ISSN 0484-8942

REVUE -------------------------------------------------- NUMISMATIQUE
Dirigée par

Secrétaires de la rédaction

C. Morrisson, M. Amandry,
M. Bompaire, O. Picard

C. Grandjean
A. Hostein

2010

(166e volume)

Publiée avec le concours de l’Institut National des Sciences Humaines et Sociales
du Centre national de la recherche Scientifique

---------------------------------------------------Société française de numismatique
Diffusion : Société d’édition « Les Belles Lettres »
2010

Comité de publication
Directeurs
Mme C. Morrisson, MM. M. Amandry, M. Bompaire, O. Picard
Secrétaires de la rédaction
Mme C. Grandjean (cat.grandjean@free.fr)
M. A. Hostein
Chargé des comptes rendus
M. A. Hostein (hosteinantony@yahoo.fr)
Comité de lecture
MM. J. Andreau, G. Aubin, F. Baratte, J.-P. Callu, M. Christol,
M. Dhénin, Mme S. Estiot, M. X. Loriot, Mlle M.-C. Marcellesi, M. M. Pastoureau.
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SOMMAIRE
Hommage à Jean-Noël Barrandon
Bibliographie des travaux de Jean-Noël Barrandon

5

Témoignages
Jean-Pierre Callu – La naissance d’un projet, la RCP 483 (1974-1976)

23

Hélène Nicolet-Pierre – Recherches sur la composition métallique de quelques
séries de monnaies antiques frappées dans le monde égéen

27

Olivier Picard – Vingt-cinq ans de recherches sur les monnaies grecques avec
Jean-Noël Barrandon

35

Françoise Dumas – De Philippe Auguste à Charlemagne. Recherches sur l’argent
des monnaies en compagnie de Jean-Noël Barrandon

41

Articles
Gérard Aubin avec la collaboration de Sylvia Nieto – Liaisons de coins et or
gaulois

51

Frédérique Duyrat, Julien Olivier – Deux politiques de l’or. Séleucides et
Lagides au iiie siècle avant J.-C.

71

Thomas Faucher – Gravure et composition métallique des monnaies lagides ....

95

Suzanne Frey-Kupper, Clive Stannard – Les imitations pseudo-Ebusus/Massalia
en Italie centrale : typologie et structure, présence dans les collections et dans
les trouvailles de France

109

Jean-Noël Barrandon (†), Arnaud Suspène, Arwen Gaffiero – Les émissions
d’as au type divvs avgvstvs pater frappées sous Tibère : l’apport des analyses
à leur datation et à leur interprétation

149

Maryse Blet-Lemarquand, Marc Bompaire, Cécile Morrisson – Platine et plomb
dans les monnaies d’or mérovingiennes : nouvelles perspectives analytiques ....

175

Lucile Beck, Élise Alloin, Ulrich Klein, Thierry Borel, Claire Berthier, Anne
Michelin – Le trésor de Preuschdorf (Bas-Rhin) xviie siècle. Premiers résultats d’une étude pluridisciplinaire

199

Articles
François de Callataÿ – Les plombs à types monétaires en Grèce ancienne : monnaies (officielles, votives ou contrefaites), jetons, sceaux, poids, épreuves ou

fantaisies
?

219

Louis Brousseau – Le monnayage des Serdaioi revisité

257

Jean Hourmouziadis – ΚΟΣΩΝ Gold Staters and Silver Drachmae - A Die Study

287

Aurel Vîlcu, Bogdan Constantinescu, Roxana Bugoi, Cătălina Păuna – Some
considerations on Dacian gold coins of Koson type in the light of compositional
analyses

297

Giovanni Gorini – La monetazione di Ariminum

311

Pierluigi Debernardi – Plated coins, false coins?

337

Shpresa Gjongecaj – Le monnayage de Phoinikè sous l’empire romain

383

Sylviane Estiot – À propos d’un médaillon inédit de l’usurpateur Julien (284285 AD) : son règne et son monnayage

397

Georges Gautier – Une justification opportune du système tétrarchique par
l’image monétaire de diffusion courante : la série de nummi à bustes accolés
émise à Trèves en 298 ap. J.-C.

419

Vincent Drost, Sylviane Estiot – Maxence et le portrait militaire de l’empereur
en Mattiobarbulus

435

Henri Pottier – Le monnayage de la Syrie sous l’occupation perse (610-630).
Complément

447

Vincent Geneviève, Guillaume Sarah – Le trésor de deniers mérovingiens de
Rodez (Aveyron). Circulation et diffusion des monnayages d’argent dans le
Sud de la France au milieu du viiie siècle

477

Jérôme Jambu – Une histoire de la Monnaie de Caen à l’époque moderne (16931772)

509

François Thierry – La monnaie du Xinjiang dans deux ouvrages récents

537

Bulletin bibliographique

553

Supplément : Françoise Dumas – Jean Lafaurie (1914-2008)

609

Index

615

Instructions aux auteurs

627

Table des matières

633

Pierluigi Debernardi*

Plated coins, false coins?
Summary − The problem of the origin of silver plated coins during Roman Republican times is
analyzed. All the information available to settle the long-lasting discussion about the subject will
be addressed, by giving particular relevance especially to what the coins can directly tell us. First
of all, to put the matter in a clear framework, a review of the past opinions by scholars is presented.
The central part of the paper is devoted to an analysis of a previously published extended
catalogue of the plated coins of the Roman Republic. Here it will be investigated under a different
perspective and, moreover, its temporally resolved information is compared with the silver
content policy in the Republican times, recently studied in detail by the author. The overall
analysis leads to the conclusion that the main stream of plated coins, during Republican times,
was produced under the control of the Roman mint. In such a perspective the many oddities
which arise in the option of a private origin of plated coins and which are thoroughly discussed
in the paper, can be easily solved.
Resumé − Le problème de l’origine des monnaies fourrées pendant la Republique romaine est
analysé. Toutes les informations disponibles pour régler les longues débats sur le sujet seront
utilisés, en accordant une importance particulière à ce que les pièces peuvent directement nous le
dire. Tout d’abord, un examen des différentes opinions exprimées dans le passé par divers
étudiants est présenté. La partie centrale de l’article analyse un catalogue déjà publié des deniers
fourrés de la République romaine. Ici, il sera étudié sous un point de vue différent et, par ailleurs,
ses informations temporellement résolues sont comparées avec la politique d’avilissement
monetaire de l’époque républicaine, récemment étudié en détail par l’auteur. L’analyse globale
conduit à la conclusion que la majorité des pièces fourrées, à l’époque républicaine, sont monnaies
officielles. Dans une telle perspective les bizarreries qui derivent de l’hypothèse d’une origine
privée des monnaies fourrées, qui sont discutés en profondeur dans le document, peuvent être
facilement résolues.

I. Introduction and background
In the field of ancient Roman numismatic one can hardly find a topic as
controversial as the origin of plated silver coins, also known as fourrés / forrados
(French / Spanish) or subaerat / suberati (German / Italian). By all those different
terms it is meant a coin with a copper core, clad by a thin silver foil (about
0.1 mm1). Such a composite blank is then heated up and struck, so that the silver
and copper harden together and the die design is transferred to the blank at the same
time. The final result is a coin that most of the time cannot be distinguished
from pure silver coins, as shown in Plate 1a-b. The defects in the silver cladding
*  Via Filadelfia 187, 10 137 Torino, Italy. Email: pierluigi.home@fastwebnet.it.
1. Kraft et al. 2004.
RN 2010, p. 337-381

338

Pierluigi Debernardi

now seen on many plated coins are the results of long circulation and / or burial,
causing breaks of the silver foil allowing copper oxides to emerge. In some
cases, the breaks in the silver are larger and the underlying copper is visible;
sometimes only small portions of the original silver plating remain. All these
possible grades of preservation can be seen in Plates 1-10.
Discussions about the origin of plated coins started in the nineteenth century
with the studies of Neumann, Mommsen and De Witte2 and since then many
reputable scholars devoted their efforts and thoughts to determining whether
they are the product of skilled counterfeiters or rather of the Roman mint. The
phenomenon of plated coins encompasses the long lifetime of the denarius and
one can find them in almost all silver issues, but, in this paper, attention will be
focused on Roman Republican (RR) period only, when the denarius was created
and then flourished for almost two centuries.
For Republican times, the strong position assumed by M. Crawford on
this subject in his famous paper3 from which the title of this work is derived,
has greatly contributed to spreading that plated coins are exclusively private
products, the only possible exception being some military issues. This has made
private origin the most widely accepted theory nowadays.
However, not all scholars have shared that same opinion,4 since the reasons
put forward to support the private origin of plated coins focus on aberrant pieces
and die-transfer to explain die-links of official and plated pieces; therefore are
not based on all available data. Moreover they are mainly indirectly deduced
from Roman legislation and based on a solid and firm trust in the coherence of
the Roman Republican state.5
In the following sections all the data at author’s disposal will be reported,
starting with an overview of the scarce ancient sources (section II). In section III
many examples of plated denarii will be presented, to better introduce the reader to
the subject. Section IV will report on the analytical catalogue of plated coins.
Such catalog is investigated in section V under new perspectives, by introducing
a metric which is aimed to provide an estimate of the relative copper content
introduced in the RR silver coinage by plated coins. That and the following
section VI, which collects all the reasons for an “official” origin of plated coins,
constitute the main, main part of the paper. Section VII will end the paper with
concluding remarks.

2. Serafin 1968.
3. Crawford 1968.
4. Serafin 1968; Serafin 1988; Catalli 2001; Chantraine 1982.
5. Crawford 1974, denoted RRC henceforth.
RN 2010, p. 337-381

Plated coins, false coins?

339

II. The ancient sources
From all numismatic material at our disposal it appears that the phenomenon
of plated coins was not negligible during the Roman Republic. Unfortunately
the ancient sources are quite vague on this topic for Republican times. More
direct reference to such matter is made by D. Cassius6 when it is directly said
that at the beginning of the third century AD plated silver and gold coins were
officially produced. For Republican times there is nothing more than some
vague allusions.7 Pliny, who is writing in early imperial times, mentions “nummi
adulterini” without any deeper detail. One cannot even be sure he refers to the
practice of his or Republican times, our interest here. Some sentences in his
Naturalis Historia refer to that period, e.g., when he reports M. Gratidianus’
enactments. In this context he speaks about “nummos probare” 8 which recalls
the bankers’ marks punched into coins to test if they were good silver. Some
examples of such test marks on Republican denarii are given in Plate 11. Their
common occurrence is another indication of the relevance of the phenomenon
of plated coins, especially in the late Republican times where all the types of
Plate 11 are from. There is moreover an additional type of adulteration which
is mentioned twice by Pliny,9 making use of the verb “miscere”. The sentence
“L. Drusus in tribunatu plebei octavam partem aeri argento miscuit” 10 reports
a debasement in the very late 90’s BC. The sentence referring to M. Antonius’
coinage is the same, except the word “aes” is replaced by “ferrum”. Since such
coins are rarely found and technically very difficult (silver hardly adheres to
iron), the possibility of a transcription error (ferrum instead of aes) or simply
the use of the word ferrum for base metal (i.e. copper) is more likely and
accepted among scholars. Indeed such debasement in M. Antonius’ coinage has
been proven by different techniques11, so one can be quite confident that Pliny
really meant a production of coins by a silver-copper alloy with a fineness lower
than standard. While in the case of M. Antonius Pliny does not give any quantitative figure of debasement, for the earlier debasement the figure of one eighth
is reported. Even if never believed to have been put in practice in that full
extent, such 1/8 debasement clearly shows up from recent measurements12,
exactly by the same amount reported by Pliny.
In conclusion, from ancient sources we have only a brief mention of plated
coins in Dio Cassius, referring to their official origin in Caracalla’s times. For
the Republican coinage there is no direct mention and our main, but sparse,
source is Pliny, which we have briefly reported about.
6. Dio Cassius, Roman History, book 78,14.
7. Serafin 1968.
8. Pliny, NH, 46, 132.
9. Pliny, NH, 46, 132 ; NH 13, 46.
10. Pliny, NH 13, 46.
11. RRC; Debernardi 2008.
12. Debernardi 2008.
RN 2010, p. 337-381

