Very Interesting Ostrogoth Solidus Struck in the Name of Justinian I

Our Stack’s Bowers Galleries New York International Numismatic Convention live Ancient coin sessions will take place on Friday evening. Once the excitement of the live sessions are over, an array of interesting Ancient coins will be still be avaialble for bidding in our Internet-only session. Today’s preview coin, at first glance, appears to be a fairly common gold Solidus of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I. Closer examination reveals telling differences in style, and minor variances in the legend. These differences led to the attribution of this Solidus as an Ostrogoth issue struck in the name of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I (the Great). 

The design mirrors a Byzantine Solidus of Justinian I in content; both this Ostrogoth issue and the Byzantine piece it copies feature a three-quarters right facing bust of Justinian I. The emperor is depicted wearing a helmet and cuirass, holding a spear over his shoulder in one hand and a shield in the other. This warlike pose reinforces Justinian’s attempt at the restoration of the Western Roman Empire, ambitious yet not entirely successful. The reverse of this piece features the Roman deity Victory, who would eventually be replaced on Byzantine issues with a Christian angel. This lingering vestige of Roman identity echoes with the cultural shift of Justinian’s reign, during which the Hagia Sophia was built and his famous re-working of Roman law was enacted. This piece was struck under the authority of the Ostrogoth king Athalaric, and his death and the subsequent dynastic struggles for his kingdom invited the Byzantine army to invade Italy. Though this maneuver failed to recapture Rome, later efforts would place Italy in Byzantine control, though at a heavy cost. This coin represents a time before that bloody struggle, and the mimicry used was in part due to the need for widely accepted coinage types, similar to Celtic imitations of Macedonian coins of Philip II and Alexander the Great.

Look for this and other ancient and world numismatic rarities in our upcoming January New York International Numismatic Convention Internet Auction at While our Stack’s Bowers Galleries January New York International Numismatic Convention Auction is no longer open for consignments, we are currently taking consignments of ancient and world coins for our August 2015 ANA World’s Fair of Money Showcase Auction and our April 2015 Hong Kong Showcase Auction of Asian Coins and Currency. 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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