Romano-British imitations of Bronze Coins of Claudius I

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Sutherland, C. H. V. (Carol Humphrey Vivian), 1908-
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Numismatic Notes and Monographs
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American Numismatic Society
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New York
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Worldcat Works
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Open access edition funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Humanities Open Book Program.

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ROMANO-BRITISH IMITATIONS OF BRONZE COINS OF CLAUDIUS I1

By C. H. V. Sutherland

For nearly a century the existence in England of considerable numbers of "barbarous" bronze coins, imitated from types of Claudius I, has been recognized.2 But beyond the recording of stray specimens here and there, little has been done in the way of a general survey of these imitations, and it was left to Cohen3 to voice the first theory regarding their provenance. His view that they are of British manufacture is at variance with other opinions that have been expressed more recently: and the object of this paper is to reopen the question and examine it in the light of more comprehensive evidence than appears to have been available before.

When Augustus attained supreme power after Actium, he found, as one of the most urgent and prevalent problems that faced him, that of the reform of the coinage. Fifty years of constitutional strife had seen the issue of gold and silver coins become part of the prerogative of rival "imperatores," exercised anywhere at their discretion: the bronze token coinage, issued by the Senate, had ceased altogether about 82 B. C. The plan ultimately elaborated by Augustus made Lugdunum the chief source of gold for the Empire and of silver for the West: the Italian peninsula received its supplies of bronze money from the re-established Senatorial mint, while Gaul, Spain and Africa were independently supplied, the first by the Gallic "Altar" series, and the two latter by local town issues. The East supplied itself abundantly with both silver and bronze.

So far, therefore, as token money was concerned, the western part of the Empire may be regarded as having been adequately supplied during Augustus' reign. It was probably under Tiberius that a shortage of bronze was first felt. His disinclination to continue the "Altar" series in Gaul is balanced by a diminution in the issues of Spain and Africa, and both facts reflect the measure of his antipathy to the forces of nationalism: the revolt of Sacrovir and the war with Tacfarinas4 doubtless increased his native caution. Under Caligula Rome became the sole mint in the West for gold, silver and bronze: and even if certain issues were, in this reign as in the last, intended for purely provincial circulation, the fact remains that the western provinces were now without a single mint designed for the supply of bronze.

Shortage of official small change generally leads to local and unofficial issues, and it is indisputable that during this period a flood of unorthodox coinage makes its appearance on the continent in the West. Even under Augustus, a certain number of imitations appear to have been made: but it was in the two succeeding reigns that they first became really numerous, the ROM ET AVG and PROVIDENT Altar types, together with the Agrippa type,5 being especially common in Gaul, while local issues were manufactured in Spain. The extent of the unofficial coinage in Gaul can be well judged by the results of Ritterling's excavations at the Claudian camp at Hofheim:6 large numbers of Gallic imitations appear to have entered Germany with the Roman forces. Examples of pre-Claudian types found in Britain are, similarly, the results of the Claudian invasion: no question arises as to their being of any other than continental manufacture. They occur comparatively seldom,—a fact later to be borne in mind when the Claudian copies made in Britain are compared with those of the continent. An example of unusual interest is the as of Carthago Nova (Vives, La Moneda Hispanica, IV, 37. 37) found at Rochester,7 of stiff style and clumsy workmanship. The other examples are mainly of the Altar type, as at Wroxeter,8 or the more frequent Agrippa type, specimens of which occur at Roustage in the Wychwood Forest (Oxon.),9 Otford (Kent),—a brockage,10 and Lincoln,—a mule with the Claudian Minerva-type reverse.11

The accession of Claudius, although it was followed in Rome by some years' heavy output of bronze coinage, was unattended by any change of policy in regard to provincial mints. The frequency on the continent of imitated unofficial issues now reaches its peak point: so great is the flood of Claudian imitations that it seems as if this unorthodox currency must have been tolerated, if not encouraged, by the central government. The figures from Hofheim show that, of the coins of Claudius' reign, about one fifth are imitations. It is indeed just conceivable that this large proportion was connived at by the authorities. But it is more likely that it reflects their willingness to allow communities to augment by local issues the admittedly scanty supply of bronze from the central mint of Rome: provided that the authentic type was recognizably copied, the government can have had few grounds for objection.

It now remains to be seen whether the same hypothesis can be applied to Britain. Sir George Hill, in his important and authoritative paper on the Southants Hoard,12 is disposed to assign a Gallic origin to the Claudian copies found in this country, on the following grounds:—

  • The infrequency with which they occur.
  • The contiguity with Gaul of the regions in which they occur.
  • The sufficiency of the native coinage (as indicated by its presence in this and other hoards), suggesting that it was not suppressed, called in, or otherwise discouraged.

An examination of the evidence available in provincial museums and recorded in numismatic literature makes it possible to deny the validity of each of his first two premises. Hill quotes a few stray examples of Claudian copies from Southampton, Santon Downham, Croydon, and Dorset. The following list, which claims to be no more than generally representative, gives a fair indication of the parts of Britain where these coins occur, and of the proportion that they bear to the official Roman coinage.13

KENT

Richborough Some 50% of the numerous Claudian coins are copies. (Reports: I p. 114, II p. 122.)
Maidstone About twenty copies represent some 50% of the total number of Claudian coins. (Museum.)
Rochester Claudian coins are not frequent, but copies are well represented among them. (Museum.)

