Whenever I see a glint in the grass, it’s either a penny or nothing at all. But when Israeli hiker Laurie Rimon found a coin, it was such a rare find that archaeologists only found a single one similar to it.
Israeli scientists believe the coin is part of a series made by the Roman Emperor Trajan to honor Augustus, another Roman emperor. Needless to say, they were thrilled.
“It’s extremely exciting,” said Dr. Donald Ariel, an expert with the Israel Antiquities Authority, in comments released by the agency, which says the coin was struck by Roman Emperor Trajan in the year 107. “His gold coins are extremely rare.”
The coin was not for common usage, being reserved only for high finance and to pay soldiers when silver was unavailable. The coins were very valuable, but difficult to trade.
“When the Romans didn’t have, for some reason, their regular silver coins to pay soldiers, they would pay three coins every quarter to the soldiers instead of the regular 75 silver coins,” Ariel said. “But when the Roman soldier received this coin, what could he do with it? He couldn’t buy anything in the market, in town. It was far too much money.”
In this case, soldiers would often beg paymasters to exchange the coin for something more tradable. The other option would be to find a local merchant, but they would likely be given a disadvantageous exchange. But from a historical perspective, this makes the coin even more valuable, because it offers an indication of Roman soldiers being in Israel in the second century.
Finding the coin was not easy, but interpreting it will be even harder. Jews and Roman rulers fought several wars between A.D. 66 and 135, including before Trajan’s rule, when an ancient Jewish temple was destroyed in Jerusalem.
Rimon, the hiker who discovered the coin, said it was not easy to part with her find.
“It’s not every day one discovers such an amazing object,” she told the agency representative who came to inspect and collect it.
The Israel Antiquities Authority plans to give her a certificate of appreciation for turning it over to authorities – it’s the least they could do.