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Home>Catalog>CollectingThemes>History

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.


Vespasian, 1 July 69 - 24 June 79 A.D., Judaea Capta
Click for a larger photo This type celebrates the success of Vespasian and Titus in quelling the First Jewish Revolt. Coins commemorating this event are referred to as "Judaea Capta" issues.
SH72106. Orichalcum sestertius, RIC II, part 1, 167, BMCRE II 543, BnF III 498, Cohen I 239, Hendin 1504, SRCV I 2327, aVF, well centered, Tiber patina, porous, large pit on reverse edge, weight 22.557 g, maximum diameter 35.6 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 71 A.D.; obverse IMP CAES VESPASIAN AVG P M TR P P P COS III, laureate bust right; reverse IVDAEA CAPTA, Jewess mourning sits right on right beneath palm tree, behind Vespasian stands right in military dress with spear and parazonium, foot on helmet, S C in ex; ex Morton & Eden auction 57 (3 - 4 July 2012), lot 166; $1300.00 SALE PRICE $1170.00

Julius Caesar, Imperator and Dictator, Assassinated 15 March 44 B.C.
Click for a larger photo The rudder and globe are symbolic of Caesar's mastery of land and sea, the apex a reminder of his piety as Pontifex Maximus, and the cornucopia and caduceus were symbolic of the prosperity and happiness that Caesar had provided to the Roman people.
SH73144. Silver denarius, Crawford 494/39a, Sydenham 1096a, BMCRR I Rome 4238, RSC I 29, Cohen 29 (12 Fr.), SRCV I 1426, Sear Imperators 116, F, attractive portrait for the grade, toned, reverse slightly off center, weight 3.544 g, maximum diameter 18.6 mm, die axis 315o, Rome mint, posthumous, moneyer L. Mussidius Longus, 42 B.C.; obverse wreathed head of Julius Caesar right; reverse L MVSSIDIVS LONGVS (moneyer), cornucopia on globe, rudder left, winged caduceus, and apex (priestly hat) right; ex Classical Numismatic Group e-auction 335; scarce; $580.00 SALE PRICE $522.00

Roman Republic, Q. Pomponius Musa, 66 B.C.
Click for a larger photo Many of the Roman moneyers had a solid sense of humor and word play with homonyms was very popular. Pomponius Musa, playing on his name, issued ten types each depicting Hercules Musagetes (Conductor of the Muses) or one of nine different Muses, creating one of the most interesting and sought after series of the Republican coinage. This coin depicts Clio, the Muse of History.
SH90301. Silver denarius, RSC I Pomponia 11, SRCV I 353, Sydenham 813, Crawford 410/3, gF, banker's marks, weight 3.585 g, maximum diameter 18.4 mm, die axis 45o, Rome mint, 66 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Apollo right, scroll tied with cord behind; reverse MVSA on left, Q POMPONI on right, Clio, Muse of History standing left, reading from open scroll which she holds in both hands, left elbow rests on column; ex CNG auction 233 (26 April 2010), lot 315; $550.00 SALE PRICE $495.00

Trajan, 25 January 98 - 8 or 9 August 117 A.D.
Click for a larger photo Personification of the siege of Sarmizegetusa! In 106 A.D., Trajan besieged Sarmizegetusa, the Dacian capital. With the aid of a Dacian traitor, the Romans found and destroyed water pipes supplying the city. Running out of water and food the city fell and was burned to the ground. Decebalus fled but, followed by the Roman cavalry, committed suicide rather than face capture. The river-god on the reverse is usually described as Tiber, however, the reverse likely personifies the impact of the Roman destruction of the Dacian's water supply. Dacia's own water supply has betrayed her, knocked her to the ground, and is choking her.
SH63939. Orichalcum sestertius, RIC II 556, BMCRE III 793 note, Cohen II 526, aF, weight 20.524 g, maximum diameter 32.9 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 103 - 111 A.D.; obverse IMP CAES NERVA TRAIANO AVG GER DAC P M TR P COS V P P, laureate bust right, slight drapery on far shoulder; reverse S P Q R OPTIMO PRINCIPI S C, River-god, cloak billowing behind, leaning left with right knee on supine Dacia, forcing her to the ground, choking her with his right hand, reeds in left; very scarce; $270.00 SALE PRICE $243.00

Hadrian, 11 August 117 - 10 July 138 A.D.
Click for a larger photo "This, the first representation of Britannia on the Roman coinage, commemorates victories in Britain over the northern Brigantes tribe following their revolt during Trajan's last years." -- David Sear in Roman Coins and Their Values II
SH72522. Bronze as, RIC II 577b (R2), BMCRE III 1175, Cohen II 197, SRCV II 3676, aF, green patina, tight flan, weight 8.368 g, maximum diameter 26.2 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 119 A.D.; obverse IMP CAESAR TRAIANVS HADRIANVS AVG, laureate bust right, slight drapery on left shoulder; reverse PONT MAX TR POT COS III, Britannia seated facing, foot on rock, head propped on right hand, transverse scepter in left hand, large shield on right, S - C flanking across field, BRITANNIA in exergue; very rare; $270.00 SALE PRICE $243.00

