Curatorial Intern Kara Woodley

One of the ways that the ANS teaches students about numismatics is through student internships, where a student gets to learn about our work by participating in it. This semester, we have been lucky to have Kara Woodley from Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York, working with our curatorial department.

Kara Woodley cataloguing a token.
Kara Woodley cataloguing a token.

Kara is a senior completing a double major in art history and history. For her two senior theses she is writing about Ireland during the struggle for independence in the early twentieth century. As part of her art history degree, she was required to complete an internship to gain practical experience. Prof. Megan Cifarelli suggested the ANS as a possibility that might be a good choice for a student with more interest in history than in the contemporary art scene.

Kara has worked on a few different tasks at the ANS, but the majority of her time has been devoted to entering our nineteenth-century Irish tokens into our curatorial database. Although these tokens have been acquired since the founding of the Society (some of them were donated in our first year, 1858!), hardly any of them had been entered into the computer yet.

ANS 1858.4.14, donated by Ezra Hill in June 1858.
ANS 1858.4.14, donated by Ezra Hill in June 1858.


Armed with the standard references on the topic, Kara has been going through the tokens one by one, creating full database records for them. One of the tokens that she found interesting in relation to her academic research is a token or medalet commemorating Daniel O’Connell, an early nineteenth-century campaigner for Catholic Emancipation and repeal of the 1801 Act of Union. This piece is pierced for suspension, and the box has a note on the back saying that it was worn at an election meeting in 1865.

ANS 1932.999.1162.
ANS 1932.999.1162.


Another piece she found interesting is a token issued by the banker William Hodgins in Cloughjordan, Co. Tipperary. This token is typically catalogued among Australian tokens, despite its reference to Ireland. Although originally produced for use in Ireland, large quantities of this token were apparently shipped to Australia, where they helped make up for a scarcity of official coinage.

ANS 0000.999.57452
ANS 0000.999.57452


During her internship Kara has been learning how museums work behind the scenes; in particular, about the processes involved in how a small staff manages a very large collection. She hopes this will be useful in her future career as an art historian, especially if she ends up working in a museum setting.

Next year Kara will be going to graduate school at Trinity College, Dublin, where she plans to specialize in Irish art of late antiquity and the early Middle Ages.

The Computer Aided Die Studies Program

Sample die connections as created by the CADS algorithm.

Coins first appeared in the western world some 2,700 years ago. During most of this long history, coins were entirely handmade. The metals were excavated and smelted by hand; the coin blanks were manufactured by hand; the dies were engraved by hand; and the coins were struck by hand. Their use as monetary instruments required that coins be standardized, but because coins were handmade each individual coin differed in some way from all the others produced at roughly the same time: the alloys would differ from batch to batch depending on the metal sources; individual weights within a single batch would vary; dies would wear and be recut; or different obverse and reverse die combinations would be used. Of the billions of handmade coins produced over the centuries, only a very small proportion of them remain today. The detailed study of every existing coin thus helps us to piece together the bigger picture of a state’s fiscal and monetary policies, particularly the decisions made about how many coins to strike in a given year, in which denominations, and in which alloys. Detailed study also helps us to understand how mints operated as both government institutions and factories, how they developed organizational structures and production processes to meet demand.

For numismatists working on ancient Greek coinage particularly die studies of individual series remain the hallmark of our contributions to our overall understanding of ancient monetary systems. But to complete a die study, especially on larger issues, is a mind-numbingly difficult task, requiring not just the laborious and time-consuming gathering from a multitude of sources of images or casts of all known specimens, which can number in the thousands, but also the tedious and arduous task of comparing the images to find examples struck from the same die(s). The largest die study of ancient Greek coinage completed to date, Wolfgang Fischer-Bossert’s study of the didrachms of Tarentum included roughly 8,000 coins. This monumental undertaking cost Fischer-Bossert nearly a decade of his life and a good deal of his eyesight to complete. To try to tackle a die study the size of the late 5th c. Athenian “owl” coinage, of which ca. 60,000 coins probably exist today, would undoubtedly take a lifetime.

Overlays of three die-matched "owls" as identified by CADS.
Overlays of three die-matched “owls” as identified by CADS.

