Roman Denarius Coins

by admin on May 9, 2012

A popular type of coin among Roman Coin collectors is the ‘denarius’ which came into circulation in the second century BC, a small silver Roman coin.

The value of the coin when it was first minted was 10 asses, giving the denarius its name which translates to ‘containing ten’. Later on it was re-tariffed at 16 asses.

Common Denarius

Common Denarius

The denarius was the main coin of the empire until it was eventually replaced by the antoninianus in the middle of the 3rd century.

Its purchasing power in the first century would be the equivalent of just over $20 USD today.
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How to Spot Fake Roman coins

by admin on May 9, 2012

Because Roman coins were produced in large numbers and so the price of many Roman coins is low, there are less fake roman coins then Modern day coins which are often more expensive and rarer. However that does not mean that copies exist. Alot of Counterfeit coins sold on ebay originate from eastern Europe, such as Bulgaria. Many of the more expensive and rare coins are sold to tourists in the Mediterranean.

If you are an experienced coin dealer you should be able to tell the fake coins from the real ones.

If you are not an experienced coin dealer then you should consider purchasing coins from dealers with a high feedback score who have been selling Roman coins over a number of years. The sellers of fake coins are more likely to be weeded out this way.

One giveaway is the surface; ancient coins were hand struck and hence will have a smooth surface and a good sharp detail, while copies will be usually cast, which traps air bubbles in the metal that show up and leave the surface rougher/bubbly with fuzzy detail. This should not to be mistaken with a rough patina. Also, a seam might show up along the edge of a cast coin. The style of the letters is another giveaway; they are often more perfect on copies than originals, with the tips of letters like A, M or V for example coming nicely together which often didn’t happen on genuine coins. Genuine coins are often not perfectly centred , they show cracks, have missing chips around the edges, have patinas, bits of dirt or heavy encrustation and are of uneven thickness (all qualities that fake coins often do not have). You simply need to handle a bunch of these to notice the differences.

There are is a number of websites that you can find which will show copies and you can learn how to spot them. However, this should not worry you as these are not rare coins! You are in fact more likely to run into a fake of a rare modern coin than a cheap Roman coin. The best thing to do is study lots of coins (pictures and actual coins) and buy from dealers such as those on ebay that have been around for a while and sell ancient coins.

As an example, compare the two coins in Figure 1 below. The Gordian II piece is worth about $2000, but it sold on eBay for over $150 and 11 people bid on it. The seller had a feedback only 2 and sold no other ancient coins before (cheap or expensive). This is usually the case in all such auctions, so beware of that. Real dealers will have feedback into the thousands and be constantly selling all sorts of ancient coins. Also, if this coin was not an obvious fake, its price would be much higher because people who know what they are buying would bid on it. Here is a list of genuine Ebay Roman coins sold by over 70 genuine ebay Roman coin sellers.

Figure 1: Fake coin of Gordian II (left) and a genuine coin of Maximinus I (right). Notice the nice straight and easily readable letters on the fake and that the letters are not as straight on the real coin. The fake is ’too perfect’.

Fake and Genuine Roman Coin

Purchasing Roman coins

Sellers of ancient coins will often use terms such as common, uncommon, scarce, rare or very rare to describe a coin. Just because someone describes a coin as rare does not mean that it actually is. Unfortunately, some sellers will attach this label to ancient coins to attract novice collectors who do not know better. Does the person explain why the coin is rare? Does he give it an RIC number and explain the variety? If you are new to collecting ancients, you should not jump on a coin just because is it described as rare, especially if you are not familiar with it. Scarce is a more accurate description I find, because less sellers would use it to attract a buyer. Eventually, if you do build up a collection and are aware of many coins from catalogs and eBay, you will be able to tell yourself if a coin is uncommon, scare or even rare. Also, truly rare coins (that are desirable) will not sell for much less than $100, and often for much more. Hence, a coin of Constantine described as rare with an asking price of just a few bucks is very unlikely to be so. There are sellers on eBay who claim that their coin is rare, or they have only seen one in 10 years, but there is another one just like it being offered on eBay by someone else!

