Paul DiMarzio submitted this review of "ERIC II", "The Encyclopedia of Roman Imperial Coins II" by Rasiel Suarez. Thanks!
When I first became interested in the Roman imperial coinage, I – like many before me – initially turned to David Van Meter’s “Handbook of Roman Imperial Coins” and the 4th edition of David Sear’s “Roman Coins and their values” (RCV) to help me attribute and catalog the coins that I began to acquire. Each is a single-volume reference that provides the level of information that a beginner needs to start collecting in this area.
Of course you pay a price for trying to collapse five centuries of coinage into a single compact volume: only a small subset of the vast coinage can be included. As the collector becomes more advanced and begins to acquire a broader range of material, more inclusive references are required.
Sear recognized this more than a decade ago, and launched the Millennium Edition revision of RCV. However, what was once a single volume has expanded to five, two of which are yet to be published.
For decades, the gold standard for comprehensive coverage of the Roman imperial period has been “The Roman Imperial Coinage” (RIC), a massive 10-volume reference published over many years beginning in the 1920s. In addition to being far larger than a single volume, much of the data in RIC has been superseded by more recent scholarship and additional reference material must often be consulted.
So is it possible to cover the Roman imperial coinage in a single, comprehensive, up-to-date volume? This is the question that Rasiel Suarez sought to answer when he first published “The Encyclopedia of Roman Imperial Coins” (ERIC) in 2005. Although ERIC I did not quite get there in terms of completeness, I believe that the newly revised ERIC II hits the mark.
What I like the most about ERIC (both I and II) is the focus on the needs of the collector as opposed to the numismatic researcher. This collector-oriented focus is most evident in the way that Suarez has organized his material and the shorthand that he developed to express the listings.
RIC was written by numismatic scholars and is organized to reflect how the coinage evolved over time. While this level of information is extremely important, it can make it difficult for the average collector to locate the listing for a given coin. I have found this to be especially true for more obscure issuers and for types that were issued intermittently over a broad span of years.
Suarez deliberately sacrifices the scholarship of RIC in order to deliver a system for quickly locating and attributing any given Roman imperial coin. The material in ERIC is organized by ruler, bust, obverse and reverse legend, reverse type and mint, and the shorthand used in the catalog makes it easy to match a coin with its listing – even if some of the information is unavailable due to poor coin quality or legends that run off-flan. This shorthand also allows for a significant number of listings to be included in a reasonable amount of space.
Suarez has also put a great deal of effort into providing an extensive set of high-quality, full-color photographic plates that illustrate the variety of obverse busts and reverse types associated with each issuer. This is a very useful attribution tool, and anyone accustomed to working with the RIC plates (especially the photographic reprints) will appreciate the breadth, organization and quality of the images in ERIC.
I would recommend ERIC as a compliment, not a replacement, to other references. You’ll probably still want Van Meter or the 4th Edition of RCV on hand to toss in your bag for coin shows or club meetings: at 10 lbs, ERIC II is not exactly portable! I will often take RCV to a club meeting to work out rough attributions, then fine-tune when I’m back home. I have also been keeping up with the Millennium Edition of RCV because the value data is more granular that what you will find elsewhere. And of course, nothing beats RIC for understanding the historical context of your collection. I keep all of these references on hand, including ERIC, because they each serve a specific need.
ERIC II is a smart addition to your numismatic library for its single-volume completeness, collector-friendly catalog, and fabulous plates.
To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
NEW BOOK: THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ROMAN IMPERIAL COINS, SECOND EDITION
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ROMAN IMPERIAL COINS HIGHLY SOUGHT
THE BOOK BAZARRE
RENAISSANCE OF AMERICAN COINAGE
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