For What It’s Worth – May/June 2017 Issue

with Gary Miller


The coin pictured here was sent to me by a prominent Canadian auction house for attribution and identification. Upon initial inspection it appears to be a Roman bronze coin of the Emperor Nero who reigned from 54 to 68 A.D. The reverse shows a view of the port of Ostia in Rome. Sometimes things are not as they appear and this is a good example so I wanted to share this information with our readers.

This coin is not Roman at all, but a Renaissance copy known to be produced in Padua, near Venice, by the medalist Giovanni da Cavino. He was born in 1499 or 1500 and was the son of a goldsmith. He studied the art of medal production and in 1554 made and signed a medal with the portrait of Pope Julius III. He died in 1570 and, in addition to original medals, he produced over 100 types of imitations of Roman bronze coins.

His products are called Paduans, after the city in which they were produced, and are representations of the classic large bronzes of the Roman empire. Cavino’s medallic Sestertii are easy to recognize due to somewhat thinner planchets and a lighter weight as well has his more delicate Renaissance style. They are still very collectable today.

This example shows a laureate portrait of Nero with the reverse type showing an aerial view of the Port of Ostia, The harbour city of ancient Rome, with seven ships, a lighthouse and a statue of Neptune at its entrance.

If this were an original Roman Sestertius of this type, as opposed to a Renaissance copy, it would certainly fetch an amount in excess of $10,000. As a later imitation of a Roman coin, although beautifully executed, it should still bring about $500 in auction.

Happy hunting and keep those emails coming;