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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.

Gallienus, August 253 - September 268 A.D.

|Gallienus|, |Gallienus,| |August| |253| |-| |September| |268| |A.D.||sestertius|
Virtus is the personification of valor and courage. Valor was, of course, essential for the success of a Roman emperor and Virtus was one of the embodiments of virtues that were part of the Imperial cult. During his joint reign with his father, Gallienus proved his courage in battle; but his failure to liberate his father from Persian captivity was perceived as cowardice and a disgrace to the Emperor and Empire. It was not, however, actually fear that prevented a rescue. While others mourned Valerian's fate, Gallienus rejoiced in his new sovereignty.
SH110382. Orichalcum sestertius, Gbl MIR 83s, RIC V-1 J249, Cohen V 1298, Hunter IV J33 var. (obv. leg. no P F); SRCV III 10495 var. (same), Choice VF, superb portrait, well centered on a squared unusually full flan, double strike, weight 22.146 g, maximum diameter 32.7 mm, die axis 0o, Rome mint, 255 - 256 A.D.; obverse IMP C P LIC GALLIENVS P F AVG, laureate and cuirassed bust right, slight drapery on left shoulder and back; reverse VIRTVS AVGG (the virtue of the two emperors), Virtus standing front, head left, wearing crested helmet and military garb, right hand resting on grounded oval shield, inverted spear in left hand, S - C (senatus consulto) flanking across the field below center; ex Leu Numismatik auction 17 (14 Aug 2021), lot 2813; $720.00 SALE PRICE $648.00


Domitian, 13 September 81 - 18 September 96 A.D.

|Domitian|, |Domitian,| |13| |September| |81| |-| |18| |September| |96| |A.D.||as|NEW
Domitian's CENSORIA POTESTAT issues were struck in April 85 A.D., followed for a very short transitional period by the CENS POTES issues, then the CENS POT issues, and finally the CENS P issues towards the end of the year.
RB111705. Copper as, RIC II-1 384 (R); BnF III 386; Hunter I 131 var. (AVGVST); BMCRE II p. 375* var. (same); Cohen I 326 var. (AVG); cf. SRCV I 2807 (COS XV), VF, excellent portrait, part of rev. legend unstruck/off flan, areas of porosity/light corrosion, weight 10.916 g, maximum diameter 28.9 mm, die axis 0o, Rome mint, Nov - Dec 85 A.D.; obverse IMP CAES DOMIT AVG GERM COS XI CENS POT P P, laureate bust right with aegis; reverse MONETA AVGVSTI, Moneta standing left, scales in right cornucopia in left hand, S - C across field; rare; $180.00 SALE PRICE $162.00


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

|Caracalla|, |Caracalla,| |28| |January| |198| |-| |8| |April| |217| |A.D.||denarius|NEW
Sulla, in a dream, was the first to see Venus as Venus Victrix (victorious Venus) with the weapons of Mars. He made her his patroness. Pompey inaugurated the cult of Venus Victrix in Rome. The night before the battle of Pharsalus 48 B.C. Pompey dreamed of Venus Victrix, seemingly a lucky sign. That night Caesar sacrificed to Venus Genetrix, but issued Venus Victrix as the watch word. Caesar was victorious in the battle!
RS111542. Silver denarius, RIC IV 312d (S); RSC III 613; BMCRE V p. 446, 87; Hunter III p. 88, 58; SRCV II 6891, Choice gVF, well centered bold strike, excellent mature portrait, weight 2.576 g, maximum diameter 19.9 mm, die axis 0o, Rome mint, end 213 - 217 A.D.; obverse ANTONINVS PIVS AVG GERM, laureate and bearded head right; reverse VENVS VICTRIX (victorious Venus), Venus standing slightly left, head left, crested helmet in right hand, long scepter in left hand, resting left arm on shield, flanked by a captive at feet on each side seated facing outward; ex Numismatik Naumann auction 124 (8 Jan 2023), lot 945 (part of); scarce; $170.00 SALE PRICE $153.00


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 NΕ - 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; $160.00 SALE PRICE $144.00


Probus, Summer 276 - September 282 A.D.

|Probus|, |Probus,| |Summer| |276| |-| |September| |282| |A.D.||antoninianus|
Laetitia is the Roman goddess of gaiety and joy, her name deriving from the root word laeta, meaning happy. She is typically depicted on coinage with a wreath in her right hand, and a scepter, a rudder, or an anchor in her left hand.
RA112576. Billon antoninianus, RIC V-2 31, Cohen VI 329, Bastien IX 172, SRCV III 11990, EF, well centered, traces of silvering, excellent portrait, struck with a worn reverse die, edge crack, weight 4.188 g, maximum diameter 23.3 mm, die axis 180o, Lugdunum (Lyon, France) mint, 276 A.D.; obverse IMP C M AVR PROBVS AVG, radiate and cuirassed bust right; reverse LAETITIA AVGVSTI, Laetitia standing facing, head left, wreath in right hand, scepter in left hand, IIII in exergue; from the Collection of Dr. Jregen Buschek, first specimen of this type handled by FORVM; $120.00 SALE PRICE $108.00


