'Unlisted' Denarii of Maesa & Elagabalus?

Two coins not found in the standard catalogs

Where would we coin collectors be without our catalogs? So many of us rely so heavily on these lists of coins that we are unable to recognize that no single book or library full of books can list every minor variety from every issuing authority in every one of the thousand years during which 'ancient' coins were minted. As soon as any book goes to press, or any web page is updated, someone discovers something new or reevaluates coins that have long been known. Even worse are catalogs that attempt to assign rarity numbers or values to coins. Recent hoards have made once rare coins available to the average collector while some coins once in no demand suddenly become popular items of commerce and skyrocket in price whenever one is offered at auction.

Our Feature this week is a pair of related coins that are attractive, mid grade and were recently sold in public but attracted almost no notice. Neither is listed in the standard reference works. Either or both could be the only one available to collectors or there could be a bag of a thousand of each under the table at some coin shop. Who knows? Who cares? Our point is not to collect rarity but to collect coins. Are these coins more interesting than similar listed items? Probably not. If they were it would seem that more people would have bid on them.

Julia Maesa - Silver denarius - c.218 AD - 'Antioch Mint'
Juno standing holding patera and scepter, peacock at feet

RIC 259 (Vol IV pt. 2 page 50) and Cohen 24 list our coin except that the reverse legend is IVNO REGI. RIC goes further with a note that a coin is known with IVNO REG but Juno holds corn ears instead of a patera. Our coin combines the two: REG and a patera. Is it nit-picking to call this coin 'unlisted'? Technically this is a very minor variation of the listed coin. Only a real specialist in the coins of Maesa would care. For most of us this is just a pleasant Syrian mint denarius of one of the most powerful women in the history of Rome.

Elagabalus - Silver denarius - c.218 AD - 'Antioch Mint'
Victory walking left holding wreath and palm

Our second coin, of Maesa's grandson, is a bit more 'unlisted'. The reverse type is identical to RIC 162 (Vol IV pt 2 page 39) and Cohen 304 while the obverse is identical to several 'Antioch' mint issues including the one shown on my page discussing the confusion between coins of Caracalla and Elagabalus. Several types from this mint were issued with more than one obverse legend but the references do not list Victory with this obverse. The note in RIC mentions that the reverse was reported by Mouchmov in his catalog of the Reka Devnia hoard (p. 126) with the otherwise unlisted obverse IMP ANTONINVS PIVS FELIX AVG. The Featured coin is a different combination of very believable dies that were in use at the mint at the same time. The dealer that sold this coin at auction noted that it was unlisted but the prices realized prove that bidders preferred the common varieties he had to offer. Apparently none of that dealer's patrons specialize in Elagabalus?

Our footnote coin of Septimius Severus is not much of a coin if you collect condition. By absolute luck there is a trace of legend at the reverse right reading MP. This suggests the legend was INVICTO IMP as expected with the trophy of arms type. There is just enough obverse legend remaining to confirm the reading IMP CAE L SEP SEV PERT AVG but the listed reverse legend with this obverse is the early 'Emesa' INVICTO IMP TROPAEA. (My Septimius 'Early Emesa' page shows an example.) The listed later form INVICTO IMP requires the obverse IMP CAE L SEP SEV PERT COS II (RIC389, C232 - shown on my 'Later Emesa' page). Even if you disallow my reading of the weak legends, this coin is (by style) clearly not an 'Emesa' product but from the mint of Alexandria which is not known to have used the trophy type with any legend. This coin is, to the best of my knowledge, unique (please prove me wrong). Shortly before his untimely death in 1997, Roger Bickford-Smith, undoubtedly THE most knowledgeable collector of Eastern Severus, told me that this, among the coins in my collection, was the one he wanted. A better example of this coin is high on my want list. I hope it exists. Recent finds of denarii from the Eastern Empire (of Rome) have provided collectors with many new types from the Eastern mints. There have been so many that the standard references are badly in need of revision. Until then, collectors of Severans need to learn not to take the word 'unlisted' too seriously.

Back to Main page

(c) 1998 Doug Smith