This page hopes to give you more than just, an insight into the complex subject…

Common term’s used for Roman Coins…

These are some of the more common terms you will come across on ancient coins:

Æ;  an abbreviation for Aeratus, which is Latin for copper, this is a given name by numismatics, and is the term used to describe a coin whose name is unknown or whose denomination / value is unclear due to state of preservation, especially ones dug up on there own, like those found when Metal Detecting; but if you found a hoard of copper coins in a pot, which has preserved the coins, you could have all four copper Roman coin categories tucked away in the pot, these four categories are the standard for roman copper coins: which is;

Æ1: Copper coins (to include bronze, billion, orichalcum, etc.) of size over approximately 27mm in diameter.

 Æ2: Coins ranging in size from ~22mm to ~27mm in diameter:

Æ3: Coins ranging in size from ~16mm to ~21mm in diameter.

Æ4: Coins smaller than about 16mm in diameter.

Additionally, just to confuse everyone there are weight considerations to be considered so that for example, an Æ3 of unusually high or low weight may be bumped up or down accordingly, but I would not worry too much about this, its more for the purest’s out there, as most numismatics just use the terms based on size alone, & it is far to confusing…

Antoninianus; a Modern-given name to the coin denomination created by Caracalla and popularized by Gordian III, in step with the phasing out of the Denarius. Initially, this coin held the equivalent of 80% of the silver content of two Denareii. However, within a few years the silver content petered out to just 2%. It is generally thought that even this low amount of silver remaining was unintentional. The mint workers simply did not know how to refine the silver out any further from the alloy mix they were working with, so when the Antoniniani became so debased, the moneiers could no longer make the coins look silver, a process was formed to give the coin a pure silver coating, which countered for a substantial part of the total silver content of the coin.

AR; which is an abbreviation for Argentum which is Latin for silver, most of the time letters “AR” will precede denominations of coins that are normally struck in silver, for example, you may find a coin described as an AR Denarius.

Argenteus; A short-lived silver denomination equivalent in weight and fineness to the Denarius created under Diocletian’s currency reform of 293-294. Although it was essentially a restored Denarius it had a face value of 100 Denari. The Argenteus never caught on as a commercial institution. They were minted in limited quantities and their high official cost made them inadequate for the marketplace.

“As” a copper coin, was of relatively low value, worth half a Dupondius. The As was discontinued in the third century.

Attribution; i have stuck this in here in case you decide to sell your coins, as you will get asked this from a collector or a numismatic, this is a simple case of attributing or cross-referencing a coin, to do this you would need to back it up in writing to a published numismatic reference work, such as the huge works of the Roman Imperial Coinage series (RIC) (see below) although this is the main book reference used in numerous collections, do not dismiss what you have at hand, as long you have written down your source of information, that can be a starting point as someone elses “cross reference”

AU or AV;  is an abbreviation for Aurum, the Latin word for gold.

Aureus; a gold coin of the Roman empire, since Republican times until the reform of Diocletian, this was thew standard gold coin, an Aureus was minted from 22 karat gold and weighed between 7 and 8.5 grams during its long tenure, this is the pay of a Roman solder each month…

Caduceus; A winged staff with intertwined snakes, originally of Babylonian and then Greek significance, the staff and snakes were associated with healing priests,  whilst the Roman used it as a symbol of peace and neutrality, whilst today most medical companies have it as a motto…

Celator; an engraver of coin dies…

Cornucopia; these large horns were used to store food,  & other items, which has become symbolic of abundance and prosperity;

Shown below is a Trjan Antoninianus with Uberitas standing & facing to the left, holding a purse and a Cornucopia.   Reference: RIC 28;                  NonSo.jpg





Cuirass; a type of armoured breastplate, usually shown with captured arms, & slaves

Denarius; The standard silver coin of the Roman Empire; weighing about 4 grams, the Denarius suffered a slow but gradual debasing and weight loss following the coin reform of Nero, Emperor Gordian III struck the last of the Denarius…

Denticles; these are the little dots that appear around coins, they acted to delineate the border of a coin, which helped to discourage clipping.

Diadem; these are not laurels but a head ornament used by emperors to depict their absolute power, symbolically, diadems represented authority of the emperor who has seized this power due to his personal & military accomplishments an adorned Diadem, could have amongst other things were pearls, rosettes etc…

Dupondius; A bronze or brass coin worth half a Sestertius and two Asses. The Dupondius features the emperor with a radiate crown as in Antoniniani.

