American Numismatic Society
American Numismatic Society



Bracteate, Lausitz, Germany. Mid 12th AD. (1928.999.1)

Medieval

The Medieval Department of the American Numismatic Society comprises about 50,000 coins of Latin Europe from the fall of the Roman Empire down to the end of hammer-struck coinage during the course of the 17th century.. The starting point for the various post-Roman coinages is the time when a new minting regime can be recognized in the coinage itself. Thus, the Ostrogothic and Vandallic series, which were produced at mints which had been Roman with no perceptible change in personnel or technique, remain part of the Roman collection, while the pseudo-imperial coinages attributed to the Visigoths, Franks, Suevi and Lombards live in the medieval department.

The ending point for the medieval department is equally difficult to define. The conventional definition is that hammer-struck coins belong in the medieval department, while milled coins are considered modern. In general terms this means that some time in the seventeenth century the coinage falls into the purview of the modern curator. However, there is much variation from country-to-country and mint-to-mint, and sometimes within a single mint some denominations were hammer struck at the same time as others were being milled. Added to these ambiguities are the cases of coinages in which flans were rolled and then hammer struck, and those mints which went back-and-forth between minting methods. So, in general terms, we end the medieval period with the English Civil War and the Thirty-Years War. In any case, coins of a given mint are kept together from the fifth century through the present, regardless of formal departmental designation.

Like any collection built mainly (about 95%) through donations, the medieval collection of the ANS is quite uneven. Its strengths are due in great measure to the gifts of specialized collections put together by a donor. Thus, within the English series, the donations of Emery Mae Norweb have created very strong areas in the sceatta coinage and that of William the Conqueror and Charles I, while Stephen and the Anarchy are well represented through the acquisition of the Cabot Briggs collection. Other strengths include Swedish coins (the Robertson collection), Polish (that of Count Alexander Orlowski) and royal French (Ferrari). The Ives bequest of gold florins cuts across mint and national boundaries, and the Scoville bequest is outstanding in portrait coins from all Italian mints.

Some parts of the ANS medieval collection have been built by the careful buying of past curators, most notably Henry Grunthal, in charge of the collection in the 1950s and 1960s, who systematically built up the holdings in the Carolingian, bracteate, and thaler areas to make them significant research collections. Jeremiah D. Brady, curator from 1970 to 1980, concentrated on building the Anglo-Saxon holdings. The research interests of the past curator of medieval coins, Alan M. Stahl, are reflected in purchases of early medieval, Italian, and crusader coins.

The Society is currently engaged in a major collaborative project with the Kittredge Numismatic Foundation to create an online reference tool covering all Papal coin types: Click here for a preview.

Inquiries about the Medieval collection should be directed to Elena Stolyarik.

To search this department please click here.