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Research Coins: Feature Auction


Merovingian Solidus in Name of Maurice Tiberius

Triton XXI, Lot: 926. Estimate $15000.
Sold for $17000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

MEROVINGIANS, Marseille. temp. Clotaire I. Circa 600-620. AV Solidus of 21 siliquae (22mm, 3.89 g, 6h). Struck in the name of Maurice Tiberius. (retrograde C) N mΛVII IC(retrograde R) P P ΛVC , pearl-diademed, draped, and cuirassed bust right / VICORI (wreath) Λ ΛVCCV, cross potent set on globe; M Λ flanking cross, X XI flanking globe; all within wreath; CONOB. NM 28; cf. Rigold 72 (Phocas; for reverse); Belfort 2456; Prou –; MEC 1, –. Superb EF. Very rare.

Ex Rauch 102 (7 November 2016), lot 1337 (hammer €16,000).

By the end of the sixth century AD, diplomatic ties between the Byzantine Empire and southern Gaul were reestablished after having lapsed a century earlier. The resumption of ties was marked by the introduction of Merovingian pseudo-imperial coinage during the final years of the reign of Justin II (574-578). At first these coins were struck on a limited scale and under strict control of a centralized minting authority, which supervised all the mints, legalized the reduced local standard, and possibly supplied the dies. By 580, however, this control broke down, and soon some mints began striking issues of clearly inferior style and often with illiterate legends. Elsewhere, while mints such as Arles might conform briefly to centralized standards, they too soon lapsed into striking more “localized” types.

During this period, only Marseille, by far the most active of the Gallic mints, as well as the only one to continue proclaiming loyalty to the Byzantine emperor, continued to remain under strict control, while it increased its output sharply by coining the heavy imperial subsidies flowing into the area in return for Frankish military assistance.

In the final years of the reign of Maurice Tiberius, and certainly by 596, Marseille, now the chief regional mint, reintroduced a small, more tightly controlled pseudo-imperial issue in the name of Maurice Tiberius, which the mint continued to strike after the emperor’s death. Like those coins issued under Justin II, this new issue was more than likely a resurgence of the Byzantine contact with the area that had been allowed to lapse during the preceding years. Although, as before, the other regional mints, such as Uzès, Viviers, and Arles also briefly participated, they soon fell into obscurity, and Marseilles became the main southern Gallic mint.

Upon the death of Maurice Tiberius, Marseilles halfheartedly accepted the rule of Phocas. Although a very small and extremely rare issue was struck in the name of the new emperor, the mint preferred to continue striking the Maurice Tiberius type until the succession of Heraclius in 610, when it briefly struck coins commemorating his new rule. Subsequently, the Merovingian kings, at last able to exert their authority over southern Gaul, took over control of Marseilles and its mint and began striking issues in their own names.