Domitian Denarii, RIC 144 and RIC 145Two numbers, four varieties

June 3, 2018


 Ὀλυμπίοις εὐχώμεθα,

Ἣ Ὀλυμπίαισι, πᾶσι, πάσαις δίδομαι σωτηρίαν,

Ὑγίειαν, ἀγαθὰ πολλά, τῶν ὄντων τε νῦν

Ἀγαθῶν ὄνησιν.

Let's invoke all of the Olympian gods and all of the Olympian goddesses that they might bestow safety, health, and many good things, and that these blessings should happen right now, today.

Menander, Ἐν Κόλακι, fragment

HE ARTICLE I HAD HOPED to have ready for today, TR P Whatever:  Reconsidering the accepted dies comitialis, still needs some work and I doubt I'll be able to finish it in time to meet my deadline.  This gives me two choices, refurbish one of those older columns I have already removed from the Archives or dash off something completely new.  I choose to dash off something completely new, apologizing in advance for the hasty result, but pleased to be able to address a point that came to mind as I photographed and entered more of my coins into the published collection.

          Like every other coin collector I seem to accumulate duplicates like cockleburrs.  Sometimes I'll buy an auction lot of several coins, some of them duplicates.  Sometimes I'll find a better example of a coin already in the coll., making the previous example a duplicate.  Sometimes by mistake I'll buy a variety I already happen to own, resulting in a duplicate.  Eventually most of these secondary coins will find their way to other people's collections either through trades or through eBay, because it is my policy not to include duplicates in my coll.

          However, in several instances already, I have encountered cases where a duplicate adds to the story rather than detracts from it.  In one case the secondary example contains important visual information that the narrow flan of the prime example happens to cut off a little bit.  In another the duplicate, a clearly inferior coin, still has a beauty of its own that I have to admire in spite of myself.  The coin I am presenting today, I believe, qualifies as an unpublished variant.  The distinction I draw may be a fine one, but I believe it is analogous to a coin in the same issue that has a similar sort of variant already recognized by RIC (Carradice and Buttrey, The Roman Imperial Coinage, Volume II--Part 1, 2nd ed., London, 2007) as a sub-variety.

          Here are two examples of RIC 144, identified as RIC 144a and RIC 144b in the notes on page 275 and on Plate no. 120--




          The eagle on the reverse of the first coin seems to be flapping its wings frantically as though the thunderbolt it's standing on were emitting an exhilarating electrical charge.  My guess is that the mint decided that a more sedate and dignified look would be more appropriate and befitting of the occasion of Domitian's safe return from Germany.  The eagle on the reverse of the second coin provides that look.

          Here is another coin, RIC 145, from the same undated issue--



          This reverse concerns itself with the emperor's health, which I believe wasn't good upon his return (a topic I would like to explore more fully in a subsequent blog article).  For today's purpose, note the square-backed throne that Salus is resting on.  Compare this throne ("RIC 145(b)") to the round-backed throne on the reverse below.  I hereupon submit this next example as a sub-variety, and name it (provisionally, hence the parentheses), "RIC 145(a)"--



          When the new mint master (the former m.m., Claudius Etruscus, having been banished from the city of Rome) announced his orders for a new eagle, he might have added, "And while you're at it, give Salus a different throne, maybe something with a square back."  Perhaps Salus truly needed a square-backed throne to sit on, or maybe the new guy just wanted to push his weight around a little bit.  My research doesn't provide an answer to that question.

          In my opinion, if the change of eagles deserves a sub-variety designation, so does the change of thrones, making my little RIC 145(a) not a duplicate after all but a welcome member in good standing of the Hazelton coll.


          Soon (perhaps next):  TR P Whatever: Reconsidering the accepted dies comitialis

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