An Owl-ccentricity: Athenian Imitation “New Style” Owls in Saba’

Today’s post comes courtesy of Anna Accettola as part of her work conducted at the 2019 Eric P. Newman Graduate Summer Seminar in Numismatics. —ed.

The Sabaean Kingdom, located in the southern Arabian Peninsula and modern-day Yemen, rose to prominence between 1200 and 800 BCE and ruled until near the end of the third century CE.  At this point, the Sabaeans were conquered by the neighboring Himyarite Kingdom for the final time.  Most famous for its connection to the biblical land of Sheba and its control over frankincense and myrrh production, the Sabaean Kingdom maintained a cultural and economic presence in the Mediterranean milieu throughout the expansion of Greek city-states, the rise and fall of the Athenian Empire, the conquests of Alexander the Great, and the coming of Rome.  While largely remaining distant from the political life of the Mediterranean, certain aspects of Mediterranean cultures influenced the Sabaeans, specifically their coinage.

Athenian “Old Style” Owls (Figure 1) were a predominant coinage in the Mediterranean for nearly 300 years and imitations of this iconography appeared in Saba’ in the mid-fourth century BCE, less than 100 years after its creation.  But these imitations beg the question: why would a kingdom so far from the Mediterranean Sea, let alone the polis of Athens, imitate a goddess and other symbols vastly different from their own cultural norms?  The answer likely lies in the caravan trade and the heavy traffic between Saba, Egypt, Gaza, and the Greek Mediterranean for the exchange of incense and other luxury goods.  Saba was the main producer of frankincense and myrrh in the ancient world and these products were always in great demand.  As such, a certain amount of Athenian coinage (and later Hellenistic Alexanders and Roman denarii) found their way into Saba along these trade routes.

Fig. 1. Sabaean imitation of Athenian "old style" owl, ANS 1944.100.69452.
Fig. 1. Sabaean imitation of Athenian “old style” owl, ANS 1944.100.69452.

But approximately 200 years later, the Sabaeans, possibly with Himyarite influence, decided to change their currency and once again follow the Athenian precedent.  Even though “New Style” Athenian coins have never been found in southern Arabia, the owl on amphora design was imitated and pushed out the older type (Figure 2).  This oddity is the focus of my summer project.  Through a die study of the Sabaean “New Style” Athenian imitations, I hope to better understand questions such as: how many of these coins may have been produced, what is the weight standard on which these new coins were struck, and, perhaps, what persuaded the Sabaeans to adopt this style of coin, incorporating new series of monograms and symbols, around the first century BCE?

Fig. 2. Sabaean Imitation of "new style" owls, ANS 1944.100.69467.
Fig. 2. Sabaean Imitation of “new style” owls, ANS 1944.100.69467.

The first step in completing this project was to collect as much information on these coins and as many photographs as possible from around the world.  Approximately 300 of these coins exist, in four (or possibly five) denominations, almost exclusively in silver.  The largest denomination is a unit or nṣf.  As can be seen in Figure 2, these coins differ as the Sabaeans added certain unusual facets to their coinage which are not evident in the Athenian originals or other imitations—such as the border of amphorae circling the reverse and a “curved symbol” which perhaps represents one of the main Sabaean deities, Almaqah (Munro-Hay 2003: 37).

Thus far, my study has revealed several points of interest.  First, these coins had a fairly large production, especially the full unit denomination of the cursive YNF monogram type (Figure 3).  The weight of the unit (averaging 5.39 grams) is approximately equal to that of the siglos, likely to ease exchange with near neighbors. However, fractional coins occur with significantly less frequency and there are only 7 examples of the smallest denominations in the world (Figure 4).  In addition, this coinage retained a regular reverse type, but went through several shifts in obverse type; first, transitioning away from the original head of Athena to a long-haired royal portrait in the earlier mintings and, then, to an “Augustan” style head with short hair and a stern expression.  Although some researchers have argued that this was a direct result of the 26/25 BCE Roman expedition into southern Arabia, the chronology of these coins is not yet well enough established to be confident in such influences (Munro-Hay 1991: 407 and Huth 2010: 241).

Fig. 3. Sabaean imitation "new style" owl, cursive YNF monogram type, ANS 1944.100.69463 from the Edward T. Newell Collection.
Fig. 3. Sabaean imitation “new style” owl, cursive YNF monogram type, ANS 1944.100.69463 from the Edward T. Newell Collection.


