Monday, 22 April 2013

A "new" Carausius aureus with absolutely no provenance (sadly)

In May this year the Swiss auction house of Numismatica Ars Classica (NAC) will offer a gold aureus of the third century British usurper Carausius. The coin purports to be an output from the Rouen mint with the reverse OPES IVI AVG.

The style of the products of this mint are all rather different to the main body of coinage of this usurper from the mints in Britain and this Opes coin is decidedly crude.

The provenance they "cite" in the text is Neligen (1881) and Trau (1935), unfortunately this cannot be that coin. The weight cited for the Trau/Neligen specimen is 4.55 grammes, compared to 5.10 grammes for the NAC coin. The shape of the flan, comparing with the plate illustration in the Trau catalogue is decidedly different. Finally, to cap it all, the Trau specimen currently resides in the collection of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.
Looking at the piece the NAC coin does appear to be struck from the same dies as the Trau specimen, the marks in the obverse die, between the A and R in Carausius for example, are clearly visible on both specimens.

I contacted the company to try to get to the bottom of it and their reply came back as follows:

" We did not cite any provenance for the coin, the provenances are given on the line below the estimate and grading.

As you pointed out, the note refers to the Trau specimen, however by "this aureus" the writer was referring simply to the type and not to this particular piece. We can understand that the wording could have been misleading and apologise for this

The result is that we have, if real, a totally unprovenanced new example of a rare gold coin of Carausius. Where has this coin come from, why is there no record of its discovery? Even if this fell outside of the UK laws for mandatory reporting, ie it was a single find, there needs to be a record of it.