World Coins

Apparently unique bronze coin in Nomos auction

An apparently unique pattern coin of Valens, in bronze, created circa A.D. 364, is one of many highlights of Nomos Ag’s May 10 auction in Zurich.

Coin images courtesy of Nomos Ag.

A pattern bronze coin for the emperor Valens is one of many highlights in Nomos Ag’s May 10 auction in Zurich.

The circa A.D. 364 coin (of an unspecified denomination) is likely a pattern for a gold semissis or a heavy siliqua, issued in Sirmium, a city in the Roman province of Pannonia. The coin was created very soon after Valentinian made his brother Valens co-emperor on March 28 that year (Valentinian’s reign began on Feb. 26).

According to Nomos catalogers, “This coin is proof that even a well-studied series can produce major surprises.”

The obverse of the coin shows a diademed, draped, cuirassed bust of Valens, facing right. 

The reverse shows both rulers: Valentinian stands facing but with head turned to his left, wearing military dress and holding a spear in his right hand and a globe in his left. At the right side of the coin, Valens, also in military garb, also holds a spear in his right hand and globe in his left. 

“That Valentinian was the senior emperor is clearly shown by his being portrayed as taller than his brother on the reverse of this coin,” the auction firm said. 

A portion of reverse legend, GAVD-IVM R P (which translates to guardian of the state or joy of the republic), provides an important clue to identifying the piece as a pattern. According to the auction house, “legends with GAVDIVM are actually only found on gold of the House of Constantine.” 


According to the firm, this coin tells of the empire’s joy at having two legitimate emperors. While that would explain why the minting authorities in Sirmium produced the reverse type represented on this coin, lacking any known examples of an issue in gold, the auction firm concludes no general issue of the design was authorized by the imperial government

Additionally, lack of further bronze examples would indicate that this pattern was not only not approved for general issue, it was not even allowed to be produced as a bronze donative (special gift or presentation piece) at Sirmium itself.

The apparently unique coin has “remains of deposits and some cleaning marks,” but is Extremely Fine, and has an estimate of 3,250 Swiss francs (about $3,371 U.S.).

For more information, visit the auction firm’s website.

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