Curiosities of the United States Paper Money Cabinet, Part II

If you have not read Part I of this two-part series and would like to do so, please click here.

As we continue our exploration of miscellaneous paper issues from the United States, we trek further into the world of the odd, the strange, the comical, and the confusing. Let’s dive straight in with two examples of one of the most well-known and most successful private note series ever issued: Disney Dollars.

Although perhaps more appropriately described as a type of corporate or company scrip, Disney Dollars were not meant to be issued to and used by employees—unlike other, more notorious forms of company scrip, such as those issued by lumber and coal companies, the use of which was ultimately outlawed with the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. Instead, Disney Dollars were meant to be used by customers at various Disney facilities, including Disney theme parks, resort hotels, merchandise stores, and food and drink venues. Despite the fact that Disney Dollars are no longer available for purchase, they are still accepted by Disney at many of those same facilities.

Obverse and reverse of a One Disney Dollar note featuring Mickey Mouse. ANS 1989.78.1

Disney Dollars were a hit from the beginning, and were exchanged at parity with the U.S. dollar. In fact, their free and easy exchange from USD into Disney Dollars and vice versa almost certainly contributed to their success, as they could be purchased at face value and spent at face value, but many Disney collectors quickly realized from the outset that it was worth holding on to at least some of these notes, either because of the potentially limited runs of certain notes and series (i.e., natural scarcity), or because their use as currency (exchanged for goods and/or converted back to USD) coupled with their eventual wear and tear and the passage of time would result in more common notes becoming scarce, or at least becoming scarce in higher grades.

This proved to be true, and although many Disney Dollars can still be purchased for relatively modest sums—even in uncirculated grades—there are many other Disney Dollars that are truly scarce, be they proof issues, condition rarities, or simply issued in very limited numbers or sold during a very limited window. Paper Money Guaranty (PMG) even grades them. To satisfy the trivia addicts out there, here are some additional fun facts about Disney Dollars:

  • The idea for Disney Dollars was conceived by Disney artist Harry Brice
  • The first Disney Dollars were issued in 1987, and the final notes issued in 2016
  • Notes were printed in denominations of $1, $5, $10, and $50
  • Various series prefixes exist, including A, B, E, D, F, and T
  • Like U.S. paper money, low and interesting serial numbers can command a premium
  • 500 Yen and 1000 Yen notes were issued for Tokyo Disneyland starting in 1988
  • Errors exist, such as the 2013 $1 101 “Dalmations” note (correct spelling: Dalmatians)
Obverse and reverse of a Five Disney Dollars note featuring Goofy. ANS 1989.78.2

Next up is an object that should be familiar to anyone who lived during the 1990s when tobacco advertising and promotional activities were less restricted than they are today: a Camel cigarettes brand One Camel Cash note, also called a C-Note. While reminiscent of the slang term for a United States $100 bill, the Camel C-Note did not have quite the same purchasing power. In fact, as of March 31, 2007, Camel Cash has had effectively zero purchasing power, as this was the expiration date set by R. J. Reynolds to redeem any outstanding Camel Cash notes. Interestingly, this is in stark contrast to Disney, who continues to accept Disney Dollars long after the last notes were produced.

Although falling somewhere between a coupon and corporate scrip, Camel Cash notes could not actually be used to buy tobacco products; rather, the owner of said notes could send away for a catalog of Camel-branded goods, then redeem the collected C-Notes on promotional products. One wonders what kind of job promotion or bonus the inventor of this advertising scheme received upon unveiling a plan to induce users of a highly-addictive product to collect enough paper notes from the repeated purchase of said product, in order to redeem them for schlocky promotional wares designed to advertise the same highly-addictive product!

The One Camel Cash note in the ANS collection features a George Washington-esque Joe Camel on the obverse (Washington did grow tobacco, after all) and a litany of instructions and disclaimers on the reverse. Of special note is Joe Camel’s “signature” which also somehow manages to incorporate the semi-subliminal image of a burning cigarette into it.

Obverse and reverse of a One Camel Cash note featuring Joe Camel. ANS 1993.125.1

In the realm of satirical (perhaps even conspiratorial) paper notes is this One Counterfeit Dollar featuring very explicit anti-United Nations sentiments on both the obverse and reverse. It is (quite clearly) not professionally printed, and was likely crafted using a combination of photocopying hand-drawn elements together with cut-and-pasted images. On the obverse we find an image of Henry Kissinger at center, along with the names “Mao Tse-Dung” and German philosopher (and founder of the original Bavarian Illuminati) Adam Weishaupt, as well as an address for a Seattle-based action group, who presumably created and distributed the note—an address that appears to be situated in Burien, Washington, otherwise known as Seola Beach.

The reverse of this note features more anti-U.N. messaging, as well as suggestions that a New World Order plot is afoot (a joint effort by both Richard Nixon and Soviet politician Leonid Brezhnev if the note is to be believed). Although no contemporary date is listed, the imagery and themes on this issue suggest that it was fabricated in the late 1960s or early 1970s, during Kissinger’s time as National Security Adviser under Nixon, and when both were pursuing a policy of détente with the Soviet Union, and rapprochement with China.

Obverse and reverse of a One Counterfeit Dollar anti-United Nations note. ANS 1998.55.1

Lastly, a colorful—if not initially confusing—paper note with a declared value of One Thursday Buck. Taking center stage is Santa Claus, holding a bag underneath a rainbow with a money tree and pot of gold at our right and his left. Satirical exclamations abound, from the E Pluribus Kiddem within the rainbow, to the Ezeemunny Certificate at the top border. The note is “signed” by both Pass De Buck, and Ham N. Eggs, the latter giving a clue as to what this note is satirizing.

On the reverse we find For Use In Bankrupting / Scrambled Eggs For California, along with a list of affected parties to this State of Confusion, and a clearer picture begins to form. Upon further investigation, this note was produced to criticize the nascent Ham and Eggs movement, which was a plan borne out of a pension movement championed by physician Francis Townsend, whose Townsend Plan and subsequent Townsend Clubs helped propel the creation of the federal Social Security program. The Ham and Eggs movement advocated for a similar old-age pension plan, but one specifically designed for California residents. Their initiative was ultimately defeated in 1938, perhaps due in no small part to these satirical One Thursday Buck notes.

Obverse and reverse of a One Thursday Buck note featuring Santa Claus. ANS 2007.28.18

New Print-on-Demand Program

The American Numismatic Society is proud to announce a new print-on-demand (POD) program.

Every month the ANS will release 4–10 out-of-print and new titles as official POD editions, from recent monographs to the earliest numbers from series such as Numismatic Studies and Numismatic Notes and Monographs.

What are this Month’s Books?

Numismatic Commemorations of the 200th Birthday of George Washington in 1932 (by Sydney F. Martin)
NEW BOOK! 600 full-color pages. Available in hardcover and paperback editions.

Faustina the Younger: Coinage, Portraits, and Public Image (by Martin Beckmann)
NEW BOOK! 182 full-color pages. Available in hardcover.

White Gold: Studies in Early Electrum Coinage(edited by Peter van Alfen and Ute Wartenberg with Wolfgang Fischer-Bossert, Haim Gitler, Koray Konuk, and Catharine C. Lorber)
PREVIOUSLY OUT-OF-PRINT717 full-color pages. Available in hardcover and paperback editions.

Coins of the Ptolemaic Empire, Part 1: Ptolemy I through Ptolemy IV (vol. 1, Precious Metal; vol. 2, Bronze) (by Catharine C. Lorber)
PREVIOUSLY OUT-OF-PRINT. 992 total pages! Available in hardcover and paperback editions.

Why Print-on-Demand?

Many popular ANS titles are now out-of-print. POD rescues these and offers affordable, high-quality editions using the original design and images from the first printing.

Our print-on-demand books and journal issues are officially branded by the ANS at prices often significantly lower than the resale market. 

On occasion, new ANS books will be published directly as POD, saving readers time and money in receiving new volumes.

How Does It Work?

