ANS eBay Win Spurs Local History Research + The 2021 ANS Gala

The motto of the American Numismatic Society is Parva Ne Pereant—“So the Small May Not Perish.” In the world of numismatics, it is the superstar coins that often grab all the attention—Eid Mar denarii, Brasher Doubloons, etc. The ANS has even produced several wonderful videos about these great (some would even say “greatest”) coins, now available for viewing on our YouTube page. But what about those “small” objects without the more well-known fantastic backstories? As the ANS continues to make duplicates from its collection available on its official eBay store some buyers have reached out to share their excitement over auction items they have won from the ANS, proving that even those seemingly pedestrian numismatic objects can be monumentally important to a particular collector depending on their interests.

Kings Highway Savings Bank parking token, undated, from the ANS eBay store.

One such object is a parking token from the Kings Highway Savings Bank in Brooklyn, New York. The ANS has a large and diverse array of transportation tokens, many of which have yet to be cataloged, and this particular parking token duplicate could be of interest to any number of collectors, perhaps those that collect bank-related items, parking tokens specifically, or numismatic objects related to specific roadways or highways. In this instance, the buyer happens to live just minutes from the bank in question, although the bank itself is long gone, and only the building remains.

Kings Highway Savings Bank in 1929, courtesy of the Brooklyn Public Library.
Kings Highway Savings Bank in 1961, courtesy of the Center for Brooklyn History.

The Kings Highway Savings Bank was a mutual savings bank founded in 1923 with William R. Bayes as its president, and stood at the southeast corner of East 16th St. and Kings Highway, situated between the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Midwood and Sheepshead Bay. There appeared to be several branches at one point, with this location (built in 1929) functioning as the main branch.  Although the name of the bank is no longer visible on the facade, the building itself remains quite intact, and has hosted several different banks since then, most recently an HSBC branch that also appears to have vacated since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Despite the name of the original bank disappearing from the side of the building, the original doors are still there, and retain the seal or logo of the Kings Highway Savings Bank, as evidenced by the photos provided by the winner of the parking token in question.

Kings Highway Savings Bank main door panel with original bank logo.

The lucky bidder also provided this photograph of their new token in front of the old Kings Highway Savings Bank building, very much mirroring—intentionally or unintentionally—the other historic photos of the bank pictured in this blog post, right down to the car parked in the lower right corner of each photo. Furthermore, it is not entirely clear how this parking token was used, as there is no extant parking lot attached to the building, and it is in fact a very busy intersection with limited street parking today. Perhaps there was a nearby lot that patrons of the Kings Highway Savings Bank could park at, and if conducting legitimate bank business, would receive this parking token as a voucher for parking validation, and deposit it upon exiting to avoid paying the usual parking rate.

Kings Highway Savings Bank as pictured in January, 2021.

Is this story of a simple savings bank and its corresponding parking token “great”? Perhaps not in the grand scheme of things, but it is important to the person who now owns this token, and the purpose of the ANS is to house and maintain a repository of as many of these “small” historical objects as possible, so that they may not perish. It may also interest the reader to know that the Kings Highway Savings Bank is just one of many savings banks in southern Brooklyn whose original inhabitants have long departed, but whose historical buildings still remain. More can be found in this NYC Explorer blog post of 2014.

In other numismatic news, the American Numismatic Society held its annual Gala on Thursday, January 14, and it was also the first “virtual” Gala hosted by the Society (by necessity due to COVID-19) although it is our sincere hope that future Galas will once again be held in-person. Despite its virtual nature, the Gala was a great success, due to the hard work of everyone involved. This year’s Gala honored ANS benefactors Mark and Lottie Salton, and was a moving tribute to their lifelong involvement in the numismatic community. If you were not able to attend the Gala in real-time, do not fret; the ANS has posted the event in full to our YouTube page and we encourage you to watch the video to learn more about the lives of Mark and Lottie Salton, hear their stories, and discover how their gifts to the ANS have positively impacted the field of numismatics.

Numismatic Musing on the Staten Island Ferry

The half-hour that I spend every workday morning and evening on the ferry traversing the five miles of the Upper Bay of New York harbor from my home in Staten Island to Manhattan and back again affords plenty of time to enjoy the views, catch up on reading, or simply ponder the history of the City and its port. The Staten Island Ferry remains the best public transportation option around: free to all passengers and plenty of space to socially distance on the 300 foot-long, multi-decked vessels (fig. 1).

Figure 1. ANS Chief Curator Peter van Alfen on his way into Manhattan onboard his favorite Staten Island ferryboat, John F. Kennedy, launched in 1965.

Long before the consolidation of Greater New York City in 1898, Richmond County, as Staten Island is officially named, was home to farmers, oystermen, and wealthy Manhattanites who built hill-top estates as getaways. John Anthon bought such an estate in 1838 atop Grymes Hill. There he entertained friends and family including former New York mayor Philip Hone, who recounted in his famed diary an enjoyable day (July 8, 1839) spent with the Anthons. John’s son Charles (fig. 2), who was ANS President 1867–1870 and 1873–1883, also became enamored with Staten Island spending a great deal of his time exploring its hills, valleys, shores, and villages compiling notes for a history he intended to publish. He never did, but even after his father sold the estate, he still regularly took a ferry back to the island to continue his historical research. Charles Anthon’s historical notes now are in the collection of the Staten Island Museum.

Figure 2. The Charles Edward Anthon medal (1884) struck by the ANS in honor of its former President. ANS 0000.999.3361.

A mile or so to the north of Anthon’s place, but down on the waterfront, was the estate of John Quentin Jones, president of The Chemical Bank from 1844 to 1878, who wiled away a good number of hours in his Manhattan office signing bank notes (fig. 3). His Staten Island garden received praise in the September 1856 issue (p. 402) of the influential Horticulturist, a journal of rural art and taste founded by the father of American landscape design, Alexander Jackson Downing.

Figure 3. Fig. 3: 1859 dollar bank note issued by The Chemical Bank signed by John Quentin Jones. ANS 0000.999.12795.

Throughout the 19th century, the ferry service between Staten Island and lower Manhattan that Anthon and Jones regularly used lay in the hands of private companies, each of which generally serviced just one part of Staten Island. Before Robert Fulton’s launch of the steamboat Clermont in 1807, ferry service around the harbor moved at a snail’s pace entirely at the whim of wind and current, or the endurance of men rowing or poling the boats. In the best of circumstances a trip from Manhattan to Staten Island might have taken an hour or two; in the worst the better part of a day. Staten Islander Cornelius Vanderbilt (fig. 4) initiated his sailing ferry service on the east shore facing Manhattan in 1810 at the age of sixteen, but as quickly as his fortunes and the Robert Fulton-Robert Livingston monopolies on steam ferry service would allow, he switched over to paddlewheel ferries that could reliably make the trip in 30 minutes. The origins of Vanderbilt’s enormous fortune lay in this ferry service, which was lucrative enough to attract competition. Former New York governor and US Vice President Daniel D. Tompkins (d. 1825) was one such competitor; he owned a great deal of land in Staten Island including what is today Tompkinsville where he built a ferry landing a mile or two from Vanderbilt’s for the paddlewheel ferryboat Nautilus he partially owned. 

Figure 4. 1865 medal issued by the US Congress to honor Cornelius Vanderbilt for his 1862 gift of the steamship Vanderbilt to the Union Navy. ANS 0000.999.18300.

