Around the middle the 3rd century C. E., Roman mints began incorporating mint marks on their coins - Roman Bureaucracy at work. This actually was part of a quality control endeavor to help regulate consistent coin weights across the empire. Collecting coins from the same mints or collecting a specific coin type from various mints, are directions many take in this hobby. Being able to read the mints is very helpful in fully attributing a coin and necessary if using RIC as your attribution source.
Mint marks contain one to three elements [Surprisingly, the Romans never established a consistent system for applying the mint marks]:1st - a letter: P (Pecunia = money), M (Moneta) or SM (Sacra Moneta = Imperial money).
With the monetary reforms of Aurelian and Diocletian came changes in the mint markings [or at least the notation in the exergue - the area at the bottom reverse of the coin]. Roman numerals appeared, the meaning of which is still debated. Often a single letter or a letter between stars is all that appears in the exergue. The table below lists the major Roman mints and their marks. This table appears several places on the internet so I am unsure of the source (although it parallels Sear and Van Meter texts) and I have added some more obscure mint sites.
Security and secrecy at the mints were of prime importance, as it is now. It is surprising how little has come down to us in written records or in artifacts. Worn and broken dies were probably recycled and records destroyed. There is a fascinating Roman Republican denarius depicting mint tools that was minted by T. Carisius. 46 BCE. The link to the left will take you to an example on Wildwinds.com. Occasionally counterfeiters' dies will be unearthed and in extremely rare occurances an official die will turn up. Recently a wonderful example of a Roman Republican die was sold at auction with an estimate of $12,000.
The Romans also used over 600 provincial mints in cities around the empire. For information on these, click here: Provincial mints.
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Go to Roman Empire and Mints Map