Click the links above to place an order, or visit the ANS Store and search/filter for “POD” or “Print on Demand”. Click the “Add to Cart” button and proceed to check-out. The ANS Member discount of 30% applies to POD books just like it does for new titles. Because of supply chain issues affecting the availability of paper, books will ship directly to you from the printer in approximately 2–3 weeks once your order is received.

Financing Sulla’s Reconquest of Italy (Pt. II)

Fig. 1. Athens. New Style tetradrachm with monogram interpreted as ΜΑΡΚΟΥ (Lucullus)/ ΤΑΜΙΟΥ. Thompson 1313. ANS 2015.20.871 (bequest of R. B. Witschonke).

The second part of this post on the means used by Sulla to finance his campaign in Italy will deal with the coinages issued in the Eastern provinces after the end of the First Mithridatic War, choosing as a case study the “trophies” Athenian New Style tetradrachms and the cistophori from the Province of Asia.

Fig. 2. Athens. New Style tetradrachm with trophies. Thompson 1343. ANS 2015.20.881 (bequest of R. B. Witschonke).

For what concerns Greece, Plutarch (Life of Lucullus 2.2) clearly states that the presence of Sulla and Lucullus during the First Mithridatic War led to a heightened production of local silver coinages.  Military needs, i.e., the need to pay the armies involved in the war against the Pontic king, caused this steep increase in the volume of local issues (Apostolou and Doyen 2017, esp. pp. 399–403). The connection is especially clear in the case of Athens, where the production of Athenian New Style tetradrachms (Thompson 1961, pp. 425–439)  was greatly heightened in the year leading up to the battles of Chaeronea and Orchomenus. While the Romans are likely to have manipulated the Athenian coinage on previous occasions, there is a general consensus that the Romans were directly responsible for 1) the so-called “Lucullan” issues with the two monograms usually read as ΜΑΡΚΟΥ (Lucullus)/ ΤΑΜΙΟΥ. 2) the so-called “trophies issues” (Figs. 1–2).

Fig. 3. Engraving of a marble bust traditionally said to be Lucullus. Hermitage Museum.

The “Lucullan” (Fig. 3) issues, characterized by a higher number of observed dies than any other year before 87–86 BCE, have as a terminus ante quem the battle of Chaeronea in 86 BCE, as these coins were likely intended to finance the military effort against Mithridates.

Fig. 4. Athenian issues struck for Rome. Callataÿ 2016, Table 4.

On the other hand (Fig. 4), the general consensus is that the issue with the two trophies should be dated after Chaeronea, because their reverse type commemorates either the two victories of Orchomenus and Chaeronea over the Pontic king or the two trophies erected by Sulla after Chaeronea, as I have already suggested on the basis of the analogous types used for RRC 359/2 in the first part of this post (Fig. 5).

Fig. 5. Production estimates of Athenian issues struck for Rome (86–84 BCE). Compare the Esty estimate of 29.5 tetradrachm obverse dies with the 31.9 tetradrachm obverse dies in Callataÿ 2016.

Caution is indeed needed for these estimates since the Esty coverage for these issues is quite low (37.5%). However, the figures in this slide are very close to Callataÿ’s calculations, so this could provide some support to these estimates, in spite of the caution elicited by the small sample.

While the “Lucullan” issues of Athenian-like tetradrachms were probably instrumental to the financing of Roman armies in the course of the First Mithridatic War, the later issue of the “two trophies” tetradrachms could have financed Sulla’s campaigns in Italy or even provided the bullion for Sulla’s issues of denarii.

Since one Attic-weight drachm is conventionally considered equivalent to a denarius, this issue of Athenian-like tetradrachms was produced from 118 denarius-equivalent obverse dies, roughly one-third of the number of dies estimated for RRC 359/2. The similarities in reverse types and production techniques (i.e., die orientation, cf. Part I) between the “two trophies” tetradrachms and RRC 359/2 suggest that these two issues—while differing in relative importance—represented an important source of financing for the Sullan campaigns in Italy.

Fig. 6. Ephesus, Amphitheater at Ephesus archaeological site, with harbor street in the background. Ephesus was one of the Asian cities that took part in the massacre of the Italians and Roman citizens in the wake of the Mithridatic Wars.

For what concerns the Province of Asia, Plutarch vividly describes the aftermath of the First Mithridatic War, after the hasty conclusion of the peace of Dardanus in 85 BCE. After Mithridates’ defeat, Sulla imposed on the Greek cities of Asia Minor (Fig. 6) an indemnity of 20,000 talents. The Plutarchean text also suggests that Lucullus was directly entrusted with the collection of the extraordinary tributes and fines imposed on Asia. This certainly had to do not only with the unusual nature (and amount) of the fines imposed but with extraordinary circumstances, because the societates publicanorum—not military authorities like Lucullus—were entrusted with the exaction of Asian taxes since at least the 120s BCE. The reason for the remarkable absence of the publicani from this process finds a plausible explanation with their lack of human resources after the losses suffered after the outbreak of the Mithridatic War (Appian, Mithridatic Wars 5.22).  One thinks in particular of the Asian Vespers in 88 BCE in which some 80,000 (or more!) Romans are said to have been killed

Fig. 7. A tax-collector, possibly acting on behalf of a societas publicanorum. Funerary tomb relief from Gaul, early second century AD.

The losses suffered by the societates publicanorum in Asia thus enabled Sulla, through his lieutenant Lucullus, to have direct access to the wealth gathered from Asia, with a limited opportunity for Rome to take advantage of it (Fig. 7).

Fig. 8. Lydia, Tralles. Cistophoric tetradrachm (95–90 BC). Carbone 2020 issue XXV.1. 27 mm. 12.55 g. ANS 2015.20.1784 (bequest of R. B. Witschonke).

Plutarch clearly states that Lucullus was actually ordered to strike coins in Asia. Since cistophori were the silver currency overwhelmingly produced and circulating in the province up to the 40s BCE, it can be inferred that the coinage struck by Lucullus were indeed cistophori (Fig. 8). Their production shows a clear increase in the years between the end of the First Mithridatic War and the end of Lucullus’ praetura in 81-80 BCE, as clearly shown by Figs. 9 and 10

Fig. 9. Increase in the Ephesian cistophoric output after the Peace of Dardanus (85 BCE). Callataÿ 1997, p. 178.
Fig. 10. Increase in the Trallian cistophoric output after the Peace of Dardanus (85 BCE). Carbone 2020, p. 219 figure 11.1.

Such an increase was probably caused by the necessity of paying the extraordinary tribute and there seems to be a correlation between the return of Lucullus to Italy in 80 BCE and the decrease in the production of coinage in Asia.

Fig. 11. Lydia, Tralles. Cistophoric tetradrachm (83–84 BC). Carbone 2020 issue XXXIV; 24 mm. 12.54 g. ANS 2015.20.1460 (bequest of R. B. Witschonke). This cistophorus bears the Sullan Era, which is considered to have begun right after the Peace of Dardanus (85 BC).

The presence of a Sullan Era (Year 1: 85/84 BCE, right after Dardanus, Fig. 11) on Tralles’ cistophori and the spike in their production in the years right after the Peace of Dardanus provides a further hint in the direction of a correlation between coinage and Sulla’s demands.

Fig. 12. Calculation of cistophoric production in Asia based on Carbone 2020, p. 227 table 12.2.

Based on the data presented in Hidden Power, this table (Fig. 12) presents the estimate of the cistophoric production of the whole of provincia Asia in the years 85/84–82/81, which are the years between the Peace of Dardanus and the celebration of Sulla’s triumph in 81 BCE. It shows that cistophori were issued in the enormous amount of 202.7 tetradrachm obverse dies between 85 and 81 BCE.  This amount roughly corresponds to 12,162,300 denarii, i.e., 608 denarii-equivalent obverse dies.

Building upon the data that have just been presented, it is possible to estimate that in the years between the end of the First Mithridatic War and his final triumph in 81 BCE, the mint of Athens and the province of Asia delivered in Sulla’s hands coined silver in the amount of 14,520,000 denarii.  The silver coinage issued in Athens and in Asia in the crucial years between Chaeronea and the final triumph of Sulla was thus in quantities equivalent to the Sullan Roman Republican issues, as calculated in the first part of this post.

