Crocodile, sphinx, hippo grace gold aureus
- Published: Sep 11, 2017, 8 AM
Heritage offered a fascinating group of flashy (and very old) gold coins to kick off its World and Ancient Coins Platinum Night sale Aug. 3, part of its American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money auctions: The Golden Gate Collection of Roman Gold Aurei. The group of 40 coins covers a century-long span during the peak of the Roman Imperial period from A.D. 60 to 160, “a time when the Roman Empire reached its greatest territorial [extent], economic influence, and artistic influence, all reflected in its coinage.” Heritage suspects that the group, acquired by the consignor’s father in 1981, was likely unearthed as a single find in Israel in the late 1970s, though more specific information on the find location is elusive.
Hadrian (A.D. 117 to 138) gold aureus, Choice AU, NGC Star, Fine Style
The most expensive coin in the group was a gold aureus of Hadrian (A.D. 117 to 138) graded Choice About Uncirculated with 5/5 surfaces and 5/5 strike, with both a Star and Fine Style notation from Numismatic Guaranty Corp. The reverse shows the river god Nilus reclining, half draped, relaxing with one arm supporting his weight on a sphinx and the other holding a cornucopia (as one does).
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A hippopotamus walks right with his head raised and mouth open and below a crocodile advances amid waves.
The small gold piece was struck A.D. 134 to 138 and is part of Hadrian’s famed “Travel Series” where he celebrated his travels including an extended visit to Egypt in 130 to 131. The reverse variety is possibly a unique variant, which Heritage notes is not recorded in the standard references. The cameo-like reverse — uninterrupted by legends and “surrounded by the fauna of Egypt, rendered in the highest artistry of the age” — along with the bold portrait on the obverse make this an extraordinary survivor of this famed emperor who valued beauty.
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