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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 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)


Caligula, 16 March 37 - 24 January 41 A.D.

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The first Rome mint portrait sestertius type, and a highly sought after reverse type.
SH84794. Orichalcum sestertius, RIC I 33; BMCRE p. 152, 36; BnF II 47; Cohen I 4; SRCV I 1800, gF, excellent centering and strike, attractive portrait, patina worn and scraped on high points, bumps and scratches, weight 27.881 g, maximum diameter 35.6 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 37 - 38 A.D.; obverse C CAESAR AVG GERMANICVS PON M TR POT, laureate head left; reverse AGRIPPINA DRVSILLA IVLIA, the three sisters of Caligula standing, in the guises of Securitas, Concordia, and Fortuna, S C (senatus consulto) in exergue; rare; $2260.00 (2011.40)


Pontic Kingdom, Mithradates VI, c. 120 - 63 B.C., Lysimachos Type

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Mithradates VI Eupator "the Great" expanded his Pontic Kingdom through conquest, which inevitably brought him into conflict with Rome. He regarded himself as the champion of the Greeks against Rome, however, after three years of war, he was defeated by Pompey the Great. The design of this coin is taken from a coin of Lysimachos, bodyguard of Alexander the Great, and King of Thrace, 323 - 281 B.C. The Lysimachos coin depicted Alexander the Great on the obverse. The features of the portrait on this type are those of Mithradates VI.
SH85133. Gold stater, De Callata p. 141 (D1/R1), SNG Cop 1090 (Thrace), VF, die wear, weight 8.395 g, maximum diameter 19.2 mm, die axis 0o, Moesia Inferior, Tomis (Constanta, Romania) mint, First Mithradatic War, 88 - 86 B.C.; obverse diademed head of Alexander the Great (with the features of Mithradates VI), wearing the horn of Ammon; reverse BAΣIΛEΩΣ ΛYΣIMAXOY, Athena enthroned left, wearing crested helmet, Nike in right hand, resting left arm on round shield behind, monogram and V above knee, TO on throne, trident in exergue; ex CNG e-auction 92 (23 Jun 2004), lot 27; $1200.00 (1068.00)


Celtic, Ambiani, North East Gaul, c. 58 - 55 B.C., Gallic War Issue

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The Ambiani occupied the Somme valley in northern France. These uniface Gallic War staters were struck to fund the war against Julius Caesar in Gaul. The blank obverse is often ascribed to a need for speed in striking this emergency war coinage. There are, however, more than a few other similar uniface Celtic coin types and one blank side would do little to speed up the mint. More likely, they just found one plain side and one detailed side "nice enough." This type is often found in Britain, many of which may have been carried there by Celtic mercenaries retreating after Caesar's victories.
SH85134. Gold stater, Delestre-Tache 241, Cottam ABC 16, Van Arsdell 52-1, Castelin 289, De la Tour 8710, SCBC 11, EF, light scratches, weight 6.084 g, maximum diameter 17.4 mm, obverse plain bulge; reverse disjointed "Celticized" horse right, crescents and pellets around; ex Coins of Antiquity (Hillsborough, NC); $750.00 (667.50)


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; $630.00 (560.70)


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 (senatus consulto) in exergue; old anonymous dealer or collector tag in Italian; scarce; $600.00 (534.00)


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 waved 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; $490.00 (436.10)


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; $400.00 (356.00)


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 (daughter of the pius emperor), Concordia standing left, patera in extended right, cornucopia in left hand, S - C across field below center; $360.00 (320.40)


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 in left hand, ∆H under arm, monogram below throne; $360.00 (320.40)


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; $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 (harmony), Concordia seated left, patera in right hand, left elbow resting on arm of throne, star in left field; scarce; $260.00 (231.40)


Otacilia Severa, Augusta, February 244 - End of September 249 A.D., Hierapolis, Phrygia in Homonoia with Sardis

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This coin commemorates the homonoia (alliance) between Phrygia and Sardis. The wreaths refer to the games sponsored by each of the two cities, the ΠYΘIA games held by Hierapolis, and the XPVCANΘINA games held by Sardes.
RP77256. Bronze AE 25, Franke-Nolle, type V, 838 (Vs. A/Rs. 11); cf. Lindgren-Kovacs 976; BMC Phrygia p. 260, 175, F, weight 7.301 g, maximum diameter 25.0 mm, die axis 180o, Hierapolis (near Pamukkale, Turkey) mint, Feb 244 - End Sep 249 A.D.; obverse M ΩT CEVHPA, draped bust right, wearing stephane, hair in horizontal ridges, plait up the back of head; reverse IEPAΠOΛEITΩN K CAP∆,IANΩN NEΩ/KOPΩN (ending in two lines in exergue), two wreaths side by side with inscriptions within, left wreath XPV/CAN, right wreath ΠVΘ/IA, OMONOI/A in the field above; very rare; $250.00 (222.50)


Judaea, Bar Kochba Revolt, 132 - 135 A.D.