Exergue; The bottom area of the reverse side of a coin. Usually delineated, this space was sometimes used prior to the advent of mintmarks to include especially wordy legends. Once mintmarks became common in the mid-3rd century they quickly settled into this “reserved” area although the reverse fields continued to be used as well for this purpose. In rare cases, the obverse also carries some exergual material.

Fields; The flat, indented parts of the coin.

Follis Coin; a denomination introduced by Diocletian. Minted in large quantities, the Follis became the backbone of the new coinage. It contained approximately 3% silver and was tariffed at 25 Denarii. Folles diminished in importance after Diocletian’s abdication and were quickly reduced in size and what little silver they had evaporated. Over the course of a generation Folles had become ordinary AE3’s.

Flan The coin itself, as in the blank it was made from. Coins will sometimes be referred to as having been struck on an irregular flan or a large flan or some other adjective.

Labarum is an early Christian sign; the labarum was a banner with the Greek letters Chi and Rho superimposed over each other. The symbol became a Christogram, to signify the bearer was a follower of Christ. Constantine The Great was the first emperor to use the labarum and the Chi-Rho on coins.

Lituus; A wand-like religious instrument used in ritualistic ceremonies.

Obverse, The front or “heads” of a coin. Almost every Roman coin will have the portrait of the current ruler, a family member or the personification of a Roman god. In rare instances some coins may seem to have two obverses. In those cases the true obverse will be the one whose portrait represents the living or senior ruler.

Patina, Metal oxides forming on the surface of a coin, particularly copper-based ones. Patinas are not only considered attractive but also serve to protect the rest of the coin from further deterioration. Patinas come in many different colors depending on the environment they were found in. A patina is not to be confused with soil residues that are sometimes left on a coin for aesthetic reasons such as to enhance its contrast.

Quinarius A rare coin denomination worth half an Aureus. They were minted in very limited quantities in the late 200’s.

Reverse The back or “tails” of a coin. The opposite of obverse. The reverse carries any of a number of messages that the mint has designed on behalf of the emperor on the obverse. In some cases, particularly late in the Roman empire, reverses were shared for different emperors. In general, the vast majority of reverses honor a traditional Roman god or depict some triumphant event performed by the emperor.

RIC Acronym for the Roman Imperial Coinage series of reference books. This series is widely regarded as the definitive reference set for Roman coins. Begun in 1923, it grew to encompass ten volumes that were not finished until 1994 and is still undergoing periodic revisions to this day.

Scepter A staff. On Roman coinage, the staff is symbolic of imperial power.

Semissis A rare gold coin denomination worth half of a solidus. Late fourth century through Byzantine period.

Sestertius A Roman coin made from orichalcum, a copper and zinc ore and worth a quarter of a Denarius and two Dupondii. It weighed approximately 26 grams. The Sestertius proved to be a popular coin during the first and second centuries. Because of the large coin size coin engravers were able to achieve their highest artistry on this coin denomination. In fact, after the declining use of the coin in the third century Sestertii were the preferred vehicle for producing presentation medallions on special occasions.

Siliqua A silver denomination used in the post-Tetriarchal period of the empire and beyond into the Byzantine. A siliqua weighed a little over two grams but was tariffed significantly higher than the discontinued Denarius. In fact, siliquae were rather rare currency and never circulated widely due to their scarcity.

Simpulum A ladle-like instrument used in religious ceremonies.

Solidus; The standard gold coin of the post-Tetriarchal Roman empire. Solidi weighed roughly 4.5 grams and were worth 24 siliquae. They were always minted in high purity even during troubled times. The Solidus remained in use from the early 300’s through the fall of the Roman empire and for the entire length of the Byzantine empire.

Standards Roman battle insignia. Standards took the form of ornamented poles and were carried into battle. Far from just morale boosters, the various elements in their design could be changed continuously during the course of the battle as a signalling device.

Tremissis A Roman gold coin weighing approximately 1.5 grams, and equivalent to a third of a Solidus, In use from the 4th century onwards.

here is a website that is used by the professionals… once found, all Roman coins are now easy, to ID…well it helps your basic knowledge…

this is exactly what it says, a very clear and precise understanding of ancient coins..

By following these link’s, you have an unprecedented amount of information at your fingertips for Identification of known Roman coins, if the coin has been recorded, then it’s here [somewhere]














Below is another great selection of books in a serious titled “ERIC” which stands for “Encyclopaedia of Roman Coins” with some great photos and inscriptions, making the identification of the coins even easier….

Section1 Title

Section2 Intro

Section3 Augustus – Matidia

Section4 Hadrian – C. Albinus

Section5 S. Severus – U. Antoninus S

ection6 Valerian I – Julian I S

ection7 Diocletian – Constantius II 497 S

ection8 Magnentius – R. Augustus