In Roman Britain the sestertius of Claudius were promptly copied by enterprising Britunnculi. Some of the copies were rather good. Others not so much and proved to be grit in the oiled wheels of Roman commerce. So the Romans took to validating the coins and stamped them PROB for probatum or ‘approved’. Or not. (1)
This coin featured in a CNG auction is almost ‘as struck’ and pre-stamped before circulation. Others could be worn examples, stamped and recertified and released back into circulation. Yet others could be local imitations (let’s call them) with good weight and design and stamped to make them official. In Britain this process was carried on into Nero’s time (and beyond) But we’ll come to Nero later and also other mintmarks. In the meantime this splendid example:
CNG > “The PROB countermark can with a fair degree of certainty be expanded to PROBatum (“approved”). Kenyon (op cit., p. 53) notes that Claudian sestertii bearing this countermake are found almost exclusively in Britain and Italy, and always on sestertii of Claudius. However, his study did not find shared punches between any coins with known provenances from Britain and Italy, suggesting that the Claudian sestertii circulating in Britain were countermarked there. The countermarks were carefully applied, always in the right obverse field and never overlapping the imperial portrait. Alluding to the present coin specifically, Kenyon comments (p. 56): “The condition of the coins indicates that they were countermarked before they had seen much, if any, circulation. This is most obvious in the sestertius from Old Winteringham, Humberside which is in ‘as struck’ condition.” Indeed, this example is very likely the finest of all Claudian sestertii that bears a countermark.
|CNG 94, Lot: 1143. Estimate $5000.
Sold for $6000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.
Claudius. AD 41-54. Æ Sestertius (36mm, 27.02 g, 6h). Rome mint. Struck AD 41-42. TI CLAVDIVS CAESAR AVG P M T[R P IMP], Laureate head right: c/m: PROB within rectangular incuse / EX S C/O•B/CIVES/SERVATOS in four lines within oak wreath. RIC I 96; von Kaenel Type 54; BMCRE 115; BN 159–61 (with this c/m); R.F. Kenyon, “The countermark PROB on coins of Claudius from Britain” in NC 148 (1988), 22 (this coin cited and illustrated); for c/m: Kenyon Punch 7; Pangerl 23; Martini 40; BMCRE 120. Near EF, attractive hard green patina, small flaw on neck.
Found in Winteringham, North Lincolnshire, England in 1960 (with finder’s ticket).
Found in 1960 by Alan Harrison in the Roman settlement at Winteringham, on the south bank of the Humber River, North Lincolnshire, and recorded at the Scunthorpe Musuem and the British Museum.
CNG > On the route of Ermine Street, the Roman road from London north to Lincoln and then York, the most difficult river crossing was the River Humber (Abus Fluvius). Winteringham (Ad Abum) was the settlement established where Ermine Street reaches the south bank of the river, and the remains of a Roman jetty indicate that the crossing was made by ferry to the north bank. The present coin was a single find in a trench dug outside a Roman structure. Within the structure was found a hoard of Claudian bronze coins but having a much different (and less even) patina from our coin.
Thank you CNG for image and auction text
(1) citations needed for causal link between British imitations and official approval.
Questions at time of writing:
When did the countermarking start in Britain? Under Claudius?
What where the conditions in Italy that invited countermarking?