340

Pierluigi Debernardi

III. Appearance, characteristics and dies of plated denarii
One of the main reasons used to support that plated coins are official issues
is their good and correct style, as shown by the many examples reported in
Plates 1-9. However the equation good style = official mintage does not logically hold; in fact for professional counterfeiters it would not have been impossible to find good engravers to imitate the official dies. Instead, as Crawford
says, the opposite surely holds: wrong style = counterfeited coin. Therefore neither
aberrant13 nor hybrid14 coins are considered here, nor the so called barbaric
imitations,15 derived from their corresponding official types. For examples of
the latter confer Plate 10. If we have to consider the option that plated coins
might be a production of the Rome mint, we have first to analyse their style and
give the reader an idea about how they appear. Plates 1 and 2 show a sample
of plated denarii, some of which from author’s collection; that circumstance
makes possible to provide their physical data (weight and specific gravity SG),
summarized in Table 1. From there one can get some ideas about typical weights
and SGs of plated coins. Interestingly enough, their SG hardly attains that
of copper (8.95) and can be even much lower. This is due to the formation of
copper oxides, voids due to copper corrosion and/or voids due to imperfect
adhesion of the silver coat to the copper core, as clearly seen for the Pomponius
Molo coin (Plate 1e). It is interesting to observe from Table 1 that SG of
earlier issues are about 1.0 higher than later pieces; this can be caused maybe
by slight changes in the fabrication technique. However such features should be
tested on a much larger sample.
Table 1 - Catalogue of some plated RR coins measured by the author
(weight and specific gravity) and reference to Plates where the coins are depicted.
Type
Spear head
Star
Biga
Curiatia
Valeria
Minucia
Maenia
Caecilia
Cornelia
Pomponia
Tituria
Aquillia
Aquillia
Hosidia
Calpurnia

Cr. number
88/2
113/1
197/1
223/1
228/1
248/1
249/1
263/1
311/1a
334/1
344/3
401/1
401/1
407/2
418/2

Weight (g)
3.38
3.20
3.20
3.84
3.30
2.77
3.04
3.63
3.33
3.40
2.91
2.77
2.53
2.59
2.86

SG
9.03
8.68
8.79
9.07
9.08
8.68
8.91
8.75
8.86
8.64
8.01
7.75
7.45
6.99
7.94

13. RRC.
14. Mattingly in BMCRE II.
15. Davis 2006 and http://rrimitations .ancients.info/index.html.
RN 2010, p. 337-381

Plate
17f
17g
17h
1a
1b
1d
2h
2c
2d
1e
2a
2e
2f
4d
2g

Plated coins, false coins?

341

More in detail the examples given in Plate 1 display some interesting
characteristics of plated coins. Plate 1a-b show how a plated coin originally
looked, before the silver coat had developed any defect. These two coins have
reached us without any damage to their silver plating, which is intact. Therefore
only a SG test revealed they are plated, with an estimated silver content of
about 10 % in both cases. These are the only plated coins I measured having SG
higher than copper, due to their perfect preservation. Two Minucia denarii are
shown in Plate 1c-d; the latter is displayed also in an enlarged view, showing
its extremely sharp detail. Finally, typical defects of the silver plating are shown
in Plate 1e, where in some areas silver is detached from the copper core or some
openings occur.
Other examples of plated coins with different degrees of preservations
of the silver plating are given in Plate 2. The Tituria and Aquillia types are
represented by two different dies of quite similar style. In a different study I’ve
analyzed about 300 Cr. 344/3 from different collections and museums. I found
only one symbol plated, thunderbolt, shown in Plate 2a-b with two different
dies, of style even better than the official counterparts.
A. Die links of plated and official coins
In this paper, official coin will mean a coin of good silver and style for its
issue. Die links between plated and official silver coins have been used often as
an argument to support the official origin of plated coins. However, only a few
examples have been pointed out so far.16
Crawford in RRC discusses this point and explains such die links by mechanical
die-transfer. To clarify that, he analyses an example of such technique with
reference to two denarii of L. Calpurnius Frugi in Hannover Museum.17
Probably the die-to-be was heated up and made softer and the original die
transferred to the new one by pressing into it a fresh silver coin. It is proven
by evidence that die transfer techniques were known and used for Dacian
imitations, as it is shown in Plate 10, whatever technique was used to achieve
that. For coin a the transferred die was later complemented by a border of dots,
not present in the original design. Another example is given by coin b, where
also the serrate border was reproduced by the transfer technique. Even if one
has to rely on imitations (dated 80-60 BC18) for such a clear proof of die transfer,
it is hard to believe the technique was not known also at earlier times.
In Plate 3 examples of die-links between official and plated coins found by
the author are shown. The fist group refers to type Cr. 311/1 with control mark
•O on obverse. Official (Plate 3A, SG = 10.44 measured by D. Hook) and one
16. Serafin 1968.
17. Berger’s catalog n. 2872, 4.06 g, and 2873, 2.92 g plated.
18. Davis 2006.
RN 2010, p. 337-381

342

Pierluigi Debernardi

plated specimen (Plate 3b) are from the British Museum (BM). The third
plated coin (Plate 3a) was recently for sale on eBay. The die comparisons from
good quality pictures shows a clear die match.
Possibly a second example of die link found during this research refers to
Cr.397/1, Q. POMPONI RVFVS, die IIII. The three plated examples (Plate 3c-e)
share the same die with the official coins, even if in this case die transfer cannot
be excluded, due to the smoothness of some details (coin c) or bad preservation
(coin d, e). Also die III has plated counterparts (Plate 9a-b), which however
show some retouches compared to the official dies.19
All considered, it is not worth to struggle too much trying to demonstrate
whether die links originate from the same die or from transfer technique. Even if
the die transfer could be excluded, it can always be said that plated coins where
produced at the mint secretly after hours or outside the mint by stolen dies. Whatever that was or not the case, these discussions are fully inconclusive, because
they deal with a phenomenon of tiny size, which cannot be solid ground of any
serious and systematic analysis of the relevant phenomenon in discussion here.
B. Die links between plated coins
On the contrary, as discussed more in detail later, I think the evidence that
plated coins were made from their own distinct dies, some of which having as
good style and engraving as official coins, better supports the official origin
of plated coins. In that direction, I consider relevant the data presented in
Plates 4-9. They constitute, together with Table 2, a sort of a small catalog
of die links between plated coins which comprises 17 die-pairs belonging to
16 types. This is something that has never been reported so far, to the best of my
knowledge. Note that these die links were found during this one-year research,
analyzing a quite small group of plated coins.
Let’s consider in some details the coins presented in Plates 4 to 9. As a
general statement, all the pieces have been examined on a computer monitor,
under a strong magnification. This helps very much the die comparisons. It is
also useful to look at similar, but different dies, as for Cr.326 and 327 in
Plate 7. Even if very similar (also the control letters match), one can readily
find some clear differences.
The case of the serrate denarii of Plates 4 and 5 is quite impressive. In the
upper part of Plate 5, three die matches are shown for the control letter B
above horses. Also one can see the plated serrate specimens of the coinage of
L.COT (Cr. 314), all with control letter V, on reverse or obverse. The 6 coins
(V on rev.) on the right constitute the largest die match ensemble of plated coins
found so far.
19. For a more detailed analysis of this interesting series see P. Debernardi, The denarii of
Q.POMPONI RVFVS: a die study, to appear on JNG, 2010.
RN 2010, p. 337-381

Plated coins, false coins?
Type

343

Table 2 - Catalog of die links between plated specimens having their own dies.
Cr.

P.SVLA

205/1

L.CVP

218/1

NERVA

292/1

MN.FONTEI

307/1

L.SCIP.ASIAG B on Obv.

311/1

Reference

eBay-09

g

Plate

3.00

6c

eBay-10

6d

eBay-07

6a

eBay-09

2.50

Artemide XXV, lotto 382, 2009

3.73

7c

eBay Indalo June 2009

2.60

7d
6e

NAC-N lot 1505

3.14

Rauch Sept 07, lot 259

2.84

6f

BM 2009.307.1.36

3.74

6g

Heritage 5 Jan. 2005, 50118

3.72

5a

eBay Lingonis March 2008

2.99

5b

Museo Faina, Orvieto

2.56

5c

Schulten 2 June 1982, lot 425

3.98

5g

eBay Viviteleti, March 2008

2.88

5h

eBay Numismaticasicula, Feb. 2008

2.90

5i

Gorny Auct. 24,133

L.COT V on Rev.

314/1

L.COT V on Obv.

314/1

C.FVUNDAN

326/1

M.SERVEIL.C.F

327/1

L.POMPON.MOLO

334/1

L.VOL.L.F.STAB

355/1

C.EGNATIVS
MAXSUMUS

391/1

Q.POMPONI
RVFVS

398/1

L.HOSIDI.GETA

405/1

L.HOSIDI.GETA

405/2

L.TORQVAT

411/1

C.POMPONIVS
RVFVS

434/1

6b

Total
2
2
2

3

3

5f

Staatlichen Münzsammlung München 23042

2.92

5l

Fitzwilliam Museum 115345

3.22

5m

Tkalec e-auction June 2009

3.32

5d

British Museum, RR1 1302

3.32

5e

British Museum, RR1 1693

3.29

7e

www.aoti76.dsl.pipex.com/coins/imit/r02610i.htm

3.00

7f

British Museum, BM G&L 325.1.34

3.29

7g

eBay, eBay taterthecat, Aug. 2009

3.00

7h

Crippa, Catalogo inverno 2005, lot 218

3.30

7a

Author collection

3.40

7b

Private collection

3.28

8c

CNG 112, lot 218

2.95

8d

Inasta 24, 2008, lotto 280

3.30

8e

Vcoins, Saylesandlavender 2008, 4939

3.39

8f

CNG 61, Lot 1415

3.31

8b

BM-2009.398.1.5

3.08

8a

3.08

4b

eBay-08

4a

Staatlichen Münzsammlung München 76850
http://omni.bbfr.net/romanas-f3/denario-forradogens-omni.hosidia-roma-68-ac-t5907.htm
Author’s collection

