Trouble with Names

Augustus Saint-Gaudens by Kenyon Cox (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Du Bois was a big name at the U.S. mint in the nineteenth century. Or was it DuBois? Dubois? du Bois? This kind of thing can drive you crazy when writing. (It’s worse when you have to speak these historical names aloud. In this case I was assisted by numismatic researcher Joel Orosz, who found out that the descendants pronounce it doo-BOYZ.) For guidance you can try looking at an individual’s publications, if they have any, though you might be dealing with someone like the noted numismatist Edouard Frossard (Édouard? Edward?), who didn’t help matters by putting an abbreviation of his name (Ed.) on everything. There is an excellent online tool for straightening this out, the Virtual International Authority File (VIAF), which gives the preferred forms from around the world. This works pretty well for Du Bois, but the entry (by the Library of Congress) for Frossard—Frossard, Ed.‏ ‎ (Edouard),‏ ‎1837–1899—might be helpful for catalogers but is a little less than definitive‏ for writers.

Saint-Gaudens’s signature on a letter to George Kunz in the ANS Archives


One name I always have to double-check is that of revered American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. (Hyphenated or not? Or is it St. Gaudens?) Curious about the sculptor’s own usage, I had a look at some of his documents in our collection. It seems he most often used the abbreviated St. Gaudens form when signing, though he did sometimes spell it out, as in the signature that accompanies his photograph in the book of reminiscences published by his son Homer. His wife, the similarly named Augusta, used the spelled-out form in letters she sent to the ANS. The Society sometimes rather insouciantly replied using “St.”

St. Ganden?

In one egregious blunder, the ANS not only used the St. form in the catalog for its “Million Dollar Exhibition” of 1914, but managed also to botch the spelling AND misuse a possessive, a move that must have horrified the ANS’s brand new curator Howland Wood, who I assume was responsible for the catalog. (I don’t mean to dump on Wood too much here. I could easily see something like this happening to me.)

One of the notes that accompanied plaquettes sent to those who participated in a masque honoring Saint-Gaudens at his home in Cornish, New Hampshire.

Of course, Saint-Gaudens didn’t care about such things when it came to those closest to him. Just as the personal correspondence of the Chapman Brothers tells us that, though the two coin dealers went by “Henry” and “S. H.” in business, they were always “Harry” and “Hudson” to friends and family, documents in the ANS Archives show that Saint-Gaudens was called “Gus” by his friends and relatives. (His wife was “Gussie.”) In fact, the artist refers to himself as “Stick in the Mud Uncle Gus” in one of several notes of appreciation we have from him on file.

A masque plaquette (ANS 1961.137.3)
ANS librarian and archivist David Hill admires the Roman temple built at the site of the Saint-Gaudens masque (photograph courtesy of Grace Hill).

These notes originally accompanied plaquettes the sculptor distributed to thank those who participated in a masque presented in his honor at Aspet, his home in Cornish, New Hampshire, an elaborate affair featuring music composed by Arthur Whiting and masks by Maxfield Parrish, who also appeared in the production. The masque was performed in 1905 at a temple resembling a Roman alter built onsite for the occasion, which is reproduced on the plaque. The decaying original plaster temple was replaced in 1914 by a marble one designed by William Kendall of McKim, Mead & White, and this is where the ashes of Saint-Gaudens and his wife and son are interred. The Cornish site is now a U.S. national park—one I highly recommend visiting.


The Aedes of Vesta on Cistophori of C. Fannius

Anyone who has been paying attention to the ANS Pocket Change blog or to the ANS Magazine over the last while will be aware that over the course of this year a lot of work has been going on with respect to the large body of numismatic material left to the American Numismatic Society by Rick W. Witschonke in 2015. This includes 524 (14% of the collection) cistophoric tetradrachms and fractions struck for use in the Hellenistic Attalid kingdom and the Roman province of Asia that it became after 133 BC (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. Silver cistophorus (Pergamum, ca. 166–160 BC). ANS 2015.20.1210 (Witschonke collection).

Of the cistophori, named for the cista mystica that serves as the standard obverse type, 146 (27% of the cistophori in the collection) belong to a special class known as Later Republican cistophori. These were struck in the relatively brief period from 58 to 49 BC and are distinguished by their inclusion of the names of Roman governors written in Latin. Issues naming T. Ampius Balbus (58–57 BC) and C. Fannius (49 BC) are also notable for their modifications to the traditional cistophoric reverse type. On coins of Balbus the traditional bowcase of Heracles on the reverse is replaced by a tripod (Fig. 2) while on those of Fannius it is replaced by a tholos temple surmounted by a female figure holding a patera and a scepter (Fig. 3).

Figure 2. Silver cistophorus of T. Ampius Balbus (Tralles, 58–57 BC). ANS 2015.20.36 (Witschonke collection).
Figure 3. Silver cistophorus of C. Fannius (Ephesus, 49/8 BC). ANS 2015.20.90 (Witschonke collection).

Curiously, the depiction of this temple, which seems very similar to the aedes of Vesta in Rome (Fig. 4), has excited relatively little interest in the major numismatic studies of the coins.

Figure 4. The remains of the aedes of Vesta in the Forum Romanum.

In the January 1973 issue of the American Journal of Archaeology, Jane Cody argued that Fannius’ temple should indeed be identified with the aedes of Vesta on the basis of Roman Republican denarii of Q. Cassius Longinus (RRC 428) struck in 55 BC. These depict a virtually identical temple that almost certainly represents the aedes of Vesta (Fig. 5).

Figure 5. Silver denarius of Q. Cassius Longinus (Rome, 55 BC). ANS 1948.19.203.

The moneyer’s ancestor, L. Cassius Longinus Ravilla, served as prosecutor in the infamous second trial of the Vestal Virgins for failure to honor their vows of chastity in 113 BC. In the 2007 volume of Klio, Linda Zollschan argued that the edifice alluded to the events of 61 BC, in which Fannius and two other members of the college of pontifices (Fannius is consistently described as pontifex on his cistophori) brought the politically-motivated indictment against P. Clodius Pulcher for profaning the female-only rites of the Bona Dea—an important goddess of the Roman state who enjoyed the special patronage of the gens Fannia.  Thus, the temple on Fannius’ cistophori should be identified as the temple of the Bona Dea for Roman political reasons and because, in Zollschan’s view, its design and the appearance of the statue that surmounts it are not appropriate for the aedes of Vesta. She cites several dissimilarities:

1. The aedes of Vesta in Rome had 20 columns and only six are depicted on the temple on Fannius’ cistophori—hardly a convincing argument since the unequivocal aedes of Vesta on the denarius of Cassius is also depicted with six columns as a means of revealing the interior.

2. The denarii of Cassius depict the aedes of Vesta with Corinthian column capitals while Fannius’ temple has Ionic capitals. However, close inspection of numerous specimens of Fannius’ cistophori shows that in many cases, the capitals are actually Corinthian and that the “Ionic” capitals are really Corinthian capitals with overly prominent volutes.    

3. The aedes of Vesta in Rome was mounted on a podium, but the temple on Fannius’ coins has no podium—and yet the aedes of Vesta on Cassius’ coinage also lacks a podium.

4. The statue atop Fannius’ temple is not appropriate for a representation of Vesta. This is a rather more serious argument since specimens exist in which it is very clear that the female image is not veiled—the primary attribute of Vesta (an especially impressive and clear example appears in a recent update to a blog post on Fannius’ temple by Liv Yarrow). This being said, I have not yet been able to find an example of Cassius’ denarius in print or in CRRO or Coin Archives where it is possible to determine whether the statue on the aedes of Vesta is veiled or not.