Moreover, coined silver in Asia corresponded to 2,027.05 talents, only one-tenth of the 20,000 talents extracted by Lucullus on behalf of Sulla. The lavish description of Sulla’s triumph in 81 BCE offered by Plutarch suggests that the dictator had access to enormous resources and the quantitative analyses presented up to now confirm this scenario. Sulla’s resources, both in terms of coined silver and bullion, were thus more than adequate to finance his armies, even if the volume of Sullan issues was not comparable to the one produced by the college of moneyers of 82/83 BCE.

While only metallurgical analyses will hopefully allow to settle the question in definitive way, the quantitative analyses pursued here made the Eastern provenance of the bullion used for the Sullan issues very likely. In sum, M. H. Crawford was right when he suggested that RRC 359/2 (and possibly the other issued analyzed here) “were made with metal from the Greek world, presumably in large measure melted down booty” (p. 124).   The bullion to produce these coinages did indeed come from the East, and it was further integrated by silver coinages produced in Athens and in Asia. 

Financing Sulla’s Reconquest of Italy (Pt. I)

Fig. 1. So-called “Sulla,” a copy (probably from the time of Augustus) after a portrait of an important Roman from the second century BC. Munich, Glyptothek.

This post (in two parts) has the ambitious goal to showcase the importance of RRDP in providing new data to the question of the financing of Sulla’s army in the crucial years between 83 and 82 BCE when, after the end of the First Mithridatic War, he marched through Italy and successfully defeated his adversaries (Appian, Bellum Civile 1.84–86). This very same topic has been recently addressed in a talk sponsored by the Department of Classics and the Interdisciplinary Program in Archaeology at the University of Virginia.

Fig. 2. Poster of the talk by the author at the University of Virginia.

Appian states that Sulla had at his disposal an army of 40,000 men, including five legions of Roman infantry, 6,000 knights, plus Greek and Macedonian auxilia (Appian, Bellum Civile 1.79). According to M. Speidel’ s calculations (pp. 350–51, Tables 1–2), this would imply that Sulla needed to have at his disposal the equivalent of almost 10 million denarii. Since Sulla was barred from taking advantage of the enhanced monetary production of the Roman mint, it becomes clear that he must have taken advantage of the bullion supplied by his recent victories in the East.

Fig. 3. RRC 361/1c. P. Crepusius. ANS 1944.100.557 (bequest of E. T. Newell).
Fig. 4. RRC 362/1. C. Mamilius Limetanus. ANS 1937.158.102.
Fig. 5. RRC 363/1a. L. Marcius Censorinus. ANS 1948.19.113.

The monetary production of the collegium of triumviri monetales of 83–82 BCE, composed by P. Crepusius (RRC 361/1a,b,c), C. Mamilius Limetanus (RRC 362/1) and L. Marcius Censorinus (RRC 363/1a,b,c,d) have been the object of foundational die studies that provided a model for future ones. Back in 1976, T. Buttrey published a fundamental study of Crepusius’ issues. Schaefer’s archive provided the material for the study of the issues of L. Marcius Censorinus and C.Mamilius Limetanus.  The importance of these issues does not only reside in the historical moment they produced in, but also in their technical peculiarities. Issues like the ones produced by this collegium are defined by Richard Schaefer as ODEC: One Die for Each Control Mark. As the name suggests, ODEC issues have a specific correspondence between dies and control marks. Usually, there is a univocal correspondence between obverse and reverse dies for each of these control marks. This kind of issue seems to be more common in times of unrest, as in the years addressed here.

Fig. 6. RRC issues arranged with control marks arranged by years. RRC references (* = one mark per die, ** = coordinated marks on obverse and reverse, *** = both * and **). Control Marks (L = letters, N = num- bers, S = symbol). Carbone and Yarrow 2020, Table 7.

Table 1 presents the most updated estimates for the production of these moneyers.

Table 1. Die estimates and coverage rates calculated using Esty’s formulae and RRDP data for issues with the college of moneyers traditionally dated to 82–83 BCE, as well as data from Debernardi, Campana et al. 2018. Carbone and Yarrow 2020, Table 5.

The total of estimated dies for this collegium is 2,219, with a production that could be estimated as comprised between 32 and 45 million denarii. This is a truly exceptional production, as can be seen from Table 2.

Table 2. Summary of estimates of original number of dies and coverage rates using Esty’s formulae and RRDP data for annual issues where the college of moneyers is certain. Carbone and Yarrow 2020, Table 2.

This exceptional production, clearly dictated by the advance of Sulla’s army, will provide a necessary comparandum for Sulla’s production.

Fig. 7. RRC 359/2. L.Cornelius Sulla. 3.81 g. Berlin MünzKabinett 18206086.
Fig. 8. RRC 367/3. L. Cornelius Sulla. 3.87 g. Mainz, Historisches Seminar, Arbeitsbereich Alte Geschichte, der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität 119.
Fig. 9. RRC 375/2. 3.98 g. Gerhard Hirsch Auction 260, 12 February 2009, lot 1860.

The estimates of Sulla’s production here presented integrate the data collected by R. Schaefer for three Sullan issues, RRC 359/2, RRC 367/1,3 and 5 and RRC 375/2 to revisit the scale of these issues also in light of what we know from other studies about Sullan issues at Athens and cistophoric production in Asia.

Fig. 10. Athens. New Style tetradrachm with trophies. Thompson 1343. 16.89 g. ANS 2015.20.881 (bequest of R.B.Witschonke).
Fig. 11. Tralles. Cistophorus dated to 85/84 BCE. Carbone 2020 Tralles XXXII. 12.55 g. ANS 2015.20.1459 (bequest of R. B.Witschonke).

This allows us to see historical production beyond a single mint and begin to understand better the scale of the striking necessary to fund Sulla’s march on Rome. 

Fig. 12. The lower part of the trophy from Chaeronea with the armored tree trunk. Photo by E. Kountouri, N. Petrochilos, and S. Zoumbaki.

After the battle of Chaeronea in 86 BCE, Sulla found himself master of the East. Plutarch provides a vivid description of the way in which he celebrated this victory over Mithridates. Sulla erected two trophies in the territory of the city of Chaeronea, where the troops of Mithridates’ general Archelaus first gave way, whose archaeological remains have been the object of contrasting interpretations. The two trophies probably refer to the battles of Orchomenus and Chaeronea, which resulted in game-changing losses for Mithridates. These trophies were inscribed with the names of “Ares, Nike, and Aphrodite.” These trophies were inscribed with the names of “Ares, Nike, and Aphrodite.”  The reasons for dedicating the trophies to Ares-Mars and Nike-Victory seem quite straightforward, as the former was the patron of warfare and the latter was the personification of Victory herself, but the presence of Aphrodite needs some further clarification. F. Santangelo (pp. 188–90) convincingly correlates the goddess of Love on the trophies with the epithet that Sulla used in his correspondence with the Greeks, ’Επαφρόδιτος, ‘a favorite of Venus’, to stress his strong connection to the goddess.  Indeed, Plutarch explicitly states that the dedication to Aphrodite on the trophies referred to Sulla’s epithet. Not surprisingly, the types of Venus and the two trophies erected after the battle of Chaeronea are also present on the aurei and the denarii issued by Sulla on his way back to Italy, very likely in 84/83 BCE.

Fig. 13. RRC 359/1. L. Cornelius Sulla. ANS 1944.100.64169 (bequest of E.T.Newell).

In F. Santangelo’s words, these issues “look like a perfect epitome of Sulla’s ideological agenda,” as they have a head of Venus and the name of Sulla on the obverse and on the reverse the legend IMPER(ATOR) ITERV(M), accompanied by a jug and a lituus, two symbols that are related to the augurate and to the concept of imperium, and surrounded by two trophies, quite certainly to be recognized as the ones from Chaeronea and Orchomenus (Assenmaker 2014, pp. 216–28).  We also know from Cassius Dio (18.42) that these two trophies were also used by Sulla on his personal signet ring.

