Rare Coin Sells for Record $3.5 Million

The incredible sale set a new world record for a classical coin.

Left: Vincenzo Camuccini, ‘La morte di Cesare’ [detail], 1804-05, oil on canvas, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, Rome. Photo via Wikimedia Commons. Right: Q. Servilius Caepio (M. Junius) Brutus AV Aureus (Vorderseite). Photo: © Roma Numismatics Limited
Left: Vincenzo Camuccini, ‘La morte di Cesare’ [detail], 1804-05, oil on canvas, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, Rome. Photo via Wikimedia Commons. Right: Q. Servilius Caepio (M. Junius) Brutus AV Aureus (Vorderseite). Photo: © Roma Numismatics Limited

“And you, Brutus?” Caesar is said to have asked, stunned, before the moment of his assassination. Caesar’s realization that Marcus Junius Brutus, his confidante and potential son, was one of the conspirators who had demanded his assassination and was now carrying it out shocked the Roman dictator during his last breath.

What had happened? In February 44 BC, Gaius Julius Caesar, a popular and successful commander of the Roman Republic, had finally turned his back on the ideals of the state and had himself appointed dictator for life. The Senate, thus disempowered, naturally did not want to let this disgrace rest on itself. And so a group of eighty conspirators quickly formed and planned the assassination of Caesar, finally carrying it out on the ‘Ides of March’ (March 15) in the Senate building.

Q. Servilius Caepio (M. Junius) Brutus AV Aureus (Vorderseite). Photo: © Roma Numismatics Limited
Q. Servilius Caepio (M. Junius) Brutus AV Aureus (Vorderseite). Photo: © Roma Numismatics Limited

Brutus, who came from a family of passionate republicans, was one of them. On the way to Caesar’s dictatorship, he had repeatedly stood up unsuccessfully against Caesar, but had always been treated with leniency and had even become a confidant. In addition, there was always speculation that he was even Caesar's son, as Brutus' mother Servilia had been the lover of the now-faded dictator.

Related: Stolen Ming Vase Worth Over $3 Million is Recovered

Two years after the successful ‘tyrannicide’, Brutus had a coin minted in gold and silver to commemorate his participation in the act. While more than 80 of the silver versions are known today, only three copies in gold exist. One of them is part of the collection of the Deutsche Bank, another can be admired as a permanent loan in the British Museum. The third was recently sold at a London auction.

Q. Servilius Caepio (M. Junius) Brutus AV Aureus (back). Photo: © Roma Numismatics Limited
Q. Servilius Caepio (M. Junius) Brutus AV Aureus (back). Photo: © Roma Numismatics Limited

The obverse of the coin shows Brutus in profile, while the reverse shows two of the March 15guards and a pileus cap, symbolizing freedom. The day of the liberation attack is also mentioned: EID MAR as an abbreviation of ‘Eidibus Martiis’, the famous Ides of March.

The rarity of this coin, and its importance, have contributed to the fact that it has "inspired great admiration, fascination, disbelief and desire in the hearts of historians, numismatists and collectors," as can be read in a catalog published by the London auction house Roma Numismatics.

The coin’s desirable attributes struck a chord. When it went to auction on October 29, it was sold for around five times its estimate at £2.7 million ($3.5 million) by an anonymous bidder. The price achieved makes the exceptional Aureus the current world record holder among the classic coins on the auction market.

Find more news from the auction with Barnebys Magazine

Maximize the exposure of your upcoming auction on Barnebys today!