In a letter of October 1879 to his friend Georges Vallois, the former sous-préfet of Péronne, Alfred Danicourt returned to the subject of the creation of his coin collection and to the Gallic map, specifying: “I have just bought a gold Vercingetorix that cost me an arm and a leg”. Danicourt did not realise at the time that, with this expensive purchase, he would give the town of Péronne what would turn out to be one of the jewels of the town’s museum collections.
This coin was unique and simply outstanding – a 7.44 gm gold stater, 19 mm in diameter, with a male portrait in profile looking left on the obverse, and on the reverse, a horse running right, with a crescent moon above and amphora below.
To this day, no ancient sculpture of the Gallic chief has ever been discovered, and the Gallic coins are therefore the only images of him that we possess. The fact remains that nothing proves that the portrait on the coins, with its clean-shaven face and curly hair, sometimes helmeted, is a true image. The leading specialists in ancient coinage (Colbert de Beaulieu, Fischer) even agree in thinking that it is rather a free representation of Vercingetorix based on the classical aesthetic canon, resembling more the god Apollo than a thirty year old Arverni chief. Nevertheless, the undisputed talents of the Gallic engravers imply that they were perfectly capable of accurately depicting their chief without the need for a model.
It is worth noting that a possible representation of the Gallic chief as an older man on a Roman coin, struck in 48 BC by the Roman nobleman Lucius Hostilius Saserna, is still a source of debate amongst specialists today.
But on this coin, the subject is identified by the legend VERCINGETO[RIX] in Latin, leaving us in no doubt about this coin: this was struck under the authority of the Gallic chief in 52 BC at the time the Arverni leader Vercingetorix was confronting the Roman armies of Gaius Julius Caesar.
Fewer than thirty Vercingetorix staters, in gold, electrum and bronze, have been identified around in the world. Péronne’s example is unusual for its legend, specifically the small T, which, probably overlooked by the engraver, was later inserted between the E and O on the die just before the coins were struck. This distinctive feature makes the coin in the Musée Alfred-Danicourt even more rare, as does the fine engraving of the portrait and the legibility of the motifs.