Carthago Nova, Roman Occupation, Scipio Africanus, c. 209 - 206 B.C.
Click for a larger photo In order to force Hannibal to retreat from Italy, Scipio Africanus attacked Carthaginian Spain and took Carthago Nova in 209 B.C. References most often identify this type as Punic, struck before 209 B.C., but they also note that the head is "Roman style." Some authorities believe, as we do, that this type was struck after 209, under Roman rule. Carthaginian coins sometimes depicted Barcid generals. This coin possibly depicts the Roman general Scipio Africanus.
GB60657. Bronze AE 23, Villaronga MCH 282, Burgos 552, SNG BM Spain 127 - 128, VF, porous, weight 9.096 g, maximum diameter 22.8 mm, die axis 0o, Carthago Nova mint, 209 - 206 B.C.; obverse bare male head (Scipio Africanus?) left; reverse horse standing right, palm tree behind; rare; $250.00 SALE PRICE $225.00

Mark Antony, Triumvir and Imperator, 44 - 30 B.C., LEG VII
Click for a larger photo This LEG VII was probably raised by Antony and disbanded by Octavian. It may have been the XV Apollinaris, a legion later was reconstituted by Octavian. The VII Claudia, an old legion of Caesar's, fought for Octavian.
SH73466. Silver denarius, Crawford 544/20, Sydenham 1224, BMCRR II East 198, RSC I 34, VF, toned, both sides off center, weight 3.460 g, maximum diameter 17.2 mm, die axis 0o, Patrae(?) mint, 32 - 31 B.C.; obverse ANTAVG / III VIRRPC, galley right with rowers, mast with banners at prow, border of dots; reverse LEG - VII, aquila (legionary eagle) between two legionary standards, border of dots; $250.00 SALE PRICE $225.00

Judaea (Yehudah), Ptolemaic Rule, Ptolemy II Philadelphos, 285 - 246 B.C.
Click for a larger photo Ptolemy II requested copies of Jewish texts for the Library at Alexandria. There they were translated and transcribed by seventy Jewish scholars hired for the purpose, creating the Septuagint, the oldest Greek version of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). Many of the oldest Biblical verses among the Dead Sea Scrolls, particularly those in Aramaic, correspond more closely with the Septuagint than with the Hebrew text.
JD35537. Silver quarter-ma, Meshorer TJC 32; Mildenberg Yehud pl. 21, 24; Hendin 1087, aVF, weight 0.157 g, maximum diameter 6.8 mm, die axis 90o, Jerusalem? mint, obverse diademed head of Ptolemy I right; reverse eagle standing half left on thunderbolt, wings open, head left, Aramaic YHDH (Yehudah) on left; $190.00 SALE PRICE $171.00

Trajan, 25 January 98 - 8 or 9 August 117 A.D.
Click for a larger photo After defeating the surrounding mountain fortresses, in 106 A.D. Trajan captured Sarmizegetusa, the Dacian capital. Decebalus fled but, followed by the Roman cavalry, committed suicide rather than face capture. On 11 Aug 106 A.D., the south-eastern part of Dacia (modern Romania) was made the Roman province Dacia. Veterans of the legions were given land in the new province for their service in the Roman army.
RB72501. Bronze as, Woytek 249c, BnF IV 625, RIC II 510, Cohen II 420, BMCRE III 933 var (drapery vice aegis), Hunter II 266 var (same), Strack 367, SRCV II -, aVF, well centered and struck, some corrosion, weight 10.373 g, maximum diameter 27.4 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 106 - 107 A.D.; obverse IMP CAES NERVAE TRAIANO AVG GER DAC P M TR P COS V P P, laureate bust right, aegis on left shoulder; reverse S P Q R OPTIMO PRINCIPI, Pax seated left, nude to waist, olive branch in right, left elbow resting on throne, feet on footstool, Dacian at her feet facing her on right knee, wearing pointed cap, and extending toward her a petition held in both hands, S C in exergue; ex Morton & Eden auction 59 (13 - 14 Nov 2012), part of lot 954; ex Kenneth Edwin Day Collection; $150.00 SALE PRICE $135.00

Roman Republic, L. Titurius L.f. Sabinus, 89 B.C.
Click for a larger photo The reverse refers to the rape of the Sabines. This moneyer traced his descent form the Sabines and perhaps from King Tatius himself. -- Roman Silver Coins edited by David R. Sear and Robert Loosley
RR71941. Silver denarius, SRCV I 249, Crawford 344/1, RSC I Tituria1- 2, Sydenham 698, BMCRR I Rome 2322 ff., aVF, toned, tight flan, obverse slightly off center, weight 3.934 g, maximum diameter 18.0 mm, die axis 315o, Rome mint, 89 B.C.; obverse bare head of King Tatius right, SABIN downward behind, TA monogram or palm frond before; reverse two Roman soldiers running left, each bearing a Sabine woman in his arms, LTITVRI in ex; from the Andrew McCabe collection, ex Roma Numismatics e-auction 10, lot 578; $135.00 SALE PRICE $122.00

