Tag Archives: roman republican die project

Revising Crawford’s Roman Republican Coinage from RRDP: The case of RRC 367

by Alice Sharpless

This blog post is a preliminary version of an article to be submitted for peer review. Comments and additional relevant specimens are welcomed by the author.

Coinage of the Roman Republic Online (CRRO) is a database that was created by the ANS to be, in effect, an online version of Michael Crawford’s 1974  Roman Republican Coinage (RRC) which remains the primary typology for Roman Republican coinage. Since the publication of RRC there have been significant revisions to our knowledge of Republican coinage provided by new hoards and ongoing scholarship (for an updated summary of these new discoveries see Yarrow 2021). This year, the Roman Republican Die Project (RRDP) began to publish material based on Richard Schaefer’s archive of Roman Republican Dies. Schaefer’s materials provide numerous specimens from auction catalogues and museum collections which add significantly to our knowledge of particular Republican issues. In addition to the die studies carried out by Schaefer, these specimens, which are accessible through the database SITNAM and linked to CRRO, provide, in some cases, revisions to Crawford’s typologies.

One particularly significant issue for which RRDP has allowed revisions to Crawfords typologies is RRC 367, a joint issue of L. Cornelius Sulla and. L. Manlius Torquatus from 83–82 BCE. This was one of the issues produced for Sulla’s army on their return from the East. For more on the significance of this and the other Sullan issues see Lucia Carbone’s two-part blog post on the financing of Sulla’s reconquest of Italy.

Crawford divided RRC 367 into five types—two aurei and three denarii (see below). The primary distinction of all the types is the obverse legend, its spelling and placement of the letters in relationship to the head of Roma. The first, 367/1 (denarius), only has L·M behind the head running downward, and ANLI PROQ (no T) running upward before the head. It is also the only type for which Crawford said the reverse legend may read L·SVLLA·IMPE or L·SVLLA·IMP (not L·SVLLA·IM). For the other four types, Crawford allowed L·SVLLA·IMP or L·SVLLA·IM as possibilities but excluded L·SVLLA·IMPE. The primary distinction of these four types is whether or not the obverse legend has a T (turned on its side) and the denomination. RRC 367/2 (aureus) and 367/3 (denarius) include the T in the obverse legend, while 367/4 (aureus) and 367/5 (denarius) do not. The name always appears behind the head running upward and the title before the head running down words.

Although Crawford did not distinguish the reverses of 367/2-5, Schaefer’s die study reveals that there is, in fact, a difference between the reverse dies of these types. The reverse design of all types shows a triumphator, crowned by flying Victory, in a quadriga moving right. But Schaefer’s materials show that on 367/2 (aureus) and 367/3 (denarius) the horses of the quadriga are arranged so that the lead horse is closest to the viewer (Fig. 1) while on 367/4 (aureus) and 367/5 (denarius) the lead horse is furthest from the viewer (Fig. 2).

Figure 1. RRC 367/3. British Museum 1860,0328.77 (Donated by Count John Francis William de Salis).
Figure 2. RRC 367/5. ANS 1941.131.172.

This arrangement of the horses does not vary within a particular type except in two ways. There are a very limited number of denarii that are hybrids that have the obverse legend of 367/3 but the reverse of 367/5 (lead horse furthest). Schaefer found seven examples of this hybrid, two of which are die linked to 367/5 through reverse die 367/5 EW (Figs. 3–4).

Figure 3. RRC 367/5; F. Panvini Rosati, La moneta di Roma repubblicana. Storia e civiltà di un popolo: catologo (Bologna: Museo Civico Archeologico, 1966), no. 273.
Figure 4. Hybrid of RRC 367/3 and 367/5 with reverse die link to Bologna specimen of RRC 367/5 (Figure3); Ernst Justus Haeberlin Collection = Adolph E. Cahn and Adolph Hess Auction, 17 Jul 1933, lot 1628.

There is also a denarius hybrid of 367/3 and 367/5, with the obverse legend of 367/5 (no T) and the reverse quadriga arrangement of 367/3 (lead horse closest) (Fig. 5).

Figure 5. RRC 367 Control mark type with XXV before. Classical Numismatic Group, eAuction 272, 25 Jan 2012, lot 323.

This variation has a further highly significant difference. The reverse dies bear control numerals either before or behind the quadriga (Fig. 6).

Figure 6. RRC 367 Control mark type with X behind. Phil Davis Collection (image by Andrew McCabe).

