Claimed to be the smallest coin in the world
From the World Coin Collection
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Title: World Coin Collection
Provenance: donor unknown
Date Range: ca. 335 BCE to 1943 CE
Extent: 98 coins
Abstract: A majority of the coins date from the 1st, 2nd and 3rd centuries, during the Roman Empire. Also includes coins from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries from Europe, Latin America, Nepal, China and Zanzibar.
Location: Special Collections; digital collection available online through the Digital Collections Center.
Accession #: 2006-021
- 08.05.001 - A famous Greek coin which was struck between 336 and 280 BC, depicting Alexander the Great. Correctly identifying the date of this coin is made difficult by the fact that coins featuring Alexander were created long after his death as a form of commemoration by his successors. The obverse of the coin features Alexander as represented by the head of Hercules. The figure seated on the reverse side depicts Zeus.
- 08.05.002 – A Roman denarius depicting on its reverse side a she-wolf suckling the twins Remus and Romulus. According to Roman mythology, these founders of Rome were saved from exposure by being nurtured by a she-wolf. This coin was struck circa 125 BC.
- 08.05.003 – A Roman denarius most likely depicting the personification of Rome. Although dating this coin has proved difficult, coins such as this were prevalent during the Republic era.
- 08.05.004 – 08.05.014 – These eleven coins have no description on either the obverse or reverse sides. Seven of the coins feature the personification of Rome on the obverse side (ROMA). This image depicts Rome as a helmeted male. Similar coins were struck between 200 and 100 BC.
- 08.05.015 – A tetradacham, or a provincial bronze coin, of the Emperor Nero. This coin is noteworthy because it was created in a mint in Alexandria, located in what is now present-day Egpyt. The coin was struck during Nero’s reign, which spanned 54 to 68 AD.
- 08.05.016 – A coin of Titus Flavius Sabinus Vespasianus. Vespasian came to power in AD 69 with the support of the legions he commanded. He was a competent ruler and controlled the imperial state until his death in 79. This coin was struck during his Second Consulship and thus can be dated to 70 AD.
- 08.05.017 – A coin struck during the rule of Emperor Domitian. While the earlier part of his reign was uneventful, Domitian became incredibly cruel and tyrannical during the latter portion of his reign. He was emperor from 81 to 96 AD.
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- 08.05.018 - Another coin of Domitian. This piece can be dated to 80-81 AD due to the inscription of his seventh Consulship (COS VII).
- 08.05.019 – A coin from the reign of Domitian. It was struck during his eighth Consulship and can be dated to 82 AD.
- 08.05.020 - A coin of Emperor Trajan struck around 115 AD after a successful military campaign in Macedonia. Trajan’s reign lasted from 98 to 117 AD. An excellent general and administrator, the Roman Empire reached its greatest geographic extent under his rule.
- 08.05.021 - Another coin of Trajan. Due to this coin’s marking of COS VI, it can be dated to the period of Trajan’s sixth consulship which occurred from 111 to 117 AD.
- 08.05.022 - Trajan
- 08.05.023 – A coin depicting Emperor Hadrian, who ruled from 117 to 138 AD. His lengthy reign was marked by the construction of buildings in Rome and the solidification of Roman rule in several provincial territories. “Hadrian’s Wall” in northern England was constructed during his reign as a protective barrier against potentially hostile Pict tribes in present-day Scotland. Since Hadrian received his Third Consulship (COS III) in 119 and never renewed it, dating his coins to an exact year is very difficult since the legend COS III is struck onto all of the coins minted during his reign except for the first two years. Therefore, this coin was struck sometime between 119 AD and Hadrian’s death in 138. However, the coin could be dated exactly to 119; the reverse side of this coin closely resembles a coin described by Sydenham (p. 93).
- 08.05.024 - Another coin of Hadrian.
- 08.05.025 - Coin of Hadrian. Again, the coin is marked as during his Third Consulship (COS III) so the coin can only be dated to the time between 119 to 138 AD.
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- 08.05.026 – A coin depicting Emperor Antoninus Pius, who ruled from 138 to 161 AD. His reign was peaceful, prosperous, and relatively uneventful. The coin was likely struck sometime during his rule.
- 08.05.027 - A coin struck during the reign of Antoninus Pius who ruled from 138-161 AD. His reign was peaceful, prosperous and politically uneventful. He adopted his nephew Marcus Aurelius as his successor. This particular coin was struck in 159 AD.
