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Attributing Your Roman Coin Print E-mail



These are general guidelines that will help with most, but not all, coins in ACE lots.  Fill in your COIN DATA SHEET as you work through these steps. 

STEP 1: What do you see?

Look at your coin carefully and see what images and inscriptions you can discern.  Try holding it at different angles in the light or using different light sources.  If you have a window nearby, look at it in the sunlight.   Use a magnifying glass. Spread a little water on its surface.

STEP 2: Go to the Coin ID Help section. ................

Investigate your coin's REVERSE.
  Browse "Scott's Identifier - Identifying Common Late Roman Bronze Coins"

Another useful visual aide is the
"Elementary Identifier"

Also consult "The Dirty Dozen:  A Review of Common Late Roman Coin Types" at http://www.forumancientcoins.com/dougsmith/uncleaned.html

Look to find your REVERSE image and inscription.  If you find a similar reverse, use the notes to help you understand the MOTIF and ENGLISH TRANSLATION of the inscription.  Now use the chart to learn which Roman EMPERORS (there are usually SEVERAL) minted coins with your reverse.  Now you may have a lead!

STEP 3: Identify the emperor.

Look carefully at the inscription on the OBVERSE of your coin.  Does the INSCRIPTION  resemble the names of any of your emperor choices? 

Generally the obverse inscription has the form

EMPEROR'S NAME (sometimes beginning with initials) : ADJECTIVES or TITLES (abbrev.), as in

            CONSTANTINVS  P F AVG or    (notice that V's = U's)



OR the following form:


Here are some common formulas with their abbreviations spelled out below. 

            D N   THEODOSIUS  P F AVG

            IMP  AVRELIANVS  AVG or P F AVG


FL = Flavius,                            IVL = Iulius

D = Dominus "Lord"     N = Noster "Our"     P = Pius "Loyal"    F = Felix"Blessed"

AVG = Augustus "revered one" (title given to emperor)     IMP = Imperator "emperor"

NOB C = Nobilissimus Caesar "our most noble caesar" 

Help for other abbreviations not listed here can be found at Doug Smith's site,

You may need to look for fine distinctions.

If you are choosing among members of the Constantine family, concentrate

on the END of the emperor's name.

            CONSTANTINVS = Constantine

            CONSTANTIVS = Constantius

            CONSTANS = Constans

            CONSTANTINOPOLIS = Constantinople, the capital city of the Eastern Empire

If the letters of the inscription are off the flan or too difficult to decipher, you can often deduce members of the Constantine family by counting how many letters there are between the CONSTAN--- and the abbreviated titles, or by the amount of space available.

STEP 4:  Describe the image of your emperor on the obverse.

Describe the features of your coin as you see them from top to bottom, left to right.  Use language such as this:    Laureate (or diademed, helmeted, radiate, bare-headed) emperor facing right (left), draped (cuirassed or draped and cuirassed).




 Image Image   Image
      Diademed - Pearl    Diademed--Rosette           


Image  Image  Image



 Image  Image  Image  Image
 Cuirassed   Draped & Cuirassed     Draped    Draped


STEP 5:  Consult coin data bases to see if you can find a match for your coin.

Choose one of the emperors you think could be on your coin from these databases:

---  www.wildwinds.com  (go to http://www.wildwinds.com/coins/ric/i.html for an emperor list) Once within an emperor's set of coins, click at top of page to see "thumbnail images" of each coin.

--- http://dirtyoldcoins.com/Roman-Coins.html


Browse the coins.  Remember that your coin in BRONZE (AE).  If the first emperor does not yield a similar coin, check another emperor.  Continue on in this way.


STEP 6:  Decipher your mint mark (if you can see one).

You will find the mint mark for most coins of our era under the image of the coin's reverse. This is called the EXERGUE.  Mint marks consist of an abbreviated CITY (see list below), sometimes preceded by SM standing for Sacra Moneta "sacred money" and sometimes followed by a designation of an officina, "WORKSHOP" within the mint where the coin was made, represented as Greek letters for mints in the eastern empire (alpha = 1st workshop; beta = 2nd workshop, gamma = 3rd workshop etc.); represented by P, S, T, Q (prima = 1st, secunda = 2nd, tertia = 3rd, quartus = 4th, etc.) in the western empire.  You may see letters in the fields to the left and right of the reverse image which may also indicate workshops.  These too can help you attribute your coin.  Also, late antoniniani usually had "XXI" in the exergue to denote denomination - "20 to 1" (either the ratio of copper to silver, or how many of these to an aureus). 


Decoding mint marks:  

Alexandria: ALE Antioch: ANT or ANA
Aquileia: AQ Constantinople: CON or CONS
Cyzicus: K or MKV
Heraclea: H, HT, HERACL or HERAC
London: L, ML or LON
Lugdunum (Lyons): LG or LVG
Nicomedia: N
Rome: R or RM
Sirmium: SIRM
Siscia: SIS or SISC
Thessalonica: TES or TS
Ticinum: T
Trier: TR


STEP 7:  Research your emperor at "De Imperatoribus Romanis"


STEP 8:  Research your reverse image among Doug Smith's

"The Dirty Dozen:  A Review of Common Late Roman Coin Types" at

STEP 9:  Ask questions or check your attribution by writing to ACE numismatists at


You will find a submission form for describing your coin to the ACE Help list at