Based on the reverse, Schaefer included most of these control-marked coins with RRC 367/3 despite the difference in the obverse legend. While Schaefer did recognize the control marks on these “hybrid” coins in most cases, there are some specimens where the controls are off flan or otherwise not well preserved. Based on Schaefer’s materials, the author has carried out a die study that shows that all of these “hybrid” types have control-marked reverse dies. Schaefer’s materials include 26 examples of this control-marked type, while my die study includes an additional 12 specimens. The control marks on these coins are roughly added and therefore not well preserved so it is not possible to identify the numeral in all cases, but the die study shows that all of the coins with the 367/5 obverse/367/3 reverse typology have reverse control marks. There is only one specimen where there is no trace of the control mark preserved, but the specimen has an obverse die link with a control-marked coin (Figs. 7–9).

Figure 7. RRC 367 Control mark type. No control mark is preserved on this specimen but it is obverse die-linked with a control-marked coin. Gorny & Mosch GmbH, Auction 196, 7–9 Mar 2011, lot 2432.
Figure 8. RRC 367 Control mark type. Only a portion of the control mark is preserved (IX, behind); the control can be seen on other specimens (Figure 9). Heritage Numismatic Auctions, World & Ancient Coins Select Auction 232149, lot 62217.
Figure 9. RRC 367 Control mark type. Control IX, behind; reverse die-linked with Figure7. Noble Numismatics Pty Ltd., Auction 70, 9 Jul 2002, lot 3427.

Crawford identified only four control marks on this issue. He associated two of them with RRC 367/3 (control VI [Phillipe 311=Gorny 228, 375] and IX [Berlin]) and two with RRC 367/5 (control XV and XX [Vatican 2346]) (Figs. 9–10).

Figure 10. Reverse control marks observed by Crawford. Right to left: IV, before, Gorny & Mosch GmbH, Auction 228, 9 Mar 2015, lot 375 (note that this die actually has XXX, before, as well). XV, before, British Museum 2002,0102.3155; XX, before, British Museum 2002,0102.3159; for IX, behind, see Fig. 8.

Because the control numerals are small and not carved into the die in the same way as the legend, Crawford suggested they were not meant to be present on the final coin and were instead intended to be removed when the die went into use. He therefore suggested that the whole issue may have had these control marks and only a few have survived that were not removed before use. The RRDP data shows, however, that the control marks are associated specifically with these 367/5 obverse and 367/3 reverse coins. It is therefore unlikely that they were used throughout the whole issue and instead appear to distinguish a particular type within the issue. Why it would be marked out in this way remains a mystery for now.

The most up-to-date estimates for the issue are shown in Tables 1–2. The approximate issue size estimates differ slightly based on the obverse and reverse dies counts, but we can estimate a range between 165-660,000 (assuming 20,000 coins struck on average per obverse die and 15,000 per reverse die, a much-debated topic!). This is comparable to the approximate size for 367/1 (40–270,000) and 367/3 (730,000–1.5 million), while 367/5 was significantly larger (5.94–9.41 million) (see Carbone’s blog post on Sulla Part I, Table 4). These new numbers provide an approximate issue size for denarii of 6.88–11.84 million.

Obverse DiesCoinsd1Die estimatedPlus 95Minus 95CoverageApprox. issue size
Table 1. Production estimates based on obverse die counts (Esty 2011)
Reverse DiesCoinsd1Die estimatedPlus 95Minus 95CoverageApprox. issue size
Table 2. Production estimates based on reverse die counts (Esty 2011)

The presence of this control-marked subtype within Sulla’s production allows it to draw interesting parallels to the contemporary production of the mint of Rome (see Carbone’s blog post on Sulla Part I).

Currently, there is no process to update CRRO to include revisions to Crawford. We plan, however, to explore ways that will allow us to add updates to Crawford’s typologies, dating, etc., based on findings from RRDP as well as other studies. We envision that CRRO will remain a searchable index of Crawford’s typologies using linked open data to connect specimens in collections worldwide (thanks to Nomisma), but will in the future provide access to subsequent and ongoing research on Roman Republican coinage.

Revised RRC 367 Typologies

Below are revised typologies for RRC 367 differentiating between reverse as well as obverse dies and including the control-marked type.

