What you are looking at is a coin of the Roman Emperor Vespasian.
It’s an ancient coin, (ancient, in numismatic terms, means any date up to the end of the Western Roman Empire in 476 C.E.) and this particular coin was minted around the year 70 C.E.
That’s smug looking bloke is Vespasian himself, on the obverse or “heads” side of the coin and the coin commemorated the defeat of the Jews in what was then Judaea. It is part of a famous series of Roman coins known as the Judaea Capta series and the obverse depicts a weeping Jewess captive seated on the ground. Behind her is a collection of Roman armour, signifying the might of Rome and the legend below says, quite simply, IUDAEA.
This particular coin is 100% Kosher, in other words it’s the real thing and not a fake.
I mention that because I have been known to buy the odd counterfeit coin, sometimes because I couldn’t afford to buy the right thing and on other occasions simply because I was taken for a sucker!
One such occasion was about fifteen years ago whilst on a walking tour of Jerusalem. My wife and I were about to enter a church (we were with a non-denominational group of tourists) when I spotted a young Arab lad selling coins from a tobacco tin. I asked the Israeli guide if he minded us skipping out of visiting the interior whilst I attempted to do a deal with the young trader. The guide said to me “Be warned, they sell lots of fakes to the tourists here”.
I pulled myself up to my full 5ft 5 and replied rather huffily “I’ve been collecting coins for quite a few years and should be able to spot a fake by now !”.
The guide shrugged his shoulders and left me to do my own thing.
The coin I finally bought from the trader was a bronze sestertius of the Judaea Capta series and I remember paying 36shekels, then the equivalent of about sixteen pounds Sterling. I was delighted with my buy and when we rejoined the group I made a point of telling the guide of what a good deal I had made.
Back in London some months later I had occasion to show the coin to an ex-curator from the British Museum. He said to me “You are not going to like what I am about to tell you” I knew immediately what he was about to say but I had to hear it from his own lips. “Not only is this a a modern counterfeit ” he continued “but it’s the worse fake I’ve seen in years and to make matters worse they’ve used an old English penny for the flan (that’s the blank piece of metal from which a coin is made).
In hindsight I have no complaints. I was well and truly conned and whenever I talk about my collection I make a point of showing this blatant forgery as an example of what to look out for when buying coins, but there is a moral to this tale and it’s quite simple.
If you are ever offered a coin by a young Arab lad outside a church in Jerusalem say “Not today thank you ” and rejoin your fellow tourists immediately.