When I show my friends my coin collection, the coins that really give a ‘Wow’ reaction are the Roman coins. My friends must dream of the coin in the purse of some Roman centurion from the time of Jesus, and it must be worth a fortune. They are soon surprised, and somewhat disappointed, to discover that most Roman coins are worth no more than a few pounds or dollars. How can this be?
What makes a coin worth money?
Once a coin is no longer officially on sale, it is only worth what a collector would pay for it. Indeed, we have a small round metal disc with some engraving. So how do we rate it? This depends on several factors:
Rarity: If a coin is rare, it generally attracts more money. Obviously, if there are a lot of examples and everyone already has one, then it’s not going to be much. Just because a coin is old does not mean it is rare. I’ll explain why later.
Condition: Coin collectors call this “grade” and it makes a big difference in price. A coin in a condition close to when it was first minted is always the goal of coin collectors. Well spent coins are generally worthless unless they are very rare.
Metal: If a coin is made of a precious metal, such as gold, silver or platinum, then it will have intrinsic value, even if it goes into the crucible.
Interest: Sometimes the price of a coin will increase due to an increase in popularity that drives demand. For example, there are a lot of shipwreck coins, but if we were to find a Titanic coin, it would sell for a premium due to the legend surrounding the Titanic story.
If we apply these rules to Roman coins, we will explain why they are not worth a fortune.
The History of the Roman Empire
Probably the main reason Roman coins are cheap is the fact that they are not rare. On the contrary, they can be found everywhere. The Roman Empire was one of the largest empires in history, covering most of Europe, Great Britain, parts of Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa. It existed from 27 a. Until 476 d. C., more than 500 years. And all of these places used Roman coins throughout the time.
The Romans needed coins in large quantities to meet their needs. To make matters worse, inflation was sometimes 1000 percent. The pay of a Roman soldier (his “stipend”) was probably a few denarii a day at the beginning of the Empire; towards the end, the soldier would have been paid several hundred. The smaller denomination coins did not have much purchasing power.
By the way, Roman soldiers were always men, they had to register for 25 years and received a salary, a bonus and a pension. On the downside, they had to pay for their own food and contribute horses and weapons.
Originally, coins were minted only in Rome, but in the 3rd century there were also mints in other countries. These mints sometimes produced more than 2 million coins per month to meet the demand. The coins typically depicted the Emperor on one side and some other image or lettering on the other. During the Empire, more than 10,000 different types of coins were created.
The coins were hammered, which means that a blank disc was placed between two dies and struck with a hammer. That is why the edge of the design and the edge of the rim do not always coincide. It was a simple process and very open to forging, and it started from the first coins. Initially, there may have been some official consent to create some coins locally to meet currency demands, but towards the end of the 3rd century, counterfeiting became a common and serious problem.
Perhaps I should warn you that due to the popularity of Roman coins, they have been replicated for tourist gifts and for historical interests, so always buy from a trusted source like a professional dealer.
So I hope you see now that Roman coins are not rare at all, and are still in fairly large quantities even today.
Given that, not all Roman coins are useless.
Don’t think that all Roman coins are priced low. The Romans used gold and silver frequently; some coins are very rare; some emperors are better known and more collectible than others, such as Julius Caesar and Nero. Do not discard a Roman coin because you think it is in bad shape; Remember that the coin is very old, it has probably been buried for centuries and because of the way they were made, you will never find one that is perfect compared to a modern coin.
The good thing about the low price of ancient Roman coins is that they are very affordable. They are items of interest and conversation so you should get one or two for your collection and they make a great gift for anyone interested in Roman times.