The quadrans was a rare denomination. Richard Reece wrote about the frequencies of low denomination coins found in the Cloaca Maxima.
The next section, including the table and comments on it, is quoted directly from the article cited below.
Finally there is the Cloaca Maxima. This must be one of the sources for the general finds of coins which were made when the Tiber was straightened, dredged, and entravertined at the end of the 19th century as part of Rome' rejuvenation to become the Italian capital. The coins are most easily accessible in my published paper (Reece 1973) I reproduce the earliest coins here for ease of reference:
Two accusations of bias have been made against this material; first that as it has not been excavated from a known site we do not know how it come to be a group, so we do not know what the bias may be; second, that in the actual finding small coins may have been disregarded, or simply not found or kept. Few sites in and around Rome (1980) have been excavated with perfect method, although we now have coin lists from a few villa sites in which can have confidence, and from the work at Ostia. The representation of denominations on these sites is similar to that of the Tiber finds and this encourages me to use them. The evidence from the Tiber is also congruent, as we shall see with the evidence from the texts, and this again seems a point in favour of its use.
Bearing in mind these criticisms it seems that, even in the centre of the Empire, in the lowest rubbish levels the smallest change is very scarce. (An exception is now known in the jars of change kept in several bars in Pompeii, but the general point holds) This does not mean that it was little used, for what little was issued may have been intensively used before loss. But proportions of coins lost must reflect the numbers of coins in circulation in some way, and the loss in the Tiber, bias ignored, was predominantly of asses and dupondii. This ties in with both the Gospels and the Satyricon. All the evidence combines to suggest that the smallest change was too small for general use—the quadrans on the muck-heap, the widow's halfquadrans, the uttermost quadrans, the 37 asses for every quadrans lost. And, in Rome at least, no mention that this is at all unsatisfactory. The widow's mite perhaps suggests that the eastern provinces, like Gaul, used smaller coins than the as.
Reece, Richard. 1981. "Roman monetary impact on the Celtic world—thoughts and problems." 1981. He writes, "[First published in ed. B Cunliffe, Coinage and Society in Britain and Gaul: some current problems. Research Report no 38, CBA, 1981, 24-8]. A view from the Roman side c. 1980 on the meeting of the Roman coinage with pre-existing 'national' coinages. The subject has moved on since then, particularly in the work of Stéphane Martin (2015) and the other research mentioned in that work."
The article is available at Academia.edu: https://www.academia.edu/38040107/Conquest_and_monetary_impact.doc
Reece, R, 1973. "Roman coinage in the western empire", Britannia, 4, 227-51
Return to the page on the quadrans denomination.