Zollschan attempted to identify the statue on Fannius’ temple as the Bona Dea on the basis of her scepter and patera—both rather generic attributes—and a supposed serpent at the top of the scepter that she described as visible on one specimen. However, a close examination of the coin image suggests that what she was seeing as a serpent is really the arm of the figure holding the scepter. She also fails to note that the most prominent attribute of the Bona Dea is her cornucopia (Fig. 6)—something that is entirely lacking from the coins.

Figure 6. Inscribed marble statue of the Bona Dea.

Based on the preceding, and on the probability that the die engravers for Fannius’ temple were using a denarius of Q. Cassius Longinus as a model, Cody’s case for the aedes of Vesta still seems quite strong. The potential problem of the female statue may perhaps be mitigated by Flavian aurei that depict the aedes of Vesta in the form it took after its rebuilding under Nero (Fig. 7).

Figure 7. Gold aureus of Vespasian depicting the aedes of Vesta (Rome, AD 73). ANS 1956.184.26.

Here the shrine is shown with only four columns(!) and the cult image of Vesta standing inside. She appears to hold a patera and scepter, but again, it is very difficult to tell if she is actually veiled although we would expect it. Other female statues stand to the left and the right of the aedes, which presumably represent deities other than Vesta. Interestingly, the statue on the right also appears holding a patera and scepter in the same manner as the statue on Fannius’ temple, thus raising the possibility that it could still represent the aedes of Vesta without the image of Vesta necessarily surmounting it.

If Fannius’ temple on the cistophori is indeed the aedes of Vesta and the image was copied from the coinage of Cassius, we must then ask why this model was used. It is tempting to suggest that the denarius type may have provided a convenient image of a Roman temple and was used simply to emphasize Fannius’ status as pontifex. Alternatively (or simultaneously?) the temple may have been intended as a punning reference to Fannius’ name (fanum was a somewhat generic Latin term for a temple or shrine).

It is unclear whether there may have been any political motivation in borrowing Cassius’ type. In 49 BC, Q. Cassius Longinus had become tribune of the plebs with the support of Julius Caesar. Fannius, on the other hand, was clearly a Pompeian at the time of the Bona Dea affair in 61 BC. Subsequent events suggest that he may have changed his political alignment. Cicero implicates Fannius in an alleged plot against Pompey (Att. 2.4) in 59 BC and identifies him as a legate sent to Sextus Pompey by the triumvir M. Lepidus in 43 BC (Philipp. 3.16), all of which might imply an association of Fannius with the Caesarean faction in the 50s and much of the 40s BC. However, Fannius was a political opportunist, and in late 43 BC he switched his allegiance again and became a leading supporter of Sextus Pompey in Sicily. This lasted until 36 BC, when it became clear that the Pompeian cause was doomed and Fannius then threw in with Mark Antony. Thus, it seems not impossible that Fannius’ reuse of Cassius’ image of the aedes of Vesta in 49 BC could have served as a somewhat oblique declaration for Caesar through the person of his tribune of the plebs. It would have been very timely for Fannius to do so considering that he probably departed to take up his position as governor of Asia just as, or not long after Caesar cast his die and the Roman state began its descent into civil war.

A Caffeinated Tour of the ANS Collection

In the world of humorous coffee shop signs, there is one that has always rung particularly true for this numismatic devotee: “I Don’t Drink Coffee To Wake Up, I Wake Up To Drink Coffee.”

For many, coffee and tea drinks are mere caffeine delivery systems with varying levels of real or artificial sucrose. For others, they are magical brews sent down from on high, and possess an elevated status on par with the finest Grand Crus of Burgundy and the rarest of Scottish single malts. The truth of course lies somewhere in the middle, but after coming across a coffee-themed Civil War merchant token ultimately destined for the American Numismatic Society’s eBay store, it begged the question as to what other coffee or tea-related objects reside in the Society’s vast collection. Let us embark, then, on a kind of “world tour” as it were, to sample a few of the coins, tokens, and medals linked to the consumption of coffee or tea (sometimes both on the same object). These are presented with limited commentary, to illustrate the kind of broad searches that can be performed within the American Numismatic Society’s MANTIS database.

The Civil War merchant token that inspired this post. Note the similarity of the merchant’s name to that of the author’s, although there is no (known) familial connection to the issuer of this token.

Islamic Department

Given that both coffee and tea were not introduced to Europe until the end of the 15th century and early 16th century respectively—interestingly, both sources of caffeine made landfall in Europe just decades apart—it is not surprising that a cursory search of the Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Departments do not yield any numismatic specimens with which this blog post is concerned. Suffice it to say, we are starting our journey in the Islamic Department, fitting when considering that the first historical accounts of coffee have its origins situated in present-day Yemen. That said, there are several fascinating (if not apocryphal) stories about coffee’s birthplace belonging to Ethiopia instead, which the reader is highly encouraged to explore on their own. Tea, of course, is just as popular as coffee (perhaps more so) in many Middle Eastern countries, so it is equally fitting that the first object on our numismatic tour is actually a bronze Iranian tea house token circa 1945–1956, an interesting piece that the author is keen to learn more about.

East Asian Department

Our next stop is the East Asian Department, more specifically China, the undisputed birthplace of tea, or Camellia sinensis. Here we also have a tea house token, this time in a copper alloy, oval-shaped, and uniface, with the reverse having an incuse impression of the characters on the obverse. It was issued by the Chung Ch’eng Tea House. Also featured is a wonderful tea brick produced by the Chao Li Qiao Brick Tea Manufacturing Company, circa 1875–1925. Although they are one of the few types of edible currencies known to circulate, the tea bricks that are still produced today have lost their role as a commonly accepted medium of exchange. According to the passage on brick tea in Robert D. Leonard’s Curious Currency, tea bricks came in various sizes, and mostly served the areas of eastern Tibet, Mongolia, and Siberia throughout the 19th century, and even into the early 20th century. Additionally, some tea bricks were of better or lesser quality depending on where they were intended to circulate, and whether the bricks contained Russian Cyrillic inscriptions or Chinese ones.

South Asian Department

If the reader is noticing a trend with respect to tea dominating the tokens found in the Islamic, East Asian, and now South Asian Departments, this is a function of the importance that tea plays in this region of the world, although one should not underestimate the popularity of coffee in countries such as Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, as well as in some Pacific Island nations (e.g., Hawaii) and Australia. The following bronze token was produced by the Lungla (Sylhet) Tea Co. Ld. Lungla Division, circa 1879–1900, and likely played a similar role as the previous tokens, either as advertising pieces, or tokens that could be exchanged for goods.

Modern Department

Crossing the threshold into the Modern Department, we see a shift to coffee-themed tokens, although there is no shortage of tea-related objects in MANTIS as well. First is a copper alloy token dated 1671 featuring the bust of an Ottoman Turk and “Solyman” on the obverse, almost certainly alluding to Suleiman I ‘The Magnificent’ (1494–1566), the longest-reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, despite this token being issued by “Wards Coffee House” more than 100 years after the death of Suleiman I. Next is a copper alloy token dated slightly earlier (1669) issued by Charles Kiftell to advertise their “Coffee House In Cheap Side” by displaying a hand pouring a fresh cup of coffee into an eagerly-awaiting cup. What better call-to-action could a proprietor pick to advertise a drink that was (purportedly) declared fit for Christians to drink by Pope Clement VIII (1536–1605) a mere 69 years earlier in 1600—although the reader is encouraged to take this story with a grain of salt, or perhaps a pinch of sugar in the case of coffee. Lastly we have an undated but definitely modern-era aluminum token for an aptly named “Coffee Bar” in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada—a purely utilitarian token versus one meant for advertising, as this piece was issued by the Saskatchewan Government Insurance Office.

