World Coins

Year of Five Emperors: coins of Septimius Severus

Editor's note: this is the final part of a series by Coin World Senior Editor Jeff Starck about the ancient coins from the Year of Five Emperors. This story appeared in the December issue of Coin World.

Pescennius Niger claimed the title of Augustus against Septimius Severus briefly, yet he managed to issue a surprising variety of coins in his brief reign, according to Roman coin expert (and Coin World columnist) David Vagi.  

“Though earlier scholars thought his mintage was limited to coins struck at Antioch, more recent research and hoard evidence prove that Niger struck his imperial coinages at Antioch, Alexandria and at Caesarea in Cappadocia,” he wrote (Coin World, Sept. 3, 2012, issue).

Despite his short reign, even the coins of Pescennius Niger are obtainable. 

A Fine example with very rough surfaces sold Oct. 14 in Classical Numismatic Group’s e-auction for a hammer price of $425 (the buyer’s fee ranges from 17.5 to 20 percent, depending on bidding method.)

On Oct. 28, a Good VF example without roughness realized a hammer price of $1,300. 

Sales records for the gold aureii of Pescennius Niger are much harder to come by — one of only two known examples of a gold aureus of Pescennius Niger with a rare reverse inscription realized a hammer price of 650,000 Swiss francs ($697,882) in Numismatica Ars Classica’s May 20 auction in Zurich. The buyer’s fee ranges from 19 to 20.5 percent, depending on bidding method. 

The example in the NAC auction was “Virtually As Struck.”

A Very Fine example of a silver denarius of Clodius Albinus as Caesar (from 193 to 195) realized €121 (about $133), including the 10 percent buyer’s fee, in a Nov. 1, 2014, Pecunem auction by Gitbud & Naumann. 

The most recent sale of a gold aureus of Clodius Albinus might have been the Jan. 8, 2012, Gemini auction in New York City. There, a Very Fine coin with a contact mark realized $56,050, including 18 percent buyer’s fee, against an estimate of $25,000.

Collecting coins of the Year of Five Emperors is one way to capture one of the most tumultuous 12 months in Roman history, and an example of one of these rulers’ coins is available for collectors of all budgets.

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