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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.


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

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Faustina II was daughter, wife and mother of emperors and empresses. When she gave birth to the first of many children she was given the title of Augusta, which for a time made her superior in rank to her husband. She was a devoted wife and mother, and accompanied her husband on all his military campaigns.
SH77013. Orichalcum sestertius, RIC III MA1697 var. (throne without canopy, and S C across field), BMCRE IV MA1568 var. (same), MIR 18 54-6a, Banti 7, VF, dark green patina with touches of red, weight 23.644 g, maximum diameter 29.5 mm, die axis 30o, Rome mint, struck under Marcus Aurelius, c. 175 - 176 A.D.; obverse DIVA FAVSTINA PIA, draped bust right; reverse AETERNITAS, Faustina seated left on throne with canopy, holding scepter, between two female attendants (carrying her throne?) with veils flying above their heads, S C in exergue; ex Triton XIX, lot 578; ex A.K. Collection; ex Kress 164 (Nov 1975), lot 1141; very rare variety; $2000.00 (€1780.00)


Marciana, Sister of Trajan, Mother of Matidia, Augusta 105 - c. 113 A.D.

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Marciana, the eldest sister of the emperor Trajan, and mother of Matidia, was an accomplished woman. She lost her husband before her brother became emperor, and lived as a widow with Trajan's wife, Plotina, to whom she was united by the tenderest and most uninterrupted friendship. She an Plotina were awarded the title Augusta at the same time in 105. Marciana died c. 112 - 114 and received the honors of consecretation.
SH79820. Silver denarius, BMCRE III Trajan 650, RIC II Trajan 743, BnF IV Trajan 758, Cohen II 4, Woytek 719, VF, excellent portrait, toned, centered on a tight flan, weight 3.115 g, maximum diameter 19.4 mm, die axis 90o, Rome mint, struck under her brother Trajan, c. 112 - 114 A.D.; obverse DIVA AVGVSTA - MARCIANA, draped bust right, wearing stephane and elaborate hairstyle; reverse CONSECRATIO, eagle, with spread wings, standing left, head right; to date, after nearly two decades in business, this is the only coin of Marciana handled by Forum; very rare; $1620.00 (€1441.80)


Carthaginians in Sicily, 300 - 289 B.C.

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At the height of its prominence, Carthage's influence extended over most of the western Mediterranean. Rivalry with Rome led to a series of conflicts, the Punic Wars. The Third Punic War ended in the complete destruction of the city, annexation by Rome of all Carthaginian territory, and the death or enslavement of the entire Carthaginian population.
SL84036. Silver tetradrachm, Jenkins Punic 394 (O120/R322); SNG Cop VIII 91; Dewing 983; SGCV II 6438; HGC 2 295, NGC Choice VF, strike 4/5, surface 5/5 (3819620-001), weight 17.03 g, maximum diameter 23 mm, die axis 225o, Sicilian mint, 300 - 289 B.C.; obverse head of Herakles right, clad in lion's scalp; reverse horse's head left, palm tree behind, Punic inscription MHSBM (paymasters) below; NGC certified (slabbed); $1260.00 (€1121.40)


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)


Lucilla, Augusta c. 164 - 182 A.D., Wife of Lucius Verus

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Juno was the chief female divinity in the Roman pantheon. She was the wife of Jupiter and a member of the Capitoline Triad. She had many different aspects, such as Juno Moneta, Juno Sospita and Juno Lucina, but here she is depicted as Juno Regina, "Juno the Queen." Juno is usually shown holding a patera, scepter or a statuette of Athena, and is often accompanied by a peacock.
SH77007. Silver denarius, RIC III 772, RSC II 41, BMCRE IV 339, MIR 18 35, SRCV II 5487, Choice gVF, fine style, toned, well centered on a tight flan, small flan flaw on neck, weight 3.350 g, maximum diameter 18.6 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 166 - 169 A.D.; obverse LVCILLA AVGVSTA, draped bust right; reverse IVNO REGINA, Juno Regina standing left, patera in right hand, long scepter in left hand, peacock at feet left; from the Jyrki Muona Collection; ex Freeman & Sear, Manhattan Sale II (4 Jan 2011), lot 263; ex Classical Numismatic Auctions XX (25 Mar 1992), lot 762; $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)


Agrippina Junior, Augusta 50 - March 59 A.D., Philadelphia, Lydia

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Philadelphia was an important and wealthy trade center in ancient Lydia that retained its importance until late Byzantine times. In 17 A.D., the city suffered greatly in an earthquake. After Tiberius aided in rebuilding, it took the new name of Neocaesarea. Under Vespasian, it was titled Flavia. Saint Paul and Saint John the Theologian, visited, and established the first Christian churches. St. Ignatius of Antioch visited on his trip to his martyrdom in Rome. Philadelphia is among the Seven Churches named in John's Book of Revelation. But in the 6th century, paganism still held on in the face of a Christianizing Empire, and the city became known as "little Athens" for its dedication to deities. Today the modern city is called Alasehir.
RP76961. Bronze AE 15, RPC I 3042; BMC Lydia p. 196, 59; SNG Cop 375; SNGvA -, Choice VF, well centered and struck, nice patina with highlighting earthen fill, weight 3.923 g, maximum diameter 15.1 mm, die axis 90o, Philadelphia (Alasehir, Turkey) mint, magistrate Ti. Neikanor, c. 54 - 59 A.D.; obverse AΓPIΠΠINA ΣEBAΣTH, draped bust right, hair in long plait down back of neck and looped at end, long loosely curled lock down side of neck; reverse cornucopia overflowing with fruit and grain, ΦIΛA−∆EΛΦE/ΩN N−EIKA/NΩ−P across field in three divided lines; ex Pecunem, Gitbud & Naumann auction 34 (2 Aug 2015), lot 696; $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)


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), Mόller 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)


Theodora, Augusta, 2nd Wife of Constantius I, Grandmother of Caesars and Emperors

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This type is apparently unpublished with the cross in the right field. The cross is normally in the left field. We were unable to find another example of this variant online. It is, perhaps, unique.
RL79444. Billon reduced centenionalis, Unpublished with cross right; RIC VIII Trier 43 (S) var. (cross left), SRCV V 17499 var. (cross left), LRBC I 105, Cohen VII 5, Hunter V -, EF, well centered on a tight flan, some die wear, light marks, porous, weight 1.589 g, maximum diameter 15.0 mm, die axis 0o, 2nd officina, Treveri (Trier, Germany) mint, 337 - 340 A.D.; obverse FL MAX THEODORAE AVG, draped bust right, elaborate hairstyle, pearl necklace; reverse PIETAS ROMANA, Pietas standing facing, head right, holding infant at her breast, TRS in exergue; of greatest rarity; $280.00 (€249.20)


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)


Nero and Poppaea, 62 - 65 A.D., Koinon Galatia, Galatia

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Poppaea was renowned for her beauty and voluptuous extravagance. Nero divorced his first wife Octavia to marry her in 62 A.D. Three years later, in a fit of anger, Nero kicked her in the abdomen. Pregnant, she died from her injuries.
RP79843. Bronze AE 27, RPC I 3562, SNG BnF 2400, SNGvA 6117, SGICV 662, gF, nice portraits, legends not full struck, flan adjustment marks on the reverse, small flan crack, weight 13.988 g, maximum diameter 27.1 mm, die axis 0o, Tavium(?) mint, 62 - 65 A.D.; obverse NEPΩNOΣ ΣEBAΣTOY, laureate head of Nero right; reverse ΠOΠΠIAΣ ΣEBAΣTHΣ, draped bust of Poppaea right; $260.00 (€231.40)


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)




  



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