Constantius II AE3. 337-341 AD. CONSTAN-TIVS AVG, pearl-diademed head
right / GLOR-IA EXERC-ITVS, two soldiers holding spears and shields with
one standard between them, dot on banner, dot to left and right of top
of banner. Mintmark SMANS. RIC VIII Antioch 54.
Today a boring, but important, bit of information about interpreting catalogues and other materials describing coins. The coin image above comes from wildwinds.com, a resource for collectors and scholars that I often rely on heavily for high-quality images of the coins I want to discuss. Below it are two different descriptions of the same (in the first case) or very similar (in the second) case.
The essentials of the coin are this: it is a bronze coin of Constantius II (second son of Constantine I, the one you’ve heard of), struck in Antioch, Syria, between 337-341 CE. It shows the emperor on the obverse, and praises the Roman army on the reverse.
The two catalogues, however, convey this information very differently. In the first instance, the catalogue is, quite casually, actually describing three coins, while in the second, it actually is accounting for 101 examples. In the second, one actually needs to refer to a “type chart” in order to know anything about the iconography of the coin, while the first example includes this in the immediate text.
Most catalogues have some kind of key at the start to explain the conventions they have adopted. However, while some elements of descriptions are now considered standard (weight and diameter, for example), there is still little consistency across publications. Read with care, and ask questions, should you come across particularly tricky ones.