Barbarous vs. Official Roman Coinage Collection

Date: c. 268 - 300 CE
Roman Empire

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Item Description:

This collection includes two versions of a Roman antoninianus—one that was officially minted, and one so called "barbarous" issue.

While most unofficially struck Roman coins with design flaws are commonly called barbarous issues, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they were all created by “babarians”—a term that referred to the Germanic tribes living on the periphery of the Roman Empire. Many of them were produced within the empire as well, especially in regions affected by coin shortages.

Official and barbarous antoninianus of Tetricus I

Official (left) and "barbarous" (right) antoniniani of Tetricus I. Note that the barbarous issue reads "TETCVS" instead of "TETRICVS"

These specific type of barbarous coins are called barbarous radiates, a name that comes from the radiate crown included in their portraits. They were primarily struck within the western provinces of the Roman Empire during the Crisis of the Third Century, a period of economic and political turmoil that nearly saw Rome's collapse.

These coins were usually much smaller than official antoniniani, and the designs are abstract and poorly executed. The lettering is often very crudely carved as well, with mistakes being very common.

Barbarous radiates are not considered to be true forgeries, as they often copied the original coins so poorly that they would not have been able to be passed off as official money. Instead, historians theorize that they were meant to be used alongside official coinage, potentially serving as small change.

Each coin comes with a Certificate of Authenticity.


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