ANS 1951.194.169
ANS 1967.159.836

United States Department

Representing the United States, highlighted here are two different tokens—although they are almost medal-like in their artistry—produced for the Union Coffee Co. Limited of New York in the 2nd half of the 19th century. One token, in white metal with proof-like surfaces, displays the head of a woman on the obverse, while the other token, in hard red rubber, boasts the bust of U.S. President John Adams. The “Alaroma” and “Bunola” on the obverse of both tokens refer to the two most popular brands of coffee that the Union Coffee Company produced. The company was a prolific issuer of tokens, and the hard rubber or vulcanite types featuring different U.S. Presidents were often released in multiple color varieties.

The final object representative of the United States is also representative of Canada, as it is a paper advertisement for a Buffalo, New York “Coffee House” pasted onto the obverse of an 1859 Canadian large cent—not wholly unsurprising given Buffalo’s proximity to the Canadian border. Also interesting is the volume of information the business chose to include; it’s evident they wanted to make the most of the large cent’s real estate by advertising the prices of no less than 10 items on this repurposed coin-token.

ANS 1936.18.10
ANS 1934.42.1

Latin America Department

Latin America is of course very well-known for their coffee production, so it should come as no great shock that several paper notes from Latin American countries contain printed engravings detailing various facets of coffee farming and production. On the reverse of this 1965 paper 5-Colon note of Costa Rica, a figure is seen drying unroasted “green” coffee beans in the sun, one of many steps required to get coffee from a farm to a consumer’s cup, a process wherein the final product often ends up many thousands of miles away from where it began.

Medals Department

Rounding out our “world tour” is another object from Latin America, but more specifically from the Medals Department. It is a simple but elegant medal featuring a coffee leaf, coffee flower, and coffee “cherry” (the fruit that encapsulates the two “beans” found in each cherry) along with the inscription “Uruguay-Brazil 1903” on the obverse, and three flowers and a cherry on the reverse.

The New Navy in New York

At the end of the Civil War, the United States had the second largest navy in the world after the Royal Navy of Great Britain, a result of the Union’s attempt to blockade Southern ports. By 1880, however, the US Navy had dropped to 12th place as Congress became increasingly preoccupied with westward expansion and was unwilling to fund a navy for which it saw little need or purpose. A change of perception brought about in part by German, British, and Spanish encroachments in the Americas, a violation of our self-proclaimed Monroe Doctrine, encouraged new spending to begin to modernize the fleet, to introduce a new steel and steam navy to replace the old wooden one.

Funding for three new steel cruisers was authorized in 1883 reflecting US naval doctrine at the time: in the event of war, the primary purpose of the navy would be to protect US seaborne trade while disrupting the trade of the enemy. Cruisers were therefore the ideal type of warship: comparatively lightly armored and gunned, but able to cruise alone at long distances in search of enemy cargo ships. By the end of the 1880s, the first generation of steel cruisers were in the water (USS Atlanta, Boston, and Chicago), all of which carried a complement of auxiliary sails to extend range, followed by a second and then third generation of sail-less cruisers, USS New York and Brooklyn, and together these ships represented the US Navy’s reemergence from its decades-long slumber (Fig. 1), which soon ignited an arms race with Germany to build the second most powerful navy after the undisputed leader, the Royal Navy.

Figure 1. Lithograph by Granville Perkins depicting in the foreground (l. to r.) the torpedo boat USS Cushing, the cruisers USS Newark and USS Chicago, and battleship USS Indiana (ca. 1894).

Although Congress was now funding new ships nearly every year, including the first-generation battleships, the Indiana-class, launched in the mid-1890s, there was still considerable push-back on the expenditure, resulting in ships that were not always up to European par. By the turn of the century, however, that was to change as the US Navy became the darling of the public eye having starred in several magnificent naval parades in New York harbor.

The first took place on April 27, 1893 in conjunction with the Columbian Exposition held in Chicago. In order to show off its new ships and nascent fleet maneuvering abilities, Congress authorized funds for a naval review similar to those sometimes hosted by the Royal Navy to be held at both Hamptons Roads and in New York harbor, and sent out invitations to the world’s navies. While the response was mixed, those that truly counted, the British, the Germans, the French, and the Spanish, responded by sending their latest cruisers to parade up the Hudson River to the newly built Grant’s Tomb alongside the new cruisers of the US Navy (Fig. 2).

Figure 2: Lithograph published by Kurz & Allison depicting the Columbian Naval Parade, April 27, 1893. The HMS Blake leads the line of foreign ships (black hulls), while the USS Baltimore leads the US line (white hulls).

No such international parade of ships had ever taken place in the US before and this certainly caught the eye of many illustrators and artists. Fred Cozzens, for example, a Staten Island-based artist, produced chromolithographic views of the naval review that were part of a larger set that appear in 1893 featuring nearly two dozen new US ships, including many still under construction (Figs. 3–4).

Figure 3. Lithograph by Fred Cozzens depicting the Columbian Naval Parade, the HMS Blake leads the line of foreign ships (black hulls), while the USS Baltimore leads the US line (white hulls) (1893).
Figure 4. Lithograph by Fred Cozzens depicting the USS Atlanta and Yorktown in parade dress (1893).

Cozzens’ set of 24 high quality prints were issued in a volume entitled Our Navy: Its Growth and Achievements, with commentary by a Lt. J. D. Jerrold Kelly, clearly meant to drum up support for naval expansion. In a similar vein, the US Navy sponsored the construction of the faux battleship USS Illinois, a full-sized replica made of staff, not steel, of one of the Indiana-class ships then under construction that was set alongside a pier at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago (Fig. 5). It proved to be a popular exhibit.

Figure 5: Postcard depicting the faux battleship USS Illinois (1893).

Not long after the closing of the Exposition, growing tensions between the US and Spain over Cuban independence finally erupted in the spring of 1898 when the USS Maine, an armored cruiser reclassified as a 2nd class battleship soon after launching, blew up in Havana harbor with great loss of life, where it had gone to show the flag for American business interests in Cuba (Figs. 6–7).

Figure 6. Token depicting the USS Maine (ANS 0000.999.38891).
Figure 7. Token depicting the USS Maine (ANS 1967.225.597).

At the time the cause of the explosion was determined to be a Spanish mine, just cause for Congress to declare war, although it may well have been an internal explosion as later naval historians have suggested. By the end of the summer, the New Navy had scored two remarkable and crushing victories over the Spanish navy, one under Commodore George Dewey leading the Asiatic Squadron in Manila harbor in the Philippines (May 1, 1898), and the other under Commodore William T. Sampson leading the North Atlantic Squadron near Santiago in Cuba (July 3, 1898). Both naval battles set the United States on its course to become an 20th century imperial power. At the Treaty of Paris (December 10, 1898), Spain ceded the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico to the US; both warring parties agreed to let the Cubans have their independence.

In August 1898, the squadron under Sampson aboard his flagship USS New York with his second in command Commodore Winifred Scott Schley aboard USS Brooklyn returned to New York harbor, home to the Brooklyn Naval Yard and the Tompkinsville Naval Station (Staten Island). Still in their wartime grey paint, the ships paraded up the Hudson again as far as Grant’s Tomb to the cheers of great crowds in boats and along the waterfront (August 26, 1898) (Fig. 8).

Figure 8. Lithograph by Fred Pansing depicting the USS New York and USS Brooklyn leading the naval parade past Grant’s Tomb, August 26, 1898.

An even bigger turnout, however, came little over a year later (September 29–30, 1899), when Dewey returned to New York from the Philippines aboard his flagship, the cruiser USS Olympia (today a museum ship at the Independence Seaport in Philadelphia), where he led both squadrons, now in peacetime white paint, in a momentous naval parade again to Grant’s Tomb (Figs. 9–11), an event that was also recorded in moving pictures by Thomas Edison.

