JUSTINIAN II FIRST REIGN GOLD SOLIDUS – SPECTACULAR SEAR UNLISTED VARIETY OF THE FIRST COIN TO DEPICT JESUS CHRIST – CHOICE MINT STATE NGC GRADED BYZANTINE COIN (Inv. 16516)
BYZANTINE EMPIRE. JUSTINIAN II, FIRST REIGN, AD 685-695.
Gold solidus, 4.42 g, 21 mm. Issue of Constantinople, officina A.
Obv. IhS CRISTOS RЄX REgNANTIЧM, facing bust of bearded Christ Pantocrator, holding Gospels and with his right hand raised in benediction. Rev. D IЧSTINIA[NЧS SЄRЧ Ch]RISTI, Justinian standing, facing, wearing loros and holding cross potent on a three-stepped base, CONO-B in exergue, officina A.
Sear 1248 var (different mintmark).
NGC graded CHOICE MINT STATE, Strike 4/5, Surface 5/5, spectacular super high-grade portrait of Christ as a bearded “philosopher.” Sear lists two mintmark variants for this coinage – Sear 1248 where the mint is rendered as CONOP or CONOΓ (with a final rho or gamma) and Sear 1249 where it appears as CONOPA. The present coin clearly renders the mint name as CONOB, following the more standard abbreviation used at the Constantinople mint, although not for Justinian’s First Reign issues. Sear was unaware of this variety, and it is consequently unlisted. In 280+ lots of this variety listed on CoinArchives, there are only 4 other specimens with the CONOB mintmark – Stack’s 8/8/2012, 20597, from officina gamma; Stack’s 1/12/2009, 3163, from officina ς, CNG E-sale 131, 1/18/2006, 192 and Numismatica Ars Classica 124, 6/23/2021, lot 8181, the latter two from officina Θ. The present coin clearly shows the CONOB variant from officina A, and may be unique.
The introduction of Jesus Christ on Byzantine coinage takes place with this issue minted under Justinian II, whose rule is separated into two distinct periods, before and after his exile from Constantinople. During Justinian’s “First Reign” Christ appears for the first time on coinage, shown as a bearded man with the traits of a classical philosopher, accompanied by the legend “Rex Regnantium” (“King of Kings”). The great French numismatist Lacam has referred to this bearded portrait as the “Christ of the Ascension and Redemption.”
Published: Vilmar Fixed Price List IV, no. 130.