When in Rome “Si Fueris Romae”

For our Stack’s Bowers Galleries Official Auction of the ANA World’s Fair of Money preview we showcase a very interesting ancient token. As summer heats up, this piece definitely provides some extra heat with its subject matter. These small bronze tokens were created, according to their obverse designs and scholarly research, for use as payment in brothels. Known as Tessera or Erotic Spintra, some theories also present the notion that they were used as gaming tokens. Their use in brothels seems supported by the ancient Roman historian Suetonius (most famous for his biography on the 12 Caesars), who states that bringing a coin or other object with the effigy of the Roman Emperor into a brothel was an act of treason punishable by law. These licentious tokens seem a good work-around to using common coinage when visiting an erotic establishment. The obverse design mirrors the Erotic Frescoes found on the wall of the brothel in Pompeii.

The obverse design shows an erotic scene, with a man kneeling between the legs of his companion. The woman reclines with a slightly erect torso with her back against a cushion atop a low couch. Curtains hang from the table and above the couch and help to frame the promiscuous scene, with a linear border around. The reverse displays a prominent Roman numeral “XV” (for 15) within a dotted border, surrounded by a wreath. This piece is dated to the time of Tiberius, A.D. 14-37, though it was not officially issued by the second Roman Emperor. The famed debauchery of Roman times comes to life with these bronze pieces, and as the famous saying goes: “When in Rome… do as the Romans do”.

Look for this and other ancient and world numismatic rarities in our Official Auction of the ANA World’s Fair of Money this August in Chicago. Preview this impressive coin along with the rest of our auction this July at the Stack’s Bowers Galleries office located in Irvine, California. For details please refer to the Events Calendar link at To schedule an appointment, please call 800.458.4646. While our August ANA World’s Fair of Money Auction is closed for further consignments, we are currently taking consignments of ancient and world coins for our Official Auction of the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Baltimore Expo in November and our January 2015 New York International Auctions. Time is running short, so if you are interested in consigning your coins and paper currency (whether a whole collection or a single rarity) be sure to contact one of our consignment directors.

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