Archer Huntington (1870–1955), ANS benefactor and president, is interred at New York City’s Woodlawn Cemetery in the northern Bronx. Woodlawn opened in 1863, a product of the rural cemetery movement, when overcrowding and health concerns led to the creation of numerous sprawling and non-sectarian burial grounds situated outside of urban centers. Where the old churchyards of the city might be cramped and foul smelling, these would be landscaped oases, places for visitors to stroll peacefully among monuments and mausoleums arranged on meandering pathways and ponds. Intended as destinations in themselves, they had much in common with the other landscaped retreats set aside for public use in cities during this period, like New York City’s Central Park, parts of which opened in the 1850s.
Railroad magnate Collis Huntington (1821–1900), who married Archer’s mother Arabella (1850–1924) in 1884, chose a site on the other side of the cemetery for his family tomb, which, “in size and cost will be one of the most notable structures of its kind in the world,” predicted King’s Handbook of New York City (1893), estimating its price to exceed $300,000. Collis was laid to rest there in 1900. Arabella, who passed her passion for art collecting on to her only son, lived over two decades more, dying in 1924.
There is a monument honoring Arabella at the Woodlawn site, placed there in 1951. It was done by Archer’s wife, Anna Hyatt (1876–1973), a successful sculptor long before she met Archer in 1921 (they were married in 1923). Her majestic Joan of Arc (1915) on Manhattan’s Upper West Side is one of her better-known earlier works. Her sculpture at Woodlawn is a cenotaph, a monument erected to honor someone whose remains are placed elsewhere. (Arabella is interred in California at the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens Mausoleum.) It depicts an aged woman bestowing a bounty of symbolic gifts—books, a lamp with flame, a dial indicating time—upon a young man and woman.
Other notable artistic features at the mausoleum include a bronze door by Herbert Adams, added in 1932, and, inside, a bas-relief of Collis Huntington (1911) by Bela Lyon Pratt.
According to Anna, Archer valued his work as a poet as much as anything else, and his words to his mother can be found on the sculpture:
Alas, we know your deeds; Your words make warm
The memory of our loss! So, in the night,
We, dreaming, find the dark in starlight’s spell,
And know that from your eyes that starlight fell!
Along with Collis, Archer, and Anna, Elizabeth Stoddard Huntington (1823–1883), Collis’s first wife, is also interred in the Huntington mausoleum.
The coin pictured in Figure 1 is only one of the 290 Geto-Dacian imitations of Roman Republican denarii included in the Richard B. Witschonke Collection at the American Numismatic Society (ANS 2015.20.2271–2560). No other private collection in the world could vaunt such a high number of Geto-Dacian imitations, with the only possible exception of the one once owned by Phillip Davis, which was partly sold in a Gemini Auction in 2012 (lots 583–767). The specimen presented here is a hybrid, as it reproduces the obverse type of L. Rustius (RRC 389/1, Fig. 2) and the reverse type of P. Satrienus (RRC 388/1, Fig. 3).
This specimen was part of a large hoard of Roman Republicandenarii found in Romania between 2001 and 2002, which consisted of approximately 5,000 Roman Republican denarii, a few Alexander the Great drachms (perhaps local imitations?), and nearly 100 Dacian imitations of Republican denarii (Figs. 4–5). The latest official coin was an issue of Octavian, RRC 540/2, struck in 36 BC.
The Republican imitations—including the one presented here—were removed from the hoard prior to its dispersal and were published by Phillip Davis. These imitations are usually referred to as Geto-Dacian because most hoards of imitations of Republican denarii, and all mixed hoards of imitative and official pieces, have been found in Romania or in neighboring countries also within the Dacian sphere of influence. There are a few exceptions to this rule, such as the imitative coinage struck by the Pannonian tribe of the Eravisci. However, the Eraviscan style is quite distinctive, as made evident by the pictures (Figs. 6–7).
The question of the production and circulation of Republican denarii (and their imitations) in Dacia was the subject of a very heated scholarly discussion in Eastern Europe, especially Romania, in the last quarter of the twentieth century, in connection to the Romanian nationalist claims put forward by the Communist Party after the 1960s.
Very briefly, the consensus among Romanian numismatists was (and is) that most of the Republican denarii found in Romania, (roughly, ancient Dacia,) had in fact been produced there. According to this theory, Dacian mints would have produced not only imitations, but also many specimens that seem to be official Roman products. Most famously, the Romanian scholar Maria Chitescu, author of the groundbreaking Numismatic Aspects of the History of the Dacian State (originally published in Rumenian in 1981) advanced various stylistic and statistical arguments in support of this position, especially based on her study of the Poroschia Hoard (RRCH 436). Building upon the 49 coins that appear to be locally made copies of Roman prototypes, she created a distinction between faithful “copies” (Fig. 8), barely distinguishable from their Republican prototypes, and plus or minus barbarous interpretations of the Roman original, which she defines as “imitations” (Figs. 9–10).
