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Hoard stories

By Tom Buijtendorp

Coin hoards tell an interesting story about the development of ancient coinage. Even when the find spot is unknown, the coins still provide useful information, as some hoard coins from the trade illustrate. When sold via internet interesting details and photos are available. And some dealers more and more describe the hoards as group, especially hoards from the UK, a development that should be supported. Clearly, a controlled excavation remains the preferred option, but there will always be accidental finds (next to destructive looting of known sites).

Hoard Descriptions

Descriptions of hoards in many cases try to reconstruct how a hoard was composed before being buried, and what the reason for the burial was. Reasons for burial can be the classical hoarding for long term saving. It can however also be an emergency burial to get the money away from sudden violence. Or there can be an accident like a fire or the loss of for example a purse. The way hoards have been composed before burial may differ as well. In so called circulation hoards, the coins have been taken from coin circulation in a brief period of time like the content of a lost purse, or the repayment of a loan. It can also be an accumulated hoard saved step by step, for example.

This kind of categorizations in many cases oversimplifies the background of hoards. There are for example composite hoards like a combination of a purse recently added to a savings hoard. And somebody may have received a salary paid from a savings hoard and carry it in a purse. As long as these potential complications are clear, it still helps to understand the different possible compositions of coin hoards.

In this article, examples from the trade will be discussed. The overview starts with some hoards with more information about their burial circumstances. Then other hoards will be discussed in chronological order to illustrate the historical importance. Some hoards are described in some more detail in the NumisWiki articles listed at the end of this article.


Fig 1. Aureus of Tiberius (14-37 CE) of the Boscoreale hoard with the characteristic deep reddish toning, minted in the last years of his reign in Lyon. Obverse TI CAESAR DIVI AVG F AVGVSTVS, laureate head right, laurel wreath ties fall in small undulations (waves); reverse PONTIF MAXIM, Pax (or Livia as Pax) seated right on chair with decorated legs, a single line below, long scepter vertical behind in her right, branch in left, feet on footstool. Weight 7.709 gram, maximum diameter 19 mm. Sold by Forum Ancient Coins nr. SH30618.

Fig. 2. Denarius of Hadrian (117 – 138 CE) of the Forum Fire Hoard with a wavy fire damaged, bent flan. Minted 134-138 CE in Rome. Obverse HADRIANVS AVG COS III P P, bare head right; reverse MONETA AVG, Moneta standing left holding scales and cornucopia; Weight 3.378 gram, maximum diameter 16.7 mm. Sold by Forum Ancient Coins nr. RS15011.

Fig. 3. Two denarii of Elagabalus (218-222 CE) and one Severus Alexander(222-235 CE), uncleaned as found in a sealed container with green patina. Sold by Forum Ancient Coins nr. LT36716.

Regarding deposition circumstances, the Boscoreale Hoard is a famous example. The hoard of more then thousand gold aurei was discovered in 1895 in a villa close to Pompeii. The owner buried the hoard in 79 CE in a water cistern in the wine cellar, fearing the warning sound of the Vesuvius shortly before the eruption. The intense heat of the eruption gave the coins the famous deep reddish Boscoreale patina. Unfortunately, the hoard was dispersed without being catalogued. Thanks to the typical patina, some coins are still known and incidentally offered for sale (fig 1). Another example is a burned hoard of mainly denarii, concealed around 225 CE and described in a separate NumisWiki article (the Forum Fire Hoard). The coins were found in an amalgamation: melted coins and black silver oxide on the outside formed a solid black ball. Inside the coins were still in nice condition, however, most are wavy and somewhat brittle due to the heat of the fire. About 3/4 of the 92 catalogued coins show clear traces of the fire, in many cases with a bent flan (fig 2). Another example with some indication of the burial are three denarii from the same period with a green hoard container patina (fig 3.). In most cases, for hoards from the trade, the only link to the burial circumstances are political circumstances related to the minting period of the youngest coin. As the examples show, this offers a numismatic history, here presented in a chronological sequence.

Hoards Tell the Story

Fig 4. The latest coin of Antiochus XII (87-84 BCE) of the Galilee hoard, a bronze hemichalkon minted in Damascus. Obverse diademed, bearded head of Antiochos XII right; reverse BASILEWS ANTIOC DIONUSO EPIFANOUS FILOPATOROS KALLINIKOU, Nike walking right, wreath in extended right, palm frond over shoulder in left, monogram in exergue. Weight 3.345 gram, maximum diameter 16.9 mm. Sold by Forum Ancient Coins nr. GB46336.

