An Israeli woman made the discovery of a lifetime when she plucked an extraordinarily rare 2,000-year-old Roman gold coin out of the grass while hiking near Galilee.
The coin, which depicts the image of Augustus and was minted in 107 AD, is “rare on a global level,” according to Danny Syon, a coin expert at the Israel Antiquities Authority. Only one other coin like this exists in the world, and that specimen is on display at the British Museum in London.
Laurie Rimon was hiking with her friends in the Galilee region of northern Israel when she noticed an unusual glint coming off the grass. Although it was likely a bottle top or other innocuous item, on closer inspection she was thrilled to learn it was an ancient Roman coin. As is required by Israeli law, Rimon turned the coin in to the Israel Antiquities Authority, which will acknowledge Rimon’s exemplary citizenship with a certificate of appreciation.
CNN reported that the coin could be worth $5 million at auction, although it’s still not clear what immediate plans the Israel Antiquities Authority have for the gold coin.
“It was not easy parting with the coin,” Rimon noted. “After all, it is not every day one discovers such an amazing object, but I hope I will see it displayed in a museum in the near future.”
The find was minted during the reign of Emperor Trajan, and although bronze and silver versions of his coins are relatively common, gold ones are extraordinarily rare. This is because the gold coins were nearly impossible to spend.
Typically, Roman soldiers during this time were paid 75 silver coins every three months, the equivalent of three gold coins.
“Because of their high monetary value, soldiers were unable to purchase goods in the market with gold coins, as the merchants could not provide change for them,” Syon noted. Apparently, solders were paid in gold coins when silver was unavailable.
The artwork on the coin is somewhat unusual because it would typically bear the likeness of the emperor in power. In this case, Emperor Trajan decided to honor the Roman emperors who came before him. The face of the coin features the image of Augustus, who founded the Roman Empire and ruled from 27 BC to AD 14. It refers to him as “Divus Augustus,” or Augustus the Divine. The back of the coin depicts the symbol of Roman legions next to the name of the ruler Trajan.
Images provided by the Israel Antiquities Authority.