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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Themes & Provenance| ▸ |Denominations| ▸ |Tesserae||View Options:  |  |  |   

Tesserae and Lead Coins

Tesserae (singular: tessera) are ancient tokens. Most were made from lead, but other materials including bronze, bone, ivory, clay, glass and wood were also used. They were used as tickets for theaters, gladiator fights, ferry passage and even brothels. Tesserae liberalitatis were distributed as gifts by the Roman emperor or local government, often to the poor, and used as vouchers to exchange for grain, oil, or other goods. Some ancient lead "tokens" may have been used as small change coinage.


Judean Kingdom, Alexander Jannaeus (Yehonatan), 103 - 76 B.C.

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This coin is listed in Hendin's Guide to Biblical Coins as extremely rare and without a price. Struck from the same dies as the Zurqieh example on the Menorah Coin Project. Meshorer reports the lead tesserae of Alexander Jannaeus are found almost exclusively in Transjordan, as was this example.
JS08257. Lead tessera, Hendin 477, Menorah Coin Project type III, VF, weight 1.370 g, maximum diameter 13.5 mm, Transjordan mint, obverse Central elevated dot surrounded by six loop rays, all within a circle.; reverse blank; extremely rare; SOLD


Roman Egypt, Antinoopolites Nome(?), Portrait of Antinous, c. 137 - 138 A.D.(?)

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On 30 October 130 A.D., Hadrian founded the city of Antinoopolis on the very bank of the Nile river where Antinous drowned. It was the capital of a new nome, Antinoopolites. Perhaps the date on this coin is year eight of an era beginning with the founding of Antinoopolis.

The date on our coin is not clear but is probably L - H, which is the same as the referenced coins. The Geissen tessera is about half the size of our example. The Dattari coin is 21mm but there is no image in Dattari or Savio to verify if it is the same or similar to our tessera.
SH90378. Lead tessera, cf. Dattari 6445, Geissen 3579 (3.54g), Emmett 4357 (R5), Milne -, Blum -, SNG Milan -, SNG Cop -, aVF/F, rough, weight 6.888 g, maximum diameter 22.1 mm, die axis 0o, Antinoopolis (or Alexandria?) mint, c. 30 Oct 137 - 29 Oct 138 A.D.(?); obverse draped bust of Antinous right, wearing Hemhem crown, date (L - H?) across fields; reverse bust of Serapis right, Kalathos on head, date (L - H?) across fields; extremely rare; SOLD


Roman Egypt, Antinoopolites Nome(?), Portrait of Antinous, c. 137 - 138 A.D.(?)

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On 30 October 130 A.D., Hadrian founded the city of Antinoopolis on the very bank of the Nile river where Antinous drowned. It was the capital of a new nome, Antinoopolites. Perhaps the date on this coin is year four of an era beginning with the founding of Antinoopolis.
SH90379. Lead tessera, cf. Geissen 3583, Dattari 2093, Emmett 4290 (R5), Milne -, SNG Cop -, SNG Milan -, aVF, weight 5.023 g, maximum diameter 21.7 mm, die axis 0o, Antinoopolis(?) mint, c. 30 Oct 133 - 29 Oct 134 A.D.(?); obverse draped bust of Antinous right, wearing lotus crown, crescent-nimbus before, Nike on globe behind crowning him; reverse bust of Horus right, draped and wearing the double crown of Egypt, date L - ∆(?) across fields; very rare; SOLD


Central Italy, c. 2nd Century B.C.

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Lindgren plate coin. The obverse copies a sculptural theme seen on coins, vases and other artwork. Iphicles was the mortal, anxious and timid twin half-brother of Hercules. Hercules protected him from serpents sent by Hera.
SH24952. Bronze tessera, Lindgren III 1646 (this coin, listed as unidentified); See Stannard, Local Coinages of Central Italy in the Late Roman RepubliC, F, weight 3.982 g, maximum diameter 18.9 mm, die axis 180o, obverse the two infants Herakles and Iphicles, attacked by the serpents sent by Hera; reverse IC O S, Hercules striking Hydra with club; SOLD


Roman Egypt, Nov 130 - c. 138 A.D.

