The Cruelest Roman Emperor

Roman Emperor Caligula is remembered as being the cruelest roman emperor. No one can say exactly why he was so cruel. Some speculate, that it was because he fell ill of syphilis 6 month into his reign. Whatever the reason, he never recovered mentally and became a ruthless leader.

Caligula’s cruelty lasted during his four-year reign from 37-41 AD. In fact, he became so ruthless that no one was safe, including his family. Some even refer to Caligula as the mad emperor. In short, his cruelty, sadism, extravagance, and sexual perversion was nothing short of the actions of an insane tyrant. For instance, he made his horse a member of the senate and slept with or killed every member of his own family.

There are others who believe Caligula’s excessive cruelty is exaggerated by myth. They also think that Caligula only threatened to make his horse consul. Moreover, they think it was only said because of Caligula’s very low opinion of the Senate. Nevertheless, Caligula was so despised as a ruler that he was eventually executed by his own royal guard. As a result, the Cruelest Roman Emperor title seems appropriate.

Caligula Silver Denarius

This silver denarius of Roman Emperor Caligula is one of the key coins in the Twelve Caesars silver series. Furthermore, it is the finest example we have handled in many years. However, we did own ONE coin certified finer, a Mint State coin we placed several years ago.

Caligula’s image on the front of the coin is an eerie testament to his legacy of being the Cruelest Roman Emperor. The reverse of the coin depicts his predecessor, Augustus, in lifelike form. This coin is wonderfully preserved with mark-free surfaces on both sides. In conclusion, it is a wonderful coin in all regards. (Check out the video below!)

The First International Currency

The world’s first coins were minted in ancient Lydia. Lydia’s King Croesus became the first ruler to separate gold from other metals. He issued the world’s first pure gold and pure silver coins. The Persian Empire, also known as the Achaemenid Empire, took up the idea of coinage upon defeating King Croesus in 547 B.C.. However, it wasn’t until Alexander the Great of the Macedonian Empire, who conquered the Persian Empire, that the first international currency evolved. In fact, some believe that Alexander was the father of the first international currency.

Alexander ascended to the throne in 336 BC following the assassination of his father Philip II. He became king at the very young age of 20. In addition, Alexander adopted the Attic coinage standard. Unfortunately, Alexander spent his ruling years conducting lengthy military campaigns and really didn’t get to enjoy his conquest much. He was always too busy conquering more lands throughout Western Asia and Egypt.

Alexander’s importance to the history of coinage must be noted. After he became ruler of such a vast empire, he realize the necessity of successfully trading currency throughout his lands. Most importantly, once Alexander conquer an area he issued and circulated his own coins. Gradually, his huge empire became uniformed in its currency. However, some stylistic variations due to the hundreds of mints throughout Europe and Asia. Of course this was inevitable due to the vast region of his empire. It stretched from the borders of India and inner Afganistan in the east to the Adriatic Sea in the west and from Egypt in the south to the coasts of the Black Sea in the north.

Alexander The Great's Empire
Alexander the Great’s Empire

Coinage as Politcal Propaganda

Coinage as political propaganda became an integral part to warfare in the ancient world. Alexander became the inventor of mass-marketing his face or the faces of the gods he believed in. He realized the importance of someone coming into power needed to reach everyone in his empire. Just like today’s television, radio, and billboards, Alexander’s coinage was in everyone’s hands and had a far reaching impact. ( Check out this beautiful coin during Alexander’s reign in the video below)

Even after Alexander’s death his generals launched perhaps the greatest and most widespread use of coinage as propaganda. They divided Alexander’s Empire, but still used coins with Alexander’s image. In fact, they pictured him as a good-looking, divine, powerful ruler. Not only were Alexander’s coins minted during his lifetime, but his image adorned coins for two decades following his death. As a result, Macedonian generals who divided the empire into separate Hellenistic kingdoms, continued to identify the great ruler Alexander.

As time went by, new kings came into power and minted their own coinage. However, Alexander coinage lived on for two centuries. For the very first time his coins were issued by independent cities as the first international currency.   

