In 2018, the ANS launched Ptolemaic Coins Online as part of the National Endowment for the Humanities funded Hellenistic Royal Coinages (HRC) project. Ptolemaic Coins Online (PCO) is an innovative research tool that will ultimately provide wide access to the coins listed in the print volumes of Coins of the Ptolemaic Empireby Catharine C. Lorber, which was published by the ANS, the first attempt to provide a new, comprehensive standard typology and catalogue for the coinage produced by the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt since Ioannis Svoronos’s Τα νομίσματα του κράτους των Πτολεμαίωνpublished in 1904–1908. The print volumes of Coins of the Ptolemaic Empire will eventually appear in four parts: Volume I appeared in 2018 covering the gold and silver coinage (Part I) and bronze coinage (Part II) of Ptolemy I (r. 323–282 BC) through Ptolemy IV (r. 221–204 BC). Volume II covering the gold and silver coinage (Part I) and bronze coinage (Part II) of Ptolemy V (r. 203–181 BC) through Cleopatra VII (r. 51–30 BC) is expected to appear in print by the end of 2021. The newly updated version of PCO, released on April 24, 2020, now includes the typology of the bronze coinages found in Volume I, Part II of Coins of the Ptolemaic Empire, in addition to the gold and silver coinages found in Volume I, Part I.
As part of the new update, examples of 590 Ptolemaic bronze coins from the ANS collection have been added to PCO, bringing the total number of available examples of all coins on PCO to 3,200 from 12 museums located around the world.
The inclusion of these Ptolemaic bronzes into PCO marks a major step forward for researchers worldwide since these coins remain some of the least understood coinages from antiquity. For researchers to have open access to a modern typology and to be able to see examples of the coins from collections around the world will undoubtedly help further our understanding of them.
For those interested in the technical aspects of this update, see the post by ANS’s Director of Data Science, Ethan Gruber, on the Numishare blog.
On a recent trip to Montreal—which seems to date from a million years ago under the current lockdown—I noticed an antique store, full of memorabilia of all kinds. It was run by two men, the older of them the son of a Jewish man who had fought on the Republican side of the Spanish Civil War, then escaped to France, and again to Canada before the Nazis invaded. Many Spanish fighters had been interned in France in 1939, and most managed to escape or were freed by their French guards in 1940, often joining the underground army that fought against the occupiers until 1944.
The shop offered an unbelievable assortment of bric-à-brac, including old vinyl recordings, pictures, paintings, clothes, vintage household equipment, etc. I noticed a display of old coins, including few Roman bronzes. Among them were intriguing round cardboard coin-sized objects with Spanish-language stamps glued on one side. The owner explained they came from the Civil War, and had been used as emergency coinage. The obverse (?) displays the Spanish crowned arms, and the reverse an affixed stamp. He had four of them left, all of them with 10 centimos stamps, selling them for $3 (Canadian) each. I snapped them up as a nice souvenir from that trip to Montreal, and started researching their numismatic background.
Not surprisingly, the Republic of Spain had run short of cash shortly after the outbreak of the Civil War. The fractional coins—centimos—created by the coinage reform of 1869 had been issued in copper, bronze, and later cuppronickel. With even base metal in short supply, they vanished from circulation after 1936. Some issues in iron were attempted in 1937 and 1938, and barely circulated. The Nationalist side had their own copper and aluminium-bronze coinage minted in Vienna by their German backers. Paper Notgeld was issued as well by a range of local authorities.
These small pieces of circular board with the Spanish coat of arms printed on one side were issued in 1938 only it seems. Stamps were then affixed onto the reverse to give each piece a value.
The use of stamps on currency has occurred throughout the twentieth century for a variety of reasons. After the disintegration of the Austrian Empire in 1918, several successor states sort of nationalized the old imperial banknotes with stamps, to make them legal tender inside their new borders—Yugoslavia and Czekoslovakia for instance. A similar phenomenon occurred in East Germany and Japan, older banknotes’ legal tender being affirmed by the affixing of recent and politically acceptable stamps. In inflation-stricken 1945 Hungary, using stamps on banknotes represented an ill-fated attempt at curbing price increase. Lack of coinage led the French colonial authorities in various African territories in the early twentieth century to glue stamps on rectangular cardboards as provisional currency, soon to be replaced when coins and banknotes became available.
However, the Spanish Civil War scheme of using these carboard disks supplemented by stamps seems almost unique, maybe inspired by a comparable experiment—the US Civil War-era Encased Postage Stamps.
