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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ Themes & Provenance ▸ Quality ▸ Masterpiece PortraitsView Options:  |  |  |   

Superb and Masterpiece Portraits

We define a superb portrait as one that appears that it could come to life. Most coin portraits actually lack this trait. A masterpiece portrait not only appears that it could come to life, but also makes an impression of what the subject was like, what they were thinking or how they felt. Of course, an abstract Celticized portrait may also be a masterpiece of a different kind. For the most part, we define a portrait as depicting a real person, not a god, personification or mythical hero, but we will make an exception here when the depiction is especially amazing. In addition to portraits of the finest style, on this page we include rarer bust types and portraits that we just find attractive or interesting.


Seleukid Kingdom, Seleukos III Keraunos, 226 - 223 B.C.

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Seleucus III Soter proved not to be the "Savior" that his official royal epithet advertised; nor did live up to his nickname Keraunos - "Thunder." He failed to reclaim western Asia Minor from his cousin, Attalus of Pergamum, and was assassinated after only a brief reign of only a few years.
GS86617. Silver drachm, Houghton-Lorber I 933, Newell WSM 1327, Weber 7867, HGC 9 418 (R3), gVF, superb portrait, light toning, light bumps and marks, reverse double struck with a worn damaged die, weight 4.056 g, maximum diameter 18.9 mm, die axis 0o, Northern Syria or Northern Mesopotamia, uncertain mint, 226 - 223 B.C.; obverse diademed head of Seleukos III with long sideburns; reverse Apollo seated left on omphalos, examining arrow in right hand, resting left hand on grounded bow, BAΣIΛEΩΣ (downward on right) ΣEΛEYKOY (downward on left), AP monogram (control) left, monogram (control) right; very rare; $980.00 (833.00)


Vespasian, 1 July 69 - 24 June 79 A.D.

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In 77 or 78 A.D., Gnaeus Julius Agricola was made governor of Roman Britain, a post he occupied until 84. In his first year, Agricola subdued the Ordovices in Wales and pursued the remnants of the tribe to Anglesey, the holy island of the Druids. According to Tacitus, he exterminated the whole tribe. The Ordovices do completely disappear from the historical record, but considering the mountainous terrain, it is unlikely the entire population was killed. Another tribe, the Silures, was either also militarily defeated or simply agreed to terms. Tacitus wrote of the Silures: non atrocitate, non clementia mutabatur - the tribe "was changed neither by cruelty nor by clemency." A Roman squadron, sent by Agricola, explored the north of Scotland for the first time, discovering the Orkney and Shetland Islands.Pre-Roman Wales
RS86687. Silver denarius, RIC II-1 983, RSC II 214, BMCRE II 214, BnF III 189, Hunter I 71, SRCV I 2292 var. (head right), Choice EF, well centered and struck, excellent portrait, mint luster, radiating flow lines, clashed reverse die, small edge cracks, weight 3.437 g, maximum diameter 18.5 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, Jul 77 - Dec 78 A.D.; obverse CAESAR VESPASIANVS AVG, laureate head left; reverse sow and three piglets at feet (one before, one below and one behind) walking left, all on ground line, IMP XIX in exergue; from the Jyrki Muona Collection; ex Helios, auction 4 (14 Oct 2009), lot 298; ex A. Lynn Collection; $810.00 (688.50)


Seleukid Kingdom, Antiochus I Soter, 281 - 261 B.C.

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Antiochus faced a formidable task holding the empire together. Revolt broke out in Syria almost immediately after his father's death. He earned the title Soter (savior) for victory over hordes of Gauls that attacked Anatolia. Elsewhere, he had little success. He was forced to abandon Macedonia, Thrace, Bithynia, and Cappadocia and to execute his eldest son for rebellion.
GS82667. Silver tetradrachm, Houghton-Lorber I 379.6c, Newell ESM 177, Meydancikkale 2929, HGC 9 128g, Choice gVF, well centered and struck, dark toning, attractive style, marks, edge bumps, weight 17.101 g, maximum diameter 29.6 mm, die axis 0o, Seleucia on the Tigris (south of Baghdad, Iraq) mint, c. 263 - 261 B.C.; obverse diademed head right, eyes to heaven; reverse Apollo seated left on omphalos, nude but for drapery over right thigh, examining arrow in right hand, resting left hand on grounded bow, BAΣIΛEΩΣ downward on left, ANT−IOXOY complex monograms outer left and outer right; $720.00 (612.00)


Hadrian, 11 August 117 - 10 July 138 A.D.

