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Constantine the Great, follis

This Roman base metal coin was sent in by Stephen Clarke. It’s a follis of Constantine the Great, whose dates are AD 307 to 337. Over recent years it has become increasingly commonplace to describe late Roman base metal coins as nummi (the Latin name for coin) if singular and nummus if plural. Call me old fashioned but I still prefer to call them by the titles they used to have in the not too far distant past.

This follis of Constantine the Great has on the obverse a laureate, helmeted, draped and cuirassed bust of the emperor. The legend on this side reads CONSTANTINVS P AVG.

On the reverse, holding a standard in each hand, is the prince with a star to his right. Below, in the exergue, are the mint letters for London (PLN). On this side the legend reads PRINCIPI IVVENTVTIS.

There are many different, varieties and die combinations of this denomination for Constantine the Great, some of them very similar to Stephen’s find. However, his coin has a combination of emperor, bust, legends, mint and die pairing that adds up to it being excessively rare. It has been reported to and recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme as OXON-466579 and designated a Find of Note.

Besides being a great rarity Stephen’s find is also in exceptional condition for a detecting find. The obverse is slightly off centre but the coin is otherwise about EF for the denomination and period.


Placing a valuation figure on a coin like this is difficult. Many collectors would be happy to accumulate half a dozen coins of Constantine the Great in good condition and not be too bothered if they were common issues. A follis of great rarity would be of interest to specialist collectors but this would constitute a narrower market. Basing my figures on recent sale prices, if I was cataloguing this coin for sale at auction then I would place upon it a pre-sale estimate of £200. This might not seem like a high estimate on a great rarity but, as I have already said, a number of other varieties are very similar to this one.

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