Political unrest is an important reason for the existence of coin hoards. At the first place, it is an extra reason to bury the coins. And in addition, the owner may get killed and as a result not being able to recollect the hoard. For the same reason, a lost purse will not be searched after by the owner. A possible example is the Galilee Hoard buried end 84 BCE or a little later, reported to be found North of lake Galilee, what fits the surrounding location of the nine mints represented in the hoard. The hoard was probably buried following the unrest after the defeat of Antiochus XII, the last strong Seleucid ruler. There were 131 bronze coins, of which 118 could be identified by Alex Malloy who acquired the hoard in 1989. The coins represent the leaders who played a role in the struggle. There were coins minted for Antiochus XII Dionysus (c. 87 – 84 BCE) who ruled the last Seleucid realm in and around Damascus. His youngest hoard coin was minted late 84 BCE in Damascus just before he was killed in a fight against the Nabataeans, rulers from current Jordan who shortly after captured Damascus. One coin of Aretas III (87 – 62 BCE) is minted in Damascus right after the city was captured. Antiochus XII also did fight against the Judean kingdom in the south, and eight prutot of their ruler Alexander Jannaeus (103 – 76 BCE) minted in Jerusalem are present in the hoard. In addition, coins of earlier rulers are present like 27 coins of Demetrius III Eucaerus (96 – 87 BCE), 8 coins of Antiochus VII Grypus (125-96 BCE) and some even older coins of Demetrius II Nikator (136-129 BCE), Antiochus VII Sidetes (138-129 BCE) and Demetrius I Soter (162- 150 BCE). The oldest coins of Antiochus III the Great (223 – 187 BCE) minted in Antioch were more than a century old when the hoard was buried. The reported find spot is about half way of the two major mints (64% of the hoard) of Damascus and Akko, the harbor on the shore of the Mediterranean see. On the same shore are mints represented in Tyre, Biblos, Sidon (all current Lebanon) and Seleucia (Syrian coast). In addition, there are coins from Damascus, Antioch, Jerusalem and the Nabataean capital Petra. The total monetary value of the 131 coins was relatively small.

Fig 5. A sample of 21 lead tesserae of Alexander Jannaeus (103-76 BCE) of a hoard. All of Hendin type 1155. Obverse text BASILEWS ALEXANDROU (of King Alexander), anchor upside-down inside circle; reverse Aramaic inscription, King Alexander, border of dots. In most cases, the reverse is fully worn. Offered by Forum Ancient Coins nr. JD11176.

The Jewish leader Alexander Jannaeus (103-76 BCE) mentioned above, minted around 80 BCE rare lead tokens (tesserae). They were issued to the poor to be redeemed for food and other commodities, mirroring the Roman distribution system. Alexander in this way hoped to gain support in his political struggle. These tesserae were for a long time very rare and not very well known. Thanks to some recent hoards, the knowledge of these interesting items has improved. Some have a dessert patina as the example shown of a group of lead tesserae from the same source (fig 5). The obverse shows in a circle an anchor upside down as hanging on the side of a boat, with around in Greek the legend BASILEWS ALEXANDROU (Basileus Alexandrou = of King Alexander). The anchor became an important symbol after Alexander Jannaeus conquered some of the coastal cities. The reverse, in many cases blank now, originally contained the Aramaic text 'King Alexander ' in three lines.

Fig 6. A group of 60 widow mites with a common shining green, pickled patina indicating the provenance of the same hoard. Introduced by Alexander Jannaeus around 78 BCE. Obverse star of eight rays surrounded by diadem, crude barbaric style; reverse BASILEWS ALEXANDROU (barbaric and blundered), anchor upside-down in circle. Sold by Forum Ancient Coins lot nr. LT56705.

In the same period, around 78 BCE, Alexander Jannaeus (103 – 76 BCE) started in Jerusalem to mint very small coins, the leptons. They became known as the 'widow mites ' because these small coins may have been referred to in the New Testament (the story of the poor widow and here small money gift to the temple, Mark 12:41). The obverse legend refers to year 25 of the reign of Alexander Jannaeus, meaning they were minted around 78 BCE. Many are found in large hoards (fig 6). Based on the high volumes, it has been suggested that minting continued during the reign of his wife and successor Salome Alexandra (76-67 BCE). She did not mint coins in her own name, so continuation of the coins of her husband makes sense. It could explain the large volumes, making this small coin still a very important part of the small change in the first century CE, explaining why many of these coins are quite worn. The obverse shows a star of eight rays surrounded by a diadem. The crude Aramaic obverse legend refers to King Alexander and year 25. The crude reverse like the tesserae shows an anchor upside down, again with the name of the king and sometimes with the year (L) 25 (KE) near the anchor points. Many have irregular flans and in many times are off centered, sign of large volume minting. Also the old 'bridges ' of the casted row of flans are still clearly visible at one or two sides. They still circulated in the first century CE and even occasionally in the 4th century as shown by excavations.

Fig 7. A Group of 20 Republican denarii, all of the common type with a bust on the obverse and a car with horses on the reverse, and the name of the moneyer, in this case for example D. Unius Silanus (D. SILANVS), C. Licinius LF Macer (C. LICINIVS LF MACER) and twice M. Lucilis Rufus (M. LVCILI RVF), in some cases ROMA below. This type was minted until 41 BCE. The three moneyers mentioned worked between 101 and 84 BCE. Sold by Forum Ancient Coins nr. LT54755.

Fig. 8. A local imitation of a denarius of Tiberius from a coin hoard form India. On the obverse blundered reading of CAESAR DVI AVG F AVGVSTVS as TILLFSLRIVIAVCFAVGVSTVS. Reverse blundered reading of PONTIF MAXIM as ONIIF MANIM. Weight 3.008 gram, max diameter 18.2 mm, die-axis 180, sold by Forum Ancient Coins nr. SH20732.

The bronze coin hoards were of much lower value than most of the Republican silver hoards of denarii (fig 7). These silver hoards are very important for the dating of the moneyers who worked in specific years. For the hoard coins shown in fig 7 for example, moneyer Lucilius worked in 101 BCE, Silanus in 91 BCE and Licinius Macer in 84 BCE. Thanks to hoard evidence, combined with sequences deducted from overstrikes, it is possible to date the introduction of the denarius to around 211 BCE. During the first century BCE, the denarius was the main high value hoard coin. Sulla introduced the gold aureus around 85 BCE, but only Caesar started to mint some larger volumes. The denarius was also used for long distance trade, even outside the empire. An interesting example is a coin hoard from India described in a separate NumisWiki article (Triton X Hoard). Among the 175 Roman denarii of Augustus (27 BCE – 14 CE) and Tiberius (14 – 17 CE) the hoard contained some local imitations (fig 8). The Roman denarii were in India appreciated for their high silver content. The Roman looks of the coins functioning as a kind of quality stamp.

