The Otis J. Todd Collection

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This collection was donated to the department by Douglas Todd in memory of his father Otis Johnson Todd, one of the founders of the Classics Department at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Todd was born in Garland, Pennsylvania in 1883, the ninth child of the Reverend Hollis Devillo and Laura Anne Todd. He financed his own education at Harvard University through a number of scholarships, obtaining his B. A. in 1906 and his PhD in 1914. He taught Greek and Latin at Whitman College (1906-12) and Carleton College (1915-18), but desirous of a teaching position where the climate was mild and the geography was beautiful, he accepted an appointment at the University of British Columbia in 1918.

Dr. Todd enjoyed a long and successful career at UBC, teaching over a number of successive appointments as Professor of Greek, Latin and Classics from 1918 to 1952. He became Head of the Classics Department from 1941 to 1949. Dr. Todd’s publications include his text and translation of Xenophon’s Banquet and Socrates’ Defence to the Jury for Loeb Classical Library (1923), and the monumental Index Aristophanes for Harvard University Press (1932). He also wrote numerous articles for classical journals. He had a passion for music and sports, and will always be remembered for his contributions to the field of Classical Studies.

The O. J. Todd Coin Collection was digitized by Chloe Martin-Cabanne during the summer of 2015, and is now published online at our artifact collection website.


The coin collection spans over seven hundred years of history, from Classical Greece to the end of the Roman Empire. It is especially useful for studying the evolving style of Roman coinage from 350 BC to 350 CE. The collection is mainly comprised of coins from the Roman Empire, though there are also a number of examples from the Roman Republic, Greece and India.


Corinthian drachma

Our oldest coin is a Corinthian drachma from the late 4th century BC, featuring Pegasus beneath koppa (Ϙ) for Corinth on the obverse, and Aphrodite bare-headed on the reverse. During the early 3rd century BC, the Romans began to standardize their coinage, modelling after that of the Greeks in South Italy. Rome’s final naval triumph against Carthage during the First Punic War (264-41) was celebrated by the issue of the Janus/Prow series of struck bronze coins known as aes graves, in use until the last century of the Roman Republic.

Silver denarius of Ti. Minucius

Silver denarius of Ti. Minucius

A wide range of gods and goddesses were depicted on the reverse of denarii during the mid 2nd century BC. This denarius of Marcus Vargunteius is an excellent example, featuring the head of Roma on the obverse and Jupiter driving a triumphal chariot on the reverse. As the 2nd century progressed, the triumviri monetalis (moneyers) who were responsible for the minting of Roman coinage began to use coins to celebrate their ancestry and power in Roman civic culture. We have a denarius of Tiberius Minucius in our collection, featuring the Minucii ancestors standing on either side of a monument divided by two ears of grain. This was a token of the special interest that the family kept in the corn supply.

Denarius of Marc Antony

Denarius of Mark Antony

The 1st century BC saw a trend towards explicit individuality in the references displayed on coinage. Coins could be used to celebrate the achievements, as is the case for this denarius of Marcus Fonteius, who celebrates his campaigns as propraetor of Gallia Narbonensis (76-73 BC) by featuring a soldier on horseback thrusting his spear at his enemy in a Gallic helmet on the reverse of his coin. Military coinage during the late 1st century BC continued this trend, and a characteristic of the tumultuous period surrounding Julius Caesar’s murder (44 BC) was the issue of coins specifically designed to pay the fleet and legions. This denarius of Mark Anthony was produced in preparation for his final struggle against Octavian. The coin honours the legions by depicting a praetorian galley being rowed on the obverse of the coin, and a legionary eagle between two standards on the reverse.

Orichalcum coin of Trajan

Orichalcum coin of Trajan

The Civil Wars (49-31 BC) caused havoc on the Roman economy, with powerful individuals simplifying currency by producing vast amounts of coinage in order to pay their troops. Augustus reformed Roman coinage, fashioning a new imperial base metal currency of orichalcum and copper denominations, which held a fixed exchange value against gold and silver coins. His reforms were immensely successful and led to the widespread distribution and use of Roman coins throughout the Empire until the 3rd century BC. During the reign of Tiberius (14-37 CE), imperial iconography began to dominate coin types, carrying portraits of the deified Augustus or Tiberius. He soon began to issue a uniform silver denarius referred to as the ‘Tribute Penny’ (so-called because it was contemporary with Christ), upon which the reverse shows an enthroned female personification with the attributes of Pax, often associated with his mother Livia. This type was continued with only minor changes throughout Tiberius’ reign.

The Flavian emperors continued to produce coinage in the Augustan tradition, often reviving coin types which had been employed during the Republic. One example is this denarius of Vespasian, in keeping with the Imperial tradition of the emperor’s portrait on the obverse of the coin, but also reviving the Republican tradition of displaying a deity – Pax in this case – on the reverse of the coin. Domitian regarded Minerva as his special patroness, and many of his coins illustrate this theme with representations of the goddess in fighting or victorious stances.

Galleria Faustina

Galleria Faustina

The period of Adoptive emperors, is widely regarded as the golden age of the Roman Empire. The epoch saw a succession of long-lived and stable rulers, unthreatened by internal or external enemies, causing the empire to flourish during an age of prosperity. The portraiture of Hadrian (117-138 CE) depicts the ideal Roman emperor, with qualities of decisiveness, restraint and concentration. His successor, Antoninus Pius (138-161 CE) devoted much of his coinage to honouring family members: when his wife Galleria Faustina died in 140 CE, Antoninus preserved her memory by minting commemorative coins with her portrait on them, often assimilating her with the attributes of goddesses. The coinage of Marcus Aurelius (161-180 CE) follows many of the same traditions as his predecessors, featuring fine compositions without too much innovation.

There are many more coins to explore in the O. J. Todd Collection, including coins from the Severan dynasty, the Crisis of the Third Century, the Tetrarchy, and the rule of Constantine the Great and his successors. We hope that by digitizing this collection, we enrich the research of students, scholars and the general public.

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