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Research Coins: Electronic Auction

 
2470331

Extremely Rare First Issue

247, Lot: 331. Estimate $300.
Sold for $320. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Postumus. Romano-Gallic Emperor, AD 260-269. AR Antoninianus (23mm, 3.13 g, 5h). Treveri (Trier) mint. 1st emission, 1st phase, AD 260. IMP C M CASS LAT POSTIMVS P F AVG, radiate, draped, and cuirassed bust right / SALVS PROVINCIARVM, river god Rhinus reclining left, resting right arm on forepart of boat left in background, cradling reed in left arm, which rests against urn to right. RIC 87 corr. (obv. legend); Mairat -; AGK 87a; Cunetio 2367. VF, toned, slightly weak strike in center. Extremely rare first issue with long obverse legend.


The Cunetio hoard clarified the structure of Postumus' coinage, and clearly defined not only the true identity of the Gallic mints, but also allowed the full reconstruction of the sequence of Postumus' coin issues. This coin is from the first phase of the first issue of Postumus' coinage at Trier, which was the first mint to strike for the new Gallic emperor. This first issue comprises two phases, which are differentiated by the form of the obverse legend. At the first instance, the mint employed a long legend form stating Postumus' full name and titles. Apparently for practical reasons, this was soon changed to a short form that dropped the "M CASS LAT" from his antoniniani (but was retained on his bronze issues). Another interesting feature of this early coinage is the style of Postumus' portrait, which was influenced by the style of Gallienus' portraits at Lugdunum. Cunetio and the analysis of the Gallic empire by Drinkwater showed that Postumus took control of the Imperial mint at Lugdunum, and moved its personnel to Trier, where he established his first mint. It is likely that in the expediency of needing to coin money for the new emperor, these mint workers were not made intimately familiar with the new emperor's portrait, so they initially produced portraits resembling the emperor they had just been engraving, Gallienus. Over the course of his first year, however, Postumus' portrait significantly changed to what is likely a more accurate representation.

Regarding the obverse legend, all examples of this first phase have Postumus' name spelled POSTIMVS. The authors of Cunetio discovered that all past studies (Cohen, Eimer, etc.) completely missed this, and assumed the coins read POSTVMVS. Thus, these authors cite the legend incorrectly. Also, RIC 87 mistakenly does not even list the full legend variety of the first phase, even though it cites Cohen 353, which is of this long legend phase.

Only two reverse types were struck in Postumus' first issue, SALVS PROVINCIARVM with a representation of the Rhine river god, and VICTORIA AVG with the personification of Victory above two captives. The choice of only two reverses reflects the intent with which Postumus wanted to clearly project both his accomplishments and the purpose of his reign. Postumus was elevated, as most emperors in the mid-third century, by his troops following a series of victories along the Rhine frontier, and his Victory reverse was a reflection of his military prowess. While a Victory reverse was very common for any emperor's coinage, the Salus type here is completely innovative. By the time of Postumus' elevation, Gaul had been ravaged by decades of cross frontier raids that had left the Gallic provinces in tatters, and the demands of the east had taken much of the empire's military away from the west, leaving most provinces there to depend on themselves alone. This isolation directly contributed to the situation that resulted in Postumus' elevation, as the inhabitants of the Gallic provinces looked for someone to save them. With this in mind, Postumus' Salus reverse type directly addresses his intent to tend to this need directly; he will heal the Gallic provinces.