From Art to Artifact:  Making Sense of Roman Coins

Denarius of Vespasian

THe Minting Process
and Quality of Image




Here, a winged cupid is painted in the act of coin making. Roman coins were struck , as the cupid is seen doing, as opposed to cast or pressed. A metal flan was placed between two die (stamps) bearing the image to be minted. The lower die was held stationary on an anvil, and the side was called the obverse, or the modern head of the coin. The reverse die was placed atop the flan and struck with a mallet to imprint the image.
Obverse dies typically were created in greater detail than the reverse, as the die was held stationary and thus wore out more slowly. Note the attention to detail on the obverse, or head, of the Vespasian coin as opposed to the reverse of the two boys.