MIDDLESEX

London Of the large number of Roman coins found in the bed of the Thames, copies of Claudian coins are extremely numerous. (Num. Chron. 1841 p. 147; Cat. Museum of London Antiquities, p. 92, no. 454.)

BERKSHIRE

Newbury Claudian copies are found among the by no means common coins of this reign. (Museum.)

HAMPSHIRE

Silchester Claudian coins from the site are extremely numerous, and the majority of them are copies. (Reading Museum.)
Winchester Numerous copies constitute a good proportion of the Claudian coins. (Museum.)

WILTSHIRE

Salisbury Copies are represented among the few orthodox coins of Claudian epoch. (Museum.)
Latton A considerable proportion of Claudian coins deposited here consists of copies. (Num. Chron. 1864 p. 216.)

DORSET

Dorchester Copies account for some 20%–30% of the fair number of Claudian coins. (Museum.)

HERTFORDSHIRE

St. Albans Claudian coins are infrequent, but include several examples of copies. (Museum.)

BUCKINGHAMSHIRE

Hambleden Of the six Claudian coins yielded by this site, five were copies. (Archaeologia, Vol. 71 (1920-1) p. 189; Wroxeter Rept. (1914) pp. 70 ff.)

OXFORDSHIRE

Woodeaton This site has supplied few coins of Claudius, but there is at least one copy. (Ashm. Museum.)

GLOUCESTERSHIRE

Gloucester Claudian coins of local provenance are very common, and over 50% are copies. (Museum.)
Cirencester More than half the numerous coins of Claudius are copies, as at Gloucester. (Museums.)14

NORFOLK

Caistor St. Edmund The two Claudian coins so far yielded by this site are both copies. (Norwich Museum.)

LINCOLNSHIRE

Lincoln At least 50% of the very numerous Claudian coins are copies. (Museum) (cf. Mattingly in Num. Chron. 1931 pp. 313–5.)

YORKSHIRE

York Of the surprising number of Claudian coins of local provenance, a third are copies. (Yorkshire Museum.)

SHROPSHIRE

Wroxeter Originally the site produced eight Claudian coins,—few, if any, orthodox (Report, 1914). Subsequent excavations in the Forum have, according to information kindly supplied by Prof. Atkinson, yielded more Claudian coins, of which twenty are of the Minerva-type as, including at least six copies.

There are frequent examples from other localities also, as from the neighborhood of Colchester,15 at Keynsham, in Somerset (J. R. S. 1929 p. 203), Sandy in Bedfordshire (Num. Chron. 1889 p. 333), Asthall, Ewelme, and Dorchester in Oxfordshire (Ashmolean Museum), Bolitree in Herefordshire (Gloucester Museum), Bury St. Edmunds (Museum), Stoke-on-Trent (two examples: for one Cf. J. R. S. 1930, p. 225: a cast of the second is in the Ashm. Mus.) and Chester (Museum).

Further specimens, of mainly chronological importance, occur in the following hoards or groups:

Croydon (Surrey) Hoard One copy in 2nd. Century hoard. (Num. Chron. 1907 pp. 353 ff.)
Southants Hoard (found near Dorset border) Thirteen copies and four orthodox coins in 2nd. Century hoard. (Num. Chron. 1911 pp. 42 ff.)
Clapton-in-Gordano (Somerset) Hoard One copy in 3rd. Century hoard. (Num. Chron. 1927 pp. 209 ff.)
Nunney (Somerset) Hoard Two copies and two orthodox coins in 1st. Century hoard. (Num. Chron. 1861 pp. 1 ff.)
Astrop (Northants) Group An exclusively 3rd. Century coin-group includes one copy. (Rept. Oxfordshire Arch. Soc. 1911, pp. 12 ff. The coin is in the Ashm. Museum.)

Further investigation would multiply these results almost indefinitely. As they stand, however, they leave no doubt as to the need for reconsidering Hill's conclusions. First, as to the frequency of these copies:—It is hard to make any approximate computation of the proportion that these copies bear to the orthodox issues when the investigation is on a national scale and not confined, as at Rich-borough or Hofheim, to a single well-defined area. But it is quite evident that the proportion is of a very considerable size, and if we were to put it at about 20% on an average over the whole area in which Claudian coins are found, we should not be far from the truth. In certain localities, as may be noted, the proportion is well over half. Secondly, in considering the area over which they occur, we cannot fail to notice that they are evenly spread over almost all the region embraced by the Claudian conquest, and that they are found even beyond what might be expected to form their logical boundary. The examples from Yorkshire, Staffordshire, and Shropshire clearly show the extent of their spread northward.16 It can scarcely be held17 that these copies occur only, or even chiefly, in the parts of Britain contiguous to Gaul. This is not to deny that a certain number of examples may have found their way across the Channel. Nevertheless it would be illogical to attribute a Gallic origin to a group of coins spread over the greater part of Britain on the ground that a few examples may have been imported from the continent.

Hill's third hypothesis is of comparatively little importance. The native British coinage may or may not have been recalled, and in any case it does not seem to have provided an abundant supply of bronze small change. Hoards containing both British and Roman coins are not uncommon,18 and the general impression gained from them is that, while the autonomous gold, silver and even billon continued to circulate fairly steadily during the first century A. D., the Roman bronze almost at once came into its own as supplying the need for a token coinage.

