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Research Coins: Feature Auction


Very Rare Jerusalem Follis

CNG 91, Lot: 1045. Estimate $1000.
Sold for $4000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Heraclius. 610-641. Æ Follis (32mm, 16.37 g, 6h). Jerusalem mint. Dated RY 4 (613/4). Crowned and draped facing bust, holding mappa and eagle-tipped scepter / Large M; [cross above], [A/N]/N/O-II/II (date) across field; IЄPOCOS (S retrograde). DOC -; Bendall, Jerusalem, 1 = MIB pl. 14, X27; SB 852B. Fine, green patina with earthen highlights, some roughness. Rare.

A very rare issue consisting of only a handful of known examples, the Jerusalem mint folles of Heraclius represent the sole Byzantine coinage bearing a mintmark indicative of that holy city. Extant in two reverse varieties (bearing the mintmarks IЄPOCOS and XCNIKA), the obverse depicts a hybrid bust type, clearly copied from the earlier Antiochene folles of Phocas, but with the crown of Maurice Tiberius. Both varieties being dated to Heraclius' fourth regnal year points toward a production somewhere between late September 613 and early October 614. The bellicose environment surrounding Jerusalem, however, points toward a more specific timeframe – namely during the siege of the city by the Persians who ultimately caused its fall sometime in May 614 after a siege of about a month. The chronology of the two reverse types can be seen from a growing die flaw in an obverse die used for both types, therefore placing the IЄPOCOS mintmark – emblematic of the city of origin – before the XCNIKA – conveying the besieged celator's last minute hopes of a deliverance by their Lord: X(ριστο)ϲ Nικα (Christ conquers). As the city, along with the whole of Egypt, was doomed to fall into the hands of the Persians, the plea initially went unanswered. During the second half of 629, however, the Byzantine military under Heraclius was able to force a Persian withdrawal from Egypt and Jerusalem, and ultimately returned the Holy Cross on 21 March 630, effectively answering the prayers of 16 years prior. For more information regarding the Byzantine coinage at the mint of Jerusalem, see S. Bendall, “The Byzantine coinage of the mint of Jerusalem,” RN 159 (2003), pp. 307-22.