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

|Amphipolis|, |Severus| |Alexander,| |13| |March| |222| |-| |March| |235| |A.D.,| |Amphipolis,| |Macedonia||AE| |24|
Tyche (Greek for luck; the Roman equivalent was Fortuna) was the presiding tutelary deity that governed the fortune and prosperity of a city, its destiny. Increasingly during the Hellenistic period, cities had their own specific iconic version of Tyche, wearing a mural crown (a crown like the walls of the city).
RP97773. Bronze AE 24, Varbanov III 3298 (R4); SNG Cop 118; BMC Macedonia p. 59, 133 var. (obv. leg.); SNG ANS 203 var. (same); AMNG III -, aVF, excellent portrait, green patina, light deposits, reverse off center, edge cracks, weight 6.894 g, maximum diameter 23.5 mm, die axis 0o, Amphipolis mint, 13 Mar 222 - Mar 235 A.D.; obverse AVT K M AVP CEV AΛEΞANΔPOC, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, seen from behind; reverse AMΦIΠOΛEITΩN, turreted city goddess enthroned left, patera in extended right hand, fish left in exergue; $50.00 SALE PRICE $45.00


Augustus, 16 January 27 B.C. - 19 August 14 A.D.

|Augustus|, |Augustus,| |16| |January| |27| |B.C.| |-| |19| |August| |14| |A.D.||aureus|
The Sphinx was one of Augustus' symbols and was used on his personal seal (Suetonius).
SH30615. Gold aureus, RIC I 512 corr. (head left), BMCRE 682, Calico 156, Cohen 333, gVF, weight 7.998 g, maximum diameter 21.5 mm, die axis 0o, Pergamon (Bergama, Turkey) mint, c. 19 - 18 B.C.; obverse AVGVSTVS, bare head right; reverse sphinx seated right; attractive reddish toning; rare; SOLD


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

|Severus| |Alexander|, |Severus| |Alexander,| |13| |March| |222| |-| |March| |235| |A.D.||aureus|
Certificate of Authenticity issued by David R. Sear.

This coin is a near perfect specimen, cut from fresh dies which were equisitly engraved. When rotating the coin under a light, Severus' hair and laurel wreath literally sparkle as if a diamond. One of the finest coins ever handled by Forum, this coin has no equal.
SH21939. Gold aureus, RIC IV 103, BMCRE VI 620, brilliant Mint State, weight 5.922 g, maximum diameter 20.6 mm, die axis 225o, Rome mint, 230 A.D.; obverse IMP SEV ALEXAND AVG, laureate bust right with drapery on left shoulder; reverse P M TR P VIII COS III P P, emperor advancing right, spear in right hand, trophy over shoulder in left; "brilliant mint state" grade by Sear and on certificate, ex Gemini III, 430; SOLD


Vespasian, 1 July 69 - 24 June 79 A.D.

|Vespasian|, |Vespasian,| |1| |July| |69| |-| |24| |June| |79| |A.D.||aureus|
Nemesis, the winged balancer of life, is the goddess of revenge, the avenger of crimes and punisher of wicked doers. She distributes fortune, good or bad, in due proportion to each according to what is deserved.
SH30320. Gold aureus, RIC II-1 1130, Calico 655, BMCRE II 399, Hunter I -, Choice aEF, nice centering on a full flan, rev. slightly flat, weight 7.277 g, maximum diameter 19.2 mm, die axis 180o, Lugdunum (Lyon) mint, 71 A.D.; obverse IMP CAES VESPASIAN AVG P M TR P P P COS III, laureate head right; reverse PACI AVGVSTI, Nemesis advancing right, winged, drawing drapery from top of gown with right, caduceus in left, snake right at feet on right; scarce; SOLD


Julius Caesar, Imperator and Dictator, October 49 - 15 March 44 B.C.

|Julius| |Caesar|, |Julius| |Caesar,| |Imperator| |and| |Dictator,| |October| |49| |-| |15| |March| |44| |B.C.||denarius|
"The coin that killed Caesar." The obverse legend declares Caesar is "Dictator for Life" and he wears the veil, symbolic of his life-term position as Pontifex Maximus. Caesar would be both the dictator and high priest of Rome for the remainder of his life, but his life would end only a few weeks after this coin was struck. For Caesar to put his image on coins and in effect declare himself king was too much for Brutus and his republican allies. On the Ides of March (15 March) 44 B.C. Caesar was stabbed to death by as many as 60 conspirators, led by Brutus and Cassius. According to Plutarch, a seer had warned that harm would come to Caesar no later than the Ides of March. On his way to the Theater of Pompey, where he would be assassinated, Caesar passed the seer and joked, "The ides of March have come," meaning to say that the prophecy had not been fulfilled, to which the seer replied, "Aye, Caesar, but not gone." This meeting is famously dramatized in William Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar when Caesar is warned by the soothsayer to "beware the Ides of March."

Minted for Caesar's planned Parthian war, this type was often carelessly struck indicating the mint was working under great pressure.
SH45450. Silver denarius, Crawford 480/13, Sydenham 1074, Sear CRI 107d, RSC I Julius Caesar 39, BMCRR I Rome 4173, SRCV I 1414, Vagi 56, Choice gVF, magnificent portrait, weight 3.660 g, maximum diameter 19.2 mm, die axis 225o, Rome mint, moneyer P Sepullius Macer, Feb - Mar 44 B.C.; obverse CAESAR DICT PERPETVO, veiled and wreathed head of Caesar right; reverse P SEPVLLIVS MACER, Venus standing left, Victory in extended right hand, long scepter in left hand, shield at feet right; SOLD




  



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