A unique version of a rare gold coin minted during the reign of
Augustus Caesar, the first and greatest of Rome’s emperors, is
expected to sell for £300,000 to £350,000 ($508,000 to $593,000 in
U.S. funds) during Dix Noonan Webb’s Sept. 22 auction of ancient and
The auction is one of four scheduled by the firm during two days in
London, before the Coinex show.
The possibly circa 27 to 18 B.C. gold aureus portrays Octavian (who
took the name Augustus) transformed into an ageless Apollo-like
classical beauty on the obverse. The reverse depicts an image of a
heifer based on a masterpiece by a Greek sculptor.
According to Will Bennett, representing the auction firm, “The coin
is a piece of numismatic genius celebrating the power of the man who
founded the Roman Empire and laid the foundations of a regime that
lasted for centuries.”
Only 22 examples of the heifer-reverse aureus minted during the
reign of Augustus are known to have survived, and 15 of these are in
museums, Bennett said, leaving seven examples available for individual ownership.
Five types of the coins are known, which differ based on whether
Augustus is depicted with a bare head or a laureate head, and on which
way the emperor and the heifer are facing.
The aureus to be auctioned at Dix Noonan Webb is unique, with the
laureate head of Augustus facing right and the heifer looking to the left.
Its condition is described as “Extremely Fine with lustre.”
The exact date of the coin and where it was minted remain unknown
and the subject of much scholarly debate. In 27 B.C. Octavian, as he
was then called, the great nephew of Julius Caesar, founded the
Principate, the first phase of the Roman Empire. He took the name of
Augustus, meaning “stately” or “dignified,” and began to stamp his
authority on Rome and its territories.
This portrait of Augustus is of the same style as the celebrated
statue of Augustus now in the Vatican, and is arguably the best
portrait to be found on any Roman coin, Bennett said.
The reverse recalls the occasion in 28 B.C. when Augustus dedicated
the temple of Apollo on the Palatine. The temple’s centerpiece was an
altar with four statues of heifers by the great sculptor Myron of Eleutherae.
For more information about the lot or the auction, telephone Dix
Noonan Webb at (011) 20 7016 1700, email the firm or visit the DNW website.