Control-marks (it’s a disease!)

Really! I think anyone spending enough time with the Roman republican coin series is going to end up infected with this obsession–perhaps episodic, perhaps just a steady growth–but its nearly unavoidable.  I say this as a warning that you might not wish to read this.  You think you’re immune, but you’re not.

Anyway.  I’m trying to contextualize the types I’m writing up from the Schaefer archive for this article and I realized I needed a better big picture.  Others have done this type of work before (thinking fondly of RBW esp.), but sometimes getting into the numbers and patterns just helps me get my head in the problem.

Here’s the timeline version. (you’re going to want to click on it to make it bigger, but, again, I did warn you that you might wanna avoid this whole topic…)


Thick outline means its likely intended to be one control mark per die at least for a defined portion of the issue.  Shading means reverse and obverse control marks are paired in some logical way.  L = Letter system, N = Number System, S = symbol system present in a given year.  Issues have been assigned to year in deference to Mattingly, Hersh Walker, Hollstein, and Lockyear over Crawford. Years are still in the vast majority of cases APPROXIMATE, as is sequence.  Yellow is me getting my eye into gaps.

Of the 65 issues that are control marked (in this period–I’m not dealing with RRC 22/1):

37, or 57% seem intended to be one die per control mark

19, or 29% seem to have no such intention

9, or 14% fall into the ‘its complicated’ category broadly defined

Of these 65 issue, the systems used are:

75% – letter based

38% – number based

37% – symbol based

17% – engage in some sort of logical pairing between reverse and obverse

34% – mix two or more systems (letter, number, and/or symbols)

Letters are always in fashion, symbols appear briefly c. 100 BCE, but number and symbols don’t start regular use until c. 92 BCE or shortly after.  After 81 BCE numbers are more popular than letters.

Here’s my other tabulation view which I used to build timeline (because if you’ve read this far in this post you probably actually like this sort of thing):





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