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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Themes & Provenance| ▸ |Quality| ▸ |Masterpiece Portraits||View 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.

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

|Vespasian|, |Vespasian,| |1| |July| |69| |-| |24| |June| |79| |A.D.,| |Judaea| |Capta||denarius|
On 14 April 70 A.D. Titus surrounded Jerusalem. He allowed pilgrims to enter to celebrate Passover but this was a trap to put pressure on supplies of food and water; he refused to allow them to leave. On 10 May he began his assault on the walls. The third wall fell on 25 May. The second wall fell on 30 May. On 20 July Titus stormed the Temple Mount. On 4 August 70 A.D. Titus destroyed the Temple. The Jewish fast of Tisha B'Av mourns the Fall of Jerusalem annually on this date. This type celebrates the victory of Vespasian and Titus. Coins commemorating this event are referred to as "Judaea Capta" issues.
SH99749. Silver denarius, RIC II-1 2; Hendin 6509; BMCRE II 35; RSC II 226; Hunter I 18; SRCV I 2296, gVF, toned, excellent portrait, obverse off center, die wear, edge crack, weight 3.347 g, maximum diameter 19.3 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, c. 21 Dec 69 - early 70 A.D.; obverse IMP CAESAR VESPASIANVS AVG, laureate head right; reverse Jewess captive seated right in attitude of mourning beside a trophy of captured arms behind her, IVDAEA in exergue; ex Jesus Vico auction 161 (21 Apr 2022), lot 419; $700.00 SALE PRICE $630.00


Elagabalus, 16 May 218 - 11 March 222 A.D., Neapolis, Samaria, Syria Palestina

|Roman| |Judea| |&| |Palestina|, |Elagabalus,| |16| |May| |218| |-| |11| |March| |222| |A.D.,| |Neapolis,| |Samaria,| |Syria| |Palestina||AE| |24|
Neapolis, Samaria, the biblical Shechemis, is now Nablus, Israel. It is the site of Joseph's Tomb and Jacob's well. Jesus spoke here to a Samaritan woman. Neapolis is home to about half the remaining worldwide Samaritan population of 600.
RP98112. Bronze AE 24, SNG ANS 1007 (same dies); cf. Rosenberger II 53; BMC Palestine p. 61, 103; Sofaer 109 - 110; Baramki AUB 36, nice VF, excellent portrait, attractive green patina with highlighting earthen deposits, some legend not fully struck, edge splits, weight 6.701 g, maximum diameter 24.1 mm, die axis 180o, Neapolis (Nablus, Israel) mint, 16 May 218 - 11 Mar 222 A.D.; obverse AVT K M AVP - ANTWNIN, laureate head right, slight drapery on left shoulder; reverse ΦΛ NE - CVP Π (Flavia Neapolis Syria Palestina), Tyche standing slightly left, head left, kalathos on head, rudder held by tiller in right hand, cornucopia in left hand; ex Menashe Landman Collection; rare; $200.00 SALE PRICE $180.00


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

|Caracalla|, |Caracalla,| |28| |January| |198| |-| |8| |April| |217| |A.D.||dupondius|
In 213, Caracalla left Rome to expel some German marauders from Gaul, then defended the northern Rhine frontier against the Alamanni and the Chatti. After his victory over the German tribes on the banks of the River Main, he gave himself the title "Germanicus." It is probably while campaigning in Germania that he took a liking to the caracalla, a Celtic or German tunic from which he acquired the name by which he is known today. His mother, Julia Domna, stayed behind and ruled the Empire.
RB98433. Orichalcum dupondius, RIC IV 514 (S), BMCRE V 254, Cohen IV 534, SRCV II 6973, Hunter III 81 var. (slight drapery), aVF, excellent portrait, dark green and red patina, reverse legend partially unstruck, weight 8.190 g, maximum diameter 251 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 213 A.D.; obverse ANTONINVS PIVS AVG BRIT, radiate head right; reverse PROVIDENTIAE DEORVM (to the foresight of the gods), Providentia standing left, baton held over globe in right hand, long scepter in left hand, S - C (senatus consulto) flanking across field; scarce; $180.00 SALE PRICE $162.00


