For all the Computer Aided Design, laser-etching, complex finishes and intricate shapes used on modern coins, there’s no finer coin to hold in your hand than something steeped in the history of the greatest empire of the ancient world, Rome. Of those coins the Aureus is amongst the most sought after, both for its relatively large size and for its scarcity, especially prior to the reign of Julius Caesar.
The Aureus was valued at 25 silver denarii and was about the same diameter, but heavier due to the differing densities of gold and silver. Julius Caesar standardised the weight at 1/40th of a Roman pound (8.18g), but as with anything in the financial world, they gradually got smaller and smaller until by the time of the Emperor Constantine, they were replaced by the Solidus, a coin weighing only 4.55 grams. However, regardless of the size or weight of the aureus, the coin’s purity was little affected. Analysis of the Roman aureus shows the purity level usually to have been near to 24 carat gold in excess of 99%.
Because the Roman government issued base-metal coinage but refused to take anything but gold or silver coinage in payment for taxes, inflation was rampant, Along with the debasement of the silver denarius which by the mid 3rd century AD was virtually devoid of actual silver, the aureus became worth more and more relatively speaking. In 301, one gold aureus was worth 833⅓ denarii; by 324, the same aureus was worth 4,350 denarii. In 337, after Constantine converted to the solidus, one solidus was worth 275,000 denarii and finally, by 356, one solidus was worth 4,600,000 denarii. Echos of todays farcical fiat systems perhaps…
Swiss-based producer International Coin House have taken some of the beautiful designs that adorned the ancient Roman coins and incorporated them into some excellent artwork of their own. Featuring the bull symbol of Octavians legions, Venus the Roman goddess of love, and Iustitia the Roman goddess of Justice, the first three silver coins released early last year took a gold printed facsimile of both sides of a Roman aureus and overlaid them onto a 1/2oz 0.9999 silver coin, each depicting contemporary interpretations of the original subjects.