World Coins

Unique gold 10 aurei of Diocletian tops $2 million in sale

This 10-aurei gold medallion of Roman emperor Diocletian realized more than $2.3 million in a Jan. 10 and 11 auction in New York City.

Images courtesy of the Classical Numismatic Group.

A unique gold 10-aurei medallion of Roman emperor Diocletian soared above $2 million, after the buyer’s fee, in Classical Numismatic Group’s Jan. 10 and 11 auction.

The coin hammered at $1.9 million, and was subject to either a 22.5 or 25% buyer’s fee, depending on bidding method.

The resulting price for the circa A.D. 294 piece was at least $2.3 million.

The medallion measures 38 millimeters across and weighs 53.65 grams, or about the same diameter as an American Eagle silver bullion coin, but nearly twice as heavy.

According to CNG, “This magnificent medallion of Diocletian ranks among the largest denomination Roman Imperial gold medallions in existence and is a masterpiece of late classical portraiture. A gold multiple of this size and artistry, termed a denio in numismatic circles, represented vast wealth at the time of issue and must have been created for a special occasion.”

Gaius Valerius Diocletianus instituted many reforms, including in 294 the implementation of a new system of coinage. The year 294 also marked the 10th anniversary (decennalia) of Diocletian’s reign and the enlargement of the ruling class.

As part of the coinage change, to accommodate the flood of new coinage, new mints opened, including one at Aquileia, where this medallion was struck.

It is graded Choice About Uncirculated by Numismatic Guaranty Co., which assigned it a 5/5 for strike and surface.

“Here, then, is the historical context for the striking of this impressive denio, no doubt intended as a handout to a military officer of high rank,” according to CNG.

At least four other 10-aurei medallions of Diocletian alone are recorded, all in museum collections. This includes two other examples of the same type and similar weight, but struck at the Alexandria mint.

This was the only denio offered at public auction since 1922, according to the firm.

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