- 08.05.028 - Another coin of Antoninus Pius.
- 08.05.029 - Coin of Antoninus Pius.
- 08.05.030 – A coin of Julia Mamea, the mother of Emperor Severus Alexander who ruled from 222-235 AD. Roman emperors would often strike coins with the images of their family members. Both mother and son were slain by mutinous soldiers as they traveled with the army to subdue a revolt.
- 08.05.031 – Another coin of Julia Mamea.
- 08.05.032 – A coin depicting Emperor Gordian III, or Gordian Pius. He was proclaimed emperor in 238 AD at the age of 14 or 15. He ruled for six years until he was murdered through the manipulations of Philip, an officer in the Praetorian Guard who would rise to the throne as Philip I. The coin was struck between 238 and 244 AD.
- 08.05.033 – Gordian III
- 08.05.034 – Gordian III
- 08.05.035 – A coin dating around 244-249 AD. It depicts Emperor Philip, who ascended the throne after Gordian III was killed as a result of Philip’s machinations. Philip was in turn killed in 249 AD, battling the legions of Trajan Decius in a civil war for control of the Empire.
- 08.05.036 - A coin of Philip I. Note that this coin was double struck. The person creating the coin hit the metal twice giving a “shadow” outline to the left part of the obverse side of the coin.
- 08.05.037 - Another coin of Philip I.
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- 08.05.038 - A coin of Trajan Decius. He served as general under Philip I (ruled 244-249) until his troops revolted against the Philip and forced Trajan Decius to become emperor. Decius ruled from 249 to 251 AD, when he was killed battling a Goth tribe in what is now southern Bulgaria.
- 08.05.039 – A coin of emperor Trebonius Gallus. As emperor from 251 to 254 AD, he created a peace with several Germanic tribes which the Roman people found to be degrading. He was subsequently murdered by his own troops.
- 08.05.040 – A coin of Volusian, the son of Emperor Trebonius Gallus who ruled from 251-254 AD. The coin was most likely struck sometime during Gallus’ reign.
- 08.05.041 – A coin minted during the reign of Emperor Valerianus (or Valerian) who ruled the Empire from 253 to 260 AD. Problems on the frontier led him to take part in many battles near the Roman Empire’s borders. He was eventually defeated and captured in 260 by the Persians under King Shapuri, who kept Valerian captive until his death.
- 08.05.042 – 08.05.045 – Coins depicting Marcus Cassianus Latinus Postumus. As a governor in Gaul under the reign of Emperor Valerian (ruled 253-260), Postumus attempted to usurp the imperial throne and declare himself Emperor. His rule from 259 to 267 was limited to Gaul and Britain and he was eventually killed in battle as a result of his usurpations. Coin 08.05.043 coin is dated to 267 AD.
- 08.05.046 – 08.05.048 - A coin struck during the reign of Emperor Diocletian, who ruled from 284-305 AD.
- 08.05.049 - A coin of Constantius I (not to be confused with Constantine). He reigned as emperor from 305 to 306 AD.
- 08.05.050 - A coin struck during the reign of Constantinus, or Constantine I. Constantine was declared Caesar in 306 AD and after defeating several claimants to the throne in a civil war he became sole emperor in 312.
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- 08.05.051 – The obverse side of this coin features the bust of a woman, probably the wife or female family member of a ruling emperor.
- 08.05.052 – A coin featuring an emperor; likely dates between 200 – 300AD. Emperor is unidentified.
- 08.05.053 - A coin likely dating from 200-100BC.
- 08.05.054 - A coin featuring an uncharacteristic obverse bust facing left. The reverse side features the wolf and twins, Romulus and Remus.
- 08.05.055 – Unidentified coin.
- 08.05.056 - A coin featuring an uncharacteristic obverse bust facing left. The reverse side features the wolf and twins, Romulus and Remus.
- 08.05.057 - A coin featuring the portrait of a woman related to the ruling emperor. The picture on the obverse side of the coin could also be a depiction of a female goddess. The inscription is not legible.
- 08.05.058 - A coin featuring an emperor on the obverse side.
- 08.05.059 - Obverse side features a well worn bust of a male.
- 08.05.060 - Emperor bust can be distinguished on obverse side.