Fig 9. A hoard of 40 Greek-Illyrian drachms of the Adriatic coast, probably buried around 60-48 CE in the Balkan. Sold by Forum Ancient Coins lot nr. LT24268.

Fig 10. Four obverses of the hoard of fig. 9, all showing the cow suckling a calf facing to the left as minted in Apollonia. Above the cow names: NIKWN (Nikoon), MAARKOS (Maarkos), NIKHN (Niken), TIMHN (Timen). Sold by Forum Ancient Coins lot nr. LT24268.

Fig. 11. Two reverses of the hoard of fig 9. One coin with the abbreviation of the city name Apollonia, followed by the name of a person Autoboulou: APOL - AUTO-BOU-LOU. The other reverse only shows part of the personal name. Double stellate pattern within double linear square with sides curved inwards. Sold by Forum Ancient Coins lot nr. LT24268.

The denarius was not the only silver hoard coin at this time. In the Balkan, for example, the Greek-Illyrian drachms of Apollonia and Dyrrhachium played an important role from the end of the third century BCE until the middle of the first century BCE during a period of about 160 years. Recent studies of coin hoards have largely increased the knowledge of these drachms. They were minted by two Adriatic coastal cities: Dyrrhachium in Albania and Apollonia about 50 km to the south, both at that time under Roman protectorate. The weight standard for these coins was about 3.3 grams, comparable to the denarius. As these coins predominately show up in hoards, they probably mainly have been used for trade like the acquisition of slaves. These drachms are almost exclusively found in hoards in the Balkan, what probably also was the case with the hoard shown in fig 9. This lot from the trade contained 40 pieces of what may have been an even larger hoard. The coins show on the obverse a cow sucking a calf and a name on top in Greek like MAARKOS (Maarkos), or NIKHN (Niken), a name known form Apollonia (fig 10). In the first issues the cow was always facing to the right. Later, the mint of Apollonia shifted to a cow facing left. The reverse shows a square pattern with on top the abbreviation of the city name in Greek DUR (Dyr) for Dyrrachium and APOL (Apol) for Apollonia. The remainder of the reverse legend is a name again. One of the hoard coins from Apollonia, for example, reads: APOL - AUTO-BOU-LOU (Autoboulou) (fig 11). The combination with the name Niken on the obverse is known from Apollonia. Although not sure, it is assumed the name on the obverse referred to the moneyer and the name on the reverse to the town magistrate.

In this case, the coins are hastily minted with uneven strikes and centering (fig 11). This is characteristic for the last stage of the production around 60 BCE. At all visible obverses of the sample, the cow looks to the left, typical for Apollonia. The visible reverses also fit Apollonia with the abbreviation of the city name or known personal names. The dominance of one of the two cities in coin hoards is typical for the last hoards of these drachms. It is assumed that minting stopped in 48BCE when first Pompey entered the region and later Caesar produced his own denarii. So the most likely burial date is somewhere between 60 and 48 BCE. Distribution patterns of this type of hoard teach a lot about the development of trade relations in this period in this region.

Fig 12. Lot of 81 small bronze coins, part of a hoard found at Cyprus. Selected from a hoard of more than 250 coins, these 81 coins are all the same type. Fair to Fine and minted around 35 BCE in the mint of Paphos. Obverse laureate head of Zeus; reverse statue of Zeus Salaminos standing, holding stalks of grain, star above. Sold by Forum Ancient Coins lot nr. LT38166. Also lot nr. LT33637 (7 coins), LT33638 (20 coins), LT38164 (80 coins), LT53846 (10 coins), LT57290 (14 coins), GB33634 (20 coins) and coins sold single.

Another interesting coin hoard was found on the isle of Cyprus (fig 12). The hoard may be connected to the unrest around the defeat of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra at the battle of Actium in September 31 BCE. Cyprus was ruled by Cleopatra until 31 BC when the Romans took over. More than 250 small copper coins seem to have been found together and are dated between 50 and 30 BCE. They have been produced in the mint of Paphos, the later Roman capital of the isle. As noted in a separate NumisWiki article about misstrikes, the hoard contained some blank flans. There is some debate about the names of the small coins. The hoard contained amongst others very small bronze coins of about 0.8 gram and only 8 mm in diameter. This may be the chalkon mentioned in old sources, the smallest unit of the Ptolemaic kingdom. On the obverse there is a bust of Isis and on the reverse an eagle or a double cornucopia flanked by ribbons. For both types, there is a reference to King Ptolemy: PTOLEMAIOU - BASILEWS. The same coins are also minted with about the double weight and diameter of around 12 mm, what may have been the dichalkon (double chalkon) Of these coins, there also is a type with on the obverse the laureate head of Zeus to the right, and a reverse with Zeus Salaminos standing, holding a grain ear and a torch, with a star above. Kreuzer has suggested that the bust of Isis refers to the famous queen Cleopatra (Cleopatra VIII), but this identification is matter of debate.

Fig. 13 Six coins of the Temple Tax Hoard. Described in a separate NumisWiki article.

