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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ Themes & Provenance ▸ HistoryView Options:  |  |  |   

Collecting History through Ancient Coins

Holding an ancient coin is holding history in your hands. Some coins actually depict historical events. Many include the image of a historic king or emperor. Every ancient coin relates to the people and events of the time and place it was struck. Every ancient coin relates to an interesting historical story. The stories on this page are a primary source of our ancient coin obsession. We hope you enjoy them.


Syracuse, Sicily, Hieron II, 275 - 215 B.C., Portrait of Queen Philistis

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Hieron II placed his wife and son on coins during his long reign. Those of Queen Philistis are eagerly sought after by collectors.
SH84601. Silver 5 litrae, CCO Syracuse 221 (D2/R2), SNG ANS 893, SNG Lloyd 1546, SNG Cop 827, Dewing 959, McClean 2918, Weber 1708, HGC 2 1557 (R2) (all from the same dies), Choice aEF/gVF, toned, light marks, weight 4.441 g, maximum diameter 18.0 mm, die axis 180o, Syracuse mint, c. 218 - 215 B.C.; obverse veiled and diademed head of Queen Philistis left, palm frond behind; reverse Nike galloping biga left, holding reins with both hands, E in front of horses' legs, BAΣIΛIΣΣAΣ above, ΦIΛIΣTI∆OΣ in exergue; from the Lawrence Woolslayer Collection; Numismatica Ars Classica auction 27 (12 May 2004), lot 129; ex A.D.M. Collection; ex Ratto Collection, 1929 sale, lot 213; rare; $3000.00 (2670.00)


Plotina, Augusta 105 - 129 A.D., Amphipolis, Macedonia

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Plotina was the wife of Trajan, married to him before his succession. She was renowned for her virtue and simplicity. In 100, Trajan awarded her with the title of Augusta, but she did not accept the title until 105. Plotina did not appear on the coinage until 112. She was largely responsible for Hadrian's succession to the throne after the death of Trajan. Plotina died in 129 A.D.
SH79967. Bronze AE 24, RPC Online III 645, SNG Evelpidis 1170, Lindgren 980, SNG ANS -, SNG Cop -, BMC Macedonia -, Varbanov -, F, green patina, pitting, weight 9.487 g, maximum diameter 24.1 mm, die axis 180o, Amphipolis mint, 105 - 129 A.D.; obverse CEBACTH ΠΛWTEINA, draped bust right; reverse AMΦIΠOΛTWN, Tyche seated left, patera in right hand; very rare; $700.00 (623.00)


Sabina, Augusta 128 - c. 136 A.D., Wife of Hadrian

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Pudicitia, modesty and chastity, was for Romans the highest regarded female virtue. For an unmarried girl, pudicitia meant virginity. For a wife, it meant faithfulness and devotion to her husband. Romans loved the story of Arria, an ultimate example of Roman pudicitia. When the emperor Claudius ordered her husband Paetus to end his own life, he hesitated. Arria took his dagger and stabbed herself to set an example, saying, "Paetus, it doesn't hurt."
SH73695. Bronze sestertius, RIC II Hadrian 1032(c) (S), Hunter II 32, Cohen II 61, BMCRE III Hadrian 1877 var. (diadem vice wreath), SRCV II 3937, aVF, excellent portrait, well centered, green patina, marks and scratches, some corrosion, weight 23.691 g, maximum diameter 33.1 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, c. 135 A.D.; obverse SABINA AVGVSTA HADRIANI AVG P P, draped bust right, wearing wreath of grain, hair in long plait falling down back of neck and roll above wreath in front; reverse PVDICITIA, Pudicitia seated left on high-backed throne, veiled and draped, feet on footstool, right hand on breast (raising to lips), left hand in lap, S C in exergue; old anonymous dealer or collector tag in Italian; scarce; $670.00 (596.30)