It appears therefore that no theory which ascribes a continental origin to these copies can be based on grounds either of their infrequency or of their restriction to the extreme South, or of their super- fluity beside the native British issues. There appear to be no other obvious reasons for supposing them to be importations, and we are driven to the conclusion that they were struck frequently, and over a wide area, in Britain itself. This sudden flood of irregular coins can be associated only with the Claudian invasion. The actual area over which they are found exactly covers the districts of the first conquests: examples found beyond the Fosse Way bear witness to the spread of the new coinage, and also to its continuance during the subsequent years of conquest. An examination of the actual types found is equally strong evidence for the connection of these copies with the Claudian legions. Sestertii are of rare occurrence, as copies. In the list of coins which served as a basis for this paper, less than 5% were copied sestertii. Dupondii are much commoner, and account for some 25%. But it is the as that we find most frequently imitated: some 70% of the Claudian copies found in England are so accounted for. There can be small doubt that the widespread and sudden dissemination of Claudian coins by the legions of the conquest led directly to their more or less general imitation throughout the area under control, the commoner types naturally being most often copied. It is interesting to note that the title P. P. is hardly ever found on the copies occurring in Britain: the examples with P. P. quoted by Hill from the Southants Hoard are rare exceptions. Although it is difficult to differentiate in date between the issues with and without P. P., it may justifiably be held that the earlier issues were, in the main, those which naturally entered Britain with the legions.19

The Claudian copies found in Britain confirm our knowledge of the relative frequency of the various imperial types. Of the sestertii, almost all are of the Spes Augusta type (Plate I): an interesting exception is the coin with rev. Ob Cives Servatos, at York. The dupondii include both the Ceres Augusta type (Plate II) and the coins struck with obv. Antonia Augusta in commemoration of Claudius' mother (Plate III, 1–8) : the former class is the more frequent. The asses include the Constantiae Augusti, Libertas and Minerva types (Plates III, 9–10 & IV–VIII): of these the first is of fairly steady though not very frequent occurrence, while the second is rare. The Minerva type is found in an overwhelming proportion. Copies of quadrantes seem to be unknown in Britain.

Imitations of all the foregoing types are found in very varying stages of degradation and debasement, and it now becomes necessary to form a simple system of classification by which all Claudian copies may be conveniently judged.20 The system here adopted distinguishes four grades of debasement, as follows:—

Grade I contains coins which show all the detail, and much of the excellence of fabric, possessed by their prototype, but lack the essentially Roman character of the model. The legends are correct.

Grade II embraces coins of rougher fabric than Grade I, showing in addition a growing inaccuracy of detail. The legends, wherever the size of the flan allows of their being properly seen, appear to be correct.

Grade III includes the rough and unskilful productions of thoroughly crude and barbarous style. With few exceptions the legends are either hopelessly blundered or non-existent.

Grade IV is reserved for the rare instances of reversal of one or both types; i. e. as when the head is facing r. instead of l., with or without a corresponding reversal of the rev. type.

Technique and style are the only criteria by which these copies can be compared: weight, although when averaged out over a number of specimens it gives results of considerable interest,21 may be highly misleading in the case of single coins. Under the heading of technique, or fabric, are included the following:—

  • The shape of the flan.
  • The relief of the obv. and rev. types.
  • The position of the types (i. e. correct or reversed).
  • The adjustment of dies.

As matters of style, there are considered:—

  • The head22 (i. e. the treatment of the features, hair, neck and bust).
  • The rev. type (i. e. the treatment of the position and the drapery or armour).
  • Obv. and rev. legends (i. e. their accuracy and position, and the form of the letters).
  • The border.

The prototypes of these Romano-British copies possess in every case most of the qualities of a good and attractive coin. Designed, as they were, at a time when the standard of numismatic portraiture was approaching a high point of vigour and skill, they show a forceful head, excellently proportioned to the size of the field, surrounded by a legend of clear and fine lettering (cf. Plate IV, 1). The reverses are equally successful: in particular the arresting figure of Minerva, gracefully clad, hurling her weapon in a field empty but for the large letters S C (Plate V, 1, 2), forms a type that appeals to the imagination and encourages imitation. Both the obv. and rev. types were finished off with a border of dots. The flans themselves are well rounded and the striking is careful and sharp.

The First Grade of degradation is subtle and often hard to analyse. But, in a general way, it may be said that, from the first, the Romano-British copies lack the definite character of the originals. This implies neither unskilful technique nor poor style: on the contrary, the flans continued to be of fairly good shape, though they may fall to as little as 25 mm. in diameter. Die-adjustment is not frequent in this Grade, but it occurs far less frequently in the second, third and fourth Grades. The striking is in most cases careful and the relief good, though the reverses tend to suffer in comparison with the obverses, thereby forming one of the characteristics of this Grade: it almost seems as if the die-engravers, while anxious to reproduce the full detail of the original, found difficulties in rendering the complexities of the reverse, and particularly of Minerva (cf. Plate V). Stylistically, these coins are not without merit: the portrait is clearly delineated and fully recognizable, although the characterization may appear uncertain (cf. Plate II, 2, 6 and V, 3, 6). In the case of the portraits of Claudius, two of the chief features of the prototypes, namely, the long, muscular neck, neatly indented, and the indication of the bust below, are almost always faithfully copied. The reverse types, although frequently in low relief, show accuracy and vigour. The legends, on both obv. and rev., are correct, with perhaps a preference for the open form of A (∧): the letters are regular, orthodox in size, and properly spaced. Both sides of these coins are commonly finished off with a border of dots (cf. Plate II, 4).