2.30

4c

2.59

4d

NAC Q, 2006, lot 1522

2.50

4e

Artemide XVIII, 2005, lotto 45

3.36

9c

Fitzwilliam M., Ref. Number: 116304

3.06

9d

Artemide 5 Sett 2006, lotto 195

3.00

9e

Baldwins 42, lot 81

2.84

9f

ANS 1893-005-1

2.85

9g

6

2
2
2
2
2
2
2
2

3

2

3

RN 2010, p. 337-381

344

Pierluigi Debernardi

Comparisons with silver counterparts of very close styles are presented in
Plates 6-8; in most of the cases it is tempting to say they are from the same
engraver’s hand. That would be much better appreciated by looking at the great
diversity of die styles within the same type, especially for large issues, where
many engravers were involved. An example could be Cr. 407/2 (Hosidia),
where the details of the obverse vary significantly in the official emission.
As for the die of the plated examples in Plate 4, the necklace with one row of
pearls and two linear, inner ones is hardly found in other dies and allows us
to assign pretty safely the very badly preserved specimen to the same dies. In
contrast the other two specimens are exceptionally preserved and struck from
the same fresh dies. Note also the detail of the boar snout aligned with its left
foreleg; this is common in 407/1, but not at all in 407/2. Probably the same
engraver worked at both (/1 and /2) plated series, which are quite commonly
found with many different dies, as shown in Plate 4, especially for the serrate type.
In Plates 8-9 examples of matches for scarce issues are shown. Regarding
the Sulla portrait type (Cr.434/1), it is noteworthy that, by studying the portraits
of Sulla and Rufus on this issue, one also identifies at least four to five different
engravers with different portraits.20 It is therefore likely the dies of the four
Sulla coins in Plate 9 (plated and official) are from the same artist. Since the
presented die links among plated coins are not the result of intensive searches, much
more of them can be found in future. Only large mintages, fully comparable with
the official volumes per die, would have end up in such die links. The preceding
short catalog indicates one should pursue further researches on die links among
plated coins of scarce / rare types, or types with one die per symbol /control letter.
This makes the work of comparing the dies much simpler; one can recall here
the research of Crawford on the issue of Fabius Pictor21 and its plated counterparts.
In conclusion, the study of the dies of plated coins is the necessary starting point
of any research in this field. By looking at most of the plated coins discussed
so far, it clearly appears they have the right style and appearance. Plated coins
shown in Plate 1a-b, the Minucia specimens (Plate 1c-d), also shown by the
enlargement, the Hosidia pieces (Plate 4) and others have quite impressive and
sharp details; they must have been produced by freshly engraved dies. This is
also supported by the fact that no die link is found, with the few exceptions
discussed in section III-A. Therefore the mainstream of the plated coinage was
produced by its own dies, with a style fully compatible with the official ones.
The many die links among plated types shown and discussed in this section
give a strong indication of the extent of plated issues, which can be estimated
to have been comparable with the official ones on a coins per die basis. In this
respect I think the study of dies of plated coins is useful; identifying more and
studying them systematically would be interesting future research.
20. Harlan 1995.
21. Crawford 1965.
RN 2010, p. 337-381

Plated coins, false coins?

345

IV. Serafin’s catalog of plated coins
As previously discussed, a detailed die analysis is the necessary starting point
to study the plated coinage and provides very useful information. However it is
also necessary and more conclusive to deal with the plated coinage as a whole,
rather than to consider many single coins or issues.
The original idea of producing a catalog of plated coins was first proposed
by M. von Bahrfeldt in 1884, when he published a catalog derived from the
examination of the major European collections.22 During the 60’s, 80 years later,
P. P. Serafin revived that concept, enlarging the searched sample with the inclusion
of many Italian collections. Serafin also checked again the coin sets examined
by Bahrfeldt; such extensive research resulted in a detailed catalog sorted by
moneyers and types, which is reported in Table 3 and ordered following
Crawford’s numbers. In fact in RRC (p. 562, n. 4) Crawford mentions Serafin’s
paper, but he rejects it completely due to her use of Grueber’s chronology. That
problem is now overcome and the catalog can be more fruitfully used. It
comprises 1977 plated coins among the about 36 000 searched pieces from the
main European museum cabinets, private collections and important auctions of
Republican silver coins. The absolute values show a peak of plated coin emissions
in the years 91-90 BC. This result, combined with the report of Pliny about
L. Drusus’ laws, led Serafin to conclude those plated coins were officially struck
as a consequence of Drusus’ enactment.
Table 3 - Catalogue of plated RR coins according to Bahrfeldt and Serafin, following Crawford
numbers. Also the number of obverse dies (Obv. die) according to RRC and corresponding
denomination (V victoriatus; Q quinarius; D denarius; S serrated denarius) are given. The highlighted
types do not show plated counterparts.
Moneyer
AVR
MP
ME
TAMP
P.MAE
TOD
CN.DOM
CN.CALP
MAT
C.SCR
C.TAL
C.MAIANI
L.SAVF
P.SVLA
S.SAFRA
FLAVS
NATTA
L.ITI
C.IVNI.C.F

Cr.
65.1
93.1
132.1
133.1
138.1
141.1
147.1
153.1
162.1
201.1
202.1
203.1
204.1
205.1
206.1
207.1
208.1
209.1
210.1

year BC
210
209
192
192
192
175
185
175
185
154
154
153
152
151
150
150
149
149
149

Bahrfeldt
2
1
3
1
1
5
5
0
1
5
7
3
4
2
10
0
4
3
1

Serafin
2
2
0
0
0
0
0
1
0
2
2
0
0
1
4
0
2
1
2

Obv. dies
10
60
30
40
30
30
20
20
30
74
16
89
117
83
75
61
91
10
56

denom
Q
V
V
V
D
D
D
D
V
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D

22. Bahrfeldt 1885.
RN 2010, p. 337-381

346
Moneyer
M.ATILI SARAN
Q.MARC LIBO
L.SEMP PITIO
C.TER.LVC
L.CVP
C.ANTESTI
M.IVNI
AN.RVF
C.CVR TRIGE
L.IVLI
C.ATILI NOM
C.TITINI
M.AVF RVS
C.VAL.C.F. FLAC
M.AVRELI COTA
A.SPVRI
C.RENI
CN.GELI
P.PAETVS
TI.VET
SEX.POM.FOSTLVS
M.BAEBI.Q.F TAMPIL
CN.LVCR TRIO
L.ANTES GRAG
C.SERVEILI M.F.
C.CVR F TRIGE
L.TREBANI
C.AVG
TI.MINVCI C,F,AVGVRINI
C.ABVRI GEM
M.MARC
C.NVMITORI
P.CALP
L.MINVCI
P.MAE.ANT.
M.ABVRI GEM
L.POST.ALB
L.OPEIMI
M.OPEIMI
M.ACILIVS.M.F
Q.METE
M.VARG
SEX.IVLI CAISAR
Q.PILIPVS
T.CLOVLI
CN.DOMIT
M.METELLVS.Q.F.
C.SERVEIL
Q.MAX
C.CASSI
T.Q.
N.FABI PICTOR
C.METELLVS
M.PORC LAECA
MN.ACILI BALBVS
Q.FABI LABEO
C.CATO
M.FAN.C.F
M.CARBO
Q.MINV RVF
C.PLVTI

RN 2010, p. 337-381

Pierluigi Debernardi
Cr.
214.1
215.1
216.1
217.1
218.1
219.1
220.1
221.1
223.1
224.1
225.1
226.1
227.1
228
229.1
230.1
231.1
232.1
233.1
234.1
235.1
236.1
237.1
238.1
239.1
240.1
241.1
242.1
243.1
244.1
245.1
246.1
247.1
248.1
249.1
250.1
252.1
253.1
254.1
255.1
256.1
257.1
258.1
259.1
260.1
261.1
263.1
264.1
265.1
266.1
267.1
268.1
269.1
270.1
271.1
273.1
274.1
275.1
276.2
277.1
278.1

year BC
148
148
148
147
147
146
145
144
142
141
141
141
140
140
139
139
138
138
138
137
137
137
136
136
136
135
135
135
134
134
134
133
133
133
132
132
131
131
131
130
130
130
129
129
128
128
127
127
127
126
126
126
125
125
125
124
123
123
122
122
121

Bahrfeldt
5
8
5
2
2
2
1
2
1
0
0
3
0
4
3
0
9
6
1
1
2
6
2
11
6
0
0
2
3
1
5
0
1
2
3
9
6
3
5
1
2
11
0
4
10
0
3
9
2
2
6
6
2
4
5
11
10
2
3
6
0

Serafin
3
2
1
1
0
1
0
0
1
0
0
1
0
4
3
0
2
0
0
1
1
4
0
3
1
0
0
0
3
1
2
0
2
1
2
2
1
0
0
0
4
0
0
1
0
0
2
2
1
1
2
6
0
1
0
3
3
3
5
1
2

Obv. dies
61
75
82
55
73
120
121
24
43
27
5
16
6
55
10
29
141
66
73
80
127
267
170
253
103
14
33
39
76
47
120
10
68
68
98
101
47
39
47
38
55
107
10
89
65
71
44
22
17
88
49
18
28
197
20
300
228
282
175
135
120

denom
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D

Plated coins, false coins?
Moneyer
CARB
M.TVLLI
M.FOVRI.L.F. PHILI
M.AVRELI.SCAVRI
L.COSCO.M.F.
C.MALLE.C.F.
L.POMPONI.CN.F.
L.PORCI LICI
Q.MAR.C.F.L.R.
M.CALID Q.METEL CN.FOVL
M.SILA Q.CVRT CN.DOMI
M.SERGI SILVS Q,
M.CIPI.M.F.
C.FONT.
MN.AEMILIO LEP
P.NERVA
L.PHILIPPVS
T.DEIDI
L.TORQVA.Q
CN.BLASIO.CN.F.
TI.Q
L.CAESI
AP.CL.T.MAL.Q.VR
C.PVLCHER
P.LAECA
L.FLAMINI.CILO
MN.AQVIL.
L.MEMMI.
Q.LVTATI CERCO Q.
L.VALERI FLACCI
MN.FONTEI.
M.HERENNI
M.MANLI.Q.F.SER.
CN.CORNEL.L.F. SISENA
L.SCIPIO ASIAG
C.SVLPICI.C.F
L.MEMMI GAL
L.COT
L.THORIVS BALBVS
L.SAT
L.SATVRN
C.COIL.CALD
Q.THERM.M.F.
L.IVLI.L.F CAESAR
L.CASSI CAEICIAN
C.FABI.C.F.
L.IVLI
M.LVCILI RVF
L.SENTI.C.F.
C.FVNDAN.Q.
C.FVNDA.Q.
M.SERVEILI C.F.
P.SERVEILI M.F. RVLLI
LENT. MAR. F.
PISO CAEPIO
P.SABIN
T.CLOVLI
C.EGNATVLEI.C.F.
L.POMPON MOLO
L.METEL.A.ALB.S.F. C.MALL.
C.MALL O MAL

Cr.
279.1
280.1
281.1
282.1
282.2
282.3
282.4
282.5
283.1
284.1
285
286.1
289.1
290.1
291.1
292.1
293.1
294.1
295.1
296.1
297.1
298.1
299.1
300.1
301.1
302.1
303.1
304.1
305.1
306.1
307.1
308.1
309.1
310.1
311.1
312.1
313.1
314.1
316.1
317.1
317.3
318.1
319.1
320.1
321.1
322.1
323.1
324.1
325.1
326.1
326.2
327.1
328.1
329.1
330.1
331.1
332.1
333.1
334.1
335.1
335.3

year BC
121
120
119
118
118
118
118
118
117
116
115
115
114
113
113
112
112
112
112
111
111
111
110
109
109
108
108
108
108
107
107
107
107
107
106
106
106
105
105
104
104
104
103
103
102
102
101
101
101
101
101
100
100
100
100
99
98
97
96
95
95

