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Denarius of Carausius

I’ve said before that all the coins of Carausius used to be scarce or rare. As he was based in the Roman province of Britannia it could be expected that more of his coins would turn up in England than elsewhere. However, this wasn’t the case until detectorists started to dig them up here, there and just about everywhere. Today the situation is totally different to only 50 years since. Some Carausian coins are now fairly common but the range is so large that it still includes many great rarities.

Denarii of Carausius used to be at least very rare but detectorists have added greatly to the number now on record. Illustrated here is a denarius that was recently unearthed by David Eagles. When I first examined the images I thought it could be an irregular issue; this was because both sides included a number of anomalies.

The legend on the obverse should read IMP CARAVSIVS P AVG but there is a reversed N for M in IMP, there seems to be a letter I missing from CARAVSIVS and the legend ends with AG instead of AVG.

In the centre of the reverse are clasped hands, which is a well-known type for Carausius, However, the legend is usually CONCORDIA AVG (clockwise). On this denarius the legend is anti-clockwise and starts with CONCORDIA but what follows on is unclear. A number of different varieties of the clasped hands type are listed in volume IV of David Sear’s Roman Coins and Their Values but none of them match this find. Additionally, all those listed by Sear have on the reverse either RSR or C below the clasped hands.

Sam Moorhead

The leading authority on the coins and coinages of Carausius is Sam Moorhead, who in the near future will be publishing a revised volume of Roman Imperial Coinage that will cover all the known Carausian coins. After asking what he thought, he was of the opinion that on the basis of the images of David’s coin it should not be condemned as an irregular issue. He pointed to another clasped hands specimen sold by a leading dealer, which was struck by an obverse die very similar to the coin pictured here; the reverse, too, was similar but the legend read in the usual clockwise direction.


The coin would grade about VF but the edge is rough and has some chips. Even though the overall condition leaves something to be desired, this coin would still be of great interest to a specialist in the coinage of Carausius. I would set a pre-sale auction estimate at £1,200 – £1,500 and would expect the hammer price to be within that range.

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