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Vespasian AR Denarius 76 'O' Mint RIC 1477

Vespasianus (69 - 79 CE). Denar (Silber). 76 CE Uncertain ‘o’ mint, possibly Ephesus

(18mm. 2.92g) Obv: Kopf mit Lorbeerkranz rechts; IMP CAESAR VESPASIANVS AVG. Kopf mit Lorbeerkranz rechts. Rev: Geflügelter Cadeceus; PON MAX TR P COS VII.

RIC 1477; BMC 483; RSC 375a

Ex: Solidus Auction 76 April 6, 2021 Lot 1247

I love coins with mysteries attached to them. The mystery behind this coin has to do with where it was struck. This coin is an example of an 'O' mint denarius. Though not visible on this coin, there is typically an annulet or 'O' below the neck truncation. What is agreed upon is that the mint was somewhere in Asia Minor. RIC suggests that Ephesus might be where these interesting coins were struck. Personally, I am not convinced. The reason for my skepticism involves the portrait styles. You can see several examples of Ephesus portraits elsewhere on my site. None of them look anything like this coin. The style is very different. Regardless of where it was struck I love the portrait on this coin. One thing is very clear this is not a coin struck in Rome.

On the reverse we see the winged caduceus. The caduceus was the symbol of prosperity and was not related to the field of medicine. The device that symbolizes medicine is the rod of Asclepius. Someone made a mistake in associating medic with the Caduceus. It became so ingrained that this error still gets repeated today.

The caduceus appears on several other denarii for Vespasian. You can tell them apart by the reverse and obverse legends. A quick way of identifying these coins has to do with the COS numbers. Coins with COS V are, for the most part, very common. This one however, has COS VII on the reverse. This tells us that the coin was not struck in Rome.

If you would like to add one of these to your own collection, look for the different portrait style and for the 'O' beneath the neck truncation. There is so much more to the coins for Vespasian than those struck in Rome. I find these non-Rome mint issues very interesting. They tell the story of conquest and colonization.