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In 134, the Romans captured Jerusalem. Simon bar Kokhba was killed in 135, at Betar, a fortress where he had taken refuge. Jerusalem, largely destroyed, was renamed Colonia Aelia Capitolina. Legio VI Ferrata rebuilt the legionary fortress in the city and constructed a Roman temple at Golgotha. An altar to Jupiter was erected on the site of the Temple in Jerusalem. Although, resistance continued in Galilee, the Jewish diaspora began as Emperor Hadrian barred Jews from Jerusalem and had survivors of the massacre dispersed across the Roman Empire. Many were sold into slavery. The Jews remained scattered without a homeland for close to two millennia.
JD84994. Bronze AE 26, Mildenberg 77; SNG ANS 530; BMC Palestine p. 307, 38; Hendin 1408a; Meshorer TJC 259b, F, uneven strike, small edge crack, porous, weight 7.954 g, maximum diameter 25.6 mm, die axis 180o, year 2 (133 - 134 A.D.); obverse seven branched palm tree with two bunches of dates, Paleo-Hebrew inscription: "Shimon" flanking trunk; reverse Paleo-Hebrew inscription: "Year 2 of the freedom of Israel", five-lobed vine-leaf, hanging from tendril; $250.00 (222.50)


Ptolemaic Kingdom, Cleopatra VII Thea Philopator, 51 - 30 B.C.

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Cleopatra VII originally shared power with her father Ptolemy XII and later with her brother-husbands Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy XIV. Her relationship with Julius Caesar led to sole rule. After Caesar's assassination, she aligned with Mark Antony. Her reign marks the end of the Hellenistic Era and the beginning of the Roman Era. She was the last Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt.
GI85343. Bronze hemiobol, Svoronos 1872; Weiser 184; SNG Cop 422; BMC Alexandria p. 123, 5; Noeske 383; Sear CRI 949, aF, bumps, scratches, corrosion, flan crack, weight 8.383 g, maximum diameter 21.2 mm, die axis 0o, Alexandria mint, 51 - 30 B.C.; obverse diademed and draped bust of Cleopatra right, characteristic melon coif; reverse KΛEOΠATPAΣ BACIΛICCHC, eagle standing left on thunderbolt, wings closed, head left, cornucopia left, M (40 drachms = hemiobol) right; $250.00 (222.50)


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; $240.00 (213.60)


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 (senatus consulto) flanking across field below center; scarce; $230.00 (204.70)


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; $225.00 (200.25)


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

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Vesta was originally a household spirit. Later she was personified as the goddess of the hearth and given the stature of her Greek equivalent, Hestia. In the temple of Vesta her flame was kept alive by Vestal Virgins.
RB79847. Orichalcum sestertius, BMCRE IV MA1178, RIC III MA1779, Cohen III 94 corr. (torch for palladium), SRCV II 5510, Hunter III -, aVF, well centered, corrosion, weight 24.955 g, maximum diameter 29.5 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 164 - 166 A.D.; obverse LVCILLAE AVG - ANTONINI AVG F, Draped bust right, hair waved and in a chignon lown on back of head; reverse VESTA, Vesta standing left, flaming column alter at feet on left, simpulum in right hand, palladium in left hand sloped at shoulder in left, S - C (senatus consulto) flanking across lower half of field; $220.00 (195.80)


Nero and Poppaea, 62 - 65 A.D., Thyatira, Lydia

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Poppaea was renowned for her beauty and voluptuous extravagance. In 62 A.D., Nero divorced his wife Octavia to marry Poppaea. According to Tacitus, Poppaea married Otho only to get close to Nero and then, in turn, became Nero's favorite mistress, and then wife. She bore Nero one daughter, Claudia Augusta, born 21 January 63, who died at only four months of age. At the birth of Claudia, Nero honored mother and child with the title of Augusta. According to Suetonius, one day in the summer of 65, Poppaea quarreled fiercely with Nero over his spending too much time at the races. She was pregnant with her second child. In a fit of rage, Nero kicked her in the abdomen, killing her.
RP84927. Bronze AE 19, RPC I 2383 (6 spec.); BMC Lydia p. 302, 65; Weber 6932, SNG Cop -; SNGvA -, aVF, dark green patina, a little rough, weight 4.666 g, maximum diameter 18.6 mm, die axis 0o, Thyatira (Akhisar, Turkey) mint, c. 62 A.D.; obverse NERΩN KΛAY∆IOC KAICAP CEBACTOC, laureate head of Nero right; reverse ΠOΠΠAIAN CEBACTHN ΘYATIPHNOI, draped bust of Poppaea right; rare; $220.00 (195.80)




  



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