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Hadrian traveled to nearly every province of the Empire and spent more than half his reign outside Italy. Nero had been criticized as self-indulgent for his trip to Greece, but Hadrian proudly advertised his travels with his "Adventus" coinage series. Unlike Nero, the pleasure-seeking tourist, Hadrian inspected and corrected the legions and made grants for the construction of new public buildings, projects, and settlements. Hadrian travels were intended to transform conquered lands into a unified Roman Empire.
RB87800. Orichalcum sestertius, RIC II 938f (S), BMCRE III 1782, Hunter II 636, Cohen II 1218, SRCV II 3627, gVF, superb portrait, attractive green patina, well centered and struck, light marks, light corrosion, light earthen deposits, weight 25.249 g, maximum diameter 32.3 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 131 - 138 A.D.; obverse HADRIANVS AVG COS III P P, laureate and draped bust right, from behind; reverse RESTITVTORI ACHAIAE, Hadrian standing left, togate, holding roll in left hand, with right hand raising Achaea, draped, kneeling right and resting left hand on knee; urn containing palm between them, S C (senatus consulto) in exergue; rare; $500.00 (425.00)


Byzantine Anonymous Follis of Christ, Class A3, Basil II & Constantine VIII, c. 1023 - 11 November 1028 A.D.

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The emperor's name and portrait are not part of the design on the Byzantine types referred to as anonymous folles. Instead of the earthly king, these coins depict Jesus Christ, King of Kings.
SH82755. Bronze anonymous follis, Anonymous follis of Christ, class A3; SBCV 1818; Grierson-NumisWiki ornaments 24a, EF, some mint luster, areas of porosity, obverse legend weak, weight 11.982 g, maximum diameter 28.1 mm, die axis 180o, Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey) mint, c. 1023 - 11 Nov 1028 A.D.; obverse + EMMANOVHΛ (Latinized Hebrew: Emmanuel - "God with us"), facing bust of Christ, wearing nimbus cruciger with two pellets in each limb of cross, pallium, and colobium, holding gospels with both hands, gospels ornamented with two pellets within a jeweled border, to left IC, to right XC; reverse + IhSuS / XRISTuS / bASILEu / bASILE (Greek: Jesus Christ King of Kings), ornamentation above and below inscription; $400.00 (340.00)


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.
RS86670. Silver denarius, BMCRE V 172, RSC III 6a, RIC IV 211, Hunter III 1, Eauze Hoard 376 (29 spec.), SRCV II 7655, EF, attractive portrait, choice sharp reverse, light toning edge split, obverse slightly off center, weight 2.892 g, maximum diameter 19.6 mm, die axis 0o, Rome mint, 220 A.D.; obverse IVLIA PAVLA AVG, bare-headed, draped bust right, hair in horizontal ridges, small looped plait bun at back; reverse CONCORDIA (harmony), Concordia seated left, patera in right hand, left elbow resting on arm of throne, star in left field; from the Jyrki Muona Collection, ex Harlan J. Berk; scarce; $270.00 (229.50)


Probus, Summer 276 - September 282 A.D.