The command to have Jesus Christ crucified

Pontius Pilate was Governor of Judea from 26-36 AD under the Roman emperor Tiberius. He is one of the most infamous men in history because he gave the command to have Jesus Christ crucified.

The New Testament describes Pontius Pilate as a wavering judge. It says that Pilate initially exonerated Jesus before bending to the will of the crowd, and condemning him to death. But non-Biblical sources paint a much darker picture of the Governor of Judea. His reign was corrupt and full of bribery. Although this was typical behavior for a Roman Ruler, Pilate was more ruthless than others as he also willfully defied the Jewish people’s traditions.

Pontius Pilate Bronze Prutah

Gov Judaea Pontis Pilate | Prutah Coin

The bronze coins (or ‘prutah’) was issued by Pontius Pilate between 26 – 36 AD. These coins are of especial interest to Christians and Jews. This is because of Pilate’s connection with Jesus Christ and his involvement in Jewish history. These coins were traded during the lifetime of Jesus. In fact, they were often used and traded every day!

This bronze prutah was minted between 29 and 31 AD. A prutah coin was of very low value and was mainly used in the poor province of Judea. For example, at the time of Jesus it took 24 prutah just to buy a loaf of bread. They were produced by the Mint of Jerusalem. The flans (on which ancient coins were struck) were cast in strips and then carelessly hand struck with even cruder dies. Similarly, little attention was paid to the quality of the prutah. Most are far off-center, flatly struck, or nearly unidentifiable.

On the Obverse you’ll see a lituus, which was the wand of an augur. The wand was used to interpret natural phenomenon such as lightning flashes, the flight of birds, etc. On the Reverse there is a simpulum, more commonly known as a ladle. These ladles were used to make libations during sacrifices and was a common symbol of the Roman priesthood. These symbols offended Jewish religious sensibilities. Being placed on coinage that they would have to handle on a daily basis was just adding insult to injury.

Prutah still has dirt from the Holy Land

The command to have Jesus Christ crucified was as historical as it was horrific. The coins that we have were found in and around Jerusalem and have not been cleaned for a reason. Each coin is uniquely toned. As a matter of fact, each Prutah still has dirt from the Holy Land adhering to its surfaces. They can be cleaned to exhibit more detail. However, we chose to leave them in their original “as found” state for the sake of history.

NGC, the top grading authority in the marketplace, has graded each of our Ancient Coin Picks. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, we are more than happy to assist you with your ancient coin needs!

What is the largest ancient gold coin?

Many customers ask us, “What is the largest ancient gold coin?” We tell them, you’ve come to the right place! Only one ancient gold coin struck holds that title. The Gold Octodrachm was by far the largest gold coin ever struck in the ancient world. These heavy weights were a most common denomination of its day. Importantly, other large denominations like the tetradrachm (four drachms), the pentadrachm (five drachms) were also common. However, the Octodrachm (an eight-drachm coin) was the largest.

Gold Octodrachms were struck over 2,300 years ago. They were produced during the Hellenistic period in Ptolemaic Egypt. No other kingdom or empire in the ancient world comes close to producing such a large gold coin. Above all, Ancient Egypt was known to be a country of remarkable wealth and prosperity. The Ptolemaic Empire displayed their economic clout by drawing thousands of mercenary soldiers into Egypt’s service.

Egyptian Gold Octodrachms were struck in different designs during the many different reigns. In particular, the coins paid homage to their leaders. For instance, a Dynastic Octodrachm, depicts the founders of the dynasty. It features Ptolemy I and his wife Berenice I on the reverse of the coin. The obverse shows portraits of Ptolemy II and Arsinoe II.

Ptolemy II Gold Octodrachm

Each Octodrachm contains just under an ounce of pure gold. This represented an enormous amount of wealth for a person who lived in Ancient Egypt. Today, collectors are impressed with the remarkable designs and craftsmanship of these coins. For a 2,300 year old coin they look absolutely stunning. The Ptolemy II Gold Octodrachm example, in the video below, has been graded by NGC Ancients. Furthermore, it is in Choice Very Fine condition. This makes it affordable to some collectors. A mint state example however, would be far too expensive for most coin enthusiast.