It has long been recognized that developing a computer program to do much of the heavy lifting for die studies is something we all would readily welcome to help us speed smaller die studies along and to allow enormous die studies projects like that for late 5th c. Athenian owls to have a shot of actually being completed. The technology for such a program certainly exists today and a number of individuals in the numismatic community have been attempting to develop such a tool. At the ANS, our late colleague Richard (Rick) Witschonke took it upon himself to privately fund the development of what he called CADS: Computer Aided Die Study Program. During the last three years of his life (2013–2015), he worked closely with Huapeng Su to develop CADS, which he hoped to make a freely available, open source program to aid numismatic research. By the time Rick died in early 2015, CADS was functioning well with certain types of coinage, but still required further work to make it fully operational across a broad spectrum of numismatic material. It was Rick’s hope that the ANS would be able to find the funding to complete the work on CADS.

Happily, Prof. Josiah Ober of Stanford University has now stepped up, generously donating $10,000 of his research funds to the ANS to see a beta version of CADS released by the end of this year. Ober’s interest in this project stems from his attempts to find ways to quantify economic performance in the ancient Greek world, demonstrated, for example, in his most recent book The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece (Princeton 2015) and in the launch of the POLIS website. What we can learn about the production and consumption of coinage has the potential to play a key role in gauging ancient economic performance, but only if we can generate quantifiable data through die studies and hoard studies. Currently, only about 15–20% of all possible die studies for ancient Greek coinage have been completed, meaning we still have a long way to go before we have significant and comparable data sets. It is our hope that with the launch of CADS, we can initiate a new era of numismatic studies, in which other digital tools like OCRE and PELLA can provide the assemblage of raw numismatic material for a series or type that a program like CADS will then use to produce die studies in a matter of hours rather than weeks, months, or even years.

Museum of the American Revolution and the ANS

On April 19, 2017, a new cultural institution, the Museum of the American Revolution, will open in downtown Philadelphia. It will present relics of the Revolutionary War to the public as a way of telling the dramatic story of the nation’s founding. For their inaugural exhibition the Museum of the American Revolution requested the loan of 12 eighteenth-century medals from the ANS. Several Colonial-period Indian peace medals are included in this loan. These medals were issued as tokens of friendship to members of Native American nations to gain their support and allegiance. This group includes two of the earliest Indian peace medals known: a British bronze medal with the image of George I (1714–1727) and a Native American hunting a deer with bow and arrow (fig.1), and a French silver medal with a bust of Louis XV (1715–1774) on the obverse, signed by Jean Duvivier, and a reverse depicting two warriors reaching out and clasping hands, the man on the right representing France, with the other representing the Indian allies of France (fig.2).

Fig. 1: Great Britain. Bronze Indian peace medal. George I (r. 1714–1727). (ANS 1921.132.1, purchase) 40 mm.

Fig. 2: France. Silver Indian peace medal. Louis XV (r. 1715–1774). (ANS 1925.109.1, gift of John W. Garrett) 55 mm.

It is interesting to observe that on another ANS example of this Louis XV medal the name GORGE III [sic] was engraved over LUDOVICUS XV (fig.3).

Fig. 3: France/Great Britain. Silver Indian peace medal. Louis XV (r. 1715–1774)/George III (r. 1760–1820). (ANS 1925.108.1, gift of William B. Osgood Field) 55 mm.

Another remarkable medal in this group was issued at the time of Pontiac’s Revolt in 1763, a conflict named after the Ottawa chief who led the Indians of the Great Lakes region against British rule after end of the Seven Years’ War resulted in the transfer of claimed sovereignty over their lands from the French to the British. The obverse of this medal shows an armored George III with a legend containing his usual titles. The reverse depicts an American Indian and a uniformed British officer seated on bench under tree, smoking a pipe of peace (fig.4).

Fig. 4: Great Britain/United States. Silver Indian peace medal, “Happy While United”, 1766. George III (r. 1760–1820). (ANS 1925.173.1, purchase) 59.6 mm.