Fig. 4. 1/8th unit Sabaean imitation "new style" owl, ANS 1944.100.69477 from the Edward T. Newell Collection.
Fig. 4. 1/8th unit Sabaean imitation “new style” owl, ANS 1944.100.69477 from the Edward T. Newell Collection.

As such, these coins remain fairly elusive in providing modern researchers with clear answers about the authorities who minted them, the monograms with which they are inscribed, and even the inspiration for them.  However, I tentatively argue that these may act as a transitional coinage between an older Athenian model and the later so-called “bucranium” series (Figure 5), which features a more independent and unique Sabaean identity. These earlier imitations of Athenian coinage seem to showcase an intense interest in the Mediterranean world and its powerful economy opportunities.  But as the Sabaean and Himyarites grew through territorial conquest and became more directly involved with the Roman and eastern trade routes to India and beyond, they established their own iconographic traditions.

Fig. 5. Sabaean "Bucranium" series, ANS 1944.100.6494.
Fig. 5. Sabaean “Bucranium” series, ANS 1944.100.6494.

Anna Accettola is a PhD candidate in Ancient History at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).  Her dissertation is on the legal institutions and social networks which promoted long-distance trade across the Hellenistic Mediterranean between the Greek poleis and the Near East, specifically the Nabataean Kingdom.  She was inspired to apply for the American Numismatic Society summer program in order to learn more about how states implement monetary policies and negotiate these policies across political and territorial boundaries.


Earlier this month, deputy director Gilles Bransbourg and I had the honor of representing the ANS at the Early American Coppers Convention in Dayton, Ohio. The EAC, now with over 1,000 members, was formed in 1967 and currently focuses its attention on U.S. colonial and early state coins, cents and half cents (1793-1857), and Hard Times tokens.

EAC Bland from powerpoint
Del Bland (1933-2018) was honored at the EAC convention in Dayton, Ohio, at an event cohosted by the ANS.

The convention took place over the course of four days and featured a number of educational presentations, including an airing of the ANS’s 2018 Silvia Mani Hurter Memorial Lecture, by Huntington Award recipient Dr. John Kleeberg, entitled “Dr. William H. Sheldon, Ted Naftzger and the Large Cent Thefts” (video available here).

IMG_1871 cropped adjusted
ANS librarian David Hill.

The ANS was particularly pleased to be able to cohost an event at the convention honoring legendary large cent collector and researcher Del Bland, who passed away last year at the age of 84. Del was a meticulous researcher with a keen eye for grading, and he made a massive contribution to our knowledge of United States numismatics. He began his research about fifty years ago, and his findings were published in 2000 as the condition census in the Encyclopedia of Early American Cents, which documented over 4,000 coins and included more than 25,000 individual entries. He continued his research well into the 2010s. In 2018, thanks to the contributions of generous donors, the ANS acquired Del’s vast large-cent research archive, nearly 300 ring-binders of material now available for researchers to use at the ANS Library and Archives.

Notebooks from powerpoint
Del Bland’s large-cent research archive is now available for study at the ANS.

The event honoring Del  was a great success and featured reminiscences by Del’s long-time friend and early American copper specialist Denis Loring as well as Del’s sons, Larry and Gary (video available here).

EAC coins cropped
We didn’t come back empty handed. From ANS member Chuck Heck we got a set of these large-cent reproductions by EAC, featuring key obverses and reverses.

None of it would have been possible without the help of convention co-chairs Ray Williams and Jack Young, and Jack’s wife, Laura, who was in charge of events. We would also particularly like to thank EAC president Bill Eckberg for arranging the event.

Happy 210th Birthday, Abe!

Fig. 7 - Canceled Lincoln - 1909.45.1.obv.1385
Lincoln Centennial Medal by Jules Édouard Roiné, 1909 (ANS 1909.45.1), King 310. The dies were ceremoniously canceled, donated to the ANS, and used to strike this medal.
Fig. 7 - Canceled Lincoln - 1909.45.1.rev.1385
Lincoln Centennial Medal reverse.

Two hundred and ten years isn’t a milestone we normally celebrate in a special way, but 100 years certainly is, and Lincoln’s 100th birthday in 1909 was a big deal. Cities like New York and Chicago tried to outdo each other with tributes, and big names like Teddy Roosevelt and William Jennings Bryan made appearances at his birthplace in Kentucky and at his home in Illinois. Numerous tangible and lasting tributes were issued: ribbons, badges, postcards, calendars. Numismatic items too, of course. There were tokens and medals—even a coin, Victor David Brenner’s iconic cent. Numismatic portrayals of Lincoln were nothing new. The first ones appeared with his presidential campaign of 1860, and they continued through his presidency, only to proliferate after his assassination. The first medal issued by the American Numismatic Society was, in fact, a memorial to him, issued in 1866.