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In 278, Probus defeated the Alamanni, expelled the Franks from Gaul, reorganized the defenses on the Rhine, resettled the Germanic tribes in the devastated provinces of the Roman Empire, and adopted the titles of Gothicus Maximus and Germanicus Maximus.
RA76279. Silvered antoninianus, Pink VI-1, p. 63; RIC V-2 376 (S) var. (cuirass); Cohen VI 283 var. (same); Hunter IV 131 var. (same, and obv legend); SRCV III 11984 (same), Choice aEF, fantastic heroic bust, some mint luster, most silvering remains, light corrosion, weight 3.341 g, maximum diameter 22.8 mm, die axis 0o, 5th officina, Ticinum (Pavia, Italy) mint, 4 emission, 278 A.D.; obverse VIRTVS PROBI AVG (the valor of Emperor Probus), radiate bust left from behind, spear left in right hand, back bare but for balteus over right shoulder and rectangular Aegis shield with square corner in on left shoulder; reverse HERCVLI PACIF (to Hercules the pacifier), Hercules standing left, raising branch in extended right, club and Nemean Lion skin in left, VXXT in exergue; very rare; $165.00 (140.25)


Caracalla, 28 January 198 - 8 April 217 A.D., Antioch, Seleucis and Pieria, Syria

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"The two stars are probably the morning and evening stars, which are related to the Dioscuri, who, along with the great god and Allath, the great military goddess, were the chief deities of the Arabic cults. The twin gods were known as Aziz and Monim in Emesa, Abgal and Maan or Maanu and Shaaru in Palmyra, or Arsu (the cameleer god) and Azizu (the god riding a horse)." -- Michel Prier in The Syro-Phoenician Tetradrachms and Their Fractions from 57 BC to AD 253
RY87469. Billon tetradrachm, McAlee 673, Prier 212, Bellinger Syrian 12, SNG Cop -, BMC Galatia -, gVF, well centered and struck, nice portrait, toned, light corrosion/porosity, weight 11.741 g, maximum diameter 26.2 mm, die axis 180o, Antioch (Antakya, Turkey) mint, c. 208 - 212, probably 211 - 212 A.D.; obverse AYTKAI - ANTONEINOCCE-B, laureate bust right, bare shoulder from behind; reverse ∆HMAPXEΞYΠATOCTOΓ (holder of Tribunitian power, consul for the 3rd time), eagle standing facing, head right, tail right, wings open, wreath in beak, six-pointed stars at sides; $160.00 (136.00)


Caracalla, 28 January 198 - 8 April 217 A.D.

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Fortuna Redux, one of the many aspects of Fortuna, was in charge of bringing people home safely, primarily from wars - redux means "coming back" or "returning." She may be one of the later aspects of Fortuna, as the earliest mention of her is on an altar dedicated by the Senate in 19 B.C. for the safe return of Emperor Augustus.
RS87269. Silver denarius, RIC IV 189; RSC III 84; BMCRE V 1 p. 419, G1; SRCV II 6802; Hunter III -, Choice VF, superb portrait, well centered and struck, toned, slightly frosty, tiny edge cracks, weight 2.698 g, maximum diameter 18.8 mm, Rome mint, 211 A.D.; obverse ANTONINVS PIVS AVG BRIT, laureate head right; reverse FORT RED P M TR P XIIII COS III P P, Fortuna Redux standing facing, head left, cornucopia in right hand tip outward and top inward, drapery over left arm which is resting on a grounded rudder, wheel at feet on left; $150.00 (127.50)


Constantine the Great, Early 307 - 22 May 337 A.D.

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On 1 March 317, Constantine and Licinius elevated their sons Crispus, Constantine II (still a baby) and Licinius II to Caesars. After this arrangement, Constantine ruled the dioceses Pannonia and Macedonia, and established his residence at Sirmium. From there he prepared a campaign against the Goths and Sarmatians.
RL88034. Billon follis, RIC VII Trier 130 (R4), Cohen VII 534, SRCV IV 16063 var. (obv. legend), Hunter V -, Choice EF, attractive style and surfaces, weight 3.913 g, maximum diameter 19.5 mm, die axis 0o, 2nd officina, Treveri (Trier, Germany) mint, 317 A.D.; obverse IMP CONSTANTINVS P AVG, laureate and cuirassed bust right, from the front; reverse SOLI INVICTO COMITI (to the unconquered Sun, minister [of the Emperor]), Sol standing right, radiate, head turned back looking left, raising right hand commanding sunrise, globe in left hand, chlamys over shoulders and left arm and hanging behind, T - F divided across field, BTR in exergue; very rare; $140.00 (119.00)




  



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Masterpiece Portraits