Faustina Junior, Augusta 146 - Winter 175/176 A.D., Wife of Marcus Aurelius

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Venus (Aphrodite) can be faulted for the Trojan War. Upset that she was not invited to a wedding, she went anyway and maliciously left a golden apple inscribed "For the fairest" on the banquet table. The goddesses, as Aphrodite expected, argued who was the rightful possessor of this prize. It was determined the most handsome mortal in the world, a noble Trojan youth named Paris, would decide. Each of the three finalists offered Paris a bribe. Hera promised he would rule the world. Athena said she would make him victorious in battle. Aphrodite guaranteed the love of the most beautiful woman in the world. This was Helen, who was married to the king of Sparta. Paris awarded the golden apple to Aphrodite. Aphrodite enabled Paris to elope with Helen, Helen of Troy. Helen's husband raised a Greek army to retrieve his wife, starting the Trojan War.
SH73705. Orichalcum sestertius, RIC III AP1388b; BMCRE IV AP2147; Hunter II p. 300, 30; Cohen III 268; SRCV II 4720, VF, nice style, well centered, flan crack, weight 24.039 g, maximum diameter 35.1 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, struck under Antoninus Pius, 148 - 152 A.D.; obverse FAVSTINAE AVG PII AVG FIL, draped bust right with head bare, hair waived and coiled chignon tied with double band of pearls on back of head; reverse VENVS, Venus standing half left, apple in right hand, grounded rudder in left hand, dolphin coiled around rudder, S - C low across field; $550.00 (489.50)


Claudius and Messalina, 24 January 41 - 48 A.D., Knossos, Crete

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Messalina was Claudius' 3rd wife and mother of Britannicus and Claudia Octavia. They were married when she was 14. In 48 A.D., while Claudius was away in Ostia, even though she was married to the emperor, Messalina married her lover, Gaius Silius. Silius was executed and Messalina driven to suicide.
SH74280. Bronze AE 20, RPC I 1001 (rev legend ending IIVIR) or 1002, Svoronos Crete 214 corr. (IIVIR) or 212, SNG Cop -, BMC Crete -, aVF, crowded irregular flan, weight 4.393 g, maximum diameter 20.4 mm, die axis 180o, Knossos mint, Duumviri Cytherus und Capito, 41 A.D.; obverse TI CLAVDIVS CAESAR AVG GERMANICVS, bare head of Claudius left; reverse VALERIA MESSALINA [CAPITONE CYTHERONTE IIVIR] or [CYTHERO CAPITONE] (end of legend off flan), draped bust of Messalina right; extremely rare; $480.00 (427.20)


Julia Domna, Augusta 194 - 8 April 217 A.D., Hadrianopolis, Thrace

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Hadrian refounded a Thracian tribal capital, changed its name to Hadrianopolis, developed it, adorned it with monuments, and made it the capital of the Roman province. The city is Edirne, Turkey today. From ancient times, the area around Edirne has been the site of no fewer than 16 major battles or sieges. Military historian John Keegan identifies it as "the most contested spot on the globe" and attributes this to its geographical location. Licinius was defeated there by Constantine I in 323, and Valens was killed by the Goths during the Battle of Adrianople in 378.
SH65237. Bronze AE 25, Jurukova p. 157 & pl. XXII, 244 (V137/R244); Mionnet, Suppl. II, 658; BMC Thrace -, SNG Cop -, SNG Hunterian -, VF, green patina, weight 7.837 g, maximum diameter 24.7 mm, die axis 180o, Hadrianopolis (Edirne, Turkey) mint, obverse IOYΛIA ∆O CEBACTH, draped bust right; reverse A∆PIANOΠOΛEITΩN, galley left with four oarsmen and steersman in stern; very rare; $460.00 (409.40)


Odessos, Thrace, c. 125 - 70 B.C., Civic Issue in the Types and Name of Alexander the Great

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Odessus surrendered to Alexander the Great in 335 B.C. Rule passed to his diadochus Lysimachus, but in coalition with other Pontic cities and the Getae, Odessus rebelled in 313 B.C. After Lysimachus' death in 281, the city reverted to striking in the types and name of Alexander the Great and continued to strike Alexandrine tetradrachms until at least 70 B.C.
SH63508. Silver tetradrachm, Price 1179, VF, toned, weight 15.721 g, maximum diameter 29.8 mm, die axis 0o, Odessos (Varna, Bulgaria) mint, c. 125 - 70 B.C.; obverse head of Herakles right, wearing lion-scalp headdress; reverse AΛEΞAN∆POY BAΣIΛEΩΣ, Zeus seated left, eagle in right, long scepter vertical in left, ∆H under arm, monogram below throne; $450.00 (400.50)


Aquilia Severa, Augusta 220 and 221 - 222 A.D.

