This ancient prutah, also known as a “widow’s mite”, was minted at the height of last independent kingdom of Judaea, during the reign Alexander Jannaeus. Jannaeus, whose name in Hebrew was “Yehonatan”, was king and High Priest of Israel from 103 BC to 76 BC. He was the grandson of Simon Maccabee, hero of the Maccabee Revolt against the Seleucid Empire that won independence for Israel. Also known as King Yannai, Alexander Jannaeus was the first Hasmonean ruler to declare himself both King and High Priest on his coins.
As the largest coin minted in Judea at the time, an untold number of these prutahs were minted during Alexander Jannaeus’ lengthy rule. The majority of these coins were still circulating in the kingdom during the ministry of Jesus. The famous widow’s mites of the Gospels could very well have been an Alexander Jannaeus prutah, just like the one featured here.
Known as the “anchor/star” design, the obverse of this prutah features an anchor with the inscription “King Alexander” in Greek. An eight-pointed star inside a circle dominates the reverse of the coin, with Jannaeus’ Hebrew name “King Yehonatan”.
As can be seen here, most prutahs have an off-center strike. The sheer number of coins needed meant that speed was valued over appearances when producing these coins. If we take the words of the King James version of the Gospel of Mark at face value, a prutah equaled 1/8 of one pence in 1600s England. For larger purchases, there was no effort made to actually count prutahs. They were simply weighed in bulk, with coins added or subtracted to reach the correct value.
This Alexander Jannaeus AE Prutah “Widow’s Mite” has been certified as genuine by the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, the largest third-party grading service that authenticates ancient coins.Sealed in a tamper-proof case, this bronze mite was minted between 103 BC and 76 BC.
The beautiful presentation case includes a full-color representation of Christ’s story of the Widow’s Mites, as related in both Mark 12: 41-44, and Luke 21: 1-4.
The Legend of the Widow’s Mite
"And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living."