This classification is usefully reproduced by P. Davis in his website and in subsequent publications, but has been quite recently criticized by B. Woytek, because “although clear at the extremes, this distinction becomes somewhat blurred in the middle and hence, it can be difficult to apply.”
In Chitescu’s view, faithful “copies” of Roman Republican denarii could be considered as “official” issues of the proto-Dacian state, whose uncertain historical origins were usually connected to king Burebista, a mysterious historical figure mentioned by Strabo (Geographica 7.3.5, 7.3.11, and 16.2.39), Jordanes (Getica 67) and in one inscription concerning an emissary of this king sent to Dionysopolis (modern Balcic in Bulgaria) in 48 BC, where Burebista is described as the “first and the greatest king of Thrace” (Fig. 11). In more nuanced tones, the existence of a proto-Dacian state in the first century BC connected to the king Burebista is still championed in Rumenian academia (Fig. 12).
While the hypothesis of a proto-Dacian state could seem a convincing explanation for the massive production and circulation of Roman Republican imitations, it did not provide an answer for the massive presence of Roman official denarii in the region, which were circulating together with local “copies” and “imitations.” Because of this integrated circulation, Michael Crawford rejected Chitescu’s hypothesis of local “copies” of Roman official coinage as currency of the proto-Dacian state, arguing instead that the official-appearing denarii were just that, coins struck in Rome and exported to Dacia, perhaps mostly in conjunction with the slave trade. The absence of hoards including Roman denarii—whether official or imitations—convinced Crawford that the import of Roman coinage and its subsequent imitations were related to a specific historical moment. According to him, the territory of Dacia—precisely because it was not yet incorporated in the Roman Empire—represented an alternative source of slave supply for Rome and Italy after 67 BC, when Pompey’s victory over the pirates put an end to the slave-raiding organized by them. Roman official denarii were then used as means of payment for slaves, possibly sold by local aristocrats. The high rate of wear of the Roman denarii prior to the 70s BC in Romanian hoards could thus be explained by the fact that they were imported to the Dacian region en masse between the 60s and the 50s BC.
In 2008 Kris Lockyear subjected a large sampling of Republican coin hoards to sophisticated statistical analyses that led to the conclusion that Roman Republican denarii were systematically imported to Dacia between 75 and 65 BC, possibly with a second peak in the 40s BC. He also found substantial differences in composition between the coins found in Romanian hoards and those from elsewhere in Europe, which seem to hint at a local production of the Romanian copies and imitations. To the same conclusions arrived in 2012 the team lead by Woytek, whose metallurgical analyses show that there is distinct similarity in the bullion used in the Geto-Dacian imitation of denarii. In sum, the results of the metallurgical analyses pursued in autonomous ways and with different methodologies by K. Lockyear and B. Woytek play well with the idea that Geto-Dacian imitations were produced locally, as once suggested by M. Chitescu.
However, M. Chitescu argued for a centralized production of Dacian denarii (i.e., copies of official Roman denarii), which would represent the currency in use in Burebista’s state. If this were the case, we should expect a relevant number of die-links, as for the official Roman production. However, no significant die-links have been identified in Geto-Dacian imitations up to this moment, with the partial exception (which actually proves the rule) of a short die-linked sequence published by P. Davis (Figs. 13–14).
At first sight, the absence of die-linked sequences—even for the more faithful copies—and the heterogeneity in styles suggest a high degree of decentralization in the production that seem irreconcilable with the role of these coins as official currency of Burebista’s state. However, further numismatic discoveries could radically change the picture.
In sum, the present state of studies suggest that Daco-Getan imitations of Roman Republican official coinage were indeed produced in Dacia and were related to the steady influx of official Roman Republican denarii which took place in the course of the first half of the first century BC.
This influx was probably related to slave trade and could have happened under the auspices of the Dacian proto-state, but no final conclusion could be drawn on this. However, the widespread and integrated circulation of official and non-official Roman Republican denarii in a region that was not part of the Roman Empire is yet another sign of far-fetching power of Roman coinage in the first century BC.
Today marks the 155th anniversary in the United States since the slaves of the South were officially emancipated. On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers led by Major General Gordon Granger landed in Galveston, Texas with the news that the Civil War had ended and read the following statement:
“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.”
Even before this historic moment, the notion of breaking the chains of bondage had already graced itself on numismatic objects. In 1834, for example, engraver J. Davis of England created a silver medal that portrayed both a man while enslaved on the obverse with the famous inscription “AM I NOT A MAN AND A BROTHER?” This medal came nearly thirty years after the British had ended the slave trade, and nearly thirty years before the United States did the same. The abolitionist movement was still strong in England and this medal helped spread the message. As such, the exergue states “A VOICE FROM GREAT BRITAIN TO AMERICA” with the date of 1834. The reverse of the medal depicts a formerly-enslaved man as he broke free from bondage with the words “THIS IS THE LORDS DOING; IT IS MARVELLOUS IN OUR EYES,” a reference from the book of Psalm (fig. 1).
