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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.

Claudius, 25 January 41 - 13 October 54 A.D.

|Claudius|, |Claudius,| |25| |January| |41| |-| |13| |October| |54| |A.D.||sestertius|NEW
The wreath on the reverse is the corona civica, the oak wreath awarded to Roman citizens ex senatus consulto (by special decree of the Senate) for saving the life of another citizen by slaying an enemy in battle. It became a prerogative for Roman emperors to be awarded the Civic Crown, originating with Augustus, who was awarded it in 27 B.C. for saving the lives of citizens by ending the series of civil wars.
SH98650. Orichalcum sestertius, RIC I 112, BMCRE I 185, Cohen I 38, SRCV I 1850, Hunter I -, Choice gVF, perfect centering, excellent portrait, attractive toned brass, weight 25.843 g, maximum diameter 35.0 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 42 A.D.; obverse TI CLAVDIVS CAESAR AVG P M TR P IMP P P, laureate head right; reverse EX S C / P P / O B CIVES / SERVATOS, inscription in four lines in oak wreath (Corona Civica); ex Naville Numismatics auction 64 (21 Mar 2021), lot 495; $2000.00 (€1640.00)
 


Nero, 13 October 54 - 9 June 68 A.D.

|Nero|, |Nero,| |13| |October| |54| |-| |9| |June| |68| |A.D.||sestertius|
A decursio was a military exercise, by which Roman soldiers were taught to make long marches in a given time, under arms and without quitting their ranks. They sometimes consisted of a mock fight between two divisions. Augustus and subsequently Hadrian ordered that the infantry and cavalry were to march out three times a month ten miles from the camp and ten miles back, fully armed and equipped. Decursio on this coin probably refers Nero's participation in mock military maneuvers in the circus.
SH96390. Orichalcum sestertius, RIC I 508, Mac Dowall WCN 448, BMCRE I 316, BnF II 135, Cohen I 88, SRCV I -, Choice aEF/VF, superb portrait, well centered and struck, scratches, marks, porosity more on the reverse, weight 23.971 g, maximum diameter 35.4 mm, die axis 180o, Lugdunum (Lyon, France) mint, 66 A.D.; obverse IMP NERO CAESAR AVG PONT MAX TR POT P P, laureate head left, small globe at point; reverse DECVRSIO (in exergue), Nero and a companion on horseback prancing right, Nero holds spear in right hand, companion holds vexillum in right over shoulder, S - C (senatus consulto) flanking across field; $1860.00 (€1525.20)
 


Seleukid Kingdom, Demetrius II Nikator, 146 - 138 and 129 - 125 B.C.

|Seleucid| |Kingdom|, |Seleukid| |Kingdom,| |Demetrius| |II| |Nikator,| |146| |-| |138| |and| |129| |-| |125| |B.C.||tetradrachm|
Demetrius II ruled for two periods, separated by years of captivity in Parthia. He gained the throne with the help of Egypt, but general Diodotus rebelled, took Antioch and made Antiochus VI Dionysus his puppet king. Demetrius then ruled part of the kingdom from Seleucia. In 38 B.C. he attacked the Parthians but was defeated and captured, ending his first reign. The Parthians released him in 129 B.C. when his brother, Antiochus VII Sidetes, marched against Parthia. They hoped the brothers would fight a civil war but the Parthians soon defeated Sidetes, and Demetrius returned to rule Syria. His second reign portraits show him wearing a Parthian styled beard. His second reign ended when he was defeated and killed by yet another usurper set up by Egypt, Alexander II Zabinas.
GY98123. Silver tetradrachm, Houghton-Lorber II 2195(3)a; Newell Tyre 165; SNG Spaer 2239; DCA 230; HGC 9 1122; BMC Seleucids p. 76, 6 var. (control), EF, nicely toned, excellent portrait, bold strike, light bumps and scratches, a little off center, weight 13.648 g, maximum diameter 29.3 mm, die axis 45o, Tyre (Lebanon) mint, 128 - 127 B.C.; obverse diademed and draped bust right; reverse ∆HMHTPIOY BAΣIΛEΩΣ, eagle standing left on ship's ram, palm frond under wing, A/PE above (Tyre monogram) over club left, AVΣ monogram over EΠP (year 185) right, ZB monogram (control) between eagles legs; $700.00 (€574.00)
 


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; $225.00 (€184.50)
 


Carus, Early September 282 - c. July or August 283 A.D.

|Carus|, |Carus,| |Early| |September| |282| |-| |c.| |July| |or| |August| |283| |A.D.||antoninianus|
In 282, Probus traveled towards Sirmium (Serbia). He tried to employ his troops in peaceful projects, such as draining the swamps in Pannonia. His troops, unhappy about this labor, murdered him. Marcus Aurelius Carus, an Illyrian and Probus' praetorian prefect, was proclaimed the new emperor.
RA97844. Billon antoninianus, RIC V-2 110 (R); Cohen VI 24; Venčra IV 4339 - 4352; Hunter IV 12; Pink VI-2, pp. 48; SRCV III 12403, EF, excellent portrait, near full borders on a broad oval flan, scattered small encrustations, two edge splits and flan crack, weight 4.064 g, maximum diameter 24.9 mm, die axis 180o, 1st officina, Siscia mint, c. 284 A.D.; obverse DIVO CARO PARTHICO, radiate head right; reverse CONSECRATIO AVG, funeral altar, nearly square, four panels in front, large flame on top, A right, SMSXXI in exergue; from a Norwegian collection; rare; $200.00 (€164.00)
 