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Aquilia Severa was the second and fourth wife of Elagabalus. She was a Vestal Virgin and Elagabalus was the high priest of the sun-god Heliogabal. Elagabalus held parallel marriage ceremonies; Elagabalus married Aquilia and Heliogabal married Vesta. This was extremely offensive to the Romans since Vestal Virgins were prohibited from marriage during their 30-year vow of chastity. Elagabalus and Aquilia, as well as Heliogabal and Vesta, were divorced in order to restore public confidence and Elagabalus was quickly remarried. However, Elagabalus divorced his third wife within a few months and remarried Aquilia Severa. Returning to Aquilia Severa sealed his fate. Elagabalus and his mother were murdered; their bodies were dragged through the streets of Rome and thrown in the Tiber.
RS79623. Silver denarius, RIC IV E228 (R), RSC III 6, BMCRE V E337, SRCV II 7680, Hunter III -, VF, porous, edge cracks, reverse slightly off center , weight 2.590 g, maximum diameter 19.1 mm, die axis 0o, Rome mint, 220 - 222 A.D.; obverse IVLIA AQVILIA SEVERA AVG, draped bust right, head bare, neatly waved and fastened in a queue at the back; reverse CONCORDIA, Aquilia Severa and Elagabalus standing facing one another, clasping hands, she wears a stephane, with a fold of drapery over her arm, he holds a roll in his left hand, star between them below hands; rare; $450.00 (400.50)


Faustina Junior, Augusta 146 - Winter 175/176 A.D., Wife of Marcus Aurelius

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In Roman religion, Concordia was the goddess of agreement, understanding, and marital harmony. The cult of Concordia Augusta ("Majestic Harmony") was of special importance to the imperial household. She is usually depicted wearing a long cloak and holding a patera (sacrificial bowl), a cornucopia (symbol of prosperity), or a caduceus (symbol of peace).
RB26685. Orichalcum sestertius, RIC III AP1368, BMCRE IV AP2198, Hunter II 50, Cohen III 22, SRCV II 4710, VF, weight 19.689 g, maximum diameter 31.5 mm, die axis 0o, Rome mint, struck under Antoninus Pius, 157 - 161 A.D.; obverse FAVSTINA AVGVSTA, draped bust right, hair wavy and drawn back into coil at back; reverse AVGVSTI PII FIL, Concordia standing left, patera in extended right, cornucopia in left hand, S - C across field below center; $400.00 (356.00)


Julia Titi, Augusta c. 79 - 89 A.D.

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Julia Titi was the daughter of the emperor Titus, and although married, she had an affair with her uncle Domitian. In 83 A.D., Domitian divorced his wife and lived openly with her. It has been said that she died because Domitian forced her to have an abortion but modern research indicates this allegation is false.
SH72986. Silver denarius, RSC II 14; BMCRE II Titus 141; RIC II, part 1, Titus 56; Hunter p. 275, 1; BnF III Titus 106; SRCV I 2612, F, slightly irregular flan, weight 3.030 g, maximum diameter 21.0 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 79 - 81 A.D.; obverse IVLIA AVGVSTA TITI AVGVSTI F, diademed and draped bust right, hair in a long plait in back; reverse VENVS AVGVST, Venus standing right, viewed from behind, nude to the hips, right knee bent, leaning with left elbow and forearm on column, transverse spear on far side in left hand, raising up helmet in right hand; from the Jyrki Muona Collection collection, ex Zuzim Judaea (2012); only the second example of this type handled by Forum; rare; $340.00 (302.60)


Galba, 3 April 68 - 15 January 69 A.D.

