Written by Javier Mercado
Of all the ancient coins, Roman coins are the best buy for many coin collectors, both for investment and to enjoy their beauty and historical richness.
But what types of Roman coins are best suited to introduce you to this exciting classic world?
In this article, you will find out the price of the main Roman coins, understand why they are so valued in numismatics and learn how to classify them.
- 1 Types of Roman coins
- 2 How to identify coins from the Roman Empire
- 3 How to identify Roman coins by their reverse?
- 4 What does SC mean on Roman coins?
- 5 How much is a coin from the Roman Empire worth?
- 6 What is the most expensive Roman coin?
- 7 Collectible Roman coins to buy
- 8 Sestertius, among the most collectible silver Roman coins
- 9 Denarius – a cornerstone in ancient Roman coins
- 10 Antoninianus or Double Denarius
- 11 Aureus – the most popular gold Roman coin
- 12 Solidus
- 13 What is the price of a Solidus?
Types of Roman coins
When collecting coins from the Roman era we have to be aware that there are two great historical periods, the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire. We can focus on either of these two or mix them up.
If we want to focus on one period, choosing the value we want would be the most advisable option. There are Roman coins made of several metals; like copper, gold – like the Aces and the Aurus ones, or also in silver, like the famous denarius.
We can choose the material that most attracts us, but personally, I recommend mostly silver or gold if we are talking about investment, mainly because they are more attractive options for collectors. Many also choose to collect by the minting locales (mints) – these are the “provincial Roman coins“.
Here is a list of some of the most important types of Roman coins:
- The AEs or Roman As: examples from the Early Roman Empire that designate any coin containing a high proportion of copper. The denominations AE 1, AE 2, AE 3 and AE 4 express the different sizes of their copper or bronze coins.
- Antoninianum: unlike the denarius, it is slightly larger. On the other hand, the effigies of the emperors appear with a radiated crown (sometimes with a background of trees, palms, ferns or flowers) and the empresses present the bust on a crescent moon. It was also called double denarius, and after a while, it replaced the denarius. However, it gradually lost the purity of its silver, as well as size and weight. In fact, in the time of Trajan Decius, it was made of fleece, then bronze, and in the end, almost entirely of copper.
- Assarion or assaria: these were bronze pieces used locally in the provinces of Lower Moesia and Thrace. They were coined with Greek legends.
- Aurelian: those known as silver Antoninianums.
- Denarius aureus, aurei: these were sporadically minted from Sila and regularly from Julius Caesar. It was equivalent to 25 silver denarius, 100 Sestertius, 200 dupondii, 400 aces or 1600 quadrants.
- Binio: a gold specimen equivalent to two gold coins minted after Valerian.
- Tracing: any non-Roman bronze piece, for example, Greek or from other cultures.
- Centennial or centennialis: a bronze piece with only a small proportion of silver. It was minted in the time of Constantine and was equivalent to 100 denarii.
- Iberian denarius: a denarius minted in Hispania Citerior by the Iberians and Celts during the Roman domination.
How to identify coins from the Roman Empire
One of the reasons why coins from the Imperial period are more attractive is because on most of their obverse sides appear the emperors under whose reign they were coined. So we can focus on collecting coins depicting our favorite emperors or simply quickly identify the decades of the coins if we know a little about the history.
In case you don’t have the emperor’s bust, we have a Latin legend on the obverse and/or reverse that helps us to better identify the coin and type as soon as we learn how to use a catalog.
RIC – The Reference Catalogue
The reference catalog used by almost all auction houses and merchants to identify Roman coins is the “Roman Imperial Coins” (RIC), which has a number assigned to each coin, making the collection very convenient to keep track of.
How to identify Roman coins by their reverse?
There are Latin inscriptions on both the obverse and reverse sides. However, knowing the figures that appear on the backs, we can quickly identify the coin in question.
Some of the most typical figures are:
- Emperors themselves
- Victory in different forms
What does SC mean on Roman coins?
Many of the Roman coins include the acronym SC. This represents the “Senatus Consulto“, which indicates the legality of the coinage when it is approved for production. However, the fact that these initials do not appear does not necessarily mean that it is unfit for circulation or fraudulent.
How much is a coin from the Roman Empire worth?
The prices, as with any type of coin, vary according to the specimen and its state of conservation. Of course, in the case of gold Roman coins, their own manufacturing material already makes them relatively more expensive than the rest at average prices.
There are some specimens that we can get for a few tens of dollars, although in high conservation they are usually in the price range of $100 to $1,000. There are also many cases in which they are worth thousands and even tens of thousands of dollars, as in many aurei and in some denarii or Sestertii (among other currencies).
