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Research Coins: Feature Auction


Prototype Shekel
First Jewish War
Finest of Three Known Examples

Triton XXI, Lot: 524. Estimate $500000.
Sold for $300000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

JUDAEA, Jewish War. 66-70 CE. AR Shekel (22.5mm, 14.18 g, 11h). Protoype issue. Jerusalem mint. Dated year 1 (66/7 CE). Omer cup; “1” (date, in Hebrew) above, pellets flanking, “Shekel of Israel” (in Hebrew) around, between concentric dotted circle borders / Sprig of three pomegranates; “Jerusalem [the] holy” (in Hebrew) around, between concentric dotted circle borders. Meshorer 183 = Kadman 1 = Hendin 1352 (same dies); Bromberg 56 = Shoshana I 20195 (same dies); Sofaer –; Spaer –. EF, toned, original patina, slightly off center on reverse. The third, and finest, known, one of which is in a public collection (Jerusalem).

From an American collection.

This is one of three known examples of a prototype for the shekel of the first year of the Jewish War, beginning May 66 (or a bit later), and it is therefore the first coin type of the renowned Jewish War shekels and half shekels. One specimen, discussed further below, is in the collection of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. The second specimen was sold in Shoshana I at a hammer of $925,000; the same coin had been sold previously in 1991 as part of the Bromberg Collection, and sold there for $242,000.

This third specimen is the only one of the three that has not been cleaned, and it retains a thin, attractive patina of the silver chlorides typically seen on the Jewish shekels. It is also the best struck of the three coins, while all three of them are slightly off-center on the reverse, this specimen shows more of the legend than the others.

In the late 1970’s, Shab’an Wazwaz, a dealer in Old City Jerusalem, offered me a group of six shekels. Three were year 2, two were year 3, and the sixth coin was the first known example of this type: Asking price was $6,000. Mr. Wazwaz was a legitimate dealer, but did have the reputation of selling the occasional forgery, and so I rejected the deal and instead offered $4,000 for the five shekels, not including the sixth. At the time, this type had not been published, and Ya’akov Meshorer had seen the coin and said he believed it was not genuine. I was unable to discuss it with Meshorer, because he was not in the country during my visit. I was a “kid” only 10 years into my study, and it looked authentic to me, but I was in no position to put up $2,000 for a questionable coin. Upon his return from abroad, Meshorer reviewed the coin again and decided to buy it for the collection of the Israel Museum, where he was chief curator of archaeology as well as numismatics.
– David Hendin, American Numismatic Society.