Ancient Roman Numismatics


Trusted websites:


Store your coins

Ancient Roman Numismatics

Denominations and their monetary values

Denomination Introduced Metal Constitution Worth Typical Purchases
Quadrans 3rd Century BC Copper or Bronze 1/4 As A small loaf of bread
Semis 3rd Century BC Copper or Bronze 1/2 As A cheap vegetable
As 3rd Century BC Copper or Bronze 1 As A liter of wine
Dupondius 23 BC Bronze 2 Asses A simple meal
Quinarius 211 BC Silver or Gold 1/2 Denarius or Aureus A modest meal
Sestertius 211 BC Brass 4 Asses A day’s labor for a laborer
Denarius 211 BC Silver 16 Asses A pair of shoes or a day’s wages
Antoninianus AD 215 Silver, later Billon 2 Denarii A good quality tunic
Follis AD 294 Bronze, later Billon Varies A loaf of fine bread
Argenteus AD 294 Silver 1/96 lb of Silver Several days’ wages
Aureus 1st Century BC Gold 25 Denarii A small piece of land
Solidus AD 309 Gold 1/72 lb of Gold A high-quality toga or armor

Where billion is the alloy of copper and silver with more than 50% copper, and was used to debase the currency, either deliberately or by silver shortage. Brass is the alloy of copper and zinc. There are actually later Roman coins that are made of leaded bronze, which consists of copper, tin, and lead, however it is usually just referred to as bronze for simplicity. Bronze coins react easier with its environment than purer metals, e.g., silver, this results in many bronze coins developing what is called “patinas”. This means that the bronze coins can have coloring of black, brown, green, and so on.

The copper and bronze coins of smaller values does not have the intrinsic value to support its monetary value. Instead it holds fiduciary value, meaning that it is determined by the state to make trade easier.

Read ancient Roman coins

The observe of the coin usually tells who the emperor is and the reverse usually tells a story. Coins in ancient Rome were used as propaganda and to deliver messages throughout the empire. Abbreviations are very common on Roman coins as they wanted to put as much information as possible on it.

Here is a table of common abbreviations and their meaning,

Abbreviation Meaning Context
AVG Augustus Title for Roman Emperor
CAES Caesar Title for Roman Emperor or heir apparent
COS Consul Roman political office
IMP Imperator Commander, often referring to the Emperor
IVL Julia Pertaining to the Julian family
MAX Maximus Often part of a longer name or title (e.g., PONTIF MAX)
P M Pontifex Maximus High Priest of Roman religion
PP Pater Patriae Father of the Country
S C Senatus Consulto By Decree of the Senate
TR P Tribunicia Potestas Tribunician Power
VICT Victoria Victory
DN Dominus Noster Our Lord
FEL Felicitas Good fortune or happiness
PF Pius Felix Pious and Fortunate
PR Princeps First citizen or Emperor
INV Invictus Unconquered
SPQR Senatus Populusque Romanus The Roman Senate and People
AET Aeternitas Eternity
CON Constantinus Pertaining to the Constantine family
EXER Exercitus Army
SAC Sacra Sacred
D D Deo Dato Given by God

For example, COS III means three times consul.

Roman Republic

Roman Imperial Coinage

Roman Empire

Roman provincial coins

Catalog numbers

RIC stands for Roman Imperial Coinage and gives each ancient Roman coin an identification number. If you buy a coin without knowing the RIC number, you can identify your coin through various websites, one popular one is OCRE and another is Wildwinds. Roman coins are in general one of the easier ancient coin categories to identify as they are written in Latin and quite easy to read.