As already mentioned, the same trophies are to be found on the reverse of the New Style Athenian tetradrachms presumably issued in the years 86–84 BCE (Thompson 1961 no. 1341–1345, Fig.10). The presence of the distinctive Sullan trophies on the reverses both of the New Style Athenian tetradrachms and of the aurei and denarii of series RRC 359 has long led scholars, and M. Crawford in particular, to hypothesize that the latter issues ‘were made with metal from the Greek world, presumably in large measure melted down booty’ (p. 124). In the same direction goes the orientation of the dies for this issue, uniquely adjusted at 12:00, an orientation very common in Greek coinage, but in sharp contrast with Roman Republican practices.  While no certainty is possible, these coinages might have been struck at the time of the end of Sulla’s sojourn in the East (and then sent to Italy with the army) or—more likely—in Italy, right after Sulla’s army landed in Italy, as the presence of the coins in Southern Italian hoards leads one to think.

RRC 359 issues would then have been struck at the moment of the Sulla’s arrival in Italy and their types were meant to remind everybody of Sulla’s victory over Mithridates and his privileged relationship with Venus.

These tables present here the latest estimates according to RRDP:

Table 3. Production estimates of RRC 359/2 according to RRDP (Esty 2011).

RRC 367, a Sullan issue composed of three denarii and two aurei, is usually dated to 83/82 BCE.  The triumphator on the reverse of the coins of RRC 367 leads in the same direction as the trophies on the reverse of RRC 359, namely the depiction of Sulla as an imperator beloved by the Godswho succeeded in liberating the Roman East from one of Rome’ s arch-enemies. Notice that the triumphator holds a caduceus, not a laurel branch. The caduceus was a herald’s staff, sometimes carrying the connotations we might associate with an olive branch or a white flag, but was more generally, a symbol of peace, concord, and reconciliation (Cornwell 2017, pp. 36–41). Concordia (“harmony between the social orders”) has even been suggested as a key rhetorical component in Sulla’s own civic self-presentation (Yarrow 2021, pp. 163–65). We can read the caduceus as a statement that Sulla has brought peace and order with his return.

Here are the most updated estimates for these issues according to RRDP.

Table 4. Production estimates of RRC 367 according to RRDP (Esty 2011).

Another issue attributed to Sulla on the basis of iconographic and technical choices is the denarius RRC 375/2, which has been thoroughly studied by Alberto Campana in a very recent article (A. Campana, L’emissione con “Q” di Silla (RRC 375/1–2, 82 a.C.), Monete Antiche 118 —Luglio/Agosto 2021). A. Campana based his die study on RRDP, while further enhancing the sample.

Campana based his die study on RRDP, while further enhancing the sample.

Table 5. Production estimates of RRC 375/2 according to RRDP (Esty 2011).

These three Sullan issues were thus almost contemporary, very likely produced between 84 and 82 BCE. The relative chronology of these issues is still under discussion, but for the aims of this post, the relevant element is that they were all issued as a means to support Sulla’s reconquest of Italy.

The aggregate volume of these emissions is remarkable, with 976 estimated dies and a probable output of 13.39–20.69 million denarii. As a comparandum, the calculations in the previous part of this talk show that the estimated combined production for the moneyers of 82 BCE is 32–45 million denarii. The issues financing Sulla’s reconquest of Italy were thus roughly one-half of the issues of the Roman mint in the year 82 BCE.

While roughly half the size of the extraordinary issues of the Roman mint in 82 BCE, the scale of Sulla’s production is still extraordinary. This begs even more urgently the question of the provenience of the bullion used, which will be addressed in the second part of this post.

Winner of the ANS’s Collier Prize Announced

James M. Collier, self-portrait after Memling (2006).

In 2020, Carole Anne Menzi Collier established the Collier Prize in Ancient Numismatics at the ANS, a new award offered for the first time in 2021. The Prize is named after her late husband 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. A feature on the life of Prof. Collier was published in ANS Magazine 2020, vol. 4, an excerpt of which can be found here.

This substantial monetary prize is to be awarded every third year to the best single or multi-authored book, catalogue, or online digital work in the field of ancient numismatics (650 BCE to 300 CE). The winner(s) receive prize money of $20,000, to be split equally in the event of a multi-authored work. For the initial prize, eligible publications were limited to those works published in 2019 or 2020. A jury of five senior numismatists appointed by the President of the American Numismatic Society reviewed the nine works submitted this year for the contest and, after a protracted period of study and discussion selected the winner of the 2021 Collier Prize based on the judging criteria of the quality and accuracy of the work; the scale and scope of the work; and the potential impact and audience.

At the Annual Meeting held on October 23rd, the winner was announced: Roman Imperial Coinage (RIC) vol.II.3 on the coinage of the Emperor Hadrian from AD 117 to 138 (London: Spink, 2019) by Richard Abdy. This new volume is a substantial reworking of the RIC volume (2C) that included Hadrian’s coinage published nearly a century ago. In addition to the lengthy introductory essay, itself a masterwork of scholarship, Abdy presents a catalogue of over 3,000 types of coins produced under the rule of Hadrian, along with those for Sabina, Aelius and Antoninus Caesar. Included as well are the medallions produced under Hadrian, a catalogue of which Peter Franz Mittag contributed to the volume.

Richard Abdy has worked at the British Museum since 1993 and since 1998 has been a curator of Roman coins in the Department of Coins and Medals. Aside from his award-winning RIC volume, Abdy has published widely on Roman coinage and has long been involved in recording Roman coin hoards in England. An award ceremony will be announced in the coming months.

The Ottoman Kuruş and Control of Coinage

by Ellen Nye and David Yoon

In August 2018, as Turkey faced a currency crisis, its president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called for people to convert their dollars or euros into Turkish lira. The Turkish lira had dropped by almost 50% against the dollar in the previous twelve months, and many Turkish people were converting their savings to dollars or euros, fearing further losses. Erdoğan implored them not to hoard western currencies, comparing it to a new war of independence.

A curious coin in the ANS collection speaks to an earlier era of currency competition in Turkey and across the Middle East. Long before contemporary concerns about “dollarization,” foreign coins flowed into the Ottoman Empire, a vast empire that ruled the region for more than six hundred years. In the seventeenth century, Ottoman mints lay almost dormant as exchange across the empire relied instead on imported foreign coins, many of which were minted on American silver. Among these coins the Dutch lion dollar (leeuwendaalder) proved particularly popular, often minted particularly for the Ottoman market and imported in great quantities. But the lion dollar’s supremacy in Ottoman trade was about to be challenged.

Figure 1. The Ottoman Empire in 1683 (map by Chamoz).

In 1688, after the strain of war on three fronts against the Holy Roman Empire and its allies, the Ottoman state began a series of ambitious monetary reforms. Payments for more than a year’s service were due to its soldiers in arrears. In Anatolia, a famine had reduced the population to eating roots and walnut husks. The Ottoman state hoped that its monetary reforms would produce much needed revenue. Ottoman mints introduced attractive new copper coins produced for the first time through mechanized minting that yielded high seigniorage. This initiative was then followed in 1697 by an even bolder scheme—a ban issued by Sultan Mustafa II (r. 1695–1703) on the circulation of all foreign coins, the very coins on which most of the Ottoman economy depended. All of the foreign coins in circulation were to be brought to Ottoman mints where they would either be melted down or simply overstruck. Sir Paul Rycaut, a contemporary English merchant, described the event:

What other Sultans have not done, [Sultan Mustafa II] hath had the Ambition to perform; that is, under his own Name all the Pieces of Gold and Silver should pass, within his Empire . . . I cannot say that all the Gold and Silver within the Turkish Dominions was brought into the Mint to be new Coined, but it is certainly reported, that a great part thereof was.

Figure 2. Posthumous portrait of Mustafa II in armor by Abdülcelil Celebi Levni (Musée du Louvre).

