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Vespasian AR Denarius 70 CE

Vespasian AR Denarius. Rome, AD 70.

3.18g, 18mm, 6h.

Obv: IMP CAESAR V[ESPASIANV]S AVG, laureate head right

Rev: COS ITER TR POT, Pax standing left, holding olive branch and caduceus.

RIC 27. RSC 94g

Roma Numismatics E-Sale 57 Lot 840 May 30, 2019

This is a very early coin of Vespasian. The reason I wanted it concerns the portrait on the obverse. Notice that this portrait does not look like Vespasian at all. In fact it looks very much like his predecessor Vitellius. This is one of the most Vitellian portraits of Vespasian I have ever seen and that made this coin a must buy.

The early Denarii of Vespasian were struck before the celators had a model of Vespasian to work from. They therefore had to guess what he looked like until the workshops received a reliable model for his portrait.

This is not the only example of when the delators had to guess about the facial characteristics of the incoming emperor. There are also coins of Vitellius that have portraits that recall the portraits of Otho his predecessor.

The changeover of emperors in 69 CE (the year of four emperors) must have been very challenging for those in change of minting the imperial coinage.

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