These early Indian peace medals carry immense historical importance both as landmarks in American colonial history and as symbols of the importance that the colonial powers placed on building alliances with the Native Americans. This portion of the exhibition explores the consequences of Anglo-American victory in the Seven Years’ War for the diverse peoples of North America, including former French and Spanish colonists living in the newly expanded British dominions and Native American nations of the Great Lakes and trans-Appalachian West.

Fig. 5: Great Britain. Bronze medal commemorating the capture of Portobelo in 1739 by Admiral Edward Vernon (1684–1757). (ANS 0000.999.38125) 36.5 mm.

Fig. 6: Great Britain. Bronze medal commemorating the siege of Cartagena in 1741 by Admiral Edward Vernon (1684–1757), with Admiral Chaloner Ogle (1681–1750) and General Thomas Wentworth (c. 1693–1747). (ANS 1977.135.748, purchase) 38.3 mm.

Also among the ANS items on loan to the Museum of the American Revolution is a group of Admiral Vernon medals (figs. 5–6), exhibited in a gallery that introduces visitors to the Anglo-American sense of shared glory in all things British during the French and Indian Wars. These medals were issued in celebration of Admiral Vernon’s campaigns in the War of Jenkins’ Ear. On November 21, 1739, Admiral Vernon attacked the harbor of Portobelo in what is now Panama with six ships. After brief resistance the Spanish garrison surrendered. The British force destroyed the harbor fortifications before they left and returned to their base in Jamaica. Vernon then assembled a larger expeditionary force for an attack on Cartagena in what is now Colombia (fig.7).

Fig. 7: Great Britain. Bronze medal commemorating the siege of Cartagena, 1741. Ironically, although the siege was a costly failure for the British, this medal imagines the Spanish commander, Don Blas de Lezo (1689–1741), kneeling and handing his sword to Admiral Vernon. (ANS 0000.999.38214) 37.6 mm.

When this fleet set sail in 1741 Admiral Vernon was commander of more than 50 warships, with 12,000 soldiers from England and the American colonies, many of whom died of disease during the futile campaign. Among the American survivors was Captain Lawrence Washington, half-brother of George Washington, who went on to name his home Mount Vernon after Admiral Vernon.

Maundy Money

4d silver groat, London, 1660–1662 (ANS 1963.6.3).

Today is Maundy Thursday (the Thursday before Easter), which for Christians signifies the day on which Jesus washed the feet of his disciples (John 13:1–17) while instructing them to love one another (John 13:34). It is also the day of the Last Supper.

Maundy Thursday also has numismatic significance by way of the Royal Maundy, a religious service in the Church of England. Current practice holds that the Queen (or a royal official) gives out two purses of coins to elderly recipients as symbolic alms. A red purse holds money for the poor to buy food and clothing, while a white purse contains the special Maundy money. Recipients in the contemporary service are chosen based on their service to their communities around England. This tradition of the distribution of alms in England by a monarch dates back to the reign of King John (r. 1199–1216) who in 1213 gave 13 pence each to 13 poor men in Rochester, Kent in a Maundy ceremony.

In the early tradition of Maundy money, the coins used were circulated and not marked as Maundy alms. This changed in 1752 when the Royal Mint began to produce specialized sets of Maundy money based on coins not struck for circulation. These sets included one silver coin each in denominations of 1d, 2d, 3d, and 4d. The obverses sport the bust of the reigning monarch, and the reverses (since 1822) feature the denomination topped by a crown and encircled by an oak wreath.

There are 430 specimens of Maundy money in the ANS’s collection, one of which is illustrated in MANTIS (pictured above). This 4d silver groat, minted in London between 1660 and 1662 under the authority of Charles II, was traditionally called a “Maundy piece,” this coin exemplifying the Simon issue of 1660–1662. In actuality, this coin was part of a mintage for circulation.

According to the Royal Mint, “Maundy money as such started in the reign of Charles II with an undated issue of hammered coins in 1662. The coins were a four penny, three penny, two penny and one penny piece but it was not until 1670 that a dated set of all four coins appeared. Prior to this, ordinary coinage was used for Maundy gifts, silver pennies alone being used by the Tudors and Stuarts for the ceremony.”

The ANS library holds 94 publications on the Maundy tradition.

