Roman Imperial Coins
The coins listed on the sub-pages will be attributed to the number in each of the ten volumes of the series "Roman Imperial Coins", published by Spink & Son LTD, London.
Ancient coinage during the Imperial period of the Roman Empire can be very confusing, as there are some general rules, but there are always pieces that turn up to be exceptions. Here is a basic chart, showing denominations as they progressed from the beginning of the Imperial period up to the beginning of the Byzantine period. AV = Gold, AR = Silver, AE = Copper, Bronze or Orichalcum (Brass)
These are the denominations issued by Imperial mints. There were, however, literally hundreds of Provincial mints operating at the same time all throughout the Empire. The Provincial mints created coinage that was mainly used in their area and often have Greek legends. They are extremely varied and interesting since the mints were able to use pretty much whatever reverse designs they wanted. Below are some other unusual coins which can be encountered, but don't fit the usual designations on the chart...
AE Denarius - Unofficial? (Bronze, 19mm)
These enigmatic little pieces belong to a group of coins referred to as limes denarii, limes falsa or AE denarii. There are numerous theories as to their purpose. Some believe they were minted in the outskirts of the Roman Empire to circulate there. Some contend they are non-Roman imitative (barbarous) types. One theory I have is they were made for the soldiers defending the outer regions of the empire, paid to them in lieu of silver, in the event the territory was lost. This would not have not enriched an enemy victor of a lost region with silver or gold. With my theory, these AE pieces could, if a soldier returned to a main part of the empire in retirement or if an area was forfeited, could in turn be redeemed for equivalent AR denarii, just as US soldiers used scrip during foreign wars. We will probably never know their purpose, but they can be found in excellent condition and are very collectable.
Note on Antoniniani:
The antoninianus began as part of a monetary reform of Caracalla in 215. Designed to be tariffed at two denarii, it was of good silver, but physically weighed less than two silver denarii. This was one factor in the rise of inflation and the decline of the economy in general. As the decades continued, the antoninianus declined from good silver all the way down to a low point of 1 part silver to 20 parts bronze. This debasement was noted in the exergue of the later issues as XXI. Another popular theory for the exergual mark XXI is the coin was tariffed at a rate of 20:1. The monetary reform of Diocletian around 294 brought about the demise of this physically attractive denomination and replaced it with an even larger module, called a follis by modern numismatists. Actually, the name "antoninianus" is of modern origin as well, since we really do not know what the ancient Romans called them.