english relics

Roman coin cufflinks circa 1st-3rd Century

1st-3rd Century bronze Roman coins, found in the UK and restored (they come to us in a similar condition to those in the bag of coins shown) and reworked by us into cufflinks. Every pair is different and so will vary from the photo shown.

Bronze Roman coins were allowed to be minted by numerous local authorities whereas silver coins could only be minted in Rome. The issue of bronze coins can be interpreted to be of little value, and of little importance to the central government of Rome, since expenditures of the state were large and could be more easily paid with coins of high value. It is known that during the first century AD an as could only buy a pound of bread or a litre of cheap wine (or according to Pompeiian graffiti, the services of a cheap prostitute).

The medium of exchange was the base metal coinage since gold and silver coins were only for the convenience of storing or transporting large sums of money. Only when silver coins had themselves become so debased they were virtually copper did they supplant the base metal coins for transactions. All prices were therefore quoted in terms of the brass sestertius, with a nominal value of a quarter of a denarius, and all payments in the market place were made using that coin or one of the smaller brass or copper denominations. Before spending a gold or silver coin it had first to be exchanged with the money-changers for its current value in these base metal coins.

Another role that coins played in Roman society, although secondary to their economic role within Roman commerce, was their ability to convey a meaning or relate an idea via their imagery and inscriptions. ‘Moneyers’ used to decide what images and symbols could be used and it is sometimes possible to see a mark denoting which moneyer was responsible for a particular coin. Later designs included imagery relating to a moneyers family. For example the coins of Sextus Pompeius Fostulus, feature his traditional ancestor, Fostulus, watching Romulus and Remus suckling from a mother wolf.

The imagery on coins took a different slant when Julius Caesar issued coins bearing his own portrait. While moneyers had earlier issued coins with portraits of ancestors, Caesar’s was the first Roman coinage to feature the portrait of a living individual. The main focus of the imagery during the Empire was on the portrait of the Emperor. Coins were an important means of disseminating this image throughout the Empire. Coins often attempted to make the Emperor appear God-like through associating the Emperor with attributes normally seen in divinities. While the Emperor is by far the most frequent portrait, heirs apparent, predecessors, and other family members, such as empresses, were also featured. To aid in succession, the legitimacy of an heir was affirmed by producing coins for that successor.

Reverse images were sometimes used as a form of propaganda. During the second half of the third century, virtually all of the reverse images types were personifications and deities.

Forgers exploited ignorance of newly introduced coin types and the illiteracy of the population, by producing imitations of Roman coins on a huge scale. These contemporary forgeries are interesting and worthy of study in their own right and appear to emanate from specific centres of production in, for example, Gaul. They can usually (but not always) be distinguished by poor workmanship, blundered legends, and incorrect die axis (with official Imperial Roman coins the die axis of the reverse is exactly the same as obverse, with the design either the same way up or upside down - with forgeries the axes are usually at an angle with one another). Copies of bronzes, come in waves and tend to follow the introduction of new coin types. In the 1st century, copies of the copper as of Claudius abound. Thereafter there was a lull until the 3rd Century when cast copies of base silver denarii were made. The constant changes to the bronze coins in the 4th Century brought successive waves of imitations.

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