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

|Constantine| |the| |Great|, |Constantine| |the| |Great,| |Early| |307| |-| |22| |May| |337| |A.D.||centenionalis|
Constantine reorganized the Roman army to consist of mobile field units and garrison soldiers capable of countering internal threats and barbarian invasions. Constantine pursued successful campaigns against the tribes on the Roman frontiers - the Franks, the Alamanni, the Goths, and the Sarmatians - even resettling territories abandoned by his predecessors during the turmoil of the previous century.
RL99323. Billon centenionalis, RIC VII Antioch 78, LRBC I 1345, SRCV IV 16269, Cohen VII 454, Choice VF, nice portrait, flow lines, weight 3.109 g, maximum diameter 18.5 mm, die axis 0o, 3rd officina, Antioch (Antakya, Turkey) mint, 327 - 328 A.D.; obverse CONSTAN-TINVS AVG, rosette-diademed head right, square "rosettes"; reverse PROVIDENTIAE AVGG (to the foresight of the two emperors), campgate with two turrets, star above, no door, no pellet in gateway, SMANTΓ in exergue; from a private collector in New Jersey; $110.00 SALE PRICE $99.00


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

|Cilicia|, |Hadrian,| |11| |August| |117| |-| |10| |July| |138| |A.D.,| |Olba,| |Cilicia||AE| |22|
This beardless, youthful, portrait of Hadrian resembles Augustus. Portraits of emperors, especially Julio-Claudian emperors, early in their reigns, were sometimes "Augusticized." Even Claudius, who looked very little like Augustus, resembles Augustus in some portraits. A new emperor would take the physical features of Augustus, to suggest he also shared the virtues of Augustus.
RP99687. Bronze AE 22, RPC Online III 3242 (8 spec.); Staffieri 45; SNG BnF 849; BMC Lyconia p. 124, 22 & pl. XXII, 9); Waddington 4433; SNG Cop -; SNGvA -, gF, attractive style, flan crack and split, porous grainy surfaces, obv. off center, weak obv. legend, weight 4.777 g, maximum diameter 22.3 mm, die axis 180o, Olba-Dioceasarea (Mersin Province, Turkey) mint, c. 11 Aug 117 - 118 A.D.; obverse AYTO KAI ΘE TPA ΠAP YI A∆PIANOC, laureate beardless youthful head of Hadrian right (Augusticized portrait); reverse OΛBEΩN, draped bust of Selene right, hair in a bun at the back, wearing stephane, within crescent moon arching behind; rare; $100.00 SALE PRICE $90.00


Severus Alexander, 13 March 222 - March 235 A.D., Amphipolis, Macedonia

|Amphipolis|, |Severus| |Alexander,| |13| |March| |222| |-| |March| |235| |A.D.,| |Amphipolis,| |Macedonia||AE| |24|
Tyche (Greek for luck; the Roman equivalent was Fortuna) was the presiding tutelary deity that governed the fortune and prosperity of a city, its destiny. Increasingly during the Hellenistic period, cities had their own specific iconic version of Tyche, wearing a mural crown (a crown like the walls of the city).
RP97773. Bronze AE 24, Varbanov III 3298 (R4); SNG Cop 118; BMC Macedonia p. 59, 133 var. (obv. leg.); SNG ANS 203 var. (same); AMNG III -, aVF, excellent portrait, green patina, light deposits, reverse off center, edge cracks, weight 6.894 g, maximum diameter 23.5 mm, die axis 0o, Amphipolis mint, 13 Mar 222 - Mar 235 A.D.; obverse AVT K M AVP CEV AΛEΞAN∆POC, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, seen from behind; reverse AMΦIΠOΛEITΩN, turreted city goddess enthroned left, patera in extended right hand, fish left in exergue; $70.00 SALE PRICE $63.00