These coins formed the first examples of the kuruş, the Ottoman coin that would ground the Ottoman economy for much of the eighteenth century. For the four hundred years before the introduction of the kuruş, the akçe had served as the main monetary unit. But the akçe had been repeatedly debased to the point that it was too small for general use. Along with the kuruş, the Ottoman state issued a full spectrum of silver currency. The kuruş system succeeded in becoming the leading unit of account and means of exchange in the eighteenth-century Ottoman Empire. Some European coins did continue to circulate despite Mustafa II’s ban, but they never again occupied the central role they had once played in the Ottoman economy.

A coin in the ANS collection bears witness to this pivotal moment in Ottoman monetary history. At first glance it is simply a kuruş from the reign of Sultan Mustafa II bearing the tuğra, the stylized name of the sultan used to convey his majesty. On closer inspection, however, above the tuğra and along the rim, Latin letters are visible. These letters identify it as a Dutch lion dollar, and more specifically the CA on the obverse identifies it as a lion dollar from the city of Campen. On the reverse side, the numbers “48” indicate that the lion dollar was minted in 1648. This coin then is one of the many lion dollars that would have circulated across the Ottoman Empire. Its minting date of 1648 also gives a sense of the variegated nature of the Ottoman monetary environment, with coins almost fifty years old, and indeed older ones, still in circulation.

Figure 3. Silver kurus of Mustafa II, overstruck on a lion dollar of Campen from 1648 (ANS 1997.65.2502, from the “Jem Sultan” collection, gift of Olivia G. Lincoln).
Figure 4. Silver lion dollar of Campen dated 1648, for comparison with the overstruck coin (ANS 1997.65.2503, from the “Jem Sultan” collection, gift of Olivia G. Lincoln).

It’s hard to overstate the boldness of Mustafa II’s plan to revolutionize the Ottoman monetary system. The overstruck kuruş conveys a vision of a vast empire united under a single currency minted with the sultan’s name. The establishment of the new kuruş, not only provided much needed funds and simplified the collection of taxes by centering the economy under an Ottoman coin at a time when European empires in the Atlantic often struggled with heterogenous supplies of foreign coinage. It also should be seen as a statement of assertive Ottoman sovereignty.

Within traditions of Islamic kingship, the minting of coins was a fundamental duty of a ruler. As these coins passed from hand to hand, they represented the power of the sultan. In the sixteenth century, the historian Mustafa Ali in his 1581 treatise Counsel for Sultans (Nushatü’s-selatin) affirmed the importance of coinage as a marker of sovereignty:

Footless they climb step, handless they travel, wandering from hand to hand. Speechless they give testimony of the sovereign’s overwhelming power, untaught they tell of his superior might.

With this context in mind, the overstruck kuruş tells a powerful story—how an empire awash with European coins took the emblems of foreign powers and turned them into a symbol of Ottoman might at a time that has too often been seen as a period of Ottoman decline. In the early modern period, as in Erdoğan’s modern Turkey, the competition between currencies had both pragmatic and political stakes.

Money, Pain, and Human Sentiment

As one of the leading international centers of numismatic research, it’s no surprise that the stories coins tell about the people who came before us are daily topics of conversation at the offices of American Numismatic Society, where its staff, trustees, fellows, members, and visitors come together in a shared passion for the study of coinage and history. A weekly ritual I enjoy at the ANS is the informal social hour on late Friday afternoons, during which casual conversation often turns to numismatic topics and ideas. Some weeks ago, Chief Curator Peter van Alfen mused about how much cumulative pain the approximately 800,000 objects in the vault have caused through the centuries, a revelation on which I have ruminated since. People made, used, earned, spent, sought after, and often suffered for the objects we study and it’s important to keep the human element in numismatics at the fore of our considerations.

While “money does not buy happiness,” having it certainly makes life easier; it is essential for shelter, food, clothing, health care, transportation—basic subsistence. Financial security gives us agency and control over our lives. Conversely, the lack of it, or an insufficient amount, traps us in compounding anxieties and limits our choices and ability to direct our own destinies. Money’s ability to offer security and to provide a life of comfort, free from concern of destitution, can cause us to go to great lengths to get it, with extreme examples including corruption, theft, murder, coercion, and the exploitation of other human beings.

Our very economic system is open to criticism, as it asserts the primacy of money in our culture, making it a prerequisite for living without hardship and destitution. The growing wealth gap occupies daily news segments that discuss the inability of families across the country to live on minimum wages. Squid Game, the 2021 sensational Netflix series, presently enjoys international popularity because of its biting allegorical critique of the brutal inhumanities and abject cruelties inflicted by late-stage capitalism and the callous hierarchies it creates, a message that transcends cultural and national boundaries and that resonates with a swathe of global audiences facing increasing financial insecurity and inequities. Beyond the constructs of our economic system, countless psychological studies are devoted to the effects money has on our behaviors and the range of emotions it stokes in us. Money programs us in so many ways.

Figure 1. Allegory of Avarice, oil on canvas, by Jacopo Ligozzi, 1590. Avarice holds a money bag as her attribute. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Eric Seiler and Darcy Bradbury, and Edward A. and Karen S. W. Friedman, 1991.443.

Avarice (Fig. 1)—the emotion most associated with money—is not new, for history is rife with examples and stories of the depths to which we fall to acquire money, and the inhuman things we do to each other for it. The raw materials for a great many of the historical coins we study and collect were procured centuries ago through forced labor and slavery; examples include the Roman mines and the Spanish exploitation of the resources in the New World. Damnatio ad metallum, condemnation to the mines, was a Roman capital punishment worse than an immediate death sentence, because of the abject conditions and prolonged suffering that ultimately would lead to death under hard labor.After metal was struck into coined money and put into circulation, the pursuit of it could cause further pain and suffering.

During the reign of Trajan (98–117 CE), the satirist Juvenal wrote a fictional tale about a miserly Roman patron reluctantly doling out a pittance of 100 quadrantes to undeserving clients at the expense of those who actually needed it (1.95–146). In that anecdote, he invokes several gods with temples and altars, but tells us it is money that is worshipped supreme; greed motivates even wealthy citizens with high office to wait for the paltry payment in his story, displacing those who need it to subsist. Juvenal writes: “Of all gods it’s Wealth that compels our deepest reverence – though as yet, pernicious Cash, you lack your own temple, though we’ve raised no altars to Coins (as already to Honor and Peace, to Victory, Virtue and Concord – where storks’ wings rattle as you salute their nest)” (1.112–116). Elsewhere, I have argued that Juvenal makes subtle allusions to contemporary coin designs to heighten his satire, as people associated his theme of corruption and greed with the designs on coins in their pockets, which actually depicted Honor, Peace, Victory, Virtue, and Concord, especially as he also deploys wordplay with numen (deity) and nummus (coin). The episode concludes with the miserly patron turning away spurned clients to gorge himself on a boar, which also features on Trajan’s quadrantes, further reinforcing his theme of avarice (Fig. 2).

Figure 2. Quadrans of Trajan, struck at Rome, ca. 114–117 CE. At the end of Juvenal’s sketch about the dole of 100 quadrantes, needy clients who did not get a payment wait around for a dinner invitation that never comes; the patron, instead, goes home and dines on a whole roast boar, which I argue is a satirical allusion to the design on some Trajanic quadrantes. Obverse: Head of Hercules wearing the lion’s skin, IMP CAES TRAIAN AVG GERM. Reverse: A boar, S C. ANS 1921.100.6.

Perhaps the most famous tale in the ancient world of the suffering money can cause is Judas’s betrayal of Jesus in exchange for 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15; Fig. 3).

Figure 3. Judas Being Paid the 30 Pieces of Silver, etching by Augustin Hirschvogel, 1547. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1961.544.1.

This was the immediate catalyst that led to Jesus’s brutal execution, and the savage and humiliating events of its prelude, which typified non-citizen executions in the Roman Empire. So great was Judas’s remorse that he attempted to return the blood money and hanged himself (Matthew 27:3–5). While highly improbable that the Tyrian shekels (Fig. 4) in the ANS cabinets were among those paid to Judas, we might wonder what they were witness to centuries ago, what they were used for, and what people did to get them (or any of the objects in collections across the globe for that matter), whether it be theft, assault, betrayal, murder, hard labor, prostitution, self-degradation, and so on.

