World Coins

Unique gold quaternio stars in Hess-Divo auction

A unique gold quaternio (four aurei) coin of Maxentius starred in Hess-Divo’s May 29 auction in Zurich.

Images courtesy of Hess-Divo.

A unique gold quaternio (four aurei) coin of Roman emperor Maxentius starred in Hess-Divo’s May 29 auction.

The coin realized 192,000 Swiss francs ($193,325 U.S.), including the 20 percent buyer’s fee. 

The coin was struck in Carthage in 307, early during the ruler’s reign. At the time, many were struggling for power over the Roman Empire. 

Maxentius was the son of former emperor Maximian and the son-in-law of emperor Galerius.

Diocletian had abdicated on May 1, 305, and the two appointed co-rulers were swept aside, with Constantine (the Great) rising to power early in 306. 


At this point, Constantine I had already been established as ruler over Gaul, Spain and Britain, and Maxentius was stuck in Rome. 

A series of machinations and maneuvers saw Maximian return to Rome to declare himself Augustus before Maxentius received the title from the Senate, being handed responsibility over the territory once controlled by the late Severus. 

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According to the auction house, “The magnificent gold medallion is likely to have been minted in celebration of his accession to power as Augustus.”

The bearded ruler appears on the obverse, while the reverse shows Mars, the Roman god of war, wearing a military costume and helmet, holding a shield with his left hand and a spear in his right hand.

With it, Maxentius underlines that he is willing and able, with the help of Mars and the associated virtues, to defend the old capital Rome against all attacks, as all rightful emperors before him had done, according to the Hess-Divo cataloger. 

“Thus, he positions himself against Galerius, who had tried not only to take privileges away from the Eternal City, but even to lead an army against the old capital,” according to the firm. “This way, Maxentius claims to be the true defender of the Roman idea. At the same time, he had coins minted for Senior Augustus Maximian and Caesar Constantine.”

The coin weighs 20.90 grams (about twice as heavy as a Kennedy half dollar) and has an “insignificant edge nick” on the reverse, but is otherwise Extremely Fine, the firm said.

The coin was the marquee lot of the Osaka Collection offered by Hess-Divo, and it has a provenance dating to Numismatica Ars Classica’s 2002 auction, and a 1996 Spink auction.

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