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bpmurphy Mar 27, 2007 10:14 AM

Domitian Denarius from Aureus dies
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Several montha ago I went through a small group of Domitian denrii and picked this coin out because the dies looked unusually fine for a denarius. I suspected it might be aureus dies but wasn't sure. Yesterday I finally got around to working it up and sure enough, both dies were used to strike aurei in this issue.

DOMITIAN. AD 81-96. AR Denarius (3.47 g). Rome mint. Struck 86 AD. Laureate head right / Minerva standing right on prow, brandishing javelin and holding shield, owl before. RIC II 74; BMCRE 89 note, pl. 62, 7 (same dies on an aureus); RSC 196.

I've had a few Domitian denarii with aureus obverse dies, this is the first I've encountered where both dies match.

Barry Murphy

bpmurphy Mar 27, 2007 10:17 AM

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Just the reverse.....

ancientcoins Mar 28, 2007 03:50 PM

That is a beautiful coin; you're right about the fine quality of the dies!!!!


djmacdo Mar 29, 2007 07:33 PM

That is a gem! You have a fine eye.

bpmurphy Mar 29, 2007 09:03 PM

Thanks David.

I always am looking for fine style Domitians. I've had 4 Domitian denarii struck from aureus obverse dies. I've had none from any other emperors (that I know about anyway). I wonder if Domitian's use of Aureus dies to strike denarii was unusual or business as usual? Maybe Curtis has kept some records on die sharing between aurei and denarii.


curtislclay Mar 30, 2007 02:05 AM


That is indeed a question that has interested me for decades, but I don't have the time to consult the many notes I have made about it, plus every die study that has been carried out of Roman gold and silver coins that share the same types, in order to present firm conclusions with documented examples.

Basically, at the beginning of the Empire it was normal to strike aurei and denarii from the same dies, but by the time of Marcus and Commodus the dies for the two denominations were always different, aureus dies having become broader and often in finer style than denarius dies. From at least Marcus on you won't find any die links between aurei and denarii, though the rare gold and silver quinarii of this era continued to be struck from the same dies.

The divergence of aureus dies from denarius dies was a gradual process, however. I think it was normal to use the same dies for both denominations under the Julio-Claudians, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and until early in the reign of Domitian, when your denarius was struck. Domitian's latter aurei, Germania seated and Emperor in Quadriga types, have their own legends, types, and, obviously, dies, which were not shared with denarii. Die sharing between the two denominations returned, however, under Nerva, early Trajan, and early Hadrian. Later in Hadrian's reign the types and dies again diverged, and the same may be true of the later years of Trajan's reign too. I can't think of examples of die sharing under Antoninus Pius or early Marcus Aurelius, but maybe there are some cases that I am just overlooking. By later in Marcus' reign, in any case, the separation had taken place for good, and I don't think you will find die sharing between aurei and denarii from then until the demise of the production of denarii for normal circulation under Gordian III.

So my impression is that it was still normal when your denarius was struck to share dies between aurei and denarii. Ian Carradice has done lots of die studies of gold and silver under Domitian, so the answer to this particular question will probably be given in his and Buttrey's forthcoming new Flavian RIC, if it is not already contained in Carradice's BAR monograph on the coinage of Domitian.

Two particular examples: the denarius of Domitia, struck 82-3 AD, in Berk Buy or Bid 154, about to go on line, lot 305, is from the same dies as the Paris aureus of the same type, Paris 70, pl. XCII. BMC III, pl. 46.1-2, an aureus and denarius of Hadrian's first issue, share the same rev. die.

Vespasian70 Apr 17, 2007 09:02 AM

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I've always thought the obverse on this Vespasian denarius of mine was used to strike auerii too.

In hand it has a much finer quality than the other denarii I have from the same time period. If anyone knows of an auerii or denarii die match of this obverse I would be most interested to hear about it.

4to2centophilia Apr 17, 2007 12:00 PM


Originally Posted by Vespasian70 (Post 7553)
I've always thought the obverse on this Vespasian denarius of mine was used to strike auerii too.

In hand it has a much finer quality than the other denarii I have from the same time period. If anyone knows of an auerii or denarii die match of this obverse I would be most interested to hear about it.

That is a wonderful piece.

GMoneti Apr 17, 2007 02:27 PM

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I am curious to know how diffucult it is to figure out if a denarius was struck from an aureus die without having a die match. From the two examples above I can see how crisp and detailed they are, however there are plenty of other denarii that seem just as fine (portrait below). Is that because, as Curtis mentioned, the same dies often were used to strike both denominations in the early Empire, and there were simply too many denarii struck from aureii dies at that time? And why would the aureii be struck with higher quality dies - just because they were more precious?

curtislclay Apr 17, 2007 03:07 PM


In the early empire, there was no difference between aureus dies and denarius dies: the same "precious metal" dies were used indiscriminately for both denominations.

I think that was still the case under Vespasian. Vespasian used different types for aurei and for denarii in some issues, but the style was still the same and the same obverse dies could still be used for both denominations.

Or was this perhaps the beginning of the separation of dies for the two denominations, the aureus dies being broader and finer and meant only for aurei? I am not aware of die studies of Vespasian's gold and silver, but perhaps they have been done.

In the ANNONA AVG issue of the end of the reign, to which David's denarius belongs, it would appear that dies were still shared indiscriminately between aurei and denarii. The British Museum, in any case, possesses an aureus and a denarius of this type struck from the same die pair, BMC pl. 8.20 and pl. 9.1.

GMoneti Apr 17, 2007 05:03 PM

Thank you for the explanation Curtis.

Do you think that after M. Aurelius the aureus dies became broader in order to compensate for the decreased weight, at least visually?

Vespasian70 Apr 17, 2007 08:03 PM

Even though aurei and denarii did commonly share dies in Flavian times, I wonder if the 'finer' dies were used more often than not for the aurei?

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