Fig. 5 - Hewitt001 corrected
Robert Hewitt Jr., 1863.

The ANS played a small part in the observation of the centennial. One of the Society’s longest-serving members was Robert Hewitt Jr., who had been collecting presidential medals since at least the time Lincoln was president (his collection of Lincolnalia would go to the Smithsonian in 1918). Hewitt was the force behind a couple of Lincoln medals by the sculptor Jules Édouard Roiné, both of which were issued bound into books. Roiné, Hewitt, and two brothers, Henri and Felix Weil, were all ANS members who played a role in founding the Medallic Art Company (MACO), the private mint that struck the medals. (In 2018, the ANS acquired the medals, dies, galvanos, plaques, paper and digital archives, and other historical materials from the defunct MACO.)

Aluminum medal announcing the planned cancelation of the Lincoln Centennial Medal dies (ANS 1950.106.1), King 347.
The medal’s reverse indicates that the canceled dies were to be deposited at the American Numismatic Society.

The dies for one of the medals were ceremoniously canceled with a cut indicating the centennial date (February 12, 1909). One thousand aluminum medals were issued by MACO announcing the die cancelation and specifying that the dies would be deposited at the ANS on the day of the Lincoln Centennial.

For more on the Lincoln medals, see Robert King, Lincoln in Numismatics, Token and Medal Society, 1966.

For more on Roińe, see David Hill, “Jules Édouard Roiné, Medals in Books, and the Birth of the Medallic Art Company,” ANS Magazine, 2018, issue 4.

When the Moon Throws You a Curve….

Kenneth Holland and Mary Lannin with Lannin's struck $1 silver coin.
Kenneth Holland and Mary Lannin with Lannin’s struck $1 silver coin.

There are few universal memories that make each of us think back and say, “Ah, I remember…”. One of these took place on July 20, 1969, when all nations were held mesmerized watching Apollo 11 and humanity’s first steps on the moon.

My link to that day culminated in an opportunity, as a member of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, to attend the ceremonial strike for the Apollo 11 $1 silver coin at the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia on December 13. I was able to strike my own $1 coin, ably assisted by Coin Press Operator, Kenneth Holland. Other “temporary” press operators were the children of the Apollo 11 astronauts, Mark Armstrong, son of Neil Armstrong, Andy Aldrin, son of Buzz Aldrin, and Ann Starr, daughter of Michael Collins.

Ann Collins Starr (l.) and Sculptor-Engraver Phebe Hemphill (r.) holding photo of 'Buzz Aldrin on the Moon' taken July 20, 1969.
Ann Collins Starr (l.) and Sculptor-Engraver Phebe Hemphill (r.) holding photo of ‘Buzz Aldrin on the Moon’ taken July 20, 1969.

The Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Program had been passed two years earlier by Congress, with common obverses and reverses required for the four coins in the series: a curved $5 gold coin, a curved $1 silver coin, a curved half-dollar clad coin, and a curved 5-ounce 3-inch $1 silver proof coin, the largest curved coin ever struck by the U.S. Mint. Quantities struck from this series should enable collectors to add to their collections – 50,000 $5 gold half-eagles, 400,000 $1 silver coins, 750,000 clad half-dollars, and 100,000 5-ounce $1 silver proof coins. The coins will be available for sale on January 24, 2019, and can be obtained at

While the image of the reverse was mandated by the law—the famous ‘‘Buzz Aldrin on the Moon’’ photograph taken July 20, 1969, that shows just the visor and part of the helmet of astronaut Buzz Aldrin, in which the mirrored visor reflects the image of the United States flag, the lunar lander, and the remainder of the helmet has a frosted finish—the obverse design was open to a juried competition, judged by selected members of both the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee and the Commission of Fine Arts, with the final selection made by the Secretary of the Treasury.

Obverse (l.) and reverse (r.) of the Apollo 11 $1 silver coin.
Obverse (l.) and reverse (r.) of the Apollo 11 $1 silver coin.

