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Caligula 's Denarii from 41 A.D.

(The denarius that got away from me)

By Joe Geranio

I have always been interested in the coinage of the Julio Claudians with a strong emphasis on Caligula 's coins. I love his coinage with the year 41 A.D. and when you think about the historical value alone!! Caligula was assassinated by his own praetorian guard. "On the ninth day before the Kalends of February at about the seventh hour he hesitated whether or not to get up for luncheon, since his stomach was still disordered from excess of food on the day before, but at length he came out at the persuasion of his friends. In the covered passage through which he had to pass, some boys of good birth, who had been summoned from Asia to appear on the stage, were rehearsing their parts, and he stopped to watch and to encourage them; and had not the leader of the troop complained that he had a chill, he would have returned and had the performance given at once. From this point there are two versions of the story: some say that as he was talking with the boys, Chaerea came up behind, and gave him a deep cut in the neck, having first cried, "Take that," and that then the tribune Cornelius Sabinus, who was the other conspirator and faced Gaius, stabbed him in the breast. Others say that Sabinus, after getting rid of the crowd through centurions who were in the plot, asked for the watchword, as soldiers do, and that when Gaius gave him "Jupiter," he cried "So be it," and as Gaius looked around, he split his jawbone with a blow of his sword. As he lay upon the ground and with writhing limbs called out that he still lived, the others dispatched him with thirty wounds; for the general signal was "Strike again." Some even thrust their swords through his privates. At the beginning of the disturbance his bearers ran to his aid with their poles, and presently the Germans of his body-guard, and they slew several of his assassins, as well as some inoffensive senators. (Suetonius - Life of Caligula 58).

I always wanted the date the is on this coin: C CAESAR . AVG . PON . M . TR . POT IIII COS . IIII. My chance came with a dealer I know and have trusted for over 25 years. There it was, all wrapped and ready for me to go!! It was in a Triton Sale in 2006 and I thought, oh no, its going to go for around 10,000 dollars, surely everyone was looking at this coin like I was, the wonderful wreath S P Q R / P P / OB C S reverse and the DATE! I had a limit of around 3,000 dollars maximum at this time for a coin, and was so cynical, I did not bid on it. The dealer said, you never know? This taught me a great lesson on coin bidding. Just go for it. But why did I have to learn the lesson on this issue!

Here is the way the coin was listed:

GAIUS (CALIGULA). 37-41 AD. AR Denarius (3.62 g, 6h). Rome mint. Struck January 41 AD. C CAESAR AVG PON M TR POT IIII COS IIII, laureate head of Gaius (Caligula) right / S P Q R/P P/OB C S in three lines within oak wreath. RIC I -; RIC I (1st ed.) 7 = BMCRE 32 = RSC 23a; Lyon -; BN -; Cohen -. VF, lightly toned, scattered marks, minor porosity. Extremely rare, the third known. ($2000)

Although the first of these three rare coins, the BM piece, was cataloged in the first edition of RIC I, it was left out of the revised edition. In that edition, Giard notes (p. 110, note *) that the BM piece was a misreading of TR POT III COS III. In fact, the first edition was correct, the piece was not misdescribed. The second known example of this type was sold as lot 56 in the Bourgey sale of 17 December 1913. Ironically, Bourgey misdescribed that coin as TR POT III COS III.

I knew the dealers sometimes leave the estimate bid low, this was at 2,000 USD, I thought no way this will get blown up the first day of bidding!! Well to make a long story short, the coin went for 2,600 dollars and I have forever kicked my self whenever I think of it. On top of all that the coin is unlisted at: http://www.ancientcoins.ca/RIC/RIC1/RIC1_Caligula.htm and just references: GAIUS (CALIGULA). 37-41 AD. AR Denarius (3.62 g, 6h). Rome mint. Struck January 41 AD. C CAESAR AVG PON M TR POT IIII COS IIII, laureate head of Gaius (Caligula) right / S P Q R/P P/OB C S in three lines within oak wreath. RIC I -; RIC I (1st ed.) 7 = BMCRE 32 = RSC 23a; Lyon -; BN -; Cohen -.

Joe Geranio

Julio Claudian Iconographic Association



Caligula and Divus Augustus. 37-41 AD. Denarius, 3.71g (3h). Lugdunum, 41 AD. Obv: C CAESAR AVG GERM PON M TR POT IIII COS IIII Laureate head of Caligula right. Rx: GERMANICVS CAES P C CAES AVG GERM Bare head of Germanicus right. Reverse type apparently unlisted for this issue. Some encrustation. Lightly toned. About EF/VF. Extremely rare denarius of Caligula 's fourth consulship, which only lasted from 1 January 41 until his assassination on 24 January, and with a new reverse type for the issue. Giard, Lyon (1983), p. 145, knew no aurei of Caligula at all dated COS IIII, and only four denarii, one in Oxford with reverse Divus Augustus, two in Vienna and Mazzini with reverse Agrippina I, and one in a Bourgey sale of 1913 with reverse S P Q R P P OB C S in oak wreath. BMCRE I 32 may be a second denarius with this last reverse type, but the reading of the dates in the obverse legend requires confirmation. Our Germanicus reverse type, previously unknown, thus completes the expected set of four denarius reverse types for Caligula 's final issue of January 41. The obverse die of our denarius appears to be different from those of BMCRE I 32 and the four coins reported by Giard.

GAIUS (CALIGULA), with DIVVS AUGUSTUS. 37-41 AD. AR Denarius (3.71 gm, 5h). Rome mint. Struck 41 AD. C CAESAR AVG PONT TR POT IIII COS IIII, Laureate head of Gaius right / DIVVS AVG PATER PATRIAE, Radiate head of Augustus right; no stars. RIC I 31; BMCRE I -; RSC I 8. (Image courtesy CNG)

GAIUS (CALIGULA), with DIVVS AUGUSTUS. 37-41 AD. AR Denarius (3.71 gm, 5h). Rome mint. Struck 41 AD. C CAESAR AVG PONT TR POT IIII COS IIII, Laureate head of Gaius right / AGRIPINNA MAT C CAES AVG GERM, Radiate head of Augustus right; no stars. Cohen I I 7. BMCRE I p. 150 note . RIC I 30. BnF II . (Image courtesy Numismatica Ars Classica)



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