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Livia was the wife of Augustus, mother of Tiberius, paternal grandmother of Claudius, paternal great-grandmother of Caligula, and maternal great-great-grandmother of Nero. Livia and Augustus remained married for 51 years. They had no children. Livia always enjoyed the status of privileged counselor to her husband, petitioning him on the behalf of others and influencing his policies, an unusual role for a Roman wife. Living very simply and frugally, Livia set an example of Roman virtue which made her quite popular with the people. According to some ancient historians, however, Livia poisoned Augustus' potential heirs and then Augustus himself to make her son emperor. When he was emperor, Tiberius and Livia, had a falling out. On her death in 29 A.D., he did not see fit to have her consecrated. When Claudius came to power, he argued that every God needed a consort (referring to the deified Augustus). The Senate accepted this logic, and she was declared a goddess.
SH72998. Silver denarius, RIC I 14 (R2), BMCRE I 167, RSC II 43, BnF III 8, Hunter I -, SRCV I -, aVF, light corrosion, cleaning scratches, weight 2.996 g, maximum diameter 18.4 mm, die axis 180o, Tarraco mint, Apr - Aug 68 A.D.; obverse IMP GALBA, laureate head right, globe behind the point of neck; reverse DIVA AVGVSTA, Livia standing slightly left, head left, patera in right hand, long scepter vertical behind in left hand; from the Jyrki Muona Collection; very rare; $340.00 (302.60)


Sabina, Augusta 128 - c. 136 A.D., Wife of Hadrian, Amphipolis, Macedonia

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Plotina was the wife of Trajan, married to him before his succession. She was renowned for her virtue and simplicity. In 100, Trajan awarded her with the title of Augusta, but she did not accept the title until 105. Plotina did not appear on the coinage until 112. She was largely responsible for Hadrian's succession to the throne after the death of Trajan. Plotina died in 129 A.D.
RP83496. Bronze AE 25, RPC Online III 655 (8 spec.); BMC Macedonia p. 56, 103; Varbanov 3186 (R5); SNG Evelpidis 1171; Lindgren 987; SNG Cop -; SNG ANS -; SNG Hunterian -, VF, green patina, tight flan, some corrosion and scratches, reverse off center, centration dimples, weight 12.382 g, maximum diameter 24.5 mm, die axis 180o, Amphipolis mint, 128 - c. 136 A.D.; obverse CABEINA CEBACTH, draped bust right wearing stephane, pellet within crescent with horns up left below chin; reverse AMΦIΠOΛTWN, Tyche seated left on high back throne, wearing turreted crown, patera in right hand; rare; $320.00 (284.80)


Tetrarchy of Chalkis, Coele Syria, Lysanias, 40 - 36 B.C.

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Lysanias is called Tetrarch of Abila by Josephus. Lysanias' father Ptolemaios was married to Alexandra, Mattathias Antigonus' sister. Lysanias offered the Parthian satrap Barzapharnes a thousand talents and 500 women to depose Hyrcanus and put his uncle (or step-uncle) Antigonus on the throne of Judaea (Josephus B.J. 1.248). When Lysanias continued to support Antigonus against the Roman nominee Herod the Great, Mark Antony had him executed, and gave his territory to Cleopatra VII.
GB90942. Bronze AE 19, Herman 11.g, RPC I 4769, HGC 9 145 corr., Lindgren III 1243, BMC Galatia -, VF, weight 3.505 g, maximum diameter 18.6 mm, die axis 0o, Chalkis sub Libano mint, c. 40 B.C.; obverse veiled female bust right, no inscription; reverse double cornucopia, flanked by four ligatures ΛYCA, TETP, APX, IΦ (Lysanias tetrarch and high priest); very rare; $310.00 (275.90)


Macedonian Kingdom, Seleukos, Satrap in Babylon, 311 - 306 B.C., In the Name of Alexander the Great

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Struck in the name of Alexander, this coin also bears the personal badge of Seleukos, an anchor. Seleukos was first appointed satrap in Babylonia in 320 B.C. but was put to flight by Antigonus in 315. He returned in 311 only to be forced to evacuate later that year by a counterattack by Antigonus' son, Demetrius. Not long after, however, Seleukos again recovered the city.
SH60135. Silver tetradrachm, Houghton-Lorber I 293, Price 3449 (Marthus), Mller Alexander 1512, aVF/F, weight 16.601 g, maximum diameter 27.0 mm, die axis 225o, uncertain mint, c. 311 - 305 B.C.; obverse head of Herakles right, wearing Nemean lion scalp headdress; reverse AΛEΞAN∆POY, Zeus seated left on throne, right leg drawn back, eagle in extended right hand, long scepter vertical behind in left hand, anchor flukes up flanked by ∆ - I in left field, monogram under throne; $290.00 (258.10)


