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Identifying Common Fourth Century Roman Bronze Coins

You have ordered some inexpensive ancient Roman coins from a mail order dealer or perhaps a local dealer has a "junkbox" containing some of these. You will probably be able to sort these coins into two groups by size. The first group consist of some coins between the size of a nickel and a quarter, usually a nasty dull grey, brown, black, or mottled color, sometimes with a few small patches of bright silver plating and a head or bust with a radiate (sun) crown. The other general category will probably be smaller, from smaller than a dime to about the size of a penny, though there might be some as large as a quarter. These will have a portrait of an emperor’s head on them, which will look somewhat "feminine" to people of our time and culture. The head will be crowned with a diadem with cords behind that might suggest a headband to the modern person viewing the coins for the first time. The first group described will probably be Third Century radiates (because of the radiate sun crown worn by the emperor) from the reigns of Gallienus, Claudius Gothicus, Aurelian, Probus, Diocletian or possibly one of the scarcer empreors who reigned from AD 260 to 295. These coins are a fascinating series and are dealt with elsewhere at this site. Your coins will probably be quite worn and corroded, but you can see some beautiful examples in the Virtual Coin Dealer Gallery. Since our discussion here concerns the smaller group of Fourth Century Types, you may put aside all coins with portraits that look like they're wearing a radiate crown. Check the links mentioned above for plenty of images to help in identifying these.

You will be left with coins with bare - headed portraits on the obverse. If you are lucky, you might have one or more with a helmeted head on the obverse. Coins with the head or bust facing right are much more common than the left facing portraits. The most important thing at this point is that you have the diademmed head or bust on the obverse and that the coin is a fairly thin bronze one rather than a thick copper or silver one. On all of these except for a rather rare example of Constantine's coinage, there will be writing around the emperor's head though it may be corroded and have funny - looking letters. The next article in this series will provide help with reading these inscriptions surounding the emporer's head.

Turn the coin over and have a quick at the reverse. See if it even vaguely matches one of the types listed in the small table of contents below. As you explore the rest of the articles and picture essays in the Late Roman Bronze series, you will see many examples of these types in conditions ranging from almost mint to well - worn and corroded. Don't make the mistake of sneering at the humble, corroded pieces. They form part of a fascinating series and give a picture of coin production in about twenty late Roman cities. Also, it is possible that you might find some real rarities amongst the dealers' junk boxes. The author had the recent pleasure of finding a worn Wolf and Twins commemorative in a dealer's two dollar box at a Scottish Highland games event. He shared the story of Constantine's new city and the 1100th anniversary of Rome's founding with a kilted gentleman who was there looking at the replica weapons. For the cost of a milk shake, this gent left with a 1600 year old souvenir of an event that literally changed the world. Who knows, perhaps this gent will develop an interest and begin collecting late Roman coins himself. These represent excellent value for the collecting and educational dollars spent on an enjoyable hobby with a multitude of historical and social science connections.

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Please Click One of the Following Links to Choose Another Article in the Late Roman Bronze Series.

Identifying Common Fourth Century Roman Bronze Coins
Reading the Emperor's Name and Titles
A Picture Gallery of Fourth Century Reverse Types
Camp Gate
Altar Inscribed VOTIS XX
Two Soldiers Standing With Two Standards
Two Soldiers Holding One Standard
Wreath With Legend Inside
Soldier Spearing a Fallen Horseman
VRBS ROMA Commemorative - Mother Wolf Suckling Twins Romulus and Remus
CONSTANTINOPOLIS Commemorative - Victory Standing on Prow of Ship
Two Victories Each Holding a Small Wreath
Two Victories Each Holding a Large Wreath on Centenionals of Decentius
Emperor Holding Labarum or Standard and Dragging Captive
Emperor Raising Kneeling Captive
Victory Advancing Left
A Key to Fourth Century Inscriptions
Some Scarcer Late Fourth Century and early Fifth Century Types

All New! More image galleries of late Roman bronze types.

Camp Gate
Altar with Votis, Victories with Wreath
FEL TEMP REPARATIO, Soldier Spearing Fallen Horseman
More FEL TEMP, including Barbarian and Hut tupes
Victory Advancing Left Holding Wreath
Emperor Holding Labarum and Dragging Captive