Gary Cooper had his design of the boot imprint on the lunar surface selected as the winning representation, sculpted by U.S. Mint Sculptor-Engraver Joseph Menna. U.S. Mint Sculptor-Engraver Phebe Hemphill sculpted the reverse.

A sell-out of these coins will result in surcharges of $14 million for the three designated beneficiaries—50% to the Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum’s Destination Moon exhibit, 25% to the Astronauts Memorial Foundation, and 25% to the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.

—Mary Lannin, ANS Trustee

Apply for the ANS’s Eric P. Newman Graduate Summer Seminar

65th Annual Eric P. Newman

Graduate Summer Seminar in Numismatics

June 3 through July 26, 2019

Study at the Foremost Seminar in Numismatic Methods, Theory, and Data Science.

For over half a century, The American Numismatic Society, a scholarly organization and museum of coins, money, and economic history, has offered select graduate students and junior faculty the opportunity to work hands-on with its preeminent numismatic collections. With over three-quarters of a million objects, the collection is particularly strong in Greek, Roman, Islamic, Far Eastern, and US and Colonial coinages, as well as Medallic Art. Located in New York City’s SoHo district, the Society also houses the world’s most complete numismatic library.

The rigorous eight-week course, taught by ANS staff, guest lecturers, and a Visiting Scholar, introduces students to the methods, theories, and history of the discipline. In addition to the lecture program, students will select a numismatic research topic and, utilizing ANS resources, complete a paper while in residence. The Seminar is intended to provide students of History, Art History, Textual Studies, Archeology, and Data Science who have little or no numismatic background with a working knowledge of a body of evidence that is often overlooked and poorly understood. Successful applicants are typically doctoral candidates or junior faculty in a related discipline, but masters candidates are admitted as well. This year’s Eric P. Newman Visiting Scholar will be Dr. Evangeline Markou of the National Hellenic Research Foundation. Dr. Markou is a specialist in ancient Greek coinage, particularly the coinage of ancient Cyprus.

Applications are due no later than February 22, 2019. A limited number of stipends of up to $4000 are available to US citizens, and non-US citizens studying at US institutions under certain visas. For application forms and further information, please see the Summer Seminar page of our website:, or contact the Seminar Director, Dr. Peter van Alfen (212-571-4470, x153).

Download the Flyer.

Seleucid Coins Online v.2 is Live


The American Numismatic Society (ANS) is pleased to announce the release of version 2 (v.2) of the web-based research tool: Seleucid Coins Online (SCO). As a component of the National Endowment for the Humanities-funded Hellenistic Royal Coinages (HRC) project, SCO aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the coinages struck by the Seleucid kings between ca. 320 BC and 64 BC, from Seleucus I to Antiochus XIII.

In January 2018, the American Numismatic Society initially launched SCO. At the time it was announced that the development of SCO would take place in two parts in imitation of the print volumes, Seleucid Coins: A Comprehensive Catalogue by Arthur Houghton, Catharine Lorber, and Oliver Hoover, published in two parts in 2002 and 2008 by the American Numismatic Society and Classical Numismatic Group, Inc. The first part, by Houghton and Lorber, presented and interpreted all the numismatic material for Seleucus I to Antiochus III known up to 2002. The second part, by Houghton, Lorber, and Hoover, did the same for the Seleucid kings from Seleucus IV to Antiochus XIII. In total, more than 2,491 primary coin types were published in these volumes.

The newly unveiled version of SCO (v.2), launched in November, 2018, completes the type corpus incorporating material related to Seleucid Coins, Part I, covering the reigns from Seleucus I to Antiochus III (c. 320–187 BC), and the material in Part II covering the reigns from Seleucus IV to Antiochus XIII (187–64 BC) as well as the posthumous Roman imitations (63–14/13 BC).

Ultimately, SCO will provide wide access to the coins listed in the print volumes of Seleucid Coins. While the Seleucid coins in the ANS collection (some 5,129 pieces) serve as the core of the searchable catalogue, ultimately links to coins (many of which are unique) in the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the British Museum, the Münzkabinett der Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, and many other public and private collections currently are and will be included. More than 1,000 types are linked to at least one coin that has been photographed.SCO will also stand at the cutting edge of the discipline through the inclusion of new coin types and varieties that have been recorded since 2008. SCO will be the only place where researchers can keep track of such new coins comprehensively and the expanding picture of Seleucid economic, political, and art history that they reveal. Frequent updates to the website will permit users to find and learn about new material almost at the rate at which it is discovered, thereby making SCO the most up-to-date catalogue available to students of Seleucid coinage.