Julia Paula, Augusta July or August 219 - about September 220 A.D., First Wife of Elagabalus

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In 219, Julia Maesa arranged for her grandson Elagabalus to marry Julia Paula. The wedding was a lavish ceremony and Paula was given the honorific title of Augusta. In 220, he divorced her and married Aquilia Severa, a Vestal Virgin.
RS79622. Silver denarius, BMCRE V 172, RSC III 6a, RIC IV 211, Hunter III 1, SRCV II 7655, Choice VF, nice portrait, excellent centering, frosty surfaces, weight 3.077 g, maximum diameter 19.5 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 219 - 220 A.D.; obverse IVLIA PAVLA AVG, bare-headed, draped bust right; reverse CONCORDIA, Concordia seated left, patera in right hand, left elbow resting on arm of throne, star in left field; scarce; $290.00 (258.10)


Parthian Kingdom, Gotarzes II, 40 - 51 A.D.

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Gotarzes II ruled as the Parthian king intermittently between 40 and 51 A.D. When his brother Vardanes I succeeded to throne, Gotarzes II rebelled. He went to Hyrcania and gathered an army from Dahae nomads. War between the two kings was ended by a treaty. Gotarzes II returned to Hyrcania, but when Vardanes I was killed in about 47, Gotarzes II was acknowledged as king of the whole empire. He then added to his coins the usual Parthian titles, king of kings Arsaces the benefactor, the just, the illustrious (Epiphanes), and the friend of the Hellenes (Philhellenes). Gotarzes II was detested for his cruelty. Among many other murders he even slew his brother Artabanus and his whole family. His cruelty prompted a request to the Roman emperor Claudius to release from Rome an Arsacid prince, Meherdates, who lived there as a hostage. Meherdates crossed the Euphrates in 49, but was beaten and taken prisoner by Gotarzes II, who cut off his ears. Soon afterwards Gotarzes II died, according to Tacitus of an illness; Josephus says that he was murdered. His last coin is dated from June 51. .
SL70892. Silver tetradrachm, Sellwood 65.14, Cohen DCA 631, Shore -, Sunrise -, NGC Ch VF, Strike 4/5, Surface 4/5 (2490208-002), weight 14.49 g, maximum diameter 26.8 mm, die axis 45o, Seleukeia mint, May 46 A.D.; obverse bearded, diademed and cuirassed bust left; reverse BACIΛEWC BACIΛEWN APCAKOY EYEPΓATO ∆IKAIOY EΠIΦANOY ΦIΛEΛΛHNOΣ, king enthroned left, receiving wreath from Tyche standing left holding cornucopia, HNT (Seleucid Era year 358) above, ∆AIΣIOΣ (Parthian month = May) below; ex Forum (2014), ex Dr. Sam Mansourati Collection, ex CNG auction 317, lot 140; $270.00 (240.30)


Julia Domna, Augusta 194 - 8 April 217 A.D.

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Hera (Juno to the Romans) is the wife and one of three sisters of Zeus in the Olympian pantheon of Greek mythology and religion. Hera's mother is Rhea and her father Cronus. Her chief function was as the goddess of women and marriage. The cow, lion and the peacock were considered sacred to her. Portrayed as majestic and solemn, often enthroned, and crowned with the kalathos. Hera was known for her jealous and vengeful nature against Zeus' lovers and offspring, but also against mortals who crossed her. Paris earned Hera's hatred by choosing Aphrodite as the most beautiful goddess.
RB79848. Orichalcum sestertius, RIC IV C585, BMCRE V C208, Hunter III , Cohen IV 90, SRCV II 7114, F, scratches, areas of corrosion, weight 21.909 g, maximum diameter 30.2 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 211 - 217 A.D.; obverse IVLIA PIA FELIX AVG, draped bust right, wearing stephane; reverse IVNONEM, Juno standing slightly left, veiled head left, patera in right hand, long scepter vertical in left hand, peacock at feet on left standing left, S - C flanking across field below center; scarce; $260.00 (231.40)