By the 1850s, as Vanderbilt moved on to other pursuits, George Law became a central figure offering an east shore ferry service using both Vanderbilt’s and Tompkins’ old landings through his New York and Staten Island Steam Ferry Co. (fig. 5), and was also buying up tracts of land formerly owned by Tompkins elsewhere along the eastern waterfront.

Figure 5. The Josephine launched in 1852 for service with the New York and Staten Island Steam Ferry Co. Drawing by Samuel Ward Staton, a Staten Island-based marine artist, who lost his life in the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912.

Law had other interests as well that lay well beyond Staten Island. With two other financiers he founded the U.S. Mail Steamship Co. in 1848, which transported passengers and cargo from New York to Aspinwall (today Colón), Panama, where they crossed the isthmus to board the San Francisco-bound ships of the Pacific Mail Steamship Co., founded by William Henry Aspinwall, who incidentally also owned an estate on Staten Island. In 1852, U.S. Mail launched the sidewheel steamship S.S. George Law, which five years later was renamed the S.S. Central America. On a return trip to New York in 1857, S.S. Central America foundered in a hurricane off the coast of North Carolina. The loss of the ship and its cargo of tons of Californian gold spurred the financial Panic of 1857. Since the shipwreck’s discovery in 1988 the legal battles over the recovery of the gold, including coins, have been endless (fig. 6).

Figure 6. 1852 gold 5-dollar coin recovered from the wreck of the S.S. Central America. ANS 2000.1.3.4.

Yet another maritime tragedy haunted George Law. In 1871, his company’s ferryboat Westfield suffered a catastrophic boiler explosion that killed scores and injured hundreds as the boat was docking in Manhattan. This event dramatically underscored just how awful the service had become after the Civil War with its decrepit and unreliable boats, something Staten Islanders had already been grumbling about for years. Law sold his interest in the ferry in 1873.

Salvation for ferry costumers eventually came some years later, or so it seemed, with a Canadian named Erastus Wiman, who settled on Staten Island in a house a short distance from John Q. Jones’s old estate. Wiman sought his own fortune in a scheme to combine the east and north shore ferry services under the banner of the newly formed Staten Island Rapid Transit Co. (SIRT) and build a new landing half way between the east shore Tompkins and north shore New Brighton landings, which would also serve as a railroad terminal. The key to Wiman’s scheme was connecting SIRT’s terminal to a major railroad by bridging Arthur Kill, the narrow waterway between Staten Island and New Jersey, thus providing an alternative train-ferry service for travel between Manhattan and Philadelphia, which at the time the Pennsylvania Railroad all but monopolized. Wiman knew the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad was looking for a toehold in New York and so formulated a plan to realize his scheme with the help of two major players: George Law and Robert Garrett.

Law still owned the waterfront land that Wiman needed for his new ferry landing. He eventually convinced Law to sell by promising, among other things, to name the area, tucked in between Tompkinsville and New Brighton, St. George, the name it still has today. Garrett, on the other hand, was the new president of B&O, a position he held for only a few years after the death of his father in 1884. Robert’s brother Thomas Harrison was the well-known Baltimore-based collector. After T. Harrison’s untimely death in a boating accident in 1888, his coin collection, one of the largest and most significant of the time, was inherited by his teenage sons Robert (an 1896 Olympian) and John, a future U.S. ambassador and Trustee of the ANS. Most, but not all of this collection was serendipitously saved from the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904 since Robert the Olympian had previously arranged for its temporary loan to Princeton University (fig. 7). Following his brother John’s death in 1942, the collection was bequeathed to Johns Hopkins University, which eventually sold it in a series of noted auctions in the 1970s and 1980s, while many of John’s papers along with those of his father T. Harrison came to the ANS’s archives.

Figure 7. Peace Medals from the Garrett collection partially melted and fused in the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904. ANS 1923.154.1.

On December 16, 1885, Erastus Wiman feted T. Harrison’s brother Robert at a special dinner at the Pavillion Hotel, Staten Island’s finest located near the future ferry landing, to celebrate their partnership (fig. 8).

Figure 8. Menu cover from the dinner Erastus Wiman hosted for Robert Garrett on December 16, 1885 (New York Public Library).

By the time Robert stepped down as B&O president less than two years later, things were well underway: B&O held a majority stake in the SIRT, two new sophisticated steel-hulled ferry boats were being built in Baltimore, one named Robert Garrett (fig. 9), the other Erastus Wiman, and the Arthur Kill bridge was nearing completion.

Figure 9. Drawing by Samuel Ward Stanton of the ferryboat Robert Garrett, launched in 1888.

The success of the plan, however, lay in Wiman’s ability to generate passenger ticket sales. In order to attract riders to Staten Island he launched a new venture, the Staten Island Amusement Co., that built a large waterfront stadium in St. George next to the ferry landing for baseball games and large-scale spectacles. Imre Kiralfy’s spectacular The Fall of Babylon was presented there with over 1,000 performers.  Wiman also came to an agreement with William F. Cody (fig. 10) to set up his Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show farther up the rail line closer to the Arthur Kill bridge at a spot that came to be known as Erastina, named after Wiman. Between 1886 and 1888 nearly two million people took the ferry to Staten Island to see the shows.

Figure 10. 1892 medal depicting William F. Cody (“Buffalo Bill”). ANS 0000.999.32332.

For a while Wiman’s plan was such a success that it drove off some of the wealthy Manhattanites who had long sought refuge on the island. Anson Phelps-Stokes, for example, whose family had since 1868 enjoyed their hilltop estate in New Brighton soon sought new refuge in tony Newport, Rhode Island. As Anson noted in his autobiographical Stokes Record (p. 240):

I found my wife had been disgusted with some conditions at Staten Island, where the opening of the Fall of Babylon show and cheap excursion places had caused the ferry-boats to be overcrowded and had brought a rough element…we never returned to live at Staten Island.

Once re-settled, Phelps-Stokes, in the wake of the financial panic of 1893, wrote a popular book, Joint Metallism, the first edition appearing in 1894, that offered a solution to the gold vs. silver monetary standard problems then plaguing the economy and politics in the US, which came to a head in the 1896 Presidential elections.

By that time Wiman had been disgraced. The 1893 panic helped bankrupt him, but soon he was also charged with forgery; in October 1894 his namesake ferryboat was renamed Castleton as a damnatio memoriae. In 1899, B&O bought out the faltering SIRT, including its ferry operations. Sadly, however, B&O’s management also left a lot to be desired. When two B&O operated ferries collided during the evening rush of June 14, 1901, resulting in the Civil War-era ferryboat Northfield sinking with over 1,000 passengers on board, nearly all of whom were saved, Staten Islanders demanded change.

The solution ultimately was for the City to completely take over B&O’s ferry operations, instituting the City’s first, but not last, publicly owned and operated mass transit service. By 1905, the City had launched five new ferryboats, each named after the five boroughs of the recently consolidated Greater New York. The ferryboat Richmond was the only one of the five to be built in New York. Appropriately enough its keel was laid down on Staten Island at the Burlee Dry Dock Co., where it was launched on May 20, 1905 (fig. 11).

Figure 11. Souvenir medal commemorating the launch of the ferryboat Richmond, May 20, 1905. ANS 000.999.8240.

By October 25th all the new boats were ready and a celebration was held to officially initiate the new service, which was attended by Alderman Reginald S. Doull, a Tammany stalwart. Doull later donated the decoration he wore that day to the ANS (fig. 12).

Figure 12. Decoration worn by Reginald S. Doull for the October 25, 1905 celebration of the City’s new Staten Island ferry service. ANS 0000.999.8251.

