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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.

Otho, 15 January 69 - 17 April 69 A.D.

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This is the rarest Otho denarius type and one of the rarest 1st century Roman denarii. Only two museums, Paris and ANS, hold examples. A further specimen was found in archeological context in Denmark in 1990s. Besides these, four additional specimens are known. This coin has the best portrait and is clearly the most attractive of the seven known. Jyrki Muona obtained it in 2002 at the NYINC from Glenn Woods.

Otho minted three separate issues. The first and second issues followed Galba's standard of 90% silver. Otho's third issue was debased to 80% silver. All coins of the third issue share the reverse legend PONT MAX, perhaps to make it easy to distinguish the debased coins. One might think our rare coin is a reverse legend error for Otho's third issue, PONT MAX Ceres type. However, as Butcher et al. have shown, this is not the case. If CERES AVG was a simple reverse legend error, the flan would be 80% silver. This CERES AVG type was struck in a second issue of 90% silver flans, probably during planning for the third issue, and perhaps only for testing. The type was apparently not distributed, and was withdrawn, and melted when it was decided to debase the coinage and use the PONT MAX legend. It appears a small number were released, most likely by mistake.
RS85563. Silver denarius, Muona Otho 10b; Butcher-Ponting-Muona 6; ANSCD 1958.217.1; BnF III 1; RIC I 1 (R3, 7 spec. known, all minted with the same die-pair), Nice VF, the best portrait and most attractive of the seven known specimens, light rose toning, a few light marks and spots of porosity, weight 3.272 g, maximum diameter 17.5 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 9 Mar - 17 Apr 69 A.D.; obverse IMP OTHO CAESAR AVG TRP, bare head right; reverse CERES AVG, Ceres standing left, grain-ears raised in right hand, cornucopia in left hand; rarest Otho denarius type; from the Jyrki Muona Collection, ex Glenn Woods (NYINC, 2002); $4050.00 (3442.50)

Parthian Empire, Mithradates II, c. 121 - 91 B.C.

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Mithradates II was the eighth and one of the greatest Parthian kings. He defeated all Seleukid attempts to reclaim their Eastern territories and made Parthia a formidable, unified empire. He adopted the title Epiphanes, "god manifest" and introduced new designs on his extensive coinage. Late in his reign he exerted influence in Armenia, taking as hostage a prince who would become Tigranes the Great. --
SH86429. Silver tetradrachm, Sellwood 24.4, BMC 3, Boston MFA 2216, Sunrise 284, Shore 67 var., EF, fantastic high relief bust, well centered on a tight flan, slightest die wear, slightest porosity, weight 15.696 g, maximum diameter 28.2 mm, die axis 0o, Seleukeia on the Tigris mint, c. 119 - 109 B.C.; obverse diademed bust of Mithradates to left, long beard, wearing torc and elaborate robes; reverse BAΣIΛEΩΣ MEΓAΛOY APΣ-AKOY EΠIΦANOYΣ / TY (square clockwise, ending in exergue)), Arsakes I seated right on omphalos, bow in right hand, palm branch right; ex Pars (2008), ex Antiqua Inc. (2000); $2500.00 (2125.00)

Caligula, 16 March 37 - 24 January 41 A.D.

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The wreath on the reverse is the corona civica, the oak wreath awarded to Roman citizens ex senatus consulto (by special decree of the Senate) for saving the life of another citizen by slaying an enemy in battle. It became a prerogative for Roman emperors to be awarded the Civic Crown, originating with Augustus, who was awarded it in 27 B.C. for saving the lives of citizens by ending the series of civil wars.
RB86122. Orichalcum sestertius, RIC I 37, BMCRE I 38, Cohen I 24, BnF II 50, Hunter I 15, SRCV I -, VF, attractively centered on a broad flan, brass and tan contrasts, weight 27.910 g, maximum diameter 35.7 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 37 - 38 A.D.; obverse C CAESAR AVG GERMANICVS PON M TR POT, laureate head left; reverse S P Q R / P P / OB CIVES / SERVATOS in four lines within Corona Civica oak wreath; rare; $1710.00 (1453.50)

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, Hoover Syrian 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, BAΣIΛEWS (downward on right) S (δοωνωαρδ ον ριγητ) Σ</θwnward on right) SEΛEYKOY (downward on left), AP monogram (control) left, monogram (control) right; very rare; $1200.00 (1020.00)

Pergamene Kingdom, Attalos I, 241 - 197 B.C.

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Attalus, a capable general, champion of the Greeks, and loyal ally of Rome, made Pergamon a powerful kingdom. He earned the name "Soter" (savior) by defeating the Galatians, who had plundered and exacted tribute for more than a generation. In the Macedonian Wars he allied with Rome against Philip V of Macedon.
GS86503. Silver tetradrachm, BMC Mysia p. 117, 43 (same tiny die break on monogram); SNGvA 1360; SNG BnF -, SNG Cop -, SNG Tub -, SNG Delepierre -, SNG Hunt -, Meydancikkale -, VF/F, superb portrait, light toning, bumps, marks, porosity, small test cut from edge, weight 16.393 g, maximum diameter 29.6 mm, die axis 0o, Mysia, Pergamum (Bergama, Turkey) mint, 215 - 197 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Philetaerus right in taenia; reverse ΦIΛETAIPOY downward on left, Athena enthroned left, crowning dynastic name with wreath in right hand, left arm resting on shield at side ornamented with a gorgoneion, transverse spear on her far side, ME monogram inner right under arm, star over bee outer left, strung bow right; from the David Cannon Collection, ex Beast Coins; very rare variant; $625.00 (531.25)

