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Artifact Place wrote:

If you have the time would you click on the following two links and tell me what this coin is? I acquired it in a estate sale!



Dear Artifact Place,

What you have is a classic Roman Republican Denarius. It is catalogued as a Sulpicia I by Seaby in his first volume of Roman Silver Coins. It was struck in about 106 B. C., about the time of Marius and the big Jugurtha brouhaha in Numidia in North Africa. The Roman Republic was a very powerful, arrogant, and thoroughly imperialistic government with its hands in all kinds of nasty business all over the known Western world (Not yet Britain or the major part of Transalpine yet, though).

The two heads are those of the Dei Penates (traditional Roman household gods of the larder and hearth as opposed to the Lares, which were the household gods of settlement and agriculture. Anyway, Seaby states that the penates are associated with the ancient Latin town of Lavinium, which was the place of origin of the Gens Sulpicia. The Sulpici were the family or gens of one or more of the moneyers for that year. These were referred to the TRES VIRI AAAFF, the "Threee men in charge of the striking and casting of Gold, Silver, and Copper". I don't know off hand who the other of the two TRES VIRI were. This coin is struck in the name of only one, that being C. SVLPICIVS C. GALBA, which I believe is an abbreviation of Cornelius Sulpicius Cornelii son of Galba. Note that the L and P in the inscription are combined in one letter. This is referred to a ligature or ligate form of inscription. This lettering practice sometimes makes it hard for us moderns to read inscriptions on these Republican coins. At any rate, Lavinium was traditionally the town to which Aeneas brought the Penates from the burning ruins of Troy.

The reverse features two Roman soldiers swearing an oath over a pig -- a military ceremony steeped in rich tradition. According to some historians, the swearing of an oath over a pig was the strongest kind of promise or oath one soldier could make to another. I would need to research this when I can find the time.

The coin appears to be in Fine condition. The value in VF or VF+ is listed at $50.00. Placing a value on this coin is rather problematic in that in the lower grades, they are really inexpensive ($15.00 - $35.00) but in the upper grades of VF+ to GVF and XF a coin like this might retail for $125.00 to $200.00, depending on the dealer and how badly the collector wants it.

I believe that a reputable, knowledgeable dealer would probably give you about $18.00 to $25.00 for the coin. If it were me, I'd keep such a piece with its rich historical connections.

Don't just take my word as a final authority on this piece. Take the image of this coin and a copy of my response to a reputable dealer. Find out what s/he has to say about it. It can never hurt to have a diversity of opinion on an ancient coin.


Jay King

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