“A Handheld History”—An Exhibit of Medallic Art at Bowdoin College Museum of Art

Curators of "A Handheld History" (l. to r.), Benjamin Wu, Amber Orosco, and Stephen Pastoriza.
Curators of “A Handheld History” (l. to r.), Benjamin Wu, Amber Orosco, and Stephen Pastoriza.

Before Thanksgiving I had the great pleasure of participating in “Holding History in the Palm of One’s Hand: Contemporary Perspectives on Medals and Coins from Antiquity to the Recent Past,” an event at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art in Brunswick, Maine, celebrating the exhibit “A Handheld History: Five Centuries of Medals from the Molinari Collection at Bowdoin College.” Three speakers, myself, Dr. Stephen K. Scher, and Prof. Susan Wegner, presented different aspects of medallic art and its history from its inception in the Italian Renaissance to the twenty-first century. We were then joined on stage by the curators of the exhibit, Amber Orosco, Stephen Pastoriza, and Benjamin Wu, for a panel discussion. Significantly, all three of the curators are currently undergraduate students at Bowdoin, which makes their achievement in curating this exhibit all the more remarkable.

In 1966, the Bowdoin College Museum of Art received from Amanda Marchesa Molinari a gift of a collection of approximately 1,500 art medals and 200 related books—including numerous rare volumes from the seventeenth through the twentieth centuries— that she and her late husband, Cesare Molinari d’Incisa, had assembled over the course of several decades. The collection is rather astonishing for the large number of important medals of the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries from Italy and Northern Europe especially, some of which, in fact, are lacking in the ANS’s collection, such as the John VIII Palaeologos medal by Pisanello. Curators at Bowdoin in the 1960s were certainly aware of the importance of this collection; a partial catalogue of the collection by Andrea Norris and Ingrid Weber was soon published and an exhibit of some of the highlights was put on display. In the decades since, however, this collection had not received the attention it rightly deserves.

Case containing medals pictured in the accompanying folio volume, the Histoire Métallique.
Case containing medals pictured in the accompanying folio volume, the Histoire Métallique.

In the summer of 2017, Museum Co-Director Dr. Anne Collins Goodyear and the student curators paid me a visit at the ANS and also spoke with Stephen Scher at The Frick Collection. Dr. Scher introduced them to highlights from the collection he had recently donated to the museum, then on view in the exhibition “The Pursuit of Immortality: Masterpieces from the Scher Collection of Portrait Medals.” Their purpose was to discuss the history of the medal, the Molinari collection, and their intent to put on a new exhibit of this outstanding collection. The results of their efforts, “A Handheld History,” are truly impressive. In eight cases, the exhibit not only displays some of the most important pieces from the Molinari collection, but also focuses on various aspects of medal production, metallurgical analysis in the study of medals, and the evolution of medallic art over the centuries. Two of the cases are particularly noteworthy. One includes a 1723 edition of the folio volume accompanying the Histoire Métallique documenting the reign of Louis XIV of France along with a selection of the medals illustrated in the volume; another includes a volume of Gerard van Loon’s 1732 folio Beschryving der Nederlandsche historipenningen along with medals depicting the ill-fated de Witt brothers, Johan and Cornelis. Rarely indeed are these two important early volumes exhibited side-by-side along with some of the actual medals illustrated on their pages.

Case containing medals of the de Witt brothers and the folio Beschryving der Nederlandsche historipenningen.
Case containing medals of the de Witt brothers and the folio Beschryving der Nederlandsche historipenningen.

The exhibit will be on display at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art through January 20, 2019. A video of the panel discussion will be made available on the Museum’s website.

NLG Awards Recognize Two ANS Publications

IMG-2422On August 16, 2018, the Numismatic Literary Guild recognized two American Numismatic Society publications at its annual bash and awards ceremony.

A Monetary History of Central America by Brian Stickney won the award for best book on world coinage (1500–present).

ANS Deputy Director Gilles Bransbourg won the award for best article or story of the year for his piece in ANS Magazine, “U.S. Money Doctors in Latin America: Between War and Depression, the Short-Lived Reinstatement of the Gold Standard,” which appeared in issue 2017.4.

ANS Members receive ANS Magazine four times a year as part of their membership, as well as a 30% discount on books. To become a Member of the ANS, call Emma Pratte at 212.571.4470 x117.