Bahrfeldt
5
3
9
4
1
2
12
5
2
5
2
5
12
12
12
7
1
10
3
9
1
9
22
6
10
6
6
6
4
7
8
15
6
1
12
11
16
21
13
1
24
15
14
8
14
9
10
6
4
4
0
9
5
10
4
2
5
10
3
5
4

347
Serafin
0
1
3
1
0
2
3
0
0
0
1
2
4
0
7
3
1
1
3
1
2
2
3
0
0
2
7
4
0
1
6
4
0
1
6
6
3
2
9
2
9
0
4
2
1
5
0
0
2
1
1
2
2
0
1
1
3
2
5
0
0

Obv. dies
173
163
393
85
37
32
103
48
45
170
250
287
535
142
283
73
28
22
40
137
87
50
727
305
88
527
42
162
135
150
50
246
10
10
143
110
131
41
450
10
370
72
253
92
63
112
47
170
93
57
82
68
215
98
72
100
225
625
30
155
90

denom
D
D
D
S
S
S
S
S
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
S
S
S
S
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
Q
D
Q
D
D
Q
Q
Q
D
D
D

RN 2010, p. 337-381

348
Moneyer
A.ALBINVS S.F.
C.ALLI BALA
D.SILANVS
L.PISO.FRVGI
L.PISO.FRVGI
Q.TITI
Q.TITI
C.VIBIVS.C.F.PANSA
M.CATO
M.CATO
L.TITVRI.SABIN
CN.LENTVL
CN.LENTVL
C.CENSOR
C.CENSORI
RVBRI.DOSSEN
RVBRI.DOSSEN
L.C.MEMIES.L.F.GAL
GAR OLVG VER
M.FAN L.CRIT.AED.PL.
L.IVLI.BVRSIO
MN.FONTEI.C.F.
C.LICINIVS MACER
P.FOVRIVS CRASSIPES AE
C.NORBANVS
L.SVLLA IMPER. ITERVM
L.CENSORIN.P.CREPVSI.LIM
P.CREPVSI
C.MAMIL.LIMETAN
L.CENSOR
Q.ANTON.PR
C.VAL.C.F. FLAC. IMPERAT
C.ANNI.T.F.T.N L.FABI HISP
L.SVLLA IMP L.MANLI PRO
M.METELLVS.Q.F.
C.SERVEIL
Q.MAX
A.POST.A.F.S.N.ALBIN.
Q.C.M.P.I IMPER
Q. cornucopia
EX.SC
L.VOL.L.F.STAB.
C.MARI.C.F.CAPITO
L.PROCILI.F
C.POBLICI.Q.F.
C.NAE.BALB.
T.CLAVD.T.F.AP.N.
L.PAPI
M.VOLTEI.M.F
L.CASSI.Q.F.
L.RVTILI.FLAC
P.SATRIENVS
L.RVSTI
L.LVCRETI TRIO
C.EGNATIVS
FARSVLEI MENSOR
CN.LEN.Q e LENT.CVR*FL
C.POSTVMI.AT
L.COSSVTI SABVLA
L.PLAETORI.L.F.Q.

RN 2010, p. 337-381

Pierluigi Debernardi
Cr.
335.9
336.1
337
340.1
340.2
340.3
341
342
343.1
343.2
344
345.1
345.2
346.1
346.2
348
348.4
349.1
350
351.1
352.1
353
354.1
356.1
357.1
359.1
360.1
361.1
362.1
363.1
364.1
365.1
366
367
369
370
371
372
374
375.1
376.1
377.1
378.1
379
380.1
382.1
383.1
384.1
385
386.1
387.1
388.1
389.1
390
391
392
393
394.1
395.1
396.1

year BC
95
92
91
90
90
90
90
90
89
89
89
88
88
88
88
87
87
87
86
86
85
85
84
84
83
84
82
82
82
82
82
82
81
82
82
82
82
81
81
81
81
81
81
80
80
79
79
79
78
78
77
77
76
76
75
75
75
74
74
74

Bahrfeldt
4
17
17
42
4
2
7
15
8
10
16
3
6
2
2
4
3
2
3
5
10
8
3
2
5
0
4
13
12
3
26
9
8
8
0
0
0
9
6
3
0
6
14
6
14
15
9
22
16
3
6
10
5
8
21
10
7
5
3
5

Serafin
0
2
11
13
4
0
4
5
1
2
5
2
1
0
0
0
2
0
0
0
7
3
2
1
2
3
0
5
2
2
4
2
0
2
0
0
0
3
0
0
0
2
9
1
1
5
2
2
9
1
1
3
0
4
11
4
0
0
2
3

Obv. dies
88
120
680
864
78
250
500
1010
116
400
730
615
400
102
90
250
200
132
490
22
427
216
250
130
156
32
56
283
100
197
340
36
115
186
10
10
10
290
120
10
6
13
131
228
94
280
164
211
160
32
192
101
42
112
60
87
180
192
28
13

denom
D
D
D
D
D
D
Q
Q
D
D
D
Q
D
D
Q
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
S
D
S
D
D
D
D
D
D
S
D
D
D
S
S
S
D
S
S
S
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D

Plated coins, false coins?
Moneyer
P.LENT.P.F.L.N
Q.POMPON.RVF
Q.CREPER
L.AXIVS
MN.AQUIL.MN.F.MN.F IIIVIR
CALENI CORDI
T.VETTIVS
M.PLAETORIVS CESTIANVS
P.GALB.AED.CVR
C.HOSIDI GETA
C,PISO.L.F.FRVGI
M.PLAETORIVS CESTIANVS
Q.POMPON.MVSA
L.TORQVAT IIIVIR
L.ROSCI FABATI
L.CASSI LONGIN
L.FVRI CN.F BROCCHI
PAVLLVS LEPIDVS
LIBO
PAVLLVS LIBO
M.PISO.M.F.FRVGI
M.LEPIDVS
P.YPSAE
SVFENAS
M.SCAVR.AED.CVR
C.SERVEIL.C.F
C.CONSIDI NONIANI
PHILIPPVS
FAVSTVS FELIX
FAVSTVS
C.MEMMI C.F
Q.CASSIVS
P.FONTEIVS.CAPITO
P.CRASSVS M.F
A.PLAVTIVS AED.CVR
CN.PLANCIVS AED.CVR
BRVTVS
Q.POM.RUFI
MESSAL.F
L.VINICI
C.COEL.CALDVS
SER.SVLP

Cr.
397.1
398.1
399.1
400.1
401.1
403.1
404.1
405.1
406.1
407
408.1
409
410
411.1
412.1
413.1
414.1
415.1
416.1
417.1
418.1
419
420.1
421.1
422
423.1
424.1
425.1
426.1
426.3
427
428
429
430.1
431.1
432.1
433
434
435.1
436.1
437
438.1

year BC
74
73
72
71
71
70
70
69
69
68
67
67
66
65
64
63
63
62
62
62
61
61
60
59
58
57
57
56
56
56
56
55
55
55
55
55
54
54
53
52
51
51

Bahrfeldt
0
5
2
8
10
8
2
0
6
12
7
19
14
9
11
9
4
4
5
3
3
12
2
4
16
1
7
6
0
16
13
5
9
4
3
4
7
5
4
1
9
4

349
Serafin
1
1
0
1
2
1
0
0
1
2
8
6
1
0
5
0
1
0
3
0
1
6
1
0
0
0
1
1
1
3
3
2
0
0
1
0
3
0
1
0
0
1

Obv. dies
6
10
24
24
88
26
20
50
48
68
207
110
110
10
240
94
110
240
206
26
20
30
70
56
356
99
10
447
60
60
72
190
135
63
135
99
300
120
10
10
66
10

denom
D
D
D
D
S
S
S
D
D
D
D
D
D
S
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D

I agree with Serafin’s view that the only possible way to undertake a serious
study of plated coins is to start from the evidence of the coins themselves in a
systematic way. The large amount of data which compose the catalog can quite
safely be considered representative since statistically large enough. It therefore
deserves deeper investigation. It is not straightforward to infer from the catalog
the absolute number of plated coins in circulation. In fact it is well known
plated coins are avoided in many hoards; the same is true for coin collectors,
with the possible exception to tend to include in their collections plated coins in
case of rare issues, difficult or very expensive to obtain in their pure silver
counterparts. Therefore caution must be paid in evaluating rare issues, as will be
discussed later in more detail. On average, since rare types are a small minority
in Roman Republican coinage, the tendency to avoid plated coins from collections
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Pierluigi Debernardi

dominates and one can state that the ratio 1/1823 (about 2 000 plated out of 36 000
official coins) might even be an underestimation of the actual ratios circulating
in ancient times. On the other hand, much higher ratios from archeological
finds,24 even close to fifty-fifty in some cases,25 seem to be too unbalanced on
the other side. If the absolute size of the plated coin volume cannot be safely
extracted from the catalog, one can say however that the phenomenon of plated
coins must have been huge. This is also proved by both the laws against fake
coins during the late Republican times26 and the many coins found with bankers’
marks (see Plate 11). Therefore the estimate that 5 % of coins in circulation
were plated is already an outstanding result of Serafin’s research. That catalog
does not include the aberrant or hybrid specimens27. For the latter one can rely on
Crawford’s catalog (RRC, p. 562-563), which is quite exhaustive, including the
pieces from all the collections examined in RRC. In that way one can have an
information surplus regarding the extent of the private coin contribution. There
are about 70 pieces listed in Crawford’s catalog for the period examined here.
However even if 70 is rounded to 100, still a 100/2000 ratio remains, setting a
1/20 the upper limit for the ratio private to official plated coins.
Serafin’s catalog includes all “family” types but, following Bahrfeldt, all the
anonymous issues are excluded. Moreover, the catalog stops at 50 BC, following
Grueber’s dating. Therefore, to stay on a safe side, it is decided here to end the
analysis at 55 BC (following Crawford’s chronology). That limits somewhat
the time interval one can investigate, which results in the period 155-55 BC. One
can therefore investigate the details of one full century of the later Republican
silver coinage, but not its interesting last years, the so called imperatorial times
(55-31 BC), where the plated coin occurrence was probably higher.
A first interesting result of the catalog is shown in Plate 12A-B, related to
the comparison of silver and plated types, which are displayed versus time,
according to RRC chronology. With very few exceptions one can find plated
specimens of each official type issued during the investigated period.
The anonymous issues (Cr. 222, 262, 287, 350A) within the investigated
time-frame are not included28 in Serafins’s catalog and the coinage of Plaetorius
Cestianus was not split in two sets (Cr. 405 and 409). With these qualifications
the only missing types in plated version are listed in Table 4.