This same motif was used in the United States to help garner support for its own abolitionist movement. By 1837 and 1838, tokens that portrayed both enslaved men and women attempted to open the eyes of those were supportive or indifferent about the plights of slavery. These tokens are a part of a larger compendium of tokens from this period now known as Hard Times Tokens, most of which had nothing to do with slavery but with the economic plights caused by the Panic of 1837. Nonetheless, abolitionist causes were heard here as well, with one token portraying an enslaved woman and the inscription “AM I NOT A WOMAN & A SISTER?” (fig. 2).
In the South, however, where this insidious institution continued to thrive and led to the American Civil War, slaves were portrayed differently. Few tokens portrayed slaves here, but they were featured on several types of paper currencies. More often than not, slaves on paper currency were not represented in chains and, most of the time, look happy. This was a deliberate attempt to placate anyone who contended with narrative that slaves were unhappy or treated poorly. On this 1861 one-dollar note from Georgia, for instance, enslaved individuals are seen picking and packing cotton with a smile on the face of one individual (fig. 3).
Even long after emancipation, slavery has been depicted both negatively and, for lack of a better word, passively. On this medal in the Brookgreen Gardens series issued by the Medallic Art Company, for instance, slaves are seen passively, yet diligently, working in what the artist chose to depict as mere “Plantation Life” (fig. 4). By depicting only women and children in front of individual dwellings with lush trees and animals grazing, the perils that too many people faced under slavery is diminished to “life,” a state that many would have objected to.
On a different note, a commemorative medallion issued by the National Commemorative Society and struck by the Franklin Mint in 1969 honored John B. Russwurm, who founded Freedom’s Journal in 1827 (fig. 5). Published in New York City, this was the first newspaper in the United States that was owned and operated by an African-American. The reverse of this piece depicts a former slave who recently broke free from his shackles reading the newspaper, along with the phrase “Righteousness Exalteth a Nation.”
While righteousness may have exalteth the United States on this day 155 years ago, the nation still has a long way to reconcile its slaveholding past. These numismatic tokens and medal serve as reminders to this, especially the fact that certain pieces issued more than a century after the end of slavery continued to present slaves as passive beings willing and content in their economic roles that they were forced to take. As is known, slaves aren’t slaves willingly, and this holiday signifies the emancipation of an entire group of people from their enforced bondage. On this Juneteenth, perhaps more than ever, the American Numismatic Society celebrates the end of the horrid institution of slavery in the United States.
One of the more enigmatic aspects of ancient Greek coinage, and Hellenistic coinage in particular, are the many symbols and monograms that appear on them. Already in the early fifth century BC, some coin producers, such as the exiled Samians in Zancle in Sicily, began to put letters and symbols on their coins that served functions beyond just identifying the political authority, like the abbreviated ethnic, ΑΘΕ, that appeared on early Athenian coinage identifying the Athenians as the producers of the new owl coinage.
In the case of the Samians at Zancle, the sequence of letters on different issues, Α, Β, Γ, etc., clearly were not ethnics, but probably meant to distinguish the individual issues.
The most convincing arguments to date suggest that these letters represent the sequential years of production, e.g., Year 1, Year 2, Year 3, etc.
Over time Greek coins became increasingly “chatty” with more letters and symbols appearing on them, usually on the reverse alongside the ethnic or name of a king or magistrate.
While many of these letters are clearly era dates, some of them, especially the combined letters we call monograms, are not. Their function along with the multitude of additional symbols—everything from representations of animals to cups to weapons to plants, and so on—are far more perplexing. Some symbols we believe are “mint marks” serving much the same function as ethnics, identifying the authority or place of production, such as a rose on some posthumous Alexander types indicating that they were produced on the island of Rhodes under the authority of the Rhodians.
Some of the symbols that we cannot so easily link to a specific political authority or place of production may have served other functions, identifying, for example, a lower-level authority responsible for the production of the that specific batch of coinage, or the source of the metal, for example. Similar arguments are made for many of the monograms.
In order to truly understand the function of these symbols and monograms, we need a comprehensive electronic database of all of them, something which would include the estimated 10,000 separate monograms and thousands of additional symbols that appear on Greek coinage from early 5th century down to the end of the Hellenistic period. Such a comprehensive database would allow us to observe with greater accuracy where and for how long specific monograms and symbols were used, which in turn might offer some insight into their specific function. A number of researchers independently have been toiling away on monograms and symbol databases for specific subsets of coinage. For example, our colleagues in Berlin, led by Ulrike Peter, working the Coprus Nummorum have been building an important database of monograms and symbols appears on coins produced in ancient Moesia Inferior, Thrace, Mysia, and Troas. Dr. Peter along with other members of the Greek steering committee of Nomisma.org, who have been working on other databases, have been holding discussions on how to combine all efforts into a larger universal database.
