Gerald Tebben, a Coin World columnist for more than 30 years, also contributes to Coin World’s Coin Values and edits the Central States Numismatic Society’s journal, The Centinel. He collects coins that tell stories.
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Collecting Christmas: Start with a Roman coin circulated around the time Jesus was born
This bronze as, issued in Rome in 7 B.C., shows Augustus on the obverse and the moneyer’s name - M. Salvius Otho – on the reverse. The nearly Very Fine coin sold for $44 at auction just before last Christmas.
Collectors are blessed when it comes to Christmas. The hobby provides a multitude of possible gifts to give and receive. There are also numerous numismatic objects that are touched by and reflect the sprit of the season. Some date from the time of the birth of Christ. Others are associated with the holiday’s celebration over the centuries.
For the next five weeks, this blog will be my Christmas present to you. In it I’ll detail five items – three coins and two pieces of paper money – that bask in the glow of the season. Their values range from as little as $1.50 for a cent associated with the gifts of the magi to $10,000 for piece of paper money dated Dec. 25 in a year the holiday was not celebrated. Each would make a fine present.
The first item is a coin of Caesar Augustus.
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. – Luke 2:1-7
The coinage of Caesar Augustus is intimately connected to the birth of Jesus Christ.
Augustus, who ruled Rome and its provinces from 27 B.C. to A.D. 14, is named in the first line of Luke’s account of the nativity. His coinage circulated throughout the empire, and it’s not inconceivable that the magi’s gift of gold included an aureus of Augustus.
While ancient coins do not bear calendar-year dates, collectors can be fairly certain that lifetime issues of Augustus with the abbreviation “PP” or words “PATER PATRIAE” in the legend were issued during Jesus’ childhood. The Senate awarded the title "Father of the Country” to Augustus in 2 B.C. Most of his coins bear his bust on the obverse – giving dimension to man named in the first line of Luke’s famous account.
Augustus’ coinage is plentiful and inexpensive. With a little searching, circulated bronze and silver coins bearing his portrait can be obtained for less than $100.
Next: Bob Cratchit’s pay
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