Emergency currencies have a long history obviously, and one may have in mind the Card Money of New France, that started as emergency currency to pay the soldiers in 1685, but circulated until the fall of Quebec in 1759. Much older, one of the first attested emergency coinage ever used belongs to the Athenian military commander Timotheus. He minted a range of bronze issues to pay his military expenses during a military campaign in the North Aegean region, probably around 362 BCE, after Perdiccas of Macedon had withdrawn his support. The coins were inspired by the regular Athenian silver series, with several key differences showing that it did not become official coinage. They would have been convertible into silver coins, so that merchants and soldiers accept them—see Kenneth A. Sheedy, “The Emergency Coinage of Timotheus (364–362 BC), in U. Wartenberg and M. Amandry (eds.), ΚΑΙΡΟΣ: Contributions to Numismatics in Honor of Basil Demetriadi, American Numismatic Society, 2015, pp. 203–24.
For many, if not most of us, this last month has been some combination of truly strange and seriously awful. The spread of the coronavirus has caused hardship and harm to pretty much everyone across the globe in some fashion, the true extent of which we really won’t know for years to come. For those of us here in New York City, where the city’s great density and large population has fueled a massive and breathtakingly deadly outbreak, each of us has worried not just for our own health, but for the health of those we know. With the truly astonishing numbers of infected and dying patients that we read about in the news every day, a sense of inevitability has set in, that one of those numbers will eventually be someone close to us. That came to pass this last week when Jay Galst died from complications due to COVID-19.
Born in 1950 and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where his father Julian owned a grocery store, Jay early on developed an interest in numismatics from sorting through the coins received at his father’s store. After finishing a degree in chemistry at the University of Wisconsin in 1972, Jay moved to New York City where he completed a medical degree at Columbia University in 1976. Jay soon thereafter established a successful private ophthalmological practice and career in medicine. He was a clinical professor at the New York Medical College, a senior attending surgeon at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, an honorary surgeon of the New York City Police Department, and an officer in the Order of St. John. He also served as a board member of the Museum of Vision and Chairman of the Collections Committee of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. In addition, he was a board member of the Cogan Ophthalmic History Society, and member and past president of the Ocular Heritage Society.
While busy with his medical pursuits, Jay found time to become a doyen of the local and the national numismatic scenes. A dedicated coin collector with an extensive knowledge of numismatics, he was a world-renowned authority on the coinage of ancient Judea and on coins and medals relating to vision and ophthalmology. He was a life fellow and Sage Society member of the American Numismatic Society, fellow of the Royal Numismatic Society, and life member, judge, and district delegate of the American Numismatic Association. Jay was a pillar of the New York Numismatic Club, serving as its president (1988–1989), member of the board of directors (1991–2020), and chairman of the board (2001–2020). He also served as president of the Bronx Coin Club (1998–2006). In 2014, he was awarded the Numismatic Ambassador Award in recognition for his work in promoting the study and appreciation of numismatics.
Jay and I first bonded over coins soon after I moved to New York City in 2002, and then over his magnum opus, Ophthalmologia, Optica et Visio in Nummis, a massive book project combining his interests in ophthalmological history and numismatics that he had been planning and working on for years before he invited me to help him bring it to completion. The hundreds of hours that we spent shoulder to shoulder on that project taught me a lot about the man sitting next to me. One was his absolutely prodigious memory: he had names, places, dates, and even page numbers, all at the tip of his tongue. I stopped double-checking eventually because he was right every time. Another was the joy he took in a well provided table, a good bottle of wine, and company to share it all with. My fondest memories of Jay, in fact, are of the meals the two of us had together, but of no single one in particular, even though some of them were truly epic. Our conversations over plates and glasses were always free-flowing and fun, his eyes twinkling and his smile broad, as we talked about numismatic discoveries, favorite wines, where again his outstanding memory really shined, and, of course, our families. He was a husband for 48 years, a father, and a grandfather and adored them all.
But mostly what I learned about Jay over the years was what a good, good man he was. In nearly twenty years of knowing him, I’ve never heard a bad word spoken of him from anyone, a true testament, if nothing else, to his unwavering kindness, generosity, and humanity, even after decades of living and working in New York City, a famously harsh place. I don’t think Jay ever lost touch with his midwestern roots, or indeed with the lessons he learned from his father, also a generous soul from the way Jay described him. Jay’s goodwill, magnanimity, and unique sort of serious playfulness made him a much-loved figure most everywhere he went.
For his friends and colleagues here in New York City and elsewhere across the country and across the globe saying goodbye to Jay has been a hard thing to do, especially under these horrible circumstances, when hearing his ever-cheerful voice would bring certain comfort. He was indeed a true physician: a steady, healing hand in our times of affliction.