At the ANS, our efforts towards this larger goal have, for the moment, focused on the coins covered by our Hellenistic Royal Coinages project: the coinages (in the name) of Philip II of Macedonia; the coinages (in the name) of Alexander III the Great; Ptolemaic coinages; and Seleucid coinages. With the help of Mark Pyzyk, Lauren Tomanelli, and Oliver Hoover, we have been systematically digitizing all of the monograms appearing on these coins—nearly 5,000 individual monograms—creating scalable and printable svg files for each one. Individual nomisma.org IDs are then created for each monogram, which is then linked to the type record in HRC for the coin type on which the monogram appears, whether in PELLA, Seleucid Coins Online, or Ptolemaic Coins Online. In the meantime, I have been identifying the Greek letters that to my eye at least appear in these monograms trying to be as inclusive as possible. All of our work now has added a new dimension of functionality to HRC.
When users select the “Symbols” tab at the top of the PELLA landing page, for example, they are presented with images of the first 24 of the 1,207 monograms appearing on the coinages (in the name) of Alexander. Users can continue to search visually for the monograms that interests them, or can parse by selecting constituent letters. Once the desired monogram has been located, clicking on the image of the monogram takes them to a separate page that includes metadata information, a map of where coins produced with that monogram were struck, and links to examples of coins in PELLA with that monogram. For the symbols that appear on the coins, such as a rose, users can employ the symbol search function locating on the left-hand side of the browse screen, specifying where on the coin the symbol appears.
Currently, the monogram functionality is limited to just PELLA and PCO, but soon it will be added to SCO as well. Our ultimate goal remains to combine these three separate monogram and symbol tools into one that is much larger including not just our work on the monograms and symbols appearing on Hellenistic Royal coinages, but the work of others on different groups of Greek coinage as well.
For more information on this new monogram functionality please see the blog of our Director of Data Science, Ethan Gruber.
In the most recent issue of the ANS Magazine, I wrote an article on the existence of bacterial life on the surface of coins and paper currency. The discovery of these microbial lifeforms in the second half of the nineteenth century truly helped to advance the understanding of Germ Theory. This was especially true amongst the masses, many of whom may not have otherwise had access to the experiments performed at the time if it weren’t reported in newspapers. They began to fear their money due to its circulatory nature and potential to get them sick.
On Mars, however, humans hope to find microbial lifeforms. Formed in 1993, the Mars Exploration Program is NASA’s attempt to find it. This long-term initiative has sent orbiters, landers, and rovers to the planet, with four different missions still in operation: 2001 Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Science Laboratory, and MAVEN (as well as four completed missions, two failed missions, and one mission planned for the future). The principal component of the Mars Science Laboratory is the Curiosity rover—a car-sized, 1-ton vehicle used to explore the climate, geology, and possibilities of life in the Gale crater of Mars, whether now or in the past. Launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on November 26, 2011, it took 254 days to reach the Red Planet’s surface.
Just like with the advancement of Germ Theory in the nineteenth century, there is a coin helping to lead the way towards finding life on Mars. The primary method of analysis for Curiosity is through cameras, of which there are six different types for a total of 17. One of the 17 cameras is the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), which is located on the robotic arm of Curiosity. This camera, while it has long-distance focusing capabilities, is primarily used to take microscopic images of rock and soil with the hopes to find microbial evidence. It can produce images in true-color at a resolution of 1600 × 1200 pixels (now considered quite low) with the ability to focus to 14.5 micrometers per pixel.
On MAHLI, a 1909 VDB Lincoln cent is a part of its spatial calibration—a process necessary for both long-distance and up-close images (fig. 1). This provides a photographer, or MAHLI in this case, with a frame of reference to an object of known size. The Lincoln cent on board MAHLI is not essential to its calibration, which uses a more-precise ruler for the actual measurement through a series of black-and-white lines known as a scale bar. The 1909 VDB cent serves two key purposes, however. First, according to Ken Edgett (MAHLI Principal Investigator), it is a nod towards less-precise and “on the go” methods of spatial calibration used by early geologists on Earth, who often placed random coins into close-up photographs. Second, it serves as a calibration tool for the general public (fig. 2). While the scale bar gives scientists more-precise calibration details, this tool is still quite foreign to most people. The Lincoln cent, however, is one of the most ubiquitous objects on Earth. With hundreds of billions of these pennies having been produced, most individuals can instantly recognize them, know their general size, and can quickly grasp the size of another object placed next to one.