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Both the obverse and reverse types on this tessera are published but the combination does not appear to be published. Nor did we find another example online. According to Milne, lead tesserae served as local small change in Egypt during the first to the third century A.D.

Euthenia is the Greek personification of abundance or plenty. To the Romans she was Abundantia. Her attributes are grain and the cornucopia. On Roman coins of Alexandria she often appears to be the spouse of the Nile; yet, in the Egyptian pantheon Euthenia did not exist and the Nile had no consort.
RX90574. Lead tessera, Unpublished; cf. Dattari 6444 and Geissen 3584 (for obverse type) and Dattari 6493 and 3575 (for reverse type), VF , weight 5.107 g, maximum diameter 22.5 mm, die axis 270o, Alexandria(?) mint, Nov 130 - c. 138 A.D. (possibly later); obverse Antinous on horseback right, wearing hem hem crown, caduceus in right hand; reverse Nilus reclining left on crocodile right below, nude to waist, himation around hips and legs, reeds in his right hand, cornucopia in left; before him at his feet stands Euthenia (prosperity) wearing chiton and peplos, offering wreath held in right hand; extremely rare; SOLD


Roman Egypt, Memphis Nome, 1st - 3rd Century A.D.

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RX38674. Lead tessera, Geissen 3501 (same dies); Dattari 6416 ff.; Milne 5279 var.; Emmett 4594 (R5) var., VF, weight 5.767 g, maximum diameter 24.6 mm, die axis 0o, Memphis mint, obverse Nilus seated left on hippopotamus right, himation around legs, reed in right, cornucopia in left; Euthenia stands right before him, wearing chiton and billowing peplos, crowning him with wreath; reverse MEMΦIC, Isis-Hekate standing facing, triple face crowned with disk and horns, wearing long chiton and peplos, uraeus in right, left arm around neck of Apis bull standing left with disk between horns; small figure behind her raising hands; rare; SOLD


Roman Egypt, Antinoopolites Nome?, Portrait of Antinous, c. 130 - 153 A.D.?

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On 30 October 130 A.D., Hadrian founded the city of Antinoopolis on the very bank of the Nile river where Antinous drowned. It was the capital of a new nome, Antinoopolites.
RX41306. Lead tessera, Dattari 6536, Geissen 3559 var. (11.23g), Emmett 4397 (R4), F, weight 3.809 g, maximum diameter 20.1 mm, die axis 75o, obverse draped bust of Antinous right, wearing hem-hem crown of Harpocrates, crescent before; reverse Serapis standing left, modius on head, right hand raised, long scepter in left; rare; SOLD


Marcian, 24 August 450 - 31 January 457 A.D.

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After Eastern Emperor Theodosius II died unexpectedly in a riding accident on 28 July 450 the empire was met with its first succession crisis in 60 years, as Theodosius did not have any sons, nor had he designated any successor. Some later sources state that Theodosius willed the Eastern Empire to Marcian on his deathbed, but this was likely propaganda created by Marcian's supporters after his election. There was a one-month delay between Theodosius' death and Marcian's election, likely due to negotiations with generals Aspar and Flavius Zeno, and with Pulcheria, the sister of Theodosius II. Pulcheria agreed to marry Marcian (although she would keep her vow of virginity, which she had taken at age 14), which legitimize Marcian's rule. Flavius Zeno was given the prestigious rank of patrician, perhaps a reward for supporting Marcian, rather than attempting to be made emperor himself. Pulcheria herself crowned him emperor, a unique event symbolizing that the imperial power was shared, likely to further boost Marcian's legitimacy. Marcian was elected without the consultation of the Western Roman Emperor, Valentinian III, which has been viewed as a marker of further separation between the Eastern and Western Roman Empires. Valentinian III would not recognize Marcian as Eastern Roman Emperor until March 452. Marcian had his daughter Marcia Euphemia, who came from a previous marriage, marry Anthemius, future Western Roman Emperor, in 453.
BZ87504. Lead tessera, VF, triple struck, some adhesions on gray patina, huge lead tessera (or seal), weight 40.767 g, maximum diameter 37.9 mm, die axis 0o, 475 - 476 A.D.; obverse helmeted, diademed, and cuirassed bust facing, holding spear and shield; reverse monogram of Marcian (triple struck); very rare; SOLD