Coins of the Second Grade are more easily recognized, for now, besides the absence of Roman character, there is the added criterion of rougher fabric allied with inaccurate detail. Flans are more irregular in shape, and are frequently too small for the dies: this is notably the case with the numerous Silchester group (cf. Plate VI, 8). Occasionally a flan has all the appearance of having been restruck. The relief of the obv. of this class of coins is noticeably lower than that of Grade I, while the rev. now receives greater care and emphasis. Already, perhaps, some of the moneyers to whom fell the work of copying the official coins found in the rev. types, and especially in that of Minerva, a more stirring composition than was possessed by the head of the obv. Viewed generally, these coins show a technique that is adequate if not highly competent. It is in the matter of style that there is the greatest falling off. The head, now seldom recognizable, exhibits little of the flair for portraiture which characterizes the originals: the features are either flat and dull, or caricatured (Plate VI, 1, IV, 3). The hair is carelessly worked, and there is an obvious reluctance to attempt the modelling of the neck muscles (Plate VI). The rev. types show the same tendency to inaccuracy and lifelessness. Both the obv. and rev. legends appear to be correct in substance, where they are readable, but in form there is a falling off here also.

The coins of Grades I and II are the productions of literate communities, where Latin was either generally in use or at least so commonly understood as to lose nothing in the copying. The Third Grade, embracing the Minerva type almost exclusively (Plate VII: cf. Plate III, 6–8), is composed chiefly of the work of illiterates to whom Latin was a closed book, for the majority of legends are either blundered or, in the worse examples, non-existent. In all respects, these coins are crude and barbarous. The flans are of all shapes, and vary in size from 28–22 mm.,—hardly greater than a large debased antoninianus. In some cases they have obviously been through a long process of restriking: most of them are too small for the dies, and nearly all of them have one or both dies badly centred (cf. Plate III, 6, VII, 1). Relief is for the most part low. From the point of view of style, this group includes coins almost worthy of inclusion in the Second Grade, which are relegated to Grade III on account of greatly inferior fabric (cf. Plate VII, 1): and at the other end of the scale appear examples of the utmost degree of barbarism. In nearly every case the head is of a new and purely formal type, remarkable for an almost complete absence of modelling: the head is blocked out in a mass, the eye, ear and mouth being represented by indentations or incisions (cf. Plate VII, 3, 6, 7). It is interesting to observe that, in this group, Claudius' chin is usually strong and square,—a characterization never present in the Roman prototypes. He is given a rude shock of hair and his neck, whether thin or thick, is generally long and terminates in a plain truncation. The rev. type is as devoid of skill as the obv., but it still preserves a certain vigour. In many cases the Minerva-figure has changed its sex, and has consequently shed all drapery (Plate VII, 3): frequently traces of drapery remain in purely conventional form, such as image, between the legs (Plate VII, 2, 6, 7). Rare examples show the type undergoing a more radical change, in which posture and action are such that the type may properly be called a new one. Coins of this group are not uncommonly found pierced for suspension.

The Fourth Grade is no more barbarous than Grade III in respect of degree of debasement, being designed merely to include examples of reversed types. Here the Minerva-type supplies the only specimens (Plate VIII). In one sense these coins are the result of painstaking effort, since it seems as if the die-engraver kept his eye so carefully upon his model that he forgot to engrave his design in a reversed position! Of the rare examples that occur, two are of exceptional interest. These two coins (Plate VIII, 1–2) are in the British Museum and Maidstone Museum respectively: both obverses, which show a crude, blocked-out head to r., with blundered retrograde legend, are from the same die: but, while the B. M. coin has a rev. with Minerva l., and legend image, the Maidstone specimen which appears by the condition of the obv. die to be a later striking, shows the rev. type r., with legend S C. This may represent reversal of types carried to the second degree. Other examples of Grade IV come from Astrop (Northants)23 and St. Albans.24

As has been said before, the question of the weights of these copies must be treated with caution: so far as the grading is concerned, weight is only admissible as confirming the evidence of style, since the weights of individual specimens in any given class, although in the average they give useful information, vary widely in themselves. For instance, Constantia-type asses from Woodeaton and Dorchester (Oxon.), both of Grade II, weigh 10.65 gm. and 4.99 gm. respectively, and Minerva-type asses from Lincoln and Winchester, both of Grade III, weigh 8.75 gm. and 2.60 gm. respectively.

TYPE ORTHODOX ORTHODOX
Exx. Av.
Sestertius. [General] 13 26.70
Dupondius. Ceres 5 15.48
Dupondius. Antonia 4 14.88
As. Constantia 7 10.89
As. Libertas 7 10.20
As. Minerva 6 10.97

But a calculation of the average weights of coins which have been first graded by grounds of style and fabric alone gives interesting results. The table above sets out these results, and gives for comparison the average weights of the orthodox coins to which the various copies correspond.