But, why a 1909 VDB cent? These coins are not necessarily rare, but there are many Lincoln cents from other dates that could have been easily acquired. According to Edgett, who considers himself an “amateur” collector, this coin was intended to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Lincoln cent, as Curiosity was originally slated to launch in 2009. This, however, was delayed, and since the window to launch to Mars comes roughly once every 23 months, the mission had to wait until 2011. “When the launch was delayed,” Edgett said, I made a decision to stick with the historic 1909 cent rather than try to find a 1911 cent. Honestly, I think 1911 would have been more difficult to explain.” I concur. While I was initially unaware exactly why Edgett opted for the 1909 VDB cent, that date just made sense, whereas a 1911-dated cent would have required some investigation to correlate it with the date of the launch. Furthermore, a 2009- or 2011-dated coin could not have worked because of the zinc inner core that became standard for Lincoln cents midway through 1982. Zinc is known to sublimate in a vacuum environment (especially at higher temperatures) and cause short circuits. Regardless of the date chosen, and knowing that money from Earth is covered in bacteria, NASA made sure to sterilize this specimen before takeoff to ensure not to introduce Earthly microorganisms to Mars.
The specimen that is currently (and probably forever will be) on the surface of Mars was one of four that Edgett purchased specifically for NASA. Two other 1909 VDB cents were used in testing the calibration panels at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, and the fourth was kept for possible use in future missions. Initially intended to be a two-year mission, the Mars Science Laboratory has been extended indefinitely, and Curiosity has been roaming Mars for eight-and-a-half years with the coin bearing the likeness of Abraham Lincoln keeping its images sharp (fig. 3).
The movement for women’s suffrage rights in the United States had a long history before it achieved success in the twentieth century. The first unsuccessful attempt to offer a universal suffrage amendment in Congress came in 1868. The next was in 1878, an effort led by California Senator Aaron A. Sargent. Although his bill was rejected, it would later be introduced every year for the next 41 years, with women aggressively lobbying Congress to approve it throughout this period. In 1913 hundreds of activists marched into the Capitol chanting, “We want action now!” By 1916, both the Democratic and the Republican party platforms supported women’s suffrage, and in 1919 a women’s suffrage bill was approved by Congress. It was ratified by three-fourths of the states in 1920. Though the 19th amendment was a gender-neutral document, which declared that, “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex,” Maryland, Virginia, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Mississippi waited over 40 more years to accept it.
Many women worked to win the vote for women, but a few stand out as particularly influential and crucial. One of the leading figures of the suffrage movement in United States was Susan B. Anthony (1820–1906), and the 19th amendment is also known as the “Susan B. Anthony Amendment” in recognition of her work on behalf of women’s rights (ANS 2001.11.13). On July 2, 1979, she became the first (non-mythical) woman to be featured on a circulating coin from the U.S. mint (ANS 1983.156.41).
This year, many local public organizations in the United States are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment. Among them is the Westport Library in Connecticut, which in February opened the exhibit, Westport’s Suffragists—Our Neighbors, Our Crusaders: The 19th Amendment Turns 100. One important object in this show is a medal on loan from the ANS that was designed by Laura Gardin Fraser—sculptor, suffragist, and Westporter. It is a bronze example of the Better Babies medal awarded by the Woman’s Home Companion magazine (ANS 1914.33.1 and Photo).
Laura Gardin Fraser (1889–1966) sculpted everything from coins to larger-than-life monuments. She became the first woman to design a United States coin for national circulation when in 1926 she partnered with her sculptor husband James Earle Fraser to create the Oregon Trail Memorial half dollar. In 1931, she won a competition to design the United States George Washington Bicentennial Medal. The medal served as a souvenir for the celebration of Washington’s 200th birthday in 1933 and also as a prize for a variety of contests in schools across the country. The Westport Library exhibition focuses on the local suffragists of Westport, who helped change the course of history for American women of all succeeding generations, and is therefore a fitting contribution to the nation’s centennial celebration of the ratification of the 19th amendment.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece for Pocket Change about coins baked in bread to predict the future in the Balkans. These instances got me thinking about other ways that coins play a significant role in a different context in contemporary North Macedonia; namely, how coins are worn in clothing, often as part of women’s outfits for special occasions.
In winter 2017, I attended a folk dance performance at the House of Culture in the town of Radoviš in southeastern Macedonia. Jasmina Ilieva danced hand-in-hand in synchronized step with a group of 17 other women, all dressed in the same traditional outfit. Braided leather shoes bounced lightly across the stage under heavy woolen socks; woven crimson patterns criss-crossed matching aprons. Some of the women wore chains of small metal disks affixed across their vests, tinkling in time to the music. Jasmina wore a similar chain, but instead of blanks, it bore two rows of silver coins, glinting in stage-light as the shifting semi-circle came to a halt.
