VLPP - Is The Coin Genuine?
This page contains feedback from researchers, numismatists and experts in the field.
Initial analysis upon my receipt: The coin appears to be a struck bronze with no signs of casting. Overall, the coin appears to be genuine, with correct style and weight as the indicators. There are spots of bright bronze showing in areas of harsh cleaning or possible smoothing in the fields. The field areas around both tips of the hat are of a slightly different color than the rest of the coin, possibly due to tooling or smoothing. Looking at the obverse from a horizontal angle, the cap area does rise higher than the rest of the portrait and all of the devices, which one would expect. Nothing about the hat itself appears to indicate it was tooled from surrounding metal or shallowed from a helmeted type to create a new type. The obverse legends are sloppy with some slightly incomplete letters, making it difficult to determine if the unexpected part of the legend is PERT, PART or BEAT. It could fit any of these. The cuirass on the portrait is very muddy and worn looking, with not much detail remaining. Odd, as contrasted against the sharp lined on the reverse, but it does fit the feel of the obverse and the coin may have been face down in the earth and the reverse protected, so there don't seem to be too many red flags. In the auction photo, there appears to be a delta toward the upper part of the hat. It is an artifact in the photo and does not appear on the coin in hand. In that region, some of the hat detail is a little worn as that is part of the highest point of the obverse. Overall, the piece in hand does appear to be an ancient coin. The experts to review the piece will need to take special note of the hat tips to determine if tooling of a different bust type has been involved to create a unique coin.
Notes from Certificate of Authenticity from David Sear, November 18, 2003:
Grade - VF/Good VF, with dark patina, some tooling on obverse, an extraordinary and totally unrecorded obverse type depicting the emperor wearing a Pannonian cap for the first time in numismatic iconography.
"This remarkable example of a centenionalis from the mint in Siscia (modern Sisak in Yugoslavia) belongs to the period immediately following the reform of billon coinage. The obverse types of this series normally show a military bust depicting the emperor cuirassed and wearing a close-fitting crested helmet. This specimen, however, has an effigy on which he wears both cuirass and paludamentum and on his head a rounded Pannonian cap, an item of regalia previously unknown in numismatic art. Despite its absence from the coinage, the Pannonian cap is well attested on statuary and mosiacs of the tetrarchic period. Good examples are to be found in Venice, in the porphyry group of statuary showing the standing figures of the four tetrarchs embracing at the southwest corner of the Basilica San Marco; and in Sicily, at the famous late imperial villa at Piazza Armerina, where a portrait of Maximian wearing a Pannonian cap appears in the celebrated Great Hunt mosaic in the apsidal corridor preceding the large basilica. According to the 4th century historian Eutropius, a participant in Julian's Persian campaign of AD 363, the Pannonian cap was introduced into the imperial regalia by Diocletian and was originally ornamented with a stone or jewel affixed to the center of the front. Although thus well documented as an item of imperial headgear in the early 4th century, the initial appearance of a Pannonian cap on a coin portrait must be regarded with some skepticism. It is clear that the obverse of this coin has been subjected to some tooling, a feature not commonly seen on late Roman billon and bronze coins. This may have led to an alteration in the legend which is awkwardly divided around the unusual shape of the Pannonian cap and ends with the curious epithet "PERT", presumably an abbreviation for Pertinax with the meaning 'firm' or 'constant'. Such a title is unknown on the Imperial coinage and must raise doubts about the veracity of this obverse. However, after careful examination of this coin, I really do not see sufficient evidence of alteration to lead me to believe that it has been modified from a more conventional type. Therefore, I feel comfortable in accepting it as the first numismatic depiction of the curious Pannonian cap regalia on an imperial portrait. One may hope that other examples will eventually come to light to remove any lingering doubt."
