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Gonzaga Countermark


TITUS, as Caesar. 69-79 AD. Æ Sestertius - 31mm (25.68 g). Struck 72 AD. Laureate head of Titus right; silver inlaid Gonzaga eagle behind bust / CONGIAR PRIMVM PR DAT C, Titus seated left on platform, in front of him an attendant holding up tessera to citizen, who stands right; in background Minerva left on cippus. RIC II 606 (Vespasian); BMCRE 629 (Vespasian); BN 616 (same dies); Cohen 46. VF, Tiber patina, some light porosity. Very Rare. This coin bears testimony to the first congiarum given to the Roman people by Titus. The attendant, before Titus on the platform, holds the tessera which authorized those who received it, to go for their assignment of corn from the public granaries. A Roman citizen approaches the attendant in the posture of an applicant for a share of these liberalities. A nice Renaissance collector's piece, having been in one of the foremost collections of the period, bearing the silver eagle crest of one of the important Italian noble families, the Gonzaga family.

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Rare and interesting coin, nice pedigree!


The description needs correction, however. The attendant is not holding up a tessera, but is emptying coins from his coin counter into the open toga of the recipient. The coin counter had a set number of denarius-sized depressions, say 25 or 50, so that it could be dipped into the chest of coins, rapidly filled with one denarius per depression, then emptied into the toga of the recipient.


The coins often show dots on the coin counter, representing the depressions, and on sestertii of Marcus Aurelius, for example Münzhandlung Basel 3, 1935, Waldeck 528, actual coins are shown falling through the air between the coin counter and the recipient's toga fold.

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Fascinating coin! I have seen similar examples for Nero, but those for the Flavian emperors, I think must be very rare.
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