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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; $2070.00 (€1904.40)
 


Tiberius, 19 August 14 - 16 March 37 A.D., Aegeae, Cilicia

|Cilicia|, |Tiberius,| |19| |August| |14| |-| |16| |March| |37| |A.D.,| |Aegeae,| |Cilicia||diassarion|
Aegeae or Aigai was a town on the coast of ancient Cilicia, on the north side of the Bay of Issus. It is now separated from the outlet of the Pyramus (the modern Ceyhan) by a long narrow estuary called Gulf of Alexandretta. In Strabo's time it was a small city with a port. Aegae was a Greek town, but the origin of it is unknown. A Greek inscription of the Roman period has been discovered there; and under the Roman dominion it was a place of some importance. Tacitus calls it Aegeae. It was Christianised at an early date.
RP92556. Bronze diassarion, RPC Online I 4031 (4 spec.), SNG Levante 1688, SNG BnF 2316, Waddington 4069, BMC Lycaonia -, VF, superb portrait, green patina with some red copper high points, earthen deposits, beveled reverse edge, weight 10.798 g, maximum diameter 24.8 mm, die axis 0o, Aegeae (near Yumurtalik, Turkey) mint, magistrate Eyan, c. 30 A.D.; obverse TIBEPIOY KAIΣAPOΣ ΣEBAΣTOY, laureate head of Tiberius left; reverse AIΓE/AIΩN / EYAN, inscription in three lines within wreath; from the Errett Bishop Collection, zero sales of this type listed on Coin Archives in the last two decades; very rare; $800.00 SALE |PRICE| $720.00
 


Otacilia Severa, Augusta, February or March 244 - September or October 249 A.D., Pella, Macedonia

|Pella|, |Otacilia| |Severa,| |Augusta,| |February| |or| |March| |244| |-| |September| |or| |October| |249| |A.D.,| |Pella,| |Macedonia||pentassarion|NEW
Pella is an ancient city located in Central Macedonia, Greece, best known as the historical capital of the ancient kingdom of Macedon and birthplace of Alexander the Great.
RP93126. Bronze pentassarion, RPC Online VIII U68748 (4 spec.), Moushmov 6494, Varbanov III 3764 var. (obv. legend, R5), SNG ANS -, BMC Macedonia -, gVF, striking bold portrait, brown patina, small deposits, light marks, central dimple on reverse including circular lathe marks, weight 9.489 g, maximum diameter 23.5 mm, die axis 90o, Pella mint, Feb/Mar 244 - Sep/Oct 249 A.D.; obverse M OTACIIL SEVERA EY (Y upside down), draped, bust right, wearing stephane; reverse COL IVL AVS PELLA, Fortuna seated on ornamented chair left, holding hand to mouth, left arm resting on back of chair; from the Errett Bishop Collection; very rare; $240.00 (€220.80)
 


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; $225.00 (€207.00)
 


Geta, 209 - c. 26 December 211 A.D.

|Geta|, |Geta,| |209| |-| |c.| |26| |December| |211| |A.D.||denarius|
Minerva, equated with the Greek Athena, was the Roman virgin warrior goddess of poetry, medicine, wisdom, commerce, weaving, crafts, magic, and the inventor of music. She was worshiped on the Capitoline Hill as one of the Capitoline Triad along with Jupiter and Juno.
RS97463. Silver denarius, RIC IV 34b; RSC III 104a; BMCRE V p. 244, 446; Hunter III 20; SRCV II 7186, Choice gVF, superb portrait, well centered and struck, toned, edge ragged with splits and cracks, weight 3.550 g, maximum diameter 19.8 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, c. 205 - 208 A.D.; obverse P SEPTIMIVS GETA CAES, older boy's bare-headed and draped bust right, from behind; reverse PONTIF COS (priest, consul), Minerva standing left, helmeted, resting right hand on grounded shield, spear vertical behind in left hand; ex Savoca Coins auction blue 89 (07 Nov 2020), lot 1289; $175.00 (€161.00)
 


Maximinus I Thrax, 20 March 235 - Late May 238 A.D.

|Maximinus| |I|, |Maximinus| |I| |Thrax,| |20| |March| |235| |-| |Late| |May| |238| |A.D.||denarius|
An ironic reverse legend for an emperor murdered by his own troops not long after this coin was minted.
RS97465. Silver denarius, RIC IV 7A, BMCRE VI 58, RSC III 7a, Hunter III 6, SRCV III -, Choice gVF, full border centering, excellent portrait, flow lines, edge slightly ragged with small cracks, weight 2.155 g, maximum diameter 20.0 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 236 - 238 A.D.; obverse IMP MAXIMINVS PIVS AVG, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, from behind; reverse FIDES MILITVM (the loyalty of the soldiers), Fides standing sightly left, flanked by a military standard in each hand; ex Savoca Coins auction blue 89 (07 Nov 2020), lot 1310; $170.00 (€156.40)
 


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; $160.00 (€147.20)
 


Plautilla, Augusta 202 - 22 January 205 A.D., Wife of Caracalla

|Plautilla|, |Plautilla,| |Augusta| |202| |-| |22| |January| |205| |A.D.,| |Wife| |of| |Caracalla||denarius|
In Roman religion, Concordia was the goddess of agreement, understanding, and marital harmony. The cult of Concordia Augusta ("Majestic Harmony") was of special importance to the imperial household. She is usually depicted wearing a long cloak and holding a patera (sacrificial bowl), a cornucopia (symbol of prosperity), or a caduceus (symbol of peace).
RS96911. Silver denarius, RIC IV 372 (S); RSC III 8; BMCRE V p. 301, 739; SRCV II 7068; Hunter III -, Choice VF, lovely young portrait, attractive toning, flow lines, light marks, weight 3.457 g, maximum diameter 19.4 mm, die axis 0o, Laodicea ad Mare (Latakia, Syria) mint, under Severus, c. 202 A.D.; obverse PLAVTILLAE AVGVSTAE, draped bust right; reverse CONCORDIAE (harmony), Concordia seated left, patera in extended right hand, double cornucopia in left hand; $150.00 (€138.00)
 


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

|Caracalla|, |Caracalla,| |28| |January| |198| |-| |8| |April| |217| |A.D.||denarius|
Libertas (Latin for Liberty) was the Roman goddess and embodiment of liberty. The pileus liberatis was a soft felt cap worn by liberated slaves of Troy and Asia Minor. In late Republican Rome, the pileus was symbolically given to slaves upon manumission, granting them not only their personal liberty, but also freedom as citizens with the right to vote (if male). Following the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C., Brutus and his co-conspirators used the pileus to signify the end of Caesar's dictatorship and a return to a Republican system of government. The pileus was adopted as a popular symbol of freedom during the French Revolution and was also depicted on some U.S. coins. On the Seated Liberty dollar, Liberty raises up a pileus (freedom cap) on a rod (liberty pole). Seated Liberty
RS97471. Silver denarius, RIC IV 161, RSC III 143, BMCRE V 511, SRCV III 6817, Hunter III -, VF, excellent portrait, radiating flow lines, light toning, edge ragged with splits and cracks, weight 3.769 g, maximum diameter 20.0 mm, die axis 0o, Rome mint, 208 - 210 A.D.; obverse ANTONINVS PIVS AVG, laureate head right; reverse LIBERTAS AVG, Libertas standing half left, head left, pileus in right hand, long rod vertical in left hand; ex Numismatik Naumann auction 96 (01 Nov 2020), lot 864 (part of); $150.00 (€138.00)
 


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; $140.00 (€128.80)
 




  



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