Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich   |   Auction 94   |   6 October 2016
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Lot 67

Estimate: 5'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 4'000 CHF Price realized: 4'000 CHF
The Roman Empire
Octavian, as Augustus 27 BC – 14 AD
C. Gallius Lupercus. “Medallic” Sestertius 16 BC, Orichalcum 36.91 g. OB / CIVIS / SERVATOS Oak wreath flanked by two laurel branches. Rev. C. GALLIVS C F LVPERCVS IIIVIR AAAFF around S C. C 434. BMC 171 note. RIC 377 note. CBN 414.
Very rare, possibly only the seventh known piece. Tiber tone and
some slight porosity, good very fine
Ex NAC 9, 1996, 791; Triton I, 1997, 1284 and Nomos 7, 2013, 159 sales. At the time of writing, seven different specimens are known to us of this type: four in public collections (Bologna, Copenhagen, Fitzwilliam and Paris) and three sold in public auctions. Exactly why these coins were struck is uncertain, however their rarity along with their exceptional weights and style invite the suspicion that, even if they circulated, their primary purpose was for celebration rather than currency. They were probably distributed in limited numbers rather than released into circulation in the ordinary way and therefore it would seem appropriate to ascribe them to a special category. According to professor Toynbee’s definition, this impressive sestertius falls into one of her two main groups of aes pieces which require the definition “medallic”, or rather, specimens that seem to have been deliberately separated from standard coinage by virtue of their structure, style or content and in this way rendered inapt for circulation. Toynbee’s first series includes what one could describe as proper medallions: bronze pieces that are distinguished from regular currency by their structure, style and material. These bronze pieces were not originally intended to circulate as currency and instead were issued by the Emperor to commemorate special occasions or given as individual personal gifts. The second series includes the so-called “pseudo medallions”: pieces differentiated from coins by their very large flan or the use of two metals, or enclosure in rims or frames; this sestertius should probably be placed into this category. Professor Toynbee adds: “We may see in them the precursors of the true medallions, the first stage in the evolution of special commemorative and donative pieces standing apart from the regular currency…they are not coins and they are not suitable for circulation, specially for their structure.” M. Grant. “Roman Imperial Money”, Amsterdam 1972, pp. 98-99. It is the unusual striking technique that makes this issue particularly interesting, since it is possible to make out the rim into which the flan was presumably inserted at the time of striking on almost all known specimens. It is also worth noting the heavy weight of these pieces; while sestertii struck for circulation weigh on average 25.50 grams, this specimen weighs half as much again. Given the careful preparation that must have gone into adding on this border and centring the strike, one can only imagine that this was not merely an unusually heavy sestertius.

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