23. Serafin 1968
24. Catalli 2001.
25. RRC, p. 561, n. 5.
26. M. Gratidianus’ enactments and Lex Cornelia de falsis.
27. Ibid.
28. P. Petrillo Serafin, private communication, 2008.
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351

Table 4 - List of missing plated types in Serafin’s catalog.
Type
FLAVS
L.IVLI

C.ATIL.NOM
M.AVF RVS
A.SPVRI

C.CVR F.TRIGE

Cr.
number

Year
BC

Obv. die
estimate

224

141

27

207
225

227
230
240

L.TREBANI

241

SEX.IVLI.CAISAR

258

C.NVMITORI

246

CN.DOMIT

261

C.SERVEIL

370

M.METELLVS.Q.F
Q.MAX
EX.SC

369
371
376

150
141
140

61
5
6

139

29

135

33

135
133
129
128
82
82
82
81

14
10
10
71
10
10
10
6

A much more important and useful way of using the data collected by
Bahrfeldt and Serafin is however to show the time dependence of the number
of plated coins, as first proposed in RRC. By drawing histograms of the counts
of plated coins per year, following Grueber’s chronology and later29 the one of
RRC, a remarkable peak shows up at 90 BC. In Plate 12b a similar plot is shown
together with the histogram of the number of dies per year (Plate 12a), for the
sake of clarity and reader’s convenience. A strong peak at 91-90 BC clearly appears
for both silver and plated issues. Here Serafin mainly concentrated her attention,
interpreting such an increase as the debasement to which Pliny refers.
V. A new way of analyzing the data
One can easily agree with the criticism Crawford addressed to such an
analysis, that is the size of plated issues has to be related to the size of the
corresponding official issues. In fact such feature clearly appears from Plate 12c, by
taking the ratio of the histogram 12a with the estimated die number per year
according to RRC.
A. PCR: the plated coin ratio
Therefore in this paper Serafin’s catalog will be investigated under a new
perspective, that is by introducing the quantity PCR (plated coin ratio):
PCR = N_plated / N_official

(1)

29. Serafin 1988.
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352

Pierluigi Debernardi

where N_plated is the number of cataloged plated coins (per type, according to
the catalog in Table 3, or per year, by summing all the plated types within a
certain year) and N_official is the corresponding number of official coins in the
searched collections. Unfortunately the latter figures were not recorded and
are not readily available. Therefore I will rely on an estimate for N_official,
computed in the following way:
N_official = N_dies / (total Crawford’s dies) × (total inspected coins)

(2)

where N_dies is the die estimate (per type or per year, depending on the needs)
following RRC, (total Crawford’s dies) is the overall sum of dies for the investigated period (33216), according to RRC. The ratio of these first two figures
gives the relative weight of a type (or a year) within the Roman Republican
coinage. This, multiplied by the total number of inspected coins, gives an
estimate of the silver coins in the searched collections.
By combining (1) and (2) one reaches the final espression:
PCR = (N_plated / N_dies) × (total Crawford’s dies / total inspected coins)

(3)

that is a quantity that relates the plated coin occurrence to the official coin volume.
Such quantity is computed for every Crawford’s number, according to his estimate
of official dies and the number of plated specimens listed in Serafin’s catalog
for the same Crawford’s number, using the data of the catalog.
In (2) and (3) Crawford’s die estimates are used, because the only ones which
cover all the Roman Republican coinage, to the best of my knowledge. Such
figures have been questioned by some authors,30 but better estimates have never
been proposed. It is not the place here to enter in the detail of such discussions;
it is instead necessary to check if this can have an influence on the results presented later. Personal die counts of small emissions, like Cr.434/1 and 410/9,
showed a slightly higher number of dies (12 and 11 respectively) compared to
the indication <10 of RRC. T. V. Buttrey31 found an almost doubled die number
(485 instead of 283) for the larger emission of P.CREPVSI (Cr.361/1). So one
might extrapolate an underestimate factor in the range 1.2-2 in Crawford’s die
counts. Another author, K. Lockyear32 notes that Crawford’s die estimates are
useful as proxies for coin output, even if the actual number of dies differed from
what Crawford estimated. In the end, for our purposes, we are not interested in
the die number but better in the coin output. They are not directly linked, since
of the frequent early breaks of the dies. From (2) it appears that a regular under/over-estimate of die counts would be fully compensated, since we are dealing
30. Buttrey 1993, 1994; Lockyear 1999.
31. T. V. Buttrey, private communication, 2008.
32. Lockyear 1999.
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353

with relative figures. Therefore, taking Lockyear’s view, no error is introduced
in our parameters. However, even introducing a random correction factor to the
die counts, the overall picture would not change much. In fact a random underestimate factor in the range 1.2-2 in Crawford’s die counts have to be compared
with the range of variation of the investigated quantities, which vary, as it will
be shown later, by more than a factor of 10 (i.e. the ratio between maximum
and minimum values of PCR is pretty large). Therefore a random variation in
the die counts in the range 1.2-2 cannot change the qualitative features, which
are the most important achievement of this research. Expression (1) is then used
as an estimate of the actual values and should be a fairly good approximation
due to the large investigated sample.33
B. Rescaling PCR: the NPCR
Plate 13b shows PCRs for all the types in Serafin’s catalog; some anomalous
values clearly appear, which are far apart from the majority of the issues. The
different types of coins (normal and serrate denarii, quinarii and victoriati) are
also put in evidence by different symbols. Most interestingly, the contribution
of the scarce issues is shown, for which a maximum value of 30 dies is set.
This is also put in better evidence in Plate 13a, where PCRs are displayed vs.
Cr. die numbers. The most reasonable explanation for the much higher PCR
of rare types, as it appears in Plate 13a, is the preference of collectors and
museum curators for such issues, while preferably avoiding plated coins of
common types. Therefore it is proposed to correct such distortion in the following way. The mean PCR value of the two sets (types with less or more than 30 dies)
is computed and their ratio (5.7) is then used to reduce the higher values of
the scarcer types. The resulting quantity is a normalized PCR, which is called
NPCR. It is displayed in Plate 13a with open circles for die number less than
30, while it corresponds to PCR for higher die numbers.
By looking at NPCR, shown in Plate 12c per year and per type in a stacked
histogram, it is readily seen that Crawford’s idea is confirmed concerning the
peak of plated coins around 90BC, displayed in Plate 12b. In fact for the years
around 90BC NPCRs display values lower than 0.1, much smaller than those
occurring in most of the other years.
The overall behaviour of NPCR is much more evenly distributed than PCR
and it ranges between 1 % and 30 % (see Plate 13a), with the exception of the
serrate type Cr.314. This is due perhaps to the fact that the die number for this
type (40) is close, but exceeds the threshold of 30, so it is not rescaled. On the
other hand, Cr.314 has shown to have a very strong plated counterpart also in
Plate 5 and gives the largest die-link group among plated coins found so far.

33. Serafin 1968.
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Pierluigi Debernardi

In the following only the rescaled quantity NPCR is considered; however
the overall results do not depend much on this rescaling, since it comprises a
small minority of dies (1956 compared to 31260). By summarizing, NPCR is
mostly identical to PCR; it differs from the latter for the scarcer issues, whose
PCR values have been reduced so as to obtain similar values to the great majority
of the emissions. This is done to compensate for a probable distortion introduced
by coin collectors.
C. Deriving the relative copper content RCC
It is now interesting to estimate the relative copper content introduced in
the coinage by the plating technique. This cannot be performed very precisely;
in fact it depends on the ratio silver/copper in a coin, which may vary from
one coin to the other, or from an emission to another. Detailed studies on this
particular topic have never been performed, to the best of my knowledge. However many estimates for single coins have been given, with different results.
Therefore here an estimation is given, based on a simple formulation. Suppose
the silver thickness (ts) is 0.1 mm;34 take the theoretical weight of 3.86 g and
silver specific gravity of 10.5: that leads to a volume V = 3.86 / 10.5 = .367 cm3
= 367 mm3. For a denarius radius (R) of 9 mm, that leads to coin thickness (tc)
of V / (πR2) = 1.45 mm and a silver volume of 2π (Rtc + R2) × ts = 59 mm3. The
corresponding silver to copper volume ratio is about 16 %, which is close to
the other published figures, all in the range 10-25 %. Therefore a copper content
of 84% will be used here. Different values would not change the overall conclusions though and other uncertainties are more relevant. Combining that figure
with NPCR, which gives an estimate of the ratio of plated to silver coins in
circulation, one obtains the relative copper content (RCC) as:
RCC = NPCR(yearly average) × 84 %

(4)

In the results presented in the following, RCC will always be a yearly averaged quantity, which is achieved by taking the number of plated specimens in
one single year (if necessary rescaled as previously explained to account for
the anomalies of the scarcest issues), divided the total number of official
silver coins in that year in the searched sample, as indicated in (1). This gives
the yearly NPCR; from (4) the yearly RCC is then derived. In other words,
(N)PCR was introduced in view of extracting the time dependence of relative
copper into the silver coinage through plated coins.
Disregarding the time dependence, such copper percentage over the whole
examined period can be simply computed by:
RCC_average = (total plated coin n.) / (total inspected coin n.) × 84 % = 4.5 %
34. Kraft et al. 2004.
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355

D. Temporally connecting official and plated issues
Before proceeding in the comparison of copper content in the silver coinage
from plated coins and silver debasing, one should first investigate to which
extent the official and plated coin types can be linked temporally, so as to make
such comparison meaningful. The answer would be straightforward in case of
an official” origin of plated coins. For supporters of the private origin, the
problem is not as easy, however. Therefore, it would be helpful to give some
ideas about what and how a counterfeiter would have copied official issues.
Almost every year in the Roman Republic one or more new issues were
minted (247 in one century), depending on the financial needs of the Roman
State. After that, the brand-new coins started to accumulate the signs of circulation.
Therefore it is unlikely that the possible counterfeiters would have chosen types
minted too many years before, since that would have required extra work to
make the new fake coins similar to the old, worn types. Moreover, new, lustrous
coins are much more appealing and accepted than old, worn ones. So to make
their pieces more easily accepted, the best policy would have been to copy the
newest issues, which at the same time would have been also the easiest thing to
do. Therefore one of the main working assumptions of this paper is that plated
coins are contemporary, that is they were produced in the same or next close
years with respect to their official counterparts.
At least one additional detail leads to a tight time link between plated and
official issues: the silver plated serratii, quinarii and victoriati (a consistent
amount of them is reported by Gorini35, and 3 examples are shown in Plate 17).
All these types are most unlikely to have been chosen by counterfeiters for
copying. For quinarii one would have had to work the same and use relatively
more silver to produce a coin with half value. In fact the surface to volume ratio
is typically higher for quinarii than for denarii, which leads to more silver for
the plating process. For serrate denarii, in addition to the plating procedure in
general not being well known, it is even harder to figure out how that could be
achieved with a serrated edge. Many examples of such coins are given in
Plates 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7. By close inspection, it appears that a serrate plated
denarius could have been produced by placing a bit more of silver at the rim
and cutting its heated edge, so as to prevent the serration from reaching the
inner copper. Even assuming that to produce a plated serrate coin would not
have introduced a more difficult technology, for sure the serration in itself
required longer processing times to cut the edge by a chisel so as to produce the
characteristic cuts. Therefore it is hardly conceivable that counterfeiters would
have chosen types like serrati, victoriati and quinarii, if there had been the
option to select earlier normal denarii. An exemplary case is provided by the
Hosidia series (Cr. 407) which comprises both a serrate type (/1) and a normal
35. Gorini 2005.
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356