Figure 4. Shekel of Tyre, 18-19 CE. As the primary silver coin circulating in Palestine in the early first century CE, this is the type of coin that scholars generally agree would have been used to pay Judas to betray Jesus. Obverse: Head of Melqart. Reverse: Eagle standing on prow of ship with club to its left, ΤΥΡΟΥ ΙΕΡΑΣ ΚΑΙ ΑΣΥΛΟΥ, date mark in the right field. ANS 1944.100.72863. Bequest of E. T. Newell.

In addition to the acts people commit to attain wealth, we can also discern emotional residue that people attached to coins when material contexts are preserved. Looking to developments in the field of archaeology, and specifically what is called Cognitive Archaeology, Prof. Frank Holt, an ANS member, advocates for a Cognitive Numismatics in his new book: “Numismatics therefore seems a study of elite self-absorption. For that reason, it has generally been viewed as a top-down discipline more about sovereigns than the societies they ruled . . . Cognitive numismatics firmly rejects that premise. Without abandoning all that coins can teach us as state-sponsored media, cognitive numismatics . . . seeks also in coins the lower strata of society as the next step in advancing our knowledge deeper into history’s darkest chasms” (Holt, When Money Talks: A History of Coins and Numismatics [Oxford University Press, 2021], p. 164).

Indeed, there has been a growing body of scholarship that explores the reception and use of coins by people who are anonymous in the grand narrative arc of history. By interrogating the reception and use of coins, we uncover vestiges of the way nameless people attached meaning and emotion to coins, especially in funerary contexts. For instance, late-third and fourth-century CE coins in infant burials in Roman Britain were placed consistently with the reverse side up, with images suggesting the protective roles of the parents. The grieving parents evidently chose such designs to help guide their children safely on their journeys to the afterlife.

Figure 5. Coin of Maxentius for Divus Romulus, struck at Ostia, ca. 309–312 CE. This is not the specific coin from the catacombs, but it illustrates the sort of coin used. Obverse: Head of the boy Romulus, DIVO ROMVLO N V BIS CONS. Reverse: Tomb surmounted by an eagle, AETERNAE MEMORIAE. ANS 1962.82.3.

From Rome, there is the example of a burial of a fourth-century CE Christian child from the Catacombs of Saints Peter and Marcellinus, about which Maria R.-Alföldi wrote in 1996. Around the loculus in which the child’s body was laid to rest, the family pressed ten coins of Maxentius bearing the portrait of his deceased child, Romulus, into the plaster seal (Fig. 5). One coin remains in situ, while the others have since fallen out (Figs. 6–7).

Figure 6. Coin impressions and coin embedded in the plaster around the loculus of the Christian child’s tomb in the Catacombs of Saints Peter and Marcellinus, Rome. Image from Maria R.-Alföldi, “Münze im Grab, Münze am Grab – Ein ausgefallenes Beispiel aus Rom,” Pages 33–39 in C. E. King and D. G. Wigg (eds.), Coin Finds and Coin Use in the Roman World (Berlin, 1996).

The use of the coins is witness to the parents’ sentimental adornment of their child’s grave with the likeness of a child who was about the same age when he died. That they were Christians and Maxentius was a pagan, who deified his dead son, as indicated on the coin with the phrase divo, seems to have mattered little in their choice to mark their child’s passing this way.

Figure 7. Detail of Figure 6, showing the coin with portrait of Divus Romulus embedded in the plaster. Photo credit same as Fig. 6.

Numismatists have, indeed, begun to use coins in ways that help illuminate the lives, experiences, and emotions of everyday people. To examine such questions, and to complete the potential breadth of information that can be obtained from the study of coins, numismatics needs more than just the objects themselves; the deployment of literature, texts, historical context, and the physical associations archaeology provides enrich numismatics and illuminate the people who used coins. In this way, we can help to tell a more complete story of the human experience and give voice to those that the grand political narrative overlooks.

Which Saint-Gaudens?

Louis Saint-Gaudens, by his wife Annetta (Saint-Gaudens National Historic Park).

We have over 160-years of records in the Society’s archives, including correspondence with big names inside and outside of numismatics—Victor Brenner, Hermon MacNeil, Thomas Elder, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Max Mehl, Tiffany & Co., and so on. Sometimes it’s easy to discover what we have because names that appear on folders have been listed in our archives database, ARCHER. Other times it’s not so simple. Some correspondence was placed in folders designated only by letters of the alphabet. Correspondence with Pietro Oddo, for example, might only be found in general “O” folders. Then again, even if “Oddo” folders exist you still have to check the “O” folders because in some years (or even in the same year!) his letters could have ended up there. There is great stuff in these alphabetical files, but you have to dig for it.

When Homer Saint-Gaudens heard that the ANS was displaying the Franklin medal and attributing it to his father Augustus instead of his uncle Louis, he requested that the labeling be corrected.

A couple of weeks ago, ANS Fellow and numismatic author Scott Miller happened to be digging around in an “S” file when he came upon an interesting exchange of letters regarding the Benjamin Franklin 200th anniversary medal struck by Tiffany in 1906. At various times and places, this medal has been attributed to Augustus Saint-Gaudens, to his brother Louis, or to both of them together. In 1927 the Medallic Art Company (MACO) wanted to restrike the medal. Uncertain of the attribution, the company’s Clyde Trees wrote to Augustus’s son, Homer, for guidance.

Trees told Homer that according to sculptor James Earle Fraser, Louis had done the original designs, and the reverse was certainly his, but the “obverse side was entirely changed by Mr. Augustus Saint-Gaudens” and so it was “beyond question the portrait was his work.” Furthermore, Trees’s associate at MACO, Henri Weil, remembered Augustus being actively involved bringing the project to completion. He had visited MACO, where the dies were made, several times to ensure that everything was just right. Trees also noted that the ANS was displaying large casts of the medal, credited to Augustus. Trees’s solution to get around all this uncertainty was to attribute the medal simply to “Saint-Gaudens.”

Part of a letter to the ANS from Homer Saint-Gaudens.

That didn’t sit well with Homer Saint-Gaudens. “I cannot subscribe to the notion that the Franklin Medal was in any way the work of my father,” he wrote. “Even though he put a great deal of time and trouble into it, it was primarily the work of his brother, Louis.” His father, he said, always considered it to be Louis’s work. He also disapproved of Trees’s plan to credit the work simply to “Saint-Gaudens,” as this would be “equivalent to saying ‘Augustus Saint-Gaudens,’ as far as the general public is concerned,” which was as true then as it is today. As for the ANS, Homer told Trees he would write to the Society immediately, which he did, asking that the labeling be changed “in the interest of accuracy and justice.” Secretary Sydney Noe assured him the alteration would be forthcoming, but judging by the plaque seen here, now in storage at the ANS, Noe never got around to it.

UPDATE: I shouldn’t have been so quick to doubt Sydney Noe! According to my colleague, ANS U.S. curator Jesse Kraft, the attribution on this plaque is correct. He explains:

“The way I’ve understood it is that Augustus sketched the first design (with wreath on his head and the statuesque shoulder) and his assistant, Henri Hering, sculpted it in 1905. Augustus had Henri Weil make a galvano and a reduction. This was the very first reduction Weil made on the Janvier, prior to advertising it and Bela Lyon Pratt getting in touch with him. Augustus, however, didn’t like the design and said Franklin looked like “an old woman wearing a tiara.” Augustus then gave the model to brother Louis who scrapped Hering’s design and completely redid Franklin (but used the same exact lettering and flanking branches—literally the same basin). If I’m not mistaken, the finished medal wasn’t struck until 1907 because of all of this (or at least late-1906, later than had been expected). So, the galvano in the image with the Augustus Saint-Gaudens nameplate is correct (as it is the first version), while the second version (below) is the finished medal and the work of Louis Saint-Gaudens.”

The medal as issued, without the wreath (ANS 1961.137.4)

If this was the plaque being referred to at the time, it would explain why the label was never changed. For more, Jesse suggests having a look at this medal. Thanks, Jesse!

