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Research Coins: Feature Auction

 
80000526

Finest Known Brutus Portrait in Gold

Sale: Triton XII, Lot: 526. Estimate $300000. 
Closing Date: Monday, 5 January 2009. 
Sold For $260000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Brutus. Late summer-autumn 42 BC. AV Aureus (8.01 g, 12h). Military mint traveling with Brutus and Cassius in western Asia Minor or northern Greece. P. Servilius Casca Longus, moneyer. Bare head of Brutus right, wearing short beard; BRVTVS behind, IMP before; all within laurel wreath / A combined military and naval trophy, consisting of a cuirass, a crested helmet on the top, a curved sword and two crossed spears on the left arm, and an oval shield with incurved sides on the right, set on a post made from a tree trunk; at base, two prows, two shields, and a rudder; on left, between the two spears, the letter L (= Libertas or Lycia); CASCA on left, LONGVS on right. Crawford 507/1b (same obv. die as illustration); CRI 211; Bahrfeldt 65b; Calicó 56; Sydenham 1297 (same obv. die as illustration); Kestner -; BMCRR East 62 (same obv. die); CNR 7 = Hess-Leu 1961, lot 14 (same dies); Junia 46 and Servilia 37; Kent & Hirmer 99 (same obv. die). A coin of great beauty, with a superb high relief portrait, boldly struck from fresh dies. Undoubtedly the finest known portrait of Brutus in gold. One of 17 examples known of this issue (of which eight are in museums), the earliest known strike from this obverse die.

True to his Republican ideals, Brutus eschewed the use of his own portrait when he began coining jointly with Cassius early in 42 BC, but late in the summer, in the final months before Philippi, he adopted the method of his adversaries and placed his own portrait on his coins. The goal, no doubt, was to encourage personal loyalty – to rally support behind Brutus as the descendant of the very founder of the Republic – as the decisive battle approached. The combined military and naval trophy on the reverse celebrates the military victories of Brutus in Lycia and Thrace, along with the heroic naval feats of Cassius in resistance to the Rhodians. The tiny L on the reverse is thought to represent either Libertas or Lycia; considering that the trophy commemorates Brutus’ victory in Lycia, the latter interpretation seems more plausible. Publius Servilius Casca Longus, the moneyer, whose name appears on the reverse, was the first of the conspirators against Julius Caesar to plunge his dagger into the dictator on the Ides of March, 44 BC.

This brief issue, known from a total of 17 coins, was produced from two obverse dies and four reverse dies. Obverse die (A) is known from just three examples. Reverse die (a) was originally engraved without the L (the Paris example), but was modified by the addition of the L (the Millennia and Ex Vienna examples), and the L was then included on all three subsequent reverse dies. Reverse die (a) was replaced with reverse die (b), which was used to strike the Spink Geneva coin, still with obverse die (A). Reverse die (b) then was used for the present coin, and two others, but paired with new obverse die (B). Obverse die (B) was used to strike the remainder of the issue and was paired with two further reverse dies. In the sequence, our coin was struck from the earliest known die state of obverse die (B), as the relative chronology of the die parings of obverse die (B) is certain. All three examples of die pairing (B/b) exhibit little die wear, while a small die break appears above the S in BRVTVS on both examples of die pairing (B/c), and an additional break above the P in IMP occurs on examples of die pairing (B/d). The complete corpus is as follows:

1. A/a (no L) a. 8.08 g – Paris [Bahrfeldt 65a.1; Cohen 14; Babelon Junia 45 and Servilia 36 (ill. Calicó 57)]

2. A/a (with L) a. 8.07 g – Millenia Coll. (Goldberg 46), 75; Walter Coll. (Stack’s, Nov. 1990), 7; NFA XXII , 23; Leu 22, 184; Biaggi Coll. 40 [ill. Calicó 56]
b. 8.03 g – Ex Vienna [Bahrfeldt 65b.4 (current location unknown, cast at KHM)]

3. A/b a. 8.12 g – Spink Geneva (Feb. 1977), 460; MMAG XVII, 324; Coin Galleries (Oct. 1955), 843

4. B/b a. 8.01 g – Triton XII, 526 [the present example]
b. 8.00 g – Coll. ESR (Hess-Leu, Mar. 1961), 14; Hess-Leu (Apr. 1955), 66 [ill. CNR 7]
c. 8.09 g – Vienna [Bahrfeldt 65b.3 (ill. Lahusen p. 107, 6 – obv. only)]

5. B/c a. 7.99 g – Berlin; Ponton d’Amecourt (Rollin & Feuardent, Apr. 1887), 25; de Quelen (Rollin & Feuardent, May 1888), 499 [Bahrfeldt 65b.6 (ill. Bahrfeldt p. 67)]
b. 7.37 g – Walter Coll. (Stack’s, Nov. 1990), 8; NFA XX, 61; Vierordt Coll. (Schulman, Mar. 1923), 503; Prowe Coll. (A. Hess, May 1912), 941; J. Hirsch XIV, 842 [Bahrfeldt 65b.8]

6. B/? a. 7.90 g – Rome (Vatican) [Bahrfeldt 65b.7 (ill. Lahusen p. 107, 3 – obv. only)] – die wear similar to B/c pairings

7. B/d a. 7.99 g – London (BM) [BMCRR East 62; Bahrfeldt 65b.5 (ill. CNR 7/1; Crawford 507/1b; Sydenham 1297; Kraay & Hirmer 99)]
b. 7.60 g – Feirstein Coll. (NAC 45), 40
c. 8.11 g – Milan 2152 [ill. N. Vismara & R. Martini, Le monete del museo civico di Legnano (Guida all’esposizione) (Milan, 1988), p. 123, 56]
d.* 8.05 g – NAC 34, 3; Mazzini Coll., 14
e.* 8.06 g – NGSA 4, 143; Leu 52, 148; Hunt Coll. (Pt. I, Sotheby’s New York, June 1990), 118; Vinchon (Dec. 1975), 192 [ill. CRI 211; Sear RCV 1430]
f.* 8.00 g – Piancastelli Coll., 162

Unseen a. 7.87 g – Madrid [Bahrfeldt 65a.2]