How Were Roman Serrate Coins Made and Why?

By Tyler Rossi for CoinWeek … ..
An interest group of Roman Republican coins, serrati ( saw-edged ) denarii have proved to be an mystery for numismatists for hundreds of years. As H. Mattingly states in his seminal 1924 slice on serrati, these Roman coins are wholly different than Macedonian, Syrian, and Carthaginian serrati .
first, the Roman host coins are all hand-struck silver medal denarii, and while carthaginian serrati are found in electrum and silver denominations, their easterly cousins are all hurl bronze coins of assorted denominations. additionally, the irregular style of serrations on Roman denarii and carthaginian denominations were cut into a coin blank, while the Macedonian and syrian versions were “ undoubtedly ” created as contribution of the hurl process ( Mattingly, 31 ) .
But despite the differing appearances of and motivations behind the creation of their serrati coins, these societies all produced them approximately contemporaneously.

Appearing slenderly earlier than early types, Roman serrati were first strike during the Second Punic War ( 218-201 BCE ), in either 209 or 201 until the early first gear hundred BCE, between 106 and 105 and again between 83 and 79 BCE, with several examples continuing to be struck towards the end of the Republican era. This anonymous Roman serrate denarius struck in either 209 or 208 BCE, at an unknown sicilian mint, is an exemplar of one of the earliest roman serrati .
How Were Roman Serrate Coins Made and Why?
Most probable using their “ cognition ” of Roman serrati, carthaginian serrati were struck chiefly during the Third Punic War from 149 to 146 BCE or during the interbellum from 200 to 149 BCE. These coins were struck for the most contribution either in Carthage itself or in carthaginian Spain. broadly, the serrations on carthaginian coins were much shallower than those on Roman denarii, which can be seen when comparing this billon double shekel of Carthage struck circa 149-146 BCE and this denarius strike in 118 BCE .
How Were Roman Serrate Coins Made and Why?
How Were Roman Serrate Coins Made and Why?
macedonian examples were struck most frequently under Philip V ( r. 179 – 168 BCE ). There were, however, examples struck subsequently, specially under Philip VI Andriskos, who reigned from 149 to 148 BCE. Seleucid examples were produced under a string of emperors from 187 to 141 BCE, from Seleucus IV ( r. 187 – 175 ) to Antiochus VI ( r. 145/4 – 142/1 ) .
How Were Roman Serrate Coins Made and Why?
Since the first Seleucid serrated coins, besides known colloquially as “ bottle ceiling ” coins, were cast by Seleucus IV in his capital Antioch as part of currentness reform, it is probable that the serrate edge was employed to differentiate these coins from other varieties produced in other Seleucid cities. Later Seleucid serrati were most probable shed as tools of dynastic continuity and royal authenticity. This hypothesis, put forth by Princeton University Research Assistant Ilia Curto Pelle, is quite interest and is based on an analysis of which rulers produced serrate coins and what outgrowth of Seleucus IV ’ s family they belonged to .
How Were Roman Serrate Coins Made and Why?
In a similar vein, the draw serrati of Macedon and early greek kingdoms were most likely minted for ocular effect. This is credibly due to the fact that their serrati coins were cast wholly from base metals. Since their value was so modest, it would not have been identical significant to use a serrate edge to demonstrate the alloy ’ south purity .
besides, there are respective theories surrounding the reason behind why the Romans produced serrati. first, the serrate edges were used as a ocular enhancement of the coins. But, due to the arduous and time-consuming nature of producing the serrations, and their irregularity, this theory has been largely discounted by numismatists. This denarius stuck by C. Poblicius Q.F in 80 BCE is an extreme case of the possible abnormality of serrations on Roman denarii .
How Were Roman Serrate Coins Made and Why?
The following theory, posed by Mattingly, was that these coins were intended to be “ used to trade with the Germans ”. While there is some evidence of this, specially recorded by the Roman historian Tacitus, it has largely been discarded as a viable hypothesis .
It has besides been posited that the serrations were used to help prevent the planchet from cracking during the strike march by “ reliev [ ing ] the tensions induced by the mint by distributing them radially ” .
however, the most probable theory was that the serrations were employed as an anti-counterfeiting meter by the Roman authorities. The Romans thought that by cutting serrations into their fourées, counterfeiters would be exposing the core of base metal. however, the Romans were prove improper. While rare, these contemporaneous forgeries do exist, as evidenced by this fourée serratus of Tiberius Claudius Nero, struck in 79 BCE .

