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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; $2400.00 (2208.00)


Vespasian, 1 July 69 - 24 June 79 A.D., Caesarea, Cappadocia, Titus Reverse

|Cappadocia|, |Vespasian,| |1| |July| |69| |-| |24| |June| |79| |A.D.,| |Caesarea,| |Cappadocia,| |Titus| |Reverse||didrachm|NEW
Kayseri, originally called Mazaka or Mazaca, is in central Turkey on a low spur on the north side of Mount Erciyes (Mount Argaeus in ancient times). During Achaemenid Persian rule, it was the capital of a Satrapy on the crossroads of the Royal Road from Sardis to Susa and the trade route from Sinope to the Euphrates. It was conquered by Alexander's general Perdikkas, was ruled by Eumenes of Cardia, then passed to the Seleucid empire after the battle of Ipsus. It became the capital of the independent Cappadocian Kingdom under Ariarathes III, around 250 B.C. During Strabo's time it was also known as Eusebia, after the Cappadocian King Ariarathes V Eusebes, 163 130 B.C. The name was changed again to "Caesarea in Cappadocia" in honor of Caesar Augustus, upon his death in 14 A.D. The city passed under formal Roman rule in 17 A.D. In Roman times, it prospered on the route from Ephesus to the East. Caesarea was destroyed by the Sassanid King Shapur I after his victory over the Emperor Valerian I in 260 A.D. At the time it was recorded to have around 400,000 inhabitants. Arabic influence changed Caesarea to the modern name Kayseri. The city gradually recovered and has a population of almost 1 million people today. Few traces of the ancient city survive.
RP96735. Silver didrachm, RPC II 1650, Sydenham Caesarea 102, Metcalf Cappadocia 4, SNG Righetti 1761, VF, excellent portraits, flow lines, light deposits, light marks, reverse off center, weight 6.429 g, maximum diameter 20.6 mm, die axis 0o, Cappadocia, Caesarea (Kayseri, Turkey) mint, 76 - 77 A.D.; obverse AYTOKPA KAICAP OYECΠACIANOC CEBACTOC, laureate bust of Vespasian right; reverse AYTO KAI OYECΠACIANOC CEBACTOY YIOC, laureate bust of Titus right; $600.00 (552.00)


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 (230.00)


Macrinus, 11 April 217 - 8 June 218 A.D. Antioch, Seleucis and Pieria

|Roman| |Syria|, |Macrinus,| |11| |April| |217| |-| |8| |June| |218| |A.D.| |Antioch,| |Seleucis| |and| |Pieria||AE| |18|
The Battle of Antioch. After Macrinus foolishly cut legionary pay, Legio III Gallica hailed Elagabalus as emperor on 16 May 218. Macrinus sent cavalry but they too joined Elagabalus. Macrinus finally abandoned his pay cut and paid a bonus, but it was too late. Legion II Parthica defected. General Gannys, the commander of Elagabalus' forces, decisively defeated Macrinus was just outside Antioch on 8 June 218. Macrinus shaved off his hair and beard and fled, disguised as a member of the military police. He was recognized by a centurion at Chalcedon on the Bosporus, taken back to Antioch and executed.
RY93581. Bronze AE 18, McAlee 728 (extremely rare), BMC Galatia -, SNG Cop -, VF, nice portrait, attractive desert patina, tight flan cutting of part of obverse legend, spot of minor corrosion on the reverse, weight 5.031 g, maximum diameter 18.0 mm, die axis 0o, Antioch (Antakya, Turkey) mint, 11 Apr 217 - 8 Jun 218 A.D.; obverse AVT KAI M O CE MAKPINOC CE, laureate and cuirassed bust right, seen from front; reverse SC, ∆ above, E below, all within laurel wreath with ten bunches of leaves and closed at the top with a star; ex Roma Numismatics e-sale 47 (28 Jun 2018), lot 497; very rare; $90.00 (82.80)


Gallienus, August 253 - September 268 A.D., Roman Provincial Egypt

|Roman| |Egypt|, |Gallienus,| |August| |253| |-| |September| |268| |A.D.,| |Roman| |Provincial| |Egypt||tetradrachm|
In 268, Germanic Alamanni tribes invades Italy north of the Po River. In November, a Roman army of 35,000 men under emperor Claudius II defeated them along the banks of Lake Garda.
RX93394. Billon tetradrachm, Geissen 2944; Milne 4188; BMC Alexandria p. 290, 2229; SNG Cop 802; Kampmann 90.97; Emmett 3804 (R1); Curtis -; Dattari -, VF, superb portrait style, flow lines, porosity/mild corrosion, a little off center on a broad flan, edge cracks, weight 10.192 g, maximum diameter 23.3 mm, die axis 0o, Alexandria mint, 29 Aug 267 - 28 Aug 268 A.D.; obverse AVT K Π ΛIK ΓAΛΛIHNOC CEB, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, seen from the front; reverse eagle standing left, head turned back right, wreath in beak, palm frond right, L IE (year 15) left; from the Errett Bishop Collection; $85.00 (78.20)







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