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An Outstanding Example of One of the Great Mysteries in Ancient Numismatics – the Koson Stater

The gold “Koson” Stater remains one of the most hotly debated types among numismatists, inspiring speculation and contradictory theories since at least the 16th century. All that can be agreed upon is that the type was produced in the later 1st century B.C. in eastern Dacia, by the Black Sea coast. Besides its undeniable beauty and rich gold content, the coin’s most striking aspect is its appropriation of Roman imagery. One side features three male figures dressed in togas, all marching to the left above a Greek inscription reading simply “ΚΟΣΩΝ”. The opposite side depicts a standing eagle spreading its wings and grasping a wreath within its talon. Both these types are clearly derived from Roman Denarii: the former from an issue of Marcus Junius Brutus (the infamous assassin of Julius Caesar), and the latter from a slightly earlier issue by the moneyer Quintus Pomponius Rufus.

In particular, the obvious similarity to the Denarius of Brutus spurred a theory that the coin was struck from Roman gold to pay Dacian mercenaries to fight on the side of the “Liberators” during the civil war brought on by Caesar’s murder. In this theory, “Koson” was a Dacian ruler allied to Brutus, and the mysterious monogram on the left field could be a combination of the letters “BR” and stood for “Brutus”. The monogram’s exclusion from the later, cruder issuance of the Stater might then have been a necessary modification following Brutus’ defeat by the Caesarian faction.

A competing theory posits that the use of Roman motifs is merely coincidental, and that the coin was struck by or for the Dacian king Kotison as a trade or tributary issue. In that case, the monogram might be the letters “BA” for Basileus (the Greek word for “king”, and its later removal could reflect Kotison’s death and Dacia’s reduction to client status under the new Roman Empire.

While the debate is unlikely to ever be definitively settled, what we are left with is a coin of beautiful yet enigmatic design. The particular example offered as lot 73009 in the September 12 session of our upcoming Collectors Choice Online auction offers full Mint State originality with glistening luster and rather high relief devices unmarred by circulation. It will undoubtedly add historical intrigue to the next collection it joins.

To view our upcoming auction schedule and future offerings, please visit StacksBowers.com where you may register and participate in this and other forthcoming sales.

We are always seeking coins, medals, and paper money for our future auctions, and are currently accepting submissions for our January 2024 Official Auction of the NYINC and our spring 2024 Hong Kong auction. Additionally, we are accepting submissions for our Collectors Choice Online (CCO) auctions. If you would like to learn more about consigning, whether a singular item or an entire collection, please contact one of our consignment directors today and we will assist you in achieving the best possible return on your material.

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