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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.


Parthian Empire, Mithradates II, c. 121 - 91 B.C.

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Mithradates II was the eighth and one of the greatest Parthian kings. He defeated all Seleukid attempts to reclaim their Eastern territories and made Parthia a formidable, unified empire. He adopted the title Epiphanes, "god manifest" and introduced new designs on his extensive coinage. Late in his reign he exerted influence in Armenia, taking as hostage a prince who would become Tigranes the Great. -- www.parthia.com
SH86429. Silver tetradrachm, Sellwood 24.4, BMC 3, Boston MFA 2216, Sunrise 284, Shore 67 var., EF, fantastic high relief bust, well centered on a tight flan, slightest die wear, slightest porosity, weight 15.696 g, maximum diameter 28.2 mm, die axis 0o, Seleukeia on the Tigris mint, c. 119 - 109 B.C.; obverse diademed bust of Mithradates to left, long beard, wearing torc and elaborate robes; reverse BAΣIΛEΩΣ MEΓAΛOY APΣ-AKOY EΠIΦANOYΣ / TY (square clockwise, ending in exergue)), Arsakes I seated right on omphalos, bow in right hand, palm branch right; ex Pars (2008), ex Antiqua Inc. (2000); $2500.00 (2125.00)


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, Hoover Syrian 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, BAΣIΛEWS (downward on right) S (δοωνωαρδ ον ριγητ) Σ</θwnward on right) SEΛEYKOY (downward on left), AP monogram (control) left, monogram (control) right; very rare; $1200.00 (1020.00)


Pergamene Kingdom, Attalos I, 241 - 197 B.C.

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Attalus, a capable general, champion of the Greeks, and loyal ally of Rome, made Pergamon a powerful kingdom. He earned the name "Soter" (savior) by defeating the Galatians, who had plundered and exacted tribute for more than a generation. In the Macedonian Wars he allied with Rome against Philip V of Macedon.
GS86503. Silver tetradrachm, BMC Mysia p. 117, 43 (same tiny die break on monogram); SNGvA 1360; SNG BnF -, SNG Cop -, SNG Tub -, SNG Delepierre -, SNG Hunt -, Meydancikkale -, VF/F, superb portrait, light toning, bumps, marks, porosity, small test cut from edge, weight 16.393 g, maximum diameter 29.6 mm, die axis 0o, Mysia, Pergamum (Bergama, Turkey) mint, 215 - 197 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Philetaerus right in taenia; reverse ΦIΛETAIPOY downward on left, Athena enthroned left, crowning dynastic name with wreath in right hand, left arm resting on shield at side ornamented with a gorgoneion, transverse spear on her far side, ME monogram inner right under arm, star over bee outer left, strung bow right; from the David Cannon Collection, ex Beast Coins; very rare variant; $625.00 (531.25)


Macrinus, 11 April 217 - 8 June 218 A.D.

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Securitas stands perfectly at her ease, with legs crossed and leaning on a column, clearly relaxed, having nothing to fear. Macrinus was praised for restoring security by eliminating the fratricidal son of Severus, long feared as the most cruel tyrant of Rome, beloved only by a venal soldiery, whom his largesses had enriched.
SH77277. Silver denarius, RIC IV 92b, BMCRE V 80, RSC III 122c corr. (Antioch), Hunter III 32 var. (draped, no cuirass), SRCV II 7365, Choice EF, nearly as struck, light tone on luster, superb portrait, well centered, small edge cracks, weight 3.140 g, maximum diameter 20.0 mm, die axis 0o, Rome mint, obverse IMP C M OPEL SEV MACRINVS AVG, laureate and cuirassed bust right; reverse SECVRITAS TEMPORVM (time of security), Securitas standing facing, head left, scepter in right hand, left leg crossed in front of right, leaning with left forearm on column; from the Jyrki Muona Collection, ex Jean Elsen; $320.00 (272.00) ON RESERVE


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; $300.00 (255.00)