Augustus, 16 January 27 B.C. - 19 August 14 A.D.

|Augustus|, |Augustus,| |16| |January| |27| |B.C.| |-| |19| |August| |14| |A.D.||aureus|
The Sphinx was one of Augustus' symbols and was used on his personal seal (Suetonius).
SH30615. Gold aureus, RIC I 512 corr. (head left), BMCRE 682, Calico 156, Cohen 333, gVF, weight 7.998 g, maximum diameter 21.5 mm, die axis 0o, Pergamon (Bergama, Turkey) mint, c. 19 - 18 B.C.; obverse AVGVSTVS, bare head right; reverse sphinx seated right; attractive reddish toning; rare; SOLD


Severus Alexander, 13 March 222 - March 235 A.D.

|Severus| |Alexander|, |Severus| |Alexander,| |13| |March| |222| |-| |March| |235| |A.D.||aureus|
Certificate of Authenticity issued by David R. Sear.

This coin is a near perfect specimen, cut from fresh dies which were equisitly engraved. When rotating the coin under a light, Severus' hair and laurel wreath literally sparkle as if a diamond. One of the finest coins ever handled by Forum, this coin has no equal.
SH21939. Gold aureus, RIC IV 103, BMCRE VI 620, brilliant Mint State, weight 5.922 g, maximum diameter 20.6 mm, die axis 225o, Rome mint, 230 A.D.; obverse IMP SEV ALEXAND AVG, laureate bust right with drapery on left shoulder; reverse P M TR P VIII COS III P P, emperor advancing right, spear in right hand, trophy over shoulder in left; "brilliant mint state" grade by Sear and on certificate, ex Gemini III, 430; SOLD


Trajan, 25 January 98 - 8 or 9 August 117 A.D.

|Trajan|, |Trajan,| |25| |January| |98| |-| |8| |or| |9| |August| |117| |A.D.||aureus|
Fortuna (equivalent to the Greek goddess Tyche) goddess of fortune, was the personification of luck. Fortuna Redux brought one safely home, in this case the emperor. The Romans believed that Fortuna, after deserting the Persians and Assyrians, took flight over Macedonia and saw Alexander perish as she passed into Syria and Egypt. At last arriving on Mount Palatine, she threw aside her wings and casting away her wheel (the wheel of fortune), entered Rome where she took up her abode forever.
SH30319. Gold aureus, Woytek 525t+-12 var. (no stops, same rev. die), Calic 1025 var. (same), RIC II 320, Cohen II 152, BMCRE III 576 var. (globe under bust), Choice VF, elegant bust type, nice style, excellent strike, weight 7.224 g, maximum diameter 19.5 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 114 - 116 A.D.; obverse IMP CAES NER TRAIANO OPTIMO AVG GER DAC, laureate bust right, bare chest, wearing aegis visible front and back; reverse FORT RED P M TR P COS VI P P S P Q R, Fortuna seated left on chair without back, rudder in right hand, cornucopia in left hand; very scarce; SOLD


Trajan, 25 January 98 - 8 or 9 August 117 A.D.

|Trajan|, |Trajan,| |25| |January| |98| |-| |8| |or| |9| |August| |117| |A.D.||aureus|
SH30330. Gold aureus, Woytek 525, Calico 1026, RIC II 319, BMCRE III 569, Cohen II -, Choice EF, well centered and struck on a full broad flan, nice style, minor scratches, weight 7.355 g, maximum diameter 18.8 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 116 A.D.; obverse IMP CAES NER TRAIANO OPTIMO AVG GER DAC, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, from behind; reverse FORT RED P M TR P COS VI P P S P Q R, Fortuna seated left on chair without back, rudder in right hand, cornucopia in left hand; SOLD







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