Sabina, Augusta 128 - c. 136 A.D., Wife of Hadrian

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Ceres' known mythology is indistinguishable from Demeter's. Her virgin daughter Proserpina (Persephone) was abducted by Hades to be his wife in the underworld. Ceres searched for her endlessly lighting her way through the earth with torches. While Ceres (Demeter) searched, she was preoccupied with her loss and her grief. The seasons halted; living things ceased their growth, then began to die. Some say that in her anger she laid a curse on the world that caused plants to wither and die, and the land to become desolate. Faced with the extinction of all life on earth, Zeus sent his messenger Hermes to the underworld to bring Proserpina back. However, because she had eaten while in the underworld, Hades had a claim on her. Therefore, it was decreed that she would spend four months each year in the underworld. During these months Ceres grieves for her daughter's absence, withdrawing her gifts from the world, creating winter. Proserpina's return brings the spring.
SH77274. Silver denarius, RSC II 69a (R); Strack II 859; BMCRE II p. 356, - (*ref. Moushmov pl. 2, 13); RIC II Hadrian 409 var. (modius at feet); Hunter II -; SRCV II -, F, dark toning, scratches, edge cracks, weight 3.172 g, maximum diameter 19.1 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 128 A.D.; obverse SABINA AVGVSTA HADRIANI AVG P P, diademed and draped bust right, wearing stephane, hair in a plaited coil on crown of head; reverse Ceres seated left on basket, two stalks of grain and poppy in right hand, lit torch in left hand, SC in exergue; extremely rare; $250.00 (222.50)


Carthage, Zeugitana, North Africa, Second Punic War, c. 210 - 202 B.C.

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The Second Punic War, 218 - 201 B.C., is most remembered for Hannibal's crossing of the Alps, followed by his crushing victories over Rome in the battle of the Trebia, at Trasimene, and again at Cannae. After these defeats, many Roman allies joined Carthage, prolonging the war in Italy for over a decade. Against Hannibal's skill on the battlefield, the Romans deployed the Fabian strategy. More capable in siege-craft, the Romans recaptured all the major cities that had defected. The Romans defeated an attempt to reinforce Hannibal at the battle of the Metaurus and, in Iberia, Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus Major took New Carthage and ended Carthaginian rule over Iberia in the Battle of Ilipa. The final showdown was the Battle of Zama in Africa where Scipio Africanus defeated Hannibal, resulting in the imposition of harsh peace conditions on Carthage, which ceased to be a major power and became a Roman client-state.Hannibal's route of invasion
GB83568. Billon dishekel, Viola 185; Coin Hoards IX, group 3 (single-pendant earring variety), 77 - 96; cf. Alexandropoulos 44; SNG Cop 190; Mller Afrique 103; SRCV II 6494, VF, flan adjustment marks, die break on reverse, weight 11.92 g, maximum diameter 28.08 mm, die axis 0o, Carthage mint, c. 210 - 202 B.C.; obverse head of Tanit left, hair wreathed with grain, wearing necklace and single-pendant earring; reverse unbridled horse standing right, palm tree in background, no pellet; scarce; $250.00 (222.50)


Plotina, Augusta 105 - 129 A.D., Wife of Trajan, Gordus-Julia, Lydia

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"The colonial coins of Plotina are, according to Vaillant, of the highest degree of rarity. Amongst those bearing Latin inscriptions are issues from Cassendreia in Macedonia, and Corinth in Achaia." -- Dictionary of Roman Coins
GB84174. Bronze AE 18, SNG Mnchen 189; BMC Lydia p. 92, 18; SNG Cop -; SNGvA -, F, tight flan, edge cracks, weight 3.191 g, maximum diameter 16.0 mm, die axis 0o, Gordus-Julia mint, magistrate Poplius, c. 112 - 117 B.C.; obverse ΠΛWTEINA CEBACTH, draped bust right, hair in plait behind; reverse EΠI ΠOΠΛIOY ΓOP∆HNW, Zeus seated left on throne, patera in right hand, long scepter vertical behind in left hand; rare; $250.00 (222.50)




  



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