A Davis Flight Medal in the ANS Collection

Recently I attended a Long Table hosted by ANS curator Jesse Kraft, who showed a fascinating coin he had come across while working with the Mexico trays in the vault. It was a silver eight real dated 1842, but what makes it interesting are the words inscribed on a silver band added along the circumference of the coin, especially those that say, “Taken from Jefferson Davis the time he was taken prisoner of war.” 

Davis Flight Medal fashioned from an 1842 Silver 8 real, Zacatecas (Mexico). 1939.184.1

Jefferson Davis was the president of the Southern States during the Civil War, and this coin caught my attention because we have a letter in the ANS Archives written by Davis on the same theme. In it he talks about having some valuables “stolen” from him after he was captured at the end of the war. The letter was sent to coin dealer John Walter Scott, who had written to Davis to find out more about the Confederate half dollar proof coins, of which there are four, the first of which surfaced in 1879. (That coin is in the ANS collection.) Davis told Scott that at the time of his capture he had “a Confederate coin” that was in his wife’s trunk, which was “rifled by the Federal Officers sent on board the prison ship on which she was detained.” The one said to be Davis’s was the third Confederate half dollar to surface (in 1936). 

Letter from Jefferson Davis written in response to John Walter Scott’s inquiries about Confederate half dollars.

This Mexican coin was new to me, however, and I wanted to find out more about it. There are other inscriptions on it, and these relate to the early owners of the coin. Along the top of the obverse it reads, “Presented by Mr. Park of Park & Tifford to Geo. Hartley 1864,” and along the bottom it says, “Mrs. Hartley to Daniel F. Myers 1890.” Some light internet searching revealed that Joseph Park (1823-1903) was associated with Park & Tilford, a grocery store founded at 35 Carmine St., Manhattan, in 1840. George Hartley and Daniel Myers proved more elusive. We do know that the coin was given to the ANS by H. C. Hines, but unfortunately, the accession record fails to shed any more light on the donation. A note with the coin says that it was Myers who added the silver band and inscriptions. It also identifies him as a New York jeweler and coin collector.

Davis Flight Medal from the John J. Ford Jr. collection, part 1, Stack’s, October 14, 2003

I did find some great information in the Stack’s auction catalog for part 1 of the John Ford collection (October 14, 2003, p. 239-243), which contains pieces similar to this coin, identifying them as “Davis Flight Medals.”  Some background information is included with the lot descriptions. As the South faced its final defeat, Davis fled with family, servants, and a military guard along with as much as $500,000 in British gold coins, U.S. double eagles, and other valuables—including Mexican eight reales. Like the ANS coin, the flight pieces often have inscriptions indicating how they were obtained—either seized or given by Davis as gifts. As the catalog states, “some are fairly crude engravings on Mexican silver coins, while others are skillfully executed.” 

I’d say the ANS’s coin falls into the “fairly crude” category, but it’s fascinating nonetheless, and I’m hoping to discover more about it.

Numismatic Commemorations of Vaccination Research

The year 2020, which brought to the world a coronavirus pandemic, is coming to an end. Humanity looks forward with hope to successful innovations against the new deadly virus. This is an appropriate time to pay tribute to the achievements of scientists of previous generations.

For the topic of vaccination, the name of the English doctor Edward Jenner (1749–1823), outstanding physician and pioneer of smallpox vaccination, is foremost. For centuries, smallpox swept through communities, often killing nearly a quarter of its victims and leaving many of the survivors deeply scarred or blind. In 1796, Edward Jenner demonstrated that an infection with the relatively mild cowpox virus conferred immunity against the deadly smallpox virus. Jenner even created the word “vaccination”, derived from the Latin word vacca, meaning “cow”. Jenner’s vaccine was one of the great triumphs of medicine, which first brought smallpox under medical control and opened the way for the eventual elimination of this disease. The results from Jenner’s vaccination experiments were widely circulated after their publication in 1798, and vaccination was promoted as a public health tool throughout Europe.

A number of medals by the German medalist Friedrich Wilhelm Loos (1767—1816/19) are dedicated to Jenner’s discovery of smallpox vaccination. They not only pay tribute to Jenner’s workbut also served as rewards for parents who had their children vaccinated. They were intended to indicate the importance of the vaccination programs (figs. 1–3):

Fig. 1: Prussia. Silver medal of Edward Jenner, by Friedrich Wilhelm Loos, Berlin mint (ANS 1919.60.150).

Fig. 2: Prussia. Bronze medal of Edward Jenner, by Friedrich Wilhelm Loos, Berlin mint (ANS 1940.100.662).

Fig. 3: Prussia. Silver medal of Edward Jenner, by Friedrich Wilhelm Loos, Berlin mint, 1811 (ANS 1940.100.661).

Some of the medals, like a silver medal from the time of Napoleon, depicting a cow and some medical instruments, were presented to doctors in recognition of the vaccinations they had given. This medal, designed by the French artist and engraver Alexis Joseph Depaulis (1790–1867) , reflected the importance of the doctors who were attached to vaccination programs (fig. 4).

Fig. 4: France. Award medal of the Parisian municipal vaccination program, by Alexis Joseph Depaulis, Paris, 1814 (ANS 1925.57.28).

For the centennial of Jenner’s vaccination experiment on May 14, 1796, the Medical Society of the County of Kings (Brooklyn) issued a commemorative medal in 1896 (fig. 5).

Fig. 5: United States. Bronze medal of the Medical Society of the County of Kings, in honor of the centennial of Edward Jenner’s vaccination experiment, 1896 (ANS 1940.100.661 [wrong accession number]).

In the mid-nineteenth century, research brought many new insights about infectious diseases. The prominent French biologist, Louis Pasteur (1822–1895), introduced innovative experiments and techniques, which became fundamental to modern microbiology. He researched the microorganisms that cause dangerous diseases and discovered how to make vaccines from weakened microbes. Based on those studies, Pasteur developed the earliest vaccines against major veterinary diseases such as chicken cholera, anthrax, and rabies (Figs. 6–7).

Fig. 6: France. Silver plaque for the 70th birthday of Louis Pasteur, by Louis-Oscar Roty, 1892 (ANS 1959.148.93).

Fig. 7: United States. Bronze commemorative medal dedicated to Louis Pasteur, by Abram Belskie, 1972 (ANS 1980.165.29).

Another dangerous human disease, tuberculosis, also demanded attention. In the nineteenth century it became increasingly serious, causing up to one quarter of deaths among Europe’s adult population. In 1882, the German microbiologist Robert Koch (1843–1910) isolated the bacterium that causes tuberculosis and created a substance useful for diagnosing the infection. Koch investigated the effect of an injection derived from dead bacilli had as a treatment for tuberculosis. This treatment failed, but it later turned out to be a useful diagnostic tool for identifying tuberculosis infection. Koch’s research also opened the way for Albert Calmette and Camille Guérin to develop a successful tuberculosis vaccine in 1906. For his fundamental work, Robert Koch won the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1905 (fig. 8).

Fig. 8: United States. Bronze commemorative medal of Robert Koch (1843–1910), by Abram Belskie, 1972 (ANS 1980.165.18).

In 1883 Koch also isolated Vibrio cholerae, the cause of cholera. A series of cholera pandemics killed many millions of people in the nineteenth century, and scientific research on an anticholera vaccine become a vital necessary. The battle against cholera was won by a talented young microbiologist, Waldemar Haffkine (fig. 9).

