Featured Coin

Indian Copy of a Denarius of Tiberius

The types this featured coin are the most common of all first century AD denarii: the 'Tribute Penny' of Tiberius. On first glance this denarius would seem obviously counterfeit. It certainly is not normal product of the official mint. This was, however, not a counterfeit made for profit through deception since the silver content is every bit as good as the real denarii. Issued over a long period this type coin made up a good percentage of the silver in circulation by the middle of the First Century AD. Trade carried these coins far beyond the borders of the Roman Empire where the good silver content made them popular items of commerce. The emperor Nero, however, began the issue of denarii from silver of lower purity and the trust in which merchants held the Roman denarii was destroyed. Nowhere was this situation more severe than in India. The need for coin of good metal content led to the production of replicas of the trusted design struck in good silver with proper weight. What could not be supplied by the Romans anymore was produced on the local economy.

This coin comes from a group found in India. I have personally seen nearly a dozen examples all struck from the same pair of dies. Centering and striking quality varies on these but many are handsome coins on wide flans and all are good silver. Most interesting is the varying accuracy with which the legends were copied. Most letters are copied accurately but the bottom legends on the obverse are corrupt and partially missing. The obvious explanation here is that the die cutter was working from one sample denarius and that coin was considerably off center losing the start and finish of the legend. He had no idea what the missing letters were and made no attempt to fill in the blanks. The cause of the reverse misspelling 'PONTIK' for 'PONTIF' is a mystery. I assume that all of the known examples of this coin were the result of a single find but am not aware of the details or any references about these coins.

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1997 Doug Smith