Another important moment for the burial of coin hoards is the unrest during the 60s of the first century CE. Already in 66 CE the Jewish revolt started and continued until 73 CE. And in 68 CE Nero was forced to commit suicide. After, four emperors reigned in about one year. The Jewish War resulted in many local coin hoards. Possibly the Temple Tax Hoard was buried during this period (fig 13). This hoard consisted of 92 silver half shekels and 3 full shekels and has been described in a separate NumisWiki article by Marian and Sermarini. Although the youngest dated coin was minted in 55/57 CE, it is very well possible that the hoard was buried during the Jewish War about ten years later. Dated coins of the last decade are very rare and most coins of the hoard are worn, also the youngest dated one. As the half shekel was used to pay the temple tax, the hoard may be related to the annual payment of the temple tax.

Fig 14. Eight cleaned billion tetradrachms of Nero (54-68 CE) of a hoard, minted in Alexandria in several different years like LIA (year 11 = 64/65 CE), LIB (year 12 = 65/66 CE), LIG (year 13 = 66/67 CE) and L ID (year 14, = 67/78 CE). Three reverse with eagle, two reverses with Tiberius and three reverse with bust of a Greek deity issued to commemorate Nero 's sojourn in Greece in 67 - 68 A.D. Sold by Forum Ancient Coins nr. LT28817.

Fig 15. Seventeen billion tetradrachms of Nero (54-68 CE) of a hoard, all minted in the peak year 12 (65/66 CE) minted in Alexandria. Obverse NERW KLAU KAIS SEB GER, radiate bust of Nero right, wearing aegis; reverse AUTO-KRA, bust of Alexandria right, wearing elephant head headdress, L IB (year 12) Sold by Forum Ancient Coins nr. SP22458.

Fig 16. Ten tetradrachms of Nero (54-68 CE) of a hoard with coins from Claudius to Vespasian (45-70 CE), these ten coins all minted in year 11 (64/65 CE) in Alexandria. Obverse NERW KLAU KAIS SEB GER, radiate bust of Nero right, wearing aegis; reverse AUTO-KRA, eagle standing left, palm over shoulder, L IA (year 11) right, sometimes with simpulum behind. Sold by Forum Ancient Coins nr. SP22459. About 60 other coins with the same patina sold individually nr. RX 22938-RX23003.

The Civil War after the dead of Nero in June 68 CE impacted large parts of the empire, also at places where no direct fights occurred. An example is Roman Egypt, a province which from numismatic perspective acted almost as an autonomous monetary region, a closed currency system. The tetradrachms minted in Alexandria circulated mainly within Egypt and most known hoards are found within the borders of this country. Christiansen, who described the Egyptian hoards from the 1-3rd century CE, concluded that most hoards were related to a few moments of political unrest. The first hoard period was 68-69 CE. Although there was no war in Egypt, it was an important home base for Vespasian, the later emperor. Apparently people felt the need to burry money. And quite some people like soldiers left Egypt to participate in the war for Vespasian, and never returned to retrieve their hoard. Just before, Nero minted a large volume of tetradrachms from 63 CE onwards, with a production peak in 65/66 CE (year 12). As a result, Egyptian coin hoards related to the Civil War of 68-69 CE, contain only or for a large part tetradrachms of Nero. A probably example is a lot of eight cleaned tetradrachms of Nero minted in Alexandria (fig 14). Another example is a group of 17 tetradrachms, all of the peak year 12 (fig 15). A hoard with a typical grey patina with in many cases light pickled corrosion is typical for these hoards (fig 16). About 70 coins of this hoard are catalogued and most are tetradrachms of Nero. One coin is an older tetradrachm of Claudius minted in year 6 (45-46 CE). And about ten coins are minted during the Civil War by Galba and Vespasian. It is a typical pattern for Egyptian hoards form this period.

Fig 17. Group of eleven Flavian bronze coins countermarked with the letter B and the letters TOM. The last combination is interpreted as the abbreviation of Tomis, the Roman city at Constanta in Romania. Sold by Forum Ancient Coins lot nr. LTL0015

In the next decades, fights related to the extension of the Roman Empire continued. An example is the Balkan. Very worn bronze coins were countermarked to continue their lives. Interesting is a small group of eleven Flavian bronze coins countermarked with the letter B and the letters TOM (fig 17). The last combination is interpreted as the abbreviation of Tomis, the Roman city at Constanta in Romania on the Black Sea shore

Fig 18 Two worn denarii minted in 41 BCE, from the Moesia hoard buried around 107 CE in the Balkan. On top denarius of Mark Antony and Octavian (3.64 gram, maximum diameter 19.1 mm); at the bottom denarius of Brutus (3.28 gram, maximum diameter 19.7 mm). Sold by Forum Ancient Coins nr. RR06308 (top) and SH08484 (bottom).


Fig 19 Four Republican misstrikes (brockages), from the Moesia hoard buried around 107 CE in the Balkan. Denarii of Cn. Cornelius Blasio Cn.f., 112 - 111 BCE (#1, 3.34 gram, 18.1 mm), Lucius Memmius c. 109 - 108 BCE (#2, 3.40 gram, 19.1 mm), L. Thorius Balbus, 105 BCE (#3, 3.00 gram, 18.5 mm) and Octavian, 21-31 BCE (#4, 3.48 gram, 19.3 mm). Sold by Forum Ancient Coins nr RR08296 (#1), RR08295 (#2), RR08300 (#3) and RR08318 (#4).

