The die is cast: A look at the Rubicon Collection, which is to be sold at Heritage


2015-06-26 12:28:07


The die is cast: A look at the Rubicon Collection, which is to be sold at Heritage

The exceptional collection of Roman coins includes gems marking the rise and fall of Julius Caesar

This September, Heritage is offering a stunning accumulation which it has dubbed the Rubicon Collection as part of its World & Ancient Coins Auction at Longbeach. Few details of the consigner are public, though they are known to be from Arizona.

'Rubicon' naturally refers to Julius Caesar's decision to cross the Rubicon River, invading Rome itself in order to stage a power grab. The phrase has passed into common usage meaning something there's no turning back from, as has the saying 'the die is cast', which Caesar is supposed to have proclaimed at the time.

The star of the show is set to be an extremely rare silver denarius, struck in 42 BC, which is the only Roman coin to openly celebrate an act of murder, the only Roman coin to mention a specific date and one of the very few ancient coins to enter popular imagination.

Ides of March coin Julius Caesar reverseThe reverse of the Ides of March coin with daggers and liberty cap

This is the 'Ides of March' coin, marking March 15, 44 BC, the day which Julius Caesar was assassinated, which the final dagger thrust supposedly driven home by Marcus Brutus, whom Caesar had favoured, but who had followed his Republican instincts as Caesar became more powerful.

The line 'Et tu Brute?' (you too, Brutus?), was popularised by Shakespeare.

The denarius shows that if Brutus had any qualms about his actions he had silenced them by the time it was created. The obverse is marked with his bust facing right, associating him with the action (and breaking a Republican taboo in showing an individual).

The reverse has the powerful imagery of a cap typically given to slaves when they are freed, flanked by the daggers of the assassination. It could sell for over $500,000.

But of course this is not the only highlight in the collection. This is another silver denarius from the four year 'rule' of Gnaeus Pompey Jr. This is the finest-known example of this great rarity.

Cleopatra portrait denarius silver coinCleopatra portrait on a silver denariuscoin

A further denarius marks some of the fallout from Caesar's assassination, depicting Cleopatra and Marc Antony, rulers of the East (from 37-31BC), with the coin's faces presenting a portrait of each, facing right.

Graded as choice extremely fine, this is described by Heritage as being "among the finest portrait denarii in existence".

Sandwiched between the Ides coin and that of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra is a gold aureus, presenting Caesar's descendents Mark Antony and Octavian on either side described as extremely fine.

Roman coins are not always valuable, as they survive in large quantities, but the examples in the Rubicon Collection are truly spectacular, and Heritage's auction represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for collectors of and investors inancient coins.

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