The distribution of Maundy money changes each year. In 2017, Queen Elizabeth II will give away the coins in Leicester Cathedral.



ANS Awarded New Funding for NEH/Mellon’s Humanities Open Book Program


The digitization of the American Numismatic Society’s backlist of monographs has been funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as part of the joint NEH-Mellon Humanities Open Book Program. All of the ANS’s book-length publications through 2010 will be made available for free online for anyone to use. The ANS is one of the United States’ oldest academic publishers, producing printed scholarship since 1866, pre-dating storied university presses such as Johns Hopkins University (1878), the University of Pennsylvania (1890), and the University of Chicago (1891). The ANS continues to lead the way with digital scholarly publications, something it could not have done without the support of the Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

This is the second year the ANS has received Mellon funding for the project, and will conclude the work begun in 2016. In 2016, the Humanities Open Book Program selected 10 academic publishers to convert their out-of-print books of enduring scholarship into EPUB e-books licensed to allow readers to search and download these books freely, and to read them on any type of e-reader. In 2017, eight grants were awarded.

As in 2016, the ANS will convert its remaining scanned books into TEI XML, which will allow for instant generation of e-books as well as internet-friendly text that both contains and encourages links to other content online: related people, places, and events.

“Numismatics is uniquely placed in between history, archaeology, economics, art history, geography, and other disciplines,” Andrew Reinhard, Director of Publications for the ANS said. “By encoding these books and making them available as Open Access, scholars and hobbyists alike can exploit the true interdisciplinary nature of numismatic data for their own work, finding content and making connections that would otherwise be hidden.”

“Academic and non-academic researchers increasingly use the Internet as a source of information and a vehicle for disseminating the results of their work,” said Earl Lewis, President of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. “Today, more than ever, scholars, teachers, students, and members of the public need access on the Internet to reliable and authoritative works that were previously published but are now out-of-print.  The Humanities Open Book initiative seeks to help provide that much-needed access.”

The grant covers the encoding and tagging of the remaining 127 ANS monographs from three series: Numismatic Studies (3 titles), Coinage of the Americas (3 titles), and Numismatic Notes and Monographs (121 titles). At the conclusion of the grant period, the ANS will continue to make its TEI XML-encoded books available for free online one year after publication of new scholarship.

The second batch of Mellon-funded EPUB and TEI-encoded publications will be available by June 2018. The ANS thanks the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for its continued support, and the Mellon Foundation and NEH for their enthusiasm and commitment to making the Humanities available to everyone. With the NEH’s funding and very mandate under threat, the ANS encourages its US-based members and researchers to contact their elected senators and representatives to remind them that the Humanities are what makes us human.

Read the official joint statement from the NEH and Mellon Foundation on the Humanities Open Book Program.

PELLA in Oxford and Paris

The OPAL organizers, Frédérique Duyrat and Andy Meadows.
The OPAL organizers, Frédérique Duyrat and Andy Meadows.

On April 3–4, the Oxford Paris Alexander Project (OPAL) hosted a conference at New College, at the University of Oxford in England, entitled “A Linked Open World: Alexander the Great, Transnational Heritage and the Semantic Web.” Established by Frédérique Duyrat, Director of the Coin Cabinet at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BnF), and Andrew Meadows, Professor of Ancient History at New College, and funded by LABEX Les Passés dans le Présent and the Arts and Humanities Research Council, OPAL is designed to supplement and enhance the ANS-based PELLA project with additional data and an interpretative framework. “Additional data,” in this case, has been the concerted efforts by Simon Glenn at the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford and Caroline Carrier at the BnF to catalogue the thousands of Alexander-type coinages held by those two institutions in order that the individual coin records and photographs may then be linked to the PELLA website. Thanks to their efforts, PELLA now contains records of nearly 19,000 coins. The “interpretive framework” portion of OPAL includes the New College conference.

OPAL's home in April, New College, Oxford University.
OPAL’s home in April, New College, University of Oxford.

