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 74,020 examples.

PAS record number: GLO-6766FA

Record: GLO-6766FA
Object type: COIN
Broadperiod: ROMAN
Description: Copper alloy nummus of the House of Constantine dated to AD 330-335 (Reece 17) [...] bust facing right / [GLORIA EXERCITVS], two soldiers stan…
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PAS record number: SWYOR-6688D8

Record: SWYOR-6688D8
Object type: COIN
Broadperiod: ROMAN
Description: A copper alloy Roman coin: a radiate of Tetricus II, dating from AD 270 - 274 (Reece period 13), reverse type PIETAS AVGUSTOR, depicting sacri…
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PAS record number: SWYOR-6662E1

Record: SWYOR-6662E1
Object type: COIN
Broadperiod: ROMAN
Description: A base silver Roman coin: a radiate of Carausius, dating from AD 286 - 293 (Reece period 14). The reverse type is PAX AVG depicting a standing…
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PAS record number: DUR-65F185

Record: DUR-65F185
Object type: COIN
Broadperiod: ROMAN
Description: A complete silver denarius of Trajan dating to the period AD 103 to 111 (Reece Period 5). COS V P P S P Q R OPTIMO PRINC reverse type depictin…
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PAS record number: DUR-658F72

Record: DUR-658F72
Object type: COIN
Broadperiod: ROMAN
Description: A complete silver denarius of Hadrian dating to the period AD 125 to 128 (Reece Period 6). COS III reverse type depicting Libertas standing le…
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