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Origin: These Roman antoninianii were minted during the reign of Gordian III from 238 to 244 CE. The silver coins feature the image of the emperor on the obverse and various goddesses or military symbols on the reverse.
The coin was called an antoninianus because it was intended to replace the denarius, which had become too valuable to be used as a common denomination. The coin was debased over time, with the silver content gradually decreasing until it was mostly made of bronze. Despite this, the antoninianus remained in circulation for several decades.
Each coin comes with a Certificate of Authenticity.
Graphic showing the decline in silver content over the 3rd century (Gordian III coins are shown first, at 40% fineness). Source: Wikimedia
Just after the collapse of the Republic in the late First Century BCE, Rome’s first emperor Augustus (27 BCE to 14 CE) regularly issued gold, silver, and base metal coinage. The purity of Roman coinage would vary drastically, declining steadily over the next 500 years.
This standard was maintained during the first 90 years of the Roman, until the reign of Nero (54 to 68 CE) and the Great Fire of Rome in 64 CE. The cost of rebuilding the capital proved to be astronomical. Nero chose to re-coin old money into newer coins of lesser value, decreasing the silver content of the denarii by approximately 5% and the overall weight by 12.5%. After Nero was overthrown in 68 CE and a brutal civil war, Emperor Vespasian came to power from 69 to 79 CE. Desperate for funds, Vespasian reduced the silver content further from 93% to 89%. The denarius continued to decline in silver content, culminating in the introduction of the double denarius, or antoninianus, by Emperor Caracalla (198 to 217 CE) in late 214 or 215 CE. While the double denarius was tariffed at twice the rate of a denarius, it was only about 1.5 times the weight and featured roughly 70% of the silver content of two denarius coins.
During the reign of Gordian III, whose bust is featured on the obverse side of this coin, the antoninianus became the primary denomination over the denarii, despite the dwindling silver content. From Gordian III’s reign onward, silver denarii were rarely produced, usually only ceremonially. The Roman Empire’s continued decline saw the antoninianus become almost entirely bronze with a silver coating, in some cases with a silver content of only 2.5% by the late third century.
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