So, when someone asks you, what is the largest ancient gold coin is? You can tell them that it is call the Gold Octodrachm. In conclusion, you can say that one in perfect condition would be way out of their reach! Except, maybe in a museum.

Alexander The Great Silver Drachm

Alexander The Great Silver Drachm in Holder

This Alexander The Great Silver Drachm is a beauty! Few names resonate in history like that of  General Alexander the Great of Macedon.  Even today 2,350 years after his death Coinage issued under Alexander are highly desirable and are sought after by all sorts of collectors.

A Silver Drachm Like this…Will Sell Quickly!

We are pleased to offer this remarkably high end silver drachm graded by NGC Ancients. Because it has been certified in choice mint state condition, it is highly desirable. It also has received the fine style designation, which implies it to be of the highest artistic quality. Furthermore, this particular coin is known to be a lifetime issue. This means it was struck while Alexander was still alive. Coins that were issued after his death are referred to as a posthumous issue. 

Front & Back of this Coin:

Alexander The Great Silver Drachm

Overall the look of this Silver Drachm is remarkable and it is hard to believe that it was struck nearly 2400 years ago. This coin’s silver is bright white, flashy, and the strike is absolutely solid. You will find the obverse depicts Hercules facing right in lifelike fashion wearing a lion skin helmet.

Alexander The Great Silver Drachm - Reverse

The reverse shows Zeus seated upon a throne holding a scepter in his left hand but an eagle is perched on his right hand. You can clearly make out the muscularity features of Zeus and the centering on the back of the coin is absolutely perfect.

Is this Coin is For Sale?

We have only one of these Alexander The Great Silver Drachms available, and expect it to sell quickly given the low price point and all of the features described above. Ancient coins are a remarkable area of the numismatic marketplace. Coins issued under famous generals or noteworthy leaders are highly desirable today—particularly those in such a remarkably high state of preservation. 

Have questions about this coin? Then be sure to call our ancient coin advisor to learn more. This type of coin is a rare find, so it would definitely be a great addition for ancient coin collectors and investors alike!

Alexander The Great Silver Drachm - Both Sides

What is a Gold Aureus?

A gold coin of ancient Rome

What is a Gold Aureus? The Julius Caesar Gold Aureus was a gold coin of ancient Rome originally valued at 25 pure Silver Denarii. From the 1st century BC to the beginning of the 4th century AD the aureus was commonly struck. It later was replaced by the Solidus. This gold Aureus was struck Caesar during the Roman Republican period under Julius Caesar by Praetor A. Hirtius.

The aureus was heavier than the same size denarius because gold is more dense than silver. Before Julius Caesar became emperor of Rome the gold aureus wasn’t very common. It was Caesar’s extravagant spending and trying to gain favor with the social elitist that led to the aureas becoming more popular.

Caesar becomes the first emperor

Instead of gaining favor, Caesar’s populist and authoritarian reforms angered the elites. In fact, after Caesar centralized the bureaucracy of the Republic he made sure that he would be proclaimed “dictator for life.” Not the best way to please the social elite and this of course led to the demise of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire.

It also led to Caesar’s demise in 44 BC on the 15th of March, the Ides of March. This day which was was famously dramatized in William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar. The 15th of March corresponds with the 74th day In the Roman calendar. The day that was notable as a religious observances day for Romans to settle all debts. Ironically, it became notoriously known as the date of the assassination of Julius Caesar. It was a major turning point in Roman history.

History in your hands

As you can see holding a Julius Caesar Gold Aureus is like holding a piece of history. On this Gold Aureus the head of Vesta is shown on the obverse. The priestly equipment adorns the reverse. This is a simply remarkable Julius Caesar Gold Aureus in Choice Very Fine Condition. It has also been awarded very high marks of 5 for Strike and 4 for Surfaces from NGC. This coin is hard to find in any condition!

