Tiberius Denarius “Tribute Penny”

The Stack’s Bowers Galleries Official Auction of the Winter 2014 Whitman Coin & Collectibles Baltimore Expo is almost upon us. In just a few days our auction team and expert numismatists will set up for a few exciting days of bidding. For today’s preview we present a piece with abundant historical and religious significance. This silver Denarius of Tiberius, the second Roman Emperor, is widely known as the “Tribute Penny” by theologians, historians and numismatists.

The obverse depicts the right facing head of Emperor Tiberius wearing a laurel crown, surrounded by the legend: “TI CAESAR DIVI AVG F AVGVTVS,” an inscription imperative to the transition of power in the early Roman Empire. This title enforces the adoption of Tiberius as Augustus’ heir. In the early months of Tiberius’ reign he deified Augustus, and established himself as the son (albeit adopted) of the deified first Roman Emperor. The reverse design depicts a female figure commonly assumed to be Livia, Tiberius’ mother. Livia is depicted as Pax, the Roman deity for peace. The reverse inscription states: “PONTIF MAXIM” and refers to the title of Pontifex Maximus, a title held successively by the Roman Emperors that signified the absolute religious authority held by the Roman Emperor. The title is still in use today, but it now refers to the Roman Catholic Pope.

The silver denarius of Tiberius figures prominently in the story of Jesus, when hostile questioners tried to trap Jesus on the issue of whether or not Jews were subject to Roman taxation. The inquisitors cornered Jesus, and asked him the provocative question about the taxation of the Jews, to which he responded by asking the questioners to produce a suitable coin for the taxes. The Greek text describes the coin as a “denarion.” Jesus asks whose image and titles appeared on it, to which they replied “Caesar’s.” Jesus retorts: “Grant that unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s.”

Look for this and other ancient and world numismatic rarities in our upcoming Winter Whitman Coin & Collectibles Expo Auction. Preview this impressive coin along with the rest of our auction this October at the Stack’s Bowers Galleries office located in Irvine, California. For details please refer to the Events Calendar on our website. To schedule an appointment, please call 800.458.4646. While our Stack’s Bowers Galleries October/November Baltimore Auction is no longer open for consignments, we are currently taking consignments of ancient and world coins for our January 2015 New York International Auction and our April 2015 Hong Kong Showcase Auction of Asian Coins and Currency. Time is running short, so if you are interested in consigning your coins and paper currency (whether a whole collection or a single rarity) be sure to contact one of our consignment directors.


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