Long-time metal detectorist finds Roman gold Solidus of the Emperor Constantine I


12 August 2019
A long time metal detectorist has just found his best ever coin - a Roman gold Solidus of the Emperor Constantine I in almost perfect condition - expected to fetch around £10,000 at auction next month.

It was the detectorist's first time searching the field at Wanstrow in Somerset close to a Roman road once used for transporting mined lead ore.

Using a second hand metal detector, a Nokta Fors Core which is manufactured in Turkey, the detectorist saw that the field had a curious unnatural shape to it. Detecting in this spot he found a Roman brooch and several pieces of lead ore. Then at a depth of nearly a foot he discovered
the gold coin.

The find was then recorded on the portable antiquities database by the local finds liaison officer who realised it was the first one of this type to be found in Britain. After having the coin returned, the finder and the land-owner agreed to auction it with Dix Noonan Webb.

A magnificent find

Dix Noonan Webb antiquities specialist Nigel Mills said: “The coin is a magnificent example
of a gold Solidus minted in 313-5 at Trier, the capital of Gaul. This was a new denomination
introduced by Constantine in 310. On the obverse is a laureate portrait of the emperor, which
had been the tradition for over 300 years but was about to change with a new headband called
a diadem in 324. For the first time there is a break in the legend above the Emperor’s head
symbolising a clear path to heaven from Constantine. He also stopped using the old Roman
pagan gods on the reverses of his coins.

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“On the reverse is an extremely rare portrayal of Constantine riding his horse in battle holding a spear and shield with two fallen enemy soldiers below. It commemorates his great victory over Maxentius at Milvian bridge outside Rome on 28th October 312. This is where Constantine adopted a new military standard of the Chi-Rho or Christogram - these are the first two letters in Greek for Christ 'XP' hence the importance of this victory for Constantine and Christianity. The British Museum has a similar example in their collection but with different spacing in the reverse legend. No Solidus of Constantine with this reverse having sold for many years.”

Auction details

Dix Noonan Webb will offer the coin in a sale of Ancient Coins on Tuesday, September 17, 2019 at 10am at their auction rooms in central Mayfair - 16 Bolton St, London, W1J 8BQ. It is estimated to fetch £10,000-12,000. For details visit their website.

QUICK LINK: George & the Dragon - online coin exhibition

(image copyright Dix Noonan Webb)

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