The Quadrans and Semis Denominations
of Roman Imperial Coins

In the first and second centuries AD the quadrans was the smallest Roman coin denomination. It was not worth much then, it was not issued in large numbers, and it was not hoarded, so is not common now. The semis was worth two quadrantes (quadrans is singular, quadrantes is plural) and is even less common. Production of both stopped sometime in the middle of the second century, probably because inflation finally made them worth too little. 

To the right is an "anonymous" semis, 18 mm in diameter, with a bust of helmeted Mars right/cuirass with S C  [RIC II page 218, 19]. It is "anonymous" because omits the name and portrait of the emperor. The anonymous types are attributed to the period from Domitian (81-96) through Antoninus Pius (138-160) or possibly as late as Marcus Aurelius.

The term quadrans is used for small AE coins much more often than semis. They can be hard to tell apart and if we don't know which it is, we often just call any small coin a quadrans. Criteria for distinguishing the two denomination are discussed later on this page. This particular type is thought by scholars to be a semis, even though it is usually called an "anonymous quadrans." 

This site discusses and illustrates (all photos are to scale):

1)  Roman imperial quadrantes attributable to particular emperors from Augustus through Domitian (27 BC - AD 96),
2)  Anonymous quadrantes said to be of the period from Domitian to Marcus Aurelius (AD 81-180)
3)  Quadrantes from the anonymous time period that can be attributed to a particular emperor, and
4)  Coins of the mines--coins the size of quadrantes that mention particular mines,

and simultaneously discusses coins of the semis denomination, which are often called quadrantes for convenience because they can be hard to tell apart. .

The quadrans denomination began under the Roman Republic, but this site is devoted to imperial coins and with only a few comments on Republican quadrantes. We pick up the story when Augustus (27 BC - AD 14) reformed the coinage system to add to it new small denominations. The new system lasted for almost two hundred years. It included the gold aureus, the silver denarius that had dominated the Republican system, and these smaller copper denominations which had not been issued, or hardly issued (Almost no bronze had been issued since 86 BC), in the previous century under the Republic, including the 

sestertius     four to a silver denarius
dupondius   two to a sestertius, eight to a denarius
as                (the most commonly found low denomination on archaeological sites) four to a sestertius, 16 to a denarius
semis           (The semis was introduced by Nero) two to the as, 32 to the denarius
quadrans     four to an as, 64 to a denarius

The quadrans (Greek κοδράντης) is mentioned twice in the Bible (as noted by "Roman Collector" on CoinTalk).  The two verses are:

Mark 12:42
     καὶ ἐλθοῦσα μία χήρα πτωχὴ ἔβαλεν λεπτὰ δύο, ὅ ἐστιν κοδράντης.
   "And one poor widow came and threw two leptons, which is a quadrans."

Matthew 5:26
     ἀμὴν λέγω σοι, οὐ μὴ ἐξέλθῃς ἐκεῖθεν ἕως ἂν ἀποδῷς τὸν ἔσχατον κοδράντην.
    "Truly I tell you, you will not come out from there until you have paid back the last quadrans."

The lessons depend on that fact that the quadrans is the smallest Roman coin denomination. 

Examples from each category are illustrated next. They are followed by comments on their value, collections, distinguishing the quadrans from the semis, and many additional examples.


1) Quadrantes attributable to an emperor from Augustus through Domitian.

Early imperial quadrantes do not have a portrait of the emperor.  Some do not even name the emperor.

A quadrans struck under Augustus in 4 BC.
16 mm and quite thick.
The coin does not mention Augustus, but does name the moneyer: 
L VALERIVS CATVLLVS around SC,
with an altar on the reverse with legend III VIR AAA FF
(Triumvir [one of three moneyers of the mint] for gold, silver, and base metal).
RIC Augustus 468, 4 BC, page 78, mint of Rome. 

RIC volume 1 is the essential reference for quadrantes of the Julio-Claudian period.

 

After Augustus, early imperial quadrantes name the emperor. Here is one issued by Claudius (AD 41-54). Claudius is famous from the book and TV series "I, Claudius." 

