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Roman Coin Identification

Apr 17, 2008
While it can be difficult to identify certain coins, the process can be very simple given the right circumstances.

The first thing you need to do is clean the coin enough so that the letters are legible and the pictures are clear. This is not always possible, but the idea is to get it as clean as you can. The good thing about Roman coins is that they use the same basic letters that we do so you can start by reading those off and writing them down. Be careful because you'll often run into a "P" that looks like a "D" or even an "O." Be aware of that fact and keep it in mind when making your final determinations.

It also helps to look at the picture of the ruler on the coin before beginning major research. A lot of times someone who has been doing this for awhile can identify the ruler on a coin simply by recognition. You should remember though that this technique should only be used as a guide and not necessarily as the final decision. For actually making the call on the identification of a coin you'll need to combine all of its aspects and make a decision.

On that same note, you should also learn to recognize the basic styles of roman coins. For instance, most of the coins made under Constantius II have a similar look, one that an experienced collector will immediately notice. Being able to do this will save you a lot of time and give much more accurate results.

When you are ready to start the identification process, the easiest place to go is an online database. Wildwinds.com is probably the most versitile one on the web and is very highly recommended. Using their partial inscription search, you should take any of the letters and words that you found and enter them in. This will give you a list of possible matches to your coin. Hopefully you have a small list so that you can quickly look through them and find your match. Often though, many coins have the same inscription so you'll have to dig through them to find the correct one. A good way to do this is to keep in mind the details of the pictures so that you can quickly browse the list.

Attributing a Roman coin is not always easy, but can be very rewarding when you are successful. It really makes a difference to go from holding a generic coin to actually owning one of Augustus Caesar. By doing this you are bringing out the history of the item and giving it significance among the rest of your collection.
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