Pierluigi Debernardi

one (/2) with the same subjects and similar designs. Some examples of plated
specimens, also die-linked in many cases, are shown in Plate 4. The catalog
does not distinguish between /1 and /2, but during this investigation more serratii than normal plated denarii have been found, which is completely opposite
to the situation of silver counterparts (RRC estimates 20 and 134 dies respectively). This observation reinforces the point previously put forward.
VI. The reasons for the “official” origin of plated coins
In this section, by using all the information reported so far, it will be explained
why the Roman mint was the most plausible “official” source for plated coins.
“Official” must here be clarified and well understood. In fact to simply write
plated coins were official issues, in the sense they must have been accepted as
good silver coins, would be contradictory. So by “official” I mean a state fraud,
something that was well known at the high political levels and maybe used to
finance the enormous expenditures on ludi, annona, and so on: in other words
Roman politics. To be noted the word State has a different nuance compared to
the modern meaning. In fact the Respublica was under the control of a very
limited number of rich and powerful Roman families.
A. Types with or without plated counterparts
The result presented in Plate 12B showing the presence of plated specimens
for almost all the types was already pointed out by many scholars in the past
and used to support the official origin of plated coins. Here I would like to take
an opposite, provoking position. Official origin is not convincingly supported
by the fact that almost all types have plated counterparts. That is a necessary,
but not sufficient condition. Instead I would put my focus on the missing plated
types. It is difficult to explain why counterfeiters missed some issues with such
particular time pattern. It is quite impressive to see these features on the histogram of Plate 12B, where the few missing issues are temporally resolved.
This temporal distribution is underlined here for the first time and is very interesting since it finds a consistent explanation in an official context, while I
cannot find any plausible reason in a private framework. In fact all the gaps are
located (except the two issues Cr.207 and 261) in the two periods 142-130 BC
and 82-80 BC. The first one marks a very important turning point in the RR
silver coinage, the retariffing of the denarius, which was accompanied by an
unparalleled precision of the weight standard and good silver fineness.36 In
this view, within an “official” framework, it is easy to explain the absence of
plated issues, not only on the scarcest issues of the period (Cr.225, 227, 246,
258, <10 dies) but also in some larger ones (Cr. 224, 230, 240, 241, <30 dies).
36. Debernardi 2008.
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357

The second period corresponds to Sulla’s restoration and the quite disordered
minting activity by the two opposite Marian and Sullan parties. In those three
years about 20 silver types are estimated by Crawford, when commonly an
average of 2 to 3 per year is observed, as shown in Plate 12A. The period in
discussion shows a pronounced peak in the graph; in this framework it can be
understood more easily why some small issues were struck without their plated
counterparts; namely the three restored issues (Cr. 369-71) and EX.SC issue
(Cr.376), all with less than 10 dies.
The very important early period, from the start of the denarius system up to
155 BC, is not comprised in the catalog. During those 60 years the types are the
ones with Roma head and Dioscuri or a biga, mainly anonymous, with or without symbols. In the later types of the period some family monograms started to
appear. Unfortunately such period is not satisfactorily represented by the catalog, which comprises only nine issues with family monograms earlier than
155 BC and does not include any anonymous issue. Personal investigations, even
not on a sample as large as the one of Serafin’s catalog, show that late anonymous issues like 198, 287, 350A have plated counterparts, while the earlier ones
are found very rarely. I’m not aware of any plated denarius of the earliest series
with Roma head / Dioscuri (Cr.44 to 55), while I could find only a handful of
them up to Cr.182, which are shown in Plate 17. Some of them have fully
official style (b, c, d), in some the style is doubtful (f and g), while e and h are
most probably the products of the same counterfeiter’s workshop. Apart from
the non completely correct style, the two coins share the same obverse die,
which is almost decent as a Cr.197/1, but completely wrong as Cr.156 obverse.
There is little doubt this obverse die link condemns the two plated coins as
forgeries, but on the other hand it could place an issue regarding the pretty large
temporal split assigned by Crawford to those two series. The presence of two
different reverses coupled with the same obverse could indicate counterfeiters
produced different types to ease placing their production into circulation (see
also later on this same argument).
The very few early plated pieces show pretty clearly the phenomenon was
negligible just after the introduction of the denarius system. This was started
in my opinion to counteract the disaster of Cannae and can be dated at 215 or
214 BC at the latest. This is well confirmed by the Morgantina finds, whichever fire (214 or 211 BC) is related to the early silver coins found there. The new
coins in fact could not go directly from the Rome mint to Sicily and a certain
delay can be reasonably supposed. This is further reinforced by the Agrigento
hoard37 of 20, 40 and 60 gold pieces, deposited before 213 BC. The many
anonymous issues, with or without symbols, minted in those early years, do not
find then any plated counterparts. This is not to say that plating was not know
at that time; on the contrary many plated didrachmae (see e.g. Plate 17a),
37. Caccamo 1990.
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358

Pierluigi Debernardi

quadrigati and gold plated pieces38 are reported. The phenomenon of plated
gold coins was indeed quite large (16 plated over 102 normal pieces in Bahrfeldt’s catalog) and nobody has so far doubted their official origin. But the
starting of a new coinage system had to sign a strong turning point, to bring a
sharp message and gain a solid trust. Therefore the quality of the newborn
denarius system was kept very high, as shown by the specific gravity measures
lately performed by the author on a pretty large sample (greater than 300
pieces, to be published). Therefore the practice of silver plating was only
introduced systematically after Rome became the world leader, well within II
century BC, when the denarius system had already become the reference standard. Plated emissions started smoothly with the denarii with monograms,
increased in the middle of II century and become relevant for the first time
approaching the end of that century (see Plate 5 for some plated issues of those
times).
In a private framework, it would be difficult to explain such time progression and the reasons of the missing types. For the rare issues (Cr. 225, 227, 246,
258) it would be tempting to say: counterfeiters tend to copy the most common
types. If so, why the catalog reports so many plated specimens for the rarest
types? Exemplary one can consider the plated specimens reported in Plate 8
and 9. But even more difficult would be to explain the lack of plated specimens
for large series as Cr.44/5, 53/2 or for common types as Cr. 224, 230, 240, 241
and their very location at the retariffing times. Why counterfeiters would have
had to avoid them at all?
All the plated types different from standard denarii (victoriati, quinarii and
serratii) constitute another solid argument in favor of their official origin. Therefore, it is worthwhile going back to the serrate types discussed in section V-D.
The reason why serratii were struck is not really known and also no good
explanations have been found regarding their temporal location in RR coinage.
Tacitus in Germania V says: (Germani) Pecuniam probant veterem et diu notam,
serratos bigatosque. The earliest serrate Cr.79/1 probably started the good
reputation of this kind of coins and later series were possibly used for trading
with barbarian populations. The large coinage Cr.282 struck in Narbo could
also support that view. Crawford in RRC says that probably the serration was just
a fashionable way of striking denarii, already used in previous Greek coinages.
The idea such coins were used to prevent plated coins is correctly rejected,
since plated serrate coins are often found much more frequently than normal
denarii as shown in the catalog. A completely different interpretation is therefore
possible. In fact, it cannot be denied that a serrated denarius is easily interpreted by
most people, either ancient or contemporary, as a good way to prevent forgeries
since the serrated edge apparently makes the coin core more accessible.

38. Thomsen 1961.
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359

From the data reported in Plate 13b, where the stars denote the serrate
types, one can see both their chronology and occurrence in the PCR perspective.
It clearly appears that, while victoriati and quinarii display on average values
close to standard denarii, serratii have much higher PCR values. An average
NPCR of 11.1 % is found compared to 6.9 % for normal denarii. This is indeed
completely the opposite to what commonly expected. Such a high NPCR in
serrate types can then be used as an additional argument to support the official
origin of plated coins. In this view, serratii would have been simply used to
make people (Barbarians or Romans) more confident in the quality of the silver
coinage, allowing in turn an even larger introduction of plated coins into circulation. It is then proposed here for the first time that the practice of the serration
was mainly used to easy the plated coin emissions, which would give finally a
reason for the temporal location of the serrated emissions.
It is interesting here to analyse the case of the only two series in RR coinage
which shows both serrate and normal edge: Cr. 202/1 and Cr. 407. The coins of
C.TAL (202/1a and 202/1b) show exactly the same design in the two versions,
while the ones of C.HOSIDI slightly change from Cr. 407/1 to Cr. 407/2
(see Plate 4). They also share that the serrate version is much scarcer than the
normal one. The C.TAL series is located at a time (154BC according to RRC)
when the plating phenomenon was developing. Oddly enough, among the series
of the same period in the catalog (from Cr. 201 to 208, 154 to 149BC), it shows
the second highest number of plated specimens (9) and by far the highest PCR;
one additional specimen has also appeared recently on the market (Rauch 84,
lot 198). The case of Cr.407 has already been discussed previously and together
with that of Cr.202 reinforces the idea that serrate edge was just used to easy the
introduction of plated coins into circulation.
B. Size, dies and characteristics of plated issues
The huge percentage of plated coins (5 % of the searched, very large sample)
is on its own a strong argument to support their “official” mintage. Counterfeited coins started to be produced with the invention of the money and fake
money is still circulating nowadays; the ratio of fake to good coins cannot change
that dramatically over the ages. Consider what happens today; it is estimated
that one dollar bill out of 10 000 is fake39 while for the more recent euro the ratio is
lower (1 out of 50 000). So we can clearly see that in the Roman Republican
State the fake coins in circulation were 1000 times higher than today: that is a
dramatic difference. I can hardly believe that such a figure can be explained
other than in an official framework. The Roman state was not that feeble and
would have had the means to keep the counterfeiters under better control.

