View Full Version : Unusual Provincial Medallion

John R. Mixter
Feb 13, 2010, 10:31 AM
I acquired this large and impressive AE medallion (42mm - 40.68 grams) not long ago as I am interested in coinage that has been altered in antiquity. It is heavily worn and the serrated edge removed the inscription. I have contacted several knowledgeable collectors and dealers looking for an opinion as to the identity of the emperor. The opinions have varied between Commodus, Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus.

The mint appears to be Mytilene (Lesbos), but I have been unable to attribute the coin in any of the major references. Addtionally a few lesser known sources have also been consulted but to no avail such as Kraft’s work on Greek Imperial coin production in Asia Minor, and old works on the medallion collections of Paris, Cardinal Albani, and Museo Pisano. Nor in Gessner’s work of the 1740 assembling all published illustrtaions of ancient coins (thanks to Curtis Clay for his help with these more obscure references). Curtis suggested that I post this coin here as someone might be able to assist.

Addtionally, I welcome comments / opinions as to reason for the serrated edge.


Feb 14, 2010, 06:08 AM
Although I can't help on the identification of this medallion I would speculate that the identity of the Emperor is most likely to be Commodus which leads to the reason for the Obvserse serrated edge being a function of his post mortum 'Damnatio Memoriae'. Whereas such an extreme example of name erasure shouldn't apply to either Aurelius or Verus.

Regards - Duncan Rusell aka Jotapian

John R. Mixter
Feb 14, 2010, 08:15 AM
Hello Jotapian,

That is an interesting possibility that I did not consider. The fact that the serrations are limited to the obverse would also lend some credibility to your thoughts.

Although this medallion is not going to win any artistic contest, the size and the crudeness of the alterations are interesting (to me, anyway). The degree of wear and light scratches throughout suggest that this was used for other purposes than a medium of exchange.

To my knowledge, finding a provincial medallion that may be unpublished, assuming of course it is one of the three emperors previously mentioned, seems a bit unusual.


Feb 14, 2010, 10:38 AM
Great find, John!

Who is that seated on the back, sacrificing with the patera? Tyche? The Emperor?

The books you looked in, I am not familiar with any of them! Are these useful books I should acquire?

John R. Mixter
Feb 14, 2010, 11:08 AM
Hi Ed,

Nice to hear from you!

To the best of my knowledge the reverse depicts Tyche. After purchasing the coin, I began checking virtually all of the major references for Commodus, Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, along with a number of secondary sources as well. Having found nothing matching, I then contacted Curtis because of his knowledge and (as always) his willingness to help. He checked his sources, along with these more obscure books. Nothing found.

Of the three emperors listed above, most people have suggested Commodus, although I welcome other opinions. My purchase of this coin was made because of the alteration, a strong interest of mine (as you know). When purchased I originally anticipated being able to attribute the piece myself, but since then it has become more of a quest for me to determine the emperor (and reference), rather than a plausible explanation for the serrated edge.

My quest continues….


Feb 14, 2010, 05:51 PM
Looks like Marcus Aurelius, too me, with the longish beard. But....

Feb 14, 2010, 07:14 PM
The coin has a plugged hole right in the middle. This suggests to me that the coin was once on a spindle or axle of some sort. Perhaps someone took an obsolete coin and turned it into some sort of primitive machine part. That might also account for the extreme wear.

Feb 15, 2010, 04:58 AM
The coin has a plugged hole right in the middle. This suggests to me that the coin was once on a spindle or axle of some sort. Perhaps someone took an obsolete coin and turned it into some sort of primitive machine part. That might also account for the extreme wear.

I think Mac has, so to speak, nailed it...

Phil Davis

Feb 15, 2010, 07:10 AM
Looks a bit like Septimius Severus to me ...............


John R. Mixter
Feb 15, 2010, 08:33 AM
Thanks Mac - good observation!

I observed these holes and assumed, perhaps incorrectly, that these were 'centering holes’ so often seen on provincial issues (including medallions).

