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Roman Mint Marks

Mint Marks are awesome ! You can use them to determine the city where your coins were produced.

These marks were first used by Roman mints in the latter part of the third century (about 270 AD), and they were regularly used starting in the late third century, under the reign of Diocletian.

The exergue, or very bottom of the coin’s reverse, is where mint markings are usually always seen.
This may or may not be set apart from the field by a line.
But, occasionally they might be found between the tiny figurines of the emperor and Jupiter, the Sun, or another god who frequently appear standing on the reverse.

The first few letters of the city were typically included in the mint marks, but several abbreviations were also used.
As a result, some coins may only have one letter, such as A, while others may have three or four letters, such as ARL, both of which are from the same city, Arelatum.

However, there is occasionally confusion because the same letter may be used for two distinct cites, or in one instance it may stand for the workshop (with the city not stated), and in another situation it may merely be the city (with the workshop not indicated).

In certain circumstances, you may need to use the RIC catalog or have additional in-depth knowledge, such as the coin’s style, to correctly identify the mint.
This is also true for coins that were produced before mint markings were ever used, however certain emperors only issued coins in particular towns, at particular dates, or in particular mints that only produced coins in particular metals.
Books will be very helpful in determining where the majority of coins were manufactured, and over time, one may begin to remember some of the details.

Table 1 provides a list of the mint marks that were applied on Roman Imperial coins along with the city’s modern name and location.
Some of the mint marks may have the letters SM on them (for an explanation, see 5.1 below), which are displayed if they were often used in that city.

As you can see, the mints were distributed from England to Africa and Asia Minor.
Nonetheless, not all of them were in operation at once, and some were either open for a brief time or operated by a single emperor.

Yet the bigger ones were in use for a very long time.
You may find images of Roman buildings online, along with historical details for many of the cities where your coins were produced. Consider locations like Arles in France, Carthage in North Africa, London in England, or Trier in Germany, as examples.

Table 1: Roman Mint Marks and Workshops

Mint Mark City Current Name
AL, ALE, ALEX, SMAL Alexandria Alexandria, Egypt
AMB, AMBI Ambianum Amiens, France
AN, ANT, SMAN Antioch Antakiyah, Syria
AQ, AQVI, AQPS, SMAQ Aquileia Aquileia, Italy
A, AR, ARL, CON, CONST, KON Arelatum/Constantia Arles, France
BA, SMBA Barcino Barcelona, Spain
C, CL Comulodunum Colchester, England
C, CON, CONS Constantinople Istanbul, Turkey
K, KAR, KART Carthage Near Tunis, N. Africa
CVZ, CYZ, K, KV, KVZ, SMK, CM Cyzicus Kapu Dagh, Turkey
H, HER, HT, HERACL, SMH Heraclea Eregli, Turkey
L, LN, LON, ML, MLN, MN Londinium London, England
LD, LG, LVG, LVGD Lugdunum Lyon, France
PLG, RPLC, RSLC, RPLG, RSLG Lugdunum Lyon, France
MD, MED Mediolanum Milan, Italy
N, NIC, NICO, NIK, SMN Nicomedia Izmit, Turkey
OST, MOST Ostia Port of Rome Rome, Italy
RV, RVPS Ravenna Ravenna, Italy
R, RM, ROM, ROMA, VRB ROM Roma Rome, Italy
SIS, SISC, SMSIS Siscia Sisak, Croatia
SD, SER, SMSD Serdicia Sophia, Bulgaria
SM, SIR, SIRM Sirmium Near Mitrovica, Kosovo
TE, TES, TS, THS, THES, OES Thessalonica Thessaloniki, Greece
T Ticium Pavia, Italy
TR, TRE, SMTR Treveri Trier, Germany

SM = Sacra Moneta : Sacred (Imperial) Money
M = Moneta
P = Pecunia : money
XX, XXI or KA : 5% silver
Latin Workshop Letter : P, S, T, Q, V, VI (1 to 6)
Greek Workshop Numerals : A, B, Γ, ∆, E, Z, H, Θ, ED, I, AI, BI, ΓI, ∆I, EI (1 to 15)

were possibly employed by a mint to locate the coin’s precise point of production within a mint, or the person(s) in charge of their minting. Their precise intent and use are unclear.

In early fourth-century coins, particularly those of Constantine the Great, control marks are fairly common.
Take Figure 17, for instance, where the field contains the letters S F.

On a few of Constantius II’s coins, you can find a rare instance of the employment of a workshop number.
They employ the letters OF I or OF II to indicate the officina (in this example, the first or second workshop).
This practice was not widespread however.

Reading the Roman Mint Marks

The excitement of collecting is increased when one is aware of the particular location where a coin was struck.
Many well-known cities had mints that produced Roman Imperial coins, including Rome, Alexandria, and London (yes, London, England).

There are numerous permutations, as you can see, with letters appearing before or after the city mark.
Yet, it is quite easy to identify the city if you have a chart of mint marks and some practice.

SMALA = (Sacra Moneta) Alexandria, 1st workshop
HΓ = Heraclea, 3rd workshop
TRS = Treveri, 2nd workshop
STR = same as above, Treveri, 2nd workshop
XXIR = Rome
SISB = Siscia, 2nd workshop
TT = Ticium, 3rd workshop

By the way, the initials OB, which stand for obryziacum, the technical name for pure gold, were frequently added to gold coins from the eastern mints after the city mark.
The letter PS, which is derived from the Latin term pusulatum, or “pure silver,” would be found on silver coins.
In other words, CONOB stands for pure gold of Constantinople.