Saturday, 1 January 2022

The demise of a Yorkshire token issuer

Visited Scarborough the other day. Sad to see the Luna Park funfair site empty, but hopefully it is only temporary. Apparently the Tuby family who ran it for years have given it up and the lease had now been taken over by another company who plan to revamp it. I don't know if they will retain the name so posting here along with a couple of slot machine tokens known from there, given their size they are presumably 10p tokens from the 1970s, information seems scant. 

26mm, not in Hayes

26mm, not in Hayes

Monday, 20 December 2021

The SPQR mint(s) of Gallienus and Claudius II


The latter half of the third century saw the number of Roman mints beginning to expand, and, at the same time, the number of mints striking the civic coins go into rapid decline. The new mints are usually not named on the coins and we need to use find spots and style to propose mint locations.

It is against this background that we see a series of coins beginning late in the reign of Gallienus and continuing into Claudius II marked with SPQR on the reverse.

RIC is of little help here in that it gives them to “Asia” under Gallienus, perhaps Antioch as pellets on the obverse are sometimes seen under the bust on the obverse, similar to the Antioch coinage of Trebonianus Gallus. For Claudius II it places them at Cyzicus, recognising that the later coins marked MC are stylistically similar.

In 1975 a paper in the British journal, Numismatic Chronicle, recognised that the SPQR series under Gallienus may be Cyzicus, but the author suggested that all the Asian sole reign coins of Gallienus were from the same location, eliminating Antioch as a mint from the time.

Gysen proposed an arrangement that agreed that the SPQR coins were ultimately produced at Cyzicus, but the original location was Smyrna (CENB 1999). The change in location was proposed to have taken place early in the reign of Claudius, recognised in the coinage by a first emission of unmarked coins, the adoption of the MC mark for the second before reverting back to SPQR for the third and dropping all marks again for the fourth and final emission. 

Huvelin supported the idea that Smyrna may have been the original locus of the mint. This was based partially on stylistic criteria, but also on the commonality of a reverse device, an Amazon holding a bipenis, that occurred on both the civic issues from the city and an antoninianus type of Gallienus.

Gysen’s arrangement is not ideal, given the transition of marks, SPQR to MC to SPQR to nothing. It is not the organisation adopted by the BnF for the cataloguing work in preparation of the RIC revision. The SPQR coins attributed to Smyrna seem to be limited to the first emission through to early 269. After this date the establishment ceases and production transferred to Cyzicus and there is a mixture of SPQR, MC and unmarked coins, depending on the emission. 


Emission 1 ABVNDANTIA AVG (MIR 1524c) Smyrna

Emission 1 AEQVITAS AVG (MIR 1525c) Smyrna

Emission 1 CONSERVATOR AVG (MIR 1529c) Smyrna

Emission 1 VENER VICTRIX (MIR 1537c) Smyrna

Emission 2 P M TR P XVII (MIR 1540b) Smyrna

Emission 2 SALVS AVG (MIR 1547c) Smyrna

Emission ? PAX FVNDATA (unpublished) Smyrna

Emission ? VIRTVTI AVG (MIR -, RIC 676) Smyrna


Emission 1 VIRTVTI AVG (RIC 253, RIC temp 847) Smyrna, end 268- early 269

Emission 3 FORTVNA REDVX (RIC - , RIC temp 950) Cyzicus, end 269 - early 270

Emission 3 FORTVNA REDVX (RIC 238, RIC temp 953) Cyzicus, end 269 - early 270

Emission 3 PAX AETERNA (RIC 234, RIC temp 951) Cyzicus, end 269 - early 270

Emission 3 PAX AETERNA (RIC 237, RIC temp 921) Cyzicus, mid - end 269

Emission 3 VICTORIAE GOTHIC (RIC 251, RIC temp 925) Cyzicus, mid - end 269


Elks, K; 'The eastern mints Valerian and Gallienus: the evidence of two new hoards from western Turkey' NC 7th ser, XV (1975), pp91-109

Gysen, P; 'A propos des ateliers de Smyrne et de Cyzique que sous Claude II le Gothique' CENB 36, no. 2 (1999), pp29-41

Mairat, J; 'L'ouverture de l'atelier imperial de Cyzique sous le regne de Claude II le Gothique' RN (2007)

Monday, 29 November 2021

The denarii of AD 268

After AD 238 issues of the denarius were sporadic. There were two significant issues around 240 under Gordian III, one of which was associated with his marriage to Tranquilina. The next substantive release was during the penultimate series of coins of Rome mint for Gallienus, c.268. In the current literature this is often referred to as the fifth sole reign issues (for example British Museum hoard reports) or emission 9 (Robert Goebl’s Moneta Imperii Romani 36, 43, 44 volume covering the period). 

The Gallienus issue is substantial, well, compared to previous issues of denarii and is probably connected to the donativa for a significant milestone event during the reign. The placement in the reign is the clue and the issue is likely concurrent with the quindeccenalia, the celebrations of the 15th anniversary of the reign. Another potential occasion is the anticipated return to Rome, after the victory against the Goths at Naissus, given the rare INT VRB sestertii and double sestertii, anonymous but with the face of Gallienus on the obverse, that also date to this period. The return never happened as Gallienus was forced to move against Aureolus, based in Milan and supporting the Gallic usurper Postumus. 

