Roman Empire, Constantine I, The Great, Gold Medallion of 9 Solidi, 307-337 A.D. Choice VF NGC

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Lot 44
Roman Empire, Constantine I, The Great, Gold Medallion of 9 Solidi, 307-337 A.D. Choice VF NGC

Sold for US$ 198,900 inc. premium

Coins and Medals

14 Sep 2015, 7:00 PDT

Los Angeles

Roman Empire, Constantine I, The Great, Gold Medallion of 9 Solidi, 307-337 A.D. Choice VF NGC
Strike 5/5, Surface 2/5, Mount. 41.88 grams. CONSTANTI — NVS MAX AVG. Draped and cuirassed bust of Constantine right, wearing rosette diadem, rev., FELICITA — S PERPETVA AVG E — T CAESS NN. Constantine, nimbate, seated facing on throne, holding long staff in his right hand and accaia in left, Constantine II and Constantius standing to either side in military attire, each holding a spear and shield, in ex., CONS. Diameter: 48.8 mm; weight (including loop mount): 41.88 g. (Cohen —; cf. Gnecchi p. 16, 11, Nicomedia = Babelon, Revue Numismatique, 1906, "La trouvaille de Helleville (1780)", p. 167, pl. VII, 2 = Babelon, La Trouvaille Monétaire de Helleville (Manche) En 1780, 1910, pp. 16-17, pl. 1, 2 = Toynbee, Roman Medallions, Numismatic Studies 5, p. 62, n. 36, pl. V, 5 = RIC VII Nicomedia 173; Depeyrot —; cf. Toynbee, p. 198 n. 45; pl. XXXIX, 1 [Constantine II, Constantinople]), ancient suspension loop, otherwise very fine, possibly unique. (Property of a Private West Coast Collector)


  • Constantine the Great, the illegitimate son of Constantius Chlorus and Flavia Helena (venerated as St. Helena), was born in 274. He was sent to the court of the emperor Diocletian in 302, and upon the emperor's abdication in 305 Constantine joined his father on an expedition to Britain. In 306 his father died at York, and subsequently Constantine was declared Augustus by his troops. There followed a confusing period of internecine war, rebellion, short-lived alliances, and it was not until 324 that Constantine took control of the
    entire empire. Best known as the first Christian emperor and the founder of Constantinople, Constantine died in Nicomedia in 337 having begun a dynasty that would rule the empire for another half century.

    Gold medallions were gifts made by the emperor to high ranking individuals of the empire, both civilian and military, as well as to "foreign ambassadors and chieftains whom it was intended to impress." They were "the imperial counterpart of private gifts presented to friends on important occasions." Described by Toynbee as money medallions because they were "true multiples of gold and silver coins" and could therefore legally used as money, they ranged in size from "the 1 ½-solidi pieces first issued by Constantine I to the 72-solidi piece of Valens."

    The present lot appears to be related by subject to small group of gold medallions and coins that was discovered in the village of Helleville, near Cherbourg in Normandy, France in 1780. "These coins were acquired for the French Collection, but at the time of the great robbery in 1831 were melted down by the plunderers, and shared the shocking fate of 2,000 other gold specimens of ancient currency ..." (The Classical Revue, vol. 20, no. 8, Nov. 1906, p.426). Fortunately casts of the related medallions and coins had been taken prior to the theft and Babelon published much of the hoard in 1906. It also appears that a few pieces from the original find may have found their way into trade and were ultimately acquired by the Royal Cabinet in the Hague (Kerkuyt, RN 1906, pp. 490-492).

    This large and impressive medallion may have been issued by Constantine in
    connection with the consecration of Constantinople in 330, but as Bruun notes "The dating of the beautiful 9-solidi pieces FELICITAS PERPETVA AVG ET CAESS NN presents great difficulties." (RIC VII, p. 594).

    Referring to the examples struck at Nicomedia, Babelon (RN 1906) dates the issue to 326, placing it at the later part of the year, after the murder of Crispus (which would make the medallion one of the earliest productions of the Constantinople mint).

    Toynbee "regards the type as belonging to a series of dynastic types comprising also the SALVS ET SPES REPVBLICAE [reverse] of Constantinople and Heraclea, all of the period of the two Caesars only (326-33)." Based on the portrait style, Toynbee dates those with the short hair at the nape of the neck to 326, and those with the longer hair at the back (as here) to the "solemn consecration of Constantinople" in 330. The medallions struck at Constantinople from these two series utilized multiple reverse dies; those from the Helleville find have the
    emperor seated on an more elaborately engraved throne than the present lot, which is more linear and thinly drawn.

    M. Alföldi initially dated the medallions to 326-327 (RIC VII, p. 43n), but subsequently agreed with Toynbee, dating the group to 330 (cf. Die constantinische Goldprägung, p. 165, 112).

    Bruun in RIC, records no gold as early as 326 at Constantinople, and finds fault with Toynbee's dating, "The portrait of A.D. 326, is however, smaller and cruder....Thus the portraits with the short hair have to be assigned to 330 and the others to even later dates." (RIC VII, p. 564 n). Bruun himself dates the Nicomedia issue with this reverse to 335, and the related Salus et Spes Reipublicae reverse type struck at Constantinople to the winter of 335-336.

    More recently Bastien, ("Monnaie et Donativa au Bas-Empire," p.80) placed the series after 11 May 330 (the consecration of Constantinople), and this date seems to be supported by the consensus of opinion.

    Few fourth century gold medallions of this significant size have come to market in recent years. The Garrett Collection (Bank Leu/NFA, part 2, Zurich 1984, lot 341) contained a medallion of 9 solidi of Constans from the Aquileia mint; the N.B. Hunt Collection (Sotheby's, part 1, 1990, lot 156, and later NAC 1997, lot 406 and NAC 2002, lot 272) contained a medallion of 9 solidi of Constantine the Great from the Trier mint (called by NAC "the largest medallion of Constantine the Great in existence"); and the "Property of a European Nobleman" (NAC 2002, lot 245) contained a medallion of 8 aurei of Maximianus from the Trier mint.
Roman Empire, Constantine I, The Great, Gold Medallion of 9 Solidi, 307-337 A.D. Choice VF NGC
Roman Empire, Constantine I, The Great, Gold Medallion of 9 Solidi, 307-337 A.D. Choice VF NGC
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