The aim of the conference was to examine how the digital collection of data through the semantic web can assist in identifying, collecting, interpreting and preserving transnational heritage. With its focus on the coinage and empire of Alexander the Great, the conference organizers were particularly concerned first to investigate how the accumulation of data can help us to write the history of an Imperial economic space. They aimed to do this through some carefully chosen case studies and the broad analysis of statistical data provided by the PELLA project. The second part explored the role of Alexander’s coinage as a bridge between different cultures and different periods, with a particular interest in the question of the preservation of global cultural heritage in a transnational environment.

Ethan Gruber, ANS Director of Data Science, presents at OPAL.
Ethan Gruber, ANS Director of Data Science, presents at OPAL.

Speakers from the ANS included Director of Data Science Ethan Gruber and Research Scientist Sebastian Heath, who both addressed the technical side of ANS-based digital projects like PELLA and the sematic web, that is the intensive and deliberate interlinking of different types of knowledge on the web, including, for example, numismatic, geographical and biographical data within a single website like PELLA. Also from the ANS was Peter van Alfen, who presented one of the historical case studies. A print volume of the conference proceedings is planned to appear in early 2018, published by Ausonius Éditions, the chapters of which will probably adhere closely to the conference program:

The “French Quartet” (l. to r.) of Frédérique Duyrat, Julien Olivier, Maryse Blet-Lemarquand, and Caroline Carrier, present their metallurgical study of a section of Alexander the Great’s coinage.
The “French Quartet” (l. to r.) of Frédérique Duyrat, Julien Olivier, Maryse Blet-Lemarquand, and Caroline Carrier, present their metallurgical study of a section of Alexander the Great’s coinage.

Part 1: New Tools

Equality and Concept: Broadening the Scope of Linked Open Data (Sebastian Heath)

ANS Digital Projects: A Comprehensive Platform for the Study of Numismatics (Ethan Gruber)

Statistical Exploration of PELLA Data (Julien Olivier)

OPAL conference lunch in New College, Oxford.
OPAL conference lunch in New College, Oxford.

Part 2: Imperial Economic Space—Using PELLA to Write a New History

What is an Alexander? (Andrew Meadows)

The Destruction and Recreation of Monetary Zones in the Wake of Alexander’s Conquests (Peter van Alfen)

Exploring Localities: A Die Study of Alexanders from Damascus (Simon Glenn)

The Impact of Alexander’s Conquest on Minted Silver: New Data from Metallurgical Analysis of Coins Kept at the BnF (Maryse Blet-Lemarquand, Julien Olivier, Caroline Carrier)

The First Generation of Alexander’s Influence: Diversity of Empire (Karsten Dahmen)

Alexander Gold Coinage throughout the Empire and Beyond (Frédérique Duyrat)

OPAL speakers Simon Glenn (l.) and Pierre Briant (r.).
OPAL speakers Simon Glenn (l.) and Pierre Briant (r.).

Part 3: Cultural Interaction and Legacy

The Coinage of Alexander the Great as Perceived during the 16th–18th Centuries (François de Callataÿ)

The Legacy of Alexander: Money in Central Asia (Simon Glenn)

Looting and its Impact: The Case of Alexanders from the Near East and the Role of an Online Corpus Project (Caroline Carrier & Simon Glenn)

The Debate about the Spread of Alexander’s Coinage and its Economic Impact: Engaging with the Historiographical Longue Durée (Pierre Briant)

Conclusion: Alexander: The Wider Vision (Robin Lane Fox)

OPAL keynote speaker, Robin Lane Fox.
OPAL keynote speaker, Robin Lane Fox.

The conference proved to be quite a success, illustrating just how the development of digital tools like PELLA can have a transformative effect on how we interpret existing evidence from the ancient world, on how we approach other interpretations of this same evidence from across the ages, and on the way in which we preserve this entire heritage. In addition to the enlightening papers and conversations, participants were also treated to an after-hours reception at the Ashmolean Museum to view a special exhibition on Alexander’s coinage curated by Simon Glenn, as well as a guided tour of the New College gardens, in full spring bloom, by the eminent historian and Financial Times gardening columnist, Robin Lane Fox.

Alexander the Great: Coinage from a Common Past exhibit display at the Ashmolean Museum, on view until April 23, 2017.
Alexander the Great: Coinage from a Common Past exhibit display at the Ashmolean Museum, on view until April 23, 2017.