What is the most expensive Roman coin?
As you can imagine the most expensive Roman coins are within the reach of very few. Of all of them, the number one is a sestertius from Hadrian, auctioned for $1,648,805.
Collectible Roman coins to buy
Here you have a list of the most interesting Roman coins to collect:
|Sestertius||Silver, bronce, brass||Until 260 a.C.||¼ denarius||1,13g 54,5g 27,2g|
|Denarius||Silver||Until 360 a.C.||denarius||4,54g 3,9g 3,4g 2,36g 1,7g|
|Antoninianus||5%- 50% Silver||215 d.C-305 a.C.||2 denarius||1,6 times denarius.|
|Aureus||Gold||Until s. IV a.C.||25 denarius||8g 7,1g 6,4g|
|Solidus||Gold||Since s. IV a.C.||25 denarius||4,5g|
Sestertius, among the most collectible silver Roman coins
Sestertii were manufactured in silver during the Republic with a weight of just over a gram. Later, during the Empire, they were coined in bronze and finally in brass.
The size of the imperial Sestertius makes these coins a very interesting, and at the same time cheap option, compared to the rest of the coins detailed below.
In its imperial versions, we can appreciate the busts of the emperors in a visual way. A sight that will impact any fan who holds it in his hands.
What is the price of a Sestertium?
The price of these coins is around $100 in some cases, but most of them in XF qualities are between $100 to $300. In the cases of certain emperors, and rarer specimens with incredible quality; the prices can shoot up to thousands and even millions of dollars, as in the case of the aforementioned most expensive Roman coin.
Some examples of prices for different imperial Sestertius with their RIC catalog numbers can be seen below.
Prices of Imperial Sestertius (Roman currency)
Denarius – a cornerstone in ancient Roman coins
The denarius is the reference currency in Roman coin collecting, and was center of its economy until it was replaced as the central unit by the double denarius or Antoninianus.
It is a silver coin of not great size, but pleasant to collect, easy to sell and always a possible investment when in high conservation.
The designs of the Republic coins include divinities and emperors – during the Empire – that authorized its emission.
What is the price of a denarius?
The prices of these coins are very variable, there are some specimens in good conservation that are around $100 and others that reach hundreds of thousands of dollars; like the famous denarius of the Ides of March, which commemorates the assassination of Julius Caesar.
Some examples of prices of Imperial denarii with their RIC catalog numbers:
Antoninianus or Double Denarius
Its original name is uncertain, but calling it a double denarius gives us a clue as to its functionality. Its larger size makes it a good candidate as a collectible, as well as being the successor to the denarius with its similar design.
What is the price of an Antoninianus?
There are a lot of specimens that start from tens of dollars, and most of them do not exceed $200, so it is an economic purchase option in many cases. Of course, there are exceptions, such as some Antoninians from Pacatianus, which are over thousands of dollars.
Here you can see a price list of Antoninii with their RIC catalog numbers:
Aureus – the most popular gold Roman coin
The Aureus is probably one of the most appreciated Roman gold coins in numismatics. With the same size as a denarius and a similar design, it is a safe purchase in terms of conservation of value. As always, gold is the best bet and as you can imagine, its historical value is enormous.
What is the price of a Aureus?
It is difficult to find gold coins below $1,000. From this price up to $10,000 is where most of them are found, but there are also specimens that reach over half a million dollars, such as the Titus Aureus that reached $800,000 (image above).
Here are some examples of prices of gold coins with their RIC catalog numbers:
This is the currency that replaced the golden coin depicting Constantine I. It is also made of gold and is very interesting to collect because it lasted beyond the fall of the Roman Empire, so you can extend your coin collection further centuries ahead.
What is the price of a Solidus?
Cheaper than a gold one – we can find specimens under $1,000 and can even get some for $300. Copies like Constantine I reach $759,584.
Examples of prices of gold coins with their RIC catalog numbers:
Apasionado de las inversiones, historia y coleccionismo de monedas en general. Licenciado en Antropología Cultural y graduado en Informática. Escribo en diversos medios digitales especializados en coleccionismo, subastas y antigüedades.
A fan of investments, numismatics, history and coin collecting in general. Graduate in Cultural Anthropology and computer science. I write in several digital media specialized in collecting, auctions and antiques reviews. I like reliable information, so my main sources are the American Numismatic Association (ANA), the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) and numismatic publications: CoinWeek, COINage, The Numismatist, Numismatic News, Coin Dealer Newsletter and Coin Values.