World Coins

Hiker in Israel discovers rare gold coin

Most hikers hope to find relaxation and exercise when tromping through the wild, but an outdoor enthusiast in Israel found something even rarer — only the second known gold coin of its type.

The gold aureus issued by Roman Emperor Trajan is one of two examples known, with a “twin” in the British Museum. The gold aureus comes from a series of “restoration” coins honoring past rulers and deeds. The rare aureus depicts Emperor Augustus (Gaius Octavius), the founder of the Roman Empire and its first Emperor.

Laurie Rimon was part of a hiking group visiting the eastern Galilee countryside when the discovery was made at an archaeological site, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority, which announced the find on March 14. 

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“Suddenly Laurie discerned a shiny object in the grass,” the IAA said in a statement. “When she picked it up she realized it was an ancient gold coin. The group’s guide, Irit Zuk-Kovacsi contacted the Israel Antiquities Authority with the help of archaeologist and veteran tour guide Dr Motti Aviam, and within two hours an IAA representative joined the group of hikers in the field.”

The IAA credited Rimon for disclosing the discovery despite its potential value, both economic and educational. 

“It was not easy parting with the coin,” she said, according to the IAA. “After all, it is not every day one discovers such an amazing object, but I hope I will see it displayed in a museum in the near future.”

She will receive a certificate of appreciation for her good citizenship, the IAA said.

What makes the coin stand out are the circumstance surrounding its issue.

In 107 A.D., Trajan withdrew older coins and melted them down, issuing the so-called “restoration” coins as a way to preserve the types that were melted and to link his reign to earlier rulers, according to Harold Mattingly, in Roman Imperial Coinage

Dr. Danny Syon, a senior numismatist at the Israel Antiquities Authority, said the coin “is rare on a global level.”

An image of the reverse was not released, but Syon said it shows symbols of the Roman legions next to the name of the ruler Trajan.

According to Dr. Donald T. Ariel, head curator of the coin department at the IAA, “The coin may reflect the presence of the Roman army in the region some 2,000 years ago — possibly in the context of activity against Bar Kokhba supporters in the Galilee — but it is very difficult to determine that on the basis of a single coin.”

According to Ariel, some Roman soldiers at the time were paid a salary of three gold coins, the equivalent of 75 silver coins, each payday. Because of their high monetary value soldiers were unable to purchase goods in the market with gold coins, as the merchants could not provide change for them.

Dr. Ariel added, “Whilst the bronze and silver coins of Emperor Trajan are common in the country, his gold coins are extremely rare. So far, only two other gold coins of this emperor have been registered in the State Treasures, one from Giv‘at Shaul near Jerusalem, and the other from the Qiryat Gat region and the details on both of them are different to those that appear on the rare coin that Laurie found.”

The disposition of the coin find has not yet been disclosed.

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