Trio of Roman Gold Shines at Millennia
The Millennia Sale presented by Ira and larry Goldberg got underway yesterday in California and the preliminary results are starting to flow in.
This sale will result in an series of reports due to both its importance and breadth. In addition CoinLink will be posting a detailed auction analysis by Greg Reynolds latter this week.
However our first installment will be limited to a short summary of the “Ancients” and a trio of Roman Gold coins that lite up the room, far exceeding their pre-sale estimates.
We expect to see records being set for virtually all of the major rarities in the Millennia sale, continuing the strong pattern where fresh, high quality and truly rare coins continue to bring multiples of what many experts and conventional estimates might dictate. When high quality coins cross the auction block, you can throw out the price guides.
Lot 75 Imperatorial Rome. Marcus Junius Brutus, d. 42 BC. Gold Aureus (8.07 g) – Realized $575,000
One of the most historic of Roman issues, gold or silver! Excessively rare. Probably the finest of only 8 recorded specimens. NGC graded Choice About Uncirculated.
After Julius Caesar, the second most recognizable name of the imperatorial era is Marcus Junius Brutus. Was he the last guardian of the Republican age or only an infamous and most vile assassin of Caesar? Born about 85 BC, Brutus was thrust into the political realm and early became a follower of Cato, a staunch Republican. Later, Brutus built a fortune by lending money at usurious rates and eventually became a Roman senator.
There grew a great friendship between Caesar and Brutus, but during the Civil War it was clear that Caesar would never return to the former Republican government. Instead, Caesar was swayed by his many victories and public adulation, ultimately accepting the title “dictator for life.” Caesar’s portrait graced many coin issues, and his likeness was the first of a living person to be depicted upon the specie we now revere. It is ironic to also find the portrayal of Brutus on Coinage.
The ensuing struggle, the loss of life and of ideals, and the change of government are witnessed and related on this wonderful coin. Shakespeare (perhaps one in the same with Francis Bacon) gave us the perfect glimpse into the stage as life; Joseph Mankiewiez and John Houseman created a magnificent vision in their 1953 film Julius Caesar. With Marlon Brando, James Mason, John Gielgud, Greer Garson, Deborah Kerr and other stellar actors, it is a movie to view and view again. The next time you see it, ponder this aureus and the previous denarius.
Estimated Value $350,000 – 400,000.
Lot 90 Rome. Galba, April 68 – January 69 AD. Gold Aureus (7.28 g) Realized $390,000
With bold and impressive portrait of the aged Galba. The handsome deep red toning typical of Bosco Reale coins. A stunning coin, virtually as struck and perfectly centered with a powerful portrait. Very rare. NGC graded Choice About Uncirculated.
Galba chose this reverse type, which he employed on a number of denominations, to refer to Livia’s assistance in his early career.
Estimated Value $60,000 – 70,000.
Lot 126 Rome. Severus Alexander, 222-235 AD. Gold Aureus (6.31 g) Realized $800,000
The reverse shows a View of the coliseum (the Flavian Amphitheater) shown with four stories, the first three are arcades with each containing a statue, and the top being of solid masonry with windows and supports for the wooden masts that held the great awnings. Of the highest rarity, this the second of two known specimens, and perhaps the finer. NGC graded About Uncirculated.
The name Coliseum, for the Amphitheatrum Flavium as it was originally designated, began to be used around 1000 AD. Begun by Vespasian, inaugurated by Titus in 80 AD, and actually completed during the reign of Domitian, the amphitheater was one of the most remarkable Roman structures to survive to this day. Designed to seat 50,000 spectators, it had around eighty entrances to speed the attending crowds through — whether they were departing or arriving. Its construction is surprisingly “modern” in its utilization of different combinations of types of construction and materials: concrete for the foundations, travertine marble for the piers and arcades, tufa (a soft and easily worked volcanic rock) as infill between piers and walls of the lower two levels, and finally brick-faced concrete being used for the upper levels as well as for most of the vaults.
In 217 AD, early in the reign of Macrinus, the building was struck by lightning and badly damaged (This was seen as a very ill omen for the tenure of the new emperor, who had replaced the recently assassinated Caracalla, and whose death he was intimately involved in.) By 218 the Severan dynasty was once more on the throne, in the guise of Elagabalus, and repairs to the Coliseum were begun. Work continued under Severus Alexander so that by 223 AD the building was sufficiently restored to be used once more be used (work on the structure would continue for well over another decade, to be finished during the reign of Gordian III, who celebrated its completion with a small issue of medallions).
In honor of the Coliseum’s reopening, Severus Alexander struck a very small issue of commemorative coins: a number of sestertii and asses are known today, a denarius was recorded by Cohen but is now lost, and of course the two aurei, of which this coin is perhaps the finer.
Estimated Value $150,000 – 175,000.
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