Goldberg Coins and Collectibles

Sale 72

February 2-5. 2013

Hunter - Roman Imperitorial Coinage
Lot Photo Description Realized
Lot 4121
Octavian and Julius Caesar. Gold Aureus (8.23g) struck in Italy, summer-autumn 43 BC. C CAESAR COS PONT AVG. Bare head right of young Octavian. Reverse: C CAESAR DICT PERP PONT MAX. Laureate head right of Caesar. Sear 1525; Calicó 52; Craw. 490/2; Syd. 1321 Published: G.M.A. Richter, Roman Portraits, 1948, no. 14; Bahrfeldt, p. 45 note. Some scattered field marks noted. Boldly struck with portraits and legends sharp. A classic rarity in Roman coinage. About Extremely Fine.

This important coin dates from the time of Octavian's election as consul in August 43 BC, the Senate having been forced to acquiesce in the young man's elevation to Rome's highest magisterial office when he marched on the city at the head of an army of Caesarian veterans comprising eight legions. This issue is the first gold portrait coinage of Rome. It marks not only Octavian's assumption of that title, but also proclaims his position as the rightful heir to Julius Caesar, whose portrait and name appear on this coin.

The realistic portrait honoring Julius Caesar, having been slain on the Ides of March just eighteen months earlier, both flattered the soldiers, who were devoted to their late commander, and served to strengthen the claim of the young Octavian to be Caesar's true successor. The issue was clearly in response to Mark Antony's production of denarii in Cisalpine Gaul a few months earlier on which Caesar's portrait was also given prominence. Octavian's inscription records his consulship, the first of thirteen that he would hold during his long political career. Also noted are his membership in the priestly colleges of the pontifices (PONT) and the augures (AVG).
Estimated Value $100,000 - 130,000.
The Hunter Collection; Ex Nelson Bunker Hunt Collection (Part III, Sotheby's Sale 6054, December 4, 1990, lot 67); Metropolitan Museum of Art (Part I, Sotheby's Zurich, 10 November 1972, lot 14); Sir E.H. Bunbury Collection (Sotheby's, 1895, lot 275).

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Lot 4122
Marc Antony and Cleopatra VII. Silver Tetradrachm (12.95g) minted at Antioch (?) in Seleukis and Pieria, ca. 36 BC. BACIΛICCA KΛEOΠATPA ΘEA NEWTEPA. Diademed and draped bust right of Cleopatra VII (Ptolemaic Queen of Egypt and Antony's fifth wife), wearing a pearl-embroidered dress. Reverse: ANTWNIOC AYTOKPATWP TPITON TPIWN ANΔPWN. Bare head of Antony right. RPC 4094; Prieur 27; Sv. 1897, pl. lxiii, 22-23. Rare. Toned slate gray. Excellent portraits well centered on a full, pleasing flan. An ouststanding example of the type. Under strong magnification, we note areas of possible smoothing, the result of horn silver being expertly removed. Choice Very Fine.

In 37 BC, Marc Antony married Cleopatra in Antioch. She had already borne him twins in 40 BC, conceived while Antony was in Tarsus and Alexandria, before he was wedded to Octavian's sister, Octavia. In Rome, this new marriage was not legal, as Antony was still wedded to Octavia. But in the East, it served notice that Antony and Cleopatra intended to join the fortunes of Rome and Egypt together. The political message is clear on this tetradrachm. It simultaneously acknowledges the "sovereignty" of each individual of the couple by allowing 'Antony, the imperator and triumvir' his own side of the coin, and 'Cleopatra the Younger, the divine Queen of Egypt' her own side of the coin, as opposed to presenting conjoined busts.

Fortune, though, did not soon smile on Antony. In 36 BC, he launched his invasion of the Parthian lands. He was betrayed by his ally Artavasdes II of Armenia, and the campaign ended disastrously with Antony losing over 35,000 men. Following a disgraceful retreat, the triumvir was reduced to asking Cleopatra to restore his army. In 34 BC, Antony exacted his revenge on Armenia, annexing it and displaying Artavasdes in his triumph in Alexandria.

Antioch has long been the assigned mint for this Antony-Cleopatra issue for lack of any real alternative. Of the same weight and fineness as contemporary Antiochene tetradrachms, it also nicely fills the gap in dated tetradrachms of Antioch: Year 12 (38/7 BC) - Year 19 (31/0 BC). The Antiochene attribution, though, in recent times has become much more questioned. In his book on Roman Antioch, R. McAlee points out that the letters "C" for "sigma" and W for "omega" on these coins are inconsistent with contemporary issues. Cleopatra, moreover, never ruled in Antioch. This type was possibly struck in Cleopatra's Phoenician holdings. Perhaps more likely, though, it was struck by a legionary mint moving with Antony throughout the Eastern provinces or on his Parthian campaign. Regardless, this handsome issue served notice to the world that Rome and Egypt were one.
Estimated Value $25,000 - 30,000.
Ex M & M Numismatics 1, New York, 7 December 1997, Lot 268; Hess 252, Lucerne 1982, Lot 192.

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Lot 4123
Octavian. Gold Aureus (7.8g) minted at Rome, 32-31 BC. Bare head right of Octavian right. Reverse: Equestrian statue of Octavian galloping left, his right hand extended. Sear 1530; Calicó 187; RIC 262; Cohen 73. Strong artistic portrait. Very rare. Very Fine.

Dating back only to the time of Sulla, the aureus at this time was still essentially an extraordinary coin. Its issuance during the Republic and Imperatorial period largely centered on military purposes, and the aureus would usually be struck by a traveling mint under the authority of the commander in the field. It would be Augustus who would bring the aureus into the standard coinage fold and make it into an integral part of the Roman monetary system.

The Octavian counterpart to Antony's legionary series, this aureus was likely struck in preparation for the inevitable confrontation with Antony, the last type to be issued before the Battle of Actium.
Estimated Value $8,000 - 10,000.
The Hunter Collection.

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