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Research Coins: Feature Auction


Extremely Rare Vespasian Judaea Capta Restitution Aureus of Trajan

CNG 111, Lot: 677. Estimate $7500.
Sold for $12000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Vespasian. AD 69-79. AV Aureus (17.5mm, 6.89 g, 6h). “Judaea Capta” Restitution issue of Trajan. Rome mint. Struck circa AD 107 or 112/113. IMP • CAESAR • VESPASIANVS • AVG, laureate head of Vespasian right / IMP • CAES • TRAIAN • AVG GER • DAC • P • P • REST, Jewish captive kneeling right, hands bound behind; trophy above . RIC II 827; Woytek 861–2 (same dies as illustration); Komnick 64.0; Calicó 706; BMCRE p. 145, 13; Biaggi –; Jameson –; Mazzini –. Good Fine, toned. Extremely rare.

According to Curtis Clay, the primary purpose of restored coins was to provide substitutes in circulation for coin types that had become familiar, but that the emperor was calling in, melting down, and restriking, because the originals were worn out and sometimes also because they contained more precious metal than current coins, so the Roman state could make a profit. When selecting the types for the restored coins, however, a secondary purpose kicked in: to present a full picture of earlier Roman coinage, and to honor worthy earlier emperors, even if the earlier coins in question were not actually being called in and restruck, either because they were so old that they were no longer in circulation, or because they were so recent that they were still in excellent condition and contained no more bullion than the mint's current production. This secondary purpose explains Trajan's restoration of both a Republican didrachm, though such didrachms were certainly no longer in circulation, and of aurei of Nerva and Divus Nerva, though Nerva's aurei were only a decade old so didn't need restriking because of wear. It explains why Trajan Decius' restored antoniniani included coins for Divus Augustus, whose original denarii had long since disappeared from circulation. And finally it explains why Titus' restored bronzes included coins for Galba, whose original bronzes were also only a dozen years old.

As Mattingly wrote regarding Titus' selection of emperors for restoration: "The list of persons whose coins were to be restored was evidently drawn up with deliberate care. Tiberius, Claudius, and Galba were included, Caligula, Nero, Otho, and Vitellius omitted. The list is something like a roll of honour of the early Empire, preserving all memories that deserved to be remembered" (BMC II, p. lxxviii).

Relative to dating Trajan’s restored coins, the traditional dating of AD 107 is based on Eckhel’s theory linking the restitution coinage with the general recoinage that Dio places after Trajan’s return from the Second Dacian War. Bernhard Woytek disagrees, and places their issue in AD 112/113, surmising that the appearance of Divus Nerva in this coinage must be contemporary to his appearance on an aureus securely dated to that period. Clay, however, pleads for the traditional dating of recoinage which, according to Dio, began circa AD 107. Curtis states that “If the restored coinage was connected with the recoinage, and the recoinage began circa AD 107, how likely is it that Trajan would have waited until AD 112-3 to issue the restored coins resulting from that recoinage?”