So, to summarize. Buy coins that you find interesting and that appeal to you. No two coins of the same type will be exactly the same; choose the one that you think is a better value for your money. Look around to see if a nicer looking coin might be also affordable if that is what you really want, and hence save yourself the trouble of replacing it later or regretting that you bought it in the first place. Do not worry about rarity too much!

If you show any of your ancient coins to a non-collector or a modern coin collector, they will be totally amazed that you have something that old and will think that they are all very rare (or fake!). Keep in mind that many Roman coins are not rare. To give you an idea, quoting Van Meter’s Handbook of Roman Imperial Coins ”...scholars estimate that the mint [of Rome] was striking around 400,000 denarii per month from 85-87 AD, but then production surged to over a million per month the next year, and peaked at 2.5 million per month in 92 AD.” This is far more than many early US coins for example, which are only 150-200 years old. Yes, many were lost to time, but many still remain, and remember, there are fewer collectors of ancients than of modern. Over time, as you get more coins, some of them will be more scarce than others, and you will have a sense of satisfaction owning them, but to another collector who has a different interest, these coins would not be worth the same as they are to you.

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Roman Coin Denominations and their Values

May 9, 2012

Roman Coin Denominations Roman coins were in circulation between the Middle of the Third Century BC until the middle of the third Century AD. The main denominations of Ancient Roman coins during this period include the following. Aureus (gold), the denarius (silver), the sestertius (bronze/brass), the dupondius (bronze/brass), follis (Bronze with silver wash), antoninianus (Silver/Bronze) [...]

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Why Collect Roman Coins

May 9, 2012

Whether you are starting out with coin collecting, you are already a modern coin collector or you just have an interest in ancient history then you will find Ancient Roman coin collecting a fascinating and affordable hobby. Roman coin collecting is a tangible way of studying and getting close to history and many people find [...]

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Coin Sellers BlackList

May 9, 2012

Here is list of coin sellers who have sold fake items obtained with the help of the Yahoo coin forgery group. Please note that some of the following sellers may have un-intentionally re-sold fake items believing them to be genuine. When using this site to search for any items currently being sold on eBay you [...]

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Roman Coins for Sale from Genuine Sellers

May 9, 2012

Unfortunately fake Roman coins are regularly sold online and on Ebay. A high proportion of Coins sold on Ebay are modern fakes. I know what it feels like to recieve a fake Roman coin you paid good money for. Here are some genuine roman coin sellers. Many of which I have purchased from myself. Click [...]

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Buying on Ebay

May 9, 2012

There are a number of good reasons to buy Ancient Roman coins on ebay. 1. Firstly there is a large quantity available so you have a rich diversity of coins to choose from. There are a few thousand roman coins on sale on ebay at any given time, at all price ranges. 2. Secondly the [...]

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Uncleaned Roman Coins

May 9, 2012

If you are just starting out as a Roman coin collector then purchasing uncleaned Roman coins is very affordable. There are many of these being sold on ebay and sellers will often claim that you will sometimes find an expensive rare coin or gold coin in with the batch that they sell you. While this [...]

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Roman Antoninianus Coin

May 9, 2012

This denomination was first introduced in 214 AD by M. Aurelius Antoninus who was also known as Caracalla. When first issued this coin was worth two denarii. The coin started out at about 40% silver and declined over time. By the time of Gallienus, it turned into a bronze coin just a bit larger than [...]

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Roman Follis Coin

May 9, 2012

The follis was first issued in 294 AD by Diocletian and began as a very large bronze coin with a silver wash about the size of a US half dollar. Over the next few decades the coin shrunk to the size of a denarii (about 15mm) and smaller then a dime by the mid 4th [...]

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