UNCERTAIN GERMANIC TRIBES, Pseudo-Imperial coinage. Mid 3rd-early 4th centuries. 'Aureus' (Gold, 20 mm, 7.26 g, 3 h), 'Alexandria Troas Group'. Imitating Valerian I, 253-260, or Gallienus, 253-268. Reverse die stolen from the mint of Alexandria Troas. IIIΛΛƆTVƆVVΛOHVIꓷDꓷΛΛI Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Valerian I or Gallienus to left; before, H. Rev. COL AVG / TRO She-wolf to right, suckling Romulus and Remus. Bertolami 87 (2020), 597 (same dies). Bursche & Myzgin -, cf. Fig. 1 (for reverse). Of the highest rarity, apparently the second known example. A highly interesting piece standing at the very beginning of Germanic coinage. Pierced and the reverse slightly double struck and with some die breaks, otherwise, good very fine.
From the Aurum Barbarorum Collection.
This exciting piece marks a highly important intermediate step in the development of the earliest individual Germanic coinage, combining an imitative obverse die with a reverse die stolen from Alexandria Troas in the raid of 262. What happened in that year was explained in detail in our note to lot 430 in Leu 4 (2019). In short, a Gothic raiding party succeeded in capturing the city and the local mint of Alexandria Troas near the Dardanelles, abducting, perhaps, local mint workers, and stealing, undeniably, the dies used to strike the local bronze coinage. From these the earliest Germanic coinage was struck, although 'coinage' is not the right term here, as the Germanic 'aurei' were not issued as a local currency, but, instead, as honorary pendants worn by high-ranking members of the native warrior society. The gold used in these pendants most probably came from looted treasures as well as from tribute payments by the Roman state, as we know both from literary sources and from archeological finds that there was a great influx of Roman aurei to the Barbaricum north of the Danube from the mid 3rd century onward.
Unlike the 'aureus' sold in Leu 4 (2019), 430, which was struck from the original Roman dies stolen from Alexandria Troas, the present example combines an original reverse with an imitative obverse. The explanation for this is both simple and intriguing. We see from the beginning die breaks on the reverse of our coin that the extensive use of the stolen dies soon caused them to wear down and break. This must have been even more apparent on the original obverses, which had to endure the greater part of the blow. There is some evidence that the dies were initially reengraved (very likely also on this reverse die), but at some point, their wear and damage became irreparable and thus they had to be replaced. This is what we seen on our coin, where the Roman obverse die was substituted with a native imitation, forming, arguably, the earliest independent Germanic coin die. Clearly this die follows the Alexandrian prototype, however, there is an argument to be made for another kind of influence from Roman Provincial coinage, namely the appearance of a small H before the bust of the emperor. This is surprisingly reminiscent of the value mark H = 8 (for Oktassarion) found on Pamphylian bronzes of the dynasty of Valerian in the 250s.