Claudius 41-54, struck AD 42. Quadrans.
17 mm.
TI CLAVDIVS CAESAR AVG 
Hand holding balance, PNR beneath
PON M TRP IMP PP COS II
RIC 91

PNR might abbreviate "PONDVS NVMMI RESTITVTVM" (weight of the [gold] coins restored) which refers to restoring the weight of the gold coins to the higher standard used before Caligula reduced it. 
 

 

 

Domitian also issued quadrantes in his name:

Domitian, 81-96
17 mm.
Rhinoceros left (with two horns) [weak on this example]
IMP DOMIT AVG GERM around S C
RIC II.I 250

Struck 83-85 [Buttrey]
"Domitian was to display a rhinoceros at Rome for the first time in the early 90's." [Birley] This is not right, because the coin must be dated to 83-85 [Buttrey]
The rhinoceros was mentioned by Martial in reference to games of Domitian. Normally placid, it could be extremely violent if provoked. 

 

 

For more quadrantes that name a particular emperor see below.


2) Anonymous Quadrantes.

There are quadrantes with no indication of who issued them (such as the first coin on this page, and this next one) which are called "anonymous."

An "anonymous" quadrans
15 mm.
Attributed to the period from Hadrian to Antonius Pius (117-161).
winged petasus (cap of Mercury)
winged caduceus, S C on either side.

Nothing on the coin suggests a particular emperor.
However, there is, below, a quadrans of Nerva with the same reverse.
Perhaps that is enough to infer this coin is likely of Nerva (96-98).
 

 

 

Hoards can be used to put types in relative order when coins are silver or gold (see http://augustuscoins.com/ed/Repub/TimelineTable.html for how Roman Republican coins are dated), but the quadrans denomination was not valuable enough to be hoarded. The few big groups that have been found are from river beds in Italy. Probably they were tossed into the rivers by travelers much like modern tourists toss coins into fountains. The resulting assembledge provides no chronological information. We attribute them by their similarities, if any, to other coins we can date.

Although when RIC was published the period of anonymous quadrantes was thought to begin with Domitian, Lamb argues that they are later and the great majority are from Hadrian and Antoninus Pius (AD 117 and later).  


3)  Quadrantes from the anonymous period (i.e. Domitian and later) that name a particular emperor

Some quadrantes from this time period are not anonymous. This one has the name and portrait of the emperor.

16 mm. 
Trajan, 98-117
IMP CAES NERVA TRAIANVS AVG
laureate head of Trajan right
she-wolf standing right, no legend, SC in exergue
RIC 691, BMC 1060 "undated"

Quadrantes before Trajan do not have portraits of the emperor. This might be a "small semis" [Woytek]
 

 

 

This one names the emperor without having his portrait.

19 mm. Semis.
eagle front, head right
thunderbolt above SC

Fortunately the legend
IMP CAESAR TRAIAN HADRIANVS AVG
names the emperor Hadrian (117-138)
and the reverse
PM TRP COS III
narrows the date range to 119-125
RIC 624. BMC 1278. Sear 3704

 

 

 

A 19 mm coin looks and feel much larger than a 16 mm quadrans coin, which is reason to call it a semis. Telling them apart is discussed below.

For more quadrantes identifiable by emperor, see below.



4)  Coins of the Mines

There are rare quandrans-sized coins that name particular mines. Some some name the emperor explicitly, some do not name the emperor but give hints as to who was emperor, and some do not identify the emperor.

Sometimes the type names the emperor.

Coin of the mines. 
18 mm.
DARDANICI, woman standing left holding ears of grain
The obverse could be found on a high-denomination coin:
IMP CAES NERVA TRAIAN AVG GERM
laureate head of Trajan right
RIC 703 "R2" "possibly a semis"
BMC 1106

"Trajan's DARDANICI coins belong to the silver mines of Kopaonik and Pristina in Serbia and old Serbia" [BMC note page cix]

 

 

Sometimes the type suggests a particular emperor but is not explict.

Coin of the mines
17 mm.
Head right. It closely resembles Antoninus Pius.
METAL AVRELIANVS in wreath.

RIC III, page 313, 1255 "uncertain" [ruler] but "R2" under Marcus Aurelius.
The name of the mine suggests Marcus. He could be honoring his adoptive father with the portrait.
BMC III --, but BMC IV page 687 has it not in the BM, but cited from a sale.

