VLPP - Coins in the Series

Numismatic Research

    This piece is puzzling and challenging at the same time.  At this point, all I know is the item exists.

    First, the portrait does not have a documented equal, from what I've seen to date.  Although I've only been collecting and studying ancient coins since 1999, my main focus has been Late Roman Bronze and I've not seen anything remotely similar.  This is puzzling, as Roman coins in general have extensive documentation.  How is it a bust type is missing from all commonly used references?  This alone makes one suspicious, but with the emergence of material on the market the past decade, it is possible new coins, or even issuers, may surface.  The documented bust type for Constantine I for this reverse type and full legend for all exergual marks at Siscia are:

    D6 - Laureate, helmeted, cuirassed
    H11 left - High-crested helmet, cuirassed, spear across right shoulder
    H12 left - High-crested helmet, cuirassed, spear across right shoulder, shield on left arm

    Next, the obverse legend is also previously unknown.  The auction lists it as IMP CONSTANTINVS PART AVG.  Is PART indicative of Parthicus?  Is the headgear and PART in the legend supposed to suggest to the viewer this is a commemorative piece of some victory or some other historic event?  Perhaps more will become clear during the task of historical research of what was happening around Siscia during Constantine's reign.  The documented legends for Constantine I for this type are:

    (A)    CONSTANT_INVS AVG
    (B)    IMP CONSTANTINVS AVG or T_A, or A_N, or N_T, or T_I (*)
    (C)    IMP CONSTANTINVS MAX AVG (*)
    (D)    IMP CONSTANTINVS P F AVG (*)

    (*)  These are the legends attested for the exergue on this coin.

    Finally, the use of abbreviated titles, such as GER(manicus), DAC(icus), etc., was very common on coins before the Constantinian Era.  To find, what is assumed to be a title for now, such an abbreviation on a bronze coin presents the challenge to find other examples for comparison.

    All of the documented entries in RIC VII, for this reverse type and legend, at Siscia, under Constantine I (Please reference the individual mint pages to see the series in its entirety):

RIC # Year Exergue Ob. Legend Bust Type Officinae
47 318 ASIS * D D6 A B G D E
48 318 ASIS * B D6 G
49 318 ASIS * B H11 left  A              
50 318 ASIS * B H12 left A B G D E
51 318 ASIS * A H12 left A              
52 318-319 ASIS C D6 G
53 318-319 ASIS D D6 A B G D E
54 318-319 ASIS B D6 A B G D E
55 318-319 ASIS B H11 left     B G     E
56 318-319 ASIS B H12 left     B G     E
59 319 ASIS . D D6 A B G D E
60 319 ASIS . B D6 G
61 319 ASIS . B H12 left A B G D E
73 319 ASIS . D D6 A B G D    
74 319 ASIS . B H12 left A B G D E

    Notes on January 16, 2004, from Doug Smith, numismatist:

    "I read the obverse legend as PERP, not PERT.  PERP is also used on the reverse and would seem a form of Perpetuus.  This usually seems to mean 'for all time' but sometimes seems to be used as 'universal'.  I would suggest that the term might imply 'sole' in the sense that Constantine might be ruling alone (without Licinius).  Note that that particular issue exists for Constantine and his two sons as Caesars but not for Licinius until the next year when a dot follows the mintmark.  To me, this is indicative of an issue while Constantine I and Licinius I were out of sorts with each other (they fell in and out of alliances rather frequently, it seems).  One might even venture a guess that the reason the type is rare is that it became politically incorrect, when a truce was called, making Licinius recognized and Constantine no longer PERP.  PERT was used by Septimius Severus as a reminder that he was following in the footsteps of Pertinax.  The word Pertinax means 'stubborn' or, in a nicer way, 'persistent' and was never used, to my knowledge, in those senses.  I take Septimius' use as honoring the name of the man rather than a claim of that attribute."

    Mr. Smith makes a good point here, so we must review the whole the series for all issuers, still only for Siscia and with the long reverse legend (the short reverse legend is VICT . LAETAE PRINC PERP, beginning in 319, with . ASIS . in the exergue):

318 - Constantine I
318-319 - Constantine I, Constantine II and Crispus
319 - Constantine I, Licinius I, Crispus, Licinius II, Constantine II

    This begs the question of why and how the series was introduced.  If the coin in review had an exergue GSIS* it would have fit quite nicely into the introduction of the piece to the public.  Please reference the 'Hypotheses and Theories' section below for research looking to explain the purpose of this coin.

