Aurelian and the mark VSV: Some neglected possibilities
Royal Numismatic Society
Aurelian’s reform of the coinage in the spring of 274 saw the introduction of several new marks upon it. The weight of the aureus was restored to what it had been under Caracalla, so that it was now struck at the rate of 50 to the lb, and the marks IL or I.L were added to the exergue of some coins, where I is the Roman numeral 1 and L the Roman numeral 50, in order to indicate this fact. The weight and silver content of the antoninianus was restored, so that this new coin, the aurelianus as it is now known, contained about 5% silver, and the marks XXI, XX.I or KA were added to the exergue, where XX is the Roman numeral 20, K the Greek numeral 20, and A the Greek numeral 1, in order to indicate this fact, that the coin contained 20 parts of alloy for 1 part of silver. Finally, a laureate denarius was re-introduced which bore the same relationship to the aurelianus as the denarius had borne to the antoninianus when Caracalla had first introduced this in 215, that is, the aurelianus was tariffed at 2 laureate denarii, even though it only weighed 1.6 denarii, and the mark VSV was added to the exergue of some of these denarii. This mark is quite different to the marks on the aureus or the aurelianus in that it cannot be resolved to read one or two simple numbers, whether in Latin or Greek. Technically, it could be read as a full word in itself, the ablative case of the noun usus ‘use’, but this does not seem to make sense in the context. Consequently, three different approaches to it have been adopted over the last century.
Aurelian , Laureate denarius , VSV
Woods, D. (2013) 'Aurelian and the mark VSV: Some neglected possibilities', Numismatic Chronicle, 173, pp. 137-149.
© 2013, Royal Numismatic Society.