 

 

 

Sometimes the emperor is not identified and the type does the type suggest one.

Coin of the mines

18 mm.
Mars head right in high-crested helmet
METAL DEVM around cuirass

The style suggests it is from the second century, but the type does not suggest a particular emperor.

 

 

The locations of the named mines are, of course, the subject of scholarly interest. van Heesch ["Small change" p.130] says they were minted in Rome and sent out to the regions of the mines -- the Danube and Balkan regions in central Europe.  They have been found in low numbers in Germany and Italy, but much larger numbers in central Europe and the Balkans.

Note for collectors: Coins of the mines are all rare and seldom offered, although Lamb says there are many more available than commonly thought (If so, I don't know where they are.) Not a lot is known about them. They are much more expensive than regular quadrans pieces. 

 


5)  Other "Quadrans" Coins.

The quadrans was an "Roman imperial" denomination, as opposed to a "Roman provincial" denomination. However, some provincial coins have the size of an imperial quadrans. Here is one.

15 mm. 
Trajan (98-117), struck at Antioch ad Orontes in Syria
TRAIC NEP TPAIAN CEB ΓEPM
Head of Trajan right
ΔHMAPX EΞYΠATB
(= TRIP POT COS II)
winged caduceus
Mc Alee 502 "Struck 98-99" "Very rare". RPC III 3657 "Orichalcum struck in Rome for circulation in Syria"

The legend is in Greek (and the coin has a portrait), so it is not an imperial quadrans. Nevertheless, it is somtimes called a quadrans because it probably had that value and we don't know the actual name of the provincial denomination. 

 


Value. What could the quadrans buy? Other than the two verses from the New Testament above, few ancient sources mention the quadrans or semis. Horace says the quadrans and the semis were used for admission to the baths. At one site in Pompei, a tavern had a pot which contained 374 asses or dupondii and 1237 quadrantes [van Heesch, "Coin Supply" p. 133], so it served as small change at a tavern. 
   Lamb [p. 52] says "during the years of greatest production under the Julio-Claudian dynasty ... Quadrantes played a significant role in the urban economies of Rome and central Italy," and "The purpose of the Anonymous Quadrantes was to provide the bulk of circulating fractional coinage in Rome and the surrounding area during the reigns of Hadrian, Antoninus, and possibly the early years of Marcus Aurelius." This is spite of the fact that "Roman fractions, even in their most abundant periods and urban settings, are never the commonest finds on archaeological sites. ...  Copper asses seem to be found four times more often." 

 


Collections.  James Lamb, formerly president of Spink's America, wrote an article about quadrantes and his attempt to collect them. I highly recommend it. He found the whole subject more complex than he expected. He notes van Heesch illustrated 591 examples. van Heesch's thesis (in Dutch) is available on-line (see the reference page) and his plates illustrate many types with 3 to 6 examples each, sometimes with different sizes. This web page does not reproduce his work and does not list many of the types. It merely gives an overview. Several sale catalogs have had collections of about 40 pieces (see the reference page). 
   As I write this, vcoins has 255 imperial examples under "quadrans," very few of which are in high grade, among over 200,000 coins offered. As you can imagine, small denomination coins were useful, but their value was low so they were not worth hoarding, so the ones found today circulated a lot and are usually very worn. 
   As I write, a search of vcoins on "mines" found no coins of the mines. 
   Collectors of quadrantes often collect the semis denomination too--both are fractions. Also, only under Nero, who introduced the denomination, do semis coins make up as much as 1/5 the fractional coins--it does not add much to a collection to also include semis pieces. Both denominations are small and they can be hard to distinguish. For example, it would be hard to distinguish the next coin from a quadrans by size alone. (It is only 16 mm and some quadrans pieces are 18 mm.) Scholars decided this coin (illustrated to scale) must be a semis because of the small "S" at the top left of the table. 

