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Byzantine Gold Coins
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Byzantine Gold Coins

Constantine moved the capital of Rome to Byzantium which he renamed Constantinople (Constantine's city) in 324.

Though the official fall of Rome is set at 476 AD, I would use Jovian (364) as the first Byzantine Emperor because his rule re-established Christianity as the official religion of the Empire after a brief return to paganism under his predecessor Julian. From his reign onward through the 15th century Christianity remained the dominant religio-politcal force of the Eastern and Western Empire.

Despite the tremendous violent upheaval of this period the Byzantine Emperors managed to maintain a consistent purity to their gold coinage of .95 to .98 fineness - perhaps the greatest tribute to the power of Constantinople.

This changed after the rule of Basil II Bulgarocthonos (killer of Bulgars), 976-1025. From this time onward the coins assumed different shapes in varying degrees of debasement, representing the demise of the Byzantine empire.

click on the coin to see the image enlarged

Anastasius I (AD 491-518).

AV solidus (21mm, 4.50 gm, 6h). . Constantinople, 10th officina. D N ANASTA-SIVS PP AVG, helmeted, cuirassed bust of Anastasius I facing, head slightly right, spear in right hand over shoulder, shield decorated with horseman motif in left / VICTORI-A AVGGG I, Victory standing facing, head left, long staff surmounted by reversed staurogram in right hand; star in left field, CONOB in exergue. Sear 5.

Strongly struck from fresh dies on prooflike flan. a lovely example.

NGC Choice MS 5/5 - 5/5.......$4000

Heraclius (AD 610-641), with Heraclius Constantine and Heraclonas.

AV solidus (20mm, 4.46 gm). Constantinople, 4th officina, dated Indictional Year 12 (AD 638/9). Heraclius (in center), wearing long beard and mustache, Heraclius Constantine (on right), beardless, and Heraclonas (on left), beardless, each crowned and standing facing, wearing chlamys, globus cruciger in right hand / VICTORIA-AVϚЧ Δ, cross potent with base on three steps; monogram in left field, BI (Indiction 12) monogram in right field, CONOB below. Sear 767.

An absolute wonder coin with mirror like reflective surfaces and a fully struck up obverse with exquisite detail on all three figures. Thought to have been inspired by the three Kings of the New Testament who visit Jesus in the manger.

NGC CH MS strk 5/5 surf 4/5
........................................$5000

Heraclius (AD 610-641), with Heraclius Constantine.

AV solidus (20mm, 4.48 gm, 7h). . Constantinople, 1st officina, AD 629-631. dd NN hЄRACLIЧS tЄ hЄRA CONST PP A, facing busts of Heraclius (on left) wearing long mustache and beard, and Heraclius Constantine (on right) wearing short mustache and beard, both wearing simple crown and chlamys; cross above between them / VICTORIA-AVϚЧ A, cross potent with base on three steps; CONOB below. Sear 749.

Quite near to what I would consider a fine style coin. Certainly two remarkable portraits for this period of generally cartoonish engraving. And quite rare in choice mint state

NGC Choice MS 5/5 - 5/5
$4800

Justinian II and the first portraits of Christ on coinage:

The portraits of Christ on the coins of Justinian II mark a new development in Christian iconography. At the Trullan Synod, called by Justinian in 692 AD in an attempt to reconcile the growing religious rift between Constantinople and Rome, the issue of how Christ was to be portrayed was debated. The council's subsequent ruling (Canon 82) decreed that henceforth Christ should be seen in human form, rather than the symbolic representations which had prevailed during Christianity's earlier period.

This resulted in two distinct portraits, a Westernized Flowing Hair portrait that later became the definitive portrait used in Western Iconography. And this below: the Semitic Christ, supposedly based on an ancient icon found in the Holy Land, and the only numismatic portrayal of Christ of its type. If Christ was Judean, he surely would have looked more like this.

Justinian II, first reign (AD 685-695).

AV solidus (20mm, 4.48 gm, 7h). . Constantinople, 6th officina, AD 686-687. IЧStINIA-NЧS PЄ AV, bust of Justinian II facing, with slight beard indicated by row of dots around face, wearing crown topped by cross and circlet, chlamys pinned at right shoulder, globus cruciger in right hand / VICTORIA-AVϚЧ S, cross potent with base on three steps; CONOB below. Sear 1245.

An attractive portrait for this normaly crude type, with brilliant surfaces.

NGC Choice MS strk 5/5, surf 5/5
...............................................$5000

Justinian II, first reign (AD 685-695).

AV Solidus. First reign. Constantinople, AD 692-695. IҺS CRISƮOS RЄX RЄϚNANƮIЧM, facing bust of Christ Pantokrator / D IЧSƮINIANЧS SЄRЧ CҺRISƮI (officina off flan), Justinian standing facing, wearing crown and loros, holding cross potent on two steps in right hand, akakia in left; CONOP in exergue. MIB 8a-b; DOC 7; Sear 1248

The First Image of Christ on Coinage. And the prototype for how Christ has been and is still portrayed in Western Art up to the present day - one of the most influential images ever created.

A spectacular coin. Perfectly struck and centered obverse with a fine style portrait of Christ. Pristine lusterous fields. A touch of the reverse legend is off the flan, but the images are perfectly centered, amongst the finest extant.

NGC CH MS Strk 4/5 surf 5/5.
.............................................$22,000

JUSTINIAN II, SECOND REIGN, 705-711.

AV Solidus (4.48 gms), Constantinople Mint. Facing bust of Christ Pantokrator, wearing pallium and colobium, holding Gospels and raising hand in Benediction; Reverse: Crowned facing bust of Justinian II holding cross potent on three steps in right hand, globus cruciger inscribed "PAX" in left hand. .S-1413.

Not rare to find in mint state, but nearly impossible to find perfectly centered with images and legends perfectly struck on both sides. Proof like fields. A superb rendering the the Semitic Christ, thought to have been taken from an Icont dating to the New Testament period.

NGC graded MS strk 5/5, surf 4/5
$7500

     

Constantine VIII (AD 1025-1028).

AV histamenon nomisma (26mm, 4.43 gm,). Constantinople. + IhS XIS RЄX RЄϚhANTIhM, bust of Christ facing, wearing nimbus cruciger with annulets in upper quadrants, pallium and colobium, raising right hand in benediction, Gospels cradled in left arm; triple border / +CwN-ANtIh-bASILЄЧS ROm, bust of Constantine VIII facing, wearing crown with pendilia and square pattern loros with jeweled collar, labarum in right hand, akakia in left; triple border. Sear 1815. 

An excellent example with fine late Byzantine style portraits of Christ and the Emperor in his most impressive Loros (bejewelled jacket of spun gold)

NGC MS Stk 5/5 surf 4/5.........$4500

 

 

 

 

     

 

 

 


For info, comments, purchase requests contact: Jeff Kahn at Jkahn21@nyc.rr.com
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