MIR 702h

The reverse types of the laureate bust denarii mirror the reverse types of the radiate antoniniani, although they do not usually feature the officina or workshop letter that is present on the radiate pieces.

The reverse types known are as follows, and it would appear that not all twelve officina are represented in the coins and this may have been the reasoning why some authors postulate that there was a transitional stage in the increase of workshops from six to twelve. So, from my trays:


MIR 657t


MIR 659t


MIR 661t

Off. 4 - FECVNDITAS AVG (Salonina) 

MIR 579ee


(not represented in my collection) 


(not represented in my collection) 


MIR 669t

Off. 7 - ORIENS AVG 

MIR 614dd

MIR 682t


MIR 524v

MIR 524t


MIR 599bb

Tuesday, 5 October 2021

The name of the Roman silver radiate

I suspect that if I were to pose the question “what is the Roman coin denomination pictured above” there would be large number of responses of “antoninianus”. Whilst this is not technically incorrect as it is the name we now use for the coin type it is a modern sobriquet. The Roman in the street would not recognise the term.

I do not know when the term was first applied to the radiate third century coin, initially made of silver in the third century and progressively debased to a nadir under Claudius II and reformed under Aurelian. It does not appear to have been a term applied in the 18th century. Even during the 19th century the term takes a while to become established.

Akerman in his Descriptive Catalogue of Rare and Unedited Roman Coins (1836) does not use the term antoninianus. Neither does Humphrey in his Coin Collectors Manual (1853) where the radiate silver coin of Caracalla is called the argenteus.

The Handbook to Roman Coins by Madden (1861) uses the phrase argenteus antoninianus and by the  1880s the term antoninianus is in common usage, for example Rohde, Die Munzpragung des Kaisers Aurelianus (1881).

So, is there any classical use of the phrase antoninianus? The short answer is yes, however it is not in reference to the silver coin of the third century where the emperor is shown wearing a radiate crown.

The Historia August, the ancient text that provides historical sketches of the emperor’s in a sometimes fanciful manner does use the term antoninianus to describe a coin of Caracalla (Marcus Aurelius Antoninus). Unfortunately that numismatic reference is to a coin in gold. The same text also contains reference to the philippeus, one time referring to a gold piece but several other references are to the silver coins. There are other coin references in the text to imperial coins and each time it is cited in the form of a coin of x, for example a saloninianus.

Hence the picture above, you might say there are four third century philippei, not antoniniani, as we are so used to calling them.

Thursday, 26 August 2021

The recording history of What's The New Mary Jane

This was supposed to be a lockdown project but got rather delayed, not least because I couldn’t face actually immersing myself in this chaotic song. I wanted to unpick the history of the song and match the known variations available both officially and unofficially on circulating recordings.

Written by John Lennon in early 1968 when the band were at the Maharishi’s ashram in India What’s The New Mary Jane was recorded by the Beatles (only John and George from the band were present, along with Yoko Ono and Apple electronics specialist Alexis Mardas) for inclusion on what became the double album in late 1968 colloquially known as the White Album.

From the archives, both published and unpublished (such as the notes of EMI employee John Barratt who documented all the master tapes of the Beatles in the record company vaults in the early 1980s) we get the following (RM indicates a mono mix, RS a stereo mix):

14 August 1968

Tape: E68949 4T

Take 1 (2’35”)

Take 2 (3’45”)

Take 3 (false start)

Take 4 (6’35”)

Overdubs, including a second Lennon vocal, were done and from this point on all overdubs, edits and mixes use take 4 as the base recording.

Tape: E69229 A

RM1 faded to 3’15”

Recording sheet for 14th August 1968 (click to enlarge)

26 September 1968

Tape: E70430 A

RM1, RM2

The designation RM1 should not have been reused here as it had already been used on 14th August. On the recording sheet that accompanies this work only RM2 was completed and marked as “best”. A quirk, transcription error(?), is that it is only listed as 2'12", rather than 3'12".

Recording sheet for 26th September 1968 (click to enlarge)

14 October 1968

Tape: E70663 Z

RS1, RS2

Surprisingly only RS2 is noted on the log sheet for the day. The monthly fan club publication, The Beatles Book (number 64, November 1968), announced that the song had been considered for the White Album but was ultimately left off, along with the Harrison composition, Not Guilty.

Recording sheet for 14th October 1968 (click to enlarge)

11 September 1969

Tape: E93375 Z

RS1, RS2, RS3

RS1 and RS2 designations had already been used on 14th October and should not have been repeated. These three stereo mixes were done for John, ahead of further work to make it a Plastic Ono Band release.