Fig. 9: Waldemar Mordechai Wolff (Zeev) Haffkine (1860–1930). Photo from the Royal Medical Society.

Born in in the Russian Empire (in what is today Ukraine) in 1860, Haffkine was admitted in 1879 to Odessa (Novorossiya) University, where he studied and worked under the supervision of the world-famous biologist Ilya Mechnikov (1845–1916). Later,in 1908, Mechnikov was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine (along with the German physician and scientist, Paul Ehrlich) in recognition of hispioneering research on immunology (fig. 10).

Fig. 10: Ukraine. Nickel-silver 2 hryvnias commemorating Ilya Mechnikov, 2005.

In 1888, Waldemar Haffkine emigrated to Geneva, and a year later he joined Mechnikov at the Pasteur Institute, the most innovative research center for infectious diseases at that time. From the beginning of his research career, Haffkine concentrated on development of a cholera vaccine. On July 18, 1892, he performed the first test on himself. In 1893 he moved to India, where his vaccine became widely used and undoubtedly saved thousands of lives. In October 1896, another terrible epidemic struck Mumbai, this time of bubonic plague. Haffkine accepted the challenge and, after three months of intense work, successfully developed a plague vaccine. On January 10, 1897, he vaccinated himself to test the safety of his vaccine. For his outstanding achievements, Haffkine was appointed Companion of the Indian Empire by Queen Victoria in 1897. Two years later he was granted British citizenship.

Unfortunately, epidemics cannot be avoided and new diseases attack the world from time to time. However, the memory of the pioneers of science who have helped shape human lives for the better inspires our belief in the successful discovery of new treatments and vaccines.

“The Right of Trial by Jury Shall be Preserved” . . . Thanks to Numismatics

While few people truly hope to find themselves before a court of law, most should be happy that a jury is present when on trial (fig. 1). In the midst of such tense scenarios, few individuals stop to think (let alone care) about the historical processes that led to that development. However, even fewer recognize that a specific numismatic incident helped secure this right to American citizens.

Figure 1: A trial by jury

In May of 1786, the General Assembly of Rhode Island authorized the printing of £100,000 in legal tender bills of credit (fig. 2). On its own, this was no strange occurrence. By this time, all the other newly-formed states of the Union had also issued paper currency, which was their legal right under the Articles of Confederation. Not unlike the paper currency of several other states, these notes were made a legal tender that “shall be received in all Payments” in the state. However, in August, the General Assembly further amended the legal tender status of the bills to be enforced by courts summarily without a jury trial or appeal.

Figure 2: A £3 note of Rhode Island, May 1786. Courtesy Heritage Auctions.

By this time, 170,000 notes in 12 different denominations were released into circulation (6d, 9d, 1s, 2s6d, 3s, 5s, 6s, 10s, 20s, 30s, 40s, and 3 pounds). Unlike present-day money, colonial and pre-federal currency was issued in payment for specific objectives, such as the compensation of troops for a particular war or the construction of a specific building or utility. The May 1786 Rhode Island notes were issued to amortize a group of 4% 7-year loans on realty and known as the Tenth Bank.

Quickly, the legal tender status of the notes and, particularly, the juryless trial that ensued if a note was refused became a hot topic in the state. By September of that year, the case of Trevett v. Weeden had worked its way up the Rhode Island Supreme Court and heard by Justice David Howell. Everyone saw the inconsistency in the law, especially since the Constitution of Rhode Island had already guaranteed a trial by jury. The senior counsel for the defense, General James M. Varnum (fig. 3), successfully made the case that the colonial constitution of Rhode Island, despite being nullified by the American Revolution and held no legal footing, “continued in vigor as a part of the unwritten constitution of the new State.” The Court agreed and, in turn, gave them the power to decide on the constitutionality of any piece of legislation presented to them.  On September 26, the May 1786 Currency Act has the distinction of being the first law in the United States to be declared unconstitutional and voided.

Figure 3: James M. Varnum, senior counsel for the defense of Trevett v. Weeden (1786).

By December of 1786, the illegal features of the original act were amended, though the notes still remained a tender. In September 1789, their legal tender status was officially repealed, as the bills had depreciated down to only 10% of their stated values. Between 1793 and 1803, more than 96% of the original notes were burned by the State. Today, the legal right of trial by jury is protected by the Seventh Amendment to the Constitution, which was adopted as one of the Bills of Rights on March 1, 1792. For this, we have the Rhode Island currency of May 1786 to thank.

The National Endowment for the Humanities funds the ANS-Oxford University OXUS-INDUS Project

by Peter van Alfen, Ethan Gruber, Andrew Meadows, Simon Glenn, Gunnar Dumke

Silver Drachm of Apollodotus I of Bactria, Uncertain, 174–65 BC. ANS 1944.100.74510.

The American Numismatic Society (ANS) is pleased to announce that the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded the Society a $150,000 grant for the two-year joint ANS-Oxford University OXUS-INDUS project. The award comes through the New Directions in Digital Scholarship in Cultural Institutions program that partners the NEH with the United Kingdom’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) intended to fund trans-Atlantic co-operative projects. At the ANS, Dr. Peter van Alfen and Ethan Gruber will be working with their partners Prof. Andrew Meadows and Dr. Simon Glenn at Oxford University, who are funded by the AHRC, along with Dr. Gunnar Dumke at Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg in Germany, to create a new online typology and research tool for ancient Graeco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek coinage.

Ancient coins provide a wealth of information about the societies that produced them. The economic function of coinage requires no more than a simple indication of authority and denomination, yet since antiquity producers have sought to adorn their coins with complex imagery and inscriptions. The images chosen to appear on coins can tell us much about cultural identity and self-representation, the languages and scripts selected for their inscriptions can indicate an intended audience, the places they are found reveal patterns of circulation and movements of peoples. Their varying weights, and estimates of the numbers of coins produced, may inform us of the economic situation, while understanding the control marks that appear on them can tell us about their system of production. Crucially, the coins struck under particular rulers may be the only surviving evidence of their existence. This is the case for many of the rulers of the Graeco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek kingdoms, which existed between c. 250 BCE and the beginning of the first century CE and covered areas of modern Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, and India. Formed in the wake of Alexander the Great’s incursion into the region, these kingdoms remain some of the least understood and most understudied political and social entities of the ancient world. Indeed, only eight of these kings are known from literary, epigraphic, and archaeological sources, while over 40 can be identified on coins alone, an astonishing disparity in source material that underscores the importance of the numismatic evidence for our understanding of these early rulers and their interactions with those they ruled.

Silver Tetradrachm of Eucratides I of Bactria, Bactria, 170–145 BC. ANS 1997.9.68.

