The Roman Empire
Estimate: 60'000 CHF
Starting price: 48'000 CHF
Price realized: 150'000 CHF
Octavian, as Augustus 27 BC – 14 AD
Aureus, Caesaraugusta 19-18 BC, AV 7.88 g. AVGVSTVS Bare head r. Rev. S·P· – Q·R Victory facing, head l., holding before her a round shield inscribed CL·V. Bahrfeldt –. C –. BMC –. RIC –, cf. 62.
CBN –, cf. 1092. Leu sale 87, 2003, 1. Calicó 287.
Of the highest rarity, apparently only the third specimen known. A superb portrait perfectly
struck and centered in high relief and a very interesting reverse type. An unobtrusive
mark on lower reverse field, otherwise virtually as struck and almost Fdc
Ex NAC sale 8, 1995, 774 and Triton XI, 2008, Prideaux, 749 sales. There are only two additional specimens known of this extremely rare coin of Augustus: the coin which is illustrated in Calicó (no. 287), and another that was sold in Stack's December 3, 1996 Sale of the Michael J. Price Collection. All are remarkably well preserved and are produced from the same obverse and reverse dies as our coin. Additionally, all three coins also have a small M or Σ stamped on them in the field of the reverse, and which is occasionally encountered on other coins of Augustus (see, for instance, Triton XI, 2008, 761, an aureus of Augustus from Emerita in a similar state of preservation, also depicting the clipeus virtutis on the reverse). The inescapable conclusion is that all of these aurei must have originated from a single source. Whether that source was a collection (in the Triton sale it was postulated that the small stamp on the coins is an “owner’s mark”) where the coins were accumulated at different times and from different sources, or whether the coins all originated from the same find, is unfortunately not known. Our coin has sales provenances going back into the mid-1990s; the specimen illustrated in Calicó first appeared at auction in 1989, and the other aureus mentioned above exhibiting the same stamp on the reverse also appeared at auction in the mid-1990s.
Before Augustus visited Lugdunum in 16 B.C. and established the principal imperial mint for precious metal coinage there, there were several imperial mints operating in Spain. Although there is still much that is unknown about these mints, based on stylistic and also historical grounds, it appears that there were at least two, possibly even three, and that they were most likely located at the important Roman centers of Emerita and Tarraco. The themes presented on the reverses of these Spanish issues are typically military in nature – just as on the coin offered here which boasts of Augustus’s victory over Mark Antony and Cleopatra at Actium by way of the clipeus virtutis, the golden shield of valor awarded to the emperor in 26 B.C. by a most grateful and somewhat sycophantic Roman senate – which is no wonder considering that Spain hosted four legions at this time. The great abundance of Imperial gold and silver issues from Spanish mints at this time was due to the many gold and silver mines conveniently located throughout the province.