An introduction to Roman coins

An Aureus of Carausius, minted at Rouen

With over 140,000 coins on the database, Roman coins make up the largest single artefact type recorded with the Portable Antiquities Scheme. In recent years there has been a major push to record all coins found, not just those in good condition. It is important to emphasise that each Roman coin shares equal archaeological value, irrespective of its metal or condition. Therefore, all Roman coins from a particular site, field, parish...must be studied and recorded.

This guide has developed over several years and will be updated further in the near future. It provides a visual aid for the identification of coins commonly found in Britain, covering the following elements:

Emperors: you can search on any Roman ruler, emperor or empress, finding out more about them, the denomination of coin struck for them and the mints in operation in their reign. You will also be able to view the latest coins of that ruler recorded on the database. If you wish to look at groups of rulers, you can search on Dynasties.

You can also search by denomination, again searching the database for different examples, whether they be denarii, sestertii or asses. Most of the earlier Roman coins were struck at Rome, but from the 3rd century onwards a large number of mints were operational. Details of these mints are available in a designated section.

The largest number of coins found is 4th century AD nummi. To make recording easier, we have provided all of the Fourth Century Reverses used. In due course, images of all these reverse types will be added.

For initial analysis of coins we use Reece periods, named after the pre-eminent Romano-British numismatist, Richard Reece. He divided the Roman period in 21 periods (Sam Moorhead has added two more) for the purpose of comparing different sites. You can find out which rulers fall into different periods and search the database accordingly. Obviously, to carry out effective analysis by Reece period, we need to record ALL the coins from a site.

Many Roman coins have Personifications on the reverse. We provide a simple guide, with illustrations, of the key characters who appear on coins.

Finally, we provide a list of Republican Moneyers to which we will soon add illustrations. Republican coins are being found in significant (around 660 recorded so far) and they are telling us a great deal about early Roman military activity in Britain.

This guide has been the work of several people: Ian Leins (previous National Finds Adviser for Iron Age and Roman coins), Sam Moorhead (present National Finds Adviser) and Natalia Bauer (Classical Archaeology student). It has all be brought together by Daniel Pett (ICT Supremo for the Portable Antiquities Scheme). In the near future, many more images and general articles will be added to this site. At the end of March 2010, the Iron Age and Roman coins of Wales project's data (collated by Peter Guest and Nick Wells) was integrated with the Scheme's database, significantly increasing the number of coins available for study.
 

Latest notable coins

Latest examples recorded with images

We have recorded 71,689 examples.

PAS record number: ESS-FE0701

Record: ESS-FE0701
Object type: COIN
Broadperiod: ROMAN
Description: Roman copper-alloy nummus of Valens, dating to the period AD 364-378 (Reece period 19). SECVRITAS REI PVBLICAE type, depicting a Victory walki…
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PAS record number: ESS-FDC553

Record: ESS-FDC553
Object type: COIN
Broadperiod: ROMAN
Description: A copper alloy probable nummus of the House of Constantine, dating to the period AD 330-335. CONSTANTINOPOLIS type, depicting a Victory on a p…
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PAS record number: ESS-FD8646

Record: ESS-FD8646
Object type: COIN
Broadperiod: ROMAN
Description: A copper alloy probable radiate of uncertain emperor, dating to the period AD 260-295. Uncertain reverse type, depicting three possible standi…
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PAS record number: ESS-FBBF05

Record: ESS-FBBF05
Object type: COIN
Broadperiod: ROMAN
Description: A copper alloy probable contemporary copy of a radiate (barbarous) commemorating Claudius II, dating to the period AD 275-85 (Reece period 14)…
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PAS record number: ESS-FB8F08

Record: ESS-FB8F08
Object type: COIN
Broadperiod: ROMAN
Description: Roman copper-alloy nummus of the House of Theodosius dating to the period AD 388-402 (Reece period 21). Probably SALVS REI PVBLICAE type, depi…
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