The migration of the Scythians, an Iranian-speaking group of nomads from Central Asia, to the North Pontic territory, today’s Russian and Ukrainian steppes, was one of the most important phenomena of the ancient oikoumene. Through military conflicts, cultural and ethnic interactions, as well as trade, it forever changed the social landscape of the Greeks and other ethnicities in the region.
During the late seventh and the sixth centuries BC, numerous Greek colonies were established at the mouths of the major rivers of this North Pontic region. The settlements of Olbia, Tyra, Niconion, and Istria, among others, were built on the lower Dnieper (the ancient Borysthenes), Dniester (ancient Tyras) and Danube (ancient Ister) river regions, just a few miles away from where they merge with the Black Sea.
By the time Greek colonists first encountered the Scythian tribes, Greek cities were already using metal coinage, and early coins are frequently found along the areas of Greco-Scythian trade. Probably the earliest coin-like objects were made in the form of arrowheads (Fig. 1).
This arrowhead money, according to finds, circulated widely among the Scythians, Thracians, and Greeks of the northern Black Sea. Examples have been found at various ancient sites such as Olbia and Berezan, Nikonion, Apollonia Pontica, Istros, Tomis, and Odessos. A variety of dates have been proposed for the manufacture and circulation of this coinage. At Istros and on Berezan Island, arrowhead money was found in the Archaic strata, along with fragments of imported ceramic ware. At Olbia, a graffito on a black-glaze vessel that is dated to ca. 600 BC demonstrates that arrowhead money was used among the Olbiopolitans at that time. It continued to be in circulation a century later, as demonstrated by the Burgas Hoard, a container filled with arrowhead money and also by the finding at Nikonion of an arrowhead specimen in a complex alongside ceramic fragments of the fourth century BC.
Some scholars argue that the arrowhead money was made in Thrace, because the Burgas hoard included a clay mold for casting them. Other specialists assign them to the Scythians. Finally, there are some scholars who reject any connection of these objects with the Black Sea tribes. They believe that the residents of the Greek towns of Apollonia, Istros, and Olbia issued this money, because the finds have been concentrated in their vicinity. The discovery near Olbia, at Berezan, of a small weight with a relief of an arrowhead coin, as well as lead arrowhead objects, supports this hypothesis. Irrespective of who exactly made the arrowhead money, it is clear that these finds are concentrated in the contact area between the Scythian and Thracian tribes and the Greek colonies of the northwestern and western Black Sea littoral.
During the latter half of the sixth century BC, the arrowhead money is accompanied by another unusual type, cast bronze tokens in form of dolphins (Fig. 2). These “dolphins” were in circulation in the North Pontic area and have been found in the Dobrudja as well, where they were adopted and improved upon by the local tribes. The issuance of these cast coins was presumably a halfway measure between the local tradition of circulating small cast bronze artifacts and the production of a proper coinage.
From the very beginning, the Greek colonies on the Black Sea coast were entrepôts for trade with the indigenous population. The Olbian polis, for example, supplied wheat from the Black Sea hinterland to Attica, and at the same time developed trade contacts with its Scythian neighbors, to whom it supplied wine in amphorae, expensive bronze vessels, jewelry from Greece, and its own manufactured products. Rapid economic development and the consequent demands of trade required a more sophisticated monetary system than that provided by the cast copper tokens of the sixth century BC. Consequently, the domestic market of Olbia began to use full-value bronze obols and their fractions in the second quarter of the fifth century BC. These cast coins, known as “asses,” spread to the territories that were subject to Olbia and in the contact zone with the Scythian tribes, but they did not immediately replace the arrowhead and dolphin money already in circulation, nor did they fulfill the need that a more sophisticated local economy had for a higher-value coinage (Fig. 3).
Money of high denomination was supplied by cyzicenes—the electrum coinage of Cyzicus in the form of staters and their smaller fractions, obtained in exchange for wheat exports. These coins provided the city markets with a resilient coinage in numerous denominations, which was at the same time accepted by the Greek cities as well as the Scythian and Thracian tribes of the Pontic area. The second biggest hoard of cyzicenes ever discovered (the largest being the Prinkipo hoard, IGCH 1239, with over 200 examples) was found in 1967 in the lower Danube area in the village of Orlovka (IGCH 726), not far from modern Odessa. In ancient times, this location had Thracian and Scythian settlements and was associated with a commercial and military road that facilitated access across the Danube. The hoard was composed of 74 cyzicenes stored in a bronze oinochoