CLAUDIUS -- Die Carver's Dream?

These examples are what I call "artistically ugly", products of a die cutter with obvious artistic talent. Their appearance would seem to be the result of deliberate intent (dare I call it malice?) rather than simply the failed effort of a novice or incompetent die cutter.

Cistophoric Tetradrachm of Claudius

Pergamum mint. RSC 3.

The high degree of artistic skill of the engraver is evident in this portrait. To my eye, it appears to be deliberate caricature. Clearly, the engraver was making a statement of some sort. Was it treasonous?


Syrian Tetradrachm of Nero and Claudius

struck c. 63-68 CE. Mint uncertain.

In this case, I can't help but wonder if the fact that Claudius was dead and Nero wasn't had anything to do with the relative quality of the two portraits. Did the engraver have reason to believe that the living emperor would be pleased by a deliberately "uglified" portrait of his deceased grand-uncle?

The coin images on this page were reproduced with kind permission from Classical Numismatic Group's Mail Bid Sale #46 catalog. The Cistophoric Tetradrachm was lot #1161, and the Syrian Tetradrachm was lot #869. Visit their web site at

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