In examining the coin, the holes are aligned but they have since filled with whatever. Perhaps the horizontal scratch on the obverse at the location of the hole might be an indicator of some type too. Your explanation of it being used as a machine device is plausible.

Since posting the coin, I have heard from a few people privately who have checked additional references for all three emperors suggested – still nothing published – odd!


Mar 7, 2010, 04:09 AM
I think this coin was hinged in a metal frame and the reverse with the goddess was visible whereas obverse was left behind. I think then it may have been used to decorate something like a wooden chest or something similar. Or it may have simply been an amulet sort of pendant. There are examples of similar coins found hinged in metal frames and I recall one example where several RPC bronzes with reverses visible formed the decoration of a wooden box, though I am afraid I do not recall the publication I saw it in...

Mar 19, 2010, 05:54 AM
Had posted this on FORVM about altered large bronzes:

Professor Toynbee page 120-121 of "Roman Medallions".


"One use of medallions for purposes other than those of ornament and decoration has been revealed in a most striking manner by the recent excavations in the Pan¬filo and Verano Catacombs." On both of these sites excavations in galleries un¬touched since ancient times have brought to light coins (both Roman and Greek imperial) and medallions affixed to the plaster on the walls surrounding the loculi or the terra-cotta slabs which covered their openings. Other pieces were found in the earth on the floor of the galleries, some with wall-plaster still adhering to one side, a proof that they had fallen from their original positions on the walls. In the Panfilo Catacombs the coins, which are of bronze and silver and number fifty-six in all, range from Trajan to Maxentius, the medallions, of which six are in bronze and one in silver, range from Hadrian to Valerian and Gallienus. The proportion of medallions to coins is high, in view of the formers' comparative rarity; and a similar proportion is to be observed in the pieces of the Verano find, where five medallions, three of bronze and two of silver, ranging from Commodus to Numerianus, have been discovered. As Serafini points out, the object of those who fixed these coins and medallions to the Catacomb walls cannot have been to mark the date of the burials, since pieces of Emperors widely separated from one another in time were found clustered round the same loculus. They must have been set there to serve as guides to relatives and friends of the deceased, enabling them to identify the resting place of particular individuals whose remains they had come to visit or venerate. All the medallions found fixed to the walls had their obverse facing the visitor, with the exception of one bronze of Antoninus Pius in the Panfilo Catacombs, the flan of which had been sliced through down the centre, so that both obverse and reverse could be fixed to the wall and exposed to view." The choice of the obverse, rather than of the reverse, type for exhibition may have been due to the fact that a portrait head or bust was easier to distinguish in the dim light than a more complicated reverse design; or else to Christian aversion to the display of pagan scenes and deities. The exceptional display of Pius' Minerva and Prometheus reverse type may possibly be explained by supposing that the piece in question was a specially valued and famous family possession. I t is obvious, indeed, that these medallions were regarded as precious heirlooms, handed down in the family from one generation to another and preserved with the greatest care. In fact, two of the Panfilo bronze medallions, one of Lucius Verus" and the other of Albinus were found in a quite remarkably fine state of preservation, cherished from the date of their issue in 164 to 165 and 193 to 197 respectively to be affixed century later, in something approaching mint condition, to the walls of a Christian tomb. These discoveries are of the first importance, for it is more than likely that the many hundreds of bronze medallions of known or very probable Catacomb provenance, the exact position of which when found no one troubled to record, were fixed in a similar manner to the walls of galleries, revealing this same attitude of respectful care and appreciation on the part of medallion owners and their heirs gifts. An interesting parallel to the Catacomb finds came to light at Dunapentele (Intercisa) on the Danube in 1926, where a bronze medallion of Antoninus Pius in splendid condition was found in a late fourth-century grave."

68 E. g. G II, tavv. 92, no. 3 (Albinus); 139, no. 2 (Constantius GaJlus). Vienna Nr. 21893 has three holes punched through it.
69 C. Serafini. op. cit. Vide supra pp. 59 f

John R. Mixter
Mar 19, 2010, 08:44 AM
Great piece of information from a source I did not check – thank you!