The Car as Excavation Site, or What I Found in the Back Seat

We’re headed on another road trip today and I’ve been meaning to clean out the car forever, so yesterday, I got out the shop vac and a trash bag and began work.  I found a lot of things in the car: socks, candy, uneaten granola bars, a headphone splitter, a phone charger, a hair dryer.  There’s also a lot of loose change.  It falls out of pockets.  It gets thrown around and ends up in cup holders, cracks in the seat, and on the floor.  I dutifully collect it all and deposit most of it into our coin jar, but one coin I picked up did not look like the others.  At first, I thought it might be a liberty dime.  It was old looking, for sure, and the engraving on it was impossible to read.  I handed it off to Mr. Geeky.  He said, “Cool.” Then Geeky Girl wandered in and we showed it to her.

And she said, “That looks like one of the coins we looked at in Latin class.”

“It’s a Roman coin?” I said.

“I think so.”

So, we started Googling.  In order to see it, we scanned it in.  Here are the images:

coin
Obverse of Coin

Coin
Reverse of Coin

You can click on the images to see them bigger.  It turns out it’s a version of a Commemorative Coin for Constantinople, minted around 330 AD. Around the bust on the front is CONSTANT-INOPOLIS. Victory is pictured on the reverse.  There are letters underneath, which vary.  I couldn’t find anything out about what those might stand for.  I thought they might indicate where the coin was minted (like our D,P, & S indications), but nothing in any of the stuff I could find online discussed this at all.  If you know anything more than I do, I’d love to find out more. I used to be a coin geek back in my pre-teen days, and I still think they’re pretty cool.

5 Replies to “The Car as Excavation Site, or What I Found in the Back Seat”

  1. The markings on the bottom of the reverse side should indeed denote the mint location (and possibly a little additional information); they’re also known as exergue markings. This post seems to have a pretty good explanation and list: http://tjbuggey.ancients.info/mints.html. Cool that you found the coin and were able to identify it; I’ve got a small collection at school as well if you want to look at any more. And you’re always welcome to join us when we do the project with the 6th graders if you have time (unlikely, I know!).

  2. Thanks so much for the info, Preston! Stephanie was the one who led us down the right path to start with, thanks to the 6th grade project. The letters are so hard to see, I’m not sure I can figure it out.

  3. Well, I was looking at this on my phone first, and for whatever reason it wouldn’t show me the reverse picture. Now that I’m on my computer, my best guess for that mint marking is SM_A. The SM would stand for sacra moneta – imperial money, according to that website – and I believe the A would refer to the workshop within the mint it was made at – in this case workshop (officina) 1. The letter that refers to the actual mint is the hardest to make out – as I glanced through city commemoratives from that time period, the possibilities seem to be K (I don’t think so), H, and N – could be either of those two, but I guess I lean towards H? That would Hereclea – now Eregli, Turkey – or Nicomedia – now Izmit, Turkey.

  4. Whoa, you found an ancient Roman coin in the back of your car? Wild! How did it get there? Did it fall into Geeky Girl’s bag when they were looking at them in class?

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