Roman Republic, L. Titurius L.f. Sabinus, 89 B.C.
Click for a larger photo This moneyer traced his descent from the Sabines and perhaps from King Tatius himself. Tarpeia was daughter of the commander of the citadel in Rome. She offered to open the gates for the besieging Sabines, if they would give her what they wore on their left arms, meaning their gold bracelets. The Sabines were unable to enter the citadel; its open gates were miraculously protected by boiling jets of water created by Janus. Keeping their promise, the Sabines threw the shields they worn on their left arms upon Tarpeia, crushing her to death, and then they kicked her off a cliff. This myth was likely used to explain the Tarpeian Rock, a cliff on the Capitoline Hill from which murderers and traitors were thrown.
RR71940. Silver denarius, Crawford 344/2c, Sydenham 699a, RSC I Tituria 5, BMCRR I Rome 2326, SRCV I 252, aVF, toned, weight 3.332 g, maximum diameter 19.1 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 89 B.C.; obverse bare head of Sabine King Tatius right, palm frond below chin, SABIN behind, A.PV (argento publico) before; reverse Tarpeia buried to her waist in shields, trying to repel soldiers who are about to cast shields upon her, star over and within crescent with horns up above, left TITVRI in exergue; from the Andrew McCabe collection, ex Roma Numismatics e-auctions 10, lot 578; $130.00 SALE PRICE $117.00

Trajan, 25 January 98 - 8 or 9 August 117 A.D.
Click for a larger photo An interesting historical type commemorating the defeat of Parthia and the investiture of the puppet king Parthamastes by Trajan. His reign was short because the Roman army soon withdrew and Trajan died the following year.
RB72490. Orichalcum sestertius, RIC II 667, BMCRE III 1046, BnF IV 920, Woytek 594v, Cohen II 328, Strack 476, Banti 96, SRCV II 3191, aF, Tiber patina, rough, flan crack, weight 22.007 g, maximum diameter 33.4 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 116 A.D.; obverse IMP CAES NER TRAIANO OPTIMO AVG GER DAC PARTHICO P M TR P COS VI P P, laureate and draped bust right, from behind; reverse REX PARTHIS DATVS (a king given to the Parthians), Trajan seated left on platform, placing diadem on head of king Parthamaspates, officer standing behind the emperor, Parthian kneeling in supplication before; ex Morton & Eden auction 59 (13 - 14 Nov 2012), part of lot 954; ex Kenneth Edwin Day Collection; scarce; $125.00 SALE PRICE $113.00

Roman Republic, L.P.D.A.P. Series, c. 91 B.C.
Click for a larger photo The Lex Papiria de assis pondere et sestertio feriundo (Papirian Law concerning the weight of the as and the striking of the sestertius) of 91 (or maybe 90) B.C. re-authorized the production of silver sestertii, which hadn't been seen for over a century. More importantly, it reduced the standard weight of the as to a half ounce (the semuncial standard).This law is attested by Pliny, who says that "mox lege Papiria semunciarii asses facti" (soon by the Papirian Law asses were made semuncial). What is most interesting is that this law is attested on the first coins struck under its terms. Sestertii bear the letters E.L.P. for "e lege Papiria" (by the Papirian Law) and bronzes have the formula L.P.D.A.P. for "lege Papiria de assis pondere."
RR71925. Bronze quadrans, Crawford 338/4c, RBW Collection 1239 (same reverse die), Sydenham 678c, SRCV I 1193, BMCRR -, VF, uneven strike, weight 3.353 g, maximum diameter 16.4 mm, die axis 0o, Rome mint, c. 91 B.C.; obverse head of Hercules right, wearing Nemean Lion scalp headdress, three pellets behind; reverse prow right, three pellets (mark of value) over L.P.D.A.P. (Lex Papiria de assis pondere) above; from the Andrew McCabe collection, ex Roma Numismatics e-auction 11, lot 142; scarce; $55.00 SALE PRICE $49.50

Aetna, Sicily, The Kampanoi Mercenaries, c. 344 - 339 B.C.
Click for a larger photo In 475 B.C. Hieron moved ten thousand settlers from Syracuse and Peloponnesus to Katane and renamed it Aetna. In 461, after Hieron's death, the new settlers were expelled. They moved to the southern slope of the volcano and founded a new Aetna. In 403 B.C., Dionysius the Elder made himself master of Aetna, where he settled his discharged Campanian mercenaries, the Kampanoi. The Kampanoi retained possession of Aitna until 339 B.C., when Timoleon took the city and put them to the sword. Under Rome, Aitna became a municipal town of considerable importance; its territory being one of the most fertile of all Sicily. The site of the city and time of its destruction are unknown today.
GB82936. Bronze AE 13, Calciati III, p. 327, 2; SNG Morcom 877; SNG ANS -, VF, weight 1.980 g, maximum diameter 12.8 mm, die axis 180o, Aitna mint, c. 344 - 339 B.C.; obverse Campanian helmet with cheek guards, ornamented with a gryphon, linear border; reverse KAM monogram in laurel wreath; $40.49 (35.23) ON RESERVE



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