In December 2008, Numismatica Genevensis held a spectacular auction with many lots of unique quality and rarity. A beautiful sestertius of Hadrian broke then all records for the price paid for a Roman coin at auction, changing hands for 2,300,000 CHF, including the 15 percent buyer’s fee. (2,561,530.74 USD).
This is a completely exceptional coin. The obverse presents an extraordinary portrait of Emperor Hadrian, the work of a master die-engraver dubbed the "Alphaeus Master" by C.T. Seltman ("Greek Sculpture and Some Festival Coins," Hesperia 17, 1948, 71-85). Many Scholars believe this engraver may in fact be the great sculptor Antoninianus of Aphrodisias whose superb style epitomized the Hadrianic revival of Greek classicism, but it is only speculation. The coin auctioned by Numismatica Genevensis is one of the best preserved of these sesterces.
On the obverse we see a striking portrait of the emperor and on the reverse the goddess of peace (Pax) standing and holding a branch and a cornucopia. This Sestertius was probably coined in 135 to mark the celebration of Hadrian Vicennalia (the 20th anniversary of his ascension to the throne). The selection of Pax for the reverse may well be a reference to the hope of the emperor to put a quick end to the Bar Kochba revolt in Judaea, a traumatic event that marred the last years of the emperor’s life.