Tens of thousands of these coins exist today, dispersed in collections, both public and private, across the globe, not just in Europe, the UK and US, but, rather importantly, in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India as well. With standard reference works out of print and only existing in French and English, it is difficult for scholars and those working in cultural institutions holding these coins to engage with the material at a number of different levels, including not just basic cataloguing but advanced research too. Lacking, in many cases, basic and accurate typological information describing where, when, and who produced the coins, the potential of these collections to serve as historical resources remains currently locked. The OXUS-INDUS project aims to resolve current catalogue and collection accessibility problems by providing a multilingual, freely accessible, and technologically sophisticated Linked Open Data web-based portal that will offer a new, up-to-date typology of the coins, taking into account the many new variations and newly-proposed rulers since the last standard reference work was published 30 years ago by Osmond Bopearachchi. This new tool will also allow access to the images and data of thousands of coins, initially incorporating the major collections of the ANS, Ashmolean Museum, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, Leeds University Library, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, and, more critically, the State Bank of Pakistan. Many of these collections were assembled and had reached their current composition by the mid-20th century, meaning that new varieties, which have appeared in recent years are not present. Some of these collections already have an online presence and linkable data on individual coins; some, however, do not, notably those collections located outside of Europe and the US. For this reason, as part of the project, the open source Numishare project platform will be adapted to allow the inclusion of coins from a variety of sources regardless of their current digitized state. The digital format and Numishare architecture for the OXUS-INDUS project has already been successfully deployed in existing and widely used numismatic resources including the NEH-funded Online Coins of the Roman Empire and Hellenistic Royal Coinages at the ANS and the AHRC-funded OPAL and ARCH projects in Oxford. It will also be deployed in the new, ERC-funded CHANGE project.

Besides offering a much-needed tool for understanding Graeco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek coinage at a basic level, we anticipate the OXUS-INDUS resource will also be used to advance new research agendas. In recent years, for example, scholarship on the archaeology and history of the Graeco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek kingdoms has moved away from a polarized view of ‘Greek’ and ‘non-Greek’ influences to one of cultural hybridity. Numismatic scholarship has generally remained focused on political history, with attempts to link the coins to the very few historical events known from literary sources. The subject is thus long overdue for a decolonizing approach, moving away from the systems created in the 19th century by historians from a European colonial background and returning to the evidence of the coins themselves. The new overview created by the OXUS-INDUS project will allow a reappraisal of the numismatic evidence for the kingdoms in the light of these new approaches and provide a framework for studying and analyzing the coins, which does not rely on knowledge of detailed and technical numismatic arguments. The Linked Open Data approach taken will also be fully extensible in the future to include other coinages from the region, and from different periods.

Official Launch of the ANS eBay Store

The banner for the American Numismatic Society’s eBay store.

As every collection grows, there comes a time when decisions must be made about what to keep, and what to retire. This is true for both private collections, as well as cultural institutions such as the American Numismatic Society. In a perfect world, vault space would be unlimited, and the ability to store, maintain, and make available an endless supply of numismatic material would be not only feasible, but practical. Alas, vaults are built to fixed specifications, and with it come similar constraints on any institution’s ability to care for, research, and exhibit their collection. And as guardians of cultural artifacts, we must do what is right by the collection, and the members and donors who contribute to the American Numismatic Society.

As such, the ANS has decided to accept the important challenge of determining what items in the collection should be permanently re-homed. In reality, this is a win-win situation. Not only will the ANS be able to create more space for future objects, but the revenue generated will help support our mission of promoting and advancing the study, research, and appreciation of numismatics. Additionally, members and collectors alike will now have the opportunity to acquire an incredibly diverse range of material pedigreed to the Society at prices dictated by the open market. Pedigree and provenance are hugely important in numismatics, and we feel that giving others the opportunity to incorporate a small piece (or many pieces) of the ANS into their own collections is a benefit to both collectors and the Society.

The first coin listed by the ANS on eBay, a 1900 $1 Morgan coin.

So, what are the steps necessary to carry out this endeavor in an appropriate manner? First and foremost, members of the Curatorial team are carefully considering what items can and should be removed from the collection based on their purview and area of expertise. It should be stressed that only duplicates are being considered. Even then, duplicates also have their place in the ANS collection, as die varieties and die states can provide a wealth of numismatic knowledge about a particular coin series. Once we have identified a duplicate and determined that it is not a unique variety or die state that should remain in the collection, we can then decide which coin is the best-preserved example and therefore should be the specimen we keep.

A duplicate 1787 Fugio Copper from the ANS eBay store.

Next comes the manner in which the duplicate material should be sold. It is our belief that the fairest and most appropriate method to advertise and sell our collection of duplicates is via open auctions with the widest possible reach. As such, eBay auctions will be our main vehicle for the majority of the material that will be leaving the ANS’ collections, at least initially. Not only does eBay have the widest reach of any online auction platform, but eBay’s unique format also allows the Society to add small batches of material on a weekly basis, as opposed to orchestrating larger timed auctions where many hundreds of items go live and sell on the same day. This helps ensure a steady supply of items for collectors to bid on, and makes the day-to-day logistics of running auctions (photographing, listing, and shipping) a more streamlined and manageable operation. Additionally, eBay allows the ANS to list our material with low starting bids and no reserves to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to bid on and win objects from our collection, and that market demand and market demand alone dictates the final price of any sold piece. As a non-profit, this is of paramount importance and ensures that we are approaching this new project with integrity, honesty, and fairness.

An attractive 1878 2 Centavo essai coin from Argentina from the ANS collection.

On many collector’s minds is what range of material will the ANS be considering? While we are initially focused on coins, paper money, tokens, and medals from the Americas—including the United States, Canada, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America—eventually the project will be broadened to other world coins and paper money, world medals and tokens, and ancient coins. Numismatic literature is also on the horizon, as the ANS library also includes many duplicates.

We hope to share updates from this project as time goes on, and hope to learn from members and collectors as to how we are doing. Deaccessiong is never an easy process, and for the ANS (as it is for any institution) it will be a continuous work-in-progress where we learn, grow, and improve with each sale. Ultimately, our efforts are grounded in doing what is right for the ANS, our members and donors, and our collection, but we hope that anyone who wishes to add an item from the ANS will be able to do so in the months and years to come.

See the ANS’s current eBay listings.

The Collier Prize in Ancient Numismatics

Self-Portrait after Hans Memling (2006)

The American Numismatic Society, with the support of Carole Anne Menzi Collier, is pleased to announce The Collier Prize in Ancient Numismatics, a new award that will be offered for the first time in 2021. This substantial monetary prize will be awarded biennially to the best single or multi-authored book, catalogue, or online digital work in the field of ancient numismatics (650 BCE–300 CE). The winner(s) will receive prize money of $20,000, to be split equally in the event of a multi-authored work. For the initial prize eligible publications will be limited to those works published in 2019 or 2020. A jury of five senior numismatists will be appointed biennially by the President of the American Numismatic Society, which will include a senior ANS curator. For the initial Prize the jury is expected to announce its selection in late 2021. The winner(s) will be invited to an award ceremony to be held—we hope—in person at the ANS’s headquarters in New York City. To apply for the Collier Prize, please fill out the application form, which can be found on this webpage and forwarded it to the Prize secretary, Dr. Peter van Alfen. The deadline for applications is January 15, 2021.

The artist in his studio in 2012. Image: Magpeye Photography.

Prof. James M. Collier

The Prize is named after the late Professor James M. Collier and commemorates the life of a remarkable man, an ardent lover of the history and culture of Europe and the Ancient world, and a passionate collector of ancient Greek and Roman coins. Prof. Collier was born on Halloween in 1943 in Bellingham, Washington, in the Pacific Northwest, where he pursued his early academic training, graduating from Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) (Tacoma, Washington) with a Bachelor of Arts in History in 1965. After graduating from PLU he worked for the Boeing Corporation as an engineer. He was seconded to Washington D.C. on the Minuteman project, where his office was located across from The National Gallery. For two years he spent every lunch hour at the Gallery and came to realize his real love for art and art history. Returning to Pacific Northwest he attended the University of Oregon and graduated with a Master of Arts in Art History in 1970. Thereafter, he moved to the Midwest to pursue a PhD in Art History at the University of Michigan, which he completed in 1975. He was appointed an Assistant Professor in the Art History Department at Auburn University (Auburn, Alabama), where he eventually was tenured and became department chair. Over the course of his academic career, he lectured widely and published on the Italian Renaissance and Early Netherlandish perspective, which had been the subject of his doctoral dissertation, entitled Linear Perspective in Flemish Painting and the Art of Petrus Christus and Dirk Bouts.