New Data Release from the RRDP Project

by Alice Sharpless and Lucia Carbone

This blog post accompanies the second release of data for the RRDP Project. You can read more about the project and the first release in Carbone and Yarrow’s July 13, 2021 blog post.

Figure 1. RRC 357/2, Münzkabinett Wien RÖ 2384.

With our second data release we are continuing with our focus on the period of 92–75 BCE (RRC types 336–392). The new release includes the following RRC types:

Some of the issues released, i.e., 357/1a, 357/1b, and 385/4 are ODEC: One Die for Each Control Mark (Fig. 2).

Figure 2. RRC 357/1b, ANS 1941.131.162.

As the name suggests, ODEC issues have a specific correspondence between dies and control marks. Usually there is a univocal correspondence between obverse and reverse dies for each of these control marks. Early on, Schaefer realized the value of these types for understanding the coin production processes used at the Roman mint and also for testing and improving statistical models for estimating the original number of dies used to strike an issue. The current release has allowed us to add a total of 3,515 specimens to CRRO, including 2,541 ODEC specimens, thus further enhancing our knowledge of ODEC issues.

Figure 3. Schaefer RRC 344/3 Reverse 67 featuring new control symbol.

344/3 was minted under L. Titurius Sabinus in 89 BCE (Fig. 3). Crawford counted 200 reverse dies, but with Schaefer’s materials this number has been raised to 224. Schaefer’s materials also reveal six new control symbols of Titurius Sabinus:

Schaefer’s materials also include a second example of a variant reverse die where Victory holds a whip rather than wreath, with no control mark. Crawford had already noted the example in the collection of the University of Oslo. Before this data release there were 283 specimens represented in CRRO. There are now 770 specimens in CRRO.

Figure 4. RRC 385/4, Peacock control mark.

357/1a and 357/1b both date to 83 BCE, minted under G. Norbanus. 357/1a seems to be a small issue. Schaefer’s materials provide examples of 26 obverse dies. Crawford gave a range of numbered control marks from I to XXVI. Schaefer’s materials also include specimens with the control marks CXXXXVII and CXV (one die for each). These higher control marks might indicate that the issue was much larger than previously known, or these may be imitations. Before this data release there were 49 specimens represented in CRRO. There are now 217. 357/1b is a much larger issue. Crawford noted 156 obverse dies, but we can now raise that number to 210,with an additional 5 imitation dies. These materials do not add any new control marks to the range of I to CCXXVIIII provided by Crawford. Schaefer’s materials also show that this particular issue has a high number of brockages. This data release has added an additional 1,796 specimens to CRRO.

Figure 5. RRC 385/4 Bird r. (pea-hen?) control mark.

385/4 is another large issue minted under M. Voltei M. F. in 78 BCE which has both obverse and reverse control marks. This moneyer created a series wherein each of the five coins celebrates a different major religious festival: the ludi Romani (or plebeii, represented in RRC 385/1), Cereales (RRC 385/3), Megalenses (RRC 385/4), Apollinares (RRC 385/5), and, as it is suggested by the types on RRC 385/2,  the short-lived ludi Herculani (for a criticism to this chronology, see Keaveney 2005).The issue included in this data release thus celebrated the ludi Megalenses, which were established in 204 BCE to honor the Magna Mater, Cybele, as suggested by the reverse. Schaefer’s materials reveal 78 obverse dies (an increase from 71 noted by Crawford), although one is likely an imitation. There are 79 reverse dies (an increase from 71 noted by Crawford), three of which are probably imitations. This RRDP release has increased the specimens on CRRO from 182 to 759. Most notably, Schaefer’s materials also contribute six new obverse control marks that were not included by Crawford. They also allow for four corrections to Crawfords list (see table). Schaefer has shown that two of the reverse control marks (ΛΕ and ΜΘ) actually have two associated dies though there is no corresponding change in obverse die. This may suggest the original reverse dies broke or were damaged earlier than expected. The following table shows the updated list of control marks. New or corrected control marks are in bold. Schaefer also includes one specimen which appears to be an imitation of the Thyrsus/Θ pair. We are indebted to our volunteer David van Dyke for his work on this issue.

Winged caduceusB
Star (Obverse 1002)Δ
Lizard (Obverse 1010)ΙΕ
Heron walkingΙΗ
Peacock (Fig. 4; Obverse 1012)ΙΘ
Plane (Obverse 1013)Κ
Bird r. (pea-hen?) (Obverse 1015) [Crawford identifies as Peacock, but new control mark (above) show this cannot be a peacock; perhaps is a pea-hen, see Fig. 5]ΚΒ        
Piercer (Crawford, Pl. LXX 50)ΛΑ
Stilus (Obverse 1025)ΛΕ (2 dies, Fig. 6-7)
Pileus with starΛΖ
Boot r. (Crawford, Pl. LXX, 51)ΛΗ
Perfume-jar (Crawford, Pl. LXX, 52)Μ  
Staff with double hookΜΑ
Macedonian shieldΜΓ
Pear-shaped shieldΜΔ
Oval shieldΜΕ
Oblong shield with rounded cornersΜΣ
Oblong shield with square cornersΜΖ
Small round shieldΜΗ
Large round shieldΜΘ (2 dies)
Lighted altar (Crawford, Pl. LXX, 53)ΝΓ  
Altar (Crawford, Pl. LXX, 53)ΝΔ
Axe/Hatchet (Crawford,Pl. LXX, 54)ΝΕ  
Duck’s headΝΣ (not ΝΕ)
Stove (Pl. LXX, 55)Ξ
Short boot (Pl. LXX, 56)ΞΣ
Foot r.ΞΖ
Gourd? (Obverse 1059) [Crawford identifies as Knife-blade but this seems to be a mistake]ΞΗ    
Bow and quiverΟ
Crawford, Pl. LXX, 58ΟΓ
Small plumb bob? (Obverse 1065)ΟΔ
Bunch of grapesΟΕ
Shovel (Crawford, Pl. LXX, 59)ΟΘ
Small broom (Crawford, Pl. LXX, 60; Obverse 1071) [Crawford identifies as “comb” but probably associated with previous as tools for clearing fire ash]Π        
Mask of Silenus (Obverse 1072) [Crawford identifies as Mask of Pan]ΠΑ  
Mask of Pan (Obverse 1073)ΠΒ
Crested helmetΠΓ
Figure 6. Schaefer RRC 385/4 Reverse ΛΕ1, Obverse 1025 (stylus).
Figure 7. Schaefer RRC 385/4 Reverse ΛΕ2, Obverse 1025 (stylus).

A second group of issues included in this release is instrumental in illustrating the financing of Sulla’s campaign in Italy in 84-82 BCE. 359/1 (aureus) and 359/2 (denarius) are issues of L. Cornelius Sulla. For 359/1, Schaefer’s materials add five new specimens to CRRO, with the result that CRRO now includes all ten known specimens. Crawford recorded 6 obverse and 6 reverse dies for 359/1. Schaefer’s materials reveal another two for each, for a total of 8 reverse and 8 obverse dies. For 359/2, Schaefer’s materials provide 187 reverse dies—a significant increase from the 36 reverse dies Crawford recorded—and add 277 specimens to CRRO. There is a high number of singleton reverse dies, an element that could hint at an Eastern mint for these issues. An Eastern production is also suggested by the die-axis, which present a strong tendency toward 12:00, a common practice for Greek coinage, but almost unattested in Roman Republican coinage The Eastern minting techniques, together with the iconographical similarities between the reverse of these RRC issues and the so-called Athenian ‘trophies’ tetradrachms, strongly connect  RRC 359 issues to the early phases of Sulla’s reconquest of Italy (Figs. 8–9). 

Figure 8. Reverse of RRC 359/2, Berlin MünzKabinett 18206086.

The anonymous issues 375/1 (aureus) and 375/2 (denarius, Fig. 1) were recently published by Alberto Campana (“L’Emissione con “Q” di Silla (RRC 375/1–2, 82 a.C.)” Monete Antiche 118 (2021): 3–30). The aureus 357/1 is known from only a single specimen in the BnF (REP-21376). For 357/2, Campana includes more specimens than Schaefer and identifies 40 obverse and 111 reverse dies plus two plated obverse and reverse dies. Schaefer’s materials include 98 reverse dies and add 205 specimens to CRRO. On the basis of hoard evidence, Campana convincingly argues that these issues should also be included among the ones financing Sulla’s campaigns and possibly dated to the same years as RRC 359 issues. The contribution of RRDP to our knowledge of Sullan campaign financing strategies will be presented by Lucia Carbone on November 10 at the University of Virginia.

Figure 9. Reverse of New Style Silver tetradrachm, Athens, 86–84 BCE, ANS 2015.20.881.

The next RRDP release, tentatively scheduled for January 2022, will include all of the RRC 367 types, also related to the Sullan campaigns of 84–82 BCE. Crawford identifies five types (three denarii, two aurei) of this joint issue of Sulla and L. Manlius Torquatus. But it seems this issue can actually be broken down into more than five types, some of which were marked with control symbols. By focusing on 367 we aim to disentangle and revise Crawford’s typologies.

Guises of the Tribute Penny

This last summer an email message to the ANS Curatorial Department requested that an attempt be made to use the Society’s online resources, like Pocket Change, to offer some education regarding the famous “Tribute Penny” mentioned in the King James Version of Mark 12:13–17 (thought by many New Testament source critics to have been followed by Matthew 22:16–21 and Luke 20:20–26). The sender expressed concern that coins regularly sold on the numismatic market as the “Tribute Penny” type might be wrongly described as such. This is in fact a very old concern, and one that extends almost back to the birth of modern coin collecting in the Renaissance.

Figure 1. Title page of Marquard Freher’s De Numismate census, a Pharisaeis in quaestionem vocato (Heidelberg, 1599).

Already in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the question of the coin’s identity had been discussed in print by several scholars (Fig. 1). These treatises generally preferred a silver coin of Tiberius (AD 14–37) featuring the portrait and name of the emperor on the obverse and an enthroned female figure on the reverse often thought to represent his mother Livia in the guise of Pax (Fig. 2).

Figure 2. Silver denarius of Tiberius. Lugdunum mint, AD 14–37. RIC I2, 30. ANS 1948.19.1043.

This identification seemed to tick all of the appropriate boxes: 1) The coin was struck by Tiberius who was known to have been the reigning emperor during Jesus’ ministry; 2) it featured the emperor’s “image and superscription,” both of which are explicitly mentioned in the parallel accounts of the three Synoptic Gospels; and 3) it was a denarius (Greek δηνάριον), the denomination specified by the Synoptic Gospels. This identification seemed to have it all, and thus it has tended to be the favorite down to the present, to the point that if the “Tribute Penny” is mentioned to any numismatist today, this is the type that invariably leaps to mind first. However, the identification with Tiberius’ denarius has one important difficulty that was unknown from the time that the numismatists of the early modern period first identified the “Tribute Penny” down to the last quarter of the twentieth century: There is no find evidence to suggest that the Roman denarius circulated in Judaea in any kind of quantity before AD 70.

Figure 3. Silver tetradrachm of Tiberius. Antioch mint, AD 14-37. RPC I, 4161.1. ANS 1944.100.65559.

As a possible solution to this problem it has sometimes been suggested that the “Tribute Penny” was actually a rare silver tetradrachm type (Fig. 3) struck in the name of Tiberius at Antioch on the Orontes, the capital of the Roman province of Syria. Due to the close proximity of Syria to Judaea it is assumed that such coins were more likely to have circulated in the environs of Judaea in the time of Jesus than the denarius. Unfortunately, the Syrian tetradrachm theory is bedeviled by its own complications that have tended to prevent it from gaining wide acceptance. For one thing, the tetradrachm (roughly equivalent to four denarii) was a much larger denomination than Mark’s denarius and its design featuring the heads and names of both Tiberius and the deified Augustus makes for uncomfortable ambiguity when Jesus asks his interlocutors whose “image and superscription” are on it. Also problematic is the fact that none of the few known Syrian tetradrachms of Tiberius were found in Israel. Indeed, find and hoard evidence suggests that Syrian tetradrachms really only began to circulate in Judaea under Nero, perhaps in response to the closure of the provincial silver mint at Tyre in AD 56 and/or the movement of troops at the outbreak of the Jewish Revolt (AD 66–73).     

Although proponents of the differing identities of the “Tribute Penny” have occasionally come close to blows in the past, it may be worth considering the possibility that the specific denomination was mentioned by Mark and the other Synoptic Gospels not so much with the intention of providing a precise historical detail but as a means of adding concreteness to the message of proper respect for divine and worldly authority. If the many New Testament source critics who consider the Gospel of Mark to have been written for a Christian community in Rome shortly after the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 are correct, it seems not unreasonable to wonder whether the coin is identified as a denarius not as a literal description of a coin actually handed to Jesus at the time of his questioning, but because this denomination was comprehensible in the Roman context of Mark’s primary audience. It was a coin that anyone in Rome, Italy or the western provinces would have been familiar with in the first century. This is the very same mechanism that turned Mark’s denarius into a penny (Fig. 4) in the English of the King James Version as a means of retaining intelligibility for English readers of the early seventeenth century.

Figure 4. Silver penny of James I. London Tower mint, 1603–1625. North 2106. ANS 1972.197.1.

Although the precise identity of the coin is important to those of us with a numismatic bent, it is not so clear that this was particularly important to early Christian communities. In the Gnostic-leaning Gospel of Thomas (100:1–4), an extra-canonical Coptic codex of sayings of Jesus discovered in Egypt near Nag Hammadi in 1945, the “Tribute Penny” is described as a gold coin (Coptic anoub). A Roman gold aureus (worth 25 denarii) (Fig. 5) would have been ridiculously high for the head tax (caput) in the first century—particularly considering that the punitive tax imposed on adult male Jews after the fall of Jerusalem was only two denarii (roughly equivalent to the half shekel previously paid to the Jerusalem Temple).

Figure 5. Gold aureus of Tiberius. Lugdunum mint, AD 14–37. RIC I2, 29. ANS 1957.172.1514.

However, in response to the runaway inflation and the debasement of Roman silver coinage over the course of the third century, in the 290s Diocletian instituted reforms that required the payment of the head tax in gold (Fig. 6).

Figure 6. Gold aureus of Diocletian. Antioch mint, AD 296-297. RIC VI, 13. ANS 1960.175.2.

Since the Nag Hammadi version of the Gospel of Thomas is believed to have been written down in the mid-fourth century on the basis of paleography (although it seems to include earlier material), it is tempting to suggest that here too the coin in Jesus’ hand reflects the contemporary reality of the community for which the gospel was written rather than any historical reality. In the fourth century, the head tax was regularly assessed in gold solidi (Fig. 7) and therefore Mark’s silver denarius was transformed into gold for the Late Antique audience of the Coptic Gospel of Thomas.   

Figure 7. Gold solidus of Constantius II. Antioch mint, AD 347–355. RIC VIII, 83. ANS 1956.184.9.

The apparent irrelevance of the precise identity of the coin is further implied by the extra-canonical Egerton Gospel and Tertullian’s treatise against idolatry. The Egerton Gospel is a fragmentary Greek codex obtained by the British Museum in 1934 and probably dateable to about AD 200. The recto side of Egerton Fragment 2 recounts the familiar controversy over payment of the head tax but there no coin is ever proffered to Jesus, nor is a coin even mentioned. Tertullian’s De Idolatria (15.3), probably written in the early third century, on the other hand, also retells this story, but refers to the denarius of the Synoptic Gospels only by the nondescript Latin term nummus (“coin”).

Coin identification (and argument about differing coin identifications) is the basic lifeblood of any numismatist. There is a special thrill to looking at a 2,000-year-old piece of metal and being able to say to oneself, “Aha! I know what that is.” However, in attempting to precisely identify the “Tribute Penny” as a specific coin, it may be that we are really chasing a chimera.

A blog of the American Numismatic Society