Figure 9. Souvenir object from the naval parade on September 29–30, 1899 (ANS 1939.144.1).
Figure 10. Souvenir decoration from the naval parade on September 29–30, 1899 (ANS 0000.999.38764).
Figure 11. Victory float anchored near Grant’s Tomb, September 1899.

Dewey had already become the hero of the war, completely eclipsing Sampson and Schley, who were involved in a bitter, public dispute over which of the two had actually won the Battle of Santiago (Figs. 12–13).

Figure 12. Souvenir decoration from the naval parade on September 29–30, 1899 depicting Dewey and Schley as the victors over the Spanish navy (ANS 0000.999.38790).
Figure 13. The Sampson Medal (West Indies campaign medal) by Charles Barber (obv.) and George T. Morgan (rev.) depicting Sampson as victor (1901). Unissued production sample (ANS 0000.999.38837)

In Dewey’s honor, a temporary triumphal arch was also erected near Madison Square Park (Fig. 14).

Figure 14. Souvenir decoration from the naval parade on September 29–30, 1899 depicting the temporary triumphal arch for Admiral Dewey (ANS 0000.999.38746).

Such naval parades in New York harbor became more commonplace in the decades to follow and have continued to the present day with New York Fleet Week coinciding with Memorial Day, although this year, sadly, the events, like so much else, will be virtual.

The Franc: A Coin, A Currency, and Orphan

The Franc is one of the oldest and most widespread currency units in the world, currently the official currency of 25 states or autonomous territories. However, the Franc was never intended to become the name of a currency until the French kingdom issued a specific gold piece to gather the massive ransom needed to free King John II the Good, prisoner of the English since the disastrous Battle of Poitiers in 1356. He was depicted in full armor on a horse, with the legend Johannes Dei Gracia Francoru(m) Rex. From “Francoru(m)” came “Franc”. This famed coin is called the Franc à cheval (1905.57.35 and 1966.163.48).

Born in a 14th-century disaster, the Franc carries another unusual quality: it derives its name from the name of the people and nation who minted it. To this day, the Afghani and the Boliviano are the only other eponymous currencies, possibly with the Euro. “Franc” probably derived from old Germanic, meaning “spear”, or possibly “bold”, then came to designate a confederacy of tribes who put pressure on the Roman Empire’s northeastern border. Once they settled in Gaul in the 5th century, the word “Francia”, later “France”, came to name the country inhabited by the Franks. It then accrued the wider meaning of “free person” as well as straightforwardness, hence “franchise”, “enfranchised” or “frank” in English, since the kingdom’s laws forbade slavery on its soil. This is how, much later, Sally Hemmings, a black slave owned by Thomas Jefferson and mother to his children, became technically a free woman during her stay in Paris, until Jefferson convinced her to return to the US.

The Franc’s bigger history takes off with the French Revolution. On April 7 and August 15, 1795, in the midst of the assignats crisis (0000.999.56432), as disorderly deficits and money printing had led to rampant inflation and monetary dislocation, the French Parliament created a Republican currency defined by 4.5 g of pure silver, the Franc, and decimalization was implemented at the same time, inspired by the newly established United States monetary system.

The famous 5-Franc coin, (1911.105.844) conceived by Augustin Dupré with Hercules holding liberty and equality, would inspire later French coinage design. Dupré is the same engraver who had created the 1783 Libertas Americana medal, commissioned by Benjamin Franklin (1964.67.1), which in turn inspired the Large Cent design (1977.203.1 and 1948.143.81).

With the wars of the Revolution and Napoleonic period in the later 18th and early 19th century, the Franc was by then poised to expand its influence (1966.164.324, 0000.999.34906, 1920.147.329, 1920.147.559, 1966.164.465, 1916.999.216, 1923.999.248).

After Napoleon’s final defeat, the Franc withdrew back to the France, mirroring the country’s troubled political history—3 more revolutions, 5 Republics, 2 monarchies, 1 empire, the collaborationist Etat français between 1940 and 1944, and few coups d’Eta (1957.117.9, 1957.172.2000, 1929.77.29, 1897.28.7, 1946.71.5, 1992.117.4974–5).

During this period, the Franc initiated a second period of geographic diversification as the 2nd French colonial Empire expanded across Africa, South-East Asia, and the Pacific. (examples of colonial currencies). (large group of colonial banknotes+1917.216.5102)

Examples of colonial franc notes.

Obviously, most of these pieces reflect the sense of European superiority that sustained the colonial project, highlighting the civilizing mission France was supposedly undertaking in its overseas territories. At about the same time, the Union Latine, an attempt at anchoring a wide range of currencies to the same gold standard, led to the Franc being used as a parallel currency unit in unexpected European countries like the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy, or the Kingdoms of Denmark, and of Sweden (Union Latine coin). (1929.103.14684)

In the wake of WWI, the end of gold convertibility, the great inflation of the 1920s, the economic depression in the 1930s, and then WWII, the Franc sustained multiple debasements. What had been a gold or a silver coin had become a worthless piece of base metal by the 1950s, until Charles de Gaulle reformed the Franc in 1958 (selection of 1920s-1940s pieces) (1947.2.686, 1980.109.1067, 1920.74.8, 1950.135.173, 1963.57.27, 1981.30.140, 1981.30.143).

ANS 1920.74.8

In the 1970s, after the collapse of the dollar-gold exchange standard, silver was abandoned and coins went back to their fiduciary character (1983.121.1).

The weirdest part of the Franc’s long history is that it has become an orphan: used today in Africa and the Pacific mostly, its mother country has abandoned it to merge into the Eurozone (1967.126.9, 1978.223.1, 1992.117.6807, 1992.117.6843).

Switzerland and Lichtenstein are now the last European countries using a Franc (0000.999.53004 and 1977.158.1414), while the Franc thrives, far away from the kings who created it (1905.57.35).

A New-ish Cistophorus for the Rebel Aristonicus

The coin presented here (Fig. 1) is one of three known specimens of the cistophorus issued by the rebel Aristonicus in the Lydian city of Stratonicea on the Caicus in the year 129 BCE.

Figure 1. Lydia, Stratonicea. Cistophoric Tetradrachm, year E (= 5, 129 BCE). ECC Series 4 (dies 5/-). Robinson 1954, p. 14 (dies E/-). 27 mm. 12.78 g. Nomos 20, 10 July 2020, lot 236.

It is dated to the year E (=5), an element that seems to prove that the rebel ruled over part of Lydia one year longer than previously thought, i.e., 129 BCE instead of 130 BCE. The first of the three known specimens appeared in the market in 2017, but until the publication of a very recent article by P. O. Hochard on these coins, the generally accepted opinion was that Aristonicus-Eumenes III (Fig. 2) issued coins only for four years, i.e., from 133 to 130 BCE (Figs. 3–6).

Figure 2. Statue of Eumenes III (Aristonicus), King of Pergamum, Bergama, İzmir, Turkey.
Figure 3. Lydia, Thiatyra. Cistophoric tetradrachms, year A (=1, 133 BCE). Kampmann 1978, p. 39, fig. B. ECC – (cf. p.106, pl. XXXVIII, 10, same o.d.). 27.5 mm. 12.58 g. ANS 2015.20.1758. Bequest of R. B. Witschonke.
Figure 4. Lydia, Thiatyra. Cistophoric tetradrachm, year B (= 2, 132 BCE). ECC p.103, series 1, o.d.1. Robinson 1954, o.d. A pl. I, 1–2 (same o.d., but different reverse die). 28.8 mm. 12.56 g. ANS 2015.20.1383. Bequest of R. B. Witschonke.
Figure 5. ANS 2015.20.1326. Bequest of R. B.Witschonke.
Figure 6. Lydia, Apollonis. Cistophoric tetradrachm, year Δ (= 4, 130 BCE). ECC p.103, series 3, o.d. 3. Robinson 1954, o.d. C pl. I, 11–12 (different reverse die). 26.7 mm. 12.56 g. ANS 2015.20.1761. Bequest of R. B. Witschonke.