- 08.05.061 - The obverse side features the bust of an emperor, however the inscriptions are too worn to identify the coin.
- 08.05.062 – A young woman is depicted on the obverse side of this coin. She was most likely the wife or kin of the emperor when this coin was struck in her honor.
- 08.05.063 - A young male is depicted on the obverse side of this coin.
- 08.05.064 - The inscription on this coin is too worn to identify the featured emperor on the obverse side.
- 08.05.065 - Very worn coin of a Roman emperor.
- 08.05.066 – 08.05.072
- 08.05.073 - A coin of Postumus identified after it was treated with vegetable oil and water. The coin itself is quite worn however, the inscription baring POSTVMVS is legible. Postumus ruled from 253 to 260AD.
- 08.05.074 – A piece appearing to be a double struck coin (a coin which was hit twice by the minter’s hammer creating a shadow image on the metal). However, a close examination reveals this shadow to be the actual design of the coin. The authenticity of this coin is questionable as it features a level of detail which seems too great for a 1500 year old coin. In addition, there is no inscription on the obverse side of the coin, while there is a peculiar mark made in the coin which is distinct from the work of most Roman mints.
This collection contains coins from more recent history which features primarily coins minted in European countries from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.
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- 08.05.075 – A coin minted in Salzburg in western Austria. A city that has its origins in the late 11th century, Salzburg is renowned as the birthplace of Mozart in 1756. This coin was minted in 1705.
- 08.05.076 – A coin minted in 1766 in the duchy of Saxony which was comprised of lands in the north-western part of present day Germany. After the decree of the Golden Bull of 1356, the duke of Saxony was appointed as one of the seven Electors who voted to elect the Holy Roman Emperor. This Emperor had nominal control over a political conglomeration of lands in Central Europe. When this coin was minted, Frederick Augustus was Duke and Elector of Saxony. His image is depicted on the obverse side of the coin.
- 08.05.077 – A coin minted in Brandenburg in 1693. At the time Brandenburg was one of seven elector states in the Holy Roman Empire. The rulers of these states each had one vote in deciding which noble would ascend to the throne of the Empire. Featured on this coin is Friedrich III, a duke who claimed to be “King in Prussia” because of his land holdings outside of the Holy Roman Empire. Brandenburg is now a federal state in western Germany.
- 08.05.078 – A coin minted in 1771 in the electorate of Bavaria. Like Saxony and Brandenburg, the Duke of Bavaria was also an Elector who voted to determine the throne of the Holy Roman Empire. Bavaria is now a federal state in southwest Germany.
- 08.05.079 – A 5 francs coin featuring Louis-Philippe, the duke of Orleans who gained the French throne after the July Revolution of 1830 overthrew the Bourbon monarchy of Charles X. Louis-Philippe was proclaimed the new French king. The new monarch took the title of "King of the French", a constitutional innovation known as popular monarchy which linked the monarch's title to the people, not to the state, as previous monarchs had stressed. Although he was unpretentious, the acclaimed “Citizen King” garnered support mainly from the middle classes. When working and living conditions for French lower classes deteriorated under his reign, King Louis-Philippe abdicated to his young grandson under pressure of revolt. This occurred in 1848, the year this coin was minted.
- 08.05.080 – A coin minted in Belgium in 1870. It features on its obverse side an engraving of King Leopold II. Leopold’s reign is of historical note as he is chiefly remembered as the founder and owner of the Congo Free State. This personal colony in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo exploited the indigenous people to extract rubber and ivory. Because the Belgian people and government were ambivalent towards overseas colonization, Leopold created a private colonial company which established a colony in the Congo region as an area of Leopold’s personal domain. Legitimized in the 1884 Berlin conference, the Congo Free State would become an area of slavery and atrocity as forced labor was extorted from the native populations in order to export rubber and ivory.
- 08.05.081 – A German coin minted in 1875. This coin was created soon after the German Empire was proclaimed following the defeat of the French in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871).
- 08.05.082 – A coin created in 1922 during the years of the Weimar Republic. This government came on the heels of the German Revolution of 1918 which forced Emperor Wilhelm II to abdicate, leading to the armistice which ended World War I. By August of 1922, the German mark began to collapse under the weight of heavy reparation payments dictated by the Treaty of Versailles.