26 November 1969

Stereo mixing with overdub (RS5)

Editing (RS5) as (RS6)

Tape copying with simultaneous overdub (RS4 into RS5)

Take 4 RS4 edit, running at 3’15” was chosen to be the b side of the projected Plastic Ono Band single with the Beatles recording of the song You Know My Name (Look Up My Number), catalogue number Apples 1002. This was scheduled for rush release 5th December 1969 but quickly cancelled. Acetates are known of this recording.

26 June 1971

Tape: E103378 4T

(tape copying?)

The four track tape E103778 is curious. It is long after the potential release of the song as either a Beatles or Plastic Ono Band record. John moved permanently to the US in August 1971. An acetate cut at Cutting Room Inc in New York may be from this tape. It is clear that it is not a finished, mixed tape, but rather a four (or eight) track multitrack tape (4T coded, rather than Z as a stereo master or A for a mono master). People have suggested that the Cutting Room Inc acetate is actually RS4, RS5 and RS6 from November 1969 but again I find that problematic as the third track on the disc is a severe edit and is just the last two and a half minutes, or nearly so, of the mayhem that is Mary Jane.

The next time that the song was scheduled for release was 1982/3 on an EMI projected album of Beatles outtakes and unreleased recordings called Sessions. A number of mixes were apparently done but again the project shelved, getting as far as cover design, and proposed accompanying single release.

What’s The New Mary Jane finally was released on the third installment of the Anthology cd using a Geoffrey Emerick mix from 1983 (prepared for Sessions?).

Excluding the recordings amongst collectors there are a number of versions of this song officially available, although not all on CD.

Acoustic demo – recorded at George’s House to run through all the new potential material for the White Album included in the deluxe box set for the 50th anniversary of the White Album

Take 1 – included in the deluxe box set for the 50th anniversary of the White Album

Take 2 – a partial recording of this can be heard on the Anthology dvd box set, a different mix is also included on the Anthology video box set

Take 4 – Geoffrey Emerick’s 1983 mix on Anthology 3 cd

Digging a little deeper what can you find amongst the collector recordings? This is not an exhaustive list and others may be out there. It can be quite difficult to discern true variations in the cacophony that is What’s The New Mary Jane.

Acoustic demo - the original recording of the demo tape, before it was cleaned up and corrected by EMI, has been circulating since the late 1990s or early 2000s

Take 4 RS4 edit – a recording of the Apples 1002 acetate

Take 4 RS2 – 14 Oct 1968 on the bootleg album EMI Outtakes

Take 4 RS1, RS2, RS3 – three stereo mixes on the What’s The New Mary Jane bootleg album, tracks 7, 8 and 9, may be these three mixes.

Cutting Room Inc acetate – all three recordings from this disc, label shown above, available

Sessions mixes – 1982/3 two or three stereo mixes of take 4 seem to be extant

Wednesday, 28 July 2021

A Britannia dupondius of Antoninus Pius

RIC 930

Most people are familiar with the Roman as of Antoninus Pius with the reverse legend BRITANNIA COS IIII SC (RIC 934). However, fewer will be aware that there is a corresponding dupondius (RIC 930). From a brief survey of examples in trade of these two coins it would appear that the as outnumbers the dupondius by at least 3:1.

RIC 934

It has long been suggested that the Pius Britannia coins may have been struck at a mint located in Britain, albeit from dies supplied by the mint of Rome. One of the earliest records of this suggestion is in a paper by F A Walters in A Find of Early Roman Bronze Coins in England (NC 4th series, volume 7, 1907). He noted that the Britannia coins in the hoard were of poorer fabric than other contemporaneous aes, although the die cutting was good and so postulated a temporary mint establishment.

Malcolm Todd, whom I met, incidentally, on a number of occasions when he was asked to review my research at Durham in the 1990s, noted in Romano-British Mintages of Antoninus Pius (NC 6th series, volume 6, 1966) pointed out that this may be supported by the almost exclusive British findspots of the type.

However, when you consider other types of aes in the period 81-192 AD there is a systematic approach to coin distribution, not just to Britain but across the empire (Hobley, BAR Int. Ser. 688, 1998). The Britannia dupondii and asses were, apparently, sent to Britain because of their reverse type and the relevance to the province. 

Furthermore, the late John Casey told me of some unpublished analyses that he had commissioned of the Britannia coins and was able to demonstrate that the alloy used was consistent with other aes of Pius. If metal and dies were centrally produced there is no reason to transport specie and dies to then strike coin in the province, there is no advantage to that when finished product can be just as easily sent.

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

A limesfalschung as of Severus

This as of Septimius Severus from my collection is not all it may first appear. It is an ancient cast copy, weighing in at 4.3 grammes, compared to an official as of the period that would likely be in the 9.5 to 11.5 gramme range. It is an example of limesfalschung.

What is interesting to me is that it appears that the same master coin was used to make the mold for this piece as a similar published example from Caerwent (that specimen weighing 4.37 grammes), minor casting blemishes notwithstanding and illustrated above. The cast sprue marks on my piece, below, match the location on the Welsh specimen (also marked in the plate illustration of the Caerwent coin) so may reasonably postulate the same unofficial, probably British, mint produced both.