In the late spring or early summer of 133 BCE the Attalid king Attalus III (138–133 BCE) died and bequeathed his kingdom to the Romans (Strabo, Geography 14.2, Fig. 7).

Figure 7. Attalid portrait at the Antikensammlung, Berlin. Possibly Attalus III.

A Pergamene decree dated to August 133 refers to the testament and the free status of Pergamum, while also mentioning the necessity of the Roman ratification of the document (Inscriptions of Pergamum I. 149, ll. 4–9). The status of other Asian cities and of the rest of the province is not specified in the Pergamene decree, but ancient sources (i.e., Livy, Periochae 59.3) declared that the whole province of Asia had been freed by Attalus. However, the Romans showed some uncertainties in the organization of the future province of Asia, especially since the tribune of the plebs Tiberius Gracchus (Fig. 8), famous for his proposal of an important land reform in 133 BCE, seemed eager to take advantage of this gift to fund his ambitious program (Plutarch, Tiberius Gracchus 14.1–2).

Figure 8. E. Guillaume, The Gracchi (1847).

As a result of the turmoil that stemmed from Gracchus’ attempt at securing the former Attalid kingdom as the main source of funding for his new laws, the Romans were slow in ratifying the testament. Aristonicus, who claimed to be the illegitimate son of the earlier Pergamene king, Eumenes II (197–160 BC), father of Attalus III, took advantage of the uncertainty and laid claim to the throne, taking the dynastic name, Eumenes III (Florus, 1.35.2).

Prompted by the success of the rebellion, the Roman Senate ratified Attalus III’s testament through the Senatus Consultum Popillianum, probably dated to 132 BCE. Preserved today in several epigraphic copies, this decree indeed states that the Senate ratified Attalus’ legacy in toto, but only up to the moment of Attalus’ death, i.e., before the beginning of the rebellion of Aristonicus.

The ratification of Attalus’ legacy through the SC Popillianum was good news to the Greek cities of Asia that had been declared free, and formed the basis of their support against Aristonicus.  Greek cities such as Ephesus, Pergamum, and several others were favored by the testament of Attalus and therefore favorable to the Romans, since the Senate, with the SC Popillianum, recognized their privileged status of free cities.

Pergamum, the capital of the former Attalid kingdom struggled with unrest during these years.  Epigraphic evidence clearly shows the extreme measures that the civic administration had to take in order to avoid a mass defection in favor of Aristonicus, such as massive grants of citizenship to previous colonists and the confiscation of the properties for people leaving town to follow Aristonicus (Carbone, Hidden Power, pp. 7–14).

On the other hand, numismatic evidence and literary sources show that Ephesus took a clear stance in favor of freedom and, consequently, against Aristonicus’ legitimist attempts.  It is generally acknowledged that post-134 BC Ephesian cistophori are dated according the so-called freedom era. This era, previously thought to be a provincial era, has been now recognized as peculiar to Ephesus (Fig. 9).

Figure 9. ANS 2015.20.1277. bequest of R. B. Witschonke.

The freedom celebrated on the Ephesian cistophori is the one that had been bestowed by Attalus III in his testament to the cities of Asia and ratified by the Romans through the SC Popillianum of 132 BC. In order to defend its own freedom, the city fought and defeated the rebel, who had initially succeeded in conquering several cities in the coastal region of the former Attalid kingdom. After defeat at the hands of the Ephesians, Aristonicus had to flee to the inland Lydian region: first to Thyatira, then Apollonis, finally to Stratonicea, where he was defeated by Peperna in 129 BCE (Strabo, Geography 14.1.38).  

Indeed, Aristonicus’ rebellion reflected a clear dichotomy in the province-to-be. Greek cities such as Ephesus and Pergamum (among others) were favorable to the testament of Attalus and therefore to the Romans, since the Senate, with the SC Popillianum, recognized their privileged status of free cities. On the other hand, the hinterland area, mainly composed of military colonies and royal domains, did not enjoy any of the privileges bestowed to cities.  Therefore, Aristonicus could find some support there.

The cistophori issued by Aristonicus in these momentous years offer a fundamental insight on the rebellion. The rebel was correctly identified as the issuer of these coins in a seminal article by E. S. G. Robinson back in 1954. Contrary to the Attalid (early) ones and the provincial (late) ones, his cistophori are signed by the rebel with his dynastic name BA–EY. This element, together with the regnal year and the ethnic of a civic mint secured legitimation for the rebel. In pursuit of this strategy, Aristonicus behaved as a real heir to the Attalid policy of founding colonies in the rural parts of Lydia, as he tried to seek shelter and legitimacy in these lands. Aristonicus pushed the traditional Attalid policy even further by making the Lydian cities of Thiatyra, Apollonis and Stratonicea cistophoric mints, if admittedly partly out of necessity.  At the same time, the presence of the dynastic name on his cistophori show how different he was from the previous Attalid kings, who sought the legitimation of their kingdom, not of themselves.

The cities where he resided—which had never before issued coinage—were thus given visibility throughout the area and could rival in prestige with the main cistophoric mints of Asia, in spite of the clear quantitative difference in the issues.  The cistophori in the name of King Eumenes are the only cistophoric (and silver) coinage ever issued in the cities of Thyatira, Apollonis and Stratonicea.  The cistophoric production of these mints amounts to a total of 5 tetradrachm observed obverse dies, of which two (A, B) are shared by Thyatira and Apollonis, one (C) is shared by Apollonis year 3 and Apollonis year 4 and now one (E) is shared by Stratonicea year 4 and 5 (Robinson 1954, pp. 7–8).

On the Roman side, three other cistophoric mints were certainly active in the former Attalid kingdom, i.e. Ephesus, Pergamum and Tralles. According to Kleiner and Noe, Pergamum and Ephesus had produced cistophori in the respective amounts of 89 and 59 observed tetradrachm obverse dies in the years 166–134 BC. In the years 134–128 BC, the proportions are inverted, with Pergamum producing only 18 tetradrachm obverse dies, compared to the Ephesian 44. Tralles followed the Pergamene trend, plummeting from a production of 87 tetradrachms obverse dies in 166–134 BC to 20 obverse dies during Aristonicus’ rebellion (Fig. 10).

Figure 10. Cistophoric production in the Attalid kingdom according to ECC (166–128 BCE).

Ephesus then produced cistophori in full swing in order to support the military effort against Aristonicus, while the political paralysis of Pergamum brought to a standstill in the cistophoric production as well. In the same years, the city of Tralles issued cistophori with this monogram:

Together with their stylistic similarities to the cistophori issued by Aristonicus in Apollonis and Stratonicea, could suggest that the city sided with the usurper (Fig. 11). The argument is, however, not conclusive, since the minting could have been imposed.

Figure 11. ANS 1944.100.37571. Bequest of E. T. Newell.

The production patterns of cistophori during Aristonicus’ rebellion confirm the previously mentioned dichotomy of the former Attalid kingdom. On the one side, Ephesus—through its full-swing issue of cistophori—highlighted its legitimacy as minting center and free city after the Roman ratification of Attalus’ testament. Pergamum and Tralles did the same—at least to a certain point. On the other side, Aristonicus and his host cities (possibly including Tralles) sought “royal” legitimacy through the issue of the same kind of coinage.

The manifold ideological use of the cistophorus is thus quite remarkable.  P. Thonemann (pp. 29–32) rightly noted regarding Attalid times that the ethnic of the minting cities and the name of the magistrates allowed the coinage to have a civic “aspect”, while at the same time the coinage, for mere quantitative reasons, was issued under Attalid control and—at least partly—out of royal bullion. The anomaly of Aristonicus is made evident by his use of his dynastic name on cistophori, an absolute unicum among the Attalids. However, it was precisely the “double” nature of the cistophorus that allowed its use for apparently antithetical purposes even in the years of Aristonicus’ rebellion, namely the legitimation of the claims of freedom for some cities as well as Aristonicus’ claims of regality.

