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Research Coins: Feature Auction


Two Extremely Rare Vespasian Aurei Attributed to Alexandria

Triton XXI, Lot: 27. Estimate $50000.
Sold for $30000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Vespasian. AD 69-79. AV Aureus (19mm, 7.86 g, 5h). Alexandria(?) mint. Struck AD 70. IMP CAESAR VESPASIANVS AVG, laureate head right / COS ITER TOROT (sic), Pax standing facing, head left, holding grain ears in her extended right hand and a short caduceus with her left. RIC II 1527; Calicó –; RPC II 1904/3 (this coin – attributed to Antioch); Staffieri, Alexandria In Nummis 31 (this coin). EF. Extremely rare, one of three known, with the other two in the American Numismatic Society and Bibliothèque Nationale collections. This coin is overstruck on an earlier aureus before Nero’s weight reduction.

From the Giovanni Maria Staffieri Collection. Ex Numismatica Ars Classica AG 5 (25 February 1992), lot 440.

The attribution to Alexandria is not without controversy. Laffranchi first suggested Alexandria as the probable mint in his 1915 article (“Sulla numismatica dei Flavia,” RIN 28, pp. 139-54). William E. Metcalf compared the obverse style of two aurei to the Alexandrian billon tetradrachms for Vespasian’s regnal year 2 in his article “The Flavians in the East” (Proceedings of the 9th International Congress of Numismatics, 1982, pp. 321-39), but a coin similar to our example was assigned by Metcalf to Antioch in Syria. The present collector, Giovanni Maria Staffieri, believes this and the following lot to have been struck at Alexandria, and he makes his case, also based on style, but to a larger extent based on the fact that we know Vespasian was “raised to the purple” in Alexandria on 1 July AD 69. The likelihood that Vespasian had precious metal coinage struck in the Latin style at Alexandria is indeed very plausible, but short of any actual hoard evidence, not absolutely certain.