10 . A silver shekel, the third year of the Jewish War against Rome. 68/9 C.E.
Background: The Great Revolt (66-70 CE) was the first of the three large Jewish revolts against the Roman empire. It had many causes – the cruelty of the Roman regime, disputes between Jews and non-Jews, despair following the death of King Agrippa I of Judea, as well as internal tension between the Sadducees and Pharisees. After the rebels’ initial successes, Vespasian and his son Titus were sent to suppress the rebellion. The battles reached their peak with the capture of the city and the destruction of the Temple by Titus, but it took three more years until all the rebels were defeated.
The revolt failed, and its leaders were killed or captured. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were killed, taken captive, exiled or sold into slavery.
With the outbreak of the Jewish revolt against the Romans, production of the Tyrian silver shekel in Jerusalem ceased, and they began to mint an independent currency, with a similar form to the Tyrian shekel, as an act of defiance against Rome (as the minting of coins symbolized sovereignty and independence). The minting of independent coins provided them with means to circulate military slogans and messages to the Jewish public. The slogans expressed the Jewish people’s longing for victory (for example, ‘Free Zion’), their faith in victory with the help of G-d (‘For the Redemption of Zion’) and mention Jerusalem (‘Jerusalem the Holy’). The symbols which appear on the coins represent the abundant produce of the Land of Israel (a pomegranate branch, a vine leaf, a date tree) and vessels identified as the Temple vessels (the Omer goblet, wine libation vessels).
Although Ktav Ashuri was the script commonly used at the time, the writing on the coins is in an ancient Hebrew script – as a way of connecting to the sources from the time of the First Temple and to the monarchy of King David.
The second and third years of the revolt (67-68) were the high point of the rebels’ strength and their activities in Jerusalem and the Temple; however, these coins were only in use for a short period of time, as with the failure of the revolt and the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, they were no longer used, and many of them became raw materials for the creation of new coins.
The Bar Kochva Revolt broke out some 60 years later (132-135 CE), during which new coins were minted with similar symbols and writing to the decorations on the coins from the Great Revolt. The revolt had tragic consequences, and Bar Kochva’s (lit. son of a star) name was subsequently changed to Bar Koziva (lit. son of a lie), as an expression of despair and disappointment. Selah coins from the Bar Kochva revolt were mainly minted onto coins from Syria from the period the Emperor Trajan’s rule.
Over recent years, it is becoming increasingly popular to collect coins from the periods of the revolts, due to the Jews’ deep sentiments toward their glorious past in the Land of Israel. As a result, the price of such coins is increasing, making them, beyond their collector's value, a worthwhile investment channel.
The coins are sold under License to Trade in Antiquities no. 318; an original permit is enclosed with each coin.
Description: 14.17 grams, 21 mm. axis 12. Within a NGC company holder, graded AU.
Obv.: Cup with rim of eleven pellets, surrounded by Paleo-Hebrew inscription (shekel of Israel). Above the cup, the date (abbreviation of year three (of the rebellion)). Rev.: Stem with three pomegranates surrounded by the inscription (Jerusalem the Holy).