39. http://www.ustreas.gov/press/releases/hp154.htm.
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Another serious problem arising from so huge volume of fake coins would
have been for the counterfeiters to put them into circulation. To place them in
such huge numbers would hardly have been possible on a private basis. Subjects
eligible to receive big amounts of money had also proper scales to check them.
If one takes 3.1 g as an average weight for plated denarii (this is the mean value
of weights of specimens in Table 1) and 3.86 g for silver coins, 100 pieces
would have made a difference of 76 g, which can be detected even by a scale not
that precise. The easiest way would have been to mix the bad with the good coins:
this is however an option possible only for the mint, where to drop one plated over
20 silver coins would have passed unnoticed. The preceding considerations
should firmly exclude also what is often heard: plated coins are “after hours”
productions of mint workers. That view cannot stand with those volumes and
with the separate dies used to produce them.
From all discussed so far it results pretty clear the researches of die links of
plated coins with official silver issues to support the official origin of plated
coins is completely misleading and easily rejected. In fact the production of
plated and normal silver coins requires different techniques and skills; in
particular the production of the blanks must be completely other. Why should
such different kind of coins have been produced in the same workshop? Why,
in issues struck by tens or hundreds of dies, should the same dies have been
used to produce in part plated and in part silver coins? This sounds quite absurd
to me. On large die numbers the most logical scheme should be to have distinct
dies for plated and good silver coins. In large emissions the dies devoted to mint
plated coins should have been many, obeying to predetermined proportions.
Examples of different dies for minting plated coins, almost certainly from the
same engravers, are given in Plates 1 and 2 for the Minucia (Cr.248/1), Tituria
(Cr.344/3) and Aquillia (Cr.401/1) types and in Plate 4 for the serrate Hosidia
pieces (Cr. 407/1). Why should the same counterfeiter have had to engrave so
many dies with the same design, if nearly 30 000 pieces could have been struck
by a die pair (RRC p. 694)? Even more strange, why would a counterfeiter have
engraved two different dies with thunderbolt (Plate 2a-b), when he could have
used so many other symbols? The existence of many different dies for plated
coins of one type with similar style, combined with the many die links among
plated coins presented above (Plates 4-9), give a strong indication that plated
issues were fully comparable with official silver issues: similar size per die,
many dies per type. This is also pretty consistent with the overall amount of
coins which have survived. Production from a counterfeiter workshop could
never achieve volumes comparable to the official mint, at least for the practical
reason of placing them into circulation (see comments above to Plate 17e and h).
Have any forged coin from the counterfeiter’s workshop in Lucoli40 ever been
reported, except the pieces of his small hoard?
40. Devoto et al. 1993.
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Last but not least, the regular ratio between plated and official issue volumes,
as it appears in Plate 12, hardly fits within a private framework, after having
strictly related plated and silver types temporally. If one could prove that plated
coins were produced later than their official counterparts, it would be easily
concluded that counterfeiters just copied the most common types. However
such temporal split is quite unlikely and hardly supported by any practical or
logical reasons (see V.D). The Roman mint and the counterfeiters must have
been driven by completely different needs. For the official mint those were
quite random, mainly driven by military issues (as during the Social war) or big
public infrastructure projects, such as aqueducts, roads, new colonies, etc. This
has been convincingly demonstrated in RRC, where Crawford draws linked
graphs of the mint production and expenditure estimations. All of that cannot
have anything to do with counterfeiters’ production, whose dynamics must have
been ruled by completely different issues. Therefore the clear correspondence
between plated and silver mintage volumes is another piece of evidence of the
“official” origin, much stronger than the conclusions drawn by Serafin analyzing
the data over only one decade41 on an absolute basis.
C. The monetary RR policy: debasing silver vs. silver plating
The introduction of the yearly averaged RCC in section V-C and the tight
link of plated and silver emission as previously discussed make now possible to
compare the copper content introduced into the coinage through plated coins
and silver debasing. Such a comparison is carried out in Plate 14, where the
yearly averaged RCC versus time is directly shown together with the copper
content in silver coins, displayed top-down on the same figure. That is made
possible by using the data of silver fineness reported and discussed by the
author42. They are however displayed here in a different way, averaged on a
yearly basis. Moreover those data have been here complemented by more coins,
so as they amount here to about 200 specimens whose specific gravity have
been measured and the corresponding fineness computed. Quite surprisingly
the debasement of the official coinage, displayed here as copper content, and
the yearly averaged RCC are almost perfectly complementary, that is when the
former increases, the latter decreases and the other way around. This is called
an anti-correlation behavior. In the histograms that characteristic shows up very
well: the bars of the two quantities matches almost as the pieces of a puzzle.
This feature can be seen particularly well in the 80’s, the period addressed by
Serafin’s paper.43

41. Serafin 1968, 1988.
42. Debernardi 2008.
43. Serafin 1988.
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In Plate 15 the same data are shown in a different way, by showing interpolations of copper content in the silver coins and of RCC; for both the quantities
also the raw data are shown. In this way one can follow better the more general
trends. It can be seen that also in this perspective, the copper introduced in
the silver coinage in the two different ways is almost perfectly complementary.
The two main extrema are located around 130 and 90 BC, where plated coins
volumes have a maximum and minimum, while debasement has a minimum
and maximum correspondingly. There are partial exceptions in the 60’s BC and
100’s BC. For the latter period the pretty high values of both debasement and
plated coins is precursory for the clear debasement introduced later, during the
Social War, which marks also a neat drop in the relative plated coins emissions.
It has to be considered that the results shown so far are derived directly from
Serafin’s catalog, by supposing the correspondence between plated and official
coins found in the researched collections is the same as in the actual ancient
circulation. However the detected relation is probably lower than the actual one
was, for the reasons explained in section IV (i.e. the tendency to avoid plated
coins in hoards and collections) and because the study was performed by simple
visual inspection, which fails to detect the well preserved specimens. Perhaps
these effects may in part be compensated by the opposite tendency of the larger
occurrence of plated coins on archeological sites, which however I do not
expect to be an important contribution to most of the searched collections.
The histograms of Plate 16 show the total copper content in RR coinage,
by summing the two contributions (debasing and plating). At top the same
data of Plate 14 are reported, while at bottom the contribution of plated coins
has been doubled, so that the average copper addition rise from 5 to 10 % for
the considered period. One can observe the overall characteristics do not vary
much, being the contribution of debasement dominating even with an exaggerated account of plated coins. It is confirmed that the best quality in RR coinage
was achieved at the denarius retariffing times (around 10 %). Quite surprisingly
the high debasing in middle 80’s BC is mitigated by the low contribution of
plated coins, so that the worst quality was achieved in the decade 110-100 BC
(Cimbri and Teutones crisis); almost the same level of debasement was attained
again in middle 70’s. This is of course true on a relative scale; in absolute values,
the peak is located in the 90’s, with the huge coinage volume of those years.
Possibly silver plating was one of the means, together with debasement and
weight cuts,44 to compensate for silver shortage, minting costs and wastes of the
Roman politics. In such a framework the anti-correlated behavior of silver
debasement and plated coin emissions would be easily explained in the view of
a balanced introduction of copper in the silver coinage, which of course was a
time dependent variable depending on external constraints. From the data of

44. Debernardi 2008.
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363

Plate 16 the overall debasement in the last century of the Roman Republic can
be estimated to have been fluctuating between 10 and 30 %. A contribution of
plated coins doubled with respect to the Serafin’s results (as in Plate 16 bottom)
has to be regarded as exaggerated; probably the actual factor can reasonably be
found in between.
It is not easy to explain why a double technique was used at the mint, especially since it is much easier to debase the coinage by means of a silver-copper
alloy, rather than by plating copper coins. One has however to take into account
that behavior evolved over many decades rather than planned “ab initio” by a
law or legislator for obvious reasons. Maybe what could have been started
for some exceptional circumstances, was first tolerated and then employed
more systematically. The data in Plate 12 refers to family issues after 155 BC;
within this time frame one can observe, on average, a quite regular, slightly
increasing occurrence of plated coins. Minimum RCC values of 1-2 % occur at
the retariffing and post social war times. Maxima around 10 % are achieved
around 130, mid 100’s and in the 70’s BC. The period 110-100 BC is one exception to the complementarity of RCC and debasement, which are both maximum
around 105 BC. This gives an indication of a grave monetary crisis. This period
can be considered as precursory for the succeeding higher debasement, first
proposed by L. Drusus in 91 BC and soon after made really effective (89-87 BC).
When the number of plated coins would have grown too much, then it was
counteracted by the more drastic means of silver debasement, first started
significantly in the last decade of the II century and reinforced in the successive
two decades.
In conclusion, one can regard plated coins just as a minor debasement method
compared to alloying copper with silver. Serious bullion shortage, as occurred
during the Social war on 89-87 BC, was counteracted by a dramatic debasement45 and even reinforced by extended measurements on about 600 pieces of
the Cosa hoard.46 This can be seen by looking at Plate 16 using the raw data and
even by using an amplification factor of 2 for most cases. Therefore I do believe
that plating coins were used mainly as the minor measure. The total amount of
copper introduced in the silver coinage by plated coins should have been lower
than 1/8 (12.5 %), the amount announced by Pliny for debasing an recently
confirmed,47 while the ratio of 1/18 arising from Serafin’s catalog may set a
lower bound for it. These upper and lower limits for plated coins constitute
another basic achievement of this research.

45. Debernardi 2008.
46. P. Debernardi, The monetary crisis during the Bellum Sociale, to be published.
47. Debernardi 2008.
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VII. Conclusions
The many aspects and implications of plated coins discussed in this paper
show why this topic is so controversial and difficult to be treated, with all its
different nuances. The problem is very hard to be solved within simple and
rigid schemes. Some people considered only debasement, some only plating,
some only private origin, some only aberrant coins, some only die-links with
official coins. It is proposed here to combine of all these aspects, which all have
their part in the game. Surely among plated coins one can find some of private
manufacture, some possibly produced by die transfer and right style, some with
wrong style, some aberrant and most probably coming from outside Roman
territory. This paper is not concerned with these kinds of coins, but with the
“official” plated coins, which constitutes the mainstream of the plated coinage.
From the evidence of the surviving coins the “official” framework is the most
reasonable. In that way most of the oddities find a simple and straightforward
explanation. The lack of early plated issues and the presence of plated serratii
and quinarii find a natural framework, while in the private framework they can
be hardly explained. The same holds true for the huge volumes of plated coins.
On the one hand the strong Roman state would have not allowed it to that
extent; on the other hand private manufacture of such volume poses serious
practical issues. Those large volumes are also well supported by the many
examples of die links among plated coins presented here for the first time to the
best of my knowledge. Last but not least, the tight connection between plated
and official silver coin volumes, which is the most original contribution of this
paper, is much stronger evidence of the “official” nature of plated coins. This
result is further reinforced by the anti-correlated time evolution of plated coin
volume and silver debasement, which can be only understood in the unitary
view of the mint, so as to keep under control the overall amount of copper introduced into the Roman Republican silver coinage. Opposed to the above, the
reasons for the private origin of plated coins are mainly focused on laws against
counterfeiters and forgeries. Is that stronger than the whole coin evidence?
Acknowledgments
The author would like to thank the many people whose help was very important
for the paper to reach its final form: my colleague Dr. R. Schatz for suggesting
Plate 13a and giving ideas to improve the clarity of the manuscript, Dr. Catalli
for providing and introducing me Serafin’s papers, the starting point of this
research, Dr. K. Verboven and Prof. Serafin for helpful and stimulating discussions, Dr. Barello (Sopraintendenza per i Beni Acheologici del Piemonte),
Dr. Ehling (Staatlichen Münzsammlung München), Dr. Ghey for information
about coins in Plates 5e and 3a and courtesy of the Trustees of the British
Museum for all the images, Ph. Davis and R. Schaefer for editing and providing
images.
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365

References
Bahrfeldt 1884: M. von Bahrfeldt, NZ, p. 309-366.
Buttrey 1993: T. V. Buttrey, Calculating Ancient Coin Production: Facts and Fantasies,
NC, p. 335-351.
Buttrey 1994: T.V. Buttrey, Calculation of Ancient Coin Production II: Why it Cannot
be Done, NC, p. 341-352.
Caccamo 1990: M. Caccamo Caltabiano, Le prime emissioni dell’oro “marziale”
romano: il tesoretto di Agrigento 1987, Quaderni dell’Istituto di Lettere e Filosofia
dell’Università di Messina, 5, p. 1-17.
Catalli 2001: F. Catalli, La monetazione romana repubblicana, IPZS, p. 129-131.
Chantraine 1982: H. Chantraine, Die antiken Fundmünzen von Neuss. Gesamtkatalog
der Ausgrabungen 1955-1978, Limesforschungen 20, Novaesium VIII, Berlin,
p. 40-42.
Crawford 1965: M. H. Crawford, NC, p. 149-154.
Crawford 1968: M. H. Crawford, Plated coins, false coins, NC, p. 55-59.
Crawford 1982: M. H. Crawford, RRC, reprint.
Davis 2006: Ph. Davis, Dacian imitation of Roman Republican denarii, Apulum: Acta
Musei Apulensis, p. 321-355.
Debernardi 2008: P. Debernardi, An investigation about the physical properties in the
Roman Republican coinage: Part I – weights, Part II – silver contents The Celator,
February and March.
Devoto et al. 1993: G. Devoto, P. Petrillo Serafin, Ripostiglio di Lucoli (L’Aquila):
il “gruzzolo” di un falsario di età repubblicana, Bollettino del Ministero per i Beni
Culturali ed Ambientali, n. 21, p. 7-106.
Gorini 2005: G. Gorini, Il ripostiglio di Enemonzo e la monetazione del Norico, Numismatica Patavina n. 6, Padova.
Harlan 1995: M. Harlan, Roman Republican moneyers and their coins 63 CB-49 BC,
Seaby B.T. Batsford Ltd, London, p. 56-65.
Kraft et al. 2004: G. Kraft, S. Flege, F. Reiff, H. M. Ortner, Investigation of Contemporary Forgeries of Ancient Silver Coins, Microchim. Acta, 145, p. 87-90.
Lockyear 1999: K. Lockyear, Hoard structure and coin production in antiquity - an
empirical investigation, NC, p. 215-243.
Serafin 1968: P. Petrillo Serafin, Nota sull’argento suberato della repubblica romana,
Annali dell’Istituto Italiano di Numismatica, 15, p. 9-30.
Serafin 1988: P. Petrillo Serafin, art. cit., n. 2, Ead., Ripensando ai suberati..., RIN,
p. 131-139.
Thomsen 1961: R. Thomsen, Early Republican Coinage, vol. II, p. 170.