Antonine Pyres and Consecratio Coins

Fig_0_PortraitSteven Burges is a PhD candidate in the Department of History of Art & Architecture at Boston University. He is currently writing a dissertation that examines the representation of Roman imperial funerary pyres on the coinage of Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius and the commemorative significance of these representations within the ideology of antiquity and beyond. He was a participant in the 2018 Eric P. Newman Graduate Seminar.

In March of the year 161 CE, the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius died at the age of 74 at his villa near Rome after reportedly “eating Alpine cheese at dinner rather greedily” (Historia Augusta, M. Ant. 12.4). His death marked a turning point in Roman imperial history, since, for the first time, a deceased emperor was succeeded by a set of official co-regents, Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus. Hadrian had organized their joint adoption by Antoninus 23 years earlier.

Fig. 1. ANS 1966.62.10.
Fig. 1. ANS 1966.62.10.

The co-rulers issued coinage – bearing the obverse legend Divus Antoninus, or the divine Antoninus—to commemorate their father’s passing and subsequent deification, and it reflected the unprecedented transition of power and the continuation of the familial piety that had earned Antoninus the title “Pius.” An unparalleled type from the series contained the first images of a funerary pyre on which the emperor was cremated to appear on gold denominations of the Roman mint (fig. 1). In fact, the pyre became the exclusive reverse type of the aurei struck for Divus Antoninus in addition to becoming the most prevalent type of the silver and bronze issues. All included the legend consecratio, which likely referred to the funereal process of deification itself.

Fig. 2.
Fig. 2.

In an effort to discover why the innovative iconography of the pyre came to dominate the commemorative coinages of Antoninus, I conducted a die study and hoard analysis of the aurei honoring Divus Antoninus. I then compared the results to studies of aurei minted after the death of his wife, the empress Faustina the Elder. She died and achieved godhood in 140 CE, at the beginning of her husband’s reign. While Antoninus produced a massive series of aurei for Diva Faustina with 24 different reverse types over a period of nearly twenty years, only one uncommon type from the early issues bore the consecratio inscription (fig. 2). It depicts the empress and a female driver in a quadriga – perhaps the celestial vehicle that bore her to the heavens. Although absent from her aurei, contemporary bronzes announcing her apotheosis were the first of any denomination to carry images of a funerary pyre.

Fig. 3.
Fig. 3.

In the years to follow pyres continued to adorn currency honoring deceased empresses and emperors, but primarily, they were found on the silver and bronze coins. The numerous tiers and ornate decorative sculptures, garlands, and tapestries align with the descriptions of ancient eyewitnesses (Cassius Dio, Historia Romana 75.4-5). Between the years 310 and 313 CE, the emperor Constantine would strike the last pyre coin, a rare gold solidus, to honor his deified father, Divus Constantius (fig. 3).

My analysis of the original Divus Antoninus aurei has enabled the identification of 30 obverse and reverse dies from 70 coins all with the same reverse type. In contrast, the earlier aurei of Diva Faustina survive in over 900 examples with nearly two dozen reverses, reflecting both the extraordinary scale and longevity of their production (Martin Beckmann, Diva Faustina: Coinage and Cult in Rome and the Provinces, 2012). Despite the limited run of the Antoninus coins, the ratio of dies observed to the number of coin examples is nearly equivalent. Hoard evidence from Italy, France, and Portugal also suggests that the two coinages circulated within similar regions.

Fig. 4. ANS 1965.66.10.
Fig. 4. ANS 1965.66.10.

The difference lies in the significant expansion of the novel consecratio reverse with the pyre to the aurei under the adopted Marcus and Lucius. This suggests that they intended the pyre to serve as a specifically Antonine advertisement of dynastic continuity for the elite users of gold coinage. Further, it was a memento of the cremation and deification ceremony itself, which the co-rulers jointly oversaw, as the inscription on the pedestal of the column of Antoninus Pius indicates. The dynastic uncertainty of the time had been likewise countered in some of the last coins struck during Antoninus’s life. They depict the fecundity of his daughter Faustina the Younger surrounded by her four daughters: Lucilla, Cornificia, Fadilla, and Annia Faustina (fig. 4).

As I continue this research, I will expand the scope to the pyre reverses found in other denominations struck under Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus along with other contemporary consecratio types, in order to continue unveiling the significance they held for the citizens, soldiers, and senators who used the coins.

A blog of the American Numismatic Society