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

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In addition to rule, the Emperor was the Pontifex Maximus, the high priest of Rome, the president of the college of pontiffs, and responsible for overseeing the religion and sacred ceremonies of the Romans. On 17 December 384, after the Christian emperor Gratian refused the title, Pope Siricius took the title Pontifex Maximus.
RS85639. Silver denarius, RIC IV 204 (S), RSC III 682, BMCRE V 578, SRCV II 6906, Hunter III -, Choice gVF, unusual older youth portrait, well centered and struck, toned, light porosity, edge cracks, weight 3.493 g, maximum diameter 20.3 mm, die axis 0o, Rome mint, 208 - 210 A.D.; obverse ANTONINVS PIVS AVG, older youth's unbearded laureate head right; reverse VOTA SOLVT DEC COS III (Additional sacrifices for the tenth anniversary of rule, consul for the 3rd time), Caracalla standing left, veiled and togate, sacrificing out of patera in right hand over flaming tripod altar, roll in left hand, slain sacrificial bull recumbent on the far side of the altar; $220.00 (187.00)


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, some mint luster, most silvering remains, fantastic heroic bust, 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; $210.00 (178.50)


Marcus Aurelius, 7 March 161 - 17 March 180 A.D.

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Honos was the god of chivalry, honor and military justice. He was usually depicted in art with a spear and a cornucopia. He was sometimes identified with Virtus.
RS87051. Silver denarius, RIC III AP 426; BMCRE IV p. 73, 509; RSC II 100; SRCV II 4782, Hunter II -, gVF, choice obverse, superb portrait, golden toning, reverse legend weak, edge cracks, weight 3.356 g, maximum diameter 18.4 mm, die axis 0o, Rome mint, as caesar, Sep - Dec 144 A.D.; obverse AVRELIVS CAESAR AVG PII F, bare head right; reverse COS DES II (Consul once [in 140], selected for a second time [to begin 1 Jan 145]), Honos standing left, togate, head left, branch in right hand, cornucopia in left; Numismatik Naumann, auction 62, lot 1134 (part of); scarce; $185.00 (157.25)


Antoninus Pius, August 138 - 7 March 161 A.D.

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In Roman religion, every man has a genius, a presiding spirit. In De Die Natali, Censorinus says, from the moment we are born, we live under the guard and tutelage of Genius. Cities, organizations, and peoples also had a genius. On coins, we find inscriptions to the Genius of the Roman people, of the Senate, of the Emperor, etc.
RS85611. Silver denarius, RIC III 70, RSC II 405, BMCRE IV 207, Hunter II 39, SRCV II 4085, Nice VF, attractive style, light toning, obverse slightly off center, flan cracks, weight 3.159 g, maximum diameter 18.9 mm, die axis 165o, Rome mint, 140 - 144 A.D.; obverse ANTONINVS AVG PIVS P P TR P COS III, head right; reverse GENIVS POP ROMANI (Guardian spirit of the people of Rome), Genius of the People of Rome standing facing, head right, chest bare, himation over left shoulder and around hips and legs, long scepter vertical in left hand, cornucopia in right hand; ex Nemesis Ancients and Antiquities; $150.00 (127.50)


Constantine II, 22 May 337 - March or April 340 A.D.

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Constantine II was about eight years old when this coin was minted. Here he is draped and cuirassed as a powerful child Caesar with the world in his hands!
RL12133. Billon centenionalis, RIC VII Trier 382 (R3) corr. (no cuirass), SRCV V 17157 var. (bust), Cohen VII 23, aEF, superb bust type, broad flan, slightly uneven strike, reverse legend weak, weight 3.018 g, maximum diameter 19.7 mm, die axis 315o, 2nd officina, Treveri (Trier, Germany) mint, 323 A.D.; obverse CONSTANTINVS IVN NOB C, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust left, Victory on globe offering wreath in right hand, mappa in left, head of Medusa on cuirass; reverse BEATA TRANQVILLITAS (blessed tranquility), altar inscribed VO/TIS / XX, surmounted by globe, three stars above, STR crescent in exergue; rare; $120.00 (102.00)




  



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Masterpiece Portraits