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Research Coins: Feature Auction

Sale: CNG 73, Lot: 878. Estimate $1500. 
Closing Date: Wednesday, 13 September 2006. 
Sold For $1950. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Nerva. AD 96-98. Æ Sestertius (24.50 g, 6h). Rome mint. Struck AD 97. Laureate head right / PLEBEI VRBANAE FRVMENTO CONSTITVTO, modius containing six wheat-ears and a poppy. RIC II 89; Banti 38. Good Fine, green patina. Rare.

In order to counteract the public discord engendered by Domitian’s assassination and secure his own position on the throne, Nerva embarked on implementing a number of reforms and methods of alleviating the distress of the citizens of Rome. One of these was the special distribution of grain (frumento constituto) to the populace (plebes urbanae) in addition to that which they were already receiving from the annona, a long-standing public institution which had been subsidizing handouts since the time of Augustus. By Nerva’s day, this regular distribution had become so important that any temporary cessation of the supply could result in urban riots. In order to show his good intentions toward the capital and its people and demonstrate that the grain would continue to flow in an unceasing supply, Nerva made this special distribution. The commemoration of the event on this coin further reminded everyone of the “good emperor” who now ruled.