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

|Constantine| |II|, |Constantine| |II,| |22| |May| |337| |-| |March| |or| |April| |340| |A.D.||centenionalis|NEW
Constantine II was the son of Constantine I, the eldest with his second wife, Fausta. He was made Caesar before he was a year old. Constantine II was about eight years old when this coin was minted. He is depicted draped in the ornate trabea worn by a consul, a powerful child Caesar with the world and victory in his hands! Upon his father's death, Constantine II inherited the Western empire. After quarreling with his younger brother Constans, he invaded Constans' territory, only to be killed in an ambush near Aquileia.
RL98401. Billon centenionalis, RIC VII Trier 382 (R3), SRCV V 17152, Cohen VII 23, Hunter V -, EF, near black patina (toned silvering), radiating flow lines, tiny encrustations, very slightly off center but full legends, trace of pre-strike casting sprue, weight 3.710 g, maximum diameter 19.0 mm, die axis 180o, 2nd officina, Treveri (Trier, Germany) mint, as caesar, 321 - 323 A.D.; obverse CONSTANTINVS IVN NOB C, laureate bust left draped in ornate trabea (consular mantle), Victory on globe offering wreath in right hand, mappa in left hand; reverse BEATA TRANQVILLITAS (blessed tranquility), altar inscribed VO/TIS / XX in three lines, surmounted by celestial globe, three stars above, •STR• in exergue; very rare; $180.00 (€147.60)
 


Septimius Severus, 9 April 193 - 4 February 211 A.D.

|Septimius| |Severus|, |Septimius| |Severus,| |9| |April| |193| |-| |4| |February| |211| |A.D.||denarius|
Providence is most often depicted clothed in a matron’s gown, holding a cornucopia in her left hand and in her right a short wand, which she points to a globe. She holds this globe in her right hand or it lies at her feet. The type is intended to mark the power and wisdom of the emperor, who ruled the Roman world. On this coin the plural AVGG indicates two Augusti, Severus and his son Caracalla.
RS97451. Silver denarius, RIC IV 166, RSC III 586, BMCRE V 197, SRCV II 6354, Hunter III -, aEF, excellent portrait, nice toning, small scratch in beard, edge a little ragged, weight 3.184 g, maximum diameter 19.5 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 200 - 210 A.D.; obverse SEVERVS AVG PART MAX, laureate head right; reverse PROVID AVGG (the foresight of the two emperors), Providentia standing left, wand in right hand held over globe at feet on left, long grounded scepter vertical in left hand; $140.00 (€114.80)
 


Julia Mamaea, Augusta 13 March 222 - February or March 235 A.D.

|Julia| |Mamaea|, |Julia| |Mamaea,| |Augusta| |13| |March| |222| |-| |February| |or| |March| |235| |A.D.||denarius|
Fecunditas (Latin: "fecundity, fertility") was the goddess of fertility. She was portrayed as a matron, sometimes holding a cornucopia or a hasta pura, with children in her arms or standing next to her.
RS94690. Silver denarius, RSC III 6, RIC IV 332, BMCRE VI 913, SRCV II 8208, Hunter III -, gVF, dark as-found hoard toning, excellent portrait, flow lines, tight flan, some light corrosion, small edge cracks, weight 1.334 g, maximum diameter 19.6 mm, die axis 0o, Rome mint, c. 232 A.D.; obverse IVLIA MAMAEA AVG, draped bust right, wearing stephane, hair in horizontal ridges, with looped plait at the back of neck; reverse FECVND AVGVSTAE, Fecunditas enthroned left, reaching out with her right hand to small boy standing before her nude with hands raised, left arm on chair; from the Ray Nouri Collection; $120.00 (€98.40)
 


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

|Constantine| |the| |Great|, |Constantine| |the| |Great,| |Early| |307| |-| |22| |May| |337| |A.D.||centenionalis|NEW
On 20 May 325, Constantine I summoned an ecumenical council of bishops in Nicaea (the First Council of Nicaea). The Nicene Creed declares that the members of the Trinity (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) are equal. The council also decided that Easter would be celebrated on the first Sunday after the 21st of March.
RL94856. Billon centenionalis, RIC VII Cyzicus 34, LRBC I 1171, Cohen VII 454, SRCV IV 16262, Hunter V 364 var. (4th officina), Choice aEF, well centered, nice portrait, attractive near black patina with highlighting red earthen deposits, weight 3.298 g, maximum diameter 20.7 mm, die axis 180o, 1st officina, Cyzicus (Kapu Dagh, Turkey) mint, 325 - 326 A.D.; obverse CONSTAN-TINVS AVG, laureate head right; reverse PROVIDENTIAE AVGG (to the foresight of the two emperors), campgate with two turrets, star above, SMKA• in exergue; From the Ray Nouri Collection.; $100.00 (€82.00)
 


Licinius I, 11 November 308 - 18 September 324 A.D.

|Licinius| |I|, |Licinius| |I,| |11| |November| |308| |-| |18| |September| |324| |A.D.||follis|
Most references describe this bust as laureate and cuirassed. Hunter V breaks from tradition and correctly recognizes that the loop on the left shoulder indicates drapery, the paludamentum. To avoid confusion, we use the traditional description omitting "draped" from the description.
RT97778. Billon follis, Hunter V 4, RIC VII Londinium 3, SRCV IV 15184, Cohen VII 49, gVF, choice bold obverse, light marks, scattered porosity, small green encrustations, weight 3.045 g, maximum diameter 20.9 mm, die axis 180o, Londinium (London, England) mint, 313 - 314 A.D.; obverse IMP LICINIVS P F AVG, laureate and cuirassed bust right; reverse GENIO POP ROM (to the guardian spirit of the Roman people), Genius standing slightly left, head left, kalathos on head, himation over left arm/shoulder and around hips and legs, patera in right hand, cornucopia in left hand, S and F left and right, PLN in exergue; $90.00 (€73.80)
 




  



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