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Research Coins: Feature Auction


Third Known Vicennalia Aureus

Triton XXI, Lot: 800. Estimate $50000.
Sold for $38500. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Severus Alexander. AD 222-235. AV Aureus (21mm, 6.35 g, 12h). Rome mint. 14th emission, AD 231. IMP ALEXAN DER PIVS AVG, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right / VOTIS/VICEN/NALI/BVS in four lines within wreath. RIC IV 260; Calicó 3146a; Cohen 595; BMCRE 818; Biaggi –. Choice EF, lustrous. Well centered on a broad flan. Extremely rare, apparently the third known of this reverse type and the second known of this variety. RIC references Cohen who, along with BMCRE, cites the piece in Vienna. There are none in CoinArchives, and the type is absent from all the following collections: (public) ANS, BM, BN, Boston MFA, Fitzwilliam, Hunterian, Milan, Princeton, Torino, and Uppsala; (private) Bahrfeldt, Bement, Biaggi, Brand, Cantoni, Caruso, Echt, A.J. Evans, Garrucci, Giorgi, Hunt, Jameson, Levis, Magnaguti, Mazzini, Montagu, Piancastelli, Platt-Hall, Ponton d’Amecourt, de Quelen, Roth, Sartiges, Signorelli, and Trau. Cf. Calicó 3146 for the unique aureus with the same reverse type, but a different bust type.

This extremely limited issue produced in AD 231 to celebrate Severus Alexander’s vicennalia poses some interesting questions for numismatists. The year previous, types commemorating Alexander’s decennalia were minted, and were evidently intended to mark a decade since Alexander had been installed as Caesar by Elagabalus. Although Melville Jones suggests that coins commemorating vows could be struck several years ahead of time (the emperor Valens, for example, celebrated his vicennalia despite only reigning for fourteen years), striking an issue an entire decade in advance seems rather unusual. One possibility is that the issue in AD 230 was to commemorate the discharge of Alexander’s first set of vows, which were then renewed the following year, at which point another special issue was struck. In this sense the two issues would be the precursor of the “VOT X MULT XX” types seen so frequently from the fourth century onwards. This coin lacks the “SIC” or “MULT” wording common in later issues, however, and the lapse in time between the decennalia and vicennalia types suggests that they were not conceived as two halves of the same issue.