Nero, 54-68. RIC says struck "up to the course of 66."
16 mm and thicker than his quadrantes.
NERO CAESA-R AVG IMP
Head of Nero right, laureate
CER QVI-N-Q ROM-CO
CER(tamina) QVINQ(uennalia) ROM(ae) CON(stituta)

"After the Greek fashion, a triple entertainment, consisting of music, gymnastics, and equestrianism" Stevenson, DRC.
Table, seen from front right, with urn and wreath on top, front panel with two griffins confronted, globe on floor below, and SC in exergue.
RIC 234 
Also, the portrait suggests it is a semis. If the current scholarly classification scheme is correct, quadrans coins until Trajan do not have portraits.

 

Quadrans or Semis?  It is often difficult to identify the denomination of these small coins. Many dealers don't even bother and sometimes scholars are not certain. If you want simple guidelines, there are two: 
   1) If it is both small and without an imperial portrait, it is a quadrans.  
   2) If it is both relatively large and has an imperial portrait, it is a semis.
   But there are many types that don't fit in either category and are not easy to classify for reasons discussed next.
   Some small coins are orichalcum (brass, which is yellowish when not patinated) which was more valuable than copper in the ratio of 8 to 5, and some are copper. van Heesch identified both quadrantes and semisses in both metals, so the metal alone does not distinguish the denomination. Also, patina often makes it impossible to tell the metal of an AE coin. Some types, regularly identified as quadrantes, are larger in diameter than others identified as semisses. For example, the quadrans of Claudius above is 17 mm and the semis of Nero (just above) is 16 mm. The yellowish color of the Nero coin indicates it is of orichalcum, which makes it intrinsically more valuable than a copper coin of that size would be. However, if it did not have that tiny "S" above the table the argument about its denomination would still be raging. A problem in distinguishing denominations is that the same type may come in various sizes, which suggests the type alone is not enough to tell. For example, the Mars/body armor type at the top which is commonly 18 mm is also found on coins from 14-12 mm. The small ones must be quadrantes and the larger ones semisses.
   Portrait pieces are almost always semisses. Quadrantes before Trajan do not have a portrait of the emperor. The wolf type of Trajan (above) is almost always called a quadrans but Woytek (in his book on coins of Trajan) calls it a "small semis". If a small AE coin is not a portrait piece, it might be a semis anyway. For example, consider the eagle/thunderbolt coin of Hadrian above. The patina makes it hard to tell the metal, but it is 19 mm (the size of a semis) and yellowish so is probably an orichalcum semis (even lacking a portrait). On the other hand, the second next coin (of Claudius) is clearly of copper, not orichalcum, and certainly a quadrans. Scholars have decided that the semis was introduced by Nero, so any earlier small coin is a quadrans. 
 


Identified Emperors


Caligula (37-41) and Claudius (41-54) issued well-known types that can be found in pleasing condition. 

Caligula, 37-41. Quadrans.
Cap of liberty between S and C
C CAESAR DIVI AVG P ROIVA  xxx
RCC with legend around:
PON M TRP IIII PP COS DES IIII   xxx
The meaning of RCC may not be obvious to us, but scholars have decided it means
"Remissa ducentesima", that is "relief from the tax of one part in two hundred"  

 

 

 

 

Claudius, 41 - 54. Quadrans.
Struck 41
xxx mm.
TI CLAVDIVS CAESAR AVG
around modius on three legs
PON M TRP IMP COS DES IT
(Pontifex Maximus, Tribunica Potestas, Imperator, Consul Designate for the second time)
around SC
RIC 84

The modius refers to xxxx

 

Claudius, 41-54. Quadrans.
[Another example similar to, but with a different date, than the one with the same design above (third on this page).]
TI CLAVDIVS CAESAR AVG around hand holding balance, PNR between pans.
PON M TRP IMP COS DES IT around SC
RIC 85, page 126. Plate 16.85. "25 January 41 - 3 Dec. 41"

 

 


Nero, 54-68

15 mm. Quadrans.
Nero, 54-68, struck c. 64
NERO CLAV CAE AVG GER
Helmet right, on column. Round shield leans on it, spear transverse to right behind.
PM TRP IMP PP
upright olive branch, S C on either side. 
RIC 255

 

 

Nero, 54-68, struck 64. Quadrans.
15 mm. 
NERO CLAV CAE AVG
eagle (or owl?), wings spread, standing facing on garlanded rectangular altar
PM TRP IMP PP
upright olive branch, S C on either side. 
RIC 262.

