When I show friends my coin collection, the coins that really give a “Wow” response are the Roman coins. My friends must dream of a coin in the purse of some Roman centurion in the time of Jesus, and it must cost a fortune. They were soon shocked and somewhat disappointed to find that most Roman coins were worth no more than a few pounds or dollars. How can this be?
What makes a coin worth money
Since the coin is no longer an official auction, it is only worth what the collector would pay for it. Effectively we have a small round metal disk engraved on it. So how do we evaluate it? This depends on several factors:
Rarity: If a coin is rare, it usually attracts more money. Obviously, if there are many examples around and everyone already has one, it will not bring much. Just because a coin is old does not mean it is rare. I will explain why later.
Condition: Coin collectors call this “valuation” and it matters a lot to the price. A coin in a state close to the moment it is struck for the first time is always the target for coin collectors. Heavily worn coins usually cost nothing unless they are very rare.
Metal: If the coin is made of a precious metal, such as gold, silver or platinum, then it will have inherent value, even if it enters the melting pot.
Interest: Sometimes a coin will be increased in price due to a certain increase in popularity, which increases demand. For example, there are many coins from shipwrecks, but if we find a coin from the Titanic, it will sell for a premium because of the legend surrounding the history of the Titanic.
If we apply these rules to Roman coins, this will explain why they do not cost a fortune.
The history of the Roman Empire
Perhaps the main reason Roman coins are cheap is the fact that they are not uncommon. On the contrary, they can be found everywhere. The Roman Empire is one of the largest empires in history, covering most of Europe, Britain, parts of Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. It existed from 27 BC to 476, more than 500 years. And all these places used Roman coins throughout the era.
The Romans needed huge amounts of coins to cover their needs. To make matters worse, at times inflation was 1000%. The payment of a Roman soldier (his “scholarship”) was probably several dinars a day at the beginning of the Empire; by the end of the soldier several hundred would have been paid. Coins with a lower denomination did not have much consumption power.
By the way, Roman soldiers were always men, had to enroll for 25 years and received a salary, bonus and pension. On the way down, they had to pay for their own food and contribute to the horses and weapons.
Initially, coins were minted only in Rome, but in the 3rd century there were mints in other countries as well. These mints sometimes produce more than 2 million coins month to meet demand. Coins usually depict the emperor on one side and some other image or letters on the other. More than 10,000 different types of coins were created during the Empire.
The coins were hammered, which means that an empty disk was placed between two dies and hit with a hammer! That’s why the edge of the design and the edge of the rim do not always match. It was a simple process and very open to minting and it started with the first coins. Initially, there may have been some formal agreement to create some coins locally to meet the demand for currency, but by the end of the 3rd century, counterfeiting became a common and serious problem.
You may need to be warned that due to the popularity of Roman coins, they have been copied for tourist gifts and for historical interests, so always buy from a reliable source as a professional dealer.
So I hope you see now that Roman coins are by no means uncommon and are still in fairly large quantities even today.
With this in mind, not all Roman coins are useless
Don’t think that all Roman coins are low cost. The Romans often used gold and silver; some coins are very rare; some emperors are better known and more collectible than others, such as Julius Caesar and Nero. Do not reject a Roman coin because you think it is in poor condition; remember that the coin is very old, it has probably been in the earth for centuries and because of the way they are made, you will never find one that is perfect compared to a modern coin.
The good thing about the low price of ancient Roman coins is that they are very affordable. They are items of interest and conversation, so you should pick one or two for your collection and they make a great gift for anyone interested in the Roman era.