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

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Salus was the Roman goddess of health. She was Hygieia to the Greeks, who believed her to be the daughter of Aesculapius, the god of medicine and healing, and Epione, the goddess of soothing of pain. Her father Asclepius learned the secrets of keeping death at bay after observing one snake bringing another snake healing herbs. Woman seeking fertility, the sick, and the injured slept in his temples in chambers where non-poisonous snakes were left to crawl on the floor and provide healing.
RS86680. Silver denarius, RIC II-1 513 (C2), RSC II 431; BMCRE II 105; BnF III 90; SRCV I -, EF, excellent portrait, attractive light toning, weight 3.532 g, maximum diameter 19.3 mm, die axis 0o, Rome mint, 73 A.D.; obverse IMP CAES VESP AVG CEN (Imperator Caesar Vespasianus Augustus Censor), laureate head right; reverse SALVS AVG (the health of the Emperor), Salus seated left on a throne, patera in extended right right hand, left arm resting on arm of the chair; from the Jyrki Muona Collection, ex Smythe & Co., NY; $360.00 (306.00) ON RESERVE

Julia Maesa, Augusta 8 June 218 - 224 or 225 A.D.

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Pudicitia, modesty and chastity, was the finest quality that a Roman woman could possess. Romans gave their highest praise to women, such as Julia Domna, who had only one husband in their lifetimes. Few women obtained this distinction in Roman society, where girls married young, husbands often died while their wives were still young, and divorce was easy to obtain and common.
SH86678. Silver denarius, SRCV II 2183, RIC IV 268, BMCRE V 76, RSC III 36, Mint State, superb portrait, sharp reverse, attractive light toning, well centered on a tight flan, weight 2.925 g, maximum diameter 19.0 mm, die axis 0o, Rome mint, 221 - 222 A.D.; obverse IVLIA MAESA AVG, draped bust right; reverse PVDICITIA, Pudicitia seated left on a throne without back, drawing her veil from her face with her right hand, long scepter transverse in left hand; from the Jyrki Muona Collection, ex Harlan J. Berk; $350.00 (297.50)

Macrinus, 11 April 217 - 8 June 218 A.D.

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Securitas stands perfectly at her ease, with legs crossed and leaning on a column, clearly relaxed, having nothing to fear. Macrinus was praised for restoring security by eliminating the fratricidal son of Severus, long feared as the most cruel tyrant of Rome, beloved only by a venal soldiery, whom his largesses had enriched.
SH77277. Silver denarius, RIC IV 92b, BMCRE V 80, RSC III 122c corr. (Antioch), Hunter III 32 var. (draped, no cuirass), SRCV II 7365, Choice EF, nearly as struck, light tone on luster, superb portrait, well centered, small edge cracks, weight 3.140 g, maximum diameter 20.0 mm, die axis 0o, Rome mint, obverse IMP C M OPEL SEV MACRINVS AVG, laureate and cuirassed bust right; reverse SECVRITAS TEMPORVM (time of security), Securitas standing facing, head left, scepter in right hand, left leg crossed in front of right, leaning with left forearm on column; from the Jyrki Muona Collection, ex Jean Elsen; $320.00 (272.00)

Julia Paula, Augusta July or August 219 - about September 220 A.D., First Wife of Elagabalus

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In 219, Julia Maesa arranged for her grandson Elagabalus to marry Julia Paula. The wedding was a lavish ceremony and Paula was given the honorific title of Augusta. In 220, he divorced her and married Aquilia Severa, a Vestal Virgin.
RS86670. Silver denarius, BMCRE V 172, RSC III 6a, RIC IV 211, Hunter III 1, Eauze Hoard 376 (29 spec.), SRCV II 7655, EF, attractive portrait, choice sharp reverse, light toning edge split, obverse slightly off center, weight 2.892 g, maximum diameter 19.6 mm, die axis 0o, Rome mint, 220 A.D.; obverse IVLIA PAVLA AVG, bare-headed, draped bust right, hair in horizontal ridges, small looped plait bun at back; reverse CONCORDIA (harmony), Concordia seated left, patera in right hand, left elbow resting on arm of throne, star in left field; from the Jyrki Muona Collection, ex Harlan J. Berk; scarce; $300.00 (255.00)

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

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In addition to rule, the Emperor was the Pontifex Maximus, the high priest of Rome, the president of the college of pontiffs, and responsible for overseeing the religion and sacred ceremonies of the Romans. On 17 December 384, after the Christian emperor Gratian refused the title, Pope Siricius took the title Pontifex Maximus.
RS85639. Silver denarius, RIC IV 204 (S), RSC III 682, BMCRE V 578, SRCV II 6906, Hunter III -, Choice gVF, unusual older youth portrait, well centered and struck, toned, light porosity, edge cracks, weight 3.493 g, maximum diameter 20.3 mm, die axis 0o, Rome mint, 208 - 210 A.D.; obverse ANTONINVS PIVS AVG, older youth's unbearded laureate head right; reverse VOTA SOLVT DEC COS III (Additional sacrifices for the tenth anniversary of rule, consul for the 3rd time), Caracalla standing left, veiled and togate, sacrificing out of patera in right hand over flaming tripod altar, roll in left hand, slain sacrificial bull recumbent on the far side of the altar; $220.00 (187.00)



Catalog current as of Monday, March 19, 2018.
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Masterpiece Portraits