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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ Themes & Provenance ▸ Quality ▸ Masterpiece PortraitsView 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.


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

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Marcus Ulpius Traianus, a brilliant general and administrator, was adopted and proclaimed emperor by the aging Nerva in 98 A.D. Regarded as one of Rome's greatest emperors, Trajan was responsible for the annexation of Dacia, the invasion of Arabia and an extensive and lavish building program across the empire. Under Trajan, Rome reached its greatest extent. Shortly after the annexation of Mesopotamia and Armenia, Trajan was forced to withdraw from most of the new Arabian provinces. While returning to Rome to direct operations against the new threats, Trajan died at Selinus in Cilicia.
RB88224. Orichalcum sestertius, Woytek 240q (same dies), BnF IV 512 (same dies), BMC III 771, Banti 117, Strack 398, RIC II 478 var. (bust), Cohen 367 var. (same), VF, well centered, rough, weight 21.340 g, maximum diameter 34.4 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, c. 106 - 107 A.D.; obverse IMP CAES NERVAE TRAIANO AVG GER DAC P M TR P COS V P P, laureate heroic bust left, full chest exposed, drapery on left shoulder; reverse S P Q R OPTIMO PRINCIPI, Ceres standing half left, head left, holding grain over modius in right hand, long scepter vertical in left hand, S C (senatus consulto) divided across field; extremely rare with this bust, struck with a superb obverse die!; $1030.00 (875.50)


Seleukid Kingdom, Seleukos III Keraunos, 226 - 223 B.C.

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Seleucus III Soter proved not to be the "Savior" that his official royal epithet advertised; nor did live up to his nickname Keraunos - "Thunder." He failed to reclaim western Asia Minor from his cousin, Attalus of Pergamum, and was assassinated after only a brief reign of only a few years.
GS86617. Silver drachm, Houghton-Lorber I 933, Newell WSM 1327, Weber 7867, HGC 9 418 (R3), gVF, superb portrait, light toning, light bumps and marks, reverse double struck with a worn damaged die, weight 4.056 g, maximum diameter 18.9 mm, die axis 0o, Northern Syria or Northern Mesopotamia, uncertain mint, 226 - 223 B.C.; obverse diademed head of Seleukos III with long sideburns; reverse Apollo seated left on omphalos, examining arrow in right hand, resting left hand on grounded bow, BAΣIΛEΩΣ (downward on right) ΣEΛEYKOY (downward on left), AP monogram (control) left, monogram (control) right; very rare; $980.00 (833.00)


Seleukid Kingdom, Antiochus I Soter, 281 - 261 B.C.

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Antiochus faced a formidable task holding the empire together. Revolt broke out in Syria almost immediately after his father's death. He earned the title Soter (savior) for victory over hordes of Gauls that attacked Anatolia. Elsewhere, he had little success. He was forced to abandon Macedonia, Thrace, Bithynia, and Cappadocia and to execute his eldest son for rebellion.
GS82667. Silver tetradrachm, Houghton-Lorber I 379.6c, Newell ESM 177, Meydancikkale 2929, HGC 9 128g, Choice gVF, attractive style, well centered and struck, dark toning, marks, edge bumps, weight 17.101 g, maximum diameter 29.6 mm, die axis 0o, Seleucia on the Tigris (south of Baghdad, Iraq) mint, c. 263 - 261 B.C.; obverse diademed head right, eyes to heaven; reverse Apollo seated left on omphalos, nude but for drapery over right thigh, examining arrow in right hand, resting left hand on grounded bow, BAΣIΛEΩΣ downward on left, ANT−IOXOY complex monograms outer left and outer right; $720.00 (612.00)


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

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Of this type, the Dictionary of Roman Coins says, "This is a finely designed coin in first brass [a sestertius]. The equestrian group is in a spirited style of workmanship, both horse and man. The Augustus raises aloft his right hand, and with his left holds the bridle of his generous steed, as setting out on him on some journey, about that vague period, his third consulate."
SH89464. Orichalcum sestertius, RIC II 645 (S), BMCRE III 1313, Hunter II 436, Cohen II 590 var. (bust), SRCV II 3594, Choice VF, mottled turquoise and brown patina, well centered, nice portrait, legends a little weak, edge crack, weight 24.967 g, maximum diameter 33.6 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 124 - 128 A.D.; obverse HADRIANVS AVGVSTVS, laureate head right, slight drapery on left shoulder; reverse COS III, emperor on horseback prancing left, bare-headed, wearing military garb, cloak flying behind, raising right hand in salute, reins in left hand, S - C divided low across field, EXPED AVG in exergue; Numismatik Naumann auction 72 (2 Dec 2018), lot 458; scarce; $650.00 (552.50)


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

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Hadrian traveled to nearly every province of the Empire and spent more than half his reign outside Italy. Nero had been criticized as self-indulgent for his trip to Greece, but Hadrian proudly advertised his travels with his "Adventus" coinage series. Unlike Nero, the pleasure-seeking tourist, Hadrian inspected and corrected the legions and made grants for the construction of new public buildings, projects, and settlements. Hadrian travels were intended to transform conquered lands into a unified Roman Empire.
RB87800. Orichalcum sestertius, RIC II 938f (S), BMCRE III 1782, Hunter II 636, Cohen II 1218, SRCV II 3627, gVF, superb portrait, attractive green patina, well centered and struck, light marks, light corrosion, light earthen deposits, weight 25.249 g, maximum diameter 32.3 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 131 - 138 A.D.; obverse HADRIANVS AVG COS III P P, laureate and draped bust right, from behind; reverse RESTITVTORI ACHAIAE, Hadrian standing left, togate, holding roll in left hand, with right hand raising Achaea, draped, kneeling right and resting left hand on knee; urn containing palm between them, S C (senatus consulto) in exergue; rare; $450.00 (382.50)


Byzantine Anonymous Follis of Christ, Class A3, Basil II & Constantine VIII, c. 1023 - 11 November 1028 A.D.

