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Vespasian AR Denarius 77-78 CE RIC 940

Vespasian. AD 69-79. AR Denarius, 19mm, 3.3g, 6h; Rome mint. Struck AD 77-78. Obv.: VESPASIANVS AVG IMP CAESAR; Laureate head left. Rev.: COS VIII around, Mars standing left, holding spear and trophy. Reference: RIC II 940; RSC 126. From the Doug Smith Collection.


While not a great rarity, this coin is not easy to find when you go looking for one. I am attempting to collect this entire series of denarii both with and without the grain ear you see on the reverse of this coin. This detail is often missed as was the case for this coin. The previous owner believed this coin to be RIC 938. While 938 is a left facing portrait with the Mars reverse, it does not have the grain ear on the reverse. Many of my Flavian coins are misattributed and this one was no exception. Unfortunately I actually still need a RIC 938!


I love the portrait on this coin. It looks like the "straining" portrait one often sees on Vespasian's denarii. The Mars reverse is interesting and the grain ear is important. If the population of Rome was going hungry, m the emperor would not last very long in his position. Vespasian is emphasizing the important place of grain in Roman culture and may also be saying "Hey I am the one feeding you and your families". It was probably a fairly effective example of propaganda.


Remember that if you go seeking out of these coins you need to look for the grain ear. You just might get one from a seller who missed it. You might try searching the web for "Vespasian RIC 938", and see if anyone else has missed the grain ear on the reverse.