The Nero Gold Quinarius

Joe Geranio

Did You Know this Roman Imperial Coin of Nero Exists? 

RIC 10; BMCRE 11, pl. 38, 6.

I feel odd even writing about this?  As I was doing research on the Quinarii of the Julio Claudians, I assumed there were at least AV (gold) issues of the big five, ie: Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula who of course must be the rarest and hardest to attain photos of, and then Claudius and then the coin we come to here; Nero.  Nero reigned from 54-68 A.D. and I thought there must be a decent amount of Neronian quinarius, when I say a decent amount , I mean 5 photos somewhere floating in the universe that I could find photos of the Nero small gold?    I just assumed there was a Nero AV quinarius?  I went to the usual sources and started my research of Nero and to my amazement !!  There was not much there?  

I then went to our FAC discussion board and knew Curtis Clay must have some information for me and so he gave me a little information that was very helpful. Nero gold quinariusBMC 11, pl. 38.6, apparently unique, part of the Blacas Coll. acquired by the BM in 1867.  Now this is the old Testament of information compared to how little information is out there?  I contacted the British Museum, as that is where the coin resides and Curtis actually gave me more information and they were not as excited about this wonderful Julio Claudian treasure as I was.   I would find examples like this regarding the Nero quinarius in context with Nero's monetary reform, but never with a photo of the Nero quinarius?  Just would get tid-bits of information like:   Nero's reform in 63-4 A.D. is remembered by Pliny the Elder (Nat. Hist. XXIII, 47), who points out that the princeps reduced the weight of the aureus to 1/45th of a libra (=about 7.27 grams).  As a consequence, Nero's quinarius aureus weighed 1/90th of a libra (=about 3.64 grams).   Our specimen above is 3.83 grams and dated 55-56 A.D.  The year after Nero became the last princeps of the Julio Claudian dynasty.  The point is, the article from Italy does not use a photo of the Neronian quinarius and did not respond to any of my questions on availability of the issue ? 

Experts in the field of Roman numismatics:  I spoke with a number of numismatists who did not even know the coin existed?  I could see this for some unique issue from Asia Minor, but; not a 12 Caesar in gold!  I was glad to see "The encyclopedia for Roman Imperial Coins", on this website had a description for the coin under the Nero section.  I was so excited I actually put the photo in under the description:   

The coin description is as follows: Nero Quinarius- 55-56 A.D.  AV 3.83 gr., 7h. NERO CL DIVI F CAES AVG PM TR P II (55-56 A.D.)  Youthful Bare Head Right.  Reverse:  VICT AVG Victory Draped, Alighting Left, Holding Round Shield in Right Hand. One thing worth noting on the reverse is the round shield is in such HIGH relief!   I would love to examine it at the British Museum one day.    ONE NEW UPDATE: In Numismatic Chronicle 7, (PUBLISHED BY COHEN MED IMP NO. 66) THERE IS A REFERENCE TO A NERO QUINARIUS ISSUE WITH THE FOLLOWING OBVERSE:  NERO CL. DIVI F CAES AVG PM TRP II. REVERSE: VICT. AVG (Victory flying to left holding shield) 

The Portrait itself is interesting. Nero would have been 18/19 years old in this portrait dated 55-56 A.D.  

Neroís early portraiture on coins shows a young man through the maturation process. These younger portraits are skillfully done, and have realism belonging to the young emperorís (princeps) age. He is much thinner and does not have the heaviness of the jowls and bloated face as we have come to love in his later portraits. This is Roman realism in portraiture. We never see Augustus or Tiberius age on Roman Imperial coin portraits, there are some portraits of Octavian that seem younger looking, but are not the same quality as Neronian  portraits from the imperial Mint. Tiberius has never aged on his coins from imperial Rome, especially the big flan coins with nice room for portraits, yet even on Neroís portrait on denarii and aurei, as well as this quinarius convey a high achievement in artistic quality in his portraiture.  Caligula was young and always had a sense of youthful realism, and Claudian coins have a more realistic sense to them on imperial coinage like Nero. The difference in wanting to convey realism on Neroís portraits is the high quality and die cutters ability for detail with the Hellenistic technical skills added. 

Here is a provincial piece struck 55 A.D. of Nero with similar hairstyle. PHRYGIA, Sebaste. Nero. AD 54-68. ∆ 18mm (5.65 g, 12h). Ioulios Dionysios, magistrate. Struck circa AD 55. Draped bust right / Zeus seated left, holding scepter and eagle. RPC 3155 (same obv. die); SNG MŁnchen 451-2 (same obv. die).


I took some time with this and came up with a portrait that is not seen too often, but matches well with the maturation process on this coin,  The young portrait of Nero here is from Russia and resides in the Hermitage Museum.  My Friend Hans took the photos and I think they best represent Nero at this time in his life.


Nero Caesar as a Youth.  Hermitage Museum.

Reference: On Neronian Reform of Quinarius and Silver.