A Roman Coin of John Quincy Adams

When we discussed the coin from the Bavarian Collection mention was made that President John Quincy Adams collected ancient coins. Some years following his death, the collection passed into the hands of the Massachusetts Historical Society. In 1971, the Society ordered the collection sold at auction so modern collectors can own coins from the President's collection. The sale consisted of both individually described and illustrated coins and 'large lots' of lesser material. The Adams collection included some very nice coins and, also, many coins that would best be described as very ordinary. Considering the flat strike of the reverse top and the uneven surface, this coin is hardly special. If a lot being sold as ex. Adams Collection was one of the illustrated lots it is a simple matter to compare the coin to the catalog photo and confirm its identity. Otherwise the collector is at the mercy of the seller's honesty. This coin was accompanied by a tag identifying it as from Lot 943 but there is really no way of knowing if it was the same coin described. Also the Adams sale included coins added to the collection by descendants of the President so our desires to hold a coin actually handled by the President is slightly less certain than we would desire.

Galerius Caesar - 295-305 AD - AE (silver washed) follis - 26 mm diameter 8.2g
Aquileia mint, first officina - rx. Genius of the Roman People

The coin itself, were it not for the connection to President Adams, is interesting enough to be Featured on this page. In 293, at the founding of the new system of government known as the First Tetrarchy, Gaius Galerius Valerius Maximianus was named Caesar (assistant emperor) to the Senior Augustus in the East, Diocletian. The Augustus in the West, Marcus Aurelius Valerius Maximianus, was never 'just' a Caesar so the name used on this coin, although common to both, must refer to the man now known as Galerius. Care must be taken when attributing coins of this period. Previously we have featured a coin of Gaius Galerius Valerius Maximinus (Maximinus II), one 'a' different in name, who became Caesar when Galerius moved up to Augustus in 305 AD.

The follis was a new denomination of Diocletian's monetary reform of 295-296 AD. The larger coin (1/120 the gold aureus, 1/5 the silver argenteus or 2 1/2 of the old antoniniani) contained a small amount of silver and was issued with an additional silver wash. Many high grade folles of this period (e.g. the Diocletian follis of Antioch shown here) have been completely cleaned of their silver layer leaving an even, if artificial, toned copper surface which many collectors prefer to the patchy look of a coin that has retained part of the original silvering like the Adams collection coin shown above. Certainly the Diocletian has abbetter strike compared to the flat reverse top of the Galerius but the style of the Genius from Aquileia is far better than the skinny Antioch version. That is what is nice about collecting ancient coins: you get to choose from a long list of options and no two people may set their preferences the same. Which of these two is the more collectable coin? Does the Adams connection have anything to do with that choice?

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(c) 1997 Doug Smith