Notes on January 21, 2004, from Robert Kokotailo, dealer and numismatist:
"I look at this coin over and over again, and while I was highly skeptical in the beginning, the coin looks ancient, the patination looks great, and if it were not for the hat, I would automatically assume it was ancient. The style is right for the Siscia Mint at that time. Based on that, I have to give in and go along with others, but the question remains as to why does it exist. I find it difficult to believe it is an official bronze coin. It is just too far removed from the norm in a such a series of conservative bronze. What I am drawn to is the small diameter gold solidii struck at some mints, just before and about that time. See RIC VII, Trier #241, Ticinium 28 to 31 and 101 to 110, and very importantly 25 which is a multiple, but shows that this general reverse types was at least considered for the gold issues. Also note Ticinum 38 and 41 which show unusual bust types were being considered for the gold. There are more examples from other mints (Sirmium is one). The mint of Siscia does not appear to have issued such odd gold coins at this time, but it might be reasonable to assume consideration was given to them when so many other mints issued them, but that Siscia rejected the idea. This raises the possibility your coin is a trial strike, or pattern, for a proposed issue of small diameter aureii that was never issued. The lack of gold trials for it does not bother me, as such gold trials for a rejected design would probably have been melted at the time. I believe this is more likely than a completely unknown issue of bronze coins."
I will try to find illustrated examples of the gold pieces Mr. Kokotailo mentions and add them to the site.
Feedback Against the Genuineness of the Piece
Notes from Jeff Clark on 02/14/04. Mr. Clark has over 200 pieces from this series in his collection.
I first looked at the coin, it seemed to me to be ludicrous, fanciful and
impossible all at once. I looked
again and was not quite so sure. However,
rather than assuming it to be genuine until proven false, I would rather look at
it as false until proven genuine.
I am sure it appears to be struck and has perfect patina.
Does that make it genuine? Does
it even make it old? So, I looked
at the other factors as shown below.
The hat — it does
not look to me at all like those Pannonian hats pictured in the mosaic and the
statue. The height of the hat in comparison to the head and that it
covers the ear, the curvature of the bottom of the design, the slight rim at the
bottom of the hat, the lack of regal adornment and the apparent texture on the
sides of the hat (which may not be there in hand) are all distinctly different
from the other depictions. The
curvature and height difference seem to me to be the biggest problem areas in
this depiction that need explanation. I
can see this hat as being a depiction of the fuzzy fur hat in the modern
pictures, but that would seem to be an odd attribute to show on imperial
there is texture to the hat, rather than the usual smooth depictions of such
flat areas, it would tend to preclude the likelihood that the coin was created
as a precursor to a gold series as they certainly would not have departed that
far from the normal smooth type surfaces (as if the hat itself wasn’t far
enough from normal).
is also the matter of the faint outline of the head within the hat.
It is visible on both sets of pictures, so it is unlikely that it is
“the lighting”. Also, on the
larger picture, lines of hair can be traced directly onto lines on the “rim”
of the hat. I can’t figure out what is going on with those lines whether the
coin is real or fake.
The legend — IMP
CON - STANT - INVS PERT AVG. From
the large picture I would have to agree with PERT rather than PERP.
But, why are the downward terminations of the T so long?
At any rate, we have two unusual if not unknown occurrences in the
legend. A double break and PERT.
I can’t see any good reason for either of them.
In fact it is only because the head is larger than usual that the break
is needed at all. Also, the P in IMP looks far more like a C than a P.
I in INVS is very short or crowded as are the STANT letters as well. They are also flattened at the bottom of each letter as is
the side of the N in CON. This ties
in with something very odd. There
is a straight line that emanates from the top right corner of the hat, where the
Delta must be that people see, and goes across to an odd bleb on the left edge
of the coin. This line exactly
matches the areas of the flattened letters in STANT.
The line then turns down and a straight line from the bleb down goes
right across the edge of the N in CON that is flattened.
On the right side, again starting at the Delta feature, there is a
straight line that is not as easy to tell exactly where it goes, because there
are what look like cleaning marks there. At
any rate, it either would go down the front edge of the hat, slightly away from
it, or it would again cross the smushed letters in INVS.
And now this is where it gets weird.
