12 Days of Christmas: Byzantine gold coins first to show Jesus Christ

Coin World explores numismatic items along 12 themes related to Christmas
By , Coin World
Published : 12/18/14
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Coin World continues reviewing the “12 Days of Christmas” in numismatics.

First coin showing Jesus

So, coins exist showing the Star of Bethlehem and coins were issued by the Magi themselves, but what about the “king of kings” that they came to see?

The first coined image depicting Jesus Christ appears on the coins of the Byzantine Empire, under Emperor Justinian II. 

The circa 685 to 695 gold solidus (during Justinian II’s first reign) first display the traditional, familiar image of Jesus with long hair and a beard, before yielding to a clean-shaven look with curly hair on gold solidi of 705 to 711, during the ruler's second reign.  

Read all of Coin World's "12 Days of Christmas" posts

In 754 a church ruling found that depictions of Christ were unacceptable, and many artifacts bearing such images were destroyed, leaving the coins among the few remaining pieces of the era depicting Christ accessible outside museum collections, according to Kenneth Bressett, writing in Money of the Bible, third edition. 

Heritage sold an example of a solidus coin showing Christ in a Sept. 4, 2014, auction, where it realized $5,581.25, including 17.5 percent buyer’s fee. 

What more perfect item to celebrate Christmas than a coin showing Jesus Christ? 

For that reason, we’ve included it in Coin World’s “12 Days of Christmas” list.

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