The coins Jasmina wore were “old silver,” she told me, Ottoman issues that circulated 150 years ago. She inherited them from her grandmother alongside the vest and apron of her outfit. Her grandmother, a woman from a village in the Lakavica valley south of Radoviš, had worn them on her wedding day. Jasmina bragged that she was the only one from her group who didn’t wear newly-bought pieces, that her outfit was the most authentic. Upon close examination, there were subtle differences in the quality, age, and even the patterns in each dancer’s clothing.
In the audience, Jasmina’s mother, Teta Lila, described to me how traditional outfits simultaneously highlighted individuality and diminished it. Elaborate embroidery advertised domestic prowess. Both the quality of materials and the quantity of the silver indicated particular access to wealth. Teta Lila explained how the clothes also marked them as a part of a collective. If, she told me, you went to the open-air bazaar in Radoviš a hundred years ago, you could look around and casually identify not only someone’s religious and ethnic background by their clothes, but even their specific village of origin. The patterned outfits the dancers wore included local variations, reflecting those historic distinctions. With some exceptions, traditional outfits in the region are preserved primarily only for performance and events, not worn in daily life.
The coins here function in a few ways. They’re percussive, contributing to the overall aural experience of the observer; they jangle rhythmically along with the cyclical music. Further, while they represent an actual facet of traditional clothing, there’s also something more to be said for their place as an authenticating feature in contemporary performance. When these outfits were worn in their original contexts, the silver implied wealth and suggested a local story of inheritance, reflecting an identity tied up in family and community. Today, they showcase a different kind of inheritance, a historical and ethnic one. As with other examples of historical reenactment, clothing as a costume for a performance of some aspect of the past, authenticates and perpetuates a construction of that past. The coins, in turn, as artifacts, authenticate the outfit. Folklore performances, common across the country and frequently sponsored by municipal governments, feature not only as a popular form of entertainment or local identification, but also aim to solidify and perpetuate notions of ethnic and national identity. Later that year, Jasmina and her group went to Istanbul, among representatives of 61 countries, to represent Macedonians at the annual International Folk Dance and Music Festival. Performances of this sort aim to secure both internal and external understandings of what comprises a particular group.
When I talked to Jasmina about her traditional outfit, she enthusiastically elaborated on other examples of coins integrated into Macedonian clothing, mostly related to wedding dresses. She’s one of three sisters and their father has kept large gold coins for each of his daughters to wear on her wedding day. At Jasmina’s wedding, she wore a 1913 Austrian ducat with a bust of emperor Franz-Josef on the obverse; her younger sister wore a similar piece when she got married a few years later. Jasmina indicated that their oldest sister didn’t have hers yet, since she remains unmarried. Similar to this practice is how Albanian brides wear gold and gold coins as either part of a necklace or sewn into their dresses or headpieces. Albanians, who represent about a fourth of the population of North Macedonia, have a tradition that brides should wear gold not only as something of a dowry, but also as representative of these women’s historically unique power of divorce. An Albanian wife could divorce her husband in a socially-sanctioned process by keeping the gold, which exclusively belongs to her. With this to establish a separate life from a former spouse, the brides’ coins symbolize both marriage and are a gentle threat of independence in a patriarchal system.
In these examples, coins are jewelry, they make noise, they indicate aspects of culture, including national and ethnic identity, gender expectations, and social standing. Reflecting on such moments where coins play various roles in clothes in the southern Balkans, I’m reminded again how coins are much more than just economic or political objects. Coins gave me a new lens to appreciate and analyze these practices and to think a little more critically about the work that they do in context.
As work continues apace to add monograms to the coin data presented in Seleucid Coins Online (SCO) (as well as for PELLA and PCO), it seemed worthwhile to point out a feature that is swiftly becoming one of the major benefits of SCO to students of Seleucid numismatics. Whereas in the past it has been necessary to wait for the arrival of new publications in order to learn of discoveries impacting attribution, the notes field in SCO now makes it possible to provide information on new attributions almost as soon as it becomes available.
In an article that appeared in the ANS Magazine last year (“Is there a Santa Claus? The Story of Seleucid Coins Online”), I noted that it had been possible to reattribute a tetradrachm from Antiochus Hierax (c. 242–227 BC) to Antiochus III (223–187 BC) and from the Hellespont to Phrygia based on a new die link reported by a collector—a fact included in the notes fields of the linked types, SC 860 and SC 1001. Since then, even more new evidence for reattributions has been coming to light and duly marked in the notes fields of the relevant types. In this way, researchers using SCO are instantly apprised of modifications to the attributions originally published in Seleucid Coins, A Comprehensive Catalogue in 2002 and 2008.
