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Research Coins: Feature Auction

CNG 91, Lot: 661. Estimate $300.
Sold for $320. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

SYRIA, Uncertain mint. Augustus. 27 BC-AD 14. Æ (22mm, 7.70 g, 12h). AVGVS TR • POT, laureate head of Augustus left / “Year 3[...]”, diademed male head left. RPC I 5419; SNG Hunterian 4983 (same dies). VF, dark green patina with a dusting of earthen deposits. Possibly the fifth known and among the finest.

This rare and highly interesting coin is quite puzzling. The authors of RPC Supplement I note that the last numeral could be a ten, but admit this is only one possibility. The portrait of Augustus is close to that found on Antiochene issues and, based on style, we can date this coin to sometime in the first decade BC.

In RPC Supplement I the coinage of Zenodorus at Chalcis is described as a parallel series, but the figure on the reverse has a heroic and dramatic flair uncharacteristic of client kings of the time. Moreover, the obverse and reverse busts – save for the hairstyle – are notably similar. What we are more likely dealing with is a hero, and very likely a ktistes (founder). If so, the similarity in portraits could be explained by Augustus’ rebuilding or refoundation of a city, which would naturally draw comparisons between the emperor and the original ktistes (see RPC I 2690 and 4036 for other issues with similar busts likely portraying a city’s ktistes).