Sestertius of Nero (54 AD – 68)

J.R. writes: I have what appears to be a bronze or copper Roman coin. The inscription on the head side seems to say “Octavo Caesar^vccerpmtrpin” and then the writing is not decipherable. These words or letters circle the head, which is a profile. The person depicted may have on a helmet or it may just be hair that has been worn down. On the reverse side, there appears to be a gladiator or warrior in full dress and at the bottom of the full profile is the word ROMA. Could you please give me some indication of the period from which this is from as well as a value? Thank you.

One might think you had a sestertius of Octavian, the great nephew of Julius Caesar who later became Augustus, the first emperor of Imperial Rome (27 BC- 14 AD), but none of Octavian’s coins bear the word “Octavo”. Octavian is known as C. Caesar on many of the legends on his coins (Caius Octavius Thurinus).

What I think you might have is a Sestertius of Nero (54 AD – 68). This is a bronze coin about the diameter of a U.S. half dollar. There is the laureate head of Nero facing right with the legend NERO CLAVD CAESAR AVG GER PM TR PIMP PP around (note other letters are possible after “PM” in the legend; it depends on what year your coin was made). On the reverse is Roma seated on a cuirass (a kind of chair) holding Victory in his right hand and a parazonium (short sword in a sheath) with the left. His right foot is on a helmet. “S” and “C” are on either side (Senatus Consulto – means the coin was minted by the authority of the Roman Senate). In exergue (the dividing line below) is ROMA.

I think you mistook the last letter in “Nero” and added it to the following word so it looks like “OCLAVD” or, as you interpreted it, OCTAVO.

Value depends on condition. This coin is scarce in high grade. In very low grade it is fairly common to find in dealer bargain boxes. Value range in low grade: $20-$50. A high quality example brought $1,210 in the Bunker Hunt Sotheby’s sale in 1991.