Hadrian. A.D. 117-138. Æ "medallion" (29.39 g). Rome, A.D. 129. HADRIANVS AVGVSTVS P P, laureate head right / COS III in below, IOVI / OPTIMO / MAXIMO / S P Q R in four lines within oak-wreath. RIC II 971 var. (slight drapery); cf. Gnecchi pg. 18, 80 and Tav. 145, 4 (same); Toynbee, pg. 33; Strack 452a2 var. (same); Banti 459 var. (same); cf. Banti 460 (same reverse die); BMCRE pg. 447, * var. (same); Cohen 862 var. (same). Choice VF, brown patina, very minor smoothing in obverse field. Apparently an unpublished variety.
Ex Triton VII (12 January 2004), 945. Realized USD 3250 on an estimate of USD 2500.
CNG: The absence of the S C, a common feature of Roman bronze coinage, as well as the large, heavy planchet and overall special design, argue for this as a medallion, rather than a sestertius. Tonybee, in her study of medallions, refers specifically to this issue as a "border-line" piece; it possesses the strong characteristics of a medallion, but its classification as such is not definitive. Of this issue of Hadrian she notes that in weight and diameter they should be classified as sestertii, but in terms of the dies used to strike them "...they are quite decisively medallic in style."
A comparison can be made to a virtually identical issue of Hadrian with an oak wreath containing the four-line inscription S P Q R AN F F HADRIANO AVG P P, another "border-line" piece. Both our piece and the comparative one just mentioned, are described by Gnecchi as "small" medallions. Two virtually identical issues of Antoninus Pius with the four- or five-line inscriptions S P Q R AN F F OPTIMO PRINCIPI PIO and S P Q R AMPLIA TORI CIVIVM within oak wreaths offer a similar parallel.
The remarkable character of this piece, as well as the fact that large bronze medallions only began to be struck regularly under Hadrian, argues that it must be regarded as an important ceremonial issue. While no specific event is recorded, it may refer to the formalized ceremony in Athens in 129 AD at which time Hadrian was associated with Zeus Olympius. (For a more detailed discussion of Hadrian's association with Zeus Olympius, see lot 751 above.)