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The E-Sylum:  Volume 10, Number 46, November 11, 2007, Article 5

BOOK REVIEW: ROMAN QUINARII BY CATHY E. KING

In late September the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford published
"Roman Quinarii From the Republic to Diocletian and the
Tetrarchy" by Cathy E. King.  King worked in the Ashmolean's
Heberden Coin Room for over thirty years, specializing in
Roman coinage of the third to fifth centuries.  The
460-page hardbound volume is distributed by Douglas Saville.
It features 37 plates of actual-size photographs, and 17
plates of enlargements.

It's a very fine production centering on a detailed
catalogue of these interesting little coins.  The silver
Roman quinarius was equivalent to half a denarius.  The
author notes in her Acknowledgements that the genesis of
the book was an article she wrote nearly thirty years ago
for a Festschrift in honor of Humphrey Sutherland.  It
was Carl Subak who suggested a book on the topic, and
King's work opens with a two-page Appreciation of Subak
by Michael Metcalf.  Born in Austria in 1919, Karl (later
changed to Carl) emigrated to the United States where he
ultimately became a leading midwest coin and stamp dealer.
Quinarii became a personal favorite of Carl's and he
assembled a fine collection of them, which now forms
the basis of King's book.

According to Metcalf, "Quinarii tend to be very scarce
coins.  They are not to be had just for the asking and
imperial quinarii do not occur in hoards but tend to come
to light one by one. Much patience and persistence were
required, therefore, to build a reasonably complete,
rounded collection.  In the Heberden Coin Room Carl found
an experienced Roman numismatist, Dr Cathy King whom he
invited to write about quinarii based on his collection.
In the vast literature on Roman coinage, no book devoted
specifically to the history of this denomination had
been written."

The following notes are from the distributor's web site:
"The text has been divided into three chronological sections:
the Republic to Domitian; the second century ending with
Commodus; and the third century from AD 192 to Diocletian’s
reform. Within each, the focus is on explaining when and
where quinarii were minted, the way in which they operated
within the coinage, and how their function evolved over time.

Detailed analysis of the sequence of issues, mint attribution,
dating, and circulation also form a critical part of the
discussion supported by tables, graphs, and drawings. Two
bibliographies are also included; one general and one of
find spots."

It's easy to see why the project took thirty years to
complete.  Although the core of the work is based on the
Subak collection, the author cites examples of the denomination
from collections around the world and from catalogues published
over the last century.  Forty collections are specifically
cited, and the book has a six-page list of cited hoards and
a six-page bibliography.  It's an impressive yet very readable
publication making an important and pioneering contribution
to the literature on Roman coinage.  The price is £75 plus
postage (Within the UK £7.00 Europe £14.00 USA £22.00).

For more information (and to order the book) see:
More Info

[As a collector of primarily U.S. numismatics, I was not
familiar with Carl Subak.  Can any of our readers fill us
in with more information or stories about him as a numismatist
and coin dealer?  -Editor]

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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