The Ancient World Collection
Thrace (or Scythia) after 54 BC





Coin Details

Design Description: Koson stater
Item Description: AV Stater THRACIAN OR SCYTHIAN rv eagle, wreath, scepter obv procession, monogram
Full Grade: NGC MS Strike: 5/5 Surface: 5/5
Owner: Kohaku

Set Details

Custom Sets: The Ancient World Collection
Competitive Sets: This coin is not competing in any sets.
Research: NGC Coin Price Guide

Owner Comments:

This ancient coin, known as a Koson stater, has inspired a considerable amount of numismatic debate. Studies of these coins from large caches (first uncovered in 16th century Romania) have provided some clues, and it is generally accepted that they were produced mid 1st century BC somewhere in the vicinity of Thrace. Other important questions, such as who minted the coins and for what purpose, are still being answered.

The designs on the coin resemble Roman Republican ones of the period, particularly those of Marcus Junius Brutus. On the obverse are three men, wearing togas, walking to the left, two of them carrying objects over their shoulders. The figures bear a striking resemblance to Roman lictors (bodyguards) carrying fasces (axe-like weapons). In exergue is the enigmatic epithet KOSON. On the verso, an eagle stands on a scepter, facing to the left, its right claw raised and holding a wreath.

There are two leading (and not necessarily mutually exclusive) theories for the coins’s origin. The first is that was issued by Brutus, who fled to Greece after Caesar’s assassination and used his enormous wealth and/or funds from the Senate to produce these coins to raise an opposing army, and perhaps he was enlisting the help of a local king name Koson. An alternate theory, which has gained favor over time, is that the coin was issued in Trace or Dacia by a king called Koson, who was inspired by Brutus’ designs.

There are lines of logic that support both theories. To add to the controversy, two versions of the coin have been found, those with a mysterious BR monogram on the obverse, and those without. It has been postulated that the BR may refer to Brutus, or alternatively to BA(sileus), i.e, king, as in King Koson; however, there are no records of a King by that name (although there was a King Kotison). Recently, both monogrammed and non-monogrammed versions of these Koson staters were examined for their composition. These studies provided a highly sensitive elemental fingerprint for each coin. It was found that all coins without the monogram were made from native alluvial gold (for example, all had trace amounts of tin), the same composition that was found for other Dacian gold artifacts, i.e., bracelets, that were made at the time. In contrast, all the coins with the BR monogram lacked tin, and were of highly purified gold. This finding leads to an intriguing possibility: the coins with the BR monogram were produced by Brutus using highly refined gold, and later the non-monogrammed coins were imitations made by Thracians or Dacians using their own methods and local alluvial gold.

This particular coin is the monogrammed type. At the time it was graded, this coin was attributed as Thracian or Dacian. An example of the non-monogrammed counterpart – which, perhaps ironically, was attributed to Brutus – is present in the NGC Custom Set called The Roman Empire. Whether Brutus minted both, either, or neither of the coin types is the subject of ongoing debate, illustrating the fascination and intrigue of ancient coin collecting.

Additional Reading: B Constantinescu, D Cristea-Stan, A Vasilescu, R Simon, D Ceccato, “Archaeometallurgical Characterization of Ancient Gold Artifacts from Romanian Museums using XRF, Micro-PIXE and Micro-SR-XRF Methods,” Proc Romanian Acad 13:19-26, 2012.

Coin Details: THRACIAN OR SCYTHIAN, Coson, after 54 BC, AV Stater (8.44 g), NGC Grade: MS*, Strike: 5/5, Surface: 5/5, Obverse: Obv: Roman Consul with 2 Lictors, KOSON in exergue, Reverse: Eagle on scepter, holding wreath, References: RPC 1701B; BMC Thrace pg. 208, 2; BMCRR II pg. 475, 50.

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