Vespasian Bronzes of Lugdunum

From the Same / Different series

My daughter teaches Kindergarten. This was probably a good choice for someone who stands 5'0" and considers Dr. Seuss her favorite author. Kindergarten isn't the same as it was when I was there in 1951. Today's 5 year olds are expected to learn reading writing and arithmetic and some other concepts that they will need to compete successfully when they enter First Grade.

In some ways this site is like Kindergarten for future numismatists. To aid in our future numismatic studies, we must learn to look at coins with a critical eye far more than required to assign a letter grade and a catalog number. A beginning concept in Kindergarten is Same / Different. In this series (to be expanded irregularly in future updates), we will examine pairs or groups of coins and discuss how they are the same and how they are different. Without too much effort, you should be able to find some that I have not mentioned. Perhaps the process of looking and comparing will bring up questions that will require further research. Any question whose answer suggests even more questions was time well spent. I hope some of you will find this basic exercise interesting and worthwhile.

Vespasian Bronzes of Lugdunum

Dupondius 77-78 AD
As 71 AD

Both of these coins show a laureate head which conventional 'wisdom' would mean both of these coins would be asses. The left coin, however, is clearly yellow brass (orichalcum) which would make that coin a dupondius. A small scratch on the edge of the right coin shows it to be red copper and, therefore, an as. Both coins are the same 29mm diameter. The left coin weighs 10.7g and the right 10.2g. The distinction between the value of the two (a dupondius was worth 2 asses) was clear when the coins were both bright and new but collectors today sometimes will have trouble separating the two due to patination. Usually the dupondius was distinguished by a radiate crown on the emperor but the convention was not universally observed.

Both of these coins were struck at the Lugdunum mint which is distinguished by a small globe at the lowest termination of the bust. Neither of these coins shows the globe well. The dupondius was weakly struck in this area while a poorly placed lump of patina obscures the area on the as. Such problems are common in numismatic studies; not all coins are perfect. Even high grade (unworn) coins can be hard to read due to poor surfaces.

The other point of interest here is the designs for this particular dupondius were cut in a large size that fills all the space available while the cutter of the dies for both sides of the as used a smaller style that did not crowd the legends. Both are artistic and pleasing coins but fine detail on the dupondius was erased by wear in circulation. Individual die cutters each had their own style. Whether these two portraits were cut by the same person (there are several years separating the two) or whether these were the product of two different artists is an interesting question.

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(c) 1998 Doug Smith