 

 
Nero, 54-68, struck 65.
16 mm.
NERO CLAV CAE AVG GER
Owl, wings spread, on rectangular (circular) altar.
PM TRP IMP PP
Helmet right, on column. Round shield leans on it, spear transverse to right behind.
No "S C".
RIC 322.

 

 

[Repeated from above. Skip the description if you remember it.]
Nero, 54-68. RIC says struck "up to the course of 66."
16 mm and thicker than his quadrantes.
NERO CAESA-R AVG IMP
Head of Nero right, laureate
CER QVI-N-Q ROM-CO
CER(tamina) QVINQ(uennalia) ROM(ae) CON(stituta)

"After the Greek fashion, a triple entertainment, consisting of music, gymnastics, and equestrianism" Stevenson, DRC.
Table, seen from front right, with urn and wreath on top, front panel with two griffins confronted, globe on floor below, and SC in exergue.
RIC 234 
Also, the portrait suggests it is a semis. If the current scholarly classification scheme is correct, quadrans coins until Trajan do not have portraits.

 

Vespasian and Titus (69-79-81)

Vespasian and Titus issued only a few quadrans pieces, most with low-quality strikes. Lamb [page 45] says "production seems to be at no more than 10-15% of the volume maintained by the Julio-Claudians." 

Vespasian, 68-79
IMP VESP xxxx
Modius
PM TRP PP COS III
Standard between S and C.
 

This is a plate coin in Lamb's article, #13, which he remarks is "cold struck." 

 

 

We might hypothesize that inflation made the denomination worth less effort to produce. Nevertheless, Domitian revived it with a range of well-produced types.

Domitian (81-96)

Domitian issued quite a number of quadrans types with his name, but not his portrait. He greatly increased the supply of small change by minting and sending to the legions in the north much more small change than previous emperors [van Heesch, p.130]. These are undated, but the title "GERM" puts them at or after the resumption of AE coinage in AD 84. RIC puts most in AD 85. 

Domitian
18 mm.
IMP DOM-IT AVG GERM
Helmeted head of Minerva right.
Olive branch between S C in lower field.
RIC 428, page 207, plate 140 "AD 85". 
BMC 81.11, page 410.
Sear 2827.

 

 

 

Domitian
18 mm.
IMP DOMIT AVG GERM
Helmeted head of Minerva right
Large S C in laurel wreath
RIC II.I 235, page 282, plate 140 "AD 85"
BMC 484
Sear 2824

 

 

Domitian
19-17 mm.
IMP DOMIT AVG GERM COS XI (AD 85)
Ceres bust right, wreathed with grain
Modius and grain ears, S C
RIC II.I 315, page 286, plate 143 
BMC 321, page 368
Sear 2828 bust right variety

 

 

Domitian
18 mm. Semis. 3.03 grams.
IMP DOMIT AVG GERM COS XV (AD 90-91)
Apollo head, laureate right, branch before
Raven standing right on branch, SC below
RIC II.I 710, page 316, plate 155 [The RIC plates coin gives Ceres features like Domitian]
BMC 453
Sear 2822

 

 

 

 

Domitian. 20-19 mm.
Semis.
IMP DOMIT AVG GERM COS XI, Apollo head right
tripod, S C on either side
RIC II.1 311 "Struck 85"
Sear --, would follow 2821.

 

 

[Repeated from above]
Domitian, 81-96
17 mm.
Rhinoceros left (with two horns)
IMP DOMIT AVG GERM around S C
RIC II.I 250, struck 84-85
Struck 83-85 [Buttrey]

 

 

Nerva (96-98)

Nerva, 96-98.
16 mm. 2.53 grams. 
IMP NERVA CAES AVG
modius with four ears of grain
winged caduceus, S C
RIC II Nerva 113 "undated"
Sear 3066
BMC 148

The reverse resembles the reverse on the unattributed "anonymous" coin above, which suggests that coin might also be of Nerva. 

 

 

 

Trajan (98-117)

Trajan issued quadrantes with and without his portrait. There are several varieties with a wolf on the reverse with no legend other than SC.

