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One of the more interesting coins which come down to us from the late classical world is the gold solidus of Constantine the Great, which was struck at Nicomedia in the significant year of 325. Why such a significant year? This is the year that the Nicene Creed (Credo in unum deum… – I believe in one God…) which is sung at Mass in just about every Christian church in the world to this very day, was written.

This coin sees a departure from
the earthbound Roman portraiture to an emperor gazing upwards dreaming of more spiritual aspects. This is derived from another radical design development, namely that of the late fourth century BC hellenistic examples, whose perpetrators were considered heroes by the newly Christianised Romans.

As if this was not enough to interest us, this coin is described by Constantine’s eulogiser and biographer in the minute detail that would do justice to a modern numismatic catalogue. Most coins of radical design come with political change, as here. As such, they tend to be struck in great numbers; remember coins are propaganda. This coin is no exception and there was a nicer than usual example in this sale. The estimate was £500-700, on the low side I thought. It made £1950.

We have had rather a lot on British coinage in the Antiques Trade Gazette lately, so I will only detain you with the report of one English coin before wafting you to the Continent. This is a particularly fine portrait of Edward VI who was also to have considerable influence on religious practice in the country. This was a better than usual example of his gold sovereign and with a splendid blazon of the royal Tudor arms. Opinion had it that £2500-3000 would do. It didn’t. It required £5200 to take it home.

The English medieval coinage had such a good reputation for fineness that it was much imitated in design and style on the Continent and particularly in those parts which imported our wool. What better evidence that the double Mouton d’or of Joan and Wences-las (1355-83) of Brabant in the Netherlands? There was an example as good as they usually come on offer and it was estimated at £800-1000. Not much for such a work of art, but they do turn
up quite often because of the prosperity of their time. For all that it made a goodly £1900.

Finally, if only to illustrate the diversity of this sale, I must ask you to admire the calligraphy on a silver 20 Shahi of the Safavid Sulayman I struck at Isfahan in AH1099 (AD 1687). It is a better than usual example and £400-450 was suggested. Somebody did well – it made just £340.