Lastly, this new-ishly discovered cistophoric issue from Stratonicea offers new insight on the chronology of the rebellion. Strabo wrote that Aristonicus was defeated by Peperna. Given Aristonicus’ issues known until now, it was assumed that the rebel was defeated during Peperna’s consulate, i.e., 130 BCE. However, the new issue suggested that the rebellion was finally quenched in 129 BCE, when Peperna was proconsul. He then suddenly died in Pergamum and was urgently replaced by Manlius Aquilius, the consul of 129 BCE, who is said by the historian Florus (I.35.2.6–7) “to have pacified the region before organizing it.” In the following year (128 BCE), Manlius Aquilius, together with ten legati, “organized the province as it still is.” The newly studied cistophoric issue thus shows that the Romans—learning from their previous mistakes in the area—wasted no time after Aristonicus’ demise to organize the new Roman province of Asia.

The Allan Evans Papers

The many treasures of the American Numismatic Society’s archives include not only the Society’s own history and papers documenting the activities of many of its former staff and officers. There are also resources for researchers, many of which document the activities of numismatic collectors or dealers, but some of which are of scholarly interest. The Allan Evans papers are an example of a research resource of great interest to numismatists, even though it is not the work of a numismatist.

In the late 1930s, the Mediaeval Academy of America sponsored a research project to be carried out at Harvard University by Allan Evans, assisted by Florence Edler de Roover. The project was to compile evidence on the relative values of late medieval coins from primary sources of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, to provide a guide for historians seeking to understand monetary transactions in the documents of that period.

The researchers gathered material about the alloys, weights, and values of coins from merchant manuals, arithmetic textbooks, and other sources, assembling 35-mm film images and photostats of their sources. The core of the collection consists of excerpts from around 50 manuscript sources, together with extensive notes on coinage systems and monetary systems. The primary focus of the source material is Italy, especially Florence, but because of the wide-ranging connections of Florentine businesses such as the Medici family, the coins discussed range over most of Europe. Evans and Edler prepared most of a manuscript on the topic, but in 1940 the work came to a halt when Evans was recruited by the State Department as an intelligence analyst.

Box of films containing the Allan Evans papers.
Sample of a page-spread from a film of the Allan Evans papers.
Sample page from the Allan Evans papers.

In 1951, after Evans had decided not to return to academia, he turned over the materials to Edler, whose husband Raymond de Roover made use of them in his work. After Raymond de Roover died in 1972, Florence Edler de Roover turned over the materials to Robert Lopez for the Mediaeval Academy. Concluding that the project could not be published as is, but that the work should be made available to interested scholars, Lopez and Paul Meyvaert offered all the materials from the project to the ANS in 1976. Some additional material that Evans had sent to David Herlihy was given to the ANS by Reinhold Mueller in 1985.

Peter Spufford published a description of this collection and its history in his essay “Late Medieval Merchants Notebooks”, published in the book Kaufmannsbücher un Handelspraktiken vom Spätmittelalter bis zum beginnenden 20. Jahrhundert (Franz Steiner Verlag, 2002). The collection attracts occasional visitors, but Spufford’s hope that the project could be completed and published in some form turned out to be over-optimistic. Given the advance of scholarship on related topics since the 1930s, the original concept is by now obsolete, although the source materials remain as relevant and useful as always.

A Numismatic Reunion

Guest post by David D. Gladfelter. David studies, writes, and speaks about the history of bank note engraving and printing, and collects interesting items in this wide field. A retired attorney and ANS fellow, he and his wife, Valerie, live in Medford, NJ.

First came the biography, a 1931 account of the life of the British-born engraver William Rollinson (1762–1842, fig. 1), written by Robert W. Reid and Rollinson’s great-grandson Charles Rollinson.

Figure 1. Portrait of William Rollinson ca. 1826 by Frederick S. Agate. Frontispiece, Reid and Rollinson monograph.

Their monograph tells of the engraver’s coming to New York in 1789, finding work in the shops of various silversmiths, and soon turning to copper-plate engraving which occupied him for the rest of his life. At the end appears a sampling of 18 of Rollinson’s engravings—calligraphic, ornamental, glyphic and scenic—plus a printed circular (fig. 2) which Rollinson had sent to various banks in 1811, soliciting orders for bank notes produced by a ruling machine he had invented. Several of these exhibits came from the personal collection of Charles Rollinson, but the source of the circular was the collection of the New York Public Library.

Figure 2. Circular sent to bankers in March 1811 by William Rollinson describing his anti-counterfeiting ruling machine and soliciting orders for bank note engraving. Collection of New York Public Library; reproduced in Reid and Rollinson monograph.

Notice that the circular mentions an accompanying “specimen of work … entirely novel, and of my own invention, and which cannot be imitated by first rate artists so as to deceive common observers.” Also notice among the exhibits a “Specimen” engraved bank note (fig. 3) on the Middle District Bank of Poughkeepsie, New York, with the imprint “Leney & Rollinson Sc. N.Y.”

Figure 3. $10.00 undated remainder note on the Middle District Bank of Poughkeepsie, N. Y., with imprint of Leney & Rollinson, New York. Collection of the American Bank Note Co.; reproduced in Reid and Rollinson monograph.

Next came Robert A. Vlack’s short-titled Catalogue of Early North American Advertising Notes in 2001. Item 4640 in the catalog is a specimen bank note dated March 1, 1811 with the imprint “Leney and Rollinson Sculpt. N. York.” The description notes a “pink tint”, a quite early use of a tint on a bank note. Item 4645 is the same design with a “light blue tint”. These tints consist of straight parallel ruled lines. The dates on this pair of specimens are the earliest of all of the notes listed in the Vlack catalogue.

An unlisted variety of Vlack 4640 has a waved-line pink tint (fig. 4) similar to the tint appearing on the Middle District Bank note. It didn’t take long for me to identify this specimen variety as the “specimen of work” that Rollinson had sent out with his circular. Notice that the date on the specimen is the same month (although not to the day) as the date on the circular.

Figure 4. “Fifty Fish” advertising note with imprint of Leney & Rollinson, New York, dated March 1811, believed to have accompanied Rollinson’s circular. Author’s collection.

Rollinson evidently sent his circular and specimen far and wide. Among the respondents was the newly chartered Planters’ Bank of the State of Georgia, which ordered notes in seven denominations ranging from $1.00 to $100.00, listed in Haxby as GA-320 G2, G12, G22, G32, G42, G52 and G62, all designated as “surviving example not confirmed,” a term equivalent to “extinct” in the biological world. Later-discovered examples of the two highest denominations are seen to have been produced on the model of Rollinson’s specimen (figs. 5 and 6), both with similar waved-line pink tints and geometrically-ruled end designs. Despite Rollinson’s optimism, the $50.00 note was counterfeited! Notice of this phony note, having plate letter C, appeared in Bicknell’s Reporter of March 5, 1832, and other counterfeit detecters of the 1830s to 1860s.

Figure 5. $50.00 issued note on the Planters’ Bank of the State of Georgia, dated 1817, with imprint of Leney & Rollinson, New York, Haxby GA-320 G52 (SENC). Author’s collection.
Figure 6. $100.00 issued note on the Planters’ Bank of the State of Georgia, dated 1813, with imprint of Leney & Rollinson, New York, Haxby GA-320 G62 (SENC). Author’s collection.

But the best was yet to come.

A copy of Rollinson’s circular appeared in Heritage’s October 20, 2020 auction (lot 83078). The signature on this copy, Willm. Rollinson (fig. 7), differed from that on the NYPL copy (Wm. Rollinson).

Figure 7. William Rollinson’s manually signed personal copy of his March 1811 circular. Author’s collection.

But a handwritten notation on the back identified this as Rollinson’s personal copy which had escaped from the family’s custody prior to 1931 when his biography was published. The notation (fig. 8) reads: “My Circular letter to Banks/ enclosing a Specimen of my/ waved line Work/ WR”.

Figure 8. Notation manually written by William Rollinson on back of his personal copy of the circular. Author’s collection.

This circular is printed on bond paper with a faint powder horn watermark. Rollinson’s signature is manually written, not printed.

As for its provenance, all we know is what Dustin Johnston, Heritage’s cataloguer, can tell us: That it was discovered by a book dealer on the East Coast who consigned it to the auction.

REFERENCES

David D. Gladfelter, “William Rollinson’s Novel Bank Note Sample,” Paper Money 49.1: 58–60 (Jan./Feb. 2010).

James A. Haxby, Standard Catalog of United States Obsolete Bank Notes, 1782–1866, vol. 1 (Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 1988), 301–303.

Robert W. Reid and Charles Rollinson, William Rollinson, Engraver (New York: Privately published, 1931).

Robert A. Vlack, An Illustrated Catalogue of Early North American Advertising Notes (Ads That Look Like Paper Money (New York: R. M. Smythe & Company, 2001).

Personal correspondence between the author and Dustin Johnston, November 5, 2020.

ANS Acquires Mark Salton Papers

Thanks to the efforts of ANS life fellow Dr. Ira Rezak—and with gratitude to Katharine Conway, executor of the Estate of Lottie Salton Revocable Trust—the ANS Library and Archives has acquired about 20 cubic feet of Mark Salton’s papers and annotated auction catalogs. This follows a bequest of $500,000 from his wife Lottie to help sustain a chair for Medieval and Renaissance numismatics. I would also like to thank ANS fellow Normand Pepin for his help with the auction catalog portion of the accession.

Lottie and Mark Salton

Mark Salton, born Max Schlessinger in 1914, came from a family of bankers and numismatists in Germany. His father, Felix, opened his own numismatic firm in Frankfurt in 1928, which he later moved to Berlin. As the Nazis gained power, and Jewish businesses came under increasing attack, he moved his family and business to Amsterdam. After the Germans invaded Holland in 1940, the Schlessinger business facilities, numismatic inventory, and library were seized. Mark went into hiding, eventually making his way to Belgium, then to France and Spain, and finally to neutral Portugal in July 1943. Learning that his parents had been killed at Auschwitz, Mark emigrated to the United States in 1946. Two years later he met another refugee, Lottie Aronstein, and the two were married several months later. Mark attended New York University, earning a master’s degree in international banking. He established his numismatic firm in the 1950s, specializing in ancient and foreign coins. (For more on Mark Salton, see Dr. Ira Rezak’s obituary for his friend in the Spring 2006 issue of ANS Magazine.)

The papers include documents relating to Mark Salton’s efforts to recover books and numismatic property taken by the Nazis from his father Felix Schlessinger’s firm, as well as research on medals of the Renaissance and other topics

Even a cursory look at the papers reveals fascinating documents. Perhaps most interesting and important are those relating to Salton’s efforts to recover the objects and books taken by the Nazis from his father’s business. These range in date from the 1940s to the time of Mark’s death in 2006. The earliest are written in the chilling bureaucratic style characteristic of regimes practicing lawful plunder, such as those requesting reports from the “liquidation trustee” assigned to Felix’s “Jewish enterprise.”

ANS librarian and archivist David Hill examines some of the auction catalogs at the Salton apartment

Also included is correspondence from the 1940s and 50s with the Dutch dealer Jacques Schulman, a long letter from a later date containing Mark’s reminiscences about Hans Schulman, materials relating to an exhibit of the Salton’s collection of Renaissance and Baroque medals and plaquettes at Bowdoin College, documentation on the Saltons’ various donations to colleges and to the ANS, and materials relating to Mark’s scholarly research, including a copy of his master’s thesis, The Financing of the Italian South (1966).

The Changing Iconography of Byzantine Gold Coinage

The Byzantine Empire, which lasted more than a thousand years, had one of the most monetized economies in medieval Europe. The coinage of Byzantium was an essential element of this unique civilization, which preserved Roman law and state structures and inherited not only the Hellenistic cultural tradition, but also a powerful organizing force—Christianity.

From the beginning Byzantine coins followed the Late Roman iconographic tradition, which took shape gradually under Constantine I (306–337). At the accession of the emperor Anastasius I (491–518) there were three denominations of gold coin—the solidus (in Greek nomisma) and its fractions, the semissis (half) and tremissis (third)—along with a tiny copper coin known as a nummus. The typical obverse of the Byzantine solidus at the end of fifth century and beginning of the sixth was a three-quarter frontal bust of the emperor, usually in armor and holding a spear. The reverse type depicted Victory in profile supporting a cross. However, the next Byzantine ruler, Justin I (518–527), modified the obverse image to a full-face frontal bust and the image of Victory on the reverse was replaced by a facing angel.

Figure 1. Anastasius I (491–518). ANS 1948.19.132.
Figure 2. Justin I (518–527). ANS 1966.196.3.

Under Justinian I (527–565) the emperor’s appearance was slightly changed and the spear in his right hand was switched to a globus cruciger, which symbolized the divinely bestowed universal power of the emperor.

Figure 3. Justinian I (527–565). ANS 1948.19.743.

Justin II (565–578) chose a seated personification of Constantinople for the reverse of his solidi, while Tiberius II (578–582) used a simpler image of a cross on steps as the reverse type for his solidi. This cross supposedly symbolized a monumental cross that Theodosius II erected on Golgotha around 420.

Figure 4. Justin II (565–578). ANS 1977.158.1035.
Figure 5. Tiberius II (578–582). ANS 1973.56.125.

The images of the emperor on coins in the late fifth and sixth centuries didn’t have any personal features. However, the beginning of the seventh century saw great modifications. A more individual portrait was introduced under the emperor Phocas (602–610). He appears on his coins as a bearded man (his predecessors are nearly always shown clean-shaven) with shaggy hair, holding a cross rather than a globus cruciger. The reverse of these solidi bears a standing angel, similar to that on the solidi of Justin I.

Figure 6. Phocas (602–610). ANS 1968.131.76.

Under Heraclius (610–641) the coinage reflected the arrangements that the emperor made for his succession. He appeared first with his eldest son Heraclius Constantine and later with his second son Heraclonas, and finally both sons appear standing on each side of their father.

Figure 7. Heraclius (610–641). ANS 1968.131.99.

Strong elements of portraiture are present on the coins of the late seventh century. The monetary issues of the first reign of Justinian II (685–695) portray the young emperor with youthful features. When the general Leontius (695–698) deposed the emperor and exiled him to the distant Byzantine themes of Cherson (modern Sevastopol in Crimea, Ukraine), the coins portray the fat, bearded Leontius instead.

Figure 8. Justinian II (685–695). ANS 1944.100.14570.
Figure 9. Leontius (695–698). ANS 1944.100.14574.

At the end of the seventh century one of the most important changes in Byzantine coin design occurred. The image of Christ Pantocrator (depicting Christ in the role of ruler and judge), first appeared on the solidi of Justinian II’s first reign (685–695). It is a realistic facing bearded bust, with the right hand raised in benediction and holding a Gospel book in the left. This type is derived from well-known Byzantine icons and mosaics. Interestingly, when Justinian II placed this image on the obverse of his coins, he moved his own image to the reverse, where he is shown holding a cross borrowed from earlier types. A very different portrait of Christ appeared on gold coins during Justinian II’s second reign (705–711). It represents Christ in a formal linear style as a youthful man with closely curled hair. Some literary sources suggest that this depiction probably originated in Palestine.

