Silver shekel, first Jewish War

Silver shekel, first Jewish War

Silver shekel of the first Jewish War

Period: Roman Empire

Country: Israel

Denomination: Shekel

Mint: Jerusalem

Weight: 13.88 g

Quality: AU (Virtually as struck. Superb. Nearly Mint State)

Auction house: Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles

Date: 6 June 2017

Starting price: $5.000

Historical context

The silver shekel of the first Jewish War against Rome is probably the most famous Jewish coin. The obverse of the coin represents a chalice. The reverse represents another symbol of priest authority: three pomegranates. Thus, we can see how the Jewish revolt related political and religious powers from the very beginning. Interestingly, these symbols also appear in some XXth Century coins from Israel.

The shekels minted between the first and the third year are relatively common in comparison to other Jewish coins from this war. From year four on the production dropped since the supplies of precious metals dried up. However, the coin now in the auction is far from being common.


All Jewish coin collectors would like to have a silver shekel of the first Jewish War. But very few of them are the ones that own a specimen as good as the one now in the auction. Hence, the interest of this coin in the international market is guaranteed.

The best price reference that I could find is this specimen, which is not as good as the one that is now in the auction but was hammered for $14.000 in 2009. We can also take this other specimen as reference, which was hammered for $8.250 in January 2017. Hence, I would consider that $12.000 to $20.000 is a reasonable hammer price range for the coin in the auction.

Description from the seller

Judaea, The Jewish War. Silver Shekel (13.88 g), 66-70 CE. Jerusalem, year 1 (66/7 CE). ‘Shekel of Israel’ (Paleo-Hebrew), ritual chalice with wide, smooth rim, pellet on either side, and flat base with pearled ends; above, ‘[year] 1′. Reverse: ‘Jerusalem [the] holy’ (Paleo-Hebrew), staff with three pomegranate buds, round base. Hendin 1354; TJC 187. Virtually as struck. Superb. Nearly Mint State. Estimate Value $10,000 – UP
The Brody Family Collection; Purchased privately, January 1988.
The silver shekel of the first year (May 66-March 67 CE) of the Jewish War against Rome is perhaps one of the most iconic coins in the ancient Jewish coin series. The chalice on the obverse is widely believed to represent the omer cup used in the Jerusalem Temple while the reverse may represent a staff with three pomegranates. The pomegranate was a traditional symbol of Jewish priestly authority. It has been argued recently, however, that earlier scholars may have been right to understand this type not as an allegorical emblem of the priesthood but as a representation of the budding almond staff of Aaron that was kept in the Ark of the Covenant.



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