RN 2010, p. 337-381

366

Pierluigi Debernardi

a - Cr 223/1 - 3,84 g

b - Cr 228/1 - 3,30 g

c - Cr 248/1 - 3,93 g

Expanded view
d - Cr 248/1 - 2,77 g

Air bubbles below silver foil

Openings in
the silver plating

e - Cr 334/1 - 3,40 g
Plate 1 - Examples of plated coins, showing some of their possible different features: a private
collection and b eBay-09 can be said plated only by their SG. c CNG 171 lot 88 (the coin is said
to reveal a copper core through a scrape at the edge) and d (author’s collection) are examples of
coins with extremely crisp details, shown in an enlarged view. e (author’s collection) provides
examples of defects in the silver plating.
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367

a - Cr 344/3 - 2,91 g

b - Cr 344/3 - 3,64 g

c - Cr 263/1 - 3,63 g

d - Cr 311/1a - 3,33 g

e - Cr 401/1 - 2,53 g

f - Cr 401/1 - 2,77 g

g - Cr 418/2 - 2,85 g

h - Cr 249/1 - 3,04 g

Plate 2 - Examples of plated denarii from author collection, except the two on top
(a from Museo di Antichità di Torino, b BM R.8241).

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Pierluigi Debernardi

Official dies

Same dies for plated coins

. O on obv.
a - 3,00 g

A - Cr 311/1 - 3,53 g
b - 3,35 g

III on rev.

B - Cr 398/1 - 3,88 g

c - 3,10 g

d - 2,79 g

e - 2,98 g
Plate 3 - Die links between plated and official types. Coin A is BM 2009 311.1.28, B is from
Museo di Antichità di Torino, catalogo Fabretti 4352. For the pladed coins: a eBay Feb 2008,
b BM 1877,0712.4, c from www.wildwins.com, d from eBay 2009, and e from Benz’ collection,
Lanz 88 lot 577 (possibly plated).
RN 2010, p. 337-381

Plated coins, false coins?

369

a - Cr 407/1

A - Cr 407/1 - 2,80 g

b - Cr 407/1 - 3,08 g

B - Cr 407/1 - 3,37 g

c - Cr 407/2 - 2,30 g

d - Cr 407/2 - 2,59 g

C - Cr 407/1 - 2,24 g

e - Cr 407/2 - 2,70 g
Plate 4 - a, b die linked plated denarii Cr. 407/1, c,d,e for Cr. 407/2 (see Table 2 for coin references).
A, B, C plated Cr. 407/1 with different dies of very close style: A Bruun Ramussen 764 lot 5652,
B LHS 103, lot 170, C BM3387.
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Pierluigi Debernardi

B on rev.

V on rev.

a - Cr 311/1 - 3,72 g

f - Cr 314/1

b - Cr 311/1 - 2,99 g

g - Cr 314/1 - 3,98 g

c - Cr 311/1 - 2,56 g

h - Cr 314/1 - 2,88 g

V on obv.

i - Cr 314/1 - 2,90 g
d - Cr 314/1 - 3,32 g

l - Cr 314/1 - 2,92 g
e - Cr 314/1 - 3,32 g
Plate 5 - Examples of die links among plated
serrate denarii: Cr. 311/1 and Cr.314/1 with
control mark V on rev or obv. See Table 2 for
coin references.
RN 2010, p. 337-381

m - Cr 314/1 - 3,22 g

Plated coins, false coins?

Similar official dies

371

Plated die links

c - 3,00 g

Cr 205/1
d

a

Cr 218/1
b - 2,50 g

e - 3,14 g

Cr 307/1
f - 2,84 g
Plate 6 - Examples of die links among plated denarii;
official example are taken from the British Museum
online archive (http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/
search_the_collection_database/advanced_search.aspx),
for plated specimen see Table 2.

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Pierluigi Debernardi

Similar official dies

Plated die links

c - 3,73 g
Cr 292/1
d - 2,60 g

e - 3,29 g
Cr 326/1
f - 3,00 g

g - 3,29 g
Cr 327/1
h - 3,00 g

a - 3,30 g
Cr 334/1
Plate 7 - Examples of die links among plated denarii;
official example are taken from the British Museum
RN
2010,archive,
p. 337-381for plated specimen see Table 2.
online

b - 3,40 g

Plated coins, false coins?

Similar official dies

373

Plated die links

c - 3,28 g

B - Cr 377/1
d - 2,95 g

e - 3,37 g

C - Cr 391/1
f - 3,30 g

a - 3,08 g

A - Cr 398/1
b - 3,31 g
Plate 8 - Die links for plated denarii of scarce types. No die link with silver dies is found, but only
the signs of strong stylistic resemblances. Official coins B,C from Coinarchives, A Artemide, 14
dic 08 lot 116; for plated coins see Table 2.
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Pierluigi Debernardi

Similar official dies

Plated die links

c - 3,36 g

B - Cr 411/1
d - 3,06 g

e - 3,00 g

C - Cr 434/1

f - 2,84 g

g - 2,85 g
Plate 9 - Die matches for plated denarii of scarce types. No die link with silver dies is found, but
only the signs of strong stylistic resemblances. Official coins B is from Coinarchives, C is from
Lanz 88, lot 571, 3.36g (plated?). For plated coins see Table 2.

RN 2010, p. 337-381

Plated coins, false coins?

375

a

c

b

d

e - 3,82 g

h - 2,61 g

f - 3,54 g

i - 3,74 g

g - 3,51 g

l - 3,04 g

Plate 10 - Top: example of hybrid Dacian silver denarii (not plated). On the left, from Phillip
Davis’ collection, a and b are copies produced by die-transfer from official coins; a imitates
Cr-324/1 (obv) and Cr-374/1 (rev), b Cr-410/5 (obv) and 382/1 (rev). On the right, two hybrid
denarii from author’s collection, struck from Dacian engraved dies; c copies Cr-392/1a (obv) and
Cr-317/3a (rev), d Cr-216/1 (obv) and Cr-214/1 (rev). Bottom: examples of Dacian plated denarii,
all from Davis’ collection (http://rrimitations .ancients.info/index.html).
RN 2010, p. 337-381

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Pierluigi Debernardi

433/2

453/31

494/37

494/38

494/27

494/29

Plate 11 - Example of banker’s marks on official denarii from author’s collection.

RN 2010, p. 337-381

Plated coins, false coins?

377

Plated types

A

Plated-silver type ratio

0
B

1

0.5

0

3000

Number of plated coins

Number of dies

a
2000

1000

0
100

b

50

0
0,8

c

NP CR

0,6
0,4
0,2
0,0
150

140

130

120

110
Year BC

100

90

80

70

60

Plate 12 - Histograms vs. time of plated types occurrence per year (A), corresponding ratios with
official types (B), plated denarii counts (b) with types resolved by a grayscale, corresponding die
number (a) and NPCR (c, see text).
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Pierluigi Debernardi

a

0,8

PCR - N PCR

0,6

0,4

0,2

0,0
10

30

100

300

1000

Cr. die number
b
Denarii serrati
Victoriati

0,8

Quinarii
Common types
Scarce types

PCR

0,6

0,4

0,2

0,0
220

200

180

160

140

120

100

80

60

40

Year BC

Plate 13 - a: PCR vs. Crawford’s die numbers (in logarithmic scale); bare PRC values are indicated
by dots, the averages of PRC below and above 30 dies (dotted vertical line) are indicated by the two
horizontal lines. The open circles indicate the normalized PCR below 30 dies (i.e. NPCR, see text).
b: PCR vs. time; a value of 30 dies has been chosen to separate scarse and common types.
This results in 72 scarse types (dark dots), corresponding to 1956 dies, and 171 common types
(light dots), corresponding 31 260 dies.
RN 2010, p. 337-381

379

30

0

25

5

20

10

15

15

10

20

5

25

0

Silver coin copper content %

RRC (plated coins) %

Plated coins, false coins?

30
150

140

130

120

110
Year BC

100

90

80

70

60

Plate 14 - Histograms vs. time of the extrapolated copper content from plated coins (dark bars at
bottom) and measured copper content in official issues (light bars at top). The latter values are an
average on a year basis from a larger sample compared to the one reported in Debernardi 2008.

30
Copper content in silver coins

RCC, copper content (%)

20

10
8

4

2
RCC
1
150

140

130

120

110

100

90

80

70

60

Year BC

Plate 15 - Relative copper content introduced to coinage by plated coins (RCC) and copper contents
(data and fitting curves) vs. time; logarithmic scales are used to better show the small values.
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Pierluigi Debernardi

Equivalent copper content (%)

40

Plated factor = 1

30

20

10

0
150

140

130

120

110
100
Year BC

90

80

70

60

120

110
100
Year BC

90

80

70

60

Equivalent copper content (%)

40

Plated factor = 2

30

20

10

0
150

140

130

Plate 16 - Stacked histograms vs. time of the equivalent copper content in RR coinage; light color
for copper content in silver coins, dark color, copper content introduced by plated coins. At top,
using RCC as defined in the text, at bottom, multiplying RCC by a factor of two.

RN 2010, p. 337-381

Plated coins, false coins?

381

A - Cr 44/1 - 3,00 g
a - Cr 26/1 - 5,62 g

B - Cr 57/1

b - Cr 58/2 - 2,79 g
C - Cr 89/1 - 3,04 g

c - Cr 80/1b - 3,46 g

f - Cr 88/2 - 3,38 g

d - Cr 113/1 - 3,13 g

g - Cr 113/1 - 3,20 g

e - Cr 156/1 - 3,13 g

h - Cr 197/1 - 3,20 g

Plate 17 - Examples of plated specimens of the earlier series: a NAC51 lot 657, b NAC P
lot 1663, c and e Staatlichen Münzsammlung München, d British Museum BM 1904,0204.2,
f and A Museo di Antichità di Torino F430 and F234, g and h Medagliere Reale, Torino,
B Vcoins Byways, C author’s collection.
RN 2010, p. 337-381