By Jeremy Bostwick – Senior Numismatist & Cataloger, Stack’s Bowers ……
Continuing to preview the stunning rarities in the August 2023 Global Showcase auction from Stack’s Bowers Galleries, we feature a coin of colossal importance among the ancients in the sale.
We are not overstating its historical standing and significance when we say this is a type that truly stands unrivalled as an icon within ancient numismatics: lot 50103, the “EID MAR” Denarius struck by one of Julius Caesar’s assassins (and previously, one of his closest friends), M. Junius Brutus.
Among ancient coins, certain types quickly come to mind that everyone seeks to have a well-rounded and represented collection–a cabinet that touches upon various important themes and topics of Mediterranean and Near East antiquity. A Tetradrachm of Alexander III “the Great”; an Athenian owl, and an Elephant Denarius of Julius Caesar always populate such a list on account of either their ubiquity, historical connection, or both. Coins such as a Shekel of Tyre, a Widow’s Mite, and a “Tribute Penny” of Tiberius are desired owing to their reference, direct or tangential, within The Bible.
None of these, however, comes close to the stunning importance and timeless nature of the “EID MAR” Denarius of Brutus.
Struck during the late summer/early autumn of 42 BCE (roughly two-and-a-half years after the history-altering assassination of Rome’s dictator for life, Julius Caesar), the “EID MAR” Denarius was meant to convey Brutus’s view that Caesar had been slain for the good of the Republic. The two daggers allude directly to the means by which Caesar had been assassinated, with the Phrygian cap in the middle (an ancient symbol worn by freed slaves upon manumission) meant to reinforce the concept of the Republic’s freedom from tyranny.
But if this rather succinct iconography weren’t enough to remind the populace of the act commemorated, the timestamp of the assassination itself points specifically to it. Roman calendrical dating was slightly different than that with which we are familiar, with days referenced with respect to three specific points during the month. The Ides was treated as the 15th day of “full” months, such as March, so the day on which Caesar was stabbed in the Roman Senate would have been referred to in Latin as Eidibus Martiis, or “on the Ides of March.”
So iconic and famous was this coin design that classical author Cassius Dio wrote that “…Brutus stamped upon the coins which were being minted his own likeness and a cap and two daggers, indicating by this and by the inscription that he and Cassius [a different Cassius, not the author] had liberated the fatherland.”
Owing to the rather paltry survival rate of this important issue, even in lower, damaged grades, it remains a timeless type that would undoubtedly serve as the crowning achievement of any advanced collection of ancients. Recent auction records from just earlier this year point to the amazing growth and popularity of the type, with similar, slightly more attractive examples realizing total prices of ~$600,000 USD (in June) and $720,000 (in May). The fervor for the present example should be enthusiastic and spirited, as it represents an incredible opportunity for a keystone specimen.
To view our upcoming auction schedule and future offerings, please visit StacksBowers.com where you may register and participate in this and other forthcoming sales.
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We are always seeking coins, medals, and paper money for future auctions, and are currently accepting submissions for our fall Hong Kong auction and our NYINC auction in January 2024. Additionally, we are continuously accepting submissions for our Collectors Choice Online (CCO) auctions, the next of which will be in September 2023. If you would like to learn more about consigning, whether a singular item or an entire collection, please contact one of our consignment directors today and we will assist you in achieving the best possible return on your material.