End Notes

14 The collections examined include those of the Corinium (Bathurst) Museum, the Cripps Museum, and Watermoor House.
15 In the possession of the Rev. G. M. Benton, Secretary of the Essex Archaeological Society.
16 I am informed by Mr. G. Askew and Mr. W. P. Hedley of the Black Gate Museum, Newcastle-on-Tyne, that Claudian copies are not found in Northumberland or Durham. This confirms the opinion of Sir G. Macdonald quoted by Hill in Num. Chron. 1911 pp. 42 ff. A possible straggler is perhaps to be recognized in a worn coin found at the Mumrills site in Scotland: see Proc. Soc. Antiquar. Scot. Vol. LXIII, p. 551.
17 Conclusions as to the exact distribution of these copies must necessarily be rather tentative until the Romano-British sites have been systematically examined. But the above lists, inasmuch as they are fairly representative of the various Romano-British areas, suffice for our main hypothesis.
18 See the Timsbury (Num. Chron. 1908, pp. 80–1), Lightcliffe (Num. Chron. 1861 pp. 79 ff.), Santon Downham (Num. Chron. 1869 pp. 319 ff.), Honley (Num. Chron. 1897 pp. 293 ff.), Bitterne (Num. Chron. Proc. 1908 p. 11), and Southants Hoards.
19 It might be objected that imitations of Claudian Æ entered Britain from Gaul not so much by trade as by the medium of the actual military chests. But it cannot be supposed that legions derived their cash-consignments from anywhere except Rome itself.
20 Each group of coins illustrated in the Plates is headed by a coin of official and orthodox manufacture, as a means of rendering comparison easier. The Key to the Plates indicates the Grade to which each illustrated coin has been assigned.
21 See below, p. 20.
22 Two main types of head are found, the long, flat-topped head, and the tall, domed head (cf. Plate IV, 3, 7). Both types are found indiscriminately, and result from the two corresponding types found on the official Roman issues.
23 Rept. Oxfordshire Arch. Soc. 1911 (the coin is in the Ashmolean Museum).
24 Journ. Antiqu. Ass. Brit. Isles. Vol. Ill, part i, Plate III.

COPIES

Grade I. Grade I. Grade II. Grade II. Grade III. Grade III. Grade IV. Grade IV.
Exx. Av. Exx. Av. Exx. Av. Exx. Av.
7 25.33 4 15.49
15 11.41 4 12.12
4 12.96 2 9.46 2 9.00
4 9.39 7 8.55
2 8.75 [1] [8.85]
27 8.53 14 6.78 15 5.60 2 5.32

With the exception of the Grade II averages of the Ceres and Libertas types, both of which are somewhat invalidated by the small number of specimens available for weighing, these figures confirm in a remarkably thorough way the results of previous classification by style. The rare copies of sestertii drop little more than a gramme in Grade I, but Grade II shows a further drop of 10 grammes. With the smaller denominations the decrease is less uneven. Grade I is from 2–4 grammes lower than the orthodox weight in the case of the dupondii, and from 1–2 grammes lower in the case of the asses. The lower Grades of both denominations show a consistently decreasing weight: in Grades III and IV of the Minerva-type as, the weight is only about one half of the full orthodox weight. In general, it may be said that the weight of Grade I specimens of all denominations and types shows only a small reduction, and that Grade II specimens of the commoner denominations and types show no very drastic reduction: it is in the Grade III and IV specimens of the frequent Minerva examples that a completely new weight standard seems to have been reached.

Evidence of provenance, frequency, style and weight has now been given, and reasons have been shown for thinking it to be certain that these copies were widely manufactured in Britain. It remains to inquire under what circumstances and by whom they were manufactured, and to determine the period of time through which their manufacture persisted. The sharp division of the four Grades of copies into two main sections, one literate and one almost entirely illiterate, forms a possible starting point: it is well to remember that the ordinary Romano-British village was only very superficially Roman, and that Romanization was bred chiefly in the towns.25 It is, naturally, in or near the towns that the majority of copies, and particularly of good copies, is found. These towns may be either administrative and military centres, such as Lincoln, York and Gloucester, or tribal capitals such as Winchester, Dorchester (Dorset), Silchester and Cirencester. From the prevalence of Claudian copies in the military towns it seems almost certain that recourse must have been had to the coining of local issues as an official method of supplementing the military chest: the chest may not have been too full at the time of conquest, and an army in Britain was in a precarious position if it had to draw all its supplies of cash from the mint at Rome. The proportion of copies at Lincoln is remarkable enough: it is still more remarkable at York, which lay outside the conquest boundary. By the time that Petilius Cerialis moved Legio IX from Lincoln to York (A. D. 71), Flavian coinage and the preceding issues of Nero were presumably circulating regularly in Britain, and perhaps the Claudian copies at York indicate an earlier occupation, by some kind of expeditionary force, than has hitherto been deemed the case. Otherwise we must assume that Claudian copies formed a large part of the currency, whether military or not, until the seventies, although, on purely numismatic grounds, the excellence of the imitation is against this latter hypothesis. Gloucester probably saw the legions of Claudius as part of the regular programme of conquest: here again the number of high-class copies is very great.26

It is, then, difficult to resist the conclusion that the Roman officials saw to the manufacture of local coinage as a means of continuing the payment of the legionaries:27 such semi-official copies would be executed either by camp-moneyers or by native British craftsmen, and, since they would be intended for military circulation, their style and weight would be fairly accurate. The Grade I copies faithfully fulfil these conditions. In time they would come to circulate through the tribal centres, or country towns of the civil districts that lay between and behind the chief Roman military posts, and must have been welcomed as a much-needed addition to the existing supplies of small change. Once absorbed into currency, they would themselves be subject to imitation, the second-degree copies being proportionately less faithful and lighter in weight since they were a purely token coinage, and no longer a military unit of payment. It is in the Grade II copies that we should expect to find this class of coinage. They are extremely numerous at such centres as Cirencester, Silchester, Winchester and Dorchester (Dorset), which were civil, and not military, towns, composed of the best native British elements and capable of producing passable copies. In the process of trade they must have had a fairly wide circulation as is perhaps to be seen by the examples found at Dorchester (Oxon.) (Plate IV, 6), Woodeaton (Plate IV, 5), Asthall (Plate VI, 2) and at Bolitree in Herefordshire (Plate VI, 5): moreover, they must have frequently found their way into the larger and military towns, as specimens at Rich borough, St. Albans and Gloucester go to show.

