Monday, March 10, 2008

'O' My!!!

Domitian, AR Denarius, 19mm (3.21 gm). Ephesus (?) mint, struck AD 76.

Laureate head right, small 'o' below neck truncation, CAESAR AVG F DOMITIANVS / Eagle standing facing on garlanded base, wings open, head right, COS IIII. RIC II.1 Vespasian 1492 (pg. 171); BMCRE II 487 (pg.102), 'o' mint-mark lost on BM example; RPC II 1466.

People are social creatures. We need to interact with one another to nourish our soul and maintain a sense of equilibrium. People need people, or as Vince Vaughn says in my favorite line from the movie Wedding Crashers, “People helping people!” That was certainly a ‘social’ moment! Those who liked the movie as I do should be enjoying a little chuckle right now.

Anyway…..... to maintain this equilibrium, one must find social outlets. Collecting coins is one of the ways I express myself. Take this blog, for example. It provides a means to convey anything and everything about my favorite past time. It allows my creative side to peek out from time to time, via the written word. My collection website, is another such means of expression. That site allows me to express my creative side in site layout/presentation, themes by which to display my collection, and so on. Both of these venues, though not obviously social in nature, have proven a surprising source of interaction... people leave comments on my blog entries and I receive comments, via email, about my collection site from time to time!

What does all this have to do with Domitian and the denarius shown above? Nothing… and everything. I belong to a small group of friends who email each other regularly. We share new acquisitions, point out interesting new listings in eBay or Vcoins, help each other with reference citations, etc. It's a great group of guys and I appreciate their friendship greatly! The denarius above was brought to my attention by one of these friends. He knows I collect Domitian and that I likely didn't have an example of this issue in my collection. It was a perfect example of "People helping people," though not like that in the movie Wedding Crashers!!

That aspect of this particular coin is enough to make it special to me. However, this coin is special in its own right! Take a look at the obverse, just below Domitian's bust. There you'll note a small "o". This coin belongs to a rare series of denarii struck at an uncertain mint, traditionally attributed to a mint in Asia Minor... possibly Ephesus. As the mint is uncertain, they are commonly referred to as o-Mint denarii. This particular series only includes coins with the following consular dates, which corresponds to AD 76 (though Domitian's COS III complicates this dating a bit):

Vespasian - COS VII
Titus - COS V
Domitian - COS III and COS IIII

Ian Carradice and T.V. Buttrey, in The Roman Imperial Coinage, Volume II Part 1, describe this series as such:

"The coins are characterised by a uniformity of style. Most portraits are broadly similar to those on contemporary coins of the Roman mint, though not close enough to suggest shared engravers, and the heads are always large, whereas Roman mint coins of thise period include many small heads. Lettering tends to be uneven, often larger and more crowded than on contemporary Roman coins..." Take another look at the photo above... the lettering is indeed uneven and noticeably larger than Roman mint issues.

Carradice and Buttrey continue, "The discovery of some new varieties since the publication of RPC in 1999 suggests that the full range of output of this issue may not yet be known..." It is the style of these o-mint denarii that lead Carradice and Buttrey to concur with the previous tentative placement of these coins at the mint of Ephesus. They cite the comparability of an Ephesian portrait of Titus (RIC II.1, 1468) to that of an o-mint portrait of Domitian (RIC II.1, 1490) as evidence to support this placement.

This is an intriguing coin. The "o" mark below Domitian's portrait begs the question, "Why an 'o'?". What does it mean? The refined portrait and eagle seem to contradict the crude-ish legends. An interesting rarity, to say the least! And, the eye appeal isn't too shabby either... look at that irridescent toning around the eagle on the reverse! To my email friend, Jack, thank you for pointing this one out to me!

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