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Research Coins: Feature Auction

Sale: CNG 64, Lot: 987. Estimate $10000. 
Closing Date: Wednesday, 24 September 2003. 
Sold For $8600. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

BRITANNICUS, son of Claudius and Messalina. Died 55 AD. Æ Sestertius (26.07 gm). Uncertain Balkan mint. Struck under Titus, circa 80 AD. Bare-headed and draped bust left / S C across field, Mars advancing left, holding spear and shield. RIC I pg. 130, note; von Kaenel, "Britannicus, Agrippina Minor und Nero in Thrakien," SNR 63 (1984), Type B, 4 (same dies); Cohen 2. Near VF, mottled brown patina, some smoothing. Extremely rare. ($10,000)

Britannicus was the son of the emperor Claudius and Messalina and was born about 41 or 42 AD. He was originally named Germanicus, but was renamed Britannicus in honor of his father's successful British invasion of 43. In 55, while dining with friends, he was poisoned and died. The murder was almost certainly ordered by Nero who wanted to eliminate a potential rival claimant to the throne.

The traditional dating of the coins of Britannicus to the end of Claudius' reign circa 54 (a period when the mint at Rome was not producing any aes coinage) has been challenged by recent scholarship. As postulated in BMCRE II, pg. lxxviii, the revised dating to the reign of Titus circa 80 is much more likely. As a youth, the emperor Titus was Britannicus' closest friend, and he was even seriously affected by the same poison that killed his friend. As Titus issued 'restitution' coins honoring members of the imperial line, it follows that he would also have issued coins honoring Britannicus.