Disclaimer - I have now been collecting coins since early January 2002, and as such the identifications made on this page are entirely based on the various legend search engines and excellent photos of coins found on the net. If anyone notices any glaring errors with the coins I have tried to identify please let me know, BUT if you can identify a coin I haven't managed to yet please keep it to yourself. The research is half the fun. Please email your comments to

 

Collecting Roman coins is a popular hobby, but one which is surrounded by myth and hype. Even a complete beginner can get positive identifications on a variety of different coins without too much experience or effort.

While trawling through the eBay on-line auction site I found that although there are coins costing hundreds of pounds, at the other end of the market coins costing as little as 40 pence are available.

 
Finding your coins is the first step. Once they arrive the work of cleaning and identifying them starts. Some, such as the one shown above left are clear and fairly easy to identify straight off. More interesting are the others which at first look like featureless black lumps but after cleaning reveal well preserved details as shown above right.

Once the coin has been cleaned up enough to identify what remains, the next step is to try and read what letters are still legible, then input this information into one of the legend search engines to see what they turn up.

The example top right is comparatively easy to read, CONSTAN TINVSAVG. If you put this into the excellent coin search engine at http://artemis.austinc.edu/acad/cml/rcape/vcrc/search/ it returns several matches. The markings on the back of the coin (called the reverse) shows it to be from the reign of Constantine the Great, who ruled from 306 to 337. Sometimes it takes a little time to find an exact match for your coin but perceverance does pay off.

The coin shown top right also has part of 'CONSTANTINVS' visible on the front (obverse) side. The text visible on the reverse reads 'GLORIAEXERCITVS', with 'SMANA' at the bottom (coin collectors call this bit 'in exergue'). The SMANA apparently signifies that this coin was minted in Antioch, and typing the other text into the search engine again shows up Constantine the Great.

The first batch of coins I bought on eBay included both 'premium uncleaned' and 'bargain uncleaned' pieces. Of the bargain pieces some were dross, but others were still in surprisingly good condition considering their age.

The 'Premium' coins were generally more legible 'straight off'. You can see photos of some of the best of them here.

The Coin dealer I bought from was Mark, whos eBay user name is mc2000uk. To find his present auctions go to eBay and enter 'mc2000uk' in the search box. As well as coins Mark also sells other ancient artifacts from time to time. If you do order from him please tell him you read about his auctions on the Amarna Coins site.

The best uncleaned coins were £1.50 each, an example of which is top left. I also bought some 'budget' coins, which generally are either in poor condition or heavily encrusted with not much detail initially visible. These poorer quality coins sell for 40p each.

 It is not fair to say that there is nothing of interest among these cheaper coins. Their two advantages are that there is more likely to be something unusual in these coins as any markings are hidden, and they are great to practice on as they are cheap and if you do accidentally overclean or break one it's no great loss.
The coin shown on the right is another good example of overcleaning :-) You can see before and after photos of it here.

The Amarna Coins site is produced by Iain Hawkins. Why not visit Akhet Egyptology and The Amarna Site for some of the best Egyptological information on the Internet