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Gaius (Caligula) 37-41 CE

Gaius, Silver denarius, RIC I 16 (R2, Rome), RSC I 2, Lyon 167, BnF II 21, BMCRE I 17, cf. SRCV I 1807 (aureus), VF, toned, attractive portraits, bumps and marks, some pitting, lamination defects, ex jewelry, Lugdunum (Lyon, France) mint, weight 3.443g, maximum diameter 18.2mm, die axis 180o, 2nd emission, 37 - 38 A.D.; obverse C CAESAR AVG GERM P M TR POT (counterclockwise from lower right), laureate head of Caligula right; reverse DIVVS AVG PATER PATRIAE (counterclockwise from lower right), radiate head of Divus Augustus right; ex Classical Numismatic Group, e-auction 69 (23 July 2003), lot 90 Ex: Forum Ancient coins, March 2, 2018.

This is my second denarius of Gaius. I was extremely happy to get this one. I know the surfaces are a bit rough, but it is still a VF example of a rare coin. Denarii of Caligula do not show up for sale very often outside of large auction houses. When they do appear they are often very expensive. I waited for about 2 1/2 years for a coin like this to show up. As soon as it did I bought it.

I want to share a quick word about where I bought this coin. It was a purchase from Forum Ancient Coins. Coins are guaranteed authentic for eternity, and the service is second to none. Forum is also an incredible source of information concerning ancient coins. If you have a question about ancient coins, chances are that question has been asked and answered on Forum Ancient Coins. Many experts frequent this site and they are always willing to share their expertise.

Anyone trying to assemble a set of the 12 Caesars in silver will need to find a denarius of Gaius. His is one of the most difficult to add along with denarii of Claudius and Otho. It has also been suggested by some that it is the fault of 12 Caesars collectors that drives the prices so high. While true that there is a lot of competition for these coins when they appear, it is also true that there are alternatives to the denarii of Gaius. One popular choice is the Vesta As. These are quite common and can be had in nice condition for reasonable prices.

On the obverse we have the typical portrait of Gaius, while on the reverse we see a portrait of his great grandfather Augustus. Augustus is depicted as a Divus or god. The reverse legend "Pater Patriae" refers to Augustus as the father of the country. One reason Augustus was on the reverse was to remind the people of Rome of their emperor's connection to the Julio-Claudian ruling dynasty.

Why are denarii of Gaius so scarce? One explanation is has to do with Gresham's law or bad money drives out good money. The theory is that the monetary reforms of Nero, which debased to coinage in both weight and fineness, caused people to hoard the older more valuable coins of emperors like Caligula and Claudius. The problem with this explanation is that there are plenty of "tribute penny" denarii of Tiberius. The other possibility is that perhaps smaller numbers of Gaius' denarii were originally minted. Maybe there was already enough silver coinage circulating and therefore fewer were needed. Whatever the real reason, we are unlikely to ever get a satisfactory answer.

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