in their legends but the other ROMAE AETERNAE used a different obverse legend that did not allow the SF to fall in the proper place with relation to the portrait. Also, Gordian asses tend to have medal style (12 H) die axis so the AET as seen would need to come from the left side of the reverse as it does on the Laetitia coin. The Roma coin would expect AET to be located more at the top of the design. Perhaps, if we stare at the coin long enough, it will someday be possible to identify other parts of the undertype design still present.

The obvious question here is why and how this coin came to be. Was this a one of a kind product from a single coin found after being lost for 780 years or was it one thousands produced from a hoard discovered and recycled by official order? It is the only thing of its kind I have seen but that means very little when we consider the vast number of coins produced every year between the time of Gordian and the time of the overstrike. We will probably never know. I do find it interesting that the coin weighs 10.88g which is quite acceptable for a normal coin of both issues so there was no need to trim down the edges as we see so many times with overstruck coins. In the time of Gordian III, the as denomination usually had a more round shape and more rounded over edges than the larger sestertius. This coin still shows edges quite normal for a Gordian as. It remains simply a fascinating question that will most likely never find an answer. It will, most certainly, cause me to look a little more closely at Anonymous folles I see in the future.

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(c) 2016 Doug Smith