Giacomo (1999) and Carolina (1999)

While a PhD student he assisted Professor Marvin Eisenberg with the University of Michigan’s Sarah Lawrence Summer Program in Italy. It was in Florence that summer that he met his wife Carole Anne in the Sacristy of Sta Croce. Traveling the world was to remain an important part of his life. He visited over 84 countries. In 2012 he sailed with a crew of three on a 50-foot sailboat from Capetown, South Africa to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, covering over 4,000 nautical miles across the South Atlantic. A motor racing enthusiast, his travels also included frequent trips to the Indy 500 and following the Formula One circuit.

Galleon (1995)

It was also during his time as a graduate student in Italy that his interest in ancient coins was fully reignited, as well as his love for Rome and the Classical World. His interest in coins had started when he was seven years old when his father returned from a business trip to New York City with six ancient coins that awaited him under the Christmas tree. He collected for the next 65 years; the last coin, an aureus of Nero, was logged into the collection a week before his death in 2015. Collecting ancient coins became the foundation of his broad fascination with art, history, and culture. His collection of almost 1,000 Greek and Roman coins gave him immense pleasure, continually inspiring him by their beauty and depictions of famous monuments and portraits of Hellenistic and Roman rulers. While the Collier Prize at the ANS commemorates his love of ancient coins, his love for Rome and the Classical World has also been commemorated by the Collier Scholarships at the American Academy in Rome, which allow students from Oregon, Michigan, and Alabama to attend the Classical Summer School thereby extending his passion for the Ancient World to future generations. He was a greatly admired and beloved teacher who brought dozens of students to Rome to share with them the wonders of the ancient world.

Reconstruction of Brunelleschi’s Baptistry Experiment (1980). Image: Museo Opera Del Duomo Florence.

Essentially a self-taught painter, Prof. Collier took up painting full time in 1987, when he joined Carole Anne in New York City to improve his skills at the National Academy of Design, where he attended the Program in Painting from 1988 to 1989. Already by that point he had published and exhibited his work in a number of venues. His interest in perspective and its application in the visual arts has deep roots. Even as a child in kindergarten his teacher noted that he had “an unusual awareness of perspective compared to his peers.” In 1980, for example, he began to combine his academic interest in perspective with painting by reconstructing the first painting in single point perspective: Filippo Brunelleschi’s lost painting of the Florentine Baptistry. The painting was exhibited in the Biennale in Venice in 1986 in the Italian pavilion and now is in the permanent collection of the Museo del Opera del Duomo in Florence where the original experiment was conducted in 1425. His series of paintings “Eccentric Views of Italian Architecture” reflect that lifelong interest in perspective.

Florence Cathedral (2008)

In 1990, Prof. Collier and Carole Anne moved to the Netherlands, where he had been an American Field Service exchange student, eventually taking up residence and establishing a studio in a seventeenth-century canal house on Amsterdam’s famous Keizergracht. Although Prof. Collier continued on occasion to lecture on art history and to work as an academic, including a stint in 1993 as a Smithsonian Institution Art Historian in Florence, he was until the end of life a self-sufficient artist. His work was shown in solo and group exhibits in various parts of the U.S., the Netherlands, and Italy, and is represented in private collections in the U.S., as well as in the Netherlands, Italy, England, Norway, and Thailand.

Twelve Houses (2008)

His paintings, a selection of which are illustrated here, cover a range of topics, including portraits, dogs, views of Amsterdam, Italian architecture, ships, and fantasies (more of his paintings can be seen on a website devoted to his work). Prof. Collier was inspired by the world of visual reality. He strove to reflect a selective view of things based upon careful empirical observation, which was never the result of artificial non-observational means such as photographic projection. As Prof. Eisenberg noted on Collier’s solo exhibition of Italian architectural paintings at the Italian Cultural Institute in Amsterdam in 1992, “James Collier’s eye is both lens and filter. He grasps both the large and the small, the essential shape and the minute inflection of light, color, and texture. His power to see is what the American poetess Marianne Moore calls ‘piercing glances into the life of things.’” His work displays not just his acute attention to detail and the play of light and shadow, but also the joy he took in the medium of painting and its long history, most apparent in the portraits he did of himself and Carole Anne.  

When Being a Friend of Rome (philorhomaios) Makes you a King (or a Queen)

In the winter of 88 BCE, the proconsul C. Cassius found himself in a little bit of a bind. Earlier that year, Mithridates VI, the king of Pontus, had invaded the Roman province of Asia (modern Turkey) and killed more than 80,000 Italians residing there (Figs. 1–3).

Figure 1. Roman Asia Minor.
Figure 2. Bust of Mithridates VI Eupator Dionysius, king of Pontus and Armenia Minor in northern Anatolia (c. 120–63 BCE). First century CE. Louvre, Paris.
Figure 3. Silver tetradrachm of Pontus, 120–63 BCE. ANS 1972.184.14.

The Pontic king had then swiftly invaded the rest of the Province of Asia, while important cities like the Phrygian Laodicea willingly handed over Roman generals to Mithridates (Fig. 4, Appian, Mithridatic Wars 4.20).

Figure 4. A colonnaded street in the Phrygian city of Laodicea ad Lycum.

C. Cassius and his troops, barricaded in the neighboring city of Apamea, were about to face a difficult winter, since the enemy armies had cut off their supply lines. Then—right when it was needed most—an exceedingly rich man from the Lydian town of Nysa, Chaeremon son of Pythodorus, asked for a private audience from Cassius. Their meeting had game-changing effects for Cassius and his men, as the proconsul himself later wrote in a letter to the magistrates of Nysa. Chaeremon offered to send 60,000 modii of wheat flour to the Roman camp for free. In order to understand the enormity of Chaeremon’s gift, it is important to note that 60,000 modii of wheat corresponded to 633,800 pounds of wheat, which was enough to feed 5,300 men for two months. Thanks to Chaeremon, C. Cassius’ army had enough to survive through the winter. However, this was not enough to stem Mithridates’ triumphal advance into the province early in the following year.

The Pontic king did not take Chaeremon’s initiative lightly, as made evident by the letter he wrote to one of his lieutenants, the satrap Leonippus, where he offered 40 talents of silver to “anyone who apprehends Chaeremon or Pythodorus or Pythion living” or 20 talents to anyone bringing in the head of any of these.” A talent was the equivalent of ca. 100 pounds of silver, which implies that Mithridates was willing to pay a bounty in the enormous amount of 4,000 pounds of silver for Chaeremon’s family.

The wealthy Nysan was thus compelled to flee in order to save his and his sons’ lives. His sons, Pythodorus and Pythion, were sent to Rhodes along with Cassius, and Chaeremon himself took refuge in the temple of Artemis at Ephesus. However, Chaeremon seems to have survived the ordeal. An eponymous magistrate by the name of “Chae()” appears on a Nysan cistophoric didrachm at an uncertain date between 90/89 and 68/67 BCE (Fig. 5). Though incomplete, this name suggests not only Chaeremon’s return to his city, but also the fact that he had retained his social rank and possibly his wealth, as he was serving as a moneyer for the city.

