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Research Coins: Feature Auction

Sale: Triton VII, Lot: 971. Estimate $7500. 
Closing Date: Monday, 12 January 2004. 
Sold For $8000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

HADRIAN. 117-138 AD. AV Aureus (7.16 gm). Posthumous issue, struck under Antoninus Pius, July-October 138 AD. HADRIANVS AVGVSTVS, youthful, bare head right, aegis at point of bust / COS III P P, Hadrian in military outfit standing left, extending hand and holding spear; three military standards behind. RIC II 204b (same obverse die); Strack 331Do; BMCRE 530 (same obverse die); cf. Hunter 180 (older bare head right, slight drapery on left shoulder); Mazzini 485 = Jameson 103 (this coin); Hill, The Undated Coins of Rome, pp. 78-79 and "Abnormal Hadrianic Portraits," in NumCirc 1966, pp. 177-179; Calicó 1239; Cohen 485. EF, light edge marks. Very rare. [See color enlargement on plate 17] ($7500)

Ex Mazzini Collection, 485v; R. Jameson Collection, 103; Sir John Evans Collection (Rollin & Feuardent, 26-27 May 1909), lot 105.

Several of Hadrian's aurei appear with a younger, more idealized portrait; the obverse legends, however, date these coins to the later years of his reign. An aureus (Hunter 180) of the same type and strike date as our coin clearly shows an older portrait, consistent with a man who was in his early 60s. Two similar aurei, but with IOVI VICTORI reverse type, show the same divergence of portraiture (S 3397 [older bust]; S 4540 [younger bust]). Although these idealized-portriat issues have two legend variteties, each datable to different periods in Hadrian's reign, there is such significant die linkage within this small group to conclude that they were contemporaneous issues. The latest datable legend would place them within the last issues of Hadrian's reign, circa 134-138 AD. Nonetheless, the idealized portriature is of such difference from the bulk of the coinage theoretically struck at the same time, that it is clear that this group was not struck in this period, either. Therefore, they must be placed after this period after Hadrian's death. The portriature itself is key; their idealized nature suggests that they are posthumous issues (compare with the various 'restitution' issues of earlier reigns).

It is known that Antoninus Pius quarreled with the Senate for a period over the question of Hadrian's diefication. During this time, it is believed that Pius refused to issue his own coinage and refused to accept his accession unless the deification was granted. A survey of the reverse types known for this idealized-portrait issue reveals they focus on the divine nature of Hadrian's predecessor and adopted father, Trajan (cf. S 4538-9). Others focus on Jupiter, a divinity with imperial associations. As this coinage must be posthumous, this, combined with the portraiture, suggests that this issue is related to the divine qualities of Hadrian himself. Such propaganda would have been useful for Pius' cause in persuading opinion in favor of Hadrian's deification, and must have been struck at his behest. After succeeding in this cause, in recognition of Antoninus' efforts to deify his predecessor, he was granted the cognomen Pius by the Senate..