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Official Die of Tiberius

CNG 109, Lot: 752. Estimate $15000.
Sold for $50000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

ROMAN IMPERIAL, Official Dies. temp. Tiberius. AD 14-37. Brass die for AR Denarius. Dimensions: overall length, 15mm; diameter, 23mm at face, expanding to 30mm at widest point, then tapering to 12mm at base. Of typical form for this type of die. Weight: 161.20 grams. Brass face with obverse of a Lugdunum mint Group 1 “Tribute Penny” type denarius of Tiberius (RIC I 26). Cf. Crawford pp. 560-562; cf. N. Lupu, “Aspekte des Münzumlaufs im vorrömischen Dakien,” JNG XVII (1967), pl. 6; cf. C.C. Vermeule, “Some notes on ancient dies and coining methods,” NumCirc LXI.10 (November 1953), Die Representation No. 2; cf. W. Malkmus, “Addenda to Vermeule’s catalog of ancient coin dies: Part 1,” SAN XVII.4 (September 1989), p. 82. Intact, a few minor scratches. Extremely rare.

Ex Stack’s (22 April 2009), lot 1400; Heritage 3015 (7 September 2001), lot 23297.

From the consignor: While a number of forger’s dies have survived from Roman times, only a handful of “official” coin dies are currently known to exist. French numismatists Jean-Baptist Giard and J. Lafaurie have surveyed surviving examples and determined that 12 coin dies can be confirmed as official mint products; interestingly, 11 of these are from the important imperial mint of Lugdunum (modern Lyon) in France. Six dies were unearthed in Auxerre in 1799, four of which are now in the Bibliotech Nationale coin cabinet; the other two reside at the Musee de la Monnaie in Paris. Four more were found in 1863 at Paray-le-Monial and also now reside in museums. One was found at Vertault; our specimen comes from an old collection in Poule-les-Echarmaux, in the same area.

The die is of identical fabric and metal composition to the other known examples, confirming that it is an official die. The presence of a silver denarius in the obverse indicates that during the course of striking, a denarius became lodged in the reverse die and caused the striking of an indeterminate number of brockages (a mint error in which the obverse or reverse of a coin is repeated, in relief and incuse, on both sides of the coin). The flattening around the edges of the denarius indicates that a fair number of brockages were struck in this fashion, driving the coin ever deeper into the reverse die. When attempts to dislodge the coin failed (indicated by gouges before the portrait), the die was discarded and possibly secretly removed by a mint worker as a souvenir. Thus we have an exceedingly rare opportunity to acquire an official Roman coin die, while at the same time demonstrating how brockages were produced in ancient times!