The only thing I can think of that would cause such an odd set of lines
and flattenings would be perhaps that the coin was created in a soft mold, the
lettering added where they thought the hat would end and then the hat was added
by something resembling a leather punch with straight outside edges and the hat
design extending out of the punch. This
might leave the slight impressions of the head in the hat and the outside edges
of the punch would smush the letters and leave the straight lines around the
head. But that explanation seems
almost as odd as the coin itself.
any rate, while looking for other Volusian coins like one I may want to buy, I
found another similar flattening of letters.
This time it was in a circular pattern however.
So flattenings like this can indeed occur....but why in straight lines
around a polygon with definite corner features showing on the coin?
Style — I noticed Robert
Kokotailo thought that the style of the piece looked like Siscian coins.
I hope he was referring to the reverse!
At any rate, what style was he referring to?
Siscia has some of the widest ranges of styles that I have seen.
It is also the center of what seems to be the largest amount of copying
of ancient designs that I have seen in recent years of this exact reverse type.
I have more than 50 of them that go from nearly blobs to normal looking but
slightly odd. Look at almost any
barbarous coin these days and 3 out of 5 or more will be two Victories holding a
shield over an altar. So, there is
always the possibility that this coin is an ancient fake.
But then why would they add the extra hat and PERT which would easily be
recognizable at the time?
cuirass is also a bit odd. When I
first looked at the coin, I didn't look closely and assumed that it showed an
oddly draped bust. Then, I read Mr.
Sear's opinion that it was a cuirassed bust and I had to look again. It is indeed cuirassed, but the odd strap that circles from
front to back on the right shoulder is not a depiction that is used very often.
I have seen it described as a leather strap holding the two sides of the
cuirass together. It may even be
drapery. But, whatever it is, it is
not typical to show it in the rounded view as on this coin.
I have seen it done in other mints and it is more common on the gold
coins. Typically, on Siscia coins,
this strap is just straight up the shoulder and I have not seen one in this
series executed in the rounded manner for Constantine. I do have similar looking
coins on B4 busts from Licinius II, RIC 70 and 105, and from Constantine II,
coins from RIC 80-99. But this
Constantine bust almost reminds me more of the shield on an H12 bust.
bust size is huge and it causes the letters to be crowded and in some cases
shortened like the I. For this
series, RIC states that "the first issues of this reverse type have small
portraits in high relief on small flans, whereas the series with curtailed
reverse legends have lower relief, broader flans, and larger portraits" (pg
416). Other than the huge portrait,
this coins seems to follow that rule.
what is that wart on the nose directly in front of the eye?
While we are at that, what is the mustache looking thing under the nose?
This anomaly does seem to show up on some other coins I worry about
including your other Siscia coin of this type which we will get to later.
4. The Reverse --- Nice style, good execution, seems right. All except for those wreath ties. Again, I have nearly 200 of these from the 5 rulers, have seen many more, and only 3 show wreath ties. 2 of yours and 1 of mine. All have GSIS mintmarks and even type Y altars. Coincidence? To tell you the truth, even that many type Y altar coins all at once seems odd let alone GSIS ones.(there are even a couple more on eBay right now without wreath ties) I suspect all of them as fakes and that the wreath ties are, in my mind, a diagnostic of the modern maker of these coins who did not know they weren't supposed to be there or added them to make sure he didn't buy any back. My coin just looks ugly and wrong. I worried about it being fake before these other 2 coins came up. Your first coin is obvious to me and the one you just bought from MedCoins looks a little odd in your picture. Other than the wreath ties, on this coin, there is the jagged rendition of the cuirass. This is another anomaly that only occurs once in my coins on a coin of RIC 53 which is obviously slightly barbaric...and may not be real either. Even this coin does not show quite the distinct lines outlining the jagged edges of your cuirass. And all three coins were bought recently. I don't know...seems odd to me.
summary, any one of these little oddities can be overlooked.
However, when I look at the total picture, including all of the issues on
other coins, I can't escape the likelihood that this coin can not be real.
I could be persuaded that it is an ancient imitation, but even that is
dubious to me. I can not in good faith go by the fact that others think it
is well struck and has genuine patina. Those qualities can and have been faked.