Our attributions and distinctions cannot of course be entirely water-tight, since there must have been many examples of Grade II copies made in the Romanized towns as a result of successive imitation of Grade I copies: in the second-class towns, too, such as Silchester, regular imitation of Grade II coins probably led to the production of many examples of Grade III, as the coins from the site tend to show. But it is unlikely that the imitation of Claudian coins continued as long in either first or second class towns as it did in small and essentially un-Roman settlements, whither fresh issues of orthodox coinage would find their way only slowly and irregularly: and it is in dealing with the lower and chiefly illiterate Grades that we are brought up most seriously against the question of the duration of the Series. It is perhaps a legitimate conjecture that copies of Grades III and IV, which clearly involved no specialist knowledge of coining, were manufactured in the remoter and less civilized centres fairly soon after the first circulation of the Claudian series. Such copies would vary in degree of debasement according to the natural capacity or incapacity of the copyist. But extreme debasement of style may also result through a series of ever-increasing degradation, and since there is some evidence for the long-continued circulation of these copies, it may be necessary to account for a proportion of the more barbarous examples by the hypothesis that they are of an unsuspected lateness of manufacture.

The regular circulation of Claudian copies in the first century A. D. is shown by such hoards as those at Timsbury 28 and Nunney,29 and further examples are probably to be recognized among the many worn Claudian coins which formed the early currency in Roman Wales.30 Second-century circulation is attested by the Southants 31 and Croydon Hoards;32 the first of these, buried about A. D. 150, contained thirteen examples, while the second, dated a few years earlier, also included a specimen. That they were still current well on into the third century is proved by the Clapton-in-Gordano Hoard,33 composed of coins from Gallienus to Maximian, together with a barbarous Minerva-type as. The evidence of this last hoard is confirmed by a group of coins found at Astrop, King's Sutton, Northants, none of which, except for a Grade IV Minerva-type as (Plate VIII, 3), was struck before the reign of Tetricus.34

Of the foregoing hoards, that from Southants is the most valuable for purposes of chronology, since it serves to remind us that, even in the middle of the second century, coinage of a native pattern was still extant, if not being actually manufactured. The presence in this same hoard of a considerable proportion of Claudian copies gives rise to the speculation that the British workmen who perhaps still specialized in the production of autonomous currency may have looked upon the Claudian types with a respect analogous to that felt by the ancient Arabians for the Athenian tetradrachm, or by their modern successors for the Maria Theresa dollar. If we could postulate a production of Claudian copies down to the middle of the second century, the occurrence of specimens a century later would be a very natural possibility. After A. D. 150 the supplies of bronze in Britain probably sufficed the country districts: before that, it may well have been necessary to resort to fairly regular imitation, and nothing is more natural than that the choice of the copyists should fall upon the earliest Roman series known to the country. It is therefore possible that, while many of the Grade III and IV examples represent fairly contemporary imitation in backward and un-Roman districts a considerable number may also be assigned to a period lasting until about a century afterwards, as the increasingly unskilful products of rural and uncivilized craftsmen.

If this hypothesis is true, it may, in combination with the undoubted fact that the post-Claudian coinages were more plentiful, help to explain the comparative infrequency of imitations of subsequent issues. Stray examples can be quoted, such as the asses of Nero, one in the Croydon Hoard35 and one in the Lincoln Museum, a sestertius and an as of Vespasian at Dorchester (Dorset)36 and Cirencester respectively, a dupondius and an as of Trajan at Woodeaton 37 and York, and a sestertius of Hadrian at Cirencester. Under the Antonines examples occur less seldom, but are never frequent: copies of types of Antoninus are found at Woodeaton,38 Gloucester and Maidstone, of Aurelius at Woodeaton again,39 and apparently of Faustina II at Chesters 40 and Cirencester. But these coins are in every sense casual examples in comparison with the numbers of Claudian copies that occur: most of them are sophisticated in style, and should probably be assigned some such origin as has been tentatively given to Grade I and II copies of Claudius. In the remoter districts the Claudian type may well have continued in vogue.

Once the large bronze issues of Antoninus, of which certain types seem to have been specially intended for British currency, had succeeded in penetrating throughout the country, imitation of bronze must have virtually ceased: silver then became the problem. But until that time it is, as has been seen, quite probable that the copies of the original Claudian coinage had a steady circulation. Though widely differing in origin and style, it would appear that they all played an important part in supplementing the meagre currency of a province that was as poor as it was remote.

Supplementary Note

Since the preceding paper was written, certain additional examples of Claudian copies have come to hand. For the sake of completeness these are here given.