- 08.05.083 - An Italian coin minted in 1910. At the time, Italy was a constitutional monarchy governed by Prime Minister Giovanni Giolitti under the rule of King Victor Emmanuel III.
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- 08.05.084 – A coin minted in the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1917. The Netherlands remained neutral throughout World War I. Of note is that in 1917, the Dutch Parliament began the electoral process to change the constitution and allow universal male suffrage and proportional representation of the people.
- 08.05.085 – A Swiss coin minted in 1932. Confoederatio Helvetica is the country’s official name since Latin avoids favoring any one of the four national languages. This translates in English to mean the Swiss Confederation.
- 08.05.086 – A coin minted by the government of Finland in 1935. The Finns declared their independence from Russia in 1917. This coin was minted several years before the Winter War (1939-1940) in which the Soviet Union attempted to re-conquer Finland.
- 08.05.087 - A French coin minted in 1936. The French government at the time was the Third Republic, which became the longest lasting French government since the 1789 revolution. The Third Republic had been set up as a temporary government after the regime of Napoleon III, but was cemented constitutionally by parliamentary acts in 1875. This government would collapse with the occupation of Germany in 1940.
- 08.05.088 – A Bolivian coin from 1832 features Simon Bolivar on its obverse side and a depiction of two lamas under tree on its reverse side. The coin was minted seven years after the establishment of Bolivia as a Republic.
- 08.05.089 – A coin minted only several years after Spain recognized the independence of Mexico. It was cast in 1826.
- 08.05.090 – A peso from 1866 created during the reign of Emperor Ferdinand Maximilian. Maximilian was of the Austrian Hapsburg family, but was named Emperor of Mexico after a military occupation of the country by France. Although the French forces were defeated in 1862, Maximilian was able to regain control of Mexico in 1864 after renewed fighting between the Mexicans and the French. He would rule until 1867 when he was captured and executed by the nationalist forces of Benito Juarez. This coin was created during the last years of Maximilian’s rule.
- 08.05.091 – A Mexican coin minted in 1895. Of note is that the coin has returned to the style of coins cast prior to the French military conquest in the 1860’s. Outside of its date, the coin closely resembles in appearance the earlier 1826 piece.
- 08.05.092 – A Mexican coin minted in 1941. Soon after this piece was created, the Mexican government would declare war on the Axis powers (May 22, 1942) due to the loss of oil ships to German submarine attacks.
- 08.05.093 – A Cuban coin minted in 1916. Cuban independence was granted by the United States government following the Spanish-American war.
- 08.05.094 – A unique coin minted as a Chilean peso in 1878. However, the coin somehow ended up in Guatemala and a Guatemalan peso was stamped over the center of the Chilean coin in 1894.
- 08.05.095 – A coin minted in India during the last years of British colonial rule. Created in 1935, this coin features a depiction of George V, the king of Great Britain at the time. This coin would have been minted as the sentiments for independence were rising and being articulated by leaders such as Mahatma Ghandi.
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- 08.05.096 – A coin created sometime between 1936 and 1943. Coins such as these were minted by the Nationalist Government as part of a legal tender reform. This coin serves as a contrast to other pieces minted by Chinese Communists and Japanese occupied regimes of World War II.
- 08.05.097 – Possibly the one-fourth ‘Java’ minted in Nepal. The Guinness Book of World Records at one time claimed this type of coin to be the smallest in the world. However, some dispute this fact because the one-fourth Java was not a legal tender coin since it was cut out from the middle portion of the larger silver Java.
- 08.05.098 – A coin minted in Zanzibar, a pair of islands off the east coast of Africa. The Arabic influence on this coin has its origins back to the 1st century when traders from the Persian Gulf region began to visit Zanzibar. In the 11th and 12th centuries these traders settled on the islands and intermarried with the indigenous African people. In the 17th century, the island fell under control of the Sultan of Oman, leading to official Arabic authority henceforth on the islands’ history.
compiled by Sam Robinson, Spring 2006
Sayles, Wayne. Ancient Coin Collecting. Iola: Krause Publications, 2003.
Klawans, Zander. Handbook of Ancient Greek and Roman Coins. Atlanta: Whitman Publishing, 2003.
Mattingly, Harold. Roman Coins. London: Methuen, 1967.
Sydenham, Edward A. Historical References on the Coins of the Roman Empire. San Diego: Pegasus, 1968.