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Research Coins: Feature Auction


Very Rare Light Weight Solidus

Sale: CNG 78, Lot: 1876. Estimate $500. 
Closing Date: Wednesday, 14 May 2008. 
Sold For $1180. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Justinian I. 527-565. AV Light Weight Solidus of 20 Siliquae (3.73 g, 6h). Constantinople mint, 9th officina. Struck 542-565. Helmeted, draped, and cuirassed facing bust, holding globus cruciger and shield / Angel standing facing, holding long cross and plain globus; star to right; I//OBXX. DOC 10; MIBE 15; SB 142. VF, area of flat strike, a few nicks. Very rare, only the second handled by CNG, none in

One of the most intractable problems in Byzantine numismatics has proven to be the light weight solidus struck at various times through the 6th and 7th century. The initial theory, that they were produced for trade beyond the borders of the empire, is simply a historical accident, based on the first hoards of these pieces being found outside the empire. There is no evidence that they did not circulate side by side with full weight solidi; on the other hand, there is no evidence to indicate what their purpose may have been. Their first appearance comes after the re-conquest of Italy by Justinian I, suggesting that there was some relationship with the western market, but there is no reason the west would require a separate weight standard, especially not as much as 150 years later under Justinian II. A satisfactory explanation remains to be found.