Render unto Caesar—the Tribute Pennies of Tiberius

In a previous blog, we discussed a numismatic connection to the Bible regarding the "thirty pieces of silver" referenced in Matthew 26:15. These silver coins—likely shekels of Tyre—are not the only numismatic reference, however, as coinage appears in Matthew 22:19-21, Mark 12:15-17, and Luke 20:24-25 as well. In these passages, Jesus was asked about the morality of taxes paid by Jews to the Roman emperor who, at that time, would have been Tiberius. Jesus asks for a coin to be produced, whereupon he was alleged to have been given a denarius, and then asks whose image is represented upon it. His questioners respond that the image is that of "Caesar," as Caesar merely conveyed a title rather than a specific name. Correspondingly, Jesus responded to his petitioners that one shall "render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and unto God that which is God’s."

Given the ubiquitous nature of the Roman denarius in commerce and the relative paucity of reverse types issued during the reign of Tiberius, it is highly likely that the type struck throughout his reign—featuring a seated figure of Livia as a representation of Peace—would have been the denarius presented to Jesus in these passages. Within the world of numismatics, this coin has come to be known as the "tribute penny," with the penny long since serving as the translation of that silver coin following the printing of the King James Bible in 1611. Just like the "thirty pieces of silver," the Biblical connection of the "tribute pennies" has made them an ever-popular type with collectors and, given their lengthy period of production, they offer subtle variations as well as frequent presence in the marketplace. Despite their regular appearance for sale, attractive examples are still quite scarce, as centering of strike and quality of metal are both factors which can be lacking. Our June Collector’s Choice Online (CCO) auction features three of these Biblically important silver denarii, each offering solid strikes and with varying degrees of handling and wear. Discover this fascinating collecting aspect offering a tangible connection to the biblical story!

To view our upcoming auction schedule and future offerings, please visit where you may register and participate in this and other forthcoming sales.

We are always seeking coins, medals, and pieces of paper money for our future sales, and are currently accepting submissions for our Official Auction of the 2021 N.Y.I.N.C., occurring in January, followed by our Hong Kong auction in the spring. Our next CCO (Collectors Choice Online) auction will be in October, with a consignment deadline of September 8th. 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.

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