Figure 11. RRC 367/1. J. Paul Getty Museum, Villa Collection, Malibu 77. NE.64.5 (Gift of Gordon McLendon).

 obverse: L M downwards, behind, ANLI  PRO Q upwards, before

 reverse: L SVLLA IMPE or IMP; lead horse closest

obverse: L MANLI T upwards before, PRO downwards, behind (T sideways)

reverse: L SVLLA IMP or IM; lead horse closest

obverse: L MANLI T upwards before, PRO downwards, behind (T sideways)

reverse: L SVLLA IMP or IM; lead horse closest

Figure 13. RRC 367/4. ANS 1967.153.195.

obverse: L MANLI upwards before, PRO downwards, behind

reverse: L SVLLA IMP or IM; lead horse furthest

obverse: L MANLI upwards before, PRO downwards, behind

reverse: L SVLLA IMP or IM; lead horse furthest

  • Denarius [new] (Figs. 5–10)

obverse: L MANLI upwards before, PRO downwards, behind (cf. RRC 367/5)

reverse: L SVLLA IMP or IM; lead horse closest, control number before or behind (cf. RRC 367/3)

Third RRDP Data Release

by Liv M. Yarrow and Alice Sharpless

This post announces the third data release from the Roman Republican Die Project (RRDP). For more on the first two releases see the blog posts from Carbone and Yarrow, July 2021 and Sharpless and Carbone, October 2021. The RRC types included in the newest release are:


































RRC 346 was issued by the moneyer C. Censorinus in 88 BCE. Michael Crawford published an initial die study for RRC 346 in 1971. This complex issue shares dies across most subtypes. Three subtypes (346/1a, 1c, and 1d) have obverse control marks and share obverse dies. The other six subtypes have no obverse control marks. Schaefer has not made an attempt to count obverse dies without control marks. In addition to shared obverse dies, six of the subtypes fall into “pairs” linked by reverse dies. 346/1a and 1b share reverse dies with control numerals (Fig. 1a–b), 346/1c and 1d share dies with control symbols, and 346/1e and 1f share dies with Greek control letters.

Figure 1a. RRC 346/1a with reverse die link, control numeral XXV. 346/1a also has an obverse control mark: dot in left field. British Museum, 1843,0116.766.
Figure 1b. RRC 346/1b (below) with reverse die link, control numeral XXV. British Museum, 1949,0403.55.

Not all dies are used in both subtypes. Schaefer’s materials include four control-marked obverse dies and at least 32 reverse dies that were not observed by Crawford. Schaefer also identifies an additional die link between 346/1c and 1d. The complexity of the die links in this series calls into question the utility of continuing to use the subtype identifiers in this issue (see a preliminary discussion of this issue here). Even Crawford questioned whether the system of control marks could really be called a “system” at all (p. 143).

RRC 350A, issued in 86 BCE by the moneyers C. Gargonius, Ogul[nius], and M. Ver[gilius], falls into 12 subtypes. 350A/1a–e and 350A/2 are denarii, while 350A/3a–f are bronze asses. The denarii 350A/1a–e are ODEC: One Die for Each Control Mark though Schaefer’s die study reveals there are three control marks that have two dies each (Fig. 2a–b).

Figure 2a. RRC 350A/1b. Although the issue is ODEC, a few control marks have two dies. Here we see an example of control mark A. Musée d’Art et d’Histoire, Geneve, CdN 2001-1407.
Figure 2b. Another example of RRC 350A/1b. Although the issue is ODEC, a few control marks have two dies. Here we see a second example of control mark A. BnF, REP-11844

The control marks on the asses 350A/3a–f are not well preserved, but there are several controls with more than one die. We selected this issue for release as the denarii of RRC 350A had been discussed in part one of Yarrow and Carbone’s 2020 RBN article (see Tables 4 and 6 especially), making the data underlying our analyses publicly available. Schaefer’s data for 350A/1a–e has 97% coverage, but the coverage for 350A/2 is only 12%, meaning much work remains to be done identifying specimens and comparing dies. 

This fall semester RRDP welcomed the participation of five undergraduate researchers from Brooklyn College, four were funded through the Mellon Transfer Undergraduate Research Program. The program connects transfer students to work closely with faculty members in the Humanities and Social Sciences and engage in meaningful, rigorous research. It is endowed by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. These students learned about numismatics, Roman Republican history, and how to navigate a wide range of digital tools. They were also able to visit the ANS and handle coins with all COVID precautions taken–a very welcome point of human contact for us all (Fig. 3)!