Roman Egypt, Arsinoiton Polis (Arsinoite Nome), Upper Egypt, 1st - 3rd Century A.D.

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The Ptolemies renamed Atef-Pehu (the Krocodilopolitan nome) to Arsinoe and the capital city Krokodopolis (the City of Crocodiles) to Ptolemais Euergetis. In Roman times the nome was the Arsinoiton polis and Krokodopolis was called Arsinoe.
RX38696. Lead tessera, Geissen 3495; Dattari 6423; Emmett 4366; Milne -, VF, cracked and repaired, weight 5.912 g, maximum diameter 25.4 mm, die axis 180o, Arsinoe (Krokodopolis) mint, 1st - 3rd century A.D.; obverse bust of Pharaoh right wearing wig, beard and uraeus (cobra) crown, reed before; reverse APCINOEITWN Φ ΠOΛEWC (retrograde), crocodile right on a pedestal, solar disk above, all within laurel wreath tied at the bottom, legend around within dot border; broken into two or more pieces and glued back together - nicely done with no fillers and only noticeable on close examination; extremely rare; SOLD


Lot of 9 Roman Egyptian Lead Tessera, 2nd - 3rd Century A.D.

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According to Milne, lead tesserae served as local small change in Egypt during the first to the third century A.D.
LT90877. Lead tessera, 9 Roman Egyptian lead tessera, 2nd - 3rd century A.D., Fair to Fine, the actual coins in the photograph, as-is, no returns; SOLD




  




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REFERENCES|

Burnett, A., M. Amandry & P. Ripollès. Roman Provincial Coinage I: From the death of Caesar to the death of Vitellius (44 BC-AD 69). (London, 1992, and supplement).
Buttrey, T. "The Spintriae as a Historical Source" in NC 1973.
de Boccard, E. Les tesseres et les Monnaies de Palmyre. (Paris, 1962).
Cohen, H. Description historique des monnaies frappées sous l'Empire Romain, Vol. 8: Nepotian to Romulus Augustus, plus tesserae & cotorniates. (Paris, 1888).
Dattari, G. Numi Augg. Alexandrini. (Cairo, 1901).
Emmett, K. Alexandrian Coins. (Lodi, WI, 2001).
Farhi, H. "Note on Two Types of Byzantine Lead Currency" in INR 8 (2013).
Geissen, A. Katalog alexandrinischer Kaisermünzen, Köln|, Band 4: Claudius Gothicus - Bleimünzen. (Cologne, 1974-1983), pp. 178 - 213.
Hendin, D. Guide to Biblical Coins. (Amphora, 2010).
Hoover, O. "A Reassessment of Nabataean Lead Coinage in Light of New Discoveries" in NC 2006.
Milne, J. A Catalogue of the Alexandrian Coins in the Ashmolean Museum. (Oxford, 1933), pp. 125 - 130.
Milne, J. "The leaden token-coinage of Egypt under the Romans" in NC 1908, pp. 287-310, pl. XXII.
Rostowtzew, M. Tesserarum Urbis Romae et Suburbi Plumbearum Sylloge. (St. Petersburg, 1903).
Rostowtzew, M. Tesserarum Urbis Romae et Suburbi Plumbearum Sylloge, Supplementum I. (St. Petersburg, 1905).
Scholz, J. "Römische Blei Tesserae" in Numismatische Zeitschrift bd. 25 (1893).

Catalog current as of Thursday, November 14, 2019.
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Tessera