During the period of 315-320, seven mints produced coins in this series (click on the photo to go to that page to see all of the coins in our collection):

Arles

London

Lugdunum

Rome

Siscia

Ticinum

Trier

Imitative Mints (pieces frequently described as "barbarous")

The following are coins not in my collection.  I found these on-line and obtained permission from the dealers to use the photos and their descriptions.  These coins are not listed in RIC:

CONSTANTINE I. 307-337 AD. AV Solidus (4.39 gm). Rome mint. Struck 315 AD.  CONSTAN-TINVS AVG, laureate, helmeted, and cuirassed bust right / VICTORIAE LAETAE PRINC PERP, two Victories standing face to face, holding shield, inscribed VOT/X in two lines, on column; PR. Cf. RIC VII pg. 281; Depeyrot 18/2; Alföldi 646. Superb EF, very slight wave in flan at edge. Very rare. (See color enlargement on plate 17.) ($7500)  Ex Tkalec (19 February 2001), lot 375.

RIC VII, written before volume VI, assumed the dating of this issue was 311-312 AD, thus the authors expected it to fall into the other volume. However, the authors of volume VI dated the issue to 315 AD, so it should be in RIC VII (cf. RIC VI pg. 688). As a result, neither volume lists this coin.

Ex Classical Numismatic Group, Inc. - Sold for $ 7500 in Triton VI, Lot 1086, January 13, 2003.

Additional notes from CNG - "Over the course of the first two and a half centuries of the Roman Empire, the weight and fineness of the aureus remained relatively stable, with only slight reductions in weight under Nero and again under Caracalla.  However, by the second half of the third century AD, the weights fluctuated considerably.  Constantine remedied this situation in 309 by the introduction of the solidus ("steadfast coin") as a new denomination.  It was struck at 72 to the pound, and by 324 had all but replaced the aureus as the standard gold coin.  Solidus issues dating from before 320 remain extremely rare."

Note - Tracking sales of this coin (excludes any buyer fees, etc.):

02-19-2001: Tkalec - Auction 2001, Lot 375 - $ estimate and results unknown
01-13-2003: CNG - Triton Auction VI, Lot 1086 - Superb EF, notes flan defect - $ 7,500 estimate - $ 7,500 realized
03-10-2003: Gorny & Mosch - Auction 121, Lot 552 - EF - $ 7,800 (6,800 euro) estimate - Unsold
06-02-2004: Ira & Larry Goldberg - Pre-Long Beach Auction #25, Lot 3351 - Choice EF - $ 8,000-9,000 estimate - result unknown
09-22-2004: CNG - Mail Bid Sale 67, Lot 1771 - Good VF - $ 7,500 estimate - Unsold
01-10-2007: Gemini III, Lot 459 - Mint State - $ 12,000 estimate - $ 18,000 realized

CONSTANTINE I. 307-337 AD. AE Follis (19mm, 2.78 gm). Siscia mint. Struck circa 318-319 AD. IMP CONSTANTINVS P F AVG, laureate, helmeted, and cuirassed bust right / VICTORIAE LAETAE PRINC PERP, Two Victories standing facing each other, holding a shield inscribed VOT P R on altar; SIS. Cf. RIC VII 53 (for type).  Good VF, light olive patina, worn at high points.

The unbroken obverse and full reverse legends argue for an early, rather than late minting. The altar design is consistent with the type; the lack of officina letter is an error on the part of the die cutter, as sufficient space is available for one

Ex Classical Numismatic Group, Inc. - Sold from their website.

CONSTANTINE I. 307-337 AD. Ć Follis (3.08 gm). Londinium (London) mint. Struck 320 AD. IMP CONSTAN-TINVS P AVG, radiate, draped, and cuirassed bust left, raising hand and holding globe / Two Victories standing facing one another, holding shield, inscribed VOT/PR in two lines, over an altar decorated with wreath; PLN. RIC VII -; Hunter -. EF, glossy dark brown patina. This reverse type unpublished with this obverse legend.

Ex Classical Numismatic Group, Inc. - Sold for $ 1100 in CNG Sale 66, Lot 1625, May 19, 2004.

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Here are links to other websites displaying collections of the VLPP series:

Victor Clark (Constantine I specialist)