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French farmer finds rare coin featuring Charlemagne just before his death

Baku, April 7, AZERTAC

A rare 1,200-year-old silver coin featuring Charlemagne, one of the only known portraits made of the emperor during his lifetime, was recently rediscovered and promptly taken on a wild journey from a farm in France, to the bidding grounds of eBay and, finally, to a museum in Germany.

The coin's modern travels began when a man in France wanted to build a house but was short on cash. He remembered that he had inherited a coin collection from his grandfather, a farmer in the Paris region. After going through his grandfather's collection, the man discovered the Charlemagne coin, known as a denarius, and he put it up for auction on eBay.

"We have here some experts that regularly check what is on eBay concerning archaeology," said Frank Pohle, director of the Route Charlemagne, a group of municipal museums in Aachen, Germany, that focus on cultural history. "One of them told me 'Hey, there is a piece of money in eBay France that could be a real denarius of Charlemagne."

The museum decided to enter a bid. To their relief, they got the coin depicting Charlemagne and his imperial title: IMP(erator) AVG(ustus), a reference to Emperor Augustus, the first Roman emperor and a title used by the many emperors of the Roman Empire, whom Charlemagne was trying to emulate.

Charlemagne (ruled A.D. 768 to 814), also known as Charles the Great, was king of the Franks and became the first ruler to unite Western and Central Europe after the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century A.D. Due to his political power, military might and close relationship with the Vatican, Charlemagne was crowned emperor of the Romans on Christmas day in A.D. 800.

There are only about 50 individual denarii coins bearing a portrait of Charlemagne created in his lifetime. "Most [denarii] only have his name on it, no portrait," Marjanko Pilekić, a numismatist and research assistant at the Coin Cabinet of the Schloss Friedenstein Gotha Foundation in Germany, who is not involved with the newfound coin, told Live Science.

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