Figure 3. Lucia Carbone speaks to undergraduate researchers from Brooklyn College during a visit the ANS.

The following issues benefited from their work and analyses.  These issues were selected because they contain, at least in part, numbered dies just like the famous Crepusius issue studied by Hersh and so influential for the work of Carter and Esty on how to quantify the size of an issue based on the observed number of dies and specimens.

Through the regular full release of RRDP data, we are seeking to follow Esty’s sound advice in the conclusion of his 2011 article (p. 58):

Die-identity researchers should include all die-frequencies, not just n [number of observed specimens] and d [number of observed dies], so readers can judge the fit of the model. Plots […] are as useful as the estimate itself and provide additional information about the fit of the data to the model.

Our hope is that these calculations and plots will one day be displayed in CRRO for RRDP issues, alongside the raw data. Currently, any researcher can download the data as a CSV file that can be opened and explored in any spreadsheet program.

RRC 391/1a–b, 391/2, and 391/3 were issued by C. Egnatius Maximus in 75 BCE. 391/1a and 1b share reverse dies and are distinguished only by the presence of an obverse control mark on 391/1b. Schaefer’s materials confirm Crawford’s observation of only one obverse die for 391/1a, with a second plated specimen. For 391/1b, Crawford identified 8 dies with control numbers I through VIII; Schaefer’s study adds a ninth obverse die with control mark VIIII. Schaefer identifies 10 reverse dies for both subtypes, plus one plated specimen. There is also an additional obverse die which may or may not have originally had a control mark. For 391/2 (Fig. 4), Schaefer identified 16 obverse dies and 21 reverse dies, slightly less than Crawford (20 obv, 22 rev). For 391/3, Schaefer observed 40 reverse dies, an increase from Crawford’s count of 33.

Figure 4. RRC 391/2. ANS 1944.100.1970.

The most interesting anomaly explored by Nick Shaffer, currently pursuing a second BA in History, was the apparent overabundance of specimens of RRC 391/2 with the control mark VII (Fig. 5). 

Figure 5. Chart showing die frequencies for RRC 391/2.

Esty’s seminal 2011 article has emphasized how non-random samples, especially the overabundance of a single die can distort the data. Nick sought out additional specimens expanding Schaefer’s material to see if this helped correct the anomaly, but it only exacerbated the unusual number of VII specimens. Nick investigated when and where all VII specimens were first reported either in museum collection or in trade to see if they could be evidence of a dispersed hoard. No patterns were detected suggesting the sample may indeed be random.  He also investigated the weights of the specimens to see if this might hint at some of the specimens being ancient imitations such as has been noted by Jeremy Haag for RRC 378. Again, no evidence was found. Esty’s geometric model would predict 391/2 was struck by 24 dies, whereas the numbered countermarks suggest it was made with not less than 30. The reason why this particular data does not seem to fit the geometric model proposed by Esty will be investigated in future publications.

RRC 392 was issued by L. Farsuleius Mensor and also dates to 75 BCE. Schaefer identifies 75 obverse dies for 392/1a, plus one imitation, with control marks from I to LXXV (Crawford identified 51 dies and controls only up to LXXIII). For 392/1b Schaefer identifies 106 reverse dies, with two additional dies on plated or imitation specimens, with control marks from I to CXX (Crawford identified 41 reverse dies and controls only to CXVII). Rechielle Morales, Randy Sanz, and Margenis Saldana, seniors in History, and Jonathan Garcia, who is following a self-designed BA curriculum in Medieval Studies, worked together as a team on this issue.  Using again Esty’s geometric model, they observed that the model underestimates the number of reverse dies for RRC 392/1b by some 15 dies, if there were indeed originally 120 as the numbered control marks indicate. For RRC 392/1a the situation is the reverse, Esty’s geometric model seems to overestimate the number of obverse dies, again if we can rely on the highest observed control number as a guide. The coverage is over 97% in both cases and no obvious cases of non-randomness have been identified thus far. Figures 6 and 7 plot the die frequencies. We do not yet have any explanation for this and will be reaching out to colleagues as we continue to investigate this data and other similar numbered issues.

Figure 6. Chart showing die frequencies for RRC 392/1a.
Figure 7. Chart showing die frequencies for RRC 392/1b.

For more on RRC 367 see the separate blog post Revising Crawford’s Roman Republican Coinage  from RRDP: The case of RRC 367.