Trajan, 98-117
17 mm. 3.91 grams.
IMP CAES NERVA TRAIAN AVG
Head right, laureate
wolf standing left, SC in exergue
RIC 694 page 293
BMC 1061, page 226 "undated"
Sear 3246 "AD 107"

 

 

 

 

Trajan, 98-117
15 mm. 2.67 grams.
IMP CAES TRAIAN AVG GERM
Hercules head right, bearded
wolf standing left, SC in exergue
RIC 792 has this obverse with a boar walking right
BMC 1063/1060 variety left
Sear II --, obverse of 3248

 

 

 

Trajan, 98-117
16 mm. 
IMP CAES TRAIAN AVG GERM
Hercules head right, bearded
boar standing right, S C in exergue
RIC II 702, page 294. Illustration of 691, but described there as a wolf.
It can be hard to tell if a wolf or a boar was intended.

 

 

[another example]
Trajan, 98-117
15 mm. 2.78 grams.
IMP CAES TRAIAN AVG GERM
Hercules head right, bearded
boar standing right, S C in exergue
RIC II 702, page 294. Illustation of 691, but described there as a wolf.
It can be hard to tell if a wolf or a boar was intended.

 

 

Trajan, 98-117
15 mm.
IMP CAES TRAIAN AVG GERM
Head of Hercules right/his club between SC
Fortunately the obverse legend names Trajan.
RIC II 699, page 293, plate XII, 212.

 

 
Trajan, 98-117
19 mm. 3.31 grams. Semis.
IMP CAES NERVA TRAIAN AVG
laureate head right
gaming table, on which rests an urn and wreath with palm branch
RIC 685, page 292, plate XII.211 (reverse only)
BMC 1068, page 226, plate 43.13
Hill 232 "issue 10, donative, AD 105"
Under earlier emperors quadrantes did not have portraits. Under Trajan they sometimes do. However, the larger size of this one allows us to decide it is a semis.

 

 

Trajan
19 mm. Orichalcum semis.  Antioch mint.
IMP CAES NER TRAIANO OPTIMO AVG GER
Radiate bust right, drapery on far shoulder
S C in wreath, DAC PARTHICO PM TR POT XX COX VI PP [mostly illegible here]
RIC 645, page 290, plate 12.209 (reverse only)
BMC 1103, page 233, plate 45.8
Metcalf ANSMN 22 (1977) plate 8.1.
McAlee Antioch 516

Both the yellow color of orichalcum and the radiate crown indicate this is a semis.

 

 

 


Hadrian (117-138)

[Repeated from above]
19 mm. Quadrans? It has the diameter, but not the portrait, of the next coin.
eagle front, head right
thunderbolt above SC

Fortunately the legend
IMP CAESAR TRAIAN HADRIANVS AVG
names the emperor Hadrian (117-138)
and the reverse
PM TRP COS III
narrows the date range to 119-125
RIC 624. BMC 1278. Sear 3704

 

 

Hadrian
19 mm. Semis
HADRIANVS AVGVSTVS
Bust right, laureate, draped, and cuirassed
COS III
Roma seated left holding Victory and long scepter, SC in exergue
RIC 685, page 428. "AD 125-128". 
BMC 1356, page 441, plate 83.7.
Sear II 3700, page 170.

 

 

 

 

 

Hadrian (117-138)
21-20 mm. Semis. 3.87 grams.
HADRIANVS AVGVSTVS
Bust right, laureate, draped, and cuirassed  [double struck so the eye and nose appear twice, once with the neck at 7:00]
COS III
Lyre, S C either side
RIC 688, page 428, plate XV.312
BMC 1360, plate 83.9.
Sear II 3701.

This coin, at 21-20 mm, is larger than a quadrans. 

 

 

 

Antoninus Pius (138-161)

Antoninus Pius (138-161)
18-16 mm. Quadrans or semis. 2.55 grams.
ANTONINVS - AVG PIVS PP
Head right. laureate
COS III
Owl, eagle and peacock
for the Capitoline triad of Minerva, Jupiter, and Hera.
RIC III A.P. 709a, struck "140-144"
Sear II 4326

 

 

 

There are quadrantes attributed to Antoninus Pius that do not have his name on them.

