The Sept. 5 auction of the second and final part of the Shoshana
Collection of Ancient Judean Coins will finish the dispersal of a
collection that an expert once called “one of the most important
private ensembles of the coins of the Jews ever gathered.”
The late Leo Mildenberg made that statement, writing in the
foreword to The Numismatic Legacy of the Jews by Claudia
Samuels and Ya’ akov Meshorer, which featured 228 coins from the
The Heritage Auctions sale doesn’t offer the great rarities of the
first auction (which had three coins sell in total for more than $3
million), but it does feature a wide range of historical issues, and
its strength is its depth, according to cataloger David Hendin.
The collection of about 1,300 coins, which was built over 40 years
by a West Coast collector who remains anonymous, “is without question
the greatest collection of Holy Land coins ever brought to public
auction,” according to Cristiano Bierrenbach, executive vice president
of Heritage, and David S. Michaels, director of ancient coins for the firm.
The first part of the collection realized $7,639,365. “While the
commercial value of part II may not match that of Shoshana I,
historically it is no less important,” write Bierrenbach and Michaels
in the second auction catalog.
Several highlights reflect the broad nature of the offerings in
the second part, according to Hendin.
One such area is the trio of circa 40 to 37 B.C.
“Showbread/Menorah” bronze prutahs in the auction; the coins are of
Mattatayah Antigonus, the last of the Maccabean kings. According to
Hendin, it is unlikely that any auction will ever feature three of the
All of the coins of the type feature on one side the golden
seven-branched menorah that stood in the Jerusalem Temple, and, on the
coins’ other side, the showbread table in the temple. The coin “must
have been designed out of desperation, to show the people why
Antigonus was fighting,” Hendin writes in his book Guide to
Biblical Coins (Antigonus was warring with Herod).
The first of the triumvirate, Lot 20055, claims a lineage to the
Abraham Bromberg Collection — another prominent assemblage of Jewish
coinage, which was sold in 1991.
Like all of the coins of this type, the design is incomplete on
the coin in Lot 20055, since the planchets were struck with dies
intended for larger blanks. This example of the three coins offered in
the auction, in About Extremely Fine condition, has an estimate of $35,000.
Jewish War pieces
One of the signal events in Jewish history is the Jewish War of
A.D. 66 to 70. When the Jewish Revolt against the Romans broke out in
A.D. 66 in Judea, Jewish fighters took control of Jerusalem, and the
temple treasure became available. The silver (presumably the Tyrian
coins that had been paid to meet tax obligations over the years) was
used to strike shekel, half shekel and quarter shekel coins, and thus
this coinage is viewed as the first act of independence.
A Year Four (April 69 to March 70) silver shekel is one of three
notable highlights from the war in the auction.
“Production of silver coins at the Jerusalem Temple appears to
have dropped sharply in the fourth year, when the Jewish War against
Rome entered its terminal phase and supplies of precious metal dried
up,” Hendin writes in the lot listing.
While hundreds of examples are recorded from the first three years
of the revolt, only 40 shekels are known from Year 4. The Shoshana
Collection held three pieces, which are among the finest surviving
examples; two examples are offered in the second auction (the other
was in the first auction).
The standard design features on the obverse a ritual chalice with
pearled rim; on the reverse is a staff with three pomegranate buds.
The example in Lot 20123 exhibits “original hoard toning” and is
“superb.” It has an estimate of $30,000.
The other Year 4 silver shekel, Lot 20124, is in Extremely Fine
condition and has the same estimate.
During Year 5, the final year of the war, as the Jews faced
certain defeat, few coins were struck; Hendin reports that less than 1
percent of all Jewish War shekels were struck during the final year.
Lot 20128 is an irregular silver shekel, a representative example
of a small number of coins all struck from a single pair of dies,
according to the catalog.
The piece in the Shoshana Collection is perhaps the best example
of the type, according to Heritage.
In the mid-1980s, 13 Year 5 shekels were found in the vault of
London coin dealer Baldwin’s. All heavily cleaned, they had been
declared forgeries around the turn of the 20th century. “However, the
dies matched the previously-thought-to-be unique specimen in the
British Museum collection, which had been acquired by the [British
Museum] in 1887,” Hendin writes in the catalog.
That museum piece had strong evidence of burial, and that, coupled
with the circumstances of its acquisition “seems to establish its
authenticity,” Hendin writes, and also makes it unlikely that the
British Museum coin could have been used in the manufacture of false
dies from which to create the 13 coins from Baldwin’s.
Scanning electron microscopic studies of the entire group further
established their authenticity, and optical microscopic examination of
the coins revealed specific manufacturing attributes that would not
have been known to forgers active in the 19th century, when the coins
In Superb condition, the example in the Shoshana Collection has an
estimate of $50,000.
Bar Kohkba Revolt
The Bar Kokhba Revolt (A.D. 132 to 135) against the Roman Empire
was the third major rebellion by the Jews of Judaea, and the last of
the Jewish-Roman Wars.
A Year One (A.D. 132/133) silver sela, Lot 20130, highlights the
broad offering of Bar Kohkba related coins.
The facade of the Jerusalem Temple, with the Ark of the Covenant
in the center of the entrance, appears on the obverse. The reverse
shows a lulav (closed frond of a date palm) and etrog (yellow citron
used in a ritual).
Hendin calls the piece offered in Shoshana Collection auction “a
simply magnificent specimen.” In Superb condition, it has an estimate
A 19.5 percent buyer’s fee will be applied to all winning bids.
For more details about the auction, visit Heritage Auctions online
write the firm at 3500 Maple Ave., 17th Floor, Dallas, TX 75219-3941,
or telephone Heritage at either 800-872-6467 or 214-528-3500. ■