Show me why it is real rather than why it is fake.
that about sums up my position --- not having seen the coin in hand.
(photo to be included)
final thing. Compare this coin that
I gave to Keith (ARLES on Forum discussion groups) with yours that I found on
the camp gate site."
I will research each of these points to see what I can find and will add my comments in white. Jeff sent the photos to be included with his feedback, but I need to find them.
* * * * *
Update - November 25, 2004:
Some further research on the obverse legend turned up something very interesting. There is an obverse legend for Decentius and Constantius Gallus which includes the abbreviation FORT. Observing a fantastic, mint-state example offered in the Tkalec AG, Auction 2003, one can see the FORT in the obverse legend looks very similar to the letters in question on the Constantine coin:
Decentius, AE Double-Majorina, 28mm, 353, Trier, Officina 1. D N DECENTI_VS FORT CAES Bare head, draped, cuirassed bust right. SALVS D D N N AVG ET CAES Christogram. A | W across fields, TRP in exergue. 10.18g. RIC VIII, 319.
Comparing the legends, I'm fairly convinced the Constantine coin also reads FORT. That would at least give the legend some contemporary equal.
(Rotated 90 degrees) (oriented as struck)
Also, I do have another Constantine coin in my collection with a double-break in Constantine's name in the obverse legend, so that is also a known phenomenon (albeit, still extremely unusual):
Constantine I, AE3, 318-319, Rome, Officina 1. CON_STANTI_NVS AVG Helmeted, cuirassed bust left, spear pointing forward and shield in front. VIRTV_S AVGG Campgate with five rows, three turrets, closed six-paneled doors, top and bottom rows empty blocks. P | R across fields, RP in exergue. RIC VII, 178 (R5).
I've sent a note to David Sear to see what his opinion may be with respect to the FORT legend hypothesis. His response to be added when available.
Also, to address another one of Jeff Clark's points in his notes - #4, the wreath ties on the reverse. Although Jeff and I both now have other examples of this type with wreath ties in our collections, the phenomenon is common on gold issues. I have not yet found an example of a solidus with the wreath ties from an issue of the same time period when the Constantine coin is thought to have been struck.
Constans, AV Solidus, 347-348, Trier. CONSTANS-AVGVSTVS Pearl-diademed, draped, cuirassed bust right. VICTORIAE D D N N AVGG Two Victories standing facing each other, holding wreath inscribed VOT | X | MVLT | XX. TR in exergue. RIC VIII, 129. Sold in the CNG coin shop for $ 1,250.
Perhaps I am making a false assumption on the issue date of the Constantine coin and it was a proposed commemorative issue, incorporating some designs used at the time during the proposal? That may explain the use of the wreath ties and FORT in the legend, if the coin was made around the year 350 as a trial strike for a gold restitution solidus for Constantine. Yet another avenue to research....
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Some notes, comparing bust types - added February 22, 2006. The most common feedback I receive with respect to the shape of the hat is the coin is probably modified from a regular issue, must like "Hobo Nickels" from the Buffalo Five Cent series of 1916-1938 of the United States.
this was modified from a regular VLPP Constantine issue, the bust types used for
the GSIS exergual mark and long legend are:
B3 - Laureate, draped, cuirassed, seen from behind The
issues known to me for Constantine I with right facing bust type for the correct
exergual mark series and long legend are:
B3 - Laureate, draped, cuirassed, seen from behind
issues known to me for Constantine I with right facing bust type for the correct
exergual mark series and long legend are:
As of February 22, 2006, I have yet to be able to locate an example
of a right facing example with a high-crested helmet from which the hat coin
could have been modified. Thus, it is unlikely that anything other than a
regular laureate, helmeted, cuirassed D6 bust type example would be a candidate
to explore with respect to modifications. If so, it would require the use of an
example of the type with unlisted legend break to provide the required proper
spacing of the legend, removal of
the laurel wreath, ties and helmet crest, adding the hat and modifying the
cuirass to add the paludamentum.