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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.

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; $2700.00 SALE |PRICE| $2430.00
 


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

|Nero|, |Nero,| |13| |October| |54| |-| |9| |June| |68| |A.D.|, |sestertius|
The reverse legend translates, "The gates of Janus' temple are closed because peace of the Roman people is set on both land and sea." On the rare occasions when Rome was not at war the doors of the 'Twin Janus' were ceremonially closed, an event Nero commemorated extensively on the coinage of 65 - 67 A.D. -- Roman Coins and Their Values, Vol. 1 by David R. Sear
SL96449. Orichalcum sestertius, RIC I 583, Mac Dowall WCN 475, BMCRE I -, Cohen I -, Hunter I -, SRCV I -, NGC AU, strike 5/5, surface 2/5, scuff (5745271-004), weight 30.31 g, maximum diameter 35.0 mm, die axis 180o, Lugdunum (Lyon, France) mint, c. 66 - 67 A.D.; obverse IMP NERO CAESAR AVG P MAX TR P P P, laureate head right, globe at the point of the bust; reverse PACE P R TERRA MARIQ PARTA IANVM CLVSIT, view of the Temple of Janus from the front left corner, temple front on the right with garland over closed doors within arch, the left side of the temple to the left with long latticed window, S - C (senatus consulto) flanking across field; ex Heritage NYINC Sale 3081 (12 Jan 2020), lot 30178; ex Roma e-auction 4 (29 Nov 2018), lot 733; ex Private European Collection; NGC| Lookup; $2600.00 SALE |PRICE| $2340.00
 


Galba, 3 April 68 - 15 January 69 A.D.

|Galba|, |Galba,| |3| |April| |68| |-| |15| |January| |69| |A.D.|, |dupondius|
A nearly identical type was struck with Pax holding an olive branch in her right hand and a caduceus in her left hand. Another similar type was struck with Pax holding a caduceus and cornucopia, as on this coin, but she leans on a cippus (short column).
RB93753. Orichalcum dupondius, BMCRE I 123 var. (no IMP, notes this legend var. in Hall Coll.), SRCV I 2119 var. (no IMP), RIC I 277 var. (no drapery), Cohen I 155 (same), Choice gVF, superb portrait, attractive image of Pax, well centered, dark patina, scratch, areas of minor corrosion, light deposits, weight 14.113 g, maximum diameter 28.8 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, late summer - Nov 68 A.D.; obverse IMP SER GALBA - AVG TR P, laureate and draped bust right; reverse PA-X - AVGVST, Pax standing left, olive branch (caduceus-like shape) pointed diagonally downward in right hand, cornucopia overflowing with grain and fruit in left hand, S - C (senatus consulto) flanking across field below center; from the Errett Bishop Collection, zero sales of this type recorded on Coin Archives in the last two decades; extremely rare; $1500.00 SALE |PRICE| $1350.00
 


Balbinus, 22 April - 29 July 238 A.D.

|Balbinus|, |Balbinus,| |22| |April| |-| |29| |July| |238| |A.D.|, |sestertius|
Providentia is the personification of the ability to foresee and make provision. She was among the embodiments of virtues that were part of the Imperial cult of ancient Rome. Providentia apparently did not favor Balbinus. If he had a little foresight, he would have modified the chain of events that led to his murder after a reign of only 99 days.
SH92614. Orichalcum sestertius, RIC IV 19, BMCRE VI 34, Cohen V 24 (12 fr.), Hunter III 19, SRCV III 8499, Choice gVF, well centered, excellent portrait, squared flan as typical for the period, some light corrosion, tiny edge crack, weight 21.840 g, maximum diameter 31.4 mm, die axis 0o, Rome mint, 22 Apr - 29 Jul 238 A.D.; obverse IMP CAES D CAEL BALBINVS AVG, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, from the front; reverse PROVIDENTIA DEORVM (to the foresight of the gods), Providentia standing half left, head left, wand downward over globe at feet in right hand, cornucopia in left hand, S - C (senatus consulto) flanking low across field; from the Errett Bishop Collection, ex H. Donald Collection; scarce; $1200.00 SALE |PRICE| $1080.00
 


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

|Septimius| |Severus|, |Septimius| |Severus,| |9| |April| |193| |-| |4| |February| |211| |A.D.|, |as|
The title of Dii Auspices (the gods-protectors) was given to the deities in general, and to each of them in particular, acknowledging their special protection, and sacrifices were offered to them accordingly. This legend and type help confirm what Dion states, that Severus built a grand temple to honor Hercules and Bacchus. When Septimius Severus advanced into the East against Pescennius Niger, he chose Hercules and Bacchus as his patrons, probably because ancient traditions designated the two as the first conquerors of that region.
RB95802. Copper as, RIC IV 666, BMCRE V 501, Cohen IV 117, Hunter III -, VF, nice coin, attractive brown-green patina, excellent portrait and reverse style, tight flan, areas of porosity, weight 11.884 g, maximum diameter 24.0 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 194 A.D.; obverse L SEPT SEV PERT AVG IMP II, laureate head right; reverse DIS AVSPICIB TR P II COS II P P, Hercules and Bacchus (Liber) standing slightly left, side by side, nude, heads left, Hercules with the Nemean Lion's skin on his left arm and resting his right hand on his grounded club, Bacchus holds a cantharus in his right hand and rests his left on a thyrsus, a panther sits left at his feet, S C in exergue; ex Leu Numismatik web auction 8 (29-30 Jun 2019), lot 1180; ex Kress sale 116 (28 Oct 1960), lot 959; rare; $700.00 SALE |PRICE| $630.00
 


