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Research Coins: Feature Auction

Sale: Triton VIII, Lot: 1917. Estimate $2000. 
Closing Date: Monday, 10 January 2005. 
Sold For $2600. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

GREEK. PHOENICIA, Tyre. 126 BC - 65 AD. Lot of ten AR Shekels. All coins: Laureate head of Melkart right / Eagle standing left on prow, palm on right wing. Average VF to Good VF. LOT SOLD AS IS, NO RETURNS. Ten (10) coins in lot. ($2000)


The shekel of Tyre is renowned as the most likely candidate for the coin used to pay Judas Iscariot for betraying Jesus. The reason why it is generally accepted as such is that it was used by the merchant Phoenicians in their business transactions, and was thus a well-recognized and quite ubiquitous coin.

Matthew 26:14-16 Then one of the twleve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests, and said to them, 'What will ye give me if I deliver him to you?' And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.

Tyre Shekels were issued from 126 BCE (Before Common Era) to the time of the First Jewish War in 69-70 CE (Common Era) on a very consistent, yearly basis. In a world that was quickly falling to Roman invaders, this is an amazing fact. The reasons are simple: The Jewish people had to pay an annual tax to the Jerusalem Temple that was only payable in the money of Tyre. The shekels from Tyre were widely available in the region and were well known for their good silver content and accurate weight.

When Jewish pilgrims came to the Jerusalem Temple from other parts of the Greek and Roman world, they found money changers set up in the temple court competitively advertising exchange rates for the locally accepted Shekels. The method of advertising was a loud voice. It was this loud commercial activity that Jesus found offensive, when he threw over the tables of the merchants and expelled them from the Temple.

Matthew 21:10-13 And when he entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying: 'Who is this?' And the crowds said, 'This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee.' And Jesus entered the temple of God and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them 'It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer'; but you make it a den of robbers.'