Fig 20 A denarius of Domitian (81-96 CE) minted in 82 CE in the period he tried to revive the old standard with heavier, purer and well struck denarii, like this one from the Moesia hoard buried around 107 CE in the Balkan. This coin is a good example with full circle centering on a huge flan with a maximum diameter of 21.1 mm. Obverse IMP CAES DOMITIANVS AVG P M, laureate head right; reverse TR POT IMP II COS VIII DES VIIII P P, Fortuna standing left, holding rudder and cornucopia. Weight 3.37 gram. Sold by Forum Ancient coins nr RS08483.

In the early second century CE the local leader Decebalus (87 – 106 CE) started a war against the Romans. In 101-102 CE he was defeated during the first Dacian War, but recovered and launched a second attack in 105 CE. This time he was finally defeated in the summer of 106 CE. In the aftermath of the Second Dacian War, large sums of money had to be paid to Rome. In 107 CE, or a little later, a large hoard of about 4,000 denarii was buried somewhere in Moesia Inferior, mainly part of current Romania and Bulgaria. The hoard contained many worn coins, some even Republican (fig 18), including some interesting mistrikes, so called brockages (fig 19). Hoarding of these old coins accelerated after Trajan reduced the silver content of newly minted denarii in 107 CE. This currency reform set the standard for almost half a century. The historian Cassius Dio states that Trajan called in old worn coins to be reminted. Later hoards confirm that denarii minted before 64 CE were reminted, and also the denarii Domitian (81-96 CE) minted briefly at the old standard. During 81-85 CE his coins were purer and heavier (fig 20). Three silver hoards form Moesia Inferior buried in this period have been published like the Gradeshnitsa III (Bulgaria) of 771 silver coins until Trajan, of which 435 Republican.

Fig 21 Denarius of Trajan (98 – 117 CE) minted in Rome in the last minting year (107 CE) represented in the Moesia hoard. Obverse IMP TRAIANO AVG GER DAC P M TR P COS V P P, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right, from behind; reverse S P Q R OPTIMO PRINCIPI, Annona standing left, holding grain over modius in right, cornucopia in left, prow right. Weight 3.471 gram, maximum diameter 19.0 mm. Sold by Forum Ancient coins nr SH11455.

Fig 22 Mint state denarius of Trajan (98-117 CE) minted in Rome in 101-102 CE, from the Moesia hoard buried around 107 CE in the Balkan. obverse IMP CAES NERVA TRAIAN AVG GERM, laureate bust right, aegis on far shoulder; reverse P M TR P COS IIII P P, Statue of Hercules, holding club and lion-skin, set on low base; light die break at 6 o 'clock on reverse. Weight 3.420 gram, maximum diameter 18.2 mm. Sold by Forum Ancient coins nr SH01668.

Fig 23 About mint state denarius of Domitian as Caesar, minted in 79 CE, from the Moesia hoard. Obverse CAESAR AVG F DOMITIANVS COS VII, laureate bearded head right; reverse PRINCEPS IVVENTVTIS, clasped hands holding legionary eagle on prow; weight 3.46 g, maximum diameter 18.4 mm. Sold by Forum Ancient coins nr SH05486.

The last minting year represented in the hoard is 107 CE. (fig 21). There are Mint State or almost uncirculated coins of Trajan minted in 98-103 CE, of which five examples among the 52 coins acquired by Forum Ancient Coins, a selection of the best coins available (fig 22). And there is an about mint fresh denarius minted in 79 CE, almost three decades before the burial date (fig 23). A denarius of Domitianus as emperor minted in 95-96 also hardly circulated and ten denarii of Nerva (96-98) in the sample are in the condition Extremely Fine, minted about a decade before burial This may indicate the owner started to hoard little worn coins already during the reign of Domitian and continued up to the first Dacian war of 101-102 CE, increasing the average yearly amount saved step by step. The monetary reform may have been a reason for adding more old worn coins at a later stage. Or they may for example have been the payment for the sale of a large possession. Like other hoards from this period, the sample of 52 coins contains (next to seven worn Republican denarii), only silver coins minted after the Neronian reform of 64 CE. Al emperors are represented, the rarer emperors probably being overrepresented in this selective sample: Nero (3x), Galba (2x), Otho (3x), Vitellius (2x), Vespasian (4x), Titus (4x), Domitian (4x), Nerva (10x) and Trajan (13x). Most coins in the sample of 52 coins are minted in Rome, with the exception of the denarius of Mark Antony and Octavian (Ephesus, fig 18), a denarius of Octavian minted around 36 BCE in Africa, a denarius minted in 69-70 in Ephesus for Vespasian (RIC II 315) and two drachms minted in 98-99 for Trajan in the mint of Masicytes, Lycia, referring to his second consulship on the reverse, showing two lyres.

Fig. 24 Lot of about 150 denarii, mostly minted in 193-198 CE in Rome. Next to coins for emperor Septimius Severus (192-211 CE) himself, there are denarii he minted for his wife Julia Domna and his sons Caracalla and Geta. Sold by Forum Ancient Coins lot nr. SPS29583.

The next import reform of the denarius is reflected in another hoard. The monetary reform of Septimius Severus in 194/195 CE started a process of accelerated debasement. The weight was temporarily reduced in the period 194-196 CE, reflected in a smaller size of the flans as the Forum Fire Hoard illustrates, discussed in a separate Numiswiki article (fig 2). The average maximum diameter of the 89 denarii in the Forum Fire Hoard (besides the 3 antoniniani) was 18.64 mm. The maximum diameter for the two hoard denarii of Septimius Severus minted between 194-196 CE was 7 to 11% less: 17.3 and 16.5 mm. The diameter was increased again after 196 CE. However the flans became thinner and the silver content was further reduced from still close to 80% in the early days of Septimius Severus to about 56.5% in his last years, meaning that the weight of the amount of silver in a denarius decreased about 1/4th. As a result, older coins were hoarded and the new coins of Septimius Severus quickly started to dominate the coin circulation. A lot of about 150 denarii may reflect this situation at the end of the second century CE (fig 24). The lot contains mainly denarii minted between 193-198 CE.

