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4510386

Proto-contorniate Double Sestertius

451, Lot: 386. Estimate $150.
Sold for $300. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Trajan Decius. AD 249-251. Æ Double Sestertius (32.5mm, 37.38 g, 12h). Rome mint, 4th officina. 3rd emission, AD 250. IMP C M Q TRAIANVS DECIVS AVG, radiate and cuirassed bust right / [FELICI]TAS SAECVLI, S C across field, Felicitas standing left, holding long caduceus and cornucopia. RIC IV 115a; Banti 9. Brown patina, rough surfaces. Fine. A “proto-contorniate” with hammered edges.


Proto-contorniate is the modern term used to describe Roman Imperial and Provincial bronze coins of the first, second, and early third centuries with hammered-up edges. These raised edges on the rims probably occurred after these bronze issues no longer circulated and ceased to be part of the currency in general use. These proto-contorniates are of both emperors and empresses and consist almost exclusively of earlier sestertii, dupondii, and asses. Although several different theories to explain this alteration have been offered over the years, it is generally accepted today that these were given by friends and family to each other as New Year’s gifts, perhaps in the late third and first half of the fourth centuries. This was first proposed by Andreas Alföldi in Die Kontorniaten (Budapest, 1943). The rims hammered in this manner gave them a distinctive appearance.