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One Shekel Worth $1.1 Million – at Auction

An unidentified American East Coast collector plucked down $1.1 million for an ancient Judean silver shekel coin at a New York auction.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 3/11/2012, 1:27 PM

The 'Million Dollar' shekel
The 'Million Dollar' shekel
official photo from Israel Museum

An unidentified American East Coast collector plucked down $1.1 million for an ancient Judean shekel coin at a New York auction. The coin was sold by a collector from the Los Angeles area who paid $240,000 for it in 1991, giving him a five-fold profit in 21 years.

The silver coin was dated to the year 66, four years before the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans. The modern shekel, which does not contain silver, is worth a fraction more than 26 cents.

The auctioned coin is one of two prototype silver shekels, the second is on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

The coins were issued by Jewish forces that revolted against Roman invaders and feature a Temple vessel surrounded by a border of dots. Above it appears the Hebrew letter “Aleph,” standing for Year One of the new intended Jewish rule. The inscription: ‘Shekel of Israel’ also appears on the same side of the coin.

On the other side, three pomegranates are surrounded by a border of dots, around the inscription “Jerusalem is holy.”

The Jewish war against Rome began in the summer of 66, and silver shekels and half-shekels were minted in Jerusalem immediately after the outbreak of hostilities.  

The minting of Hebrew shekels was a declaration of war and political sovereignty. The shekels were required for the payment of the annual tribute to the Temple in Jerusalem.  

The Heritage Auction House said the coin fetched the highest price for a Judean coin at an auction, ever.