An ancient and very rare Hebrew silver shekel is going on the auction block this week at Winner’s auction house and is expected to fetch between up to $32,000.
Inscribed in ancient Hebrew script, the letters on its face spell out “Israel shekel”, surrounding the image of a ceremonial wine goblet. “Shin 4” appears as an abbreviation for “Shana” (Hebrew for ‘year’) four, indicating the coin was minted in the fourth and final year of the Bar Kochba rebellion.
The opposite side of the coin has a picture of a branch with three stylized pomegranates surrounded by the inscription “Holy Jerusalem”. The coin weighs 13.55 grams and is 22 millimeters in diameter.
The coin is being sold under official license and with its certificate of authenticity. The silver shekel is considered a true prize, declared as rare by professional collectors, with only a few dozen like it in existence.
The Jewish rebellion that prompted the creation of this special coin was led by Shimon Bar Kosiba and was fought during the years 132-136 CE. Many Jews believed he was the Messiah, and would restore their national independence. Rabbi Akiva, a leading Torah scholar of the time, was one such Jew, and renamed him ‘Bar Kochba” (the son of the star). Early on in the revolt, Bar Kochba proved successful, winning battles against the Romans, causing Roman Emperor Hadrian to assemble a large scale Roman force from across the Empire to crush the rebellion. This eventually led to the destruction of the Second Temple and the Israel’s devastation.
Minting coins was considered an act of rebellion, an attempt to show Jewish independence from the Roman economy. Further exacerbating such sentiments, the coins displayed native Israeli themes, frequently focusing on Jerusalem and the Temple. It is believed that Bar Kochba minted a total anywhere from 5-10,000 coins during his revolt.