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In another version of this anti-counterfeiting theory, it is thought that the serrations were intended to act as pre-made test cuts to help authenticate that the coin was struck from a solid planchet of high-quality metallic. This hypothesis makes sense, specially when the first issue dates of the Roman and Carthaginian serrati coins are considered. not only was the first Roman serrate issued during the Second Punic War, but it was besides one of the first denarii struck by the Republic. similarly, carthaginian serrati were issued by and large during a time of war or of economic convulsion. Both are examples of times when a government may wish to increase confidence in its coinage .
In their 2006 scientific analysis of serrate coins, Kraft et alabama. used scanning electron microscopy, electron probe micro-analysis, and secondary ion mass spectroscopy to study how the serrations were produced. Their discipline revealed “ remaining traces of processing ” or cut marks demonstrating that the serrations could not have been “ produced by filing or sawing, ” but rather by holding the coin plumb line to the hit come on and striking it with a phase of tongue ( Kraft et al., 607 & 609 ). These marks prove that the coin was not laid flat on a come on and hit with a chisel to form the serrations, because if indeed, then these cut marks would be orientated in the direction of striking and not parallel to the surfaces .
besides, by studying a fourée serratus, this study besides proved that its serrations were formed in the same fashion as authentic coins. The eloquent foil coat was “ drawn ” down into the cut when fall, and while its thickness was decreased to about 10 % of the foil on the faces, it even covered the bull core. additionally, Kraft et aluminum. found that the serrations were cut into the mint prior to striking. They came to this termination by observing “ an overlap of silver from the obverses into the notches ” that would have been smoothed out if the serrations were cut after striking ( Kraft et al., 609 ) .
One enterprising numismatist fascinated by serrate coins, Alexandru Marian, even conducted an experiment that reproduced the process of creating a serrate coin. In a report he posted to, Marian describes how the cuts are not in truth perpendicular. But when looking at the mint edge-on, the cuts “ fell from right ( on the bottom ) to left ( on the lead ) ”. From this, he hypothesized that the serrations were struck by pass with a sharp knife-like tool. marian then took a modern mint of similar thickness to a republican denarius and proceeded to cut serrations into the coin. After hammering the coin flat in a model of the strike process, Marian found that his serrations were “ about identical ” to the ones on a genuine serrate denarius. Such a practical demonstration of this process is invaluable, and when coupled with scientific analysis of authentic coins, as was done by Kraft et al., can help numismatists understand the extensive efforts used to produce such a coin .
Postproduction serrations besides appear in ancient coins and can be just a interesting as those produced at the mint. As these modifications were made after output, the coins could be considered as having post-mint damage. however, they were altered in antiquity. And, while not original, they still hold numismatic value. For exemplar, this serrate bronze mint of Valentinian II, struck in Siscia between 378 and 383 CE, hammered for 95 $ in CNG’s December 2015 Electronic Auction. The same type in comparable condition, entirely without the serrations, only sold for just under $ 40 in Gorny & Mosch Giessener Münzhandlung’s auction that ended on March 29, 2022 .

This AE semis of Hadrian struck between 119 and 138 CE in Rome for circulation in Syria sold for $ 215 in CNG ’ s Electronic Auction 390 in 2017. Examples of this type in comparable without serrations have auctioned for between $ 230 and 625 .
happy collect !
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Mattingly – hypertext transfer protocol : //
Kraft et al., 2006 – hypertext transfer protocol : //
marian – hypertext transfer protocol : // ? key=serrated
Pelle – hypertext transfer protocol : //
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About the Author

Tyler Rossi is presently a graduate student at Brandeis University’s Heller School of Social Policy and Management and studies Sustainable International Development and Conflict Resolution. Before graduating from American University in Washington D.C., he worked for Save the Children creating and running international development projects. recently, Tyler returned to the US from living abroad in the Republic of North Macedonia, where he served as a Peace Corps volunteer for three years. Tyler is an avid numismatist and for over a decade has cultivated a deep interest in pre-modern and ancient neologism from around the global. He is a member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA).

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