Numismatists interested in SC 2122, a bronze coin of Antiochus VII Sidetes (138–129 BC) featuring helmet and aphlaston types (Fig. 1), will discover in the notes field accompanying the type in SCO that in the 2019 volume of Israel Numismatic Research, D. T. Ariel presented new find evidence that strongly points to Jerusalem as the issuing mint. Based on more general provenance information, SC 2122 was described circumspectly as a “Bronze Issue of Southern Coele Syria” in Seleucid Coins, Part 2, but the large number of specimens Ariel shows to have been found in the environs of Jerusalem, now make that city the most likely mint for this issue. He further supports attribution to Jerusalem by pointing to the use of types that would be inoffensive to a Jewish audience—a feature also found on SC 2122, a type of Antiochus VII long associated with Jerusalem—and the subsequent reuse of a similar helmet type for bronze coins of the Hasmonaean High Priest John Hyrcanus I following the secession of Judaea from the Seleucid Empire (Fig. 2).
SC 1932 is a bronze type struck in the first reign of Demetrius II Nicator (145–143 BC) that was only known from two examples when Seleucid Coins, Part 2, was published in 2008. One was obtained by Henri Seyrig and subsequently entered the collection of the Bibliothèque nationale de France (Fig. 3) and the other appeared in the second Houghton collection of Seleucid coins (CSE 2, 519). The great rarity of the issue may be gauged by the fact that the Society’s own Seleucid numismatic superstar, Edward T. Newell, seems not to have owned an example. At least, if he had ever possessed one, it did not make it into the ANS collection with the rest of his vast Seleucid collection. Based primarily on the reverse type depicting Poseidon and Seyrig’s deep interest in Syria, it was suggested in Seleucid Coins that this issue was probably struck at Laodicea by the Sea. However, in light of a report by David Hendin last week of a third specimen of SC 1932 offered for sale by a dealer in Ashkelon (ancient Ascalon) raises serious doubts about the attribution to Laodicea. A rare bronze coin ostensibly from a city of the Syrian Tetrapolis seems a little out of place at a southern Israeli port city. Instead, it seems more likely that the tentative mint attribution in Seleucid Coins is incorrect and that SC 1932 was actually struck at Ascalon. This suspicion is further supported by the letters A/Σ that appear in the left field and match the first two letters in the city ethnic of Ascalon. These same letters also occur on Seleucid quasi-municipal bronze issues of Ascalon struck by Demetrius’ predecessor, Alexander I Balas (152–145 BC), and his rival, Antiochus VI Dionysus (144–c. 142 BC). With the new provenance information included in the notes, anyone researching SC 1932 will be made instantly aware of the probable reattribution.
All of this shows that over time, Seleucid Coins Online really does have the potential to become a true virtual clearinghouse for Seleucid numismatic information and the ultimate source for up-to-date attributions superseding those given in the print volumes of Seleucid Coins, A Comprehensive Catalogue.
Individual coins are not very informative, but when significant numbers of coins and their find contexts can be compared, they can tell us a lot about the people who used them. Coin hoards are one of the more important sources of information for numismatists, although they can be tricky to interpret. One topic that hoards can shed some light on is how long coins remained in circulation, a question that is critical for understanding how people used coins and how many coins were in circulation for them to use.
The economy of the Visigothic kingdom in early medieval Spain, Portugal, and France (late fifth to early eighth centuries) is poorly documented in textual sources, so archaeological evidence (including coin finds) is essential. There was a substantial gold coinage, clearly under royal regulation from the late sixth to early eighth centuries, but how these coins were used within the economy remains a matter of debate. Looking at the relative ages of the coins found together in hoards is one clue.
Coin hoards can be formed in many ways. They may contain a group of coins representing what was in circulation at the time. However, they may reflect some unrepresentative selection process, such as a packet of newly minted coins just paid out by the government, or a group of better-quality coins picked from circulation to be saved. Thus, it is important to look at the structure of hoards before leaping to conclusions.
As it happens, most Visigothic coin hoards show a profile suggesting that they were drawn from general circulation. Normally the coins span a range of twenty or thirty years, but the majority of them come from the two reigns closest to the closing of the hoard, with the numbers from earlier reigns diminishing rapidly. Sometimes a hoard contains an outlier or two, older coins that somehow re-entered circulation, much like the occasional wheat-ear cent or buffalo nickel that turns up in circulation in the United States today. But overall, the statistical pattern is quite consistent.
From this evidence, we can conclude that Visigothic coins circulated for a limited span of time, perhaps around ten years on average, with most coins having left circulation before they were twenty years old. However, coins seem mostly to have left circulation gradually, perhaps to be melted down for other uses or for striking new coins; there is only evidence for one wholesale withdrawal and replacement of coins. Near the beginning of the Visigothic regal coinage, in the early 580s, it appears that all earlier coins were removed from circulation as part of a reform of coinage standards.
