A rare golden coin, one of just three known specimens in the world, is likely to tempt buyers with deep pockets at auction later this spring. Experts estimate that the historical coin could sell for as much as $2 million when it goes on the chopping block in Zurich, reports Marina Stanley for Bloomberg.
“It’s priceless, but it still has a price tag,” says Arturo Russo, managing director of the auction house Numismatica Ars Classic, per Bloomberg.
On the March 15, 44 B.C.E., a group of senators stabbed to death the dictator Julius Caesar on the floor of the Roman Senate. Following the assassination, the infamous Roman politician Marcus Junius Brutus is said to have minted the coin to mark his key role in the murder and to celebrate Rome’s freedom from tyranny.
“The Eid Mar coin commemorates one of the most important moments in Western history: the assassination of the dictator Julius Caesar,” says Russo in an emailed auction house statement. “It is extremely rare to come across an ancient coin with such exceptional provenance, a point illustrated by its inclusion in the British Museum’s display for over a decade.”
The coin is pierced with a hole indicating that it might have been worn by a high-ranking official around their neck as jewelry. One of Brutus’ high-profile, wealthy supporters—or perhaps even one of his co-assassins—could have worn the coin as a badge of pride, per the statement.
Ancient Romans may have—literally—killed for this small piece of gold.
Known as the “Eid Mar” or the “Ides of March,” the coin bears a heroic portrait of Brutus with the inscription BRVT IMP, which casts him as a military victor. He minted several of these coins in silver and gold in Greece, where he fled shortly after killing Caesar and launching ancient Rome into a civil war, David Sanderson reports for the Times UK.
On the reverse, the coin features two daggers—thought to represent Brutus and his co-conspirator, Gaius Cassius—and a Phrygian cap, an accessory similar to the one that emancipated Roman slaves traditionally wore and, to this day, is associated with freedom, as Lucia Carbone, curator of Roman coins for the American Numismatic Society (ANS), notes in a video. For Brutus and Cassius, the coin’s symbols are an argument for their heroic triumph in the overthrow of a brutal dictatorship.
“In an era when communication through the media was virtually nonexistent, coins were the most important means of political propaganda and this coin is an excellent example of it,” Russo adds, speaking with Joe Dziemianowicz of Barron’s.
Their boastful coin may have marked a high point of good feeling among Caesar’s assassins. In the years that followed, Caesar’s successor Octavian spent the next decade hunting down the men who had stabbed Caesar to death on the Senate floor 14 years earlier, as Ted Scheinman reported for Smithsonian magazine in 2020. Brutus himself died by suicide in 42 B.C.E. after Octavian’s and Mark Antony’s armies defeated his own forces at Philippi.
Only 80 authentic examples of Eid Mar silver and gold coins are known to exist today, according to Carbone. Russo tells Bloomberg that many of the original coins were likely melted down and destroyed after Brutus’ death.
The gold coin to be auctioned has been on display at the British Museum for the past decade, on loan from a private collector. It was first brought to the museum in 1932 by numismatist Oscar Ravel. A plaster cast of the coin remains at the museum, reports the auction house.
In-person bidding for the coin that could have adorned the neck of one of Caesar’s murderers will be held May 30 at Zürich’s Hotel Baur au Lac, in an auction organized by Numismatica Ars Classica. Speaking with Bloomberg, Russo adds: “It’s something absolutely astonishing to know that this coin has survived.”