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Hadrian, Big & Small

A brief note today on a small coin from Hadrian, contrasted here with a large sestertius from Rome. The smaller coin is an uncertain denomination that was perhaps minted in Rome for use in Antioch.

An "uncia" or "unit" with a sestertius - both Hadrian - the smaller coin is 1/12 of an As, which would seem to make sense with a quadrans (1/4 As) in the 4g neighborhood although my simple weight multiplication doesn't work out well when it comes to the sestertius (4 Asses would then be in the 64g. range). Harl, in Coinage in the Roman Economy notes that :

"Brass sestertii and dupondii were deliberately struck in comparatively fewer numbers than asses and quadrantes so their relative scarcity would win public approval. The Augustan sestertius and dupondius were overvalued - the brass sestertius, tariffed at four asses, was only slightly more than double the weight of the as struck in copper - but they were accepted because they could readily be exchanged against higher and lower denominations. The coins themselves inspired trust by their superb workmanship and attractive appearance..."

Hadrian, 117-138 AD, Æ Uncia (or AE Unit) (9.6mm, 0.95g), AE Sestertius (34mm, 25.7g)

Obv: Laureate head right

Rev: S C in wreath

Ref: RIC II 629b (RIC 1989 reprint)

These small bronzes may be from the mint of Antioch in Syria or minted in Rome for use in Antioch. There was a metallurgical analysis that showed the metal was closer to that of coins minted in Rome than provincial coins (See: CARRADICE, I., and M. COWELL. “The Minting of Roman Imperial Bronze Coins for Circulation in the East: Vespasian to Trajan.” The Numismatic Chronicle (1966-), vol. 147, 1987, pp. 26–50. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/42667496. Accessed 2 Apr. 2023).


The small Hadrian probably from the start of Hadrian's reign and a short lived continuation of the series from Trajan. Sear in Roman Coins and their Values II dates it as 117-118 and calls it a "copper uncia".


A interesting side note on Provenance - I recently found this image of my coin on the internet at CoinCommunity.com from right around the time that I purchased it (Aug 2019). I think this shows that the coin was purchased last in Aug 1984 (Waddell 8/84) from Ed Waddell.

For a related story of coins minted in Rome for use in the provinces see: Cappadocia, A Vespasian hemidrachm.

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