World Coins

Emergency coins result from Bar Kochba Revolt

Editor's note: The following is the second of a five-part Coin World series about collecting emergency coinage, prepared by Jeff Starck for the March 2015 monthly edition of Coin World.

War between the Romans and Jewish resisters in Jerusalem several centuries later forms the backdrop for another issue of emergency money. 

The revolt against the Romans began in A.D. 66 and eventually led to the destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and the massacre of the Jewish resisters in A.D. 70. 

The final period of this bloody struggle was known as the Bar Kochba Revolt. Simon Bar Kosiba took the name Bar Kochba, which means “Son of a Star,” and became the commander for the Jewish forces. 

As the revolt progressed, coinage was needed for use by the Jews. Silver and bronze Roman coins were overstruck with Jewish images and legends.  

Coins were issued for five years, and are available in multiple denominations. Expert David Hendin explores them in Guide to Biblical Coins, now in its fifth edition.

The designs vary, though, with numerous symbols of import to the Jewish people.

The silver sela or tetradrachm features what may be the most symbolic design, the only numismatic representation of the Jerusalem Temple, although it is unclear whether it is meant to depict the Herodian temple destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70 or a new temple longed for by the messianic Shimon bar Kochba and his followers. 

Many examples of Bar Kochba coinage display enough details to determine the coin serving as the undertype or planchet for the newly fashioned emergency money.

Examples of Bar Kochba coinage vary in price by year, denomination and condition, from several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.

For example, a Very Fine example of a Year 3 (circa 134 to 135 A.D.) sela sold Oct. 30, 2014, in a Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio auction for $6,463, including the 17.5 percent buyer’s fee. 

On the other end of the price scale, nine different coins of various dates, denominations and conditions sold Jan. 6, 2015, in the New York Sale auction, for prices ranging from $298 to $995, including the 17 percent buyer’s fee.

When government-issued counterfeits or restruck coinage wasn’t possible, sometimes coiners got more creative.

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