Reverse Match, Anybody?Two peculiar varieties, Domitian RIC 40 and RIC 68

March 16, 2022

ἐρωτηθεὶς τί ἐστι φίλος, ἔφη, "μία ψυχὴ δύο σώμασιν ἐνοικοῦσα."

Having been asked what love is, he [Aristotle] replied, "A single soul inhabiting two bodies."

Diogenes Laertius, Aristotle 5.21


ἐπειδὴ οὖν ἡ φύσις δίχα ἐτμήθη, ποθοῦν ἕκαστον τὸ ἥμισυ τὸ αὑτοῦ συνῄει, καὶ περιβάλλοντες τὰς χεῖρας καὶ συμπλεκόμενοι ἀλλήλοις, ἐπιθυμοῦντες συμφῦναι...

So when their natures were split in two [by the gods as punishment for the ὕβρις of these proto-human "spherical people" who had tried to storm Heaven], each half launched itself onto its other half, both halves throwing their arms around each other and entangling them, hoping to recombine together...

Plato, Symposium 191a


AST MONTH WAS VALENTINE'S DAY.  I hope most of my readers got a chance to spend a little time with their soulmates, our "better halves," right?  I spent some time with mine.  I remember she gave me blueberries.

          Soulmate and better half, the first one an Aristotelian concept; the second, Platonic, as we discover in the two sentiments quoted above.  Aristotle and Plato.  Who knew?  Everything old is new again.

          On the other side of the coin, so to speak, a friend of mine I play chess with, Scott, calls Valentine's Day "Singles Awareness Day."  That's because many of us haven't found that person yet, and Valentine's Day is just a S.A.D. reminder of that fact.  In which case, my advice to you, keep looking.  He or she is out there waiting to find you.

          And, um*, while you're doing that, I wonder if you wouldn't mind keeping an eye peeled for something else at the same time--

          In a previous column I went out on a limb and announced that the obverse inscription "PONT" in place of "P M" for pontifex maximus provided no significant help in the dating of the 81 issue coins, Group 2, Group 3, or group 4.  It seems I may have been very wrong about that.  Here are two Group 4 coins bearing two different obverse inscriptions, each with PONT instead of P M, RIC 40 and RIC 68-- 




          To say that these two varieties are rare would be to put it mildly.  In fact, they are among the rarest of Domitian's coins; yet they are part of an issue which isn't really rare at all.  Group 4 coins are actually quite common, so why are these PONT coins so uncommon?  One possible explanation is that the striking of the PONT coins didn't last for very long.

          In my opinion, at the start of of the issue (by my own calculations, at noon on Sept 16, 81 A.D.), the mint produced both PONT coins and P M coins, sort of an engravers' choice situation, as had apparently prevailed throughout the production of Group 2 and Group 3 coins.  Then right away, certainly within hours, the order to stop striking PONT coins in favor of P M coins was announced and immediately obeyed.  The obverse PONT dies were discarded and replaced by obverse P M dies.  The reverse dies remained the same.

          Let me repeat that.  The reverse dies remained the same!  That is, the anvil die was discarded and destroyed, but the hammer die didn't need to be.  It no doubt stayed in use until it broke.  Therefore, coins minted before the order was given must have shared a reverse die with coins minted after the order was obeyed, and some of these coins may have survived in modern colls.  That's my theory.

          Proving this theory should be simple enough.  All it would take would be to find a reverse die match of any Group 4 PONT coin with a Group 4 P M coin with the same reverse.  To do that I could use your help.  Please check your own collections or go online if you prefer.  Just to get the ball rolling, here are the reverse sides of my two Group 4 PONT coins--



          Anybody got a match?


          * Forgive the heartless transition.  It seemed smoother when the idea first came to me a month ago, sometime around St Valentine's Day, in fact.  Yesterday I tried writing this column with an Ides of March theme, but it just wasn’t working out.  Oh well.


Next:  The successful results of this search!

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