A rare gold coin which commemorates the assassination of the Roman general Julius Caesar sold at auction for a record £3.24 million — including premium — yesterday.
Over two millennia old, the token is one of three of the same design known to have been cast in gold, making it the ‘holy grail’ for ancient coin collectors, experts said.
Previously held in a private collection in Europe, the mint-condition gold coin was sold at auction by London-based Roma Numismatics on October 29, 2020.
The name of the winning bidder has not been revealed by the auctioneers.
The minting of the coin has been described as a ‘naked and shameless celebration’ of Caesar’s murder two years previously in 44 BC.
The assassination was prompted by concern among the Roman senate that Caesar — having recently been named ‘dictator in perpetuity’ — would name himself king.
Fear of this tyranny fostered a conspiracy of 60 senators who ended up stabbing the statesman 23 times, according to history’s first recorded autopsy.
Caesar had, however, been popular with the lower and middle classes — and the uproar in the wake of his assassination helped set in motion the fall of the Republic.
A rare gold coin which commemorates the assassination of the Roman general Julius Caesar (pictured) sold at auction for a record £3.24 million yesterday
‘I’m not surprised it set a world record as the most valuable ancient coin ever sold,’ said Mark Salzberg, the chairman of the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, which confirmed the authenticity of the coin.
‘It’s a masterpiece of artistry and rarity, still in mint condition after 2,000 years, and only the third known example made in gold. Many of us believed it would sell for millions, and it did,’ he added.
The coin ‘was made in 42 BC, two years after the famous assassination,’ Mr Salzberg told Fox News back in October.
‘The front has a portrait of Marcus Junius Brutus — one of Caesar’s assassins — and the other side dramatically has two daggers and the words EID MAR, a Latin abbreviation for Ides of March,’ he added.
It also features a ‘cap of liberty’, signifying the motivations behind the murder — and on the other face, the date of the deed.
The item, Mr Salzberg explained, is ‘one of the most important and valuable coins of the ancient world.’
Nearly 100 of such ‘Ides of March’ coins are known, according to the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation — however, most are cast in silver, and even these are considered essentially unobtainable by aficionados.
Only two others in gold are known to exist — one of which is on display in the British Museum, while the other resides in the permanent collection of the Deutsche Bundesbank, the central bank of the Federal Republic of Germany.
‘There were rumours of a third example and Numismatic Guaranty Corporation authenticators were excited when this coin was submitted at our London office and sent for evaluation at our headquarters in Sarasota, Florida,’ said Mr Salzberg.
‘The coin is only about the size of modern United States five-cent and United Kingdom five-pence denomination coins, but it’s an historic treasure worth far more than its weight in gold.’
‘There were rumours of a third example and Numismatic Guaranty Corporation authenticators were excited when this coin was submitted at our London office and sent for evaluation at our headquarters in Sarasota, Florida,’ said Mr Salzberg. ‘The coin is only about the size of modern United States five-cent and United Kingdom five-pence denomination coins, but it’s an historic treasure worth far more than its weight in gold’
The minting of the coin has been described as a ‘naked and shameless celebration’ of Caesar’s murder two years previously in 44 BC, as depicted. The assassination was prompted by concern among the senate that Caesar — having recently been named ‘dictator in perpetuity’ — would name himself king. Fear of this tyranny fostered a conspiracy of 60 senators who ended up stabbing the statesman 23 times, according to history’s first recorded autopsy
Roma Numismatics’ director Richard Beale said that they were ‘extremely privileged to bring this coin to auction with the invaluable assistance of Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, whose expert specialists have assisted in authenticating it.’
‘Considering the coin’s rarity, artistry and fabled place in history, I would not be surprised if it sold for several million,’ Mr Salzberg had told Fox News prior to the auction of the commemorative gold token.
The coin had been given a conservative pre-sale estimate of £500,000 — but its ultimate value at auction (with a hammer price, before fees, of £2.7 million) makes it peerless among ancient coin trades.
Among Roman coins, the previous record-holder — a bronze sestertius of the emperor Hadrian — sold for 2.3 million CHF (then around £1.7 million) in 2008.
Until yesterday, the title of most expensive coin belonged to a Greek gold stater from the city of Panticapaeum, which sold for $3.25 million (equivalent to around £2 million) back in 2012.
How England spent almost half a millennium under Roman rule
55BC – Julius Caesar crossed the channel with around 10,000 soldiers. They landed at a Pegwell Bay on the Isle of Thanet and were met by a force of Britons. Caesar was forced to withdraw.
54BC – Caesar crossed the channel again in his second attempt to conquer Britain. He came with with 27,000 infantry and cavalry and landed at Deal but were unopposed. They marched inland and after hard battles they defeated the Britons and key tribal leaders surrendered.
However, later that year, Caesar was forced to return to Gaul to deal with problems there and the Romans left.
54BC – 43BC – Although there were no Romans present in Britain during these years, their influence increased due to trade links.
43AD – A Roman force of 40,000 led by Aulus Plautius landed in Kent and took the south east. The emperor Claudius appointed Plautius as Governor of Britain and returned to Rome.
47AD – Londinium (London) was founded and Britain was declared part of the Roman empire. Networks of roads were built across the country.
50AD – Romans arrived in the southwest and made their mark in the form of a wooden fort on a hill near the river Exe. A town was created at the site of the fort decades later and names Isca.
When Romans let and Saxons ruled, all ex-Roman towns were called a ‘ceaster’. this was called ‘Exe ceaster’ and a merger of this eventually gave rise to Exeter.
75 – 77AD – Romans defeated the last resistant tribes, making all Britain Roman. Many Britons started adopting Roman customs and law.
122AD – Emperor Hadrian ordered that a wall be built between England and Scotland to keep Scottish tribes out.
312AD – Emperor Constantine made Christianity legal throughout the Roman empire.
228AD – The Romans were being attacked by barbarian tribes and soldiers stationed in the country started to be recalled to Rome.
410AD – All Romans were recalled to Rome and Emperor Honorious told Britons they no longer had a connection to Rome.
Source: History on the net