End Notes

25 Cf. Collmgwood, Roman Britain, pp. 86 ff.
26 It may be added that the proportion of copies found at the Claudian outpost of Wroxeter may be explained by exactly parallel causes.
27 Richborough was manifestly one of the first places where additional issues would be struck, and copies are there very numerous.
28 Num. Chron. 1908, pp. 80–81.
29 Num. Chron. 1861, pp. 1 ff.
30 Cf. Wheeler, Rom. Fort at Brecon, (1926), p. 90: Gardner, Rom. Fort at Caerhun, Co. Carnarvon (Arch. Cambr. 1925), p. 322; Nash Williams Rom. Legionary Fort at Caerleon (Arch. Cambr.1932) pp. 100 ff.; Grimes, Castle Lyons, Denbighshire (Y Cymmrodor 1930) p. 89.
31 Loc. cit.
32 Num. Chron. 1907. pp. 3S3 ff.
33 Num. Chron. 1927. pp. 209 ff.
34 Rept. Oxfordshire Arch. Soc, 1911, pp. 12 ff.
35 Loc. cit.
36 This sestertius weighs only 13.21 gm.
37 Num. Chron. 1933 Pl. X, no. 2.
38 Ibid. no. 3.
39 Ibid. no. 4.
40 Ibid. no. 1.

SUSSEX

Chichester An imitated sestertius of the Nero Drusus type. (Rev. N. Shaw, Fishbourne.)

SOMERSET (cf. p. oo)

Combe St. Nicholas Two imitated dupondii.
Combe Down One imitated dupondius.
Ham Hill Three imitated asses, one of which, weighing only 3.10 gm., is a remarkable example of debasement. (All in Taunton Museum.)
Wells One imitated as belongs to this district. (Museum.)

ESSEX

Colchester district One imitated as. (Rev. G. M. Benton, Fingringhoe.)

YORKSHIRE

(? near York ) Four imitated asses in the Black Gate Museum, Newcastle (Stephens Collection) are, according to Mr. G. Askew, probably to be given a Yorkshire provenance.

NORTHUMBERLAND (cf. p. 10)

Coventina's Well, Procolitia Of seven Claudian bronze coins kindly procured on loan for the writer from Chesters Museum by Mr. G. Askew, no fewer than six are copies, one being a dupondius and five asses, the lightest of which weighs only 3.37 gm. The coins accumulated in this deposit cannot, of course, be subjected to the strict local analysis which is applicable to other groups: nevertheless, copies of Claudian bronze were evidently in circulation in the extreme north of England, and the view adopted in note no 16 to p. 10 preceding requires consequent modification.

Other examples are recorded as having been found at Bough ton Monchelsea in Kent (Archaeologia, Vol. 29, 1842, p. 418), Bitterne in Hampshire (Num. Chron. 1934, p. 223), Great Chesterford in Essex (Num. Chron. 1934, p. 225), Kingsholm in Gloucestershire (Archaeologia, Vol. 18, 1817, p. 122), Duston in Northamptonshire (Num. Chron. 1934, p. 221) and at Stapenhill in Derbyshire (Victoria County History, Derbyshire i, p. 275). Specimens of both dupondii and asses from Huntingdonshire are recorded as being in Peterborough Museum (Victoria County History, Huntingdonshire i, p. 236).

LIST OF COINS ILLUSTRATED IN THE PLATES41

PLATE I

(Type: M. and S. 64)

1. Sestertius. Legend E. Orthodox. 29.77. Ashm.
2. Sestertius. B. M. Legend D. Copy. Grade I 25.92.
3. Sestertius. Maidstone. Legend D. Copy. Grade I 24.62.
4. Sestertius. B. M. Legend D. Copy. Grade II 14.59.
5. Sestertius. Ashm. Legend D. Copy. Grade II 16.00.
6. Sestertius. B. M. Legend ?. Copy. Grade II — —

PLATE II

(Type: M. and S. 67)

1. Dupondius. Legend D. Orthodox. 12.71. Ashm.
2. Dupondius. Cirencester. Legend D. Copy. Grade I 13.03.
3. Dupondius. Author. Legend D. Copy. Grade I — —
4. Dupondius. York. Legend D. Copy. Grade I 14.25.
5. Dupondius. Ashm. Legend D. Copy. Grade I 10.95.
6. Dupondius. Lincoln. Legend D. Copy. Grade I 11.28.
7. Dupondius. Maidstone. Legend ?. Copy. Grade I 12.94.
8. Dupondius. Dorchester (Dorset). Legend D. Copy. Grade I 9.12.
9. Dupondius. Gloucester. Legend D. Copy. Grade I 11.55.
10. Dupondius. Gloucester. Legend D. Copy. Grade I 9.07.
11. Dupondius. Dorchester (Dorset). Legend ?. Copy. Grade II 12.06.
12. Dupondius. Ashm. Legend ?. Copy. Grade II 9.20.
End Notes
41 The illustrations include a number of coins, either in the British Museum (= B. M.) or the Ashmolean Museum (= Ashm.), to which a British provenance cannot be guaranteed: these are inserted merely to give a fuller series of degraded types. References are to Mattingly and Sydenham (= M. and S.), whose descriptions of the imperial title are observed in the specification of legends without and with P. P. as Legends D and E.

PLATE III

(Types: 1–8, M. and S. 82; 9–10, M. and S. 69).

