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Roman Coin – Steampunk Inspired Display Stand

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The Coin


I haven’t been idle the last few months, just busy working on my next project. Last summer when we were out and about on a travelling weekend we stopped in at an antique store in Oconomowoc called “Curious Antiquities”. It was a really cool place with not just your normal old stuff. They had a mix of ancient coins, pre-Columbian, Egyptian and Roman artifacts. They also made reproduction arms and armaments.

While I mostly just liked looking at the stuff, as a memento of my visit I did purchase a “Roman Penny”, a bronze Roman coin. These were all dated to the later Roman Empire circa 200-450AD. Coins like these were pretty numerous back in the day and were in circulation for a long time. Because of this the Roman coins are both pretty worn and plentiful, meaning pretty low in price. Roman pennies are not made of a precious metal, being bronze, which also reduces their cost. I think I paid around $25 for the coin. Even so it is pretty amazing to own a small piece of history that is over 1500 years old.

This is the head side (Obverse) of the coin I purchased.

And this is the tail or reverse side of the coin. In this project I decided to make a display stand that would allow someone to examine the coin in some detail. The display also has have some of the information I was able to find out about the coin available on a framed plaque to one side.

The Completed Display

The gallery above shows the completed display stand. The Roman coin is mounted into a brass fixture that allows the coin to be flipped from the obverse to reverse sides without handling the coin.

The block is made from Ironwood and uses polished brass pieces to support and make a flipping hinge for the coin. The coin made this possible as the reverse side was inverted from the orientation of the obverse.

The Roman coin display stand also features a built in magnifier for closer inspection.

You can see this above.

In order to allow for better viewing, a small lamp was fabricated from brass and wood. As you will see later it is fashioned from a pen light that was cut off and mounted into the Ironwood head. The batteries are concealed inside the oak display main base.


Finally, a frame and plaque were created that gives a brief explanation of the markings and inscriptions found on the coin.

In an easier to read form here, you can see the actual images and writing that are found on the information plate.

So we can see that this coin was minted in Constantinople between 383 and 392AD in the time of the Emperor Valentinianus II. The reverse side has a common theme of “Victory holding a trophy and dragging a captive. It is inscribed “SALVS REIPVB:CAE” which means “The Safeguard of the State”. I was helped immensely in the research of this coin at where you can find all you need to know about these “Roman Pennies”. I will be adding more information in my typical fashion, showing the process of making this display. Any coin or item having both an obverse and reverse side of interest could use this display.

Block and Hinge

The first pieces I worked on were the block and hinge assembly.

The block was cut from a piece of Ironwood. The side pieces are 1/4 inch brass rod cut and drilled for mounting.

The drilled side pieces can be seen on the left above. Three brass plates were made to contain the coin. The middle plate was drilled and filed so that the coin would just fit inside. It was slightly thicker than the coin. A brass tube with a 1/16th inch ID was soldered to the bottom edge of the middle plate. Finally four holes were drilled and tapped to accept 4-40 brass screws. The outside plates were cut with an opening using a drill to the size of the coin. Smaller holes were drilled at opposite diagonals so each could be held to the middle plate with two screws. These are seen in the middle and right pictures.

Here the outside plates have been screwed to the center one. A 1/16th inch brass rod has been inserted through the brass tube and into the side pieces demonstrating how the hinge will be assembled.

In the top of this image is a lever piece that was fabricated to allow the hinge to be flipped up and down more easily.

The brass pieces were all disassembled and polished with iron oxide paste.

The polished pieces were then reassembled. The coin is held inside the plates with clear plastic sheeting on both sides of the coin.

On the left is a magnifier that allows the coin to be examined in detail. This was originally a clip on magnifier for on a pair of eye glasses. The picture on the right shows the block cut to size and drilled for mounting on the base. A small brass piece was fabricated to hold the magnifier in place on a brass rod. The magnifier can be moved to hover over either coin.

The Base and Battery Pocket

A piece of oak was used for the base. It was cut so that a small plaque can be mounted to the surface to the right of the coin block. You can also see where a hole was drilled and milled to accept two AA batteries that will power the lamp.

In the bottom of the hole for the battery a conductor plate was installed so that the two AA batteries could be wired in series. A brass plate was made that screws to the oak surface. It contains two 6-32 threaded holes for mounting another plate, seen in the bottom picture.

A small spring was soldered to the surface of the plate. This is the contact point for the negative terminal for the first battery.

A support frame was soldered to the plate. Nylon washers seen here act as insulators for the positive terminal of the second battery.

For the positive terminal a 6-32 brass screw is used as the conductor. It is prevented from shorting to the negative plate by using three nylon washers as insulators.

These are some more views of the battery terminal plate. Another spring has been soldered to the plate as the negative contact point for the second battery.

The Lamp Head

Before completing the base, a lamp was fabricated from brass 1/4 inch rod, a piece of Ironwood and a small pen light.

The pen light was cut off using the lathe and then wired so the light could be powered by the hidden battery.

The lamp is being tested in these images. It works!

A piece of Ironwood was turned on the lathe to create a lamp head that would match the block beneath the hinge.

After finishing the lamp head was notched and drilled for mounting it onto a 1/4 inch brass rod.

Lamp Arm

The lamp arm was made from 1/4 inch brass rod. These were drilled, tapped and milled so it would fit together with one joint. The forearm piece was notched so a small toggle switch could be inserted into it. A small brass cover plate was also created.

The iron would head piece was varnished and had two red stripes painted into the grooves turned into it when it was made. The the penlight piece was wired and inserted into the head. The positive wire (red) was soldered to the center contact of the light. The negative contact is the aluminum case of the penlight, so a notch was filed into it to accept the negative wire. These pen light pieces were then slid into the lamp head with the wires extending from the bottom.

The positive was soldered to the center contact on the toggle switch. The negative wire was soldered to a connector that is screwed to the brass forearm piece. The brass arm will act as the negative ground.

A round support was milled from a 3/4 inch brass rod. This allows the arm to slide into a notch where a knurled not can be finger tightened to set the arm at the desired angle. The bottom of the support was threaded so it can accept a longer brass screw that will hold it through a hole to a base. The spring hold the arm assembly under tension. In this way the arm can be turned to point at either side of the coin.

Back to the Base

A few things have have been completed in this image. The holed has been drilled for mounting the lamp. Instead of nuts, small brass levers have been fabricated for tightening the arm joints into position. This gave a bit more leverage and held everything in place well. You can also see four screws in the corners of the base. These are holding two wooden slats to the bottom of the base.

The oak base was then stained and varnished. It’s a bit easier to see the wooden slats mentioned above in the picture on the right.

All of the brass pieces for the lamp were polished. Two small brass eyes were were also soldered into the lower arm piece. These will serve as guides for the positive wire that will run up to the switch.

This is a picture of all the pieces polished and ready to be mounted to the base.

The display stand is almost complete. The pieces have all been mounted to the base and the lamp wired to the battery.

Frame and Plaque

Here, a wooden frame for the plaque is cut and glued.

The frame was painted with black enamel and a red stripe was added around the base of the frame. It is screwed to the surface with 7 polished brass screws. The eighth screw on the top left is just the head glued into place for symmetry. I found out the hard way that the battery compartment is underneath where this screw would have gone. Only drilled a hole in one battery, so not too bad.


My initials and year were engraved into the surface of the battery cover: JTS 20.

The completed unit.

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  1. Joe

    I really like the image feature you use above where you can slide back-and-forth to see two different images or the reverse side in the front side of the coin. Is this a gallery feature?

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