Fig 25 Lot of 50 antoniniani of Gordian III (238-244 CE) and Philip I (244-249 CE), part of a hoard with a wide variety of reverse types. Sold by Forum Ancient Coins lot nr. LTL0016.

The Forum Fire Hoard mentioned earlier probably was buried around 225 CE. The hoard showed that at that time the denarius was still the main silver coin in circulation, next to small amounts of the antoninianus or double denarius minted between 215 and 219 CE. The small find of 3 denarii of fig. 3 was also from this period. A little more than a decade later, Balbinus and Pupienus during their brief reign in 238 CE reintroduced the antoninianus. Gordian III (238-244 CE) continued this new monetary policy. Now the antoninianus was minted in large volumes and stimulated the hoarding of older denarii. The result is clearly visible in the hoard horizon of the middle of the third century. This again was a time of political unrest and a lot of hoarding occurred. A lot of fifty antoniniani from a hoard buried shortly after 250 CE, mirrors the new circulation of new coins: mainly antoniniani of Gordian III (238-244 CE) and Philip I (244-249 CE) (fig 25).

Fig 26. The cover photo of the Antioch Hoard of Gallienus, catalogue of Alex Malloy (1992). A large part of the hoard was later sold by Forum Ancient Coins.

Fig 27. Antoninianus of Gallienus (253-268 CE) from the Braithwell hoard, with the damaged very thin silver remains covering the bronze coin. Obverse GALLIENVS AVG, radiate head right; reverse SECVRIT PERPET, Securitas standing left leaning on column, legs crossed, holding scepter, H right; weight 2.480 gram, maximum diameter 19.6 mm. Sold by Forum Ancient Coins nr. BB49241.

Fig 28. Two antoniniani from the Braithwell hoard of the rulers of the Romano Gallic empire, Victorinus (268-271 CE, top) and Tetricus II (271-273 CE, bottom). Victorinus obverse IMP C VICTORINVS P F AVG, radiate, draped and cuirassed bust right; reverse INVICTVS (Invincible), Sol walking left, raising right, whip in left, star left (2.578 gram); Tetricus obverse IMP C TETRICVS P F AVG, radiate, draped and cuirassed bust right; reverse VICTORIA AVG, Victory walking left, wreath in right, palm frond in left (2.629 gram). Sold by Forum Ancient Coins nr. BB52923 (Victorinus, hoard #155) and RB56134 (Tetricus, hoard coin # 169).

This dominant role of the antoninianus is also included in the Antioch Hoard of Gallienus described in a separate NumisWiki article (fig 26). This hoard of 539 antoniniani was buried in 274 CE or shortly after. It most probably was a composite hoard buried in the neighborhood of Antioch. The composition of the first part of the hoard started around 253 CE in Viminacium, a town close to Kostolac in Serbia, and continued until about 257-260 CE. Around that time, the money moved to the region of Antioch where the accumulation continued. Already the first part collected around 253-260 CE consisted of antoniniani only. Clearly, at that time, most denarii were forced out of circulation. The hoard offered interesting information about the minting of regional antoniniani in a mint close to Antioch. The closing date of 274 CE was related to the political unrest that threatened the Roman Empire. Another product of this landmark in Roman history is the Braithwell hoard of 1,331 antoniniani unearthed in 2002 in the UK. An Antoninianus of Gallienus (253-268 CE) of this hoard shows how this coin became a bronze core with a very thin layer silver (fig 27). The silver content was reduced to about 5% compared to around 40% in the middle of the third century CE. Two younger antoniniani of the Romano Gallic emperors Victorinus (269-271 CE) and Tetricus (271-273 CE) show how the antoninianus deteriorated further to a silver content below 2.5% (fig 28).

The Roman emperor Aurelian (270 – 275 CE) at first stage continued to mint weak antoniniani of about 2.5% silver and an average weight of about 2.8 gram. His first aim was reuniting the Roman Empire. He faced the independent part in the west (Romano Gallic Empire) and also an independent part in the east. He first gained control over the eastern part and next in 274 CE defeated Tetricus and his son in the west. Aurelian was proclaimed Restitutor Orbis (restorer of the world) and launched his monetary reform in 274 CE. He introduced a new improved antoninianus, by some authors called 'Aurelianus ': a coin of about 3.85 gram and about 4% silver content. It has been suggested that the new aimed silver content is indicated with the number XXI on the reverse (KA = 21 in Greek versions): XX parts bronze versus I part silver: a silver content of 1/21st (4.75%).

Fig 29 Lot of about 50 antoniniani of Probus (276-282 CE), minted in Tripolis and Antioch. All the coins of Probus minted in Tripolis are the same except for a minor difference in the obverse legend. Sold by Forum Ancient Coins lot nrs. 11186-89.Fig 29 Lot of about 50 antoniniani of Probus (276-282 CE), minted in Tripolis and Antioch. All the coins of Probus minted in Tripolis are the same except for a minor difference in the obverse legend. Sold by Forum Ancient Coins lot nrs. 11186-89.

Fig 30 Lot of 20 antoniniani of Aurelianus (270-275) with the same hoard patina as the antoniniani of fig 29. Sold by Forum Ancient Coins lot nrs. LTL0005.

