Welcome to the latest edition of Coin Relief! In this issue, Sam Moorhead examines nummi with the VICTORIAE LAETAE PRINC PERP legend – a type only struck at selected mints.
The VICTORIAE LAETAE PRINC PERP nummi of AD 318-20
The VICTORIAE LAETAE PRINC PERP nummi, along with the IOVI CONSERVATORI AVGG nummi, were the first major types to follow on from the SOLI INVICTO COMITI and related issues which had been struck since c. AD 310. The VICTORIAE LAETAE PRINC PERP types were only struck at selected mints: London, Trier, Lyon, Arles, Ticinum and Siscia. These were all in the domain of Constantine I and his sons, hence a real scarcity of coins struck in the name of Licinius I and II.
One feature of the coins is that they had a higher silver content than the issues that preceded and followed them. Coins sometimes show considerable silver wash and many show traces of silvering. (There was apparently an earlier base silver argenteus of this type struck in AD 312-3 at Trier, which has been the subject of much discussion, but it is not included in this blog). It was the higher silver content of the AD 318-20 nummi which was undoubtedly the reason for many contemporary copies being produced, many more than for any other issue between AD 294 and 330. There are up to 80 or more contemporary copies on the PAS Database, the number being certain to change after further editing. This copying did not just occur in Britain; the British Museum has a group of copies found in the Balkans region, the local mint striking this issue being Siscia (Sisak in Croatia).
On the PAS Database, there is a total of around 1,040 pieces, of which 472 are attributed to Mints. Table 1 shows the coins attributed to mints, broken down by emperor – the totals do include contemporary copies. London has the largest share with 255 coins (54%), followed by Trier with 138 pieces (29.2%). The remaining four mints have much smaller shares: Lyon
(26 coins; 5.5%); Arles (17; 3.6%); Ticinum (22; 4.7%); Siscia (14; 3%).
Constantine I takes the lion’s share of the coins (373; 85.4%) with his sons Crispus (38; 8.7%) and Constantine II (22; 5%) accounting for most of the rest. Licinius I and II only have four coins recorded between them. This might not be so surprising given that this issue was from the western section of the Empire where Constantine and his family held sway.
There is quite a variety of obverse types with laureate, laureate-helmeted, helmeted and radiate busts. Some helmeted busts show the emperor holding a spear.
Mint of London
London is the best represented mint on the PAS Database for this issue with 255 coins (54%). This does appear to show that the majority of coins supplied to Britain at this time was coming from the mint at London. Constantine I is by far the best represented ruler with 204 coins (85%), the rest of the coins being shared by Crispus (21; 8.75%) and Constantine II (15; 6.25%). RIC lists three issues for this type, which is also presented in the even more comprehensive listing of these coins in H. Cloke and L. Toone, The London Mint of Constantius and Constantine (2015), pp. 248-53. The dating in Cloke and Toone differs slightly and I use it below and when editing records:
AD 319: The shield rests on a column – this is the smallest issue.
AD 319-20: The shield rests on an altar with lozenge decoration (often with dots).
AD 319-20: The shield rests on an altar with wreath decoration (often enclosing a symbol such as a star or cross) – this appears to be the most common issue.
Trier is the next best represented mint after London, with 138 coins (29.2%). Again, Constantine I accounts for the largest number of coins (118; 95.2%). There are only four for Crispus and two for Constantine II. There are two main issues:
AD 318-9: – // P/STR
AD 319: Star on altar // STR and ●STR (Figs. 10-12). This is the more common issue. In RIC VII (pp. 183-4, nos. 223-36), there is a subsequent group of coins with the second mark of * // STR and ●STR which have a variety of abbreviated reverse legends. These are rare and subsequent editing might identify some in the PAS Data.
As noted above, large numbers of contemporary copies were produced, probably with little or no silver content. They are quite often of reasonable style, but the legends can be more crudely cut and the mintmarks incorrect. It is always worth checking that a supposed ‘new variety’ is not in fact a contemporary copy.
Coins of Lugdunum are much scarcer as finds in Britain with only 26 specimens on the PAS Database: 12 of Constantine I, 9 of Crispus and 2 each for Constantine II and Licinius I. There are two issues at Lyon:
AD 319-20: – // two seated captives
AD 320: – // P two seated captives L
Coins from Arles are also scarce with only 17 on the PAS Database: 15 for Constantine I and one for Licinius I. There are two issues of this type from Arles:
AD 319: – // P star over crescent A
AD 319: – //P/S/TARL. This is much the more common of the two issues
There are only 22 pieces from Ticinum: 15 for Constantine I, 2 for Crispus and one each for Constantine II and Licinius II. There are two issues for this type:
AD 318-9: -, P, R, + and * //P/S/TT (below left).
AD 319: C // P/S/TT (below right).
There are 14 coins from Siscia, of which 9 can be attributed to Constantine I and two each to Crispus and Constantine II. There are three major issues:
AD 318: – // A-ESIS*
AD 318-9: – // A-ESIS (Fig. 24)
AD 319: – // A-ESIS●
In addition, there are – // ●ASIS●, ASIS* and ASIS● pieces of AD 319-20 with the legend VICT●LAETAE PRINC PERP (RIC VII, pp. 434-436, nos. 81-99), but none can be identified on the PAS Database.
References and further reading:
A. Marsden in H. Cloke and L. Toone, The London Mint of Constantius and Constantine (2015), p. 67.