Gaius Julius Caesar, one of history’s most celebrated generals and politicians, was stabbed 23 times in a plot to save the Republic from his authoritarian rule. His detractors feared he would rule for life and elevate his status to that of a god. Those fears were exacerbated when his portrait appeared on coins, including this denarius with the legend, DICT PERPETVO, or “Dictator in Perpetuity.”
Coins with his portrait sell in the thousands (and multiple of thousands), depending on grade.
His murder also inspired one of the most desired coins in the hobby, another denarius featuring one of his assassins, Marcus Junius Brutus, on the obverse, with the famous reverse of a liberty cap in between two daggers with the murder date, March 15, the Ides of March. Such a coin was up for sale on May 3 on Heritage with an estimated value of $450,000. It greatly exceeded that with a $720,00 realized price.
The life and death of Caesar involved numismatics, and as such, every hobbyist should aspire to own a coin in his name. And the good news is that a few issues are relatively inexpensive in low grades.
I’ll share a few of my buys over the years.
My first Caesar coin was purchased for $600 in a Proxibid auction about eight years ago, graded Almost Uncirculated by NGC.
The elephant and the snake is one of the most popular ancient coins.
Caesar used coins for self-promotion. His traveling mint in 49 BCE produced this one to showcase his military might, featuring the elephant stomping on a horned serpent. The word CAESAR appears underneath. The reverse features pontifical devices associated with his title as high priest, symbolically elevating him to godlike status.
I have since acquired another of these issues for $500, this time in an eBay auction. I bought it raw from a reputable seller and sent it to NGC for holdering.
You have to be careful bidding on raw Caesar elephant coins as so many being offered, especially on eBay, are counterfeit. The weight should be 3.8 grams, and fake ones often do not match that mark. Before I learned about ancient coins and their tell-tale strikes, I purchased this one for the ridiculously low price of $180.
The seller, based in England, refused a refund, and eBay sided with him. You can read about that in a 2020 Coin Update post.
If you don’t know ancient coins, buy or bid on Caesar coins holdered by NGC, PCGS, ANACS, and ICG.
An especially desired Caesar coin features the Roman goddess Venus, which Caesar claimed was his tribal mother, effectively elevating him to godlike status. You can find worn examples of these for under $500. I won this one for $250 in a HiBid auction. Again, I holdered it with NGC for another $50.
I won this one last year with a $280 wager on HiBid.com. Once more, this was a raw coin sent to NGC for holdering. They listed a banker’s mark, technically a flaw, but it adds a bit of lore to the coin as someone tested the silver for purity.
The reverse features an image of Aeneas, the mythical hero of Troy and Rome, carrying a statue of Pallas (ensuring victory) with his father, Anchises, looking on. The title Caesar appears, again alluding to his relationship with the gods.
Caesar coins are a great investment both in value and history. While friends and family might not know much about numismatics, they certainly recall the legacy of Caesar and will delight in looking at your specimens and listening to your numismatic knowledge.
A Caesar coin is a fine introduction to collecting ancients. Before you begin, you should bone up on the topic. An excellent book is A Handbook of Ancient Greek and Roman Coins, published by Whitman.