The new mint in Lyon, the most close to the West, did not introduce the XXI mark. This clearly contributed to the failure of the coinage reform in the West. The reform of Aurelianus, continued by Probus (276 – 282 CE), was more successful in the east. A good example of the western failure is offered by the Braithwell Hoard buried in 282 CE or a little later. Of the 1,331 antoniniani, only 1 is minted by Aurelian and only 6 by Probus. The coinage was still dominated by the antoniniani of the former Romano Gallic empire and posthumous minted coins of Claudius II, including local imitations. At the other side of the Empire, however, the new antoniniani of Aurelianus and later Probus circulated in large numbers. Interesting is a large group of antoniniani of both emperors with a common green hoard patina, some coins still with the silvering. For the coins of Probus in this group, the identification of the mints is straightforward. Interestingly, the only two mints identified within the traded lot are Antioch and Tripolis although the last one is a scarce mint (fig 29). There are no coins of the other important eastern mint of that time, Cyzicus in the western part of Turkey. This suggests a burial location close to Antioch and Tripolis. The hoard would support the general assumption that the Tripolis mint referred to the town Tripolis in the north of Lebanon, located to the south of Antioch (Turkey), and not Tripolis in the western part of Turkey (to the south of Cyzicus) as suggested by Redφ.

The Tripolis mint is indicated by the letters TR in the reverse field, or a star or half crescent. Below the line is the Greek number KA (=XXI). All antoniniani of Probus minted in Tripolis showed the Emperor standing right receiving a globe from Jupiter standing left with the legend CLEMENTIA TEMP (fig 29). There are only two variants in the obverse legend, with and without PF: IMP CM AVR PROBVS [PF] AVG (RIC 927 and 928). The larger Antioch mint also produced CLEMENTIA TEMP antoniniani for Probus, now with a single Greek letter indicating the workshop (officina), sometimes with dot in center. In the group of coins, three different minor variants are present (RIC 920-922). There also is a different lot of 20 antoniniani of Aurelianus with the same green hoard patina (fig 30). Unfortunately, for the coins of this emperor the identification of mints is more complex and unclear for these 20 coins. The burial of this group of eastern antoniniani of Aurelianus and Probus may be related to the period of political unrest after Probus was murdered in 282 CE at Sirmium. His successor Carus (282-283) attacked the Persian Empire in the east and defeated their forces at Ctesiphon in the middle of current Iraq.

Fig. 31 Antoninianus of Probus (276-282 CE) minted in Cyzicus from a hoard. Obverse IMP C M AVR PROBVS P F AVG, radiate bust left in consular robe, eagle tipped scepter in right; reverse SOLI INVICTO, Sol in a spread quadriga facing, radiate, cloak billowing out behind, raising right hand, whip in left, CM in center, XXIQ in ex. Weight 4.01 gram, maximum diameter 23.4 mm. Sold by Forum Ancient Coins nr. RB03757.

Fig 32. The other six antoniniani of Probus (276-282 CE) of the same type and same hoard as the antoninianus of fig 31.

Fig 33. Two very rare antoninianii of Tacitus (275-276 CE) minted in Siscia, sharing the same dies and same nice green hoard patina. Obverse IMP C M CL TACITVS AVG, radiate and cuirassed bust right; reverse PAX AVGVSTI, Pax advancing left holding olive branch in right and transverse scepter in left, VI in ex. Weight 3.830 gram, maximum diameter 22.6 mm (top) and 3.847 gram and 21.8 mm (bottom). Sold by Forum Ancient Coins nr. SH12555 (top) and RB24462

Fig 34. Two antoniniani of Probus (276-282 CE) minted in Lyon with clear silver look, part of a large hoard from France. Obverse IMP C M AVR PROBVS AVG, radiate draped and cuirassed bust right; reverse COMES AVG, Minerva standing left holding olive branch and spear, left hand on shield set at feet, A left; weight 3.73 gram, maximum diameter 21.1 mm, RIC V 115(top) and weight 3.50 gram, maximum diameter 21.7 mm, RIC V 116 (bottom). Sold by Forum Ancient Coins nrs. RB08079 (top) and BB08078 (bottom).

The Cyzicus mint in eastern Turkey was a serious mint during the reign of Probus. This is shown by a small lot of antoniniani. They were part of a coin hoard with a very characteristic patina with stunning red, yellow and black toning (fig 31-32). The coins are in the condition Extremely Fine and all of the same reverse type". This suggests they have been hoarded shortly after being minted, probably close to the mint in Cyzicus (Turkey). The average maximum diameter of seven coins is 23.3 mm in a range of 22.1 to 24.7 mm. The average weight is 4.1 gram in the range of 4.01 and 4.91 gram, with one little worn coin of only 2.88 gram (nrs. RB 3755-58, 3761-62 and 4630). Hoards with such recently minted coins may provide coins minted by the same dies, especially in case of rare issues. An example is two antoniniani of Tacitus (275-276 CE) of almost the same weight (3.8 gram) but a different flan size (21.8 versus 22.8 mm), shown in fig 33. In some cases the silvering is still visible, as two antoniniani of Probus show from a large hoard from France (fig 34).

