World Coins

Silver denarius in Nomos sale marks emperor’s column

A silver denarius showing Trajan’s column in Rome realized nearly three times its pre-sale estimate in an auction May 17 by Swiss firm Nomos Ag.

Images courtesy of Nomos Ag.

When the Roman emperor Trajan was victorious in the Dacian Wars, he commemorated the achievement in a big way, commissioning a giant column in Rome.

The column was finished in 113 A.D., and soon after appeared on a series of the emperor’s coins, from 113 to 114, including a silver denarius. An example of that coin was sold by Nomos Ag in its May 17 auction, the firm’s 14th sale.

Trajan’s column is one of the best known and most recognizable of all the monuments of Rome. 

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The sculptural frieze, illustrating the campaigns of 101 and 102 and 105 to 106, contain nearly 2,500 figures (the emperor himself appears 59 times among his troops). 

The column was originally set between the Greek and Latin Libraries and the Basilica Ulpia at the northern end of Trajan’s Forum — viewers could have seen the reliefs from the balconies of those buildings. 

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The statue of Trajan that was originally on top of the column disappeared at some point during medieval times. In 1587 Pope Sixtus V topped the column with a bronze statue of St. Peter, which remains there today.

The coin in the auction shows the ruler on the obverse, with the column on the reverse, sporting the statue of Trajan that was once found there. 

The coin weighs 3.06 grams and measures 19 millimeters in diameter, somewhere between the specifications of a Jefferson 5-cent coin and a Washington quarter dollar. 

The coin is “lightly toned, sharp and attractive, [exhibiting] some minor scratches,” but otherwise is Extremely Fine, according to the firm. 

The coin realized a hammer price of 1,110 Swiss francs ($1,109 U.S.) against an estimate of 375 Swiss francs. The buyer’s fee is either 20 or 22.5 percent, depending on bidding method, and a value added tax of 8 percent applies to lots delivered in Switzerland.

For full details of the auction, visit the firm website,

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