 

Anonymous Quadrantes
 

Anonymous.
19 mm. This is large enough to be a semis. 
Head of Jupiter, right
Eagle standing right on thunderbolt, head left, S C either side
 

Look at the bust. Does it remind you of any emperor?
Lamb suggests it was struck by Antoninus Pius.
RIC II 2, page 216

Sear I, 2916

 

 

 

Anonymous.
15 mm. 1.86 grams.
Head of Jupiter, right
Eagle standing right on thunderbolt, head left, S C either side.

Look at the bust. Does it remind you of any emperor?
The obverse description is the same as the previous coin, but the bust is much different and the coin is smaller. This one has the chin line of Marcus Aurelius, not Antoninus Pius. A cataloger might describe the two with the same words, but a collector would be justified in considering them different types. 

 

 

How can this coin with the same type as the previous coin be so much smaller? 
   I don't know. Maybe the previous coin is really a semis and this is its half. Maybe enough time has elapsed between them such that, with inflation, the denomination became smaller. Maybe the metal of this one is orichalcum (it appears to be), worth more by weight, so the coins could be smaller and worth the same if the larger one is copper. We know that there are no quadrantes or other small imperial coins like this after Marcus. Maybe this was one of the last and so small and of such low value that the denomination was discontinued. The next coin is relevant.

Anonymous.
13 mm. 
Minerva bust right, helmeted and draped
Owl half-right, facing, S C either side.

This coin is even smaller than the previous one. If the quadrans is the smallest denomination, this must be a quadrans. Maybe it is unusually small, but if not, then the two larger coins above are hard to explain, given the semis usually has a portrait of the emperor.

 

 

Anonymous.
15-14 mm. 2.72 grams.
Venus head right, draped
Dove standing right, S C 
RIC II 24, page 218.

Sear I 2924, page 520
Nothing on this coin suggests any particular emperor.
Lamb article type 46.

 

 

Anonymous.
15 mm. 2.84 grams.
Minerva bust right, helmeted and draped.
Owl standing left, head facing.
RIC II 8, page 216.
Sear I 2918v (owl's body facing the other way)

 

[Repeated from above]
An "anonymous" quadrans
15mm.
Attributed to the period from Hadrian to Antonius Pius (117-161).
winged petasus (cap of Mercury)
winged caduceus, S C on either side.

Nothing on the coin suggests a particular emperor.
However, there is, below, a quadrans of Nerva with the same reverse.
Perhaps that is enough to infer this coin is likely of Nerva (96-98).

 

 

[Repeated from above]
18 mm. 
Bust of helmeted Mars right
Cuirass with S C  
RIC II page 218, 19.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Republican Quadrantes

The first Roman coins were very large base-metal cast pieces issued in the early third century BC. The Roman as was originally a whopping coin weighing a Roman pound of twelve ounces and the quadrans weighed one quarter of that--three ounces. Under the financial strains of third-century wars their sizes decreased dramatically and by the middle of the second century BC the as and quadrans had become much smaller and seldom issued. The silver denarius dominated the official currency, almost to the exclusion of other denominations. The Roman state issued very little new small change, so the old copper coins served to fill the need and remained in circulation and became very worn. Also, small coppers were both imported from elsewhere and produced unofficially.  

The Republican as denomination was distinguished by three dots. The three dots on each side refer to 3 ounces among 12 in an as, making four of these to an as.  The next two are quadrantes.

Anonymous Republican Quadrans.
Anonymous, 128 BC, but likely to have been issued by a Caecilius Metellus (because of the elephant's head which that family used).
21-20 mm. 7.35 grams.
Head of Hercules right in lion-skin headdress, three dots vertically behind.
Prow right, elephant's head above, ROMA below, three dots vertically to the right.

Crawford 262/4. Sear 1163.

The quadrans of 128 BC is still much larger and heavier than it will eventually become. 

 

 

Anonymous Republican quadrans
dated 91 BC
19 mm. 3.86 grams (half the weight of the previous quadrans)
Head of Hercules right in lion-skin headdress, three dots vertically behind.
Prow right, ROMA above, three dots below.
Crawford 339/4a. Sear 1195.

 

 

 

Republican quadrantes continue the Hercules/prow type. After c. 86 BC the denomination was discontinued and not revived until Augustus.

Here is a page of references on the quadrans denomination.

This is the end of the survey of the quadrans denomination. 

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