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Research Coins: Feature Auction


Coinage Struck in Spain 20-18 BC

Sale: Triton XI, Lot: 723. Estimate $10000. 
Closing Date: Monday, 7 January 2008. 
Sold For $22000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Augustus. 27 BC-AD 14. AV Aureus (7.88 g, 6h). Spanish mint - Emerita. Struck 19-18 BC. AVGVSTVS, bare head left / OB/CIVIS/SERVATOS in three lines within oak wreath. RIC I 29b; Calicó 250; BMCRE 314 var. = BMCRR Gaul 148 var. (head right); BN 1279. Near EF, a few very minor marks. Very rare.

Mint Assignments of Augustus’ Issues in Spain

Assigning a mint to issues in Spain from 20 BC onward is a difficult task as the group constitutes one of the richest and most interesting coinages in the entire Augustan series. Laffranchi and Mattingly both noted different style portraits on Spanish mint pieces and accordingly assigned them to different mints, Caesaraugusta and Colonia Patricia.

Style 1: a stiff looking portrait, seen in 20 issues between 19 and 18 BC.
Style 2: a curly and round portrait, seen in 30 issues, often on compact flans, between 19 and 16 BC.
Style 3: a simpler and small portrait, seen on 5 issues between 18 and 16 BC, in the manner of early issues at Emerita.

Prideaux notes that gold and silver coins had a wide circulation pattern and their types may well have inspired local engravers everywhere. He further notes that Caesaraugusta was an improbable location for a mint as it was quite a young colony (founded between 19 and 15 BC), and it is unlikely that a sophisticated mint of such significance would have been installed in such close proximity to the military headquarters at Tarraco. Prideaux also sees Colonia Patricia as an improbable mint location, as it was in Baetica, very distant from the operations in the northwest and far from Rome and its main port in Spain at Tarraco. Giard attempted to add a third mint at Nemausus, based on a die that was found in the fountain of Nemausus. Prideaux disputes this, questioning why in a time of relative stability in Spain, the main Imperial Mint for the West would have been moved twice within a couple of years.

Prideaux proposes that Agrippa, upon arriving in Spain in 19 BC to assist in subduing the Cantabrians, had immediate needs for coinage to pay the legions, as well as money to purchase land for founding colonies for the retiring veterans. With the wealth of coins that were produced in this period it seems logical that Agrippa would have used established mints, which would have a full compliment of workers with the requisite artistic and technical knowledge. Emerita could start production immediately as it had recently been an operating mint under the legate P. Carisius. The colony was well situated to strike coins for the southern and western part of Spain. Prideaux proposes that coins of Style 1 and 3 were issued for Augustus by his adiuctor Agrippa at the mint of Emerita shortly after his arrival in Spain. Style 1 coins were engraved by a new celator of Agrippa’s, and style 3 by an engraver who was active under P. Carisius. The location of the other mint is equally obvious. The provincial headquarters at the port in Tarraco was the colony’s lifeline with Rome, and this strong military base was certainly a safe location for a mint. The coins of style 2 may be assigned to this mint. Many of the elaborate types depicting the monuments of Rome were first struck here. Many of the same types were issued by both mints from 19-16 BC, and are distinguished only by their style.

Prideaux’s arguments are grounds for future scholarship and research.