This very nice denarius of Carausius was unearthed by Lee Richardson during August of this year. It has been reported to and recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme (FASAM-3D17E1). It was my Featured Find in PAS Finds: week ended 27 August, which I published three weeks ago. Lee saw it in that article and got in touch.
On the obverse is a laureate bust of this usurper emperor and a legend reading IMP CARAVSIVS P F AV. On the reverse is a milkmaid milking a cow and a legend reading VBER-AT AV. The letter after VBER is unclear and the legend is an abbreviated form of VBERITAS AVG. Situated in the exergue is RSR.
In volume IV of Roman Coins and Their Values David Sear lists three different varieties of the ‘milkmaid’ type (numbers 13538 to 13540). Sam Morehead said that at present a dozen specimens are known of the type and only one of them is the same variety as the coin unearthed by Lee. The other known specimen is in poor condition.
As Carausius was based in Britain it is unsurprising that so many of his coins have been found here. To a few highly important hoards have been added a constant steam of singleton finds from detectorists. Sam has been working tirelessly for some years on the volume of Roman Imperial Coins that includes the reign of Carausius. It is hoped that this volume will be published next year and it will stand as a tribute to the exceptional amount of work put in by Sam. I’m sure he would agree that the volume would be far less comprehensive were it not for the host of previously unpublished coins unearthed by detectorists.
What would Lee’s find be worth? Well, denarii of Carausius usually sell for high prices but if sold at auction much would depend on the amount of competition between prospective buyers.
Dix Noonan Webb sold a denarius of the same type on 8 June 2016 (lot 1126); the reverse was a unique variety, it was graded as good Fine and the hammer price was £3,600. DNW sold another on 13 September 2017 (lot 1876) ; this was struck off centre but said to be otherwise better than VF and the hammer price was £5,500.
On the obverse of Lee’s find there is a scratch across the eye of Carausius, which is a minus point. Both sides have been struck off centre but the coin is otherwise in good VF condition for the period. It is more attractive than the denarius sold by DNW during 2017. Prices for denarii of Carausius have not altered much over recent years. Even though more come onto the market every year the selling prices have been fairly stable. However, I do know of one instance where a specimen sold for a good deal less than it had done only a couple of years previously. There are some wealthy collectors out there, who are willing to pay exceptional figures for exceptional rarities. Lee’s coin is one of only two known varieties of the type, but in total a dozen specimens of the type are on record.
The preceding discussion in regard to the possible value of this coin shows that the question in not straightforward. As it stands, if I was cataloguing it for sale at auction I would set the pre-sale estimate at £6,000 – £8,000 and would expect the hammer price to be within that range. On a good day it might break through the upper estimate, on a bad day it wouldn’t.