Skip to main content

Numismatic walk in the Holy Land

Coins of Biblical times have long attracted collectors. Estimates on an upcoming Goldberg Auctioneers event to be held on Feb. 2 show what a high level of interest potentially can do to prices.

The coins will be offered in the 6th session of the Goldberg Pre-Long Beach Sale.

Mel Wacks provided much of what follows. He said the fabled Menorah coin in the sale was issued by the last Hasmonean (Maccabean) King Mattathias Antigonus c. 37 B.C.E. as he was fighting off Herod, who was backed by the Romans; the Very Fine example is estimated at $45,000-UP.

This piece will be followed by shekels and half shekels issued by the Jews as they fought the Romans in the First Revolt, culminating with the extremely rare shekel issued in the fifth year (April-August 70 C.E.). The Year Five Shekel is described in the catalog this way:

“Our coin is one of only ten known which share this obverse die, the same die as found on all of the Year 5 shekels excavated at the mountain-top fortress of Masada, thus making a total of only 12 examples from all known dies. Year 5 shekels are the rarest of all the shekels minted during the First Revolt. There were only four months that year to strike them before Titus captured Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple in the Fall of 70 A.D.

"Nevertheless, during the last months of the siege when all commerce as well as the striking of bronze coins came to a halt, it was important to continue striking coins in silver in order for the Jews to continue to pay the half-shekel Temple tax, as commanded in Exodus 30:13."

Graded Extremely Fine/Very Fine, it carries an estimate of $125,000-UP.

Over 30 silver coins of the Second Revolt (132-135 C.E.) are featured, including selas (tetradrachms) and zuzim (denarii) from the first, second and third years of the Bar Kochba Revolt.

Noteworthy is a Year One Sela described as “incredibly choice example of this major Judean rarity. Boldly struck on a full flan with nice wide margins on both sides. Superb Extremely Fine,” and estimated at $60,000-UP.

With prices like that, average collectors might not even look at what else might be in the sale.

However, Wacks says for collectors of Holy Land coins without deep pockets, there are about 40 lots of Judaea City Coinage issued by the Romans in Akko Ptolemais, Caesarea Panias, Gadara, Caesarea Maritima, Sepphoris, Tiberias, etc. generally priced in low three-figures.

Online bidding for the sale will be on GoldbergLive Auctions at, where the catalog can be viewed.

The Tom Reynolds Collection will be a featured highlight of U.S. coins to be offered.

There is a lot to look at. With the first session of the sale scheduled to begin Jan. 31, you don't have much time, but that is what online access is all about.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper has twice won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."

• Subscribe to our monthly Coins magazine – a great resource for any collector!