Coin Collecting: Roman Empire Medallions

Collecting Roman Empire Medallions and Roman Coins

Roman Empire Medallions like other medallions are normally used to denote minted coin-like tokens not intended for general circulation.

Medallions deviate from circulating coins in a variety of ways, such as in size, weight, appearance or motif.

The small selection of roman coins shown here is just a small cross-section from the wide range of Roman Empire medallions.

These large gold coins could be used to effect payments since they weighed several times as much as the standard gold coin (a 4.5g solidus); however, such mundane usage tended to be rare.

Roman Empire Medallions were bestowed by the Emperor primarily intended as honorary gifts.

Recipients sometimes attached eyes to them so that they could wear there Roman Empire Medallions openly as symbols of the honour accorded to them.

Roman Coin 9 Solidi Constans

Such beautiful specimens have been found outside the boundaries of the former Roman Empire.

Roman Empire Medallions are thought to have been a means of maintaining good neighbourly relations with the leaders of bordering barbarian peoples.

Rome was auctually paying for good behaviour and the golden tribute was paid to some extent in this form.

The largest Roman Empire Medallions known so far are from the Constantine era, one being an 18 solidii coin weighing approximately 81g.

It was struck as a double to the large Constantine-era coin shown above. Later specimens of up to 72 solidi weighing over 320g were also struck.

Unlike gold Roman coins, controversy reigns concerning the function of some silver and copper Roman Empire Medallions as a method of payment.

Roman Coin Miliarense

What one person calls a coin another person will call a small medallion.

The reason for this uncertainty is that it is often not possible to assign such tokens specifically to the contemporary coin system.

In other words, the image and/or the weight differ so slightly from those of normal circulating coins that both interpretations could be accurate.

The major copper and bronze Roman Empire Medallions of the fourth century AD are a different matter.

The differences between the commemorative versions and everyday small change are so great that doubt about the original use of the former as gifts is virtually impossible.

The Roman Contorniate, comes into a completely different category altogether.

Manufactured in the fourth century AD, it was a New Years gift from the Roman Senate to the city population and was intended to bring good fortune.

The obverse bears a portrait of Alexander the Great.

Roman Contorniate

The reverse shows a theme from mythology: Scylla a monster who, together with Charybdis controlled a strait, attacks Odysseus’s ship as Odysseus is returning home.

In addition, there are a variety of additional motifs.

The term Contorniate is derived from the Italian word contorno (rim) and denotes the deep furrow on the edge of the coin.