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Otho denarius – the story of his short reign

This coin was unearthed very recently by Steve Simmons, who said he has been detecting for only one year. It’s his first Roman silver, which makes it all the more interesting.

Steve has been very lucky to find this coin, for it is a denarius of Otho. If the full legend was visible on the obverse then it would read IMP M OTHO CAESAR AVG TR P around the bare head of the emperor. On the reverse is the standing figure of Securitas and a legend reading SECVRITAS P R. In volume I of Roman Coins and Their Values the author, David Sear, lists this type as number 2162. It was struck at Rome only in January and February of AD 69.

In AD 68 revolts broke out in a number of places in the Roman Empire. What little support Nero had enjoyed drifted away and when Rome deserted him he committed suicide. This led to civil war breaking out. The next emperor, Galba, was assassinated in Rome in January AD 69 after Otho organised a conspiracy against him. Otho’s reign was short, as he committed suicide in April of AD 69 after being defeated in battle by an army royal to Vitellius. The civil war continued but ended soon after Vespasian was proclaimed emperor in July of AD 69. Vitellius was murdered and his body was unceremoniously thrown into the River Tiber.


There isn’t a great deal of circulation wear on Steve’s find but both sides have been struck off centre, which reduced its eye appeal. It’s a rare coin but denarii of Otho aren’t as rare as the used to be; over the years I’ve seen at least a dozen as detecting finds. If I was cataloguing this one for sale at auction I’d set the pre-sale estimate at £400 – £500.

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