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

|Macrinus|, |Macrinus,| |11| |April| |217| |-| |8| |June| |218| |A.D.|, |denarius|NEW
This coin was dedicated to Jupiter the protector. Jupiter or Jove, Zeus to the Greeks, was the king of the gods and god of the sky and thunder, and of laws and social order. As the patron deity of ancient Rome, he was the chief god of the Capitoline Triad, with his sister and wife Juno. The father of Mars, he is, therefore, the grandfather of Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome. Emperors frequently made vows to Jupiter for protection. The Roman's believed as the king of the gods, Jupiter favored emperors and kings, those in positions of authority similar to his own.
RS92492. Silver denarius, RSC III 33a, RIC IV 73, BMCRE V 68, Hunter III 28, SRCV II 7338 var. (bust), Choice gVF, well centered, superb portrait, old collection toning, flow lines, small edge cracks, weight 2.903 g, maximum diameter 19.9 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 217 - 218 A.D.; obverse IMP C M OPEL SEV MACRINVS AVG, laureate and cuirassed bust right, from front; reverse IOVI CONSERVATORI (to Jupiter the protector), Jupiter standing facing, head left, nude, thunderbolt in right hand, long scepter vertical in left hand; from the Errett Bishop Collection; $270.00 SALE |PRICE| $243.00 ON RESERVE


Herennius Etruscus, Early 251 - First Half of June 251 A.D.

|Herennius| |Etruscus|, |Herennius| |Etruscus,| |Early| |251| |-| |First| |Half| |of| |June| |251| |A.D.|, |sestertius|
The reverse legend dedicates this coin to the Prince of Youth, Herennius Etruscus. When Augustus ruled Rome, he was not called emperor or king, he was the Princeps, the "first of men." In the empire, the designated successors to the emperor were named caesar and also given the title Princeps Juventutis, the "first of youths." This is the origin of the English word prince, meaning the son of a monarch.
RB95775. Orichalcum sestertius, RIC IV Decius 171a (R), Cohen V 28, Banti 6, Hunter III 22, SRCV III 9534, aVF/F, excellent portrait, attractive mottled patina, porosity, rough areas, squared flan, reverse legend mostly obscure or off flan, weight 18.297 g, maximum diameter 27.9 mm, die axis 0o, Rome mint, as caesar, 250 - early 251 A.D.; obverse Q HER ETR MES DECIVS NOB C, bare-headed, draped bust right, from behind; reverse PRINCIPI IVVENTVTIS (to the Prince of Youth), Herennius standing left in military dress, rod downward in right, transverse spear in left, S - C (senatus consulto) flanking low across field; rare; $250.00 SALE |PRICE| $225.00
 


Galerius, 1 March 305 - 5 May 311 A.D.

|Galerius|, |Galerius,| |1| |March| |305| |-| |5| |May| |311| |A.D.|, |follis|
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 Army, of the Senate, of the Roman People, etc. The legend GENIO IMPERATORIS dedicates this coin to the Genius of the Imperators. Genius' image is of a man with a cloak half covering the shoulders leaving the rest of his body naked, holding a cornucopia in one hand, and a simpulum or a patera in the other.
RB93241. Billon follis, Hunter V 77 (same officina), RIC VI Alexandria 107a, SRCV IV 14524, Cohen VII 47,, Choice EF, attractive style, well centered, dark brown tone, weight 7.591 g, maximum diameter 25.9 mm, die axis 180o, 2nd officina, Alexandria mint, c. 308 - 311 A.D.; obverse IMP C GAL VAL MAXIMIANVS P F AVG, laureate head right; reverse GENIO IMPERATORIS (to the guardian spirit of the Emperor as Commander in Chief), Genius standing left holding patera in right hand, cornucopia in left hand, crescent right, K - B / P at sides, ALE in exergue; $190.00 SALE |PRICE| $171.00
 


Philip I the Arab, February 244 - End of September 249 A.D.

|Philip| |I|, |Philip| |I| |the| |Arab,| |February| |244| |-| |End| |of| |September| |249| |A.D.|, |sestertius|
In 246, Philip the Arab fought the Germans along the Danube.
RB93304. Orichalcum sestertius, RIC IV 191a, Cohen V 228, Hunter III 79, SRCV III 9020, Choice VF, superb portrait, well centered, nice green patina, highlighting red earthen deposits, light marks, weight 20.340 g, maximum diameter 29.7 mm, die axis 0o, Rome mint, c. 244 - 245 A.D.; obverse IMP M IVL PHILIPPVS AVG, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, seen from behind; reverse VICTORIA AVG (the victory of the Emperor), Victory advancing right, raising wreath in extended right hand, palm frond over left shoulder in left hand, S - C (senatus consulto) flanking across fields; from the Errett Bishop Collection; $160.00 SALE |PRICE| $144.00
 


Maximian, 286 - 305, 306 - 308, and 310 A.D.

|Maximian|, |Maximian,| |286| |-| |305,| |306| |-| |308,| |and| |310| |A.D.|, |antoninianus|
In 292, the Roman general Achilleus was proclaimed emperor in Alexandria. For two years he ruled over Egypt, but in the end his rebellion was crushed by Emperor Diocletian.
RA92344. Billon antoninianus, RIC V-2 561a, Cohen VI 336, SRCV V 13141 var. (...P F AVG), Hunter IV - (p. clxxxix), Choice gVF, attractive portrait, full legends, brown tone, light deposits, weight 3.509 g, maximum diameter 22.4 mm, die axis 0o, 2nd officina, Ticinum (Pavia, Italy) mint, 292 A.D.; obverse IMP C M A VAL MAXIMIANVS AVG, radiate, draped, and cuirassed bust right; reverse IOVI CONSERVAT (to Jupiter the protector), Jupiter standing slightly left, head right, nude, long grounded scepter in left hand, thunderbolt in left hand, B left, XXIT in exergue; $140.00 SALE |PRICE| $126.00
 




  



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