Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich   |   Auction 105   |   9 May 2018 Sort by Lot-NumberSort by Estimate
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Lot 88

Estimate: 60'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 48'000 CHF Price realized: 50'000 CHF
Probus, 276 – 282. Aureus, Serdica 276–282, AV 6.40 g. IMP C M AVR PROBVS P – AVG Helmeted and cuirassed bust l., holding spear in r. hand and shield over l. shoulder. Rev. VICTORIAE Victory in slow quadriga l., holding wreath in r. hand and palm in l.; in exergue, AVG. C 784. RIC 833. Calicó 4229 (this coin). Biaggi 1630 (this coin).
Very rare. A magnificent portrait perfectly struck in high relief, an almost invisible scuff
on the horses and a nick on edge, otherwise virtually as struck and almost Fdc


Privately sold by Mario Ratto in 1954 for 432 000 Lire.

Leo Biaggi de Blasys (1906-1979) Collection, acquired privately in 1978 by Bank Leu and Marco Ratto.

Sold by Numismatica Ars Classica, Zürich, auction 72, 16 May 2013, lot 738.

Probus' predecessor, Aurelian, paid close attention to coinage, and at great risk and expense succeeded in reforming his empire's ailing coinage by increasing purities, weights, and by re-introducing old denominations. Though Probus did not attempt any such reform of the core denominations, he more or less abandoned Aurelian's re-introduced denominations. Probus' coinage reform did not involve purity or weight, but rather design and tenor: Probus introduced the militant bust on a scale that never before had been seen on Roman coinage. Prior to his reign it was unusual to see an armoured bust with spear and shield (for an example, see the Gordian III medallion in this sale), and especially to see the emperor wearing a helmet. Here we have the terrifying bust of an emperor ever-prepared to attack or defend on behalf of his empire. The helmet is elaborately decorated and crowned with a laurel wreath; the spear is in the prone position, and the shield is raised in defence.

The impact of this war regalia is amplified by the 'heroic bust' composition, which harkens back to earlier numismatic prototypes. Probus' intention, no doubt, was to demonstrate the strength of his regime and to show the possessor of this beautiful aureus that Rome's future was secured by the strength of his command.

If the obverse was meant to communicate Probus' unquestioned military supremacy, the elegant, noble reverse suggests the same level of confidence in the emperor's legislative authority.

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