The obverse, or
face of the coin displays the head of Melqarth, who was the city
god or "Baal" of Tyre, located in Phoenicia, or
present-day Lebanon. He was created in the heroic style of the
Roman god, Hercules. The reverse has an eagle standing on the
prow, or front of a ship, symbolizing the Phoenicians' active
seafaring trade throughout the Mediterranean. Next to the eagle
is a club and the date the coin was struck, in this case a
"K", which was year 24, or 103/2 BC. Coins of this type
were made between 126 BC until shortly after the death of Christ.
renowned for its rich purple dye, which was extracted from
creatures of the sea and used in the coloring of cloth.
The shekel of
this period is thought to have been equivalent to about two
weeks' wages for a mason.
All male Jews were required to
pay a yearly half-shekel temple tax. Although other coins from
other lands were freely used in daily transactions, the purity of
the silver in the shekel was considered superior. Only the shekel
was accepted by temple authorities.
It was the
Bible that made this coin indelible in the mind of the devout. In
the Book of Matthew, chapters 26 and 27, Judas, one of the twelve
Apostles of Jesus, agrees to deliver Jesus to the Romans for
thirty pieces of silver, or thirty shekels. Ridden with guilt
after Jesus is condemned to death, he attempts to return the
money to buy freedom for Christ, to no avail. He then throws the
money down and leaves the temple to commit suicide. The elders
take the blood money and eventually buy a field in which to bury
this coin have been among those Thirty Pieces? There's a
possibility. And that is the adventure and romance behind the
hobby of coin collecting. An old, discolored coin that we hold in
our hand can whisper to our minds of a time long, long ago. We
can imagine our coin was once held by Socrates or George
Washington; an American pioneer filled with hope, crossing the
sweltering, dusty desert in his covered wagon; or a crusty pirate
aboard his ship, admiring his ill-gotten reward. Each coin can
tell a story, if you listen. And dream.