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Research Coins: Feature Auction

 
591895
Sale: Triton V, Lot: 1895. Estimate $7500. 
Closing Date: Wednesday, 16 January 2002. 
Sold For $6000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

NERO. Circa 400 AD. Æ 38mm Contorniate Medallion (18.02 gm). NERO CAESAR AVG GERM IMP, laureate head of Nero right; PE monogram engraved behind / STE-F-AN-AS, driver in slow quadriga right, turning left, holding wreath and palm branch; the horses plumed. Alföldi, pl. 71, 8 (same dies). EF, wonderful dark green patina. Extremely rare in this grade! [See color plate 13] ($7500)

On this spectacular contorniate, the famous charioteer Stefanas is shown in a quadriga with the symbols of victory - a wreath and palm branch, apparently acknowledging the cheers of the crowd. The emphasis on sport has led some historians to propose that contorniates are tokens handed out to attendees of games or races, or perhaps given as an entrance ticket, More recently a suggestion has been made that they are pieces from a board game, with the raised rim making them easier to slide or fit into a recessed area. Will current monoply pieces (minature shoes, race cars, etc) provoke as much puzzlement for future archaeologists as contorniates do for us?