Identifying Common Late Roman Bronze Coins
©2003 Scott Uhrick  for  Ancient Coins for Education, Inc

One of the most satisfying parts of working with ACE is going to a school where the students are well into cleaning their coins and helping the kids identify them.  The skills I’ve picked up from cleaning a few thousand of these little bronze nuggets find their only useful outlet there, and my ego benefits greatly from having student after student come up with a coin they considered an unidentifiable slug and return to their friends with an attribution as to type or emperor.  In the end very few are truly unidentifiable.  The constantly repeated question is “How do you do it?”  My less-than-helpful answer is always “pattern-matching”.  

The fact is that the great majority of these coins are from a handful of Emperors, and these Emperors showed little variety in the designs they placed on their bronze coinage.  The gold issues demonstrate a great deal more artistic effort (and no, you will never find one of those in these lots).  Eighty percent of the coins you will come across fall into an identifiable set of Emperors and reverses and this guide is pointed toward helping identify those coins. 

 Part 1 – The Era of Constantine the Great, his Sons and Rivals (320 – 337 A.D.) 

The players – Constantine, Crispus, Constantine Jr., Constantius, Constans, Licinius and Licinius Jr.

 OK – so only George Foreman has shown less originality in naming his sons.*  It probably won’t surprise you that Constantine named his daughter “Constantia” (if you find one of her coins, call me at ‘203 790-1669’ - they are rarer than political scruples).  Please note that the coins in this era identify Constantine as Augustus (“AVG”) and his sons as Caesars (“NOB C” or “NC”).  This alone will help you ID coins of Constantine (the Great) vs. coins of his sons (the not-nearly-so-great).   

 *(George named all four of his sons “George”)

 Obverses 

           a

        b

           c

        d

e

Constantine

Crispus

Constantine Jr.

Constantius

    Constans

 CONSTANTINVS
PF AVG

 CRISPVS NOB C

CONSTANTINVS 
IVN NOB C    

FL IVL CONSTANTIVS
NOB C

FL IVL CONSTANS
 NOB C 

 

f

g

h

i

Licinius

Licinius Jr.

CONSTANTINOPOLIS

VRBS ROMA

IMP LICINIVS AVG

LICINIVS IVN NOB C

Constantinople Commemorative

Rome Commemorative

For the purpose of ID’ing the person on the coin don’t pay too much attention to the titles (“FL”, “IVL”, etc…).  Locate the name and look for the all-important “N” which makes the difference between “CONSTANTINVS” and “CONSTANTIVS”.  Coins of Crispus and Constans are easier to pick out by counting the letters.  Remember that the title of Augustus (“AVG”) was only granted to the children of Constantine after his death.  A coin with the name of the child with the title “AVG” was minted after 337 (the year Constantine shuffled off this mortal coil.  Went to meet his maker.  Joined the choir invisible.  Snuffed it, etc…).

 Reverses 

1

2

3

4

5

GLORIA EXERCITVS

CAESARVM NOSTRORVM VOT V

PROVIDENTIAE CAESS

IOVI CONSERVATORI CAESS

VICTORIAE LAET PRINC PERP VOT P R

The glory of the army

Vows of our Caesars undertaken for five years (of service)

(Dedicated to) the foresight of our Caesars

(Dedicated to) Jove the preserver of the Caesars

The happy victories of the long-lived princes because of vows of the Roman people

Two soldiers standing beside one or two standards

The years of the vows commemorated within the dedication

A campgate with two turrets

 

Jupiter standing left holding Victory

Two Victories placing shield on altar – shield inscribed 
“VOT P R”

 

6

7

8

9

10

BEATA TRANQVILLITAS VOTIS XX

SOLI INVICTO COMITI

VIRTVS EXERCIT VOT XX

(ANEPIGRAPHIC)

(Constantinople Commemorative)

(ANEPIGRAPHIC)

(Rome Commemorative)

Blessed peace because of vows fulfilled for twenty years

(Dedicated to) our friend the invincible sun

The courage of the army because of vows fulfilled for twenty years

(ANEPIGRAPHIC)

 

(ANEPIGRAPHIC)

Altar inscribed “VOTIS XX”

Sol standing l. holding globe

Two captives seated at base of standard inscribed "VOT XX"

Victory walking l., foot on prow, holding scepter and leaning on shield

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