The Roman Empire spanned almost five centuries (27 b.c. to 476 a.d.) and left in its wake a wealth of historic battles, famous emperors and ancient coins issued before the time of Christ. These coins, most over 1,600 years old, are still around today, as millions of them were minted over the centuries when Rome was considered the ultimate power in Europe.
Types of Coins
Most Roman coins were made of bronze, silver and gold. They come in various sizes comparable to the U.S. quarter, nickel and dime. The first coin, made of bronze, is believed to have been struck around 269 b.c., before the formation of the Roman Empire.
Most Roman coins bear the strike of emperors, including Constantine the Great, Julius Caesar, Marcus Antonius and Septimius Severus. Women on Roman coins included Cleopatra Selene (the daughter of Cleopatra and Marcus Antonius), Antonia (wife of Nero) and Valeria Messalina (wife of Claudius), as well as daughters of the ancient leaders.
Roman coins were minted in 40 or more different cities. Juno Monet was the name of the mint in Rome, from which our term for "money" came to being. Coins with the word "consecratio" struck on them mean the coin was issued to pay homage to deceased emperors and their family members.
Gold Roman coins, called aurei, contained about 95 percent pure gold, and the silver coins, called denarius, were made with roughly 85 percent silver. Many collectors know that age does not often equate value. Gold and silver coins are usually worth what the precious metals market is currently bearing. Bronze Roman coins can be bought for just a few dollars. Uncleaned coins are plentiful online and from collectors.
About the only way to spot a fake Roman coin is with a gold and silver testing kit. Other telltale signs of fakes include incorrect lettering on the coin, incomplete mint marks or if the thickness of the coin is uniform. Another way to spot a fake is to compare the coin with its genuine counterpart from a reputable source.
Linda Allardice has been a writer since 1983. She has written for "The Standard-Times" and "The Herald News" in Massachusetts, as well as for "Link-Up Magazine." Allardice holds a Bachelor of Arts in business management from Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I.