By Nicholas Fritz – Numismatist, World and Ancient Coins, Stack’s Bowers Galleries ……
The January 2022 New York International Numismatic Convention (NYINC) will once again showcase Stack’s Bowers Galleries as official auctioneer of this prestigious event. This sale will feature countless highlights across many areas, including a vast array of valuable and important issues running nearly the entire depth and breadth of ancient coins.
One notable highlight is an Elagabalus 218-222 CE gold aureus struck at Antioch. The obverse features a laureate bust of the Roman emperor Elagabalus facing left. On the reverse is a stunning scene with a quadriga (four-horse chariot) moving left to right bearing the stone of Emesa with an eagle cresting the stone. The legend reads “SANCT DEO SOLI ELAGABAL” (“To the Holy Sun God El-Gabel”). This example is likely one of two of this type known to exist, and its rarity matches its beauty.
As ruler of the Roman Empire, Elagabalus was wild, unmoored by the normal conventions of the day – even by the standard of Roman emperors. He was the focus of several scandals regarding his multiplicity of marriages-including one to a Vestal Virgin–and his numerous public displays of lascivious behavior. Elagabalus also attracted controversy as ruler by establishing a new god of the Sun, to be regarded above any of the traditional Greco-Roman gods. This new solar deity was called Elagabel, and Elagabalus’ promotion of this deity also included the christening of a new opulent temple called the Elagabalium. Unverifiable stories from antiquity regarding child sacrifice outside the temple have survived to the modern-day. The god Elagabel was personified by a black stone, maybe a meteorite, that was placed into the new temple as a relic. The reverse of this coin features this stone being transported from its original location in Syria to the Elagabalium in Rome. Ultimately, Elagabalus’ wanton disregard for Roman religious and moral conduct proved too much, and he was deposed as emperor when he was killed by the Praetorian Guard.
The aureus featured in our January 2022 auction is certainly among the most beautiful examples of Roman gold offered for public auction and will be a keystone of the entire sale, even beyond the ancient coin section. The last time it was offered publicly was in 2002 at a Classical Numismatic Group (CNG) Triton auction, and the exceptional rarity of the piece makes it unlikely to be offered again anytime soon.
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.
We are always seeking coins, medals, and paper money for future auctions and are currently accepting submissions for our Official Auction of the January 2022 NYINC and our Spring 2022 Hong Kong auction. Additionally, we are accepting submissions for our Collectors Choice Online (CCO) auctions, the next of which will be in February 2022. If you would like to learn more about consigning, whether a singular item or an entire collection, please contact one of our consignment directors or email [email protected] today and we will assist you in achieving the best possible return on your material.