A Follis of
Constantine the Great

Despite my best efforts to keep this site away from the commercial end of coin collecting, I continue to get "how much is it worth" questions. Value of ancient coins, like anything else, is a matter of supply and demand. Rare and beautiful top-of-the-market coins have sold in the vicinity of half a million dollars. Individually worthless, unrecognizable chips of copper that once were coins continue to bring a price in large lots mostly due to real or imagined hopes of the buyer that some valuable coin will be lurking under all that dirt.

Realistically speaking, identified or identifiable ancient coins in presentable condition generally sell for $10 and up. Of this price, at least 75% is "nuisance value" or the minimum price that a dealer charges for the trouble of handling the sale. Some dealers will pass along special values when available. Of course there are also people trying to make a living by selling $10 coins for $100. Comparison shopping is recommended.

Constantine the Great - reduced follis / Sol standing - 311-336 AD
Treviri mint (second officina) - 20 mm diameter - 3.1g.

This week's Featured Coin is so honored because of its price. It was advertised and sold for $4.95. Another day and another dealer might see a similar coin sold for several times that amount. The reduced folles of Constantine with the sun god reverse are among the most common of ancient coins. They were issued from a number of mints and show many minor varieties. A "collection" of different common varieties of this coin could be assembled at low cost but selling these low end coins back to a dealer would be difficult or impossible. For a person wanting to own a "piece of antiquity" this coin is worth more than $4.95; for an investor interested in return of capital, this purchase would be throwing away the money. Don't ask me how much a coin is worth; ask yourself and pay no more.

Coins of Constantine are in slightly higher demand since many people want a coin of the man who legalized Christianity in the Roman Empire. Constantine credited the Christian God with his victory in 312 AD at the Milvian Bridge where he defeated his rival Maxentius. As Emperor, Constantine worked closely with the bishops to bring Christianity to a position of the state religion of the Roman Empire. Common belief at the time held that baptism washed away all prior sins so it was wise to postpone baptism until as late in life as possible. Constantine himself was not baptised until on his deathbed. Many of his coins show pagan types. Most common is Sol, the invincible sun god who was extremely popular in the years before Constantine adopted Christianity. Last week we featured a Christian type of the pagan Magnentius; this week we have a pagan type of the first Christian Emperor Constantine I.

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(c) 1997Doug Smith