The first Roman Emperor, Julius Caesar, is still known around the world over 2,000 years after his demise. Collecting and owning a gold stater that has seen circulation in the past makes you wonder just whose hands actually have touched it. Who knows, maybe even Julius Caesar himself. Something to ponder when you look at such a beautiful and historical remembrance of Ancient Rome. Now when someone asks, what is a Gold Aureus? You know at least one fine example with a great story!

What Ancient Roman coins were made of silver?

What Ancient Roman coins were made of silver is a question we frequently get. This NGC Certified Roman coin minted by Emperor Otho for instance, is a great example, and it is a beautiful coin. Finding a Silver Denarius in Choice Extremely Fine Condition with 3.54 grams of silver is not an easy task.

On the front of this Otho Silver Denarius you’ll find the likeness of Emperor OTHO CAESAR with his head facing right. On the reverse, seen advancing left, you’ll find the likeness of VICTORIA. She is the Roman Goddess of Victory.

Marcus Otho Caesar Augustus was born Marcus Salvius Otho in the year 28 AD. He was Roman emperor, but only for three months, and in addition his life ended tragically. Two weeks shy of his thirty-seventh birthday Otho took his own life. In conclusion, by stabbing himself with a dagger Otho’s reign ranks as one of the briefest in the history of the Roman Empire.

This coin is an excellent example of one of the least known Roman Emperors. Examples of coins from Emperor Otho are rare because of two reasons. Firstly because he only was emperor for 3 months and secondly because most found were badly damaged. We are lucky to have this Choice Extremely Fine grade and able to share it with you.

Otho denarii are quite scarce and extremely difficult to find. For this reason only around 300 of these coins have been certified, and none in Mint State.

Several Ancient Roman coins were made of silver including the popular Silver Denarius silver coin, however the base silver coin was the Sestertius. In conclusion, there were many types of Roman silver coins. They spanned the 482 years as a Roman Republic, 503 years as the Roman Empire, and 1131 years as the Byzantine Empire.

What Persian Darics were used for.

An ancient Persian Gold Daric is a high-purity gold piece and weighs approximately 8.4 grams. This weight is based on an ancient weight standard.

The Daric was also referred to as a Babylonian shekel. It was called a shekel because it was equivalent to one month’s pay for a mercenary foot soldier. We know what Persian Darics were used for. Persian Darics were some of the first coins ever used as currency. Currency was a new concept, because in ancient times bartering was the norm.

One daric could be exchanged for 20 silver sigloi. This was a daric’s silver currency counterpart. It was a period in the ancient world that the concept of currency as trade started. Archeologist unearthed hoards of darics and sigloi from Sicily to Afghanistan. This area was all part of the former Persian Empire. It was also proof that the concept of currency spread quickly.

Unique Persian Gold Daric

Our video below shows a unique Persian Gold Daric. It is from the Achaemenid Empire, c.5th Century BC. However, it is slightly different than virtually every other Daric. There have been thousands of typical ones found. Furthermore, only recently were new coins like the one below uncovered in Turkey.

10 Gold Darics were found with a formerly unused symbol. Usually there is a king with bows, arrows, and daggers. For the very first time we see the use of a cross underneath the king.

Some PhD’s suggest it’s a crucifix. Not to symbolize Christ. Jesus Christ didn’t come around for another 400 years. These experts believe it symbolizes the mighty Persian army crucifying those who would not obey them.

Ideas are swirling! Other experts have suggested the symbol is an anchor. In addition, they believe it refers to the Persian naval fleets. In conclusion, we may never know. We do know what Persian Darics were used for. It was the first time coins were used for currency and trade. After that, we are not too sure. Most importantly, why was a cross stamped on only a few examples and only recently found.

Could the cross have been stamped to send a message to the people and was it for propaganda? These questions and discoveries are what makes ancient coins so much more fun to collect!