The Roman coin is not “small change”

It’s always exciting when a treasure trove of coins is found, but it’s even more exciting when a coin is discovered, even though it may be a single coin found, it’s really rare. This happened recently in Hungary when a single Roman gold coin was unearthed, the coin being minted in the name of the short reigning Emperor Volusian.

Not only are the coins of this emperor rare, but this is a gold coin, an even rarer denomination from this time on.

Inflation in the Roman Empire was out of control throughout the third century. (Volusian ruled between 251 and 253.) The Roman government issued increasingly debased silver coins, but the government refused to accept any coinage for taxation that was not gold or silver. ‘money. The silver denarius was degraded and declining in strikes. A double denier or antoninianus was introduced and then degraded until its silver content was only about two percent. Since the purity of gold aureus has not decreased so dramatically, the value of aureus against the denarius has increased significantly.

In 301, one aureus of gold was equal to 833.3 denarii despite a monetary reform in 274. This compares to 25 denarii equaling a single aureus of around 180, during the reign of Marcus Aurelius. A typical skilled worker was paid a single denarius a day. The loss of a single aureus was a disaster considering the coin’s purchasing power. Such a piece lost in a province far from Rome would be even more devastating. Such a room probably belonged to a wealthy person. How and why the coin was lost may never be known, but it is possible that the loss was due to an act of violence against the wearer.

Archaeologist from the University of Szeged (Hungary) Máté Varga leads the excavation site in the county of Somogy in what was the Roman province of Upper Pannonia at the time of colonization. Today, what was Upper Pannonia is part of Hungary.

Varga said: “The exact location of the site is being kept secret at this time as the archaeological site is under investigation. Illegal metal detectors are a big problem in Hungary, so we cannot reveal the location at this time.

What is known is that the piece was discovered in early 2022 by a museologist from the Rippl-Rónai Museum (Kaposvár, Hungary) working at the site of the Roman settlement. Roman silver and bronze coins have also been discovered at the Somogy site; however, it is the only gold coin that has been encountered. Other artifacts found include a bronze key, a silver ring with inscriptions, and a glass brooch. Only one bronze coin has been identified as having been minted during the reign of Emperor Probus (276-282). Archaeologists at the site believe the settlement dates to the third and fourth centuries.

Varga is quoted in the Feb. 28 issue of Live Science as saying, “It’s probably a stray someone lost. It must have been a great loss for the previous owner to lose this precious piece.

Vargas described the coin as a 5.6 gram gold composition issue on which a bearded portrait of Volusian appears wearing a beamed crown. Libertas is depicted on the reverse. Coins with this description are cataloged as S. 9721 or 9722, a gold binio or double aureus rather than an aureus denomination in David R. Sear’s Roman Coins and Their Values. Each of these two coins, according to Sear, was minted in Rome in 251-252. Volusian served as Augustus during this period. Libertas stands left holding pileus and scepter on S. 9721 and rests on a column with legs crossed and scepter across on S. 9722.

The Sear book, published in 2005, values ​​either of these coins between $4,000 in very fine and $10,000 in extremely fine.

The Live Science article quotes Marjanko Pilekić, coin cabinet numismatist and research assistant at the Schloss Friedenstein Gotha Foundation in Germany, describing the coin’s condition as “tremendous” based on a photograph provided to Pilekić. Sear does not list a terrific coin.

The director of the numismatic collection at the Rippl-Rónai Museum, Levente Ábrahám, released a statement indicating that the coin will become part of the museum’s collection. The Rippl-Rónai Museum is located in Kaposvar, Hungary.

David C. Barham