Fig 35. Four argenteii of the Sisak hoard of the four co-rulers, buried around 295/296 CE. Obverse laureate head of the co-ruler right; reverse VIRTVS MILITVM, the four tetrarchs sacrificing in front of six-turreted enclosure (city or castrum). Sold by Forum Ancient Coins nr. SH53585 and 53596-53598

In 294 CE, the silver argenteus was introduced. This silver laureate coin was an imitation of the old denarius. As other coins at that time hardly contained any silver, these new silver coins were quickly hoarded as the Sisak Hoard illustrates. This hoard was discovered in 1953 in Siscia (Sisak in Serbia) together with silver vessels. Unfortunately, this very important hoard was dispersed before being catalogued. Until this find, the silver coins of this period were very rare and the hoard contained one single type. All hoard coins show the bust of one of the four co-rulers (tetrarchs) on the obverse and the praetorian camp on the reverse (fig 35). And the patina of the hoard coins was quite characteristic with a special rainbow iridescent toning. As a result, Jelocnik succeeded in reconstructing a large part of the hoard. In 1961 he published a catalogue of 1415 of the hoard coins (142 with photos '), estimated to be about 2/3rd of the total hoard. The hoard analysis is still the standard work for this numismatically important silver coin, summarized in RIC volume VI. About 1/3th (37.7%) of the hoard coins was minted in Siscia, another 1/3th (37.4%) was minted in Rome and close to 1/4th in Ticinum (Pavia in Italy). For the rest, a few coins were minted in Heraclea (1%) and Trier (0.3%). The hoard included one ancient imitation. Based on the hoard pattern, Jelocnik concluded the hoard was concealed around 295/296 CE. The coins were very well preserved and only a few showed signs of wear. Of the four coins in fig 33 the average weight is 3.1 gram in a range of 2.969 to 3.417 gram. The average maximum diameter is 18.8 mm, three coins in a small range of 18.1 – 18.5 mm and one much larger with 20.5 mm at a normal weight of 3.007 gram. The coins are beautiful and nicely reflect the failed attempt to revive the old denarius.

Fig 36 Part of a hoard of at least 50 tetradrachms minted in Alexandria in the period 285 – 310 CE, including the coins shown of Diocletian (right) and Maximian (left). Sold by Forum Ancient Coins nrs. SP27056 and 27058.

The reign of the tetrarchs was a political success. In 305 Diocletian and Maximian retired voluntary, an unique development. The next period would become less stable after the successors started a fight for the power in 306 CE. In 306 CE Maxentius was proclaimed emperor in Rome. He would be finally defeated by Constantine the Great in 312 CE. This period of unrest generated again many coin hoards. In Egypt, for example, Lucius Domitius Alexander, also known as Alexander Tyrannus, declared himself emperor in 308 CE while he was praetorian prefect in Africa. When he stopped the corn supply to Italy, emperor Maxentius (306-312 CE) decided to act and send an army. He took control in 311 CE and usurper Alexander was killed. A hoard of tetradrachms minted in Alexandria and possibly buried around 310 CE may be related to this period of political unrest (fig 36).

Fig 37 Small part of a large hoard of large bronze coins, some with silvering, most with a little encrustation and dirt remaining. In this sample minted by Constantine the Great with his laureate head to the right and a legend like IMP CONSTANTINVS PF AVG. The reverse for examples shows Jupiter standing left, chlamys across left shoulder, holding Victory on globe and sceptre; eagle left and below the line the mint name SIS(cia) and in the field the officina sign like G (3) and the legend IOVI CONSERVATORI. Sold by Forum Ancient Coins lot nr. SP01351.

During the reform of 294 CE, next to the silver argenteus of the Sisak hoard, also a large bronze coin was introduced. This was the follis of about 10 gram, with about 3% silver and now a laureate head and not a radiate. Started as a heavy coin of about 10 gram, the weight was quickly reduced after 305 CE to just over 3 gram around 317 CE. Around 317 CE again many so called nummi-hoards were buried, this time in reaction to a further deterioration of the monetary system (fig 37).

Concluding Remarks

In this way, the coin hoards provide an interesting overview of the development of the monetary system from the first century BCE until the 4th century CE. It is interesting to notice that especially in the UK the number of catalogued coin hoards has increased last decades. The Nether Compton Hoard of 22,700 late Roman coins buried around 339 CE, as described by Lee Toone, was still an example how information can be lost. The hoard was discovered in 1989 and offered for study to the local museum. There the coins remained undescribed and after five years, in 1994, the finders decided to sell the coins via te trade. Fortuntately, the government developed a registration system that motivates finders to report their find and get the coins catalogued before they are dispersed in trade. An example is the Braithwell Hoard mentioned in this overview, all coins having reference numbers of the primary catalogue (fig 27-28). Museums get the opportunity to acquire some characteristic examples for future research. As a result, the finder is still rewarded and at the same time important historical information is recorded. For most other countries the description of such hoards depends on the willingness of dealers to spend time on an overall description. As the examples illustrate, this is of great historical interest. There are many more hoard stories to tell.

Other NumisWiki Articles on Hoards

- The Temple Tax Hoard by A. Marian and J. Sermarini

- Braithwell Hoard by Antony Wilson

- Antioch Hoard of Gallienus by A. Malloy, D. W. Sorenson and W. Percical

- The Antioch and Braithwell Hoards: a Comparison by Tom Buijtendorp

- Triton X Hoard by Tom Buijtendorp

- Forum Fire Hoard by Tom Buijtendorp

- Nether Compton Hoard by Lee Toone

Hoard coins in Forum Ancient Coins website catalog:

- Antioch Hoard of Gallienus
- Braithwell Hoard
- Chalkis Hoard
- The Fire Hoard
- Galilee Hoard
- Moesia Denarii Hoard
- Persis Hoard
- Sisak Hoard
- Temple Tax Hoard

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