Figure 10. Justinian II, first reign (685–695). ANS 1977.158.1095.
Figure 11. Mosaic of Christ, Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna, Italy, sixth century.
Figure 12. Justinian II, second reign (705–711). ANS 1958.76.3.

The concept of Christ Pantocrator is an Eastern Christian view that differs from the more Western view of Christ the Redeemer. The idea of a divine ruler of universe was deeply rooted in Greek culture, reaching back to Zeus, who bestowed the right to rule on Hellenistic kings and was also considered a divine judge.

The individualized portraiture of the seventh century was replaced again, during the so-called Iconoclast period when worshiping of icons was prohibited (726–843), by imperial busts drawn in a linear manner without any attempt at portraiture. The previous cross on the reverse was replaced by images intended to promote dynastic continuity. Most often, the emperor’s son was elevated to co-emperor and depicted on the reverse, although some coins in the eighth and ninth centuries show ancestors of the emperor instead. The coinage of this period is characterized by a high degree of simplification.

Figure 13. Leo IV (776–778). ANS 1948.19.2476.

In the mid-ninth century, new changes in the coin types occurred, connected with the restoration of icon worship. Michael III (842–867) reintroduced a bust of Christ on his solidi, similar to the one on the coins of Justinian II. In 867 Basil I, the founder of the famous Macedonian dynasty, replaced the image of Christ Pantocrator with an image of Christ enthroned. From this time on, images of Christ appeared regularly on Byzantine coins.

Figure 14. Michael III (842–867). ANS 1977.158.1148.
Figure 15. Basil I (867–886). ANS 1977.158.1150.

The image of Christ seated on a throne with the inscription “rex regnantium” (“king of those who rule”) had a special meaning. It was intended to convey that Christ and the emperor shared power and that God rules his earthly subjects through the emperor, his chosen instrument, who should be venerated as God’s representative.

Figure 16. Leo VI (886–912). ANS 1968.131.283 reverse.
Figure 17. Constantine VII (913–959). ANS 1946.51.81 reverse.

Some coins of the tenth and eleventh centuries have individualized portraits rather than a generic imperial figure, such as those of Leo VI (886–911) and his son Constantine VII (913–959), but usually they do not. The rare gold coin of Zoe and Theodora, the daughters of Constantine VII and the last of the great Macedonian dynasty (1042), for example, lacks any recognizable features, even though these two sisters were said to be very different in personal appearance.

Figure 18. Zoe and Theodora (1042). ANS 1977.158.932.

The absence of personalized portraiture in Byzantine coin iconography was connected with a belief that the imperial image represented the emperor’s “eternal body” rather than his physical features. The undifferentiated imperial images on most Byzantine coins are a depiction of this religious significance.

The obverse of the solidus of Zoe and Theodora bears an image of the Virgin, with hands raised in the traditional gesture of prayer, with a medallion of the infant Christ. The image of the Virgin was introduced by Leo VI (886–912), who was especially devoted to her cult After occasional appearances in tenth-century coinage, this image reappeared in subsequent reigns, either alone or conjointly with emperor.

Figure 19. Leo VI (886–912). ANS 1968.131.283 obverse.
Figure 20. Nicephorus (933–969). ANS 1980.109.296 reverse.

In the eleventh century, when the Byzantines came under severe pressure from the Seljuk Turks in Asia Minor, Michael IV (1034–1041) took the unprecedented step of debasing the solidus. Along with the debasement, the form of the coins changed significantly under Constantine IX (1042–1055). They were struck in a concave shape called “scyphate”, a term found in Italian documents of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, meaning cup-shaped. Usually the image of Christ was on the convex side and a representation of the emperor on the concave side.

Figure 21. Michael IV (1034–1041). ANS 1946.51.102.
Figure 22. Constantine IX (1042–1055). ANS 1968.131.322.

Despite the declining fineness of the gold coins, their designs remained varied and interesting. A particularly unusual type appears on the gold nomisma of Romanus IV (1069–1071), showing Christ between the emperor and the empress. This type is stylistically similar to an ivory relief that represents Romanus II (945–963) and Eudoxia crowned by Christ.

Figure 23. Romanus IV (1069–1071). ANS1944.100.14730 reverse.
Figure 24. Ivory relief. Christ blessing Romanus II and Eudokia (ca. 945–949). Bibliothèque Nationale, Cabinet des Médailles. Paris. France.

In the disastrous years after the Battle of Manzikert (1071), the fineness of the solidi was reduced from 24 karats to 8 karats. In the 1080s, during the early years of Alexius I (1081–1118), the amount of gold in the solidus dropped almost to none.

Figure 25. Alexius I (1081–1092), pre-reform solidus. ANS 1968.131.364.

Alexius I accomplished a major monetary reform in 1092, introducing a new good-quality gold coin, called the hyperpyron, though the fineness was set to only 20½ karats instead of the traditional 24 karats. This issue was accompanied by an electrum piece, the aspron, which was worth one third of the hyperpyron. The obverse type of these post-reform coins usually shows images of Christ or the Virgin, while the reverses normally show a standing emperor, or the emperor accompanied by Christ or the Virgin. The image of the emperor with the Virgin was later reflected on the Venetian grosso.

Figure 26. Alexius I, post reform (1092). ANS 1948.19.521.
Figure 27. Manuel I (1143–1180) ANS 1947.3.67.

The empiresurvived the disaster of 1204, when Constantinople was captured and barbarically plundered by crusaders and temporarily became the seat of the Latin Empire (1204–1261). However, the hyperpyra struck by the Greek emperors in exile were gradually debased,falling to 18 or even 16 karats.

In 1261, Emperor Michael VIII Palaeologus (1259–1285) recovered Constantinople. He reduced the hyperpyron to 15 karats but introduced a new representation of the Virgin, rising from the wall of Constantinople. With this new type the emperor proclaimed the return of the Byzantine Empire to the capital; it became the norm for the obverse of hyperpyron until the end of the gold coinage in the mid-fourteenth century. The reverse of Michael’s gold coins shows the emperor kneeling before Christ, accompanied by the Archangel Michael. This type served to declare the support of heaven for the emperor’s power.

Figure 28. Michael VIII (1261–1382). ANS 1977.158.1249.

Michael VIII’s son Andronicus II (1285–1330) introduced a new type depicting the emperor bowing down before Christ on his hyperpyra. This image is well known from a famous mosaic of the late ninth century in the Hagia Sophia (“Holy Wisdom”) cathedral in Constantinople, showing Leo VI (886–912) performing this act of proskynesis before Christ. The use of this type on the coins of Andronicus II emphasized the Palaeologan dynasty’s claim of connection with God. The fineness of the hyperpyron was reduced to 12 karats during the reign of Andronicus.

Figure 29. Andronicus II (1282–1330). ANS 1958.76.26.
Figure 30. Mosaic of Leo VI. “Hagia Sofia”. Constantinople (Modern Istanbul, Turkey).

The last hyperpyron of traditional design, which effectively marks the end of imperial gold coinage, was struck in the mid-fourteenth century. At that time the Byzantine Empire was under enormous pressure from the Turks, and its economic system had been irrecoverably disrupted. During the empire’s last decades, its borders had shrunk until they included only Constantinople itself and parts of southern Greece. In spring of 1453 Sultan Mehmet II began his attack on the capital. The battle raged for seven weeks and the end came on May 29, 1453. On that day, after a thousand years of existence, the Byzantine Empire disappeared from the political map. However, the living memory of the vanished empire, as well as Byzantine tradition inherited centuries earlier from the Roman Empire, contributed to the dawning Renaissance.

A blog of the American Numismatic Society