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Research Coins: Feature Auction

 
10700746

The Restored Coinage of Trajan

Julius Caesar Restored

Triton XXI, Lot: 746. Estimate $50000.
Sold for $62500. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Trajan. AD 98-117. AV Aureus (18.5mm, 7.08 g, 6h). Restitution issue of Julius Caesar. Rome mint. Struck circa AD 107 or AD 112/113. DIVVS IVLIVS, laureate head Julius Caesar right / IMP • CAES • TRAIAN AVG GER • DAC • P • P • REST, Nemesis, winged, draped, advancing right, her right arm bent upward, and with right hand she pulls out fold of her robe below the neck, with left hand she holds a winged caduceus pointing downward at a snake gliding right. RIC III 815; Woytek 852.1 (this coin cited); Komnick 54.0, 3 (this coin cited); Calicó 48 (same obv. die as illustration); BMCRE 698 (same obv. die); BN 475 (same dies); Biaggi 35 (same obv. die); Banti-Simonetti 187 (this coin cited). Good VF, minor marks. Extremely rare.


Ex Numismatica Ars Classica 73 (18 November 2013), lot 277; Lanz 52 (14 May 1990), lot 365; Santamaria (6 June 1956), lot 27; V. J. E. Ryan Collection (Part 4, Glendining’s, 20 February 1951), lot 1573; Soler Collection.

Although several Roman emperors re-issued types struck by their predecessors, which modern numismatists call restitution coinage, such coinage of Trajan is somewhat of an enigma. Unlike his Julio-Claudian and Flavian predecessors, whose restitution series was limited to bronze issues of specific emperors, Trajan struck only aurei and denarii. Issues of certain previous emperors, including Trajan’s immediate predecessor Nerva, as well as certain Republican issues, such as an early didrachm that had long been out of circulation. Finally, he struck what might rightfully be called a “fantasy” – a coin that was never minted originally. The most obvious example of such a coin is the “restitution” aureus of Julius Caesar (see lot 746 below), which pairs a Trajanic-style portrait of the Divus with a reverse type of the emperor Claudius. In general, the striking of restitution coinage was meant to legitimize the new regime in the eyes of the populace through an expression of pietas to the “good” emperors who deserved to be remembered, as was the case of the Flavians, who included bronze coins of Galba, while omitting Caligula, Nero, Otho, and Vitellius (see BMC II, p. lxxviii). In the case of Trajan’s restitution issues, however, legitimacy appears not to be the sole reason, since he had been appointed to succeed Nerva prior to the latter’s death and was thus Nerva’s legitimate successor. It does not explain the inclusion of Republican issues, not does it explain the inclusion of the Divus Julius hybrid.

Relative to dating Trajan’s restored coins, the traditional dating of AD 107 is based on Eckhel’s theory linking the restitution coinage with the general recoinage that Dio places after Trajan’s return from the Second Dacian War. Bernhard Woytek disagrees, and places their issue in AD 112/113, surmising that the appearance of Divus Nerva in this coinage must be contemporary to his appearance on an aureus securely dated to that period. Clay, however, pleads for the traditional dating of recoinage which, according to Dio, began circa AD 107. Curtis states that “If the restored coinage was connected with the recoinage, and the recoinage began circa AD 107, how likely is it that Trajan would have waited until AD 112-3 to issue the restored coins resulting from that recoinage?”

Only with further study of the coinage itself might the purpose of Trajan’s restitution coinage be fully understood.