1. Dupondius. Legend D. Orthodox. 14.07. Ashm.
2. Dupondius. Cirencester. Legend D. Copy. Grade I 11.67.
3. Dupondius. York. Legend D. Copy. Grade I 10.47.
4. Dupondius. Ashm. Legend D. Copy. Grade I 14.27.
5. Dupondius. Ashm. Legend ?. Copy. Grade II 11.36.
6. Dupondius. Lincoln. Legend ?. Copy. Grade III 10.20.
7. Dupondius. Stoke-on-Trent. Legend ?. Copy. Grade III — —
8. Dupondius. Gloucester. Legend ?. Copy. Grade III 7.80.
9. As. Legend D. Orthodox. 12.42. Ashm.
10. As. Legend ?. Copy. Grade I 11.75. York

PLATE IV

(Type: M. and S. 68)

1. As. Legend D. Orthodox. 11.32. Ashm.
2. As. Legend D. Copy. Grade I 12.07. B. M.
3. As. Legend D. Copy. Grade II 10.72. Ashm.
4. As. Legend ?. Copy. Grade II — — B. M.
5. As. Legend ?. Copy. Grade II 10.65. Woodeaton
6. As. Legend ?. (Oxon.). Copy. Grade II 4.99. Dorchester
7. As. Legend D. Copy. Grade II 7.75. Lincoln.
8. As. Legend D. Copy. Grade II 7.53. Cirencester.

PLATE V. (ALL GRADE I)

(Type: M. and S. 66)

1. As. Legend D. Orthodox. 11.77. Ashm.
2. As. Legend E. Orthodox. 12.38. Ashm.
3. As. Legend D. Copy. 10.05. York.
4. As. Legend D. Copy. — — B. M.
5. As. Legend ?. Copy. 12.20. Lincoln.
6. As. Legend D. Copy. 9.35. Ashm.
7. As. Legend ?. Copy. 8.54. Dorchester (Dorset).
8. As. Legend D. Copy. 8.50. Ashm.
9. As. Legend ?. Copy. 4.43. Dorchester (Dorset).
10. As. Legend D. Copy. 9.97. Dorchester (Dorset).
11. As. Legend D. Copy. 6.89. Silchester.
12. As. Legend ?. Copy. 5.79. Ewelme.

PLATE VI. (ALL GRADE II)

(Type: as last Plate)

1. As. Legend D. Copy. 7.59. Rochester.
2. As. Legend ?. Copy. 6.85. Asthall.
3. As. Legend D. Copy. 7.15. Dorchester (Dorset).
4. As. Legend ?. Copy. — — B. M.
5. As. Legend ?. Copy. 8.55. Bolitree.
6. As. Legend ?. Copy. 7.39. Ashm.
7. As. Legend ?. Copy. 7.14. Gloucester.
8. As. Legend ?. Copy. 4.83. Silchester.
9. As. Legend D. Copy. 6.32. Cirencester.
10. As. Legend ?. Copy. 6.10. Lincoln.

PLATE VII. (ALL GRADE III)

(Type: as. last Plate)

1. As. Legend D?. Copy. 4.99. Silchester.
2. As. Legend ?. Copy. 5.09. Gloucester.
3. As. Legend D?. Copy. 7.40. Winchester.
4. As. (Blundered.) Copy. 6.65. Ashm.
5. As. Legend D?. Copy. 8.75. Lincoln.
6. As. (Blundered.) Copy. 5.51. Lincoln.
7. As. (Blundered.) Copy. 4.53. Gloucester.
8. As. (Blundered.) Copy. — — B. M.
9. As. (Blundered.) Copy. — — B. M.
10. As. (Blundered.) Copy. — — B. M.
11. As. (Blundered.) Copy. — — B. M.
12. As. (Blundered.) Copy. — — B. M.

PLATE VIII. (ALL GRADE IV)

(Type: as Last Plate)

1.42 As. (Legend blundered.) Copy. — — B. M.
2. As. (Legend blundered.) Copy. 6.04. Maidstone.
3. As. (Legend blundered.) Copy. 4.60. Astrop.
End Notes
42 Nos. 1 and 2 are from the same obverse die: cf. p. 19 above.

End Notes

1 In presenting this monograph the writer wishes to emphasize that, owing to the sporadic distribution of the material and the lack of relevant archaeological literature, his treatment of the subject is necessarily preliminary and by no means exhaustive. He gratefully acknowledges assistance from many quarters, and in particular his thanks are due to the committees and curators of the museums mentioned in the text for their permission to examine the collections in their charge and to select coins for casting; to the Keeper of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, for the generous number of casts there made; and to Mr. Harold Mattingly, both for the furnishing of casts of British Museum coins and for the advantage of his helpful criticism.
2 Cf. Roach Smith, Num. Chron. 1841, p. 147 and Cat. Museum of London Antiquities, p. 92, no. 454.
3 Description historique des méilles frappées sous l'Empire romain (2nd edn., 1880), vol. i, p. 257.
4 Cf. B. M. Cat. Rom. Emp. i. p. xviii note.
5 Probably of Caligula's reign, but frequently found muled with types of Tiberius and Claudius: cf. for the latter Num. Chron. 1931 p. 314—a specimen at Lincoln.
6 See Annalen des Vereins für Nassauische Altertumskunde und Geschichtsforschung, 1904 and 1912.
7 East Gate House Museum.
8 Report, 1913. p. 56.
9 Num. Chron. 1863, p. 145.
10 Report, 1928, p. 6.
11 Num. Chron. 1931, p. 314.
12 Num. Chron. 1911, pp. 42 ff.
13 Where reference is made to (Museum), personal examination of all coins of Claudian period is implied: references to Ashm. Mus. indicate that the material is contained in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Every care has been taken to guarantee the provenance of material contained in local museums as local.

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Numismatic Notes and Monographs

  • David Eugene Smith, LL.D. Computing Jetons. 1921. 70 pp. 25 pls. $1.50.
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