There was one other significant coinage reform during the period in question, around the early 650s. No withdrawal of coinage at that time is visible in the evidence, but unfortunately there is no hoard from the 660s, when it would have been most visible. The evidence does make clear, however, that the continual reductions in weight and fineness that were occurring at most other times were not associated with large-scale withdrawal and replacement of coins.
A tendency for older coins with higher gold content to be removed from circulation, as predicted by Gresham’s Law, is likely to be an important contributing reason for the relatively short lifespan of Visigothic coins, but it is also clear that coins of significantly different fineness could and did circulate together.
In summary, a brief look at one aspect of Visigothic coin hoards has told us some very useful things about the monetary system. The hoards show that coins could circulate for decades, even as standards of weight and fineness changed, unless there was a complete replacement of the coinage. However, they also show that coins had a relatively short lifetime in circulation, compared to some coinages in other times and places. Most likely older coins were frequently picked out of circulation and melted down due to their higher gold content, keeping the circulating population relatively young.
List of hoards with 20 or more recorded Visigothic regal coins, with median (50th percentile) and 95th percentile dates:
Mérida (20 coins, ca. 582?): all 20 coins from Leovigild, Cross-on-Steps series (ca. 581–584?).
La Capilla (ca. 1000 coins of which 765 recorded, ca. 631–636): median Suinthila (621–631), 95th percentile Sisebut (610–ca. 620).
Vega Baja de Toledo (31 coins, ca. 636–639): median Sisenand (631–636), 95th percentile Suinthila (621–631).
Córdoba (46 coins, ca. 642): median Chintila (636–639), 95th percentile Suinthila (621–631).
La Grassa (ca. 800 coins of which 175 recorded, ca. 653): median Tulga (639–642), 95th percentile Sisebut (610–ca. 620).
Zaragoza (35 coins, ca. 695–702): median Egica sole reign (687–ca. 695), 95th percentile Reccesuinth (653–672).
Abusejo (111 coins, ca. 702–710): median Egica and Wittiza (ca. 695–702), 95th percentile Wamba (672–680).
Also, note the very large Fuentes de Andalucia hoard (ca. 4000 coins, ca. 625), which was not recorded, but a large majority of the coins were apparently from Suinthila (621–631) and Sisebut (610–ca. 620). For more details on these hoards, see R. Pliego, La moneda visigoda (Seville: University of Seville, 2009), ch. 9.
Roman Imperial Coinage (RIC) is the definitive corpus of coins issued under the Roman Empire. This 10-volume typology spans 460 years of Roman minting (from 31 BCE–491 CE), and its publication was itself a monumental undertaking. Begun in 1923 with a volume covering Augustus to Vitellius, the corpus was completed in 1994, ending with the emperor Zeno.
But numismatic knowledge is never crystallized. Spink releases updated volumes as necessary to reflect current research and progression in the field. In 2019, Spink released their latest addition to the RIC corpus. This updated version of RIC covers the Hadrian section of Volume II. It includes new finds, corrects old errors, and provides more detailed dating.
In response, the American Numismatic Society is updating its Online Coins of the Roman Empire (OCRE) digital corpus to reflect the new edition. This searchable database provides access to the valuable typologies published by Spink, and assembles more than 130,000 examples from the ANS collection, the Münzkabinett of the State Museum of Berlin, the British Museum, and 40 additional museums and archaeological databases. The OCRE project began in 2011 and was assisted by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The platform acts as an accessible catalog and a search tool for scholars and collectors alike.
OCRE provides more than easily accessible data: its digital nature creates a new analytical tool for researchers. The platform offers numerous options to refine searches, deepening user customization and allowing for more nuanced inquiry. The abundant samples of coinage types—drawing from three of the largest numismatic collections worldwide—create an unparalleled opportunity for die studies. OCRE’s high-resolution images make die studies easier on the eyes and permits study to occur remotely. The current OCRE update supports the ANS’ goal to offer the most contemporary resources available for numismatic study.
In addition to this digital initiative, the ANS is incorporating the updated numbering system into its own collections database. Each of the ANS’ 1,600 Hadrianic coins will be renumbered according to the new volume. The original volume’s classification system grouped similar coins together under a single number, making extensive use of subtypes (Hadrian 101a–c, for example, are identical except for slight obverse bust variations). The 2019 update moves away from subtypes and assigns each variation its own unique number. In addition, the new volume distinguishes obverse bust types with more granularity and assigns separate numbers for each bust variation. The ANS is editing its database, Mantis, to reflect this simplification of the typology.
To realize this important update, the ANS has hired a temporary assistant to incorporate the volume into OCRE and renumber their Hadrian collection. If you are an OCRE user, patron of numismatics, or passionate about digital accessibility, please consider donating to our GoFundMe page in support of this initiative.