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The emperor's name and portrait are not part of the design on the Byzantine types referred to as anonymous folles. Instead of the earthly king, these coins depict Jesus Christ, King of Kings.
SH82755. Bronze anonymous follis, Anonymous follis of Christ, class A3; SBCV 1818; Grierson-NumisWiki ornaments 24a, EF, some mint luster, areas of porosity, obverse legend weak, weight 11.982 g, maximum diameter 28.1 mm, die axis 180o, Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey) mint, c. 1023 - 11 Nov 1028 A.D.; obverse + EMMANOVHΛ (Latinized Hebrew: Emmanuel - "God with us"), facing bust of Christ, wearing nimbus cruciger with two pellets in each limb of cross, pallium, and colobium, holding gospels with both hands, gospels ornamented with two pellets within a jeweled border, to left IC, to right XC; reverse + IhSuS / XRISTuS / bASILEu / bASILE (Greek: Jesus Christ King of Kings), ornamentation above and below inscription; $400.00 (340.00)


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

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The "Eastern" mint denarii of Hadrian are all rare. BMCRE vol. II, pp. 372-81, ppl. 68-71, lists 27 specimens from the collection and another 44 not in the collection but illustrated in the plates. The section on Hadrian's Imperial coinage on the Beast Coins website lists just under 50 specimens. This coin is apparently unpublished and we do not know of another specimen.
RS87615. Silver denarius, Strack II 43 (eastern mint) cf. RIC II 345 (Rome); BMCRE III 497 (Rome) & pl. 70, 2 (eastern; bare hd. dr.); RSC II 363a (Rome); Hunter II 171 (Rome), Choice aEF, nice portrait, tone on luster, well centered on a broad flan, a few bumps and small scratches, weight 2.978 g, maximum diameter 19.6 mm, die axis 180o, uncertain eastern mint, 125 - 128 A.D.; obverse HADRIANVS AVGVSTVS P P, laureate bust right, slight drapery on left shoulder; reverse COS III, Victory seated left on stool, wreath in extended right hand, palm frond in left hand; very rare; $380.00 (323.00)


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

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The shield held by Victory is the golden shield that was dedicated to Augustus by the Senate and Roman People (S. P. Q. R.) in recognition of his classic, cardinal virtues. By placing the shield and Victory on his coin, Nero was claiming these same virtues were part of his regime. -- Roman History from Coins by Michael Grant
SH89525. Copper as, RIC I 543, BMCRE I 381, BnF II 160, Mac Dowall WCN 593, Hunter I 131, Cohen I 302, SRCV I -, VF, excellent portrait, well centered, brown patina, scattered light porosity, weight 10.997 g, maximum diameter 28.3 mm, die axis 180o, Lugdunum (Lyon, France) mint, c. 66 A.D.; obverse IMP NERO CAESAR AVG P MAX TR P P P, laureate head right, globe at point of neck; reverse Victory flying left, shield inscribed S P Q R in right hand, S - C (senatus consulto) flanking high across field; $300.00 (255.00)


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

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This coin is from the issue celebrating the 1000th anniversary of the founding of Rome.
RS89477. Silver antoninianus, RIC IV 15, RSC IV 178, Hunter III 46, SRCV III 8957, Choice VF, nice portrait, well centered, flow lines, reverse struck with a worn die, weight 3.884 g, maximum diameter 22.4 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 248 A.D.; obverse IMP PHILIPPVS AVG, radiate, draped, and cuirassed bust right; reverse SAECVLARES AVGG (Secular games [provided by] the Emperors), she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus, I I in exergue; ex Numismatik Naumann auction 73, part of lot 970; $200.00 (170.00)


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

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In 230 A.D., Severus Alexander made Thessaly a separate province from Macedonia. He increased taxes in order to maintain the war against the Sassanids and strengthened the defenses of the Roman Empire.
RS89483. Silver denarius, RSC III 401, RIC IV 105a, BMCRE VI 616, SRCV II 7911, Hunter III 55 var. (slight drapery), Choice EF, excellent portrait, light tone, flow lines, tiny edge cracks, weight 3.546 g, maximum diameter 19.5 mm, die axis 15o, Rome mint, 230 A.D.; obverse IMP SEV ALEXAND AVG, laureate head right, drapery on left shoulder; reverse P M TR P VIIII COS III P P, emperor standing right in military dress, laureate, transverse spear in right hand, globe in left hand; ex Numismatik Naumann auction 73, part of lot 970; $180.00 (153.00)




  



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Masterpiece Portraits