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Domitian AR Denarius 81 CE

Domitian AR Denarius 81 CE (Group 3)

(19 mm., 3.12 g.)

Obv: IMP CAES DOMITIANVS AVG PM; Head laureate right

Rev: COS VII DES VIII P P ; Seat draped, above winged thunderbolt

RIC 36 (R), RSC 62, BMC 9

Savoca 29th Blue Auction February 23, 2020. Lot 1237

Coin depicted in the Wildwinds.com database.


I was lucky to add this one to my collection. While it is not the rarest of Denarii within group 3, it is also very difficult to find. Note the lack of TR P in the reverse legend. Group 1 Denarii use TR P in the legend so why don't group 3 denarii use TR P? I have never heard a convincing argument that explains this. There is then some mystery inn the first year denarii for Domitian as Augustus. In general, group 3 denarii are rare but some of them are ver rare indeed. This group includes denarii with PONT in the obverse legend. These are very rare to extremely rare.


The reverse is a carryover from the denarii of Titus. Since Titus died suddenly there is speculation that the reverse for Titus were used because it was necessary to turn out coinage immediately after the death of Titus and the installation of a new emperor. Perhaps there was a message here and that these reverses of Titus were used to imply a smooth transition from Titus to the the new emperor. This would solidify the legitimacy of Domitian's rule.


I find these first year denarii to be fascinating. Some of the portraits of 81 CE are probably veristic representations of the emperor. For example, note the nose on the obverse. Later portraits are more idealized representations. However, that does not mean that all of the portraits in the first year are the same. There is much variation in the portraits fore this year. Take a look at other posts in my blog to see examples.


As for the coin itself, yes it is worn, but it is honest wear. Although I do have some examples in exceptional condition I actually like the worn ones as well. It leads me to wonder who held these coins, what do they buy with them. Did this coin buy some wine and a loaf of bread? This coin is a snapshot in time. It freezes a moment in history.

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