Figure 5. Lydia, Nysa. Silver Drachm, 90–67 BCE. Obv. Bunch of grapes on field of oak leaves. XAI. Rev. Club and lion skin surrounded by wreath. Paris, SNG Delepierre 2796. 17 mm. 2.42 g.

Much more certain is the presence in Nysa of the younger son of Chaeremon, Pythion. As suggested by P. Thonemann (esp. pp. 206–08) and W. Metcalf, he should be identified with the ΠΥΘΙΩΝ /ΧΑΙΡΕ, who signed a Nysan cistophorus dated to the sixteenth year of the Nysan Era, i.e., around 74/73 BCE (Fig. 6).

Figure 6. Silver cistophorus, Nysa, 68–67 BCE. ANS 2015.20.1344.

Chaeremon’s older son, Pythodorus, relocated in Tralles, where he retained his father’s fortune, which was valued by Strabo (14.1.42) at 2,000 talents. The Roman orator’s Cicero (In Favor of Flaccus 52) unsurprisingly considers Pythodorus one of the richest men in Tralles.

He married Antonia, only known from an inscription from Smyrna, where she is defined as a benefactress of the city. Some scholars have suggested she was the daughter of the triumvir Mark Antony and his second wife Antonia Hybrida Minor, but without any substantial proof. Antonia’s Roman nomen, and the citizenship possessed and exploited by her descendants, must have derived from a citizenship grant by Antonius, who bestowed Roman citizenship to several of his supporters in Asia after the end of the Parthian War. The loyalty of this family to the Romans was thus key to its success, as it will become even clearer for the following generations (Fig. 7).

Figure 7. The descendants of Chaeremon of Nysa and Zeno of Laodicea. Thonemann 2011, p. 207.

One of Pythodorus’ sons, Chaeremon, owner of an estate named Siderous in the vicinity of Tralles, was instrumental in getting much-needed help for Tralles after the devastating earthquake of 26 BCE. Through a personal embassy to Augustus, he secured funds for the reconstruction of the city that from that moment on added “Caesarea” to the city’s name in order to commemorate the generosity of the Emperor (Fig. 8).

Figure 8. Bronze Coin of Augustus, Tralles, 27 BCE–CE 14. ANS 2008.24.6.

Another of Pythodorus’ offspring, his daughter Pythodoris, married the Laodicean Polemon, son of Zeno. Polemo and his father, the orator Zeno, had risen to Roman favor in the summer of 40 BCE, when they defended Laodicea, their city, from the Parthian army, led by the renegade Roman general Labienus (Fig. 9, Strabo 14.2.24).

Figure 9. Uncertain mint in Syria or southeastern Asia Minor. Quintus Labienus, early 40 BCE. Silver Denarius. Obv. Q • LABIENVS PARTHICVS • IMP. Bare head of Q. Labienus r. Rev. Parthian horse standing right on ground line, wearing saddle with quiver attached and bridle. RRC 524/2; Hersh 15 (dies F/13). BNF REP-5739. 18 mm. 3.77 g.

Whether their attempt was successful or not, Mark Antony, on the eve of the reconquest of the province at the hands of the Romans in 39 BCE, established Polemo as tetrarch in Lycaonia and Rough Cilicia. In 37 or 36 BCE Polemo became king of Pontus (Appian, Civil Wars 5.75), a position he retained until his death in 8 BCE (Fig. 10).

Figure 10. Silver drachm of Polemon I of Pontus, Pontus, 36–8 BCE. ANS 1944.100.41481.

The marriage of Pythodoris and Polemo was intended to unite two of the leading pro-Roman families of the province of Asia: the descendants of Chaeremon of Nysa and the Zenonids of Laodicea. The joint destinies of these two families of philorhomaioi, “friends of Rome,” led to the birth of a number of client kings who would rule the Roman East under the Julio-Claudian emperors. The political success of their union is demonstrated by the fact that two of their three children would come to rule kingdoms in their own right. Pythodoris herself, after Polemo’s death, married king Archelaus of Cappadocia (Fig. 11).

Figure 11. Silver drachm of Archelaus of Cappadocia, Cappadocia, 36–17 BCE. ANS 1944.100.62416.

After Archelaus’ death in CE 17 she returned to Pontus, where she ruled until her death in CE 38. Her coinage adopted the Augustean Capricorn on the reverse, giving visual evidence to the clientele relationship between Roman Empire and Pontus (Fig. 12).

Figure 12. Silver drachm of Pythodoris of Pontus, Pontus, 8 BCE–CE 23. ANS 1944.100.41482.

Pythodoris’ eldest son, Zeno, later known as Artaxias III (CE 18–34), was made king of Armenia by Germanicus (Tacitus, Annals 2.56). His coronation is represented on silver coins from Caesarea in Cappadocia bearing the portrait of Germanicus on the obverse, and on the reverse Germanicus crowning Artaxias. These coins might have been issued at the same time of  coronation of Zeno Artaxias or as late as the reign of the Emperor Claudius (CE 41–54) (Fig. 13).

Figure 13. Cappadocia, Caesarea. Silver didrachm, CE 43–48. Obv. GERMANICVS · CAESAR – TI · AVG · F · COS · II. Head of Germanicus r.  Rev.  GERMANICVS / ARTAXIAS. Germanicus standing l. and holding scepter crowns the Armenian king Artaxias. RPC 3629. Künker 153, 14 March 2009, 8623. 21 mm. 7.47 g.

Independently of their precise date of production, it is evident that the central theme is the clientele relationship between Zeno Artaxias and Roman power, further highlighted by local monetary production, where the emperors Tiberius and Livia (Julia) are invoked as “Imperial Gods” (Fig. 14).

Figure 14. Armenia, Artaxata, RY 4 (21/22 CE). King Artaxias III (CE 18–34). AE tetrachalkon. Obv. ΘΕΟΙC CΕΒΑCΤΟΙC ΚΑΙCΑΡΙ ΚΑΙ ΙΟΥΛIΑ. Armenian tiara with five peaks l., star on r., Δ below. Rev. BAC APTAΞIOY TOY ЄB B ΠΟΛЄ KAI ΠYΘOΔωΡΙ. Horse prancing l. beaded border. Leu Numismatik 14, 12 December 2020, 533. 22 mm. 12.95 g.

Polemo and Pythodoris’ daughter, Antonia Tryphaena, married Kotys VIII of Thrace, and bore him three sons who also became kings in turn: C. Iulius Polemo II of Pontus, Rhoemetalces II of Thrace, and Kotys IX of Lesser Armenia. Although she was never queen of Pontus, she is styled as queen on some of the issues struck by her son Polemo II (Fig. 15).

Figure 15. Pontus, Amisus? Polemo II, with AntoniaTryphaena (ca. CE 38–64). Silver drachm, dated RY 14 (AD 51/2). Obv. [BACIΛEΩC] ΠOΛEMΩ-NOC, diademed head right. Rev. Diademed and draped bust of Tryphaina right; ETOYC IΔ (date) around. RPC I 3825. CNG Triton XVII, 7 January 2014, 245. 17 mm. 3.47 g.

Once again, the dependence of these client kings’ power from Rome is made evident by the fact that the imperial portrait takes the obverse, while the jugate portraits of the king and queen (Rhoemetalces II and Pythodoris II) are placed on the reverse (Fig. 16).

Figure 16. Bronze dupondius of Rhoemetalces I, Thrace, 11 BCE–CE 12. ANS 2015.20.2647.

The third child of Polemo I and Pythodoris, M. Antonius Polemo, never became king and stayed in Laodicea, where he was presumably responsible for the production of a bronze issue in the name of Antonius Polemo philopatris around 5 BCE (Fig. 17). 

Figure 17. Phrygia, Laodicea ad Lycum. M. Antonius Polemon Philopatris, ca. 5 BCE. Obv. ΓAIOΣ KAIΣAP. Bare head of Caius to right. Rev. ΛΑΟΔΙΚΕΩΝ. Eagle standing front, wings spread and head to left, between monograms of ΠΟΛΕ and ΦΙΛΟΠΑΤ. RPC I 2900. Leu Numismatik 7, 24 October 2020, 1463. 16 mm. 2.55 g.

The historian Strabo (12.3.29) tells us that “as a private citizen, [he] was assisting his mother [Pythodoris] in the administration of her realm.” However, royal power passed on to one of his sons, M. Antonius Polemo, who became dynast of Cilicia at time of the emperor Gaius (Caligula) (Fig. 18).

Figure 18. Cilicia, Olba. M. Antonius Polemo, high priest. Bronze, dated year 10 (AD 27/28).Obv. Bare head of Marcus Antonius Polemo right. Rev. Winged thunderbolt; Є I (date) below. Staffieri, Olba 30. RPC I 3736. CNG E-Auction 460, 29 January 2020, 411. 23.5 mm. 13.30 g.

The success of these two families, who ascended from the rank of local notables to client kings (and queens) under the Julio-Claudians, shows how advantageous the friendship to Rome was for provincial elites. Their support to Roman provincial power during the momentous years of the Mithridatic Wars first and of the Parthian campaign later made them the ideal candidates to the new dynasties put by the Romans on the thrones of strategically important kingdoms in the outskirts of the Empire. At the same time, it reveals the inclusivity of the provincial organization of the Roman East in the first century of the Roman Empire, when well-off provincial families could aspire and obtain dynastic power simply on the basis of their good services to Rome.

Coins of the Reapers’ War

It is often said that the marriage of Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon in 1469 created Spain as a unified country. This is, like most historical generalizations, an oversimplification. It is even a historical accident that the crowns of Castile and Aragon remained together, simply because Ferdinand had no surviving son by his second wife. For more than two centuries after Isabella and Ferdinand, the Spanish kingdoms—Castile, Navarre, the several realms held by the kings of Aragon, and also Portugal after 1580—continued to have separate parliaments, administrations, legal systems, and monetary systems.

The separate institutions caused friction in times of stress, when the crown could more easily extract taxes and soldiers from Castile than from regions with stronger local governments and more legal restrictions on royal power. The pressure of simultaneous wars against France, Sweden, and the Netherlands in the 1630s induced King Philip IV’s (Castilian) chief minister, the Count-Duke of Olivares, to try to impose new obligations on the other regions. This provoked open revolt in Catalonia, the region with the strongest tradition of local self-government and limitations on royal authority, and in Portugal, which had a long history of separate independence.

The uprising in Catalonia resulted in a long war, sometimes called the Reapers’ War (Guerra dels Segadors). Like a number of other wars of the seventeenth century, this conflict presaged the developing supersession of medieval-style political localism by large nation-states.

The original theoretical basis of the revolt lay in the traditional rights claimed by the Catalan counties and cities relative to their overlords. Their goal was to protect their rights and privileges against the centralizing wishes of the royal government in Madrid. However, when political dissent turned into warfare, it became necessary to subordinate some of this autonomy for the sake of military effectiveness. The difficulty of balancing these goals can be seen in the Catalan coins of the war.

In theory, all of Catalonia used the same monetary system—the lliura, sou, and diner of Barcelona—and most of the circulating coins for this system were issued by Barcelona. However, many other localities had the right to strike their own minor coins on the standards of Barcelona, and in Perpignan the local coinage diverged somewhat from that of Barcelona.

When they suddenly faced the large costs of recruiting, supplying, and paying an army to fight the king, many localities started to issue their own coins. At first, retaining some hope that resistance would force the king’s government to settle the dispute by confirming their rights, these coins named Philip IV as sovereign.

Billon sisè of Barcelona issued by authority of the Generalitat de Catalunya but in the name of Philip IV, 1641 (ANS 2015.30.144, gift of Kenneth L. Edlow).

However, there was never much chance that Olivares would compromise, and a much larger number of coins were issued in 1641 and 1642 in the name of the Principality of Catalonia, effectively declaring itself to be an independent state.

Billon sisè of Terrassa in the name of the Principality of Catalonia, 1642 (ANS 2015.30.313, gift of Kenneth L. Edlow).

Although regional coalitions of towns and nobles often challenged kings in the Middle Ages, by the seventeenth century this was becoming more difficult. The Catalans on their own could not defeat Castile if the royal forces were concentrated against them. Therefore, one of the first priorities of their regime was to obtain assistance from France, a similarly powerful neighbor already at war with Philip IV.

The price for French assistance was recognition of the French king as Count of Barcelona (and thus ruler of Catalonia), along with installation of a French viceroy to lead the war effort in Barcelona. Before long, punches with images of the French king were sent from Paris to be used on the Catalan coins.

Billon sisè of Girona in the name of Louis XIII of France as Count of Barcelona, 1642 (ANS 2015.30.246, gift of Kenneth L. Edlow).

Thus, in the end, the Catalans were faced with a choice between two centralizing monarchies. The autonomous localities of Catalonia were an impediment to French power, and the authorities in Barcelona wished to monopolize profitable aspects of administration such as minting. Most of the local mints in Catalonia were closed soon after 1642, eventually leaving only Barcelona and Perpignan.

Copper diner of Barcelona in the name of Louis XIV of France as Count of Barcelona, 1648 (ANS 2015.30.163, gift of Kenneth L. Edlow).

In the end, control of Catalonia seemed more vital to the administration in Madrid than to the one in Paris. Despite being overstretched by multiple crises, the government concentrated as much force as it could on this front. In 1652, Philip IV’s armies captured Barcelona and, with it, most of Catalonia. In the final peace settlement of 1659, Louis XIV retained the portion of Catalonia north of the Pyrenees, and promptly abolished many of its local privileges.

These coins show the rise of modernity not only in the changing practicalities of political scale. Technologically as well, they straddle the division between medieval and modern methods. Although most Spanish mints in the 1640s still struck coins by hand using a hammer, roller presses were used at the royal mint of Segovia (in Castile) and at the mint of Barcelona (in Catalonia). The small roller presses in Catalonia, operated by muscle power, were unable to strike large coins, with the result that the large silver coins (5 rals) of the Catalans were all struck by hand, while their low-denomination billon or copper coins (sisens or diners) were made on the roller presses.

Silver 5 rals of a minor Catalan locality, possibly Manresa, Balaguer, or Cervera, struck by hand (ANS 2015.30.327, gift of Kenneth L. Edlow).
Billon sisè of Besalú, mistakenly cut off-center, showing how it was struck on a strip of alloy using a roller press (ANS 2015.30.215, gift of Kenneth L. Edlow).

Thus, the coins of the Reapers’ War can be seen as standing on the threshold of modernity, in more than one way.

Further reading: for more on the historical background, see J. H. Elliott, The Revolt of the Catalans (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1963); for the coins discussed here, see M. Crusafont, Història de la moneda de la Guerra dels Segadors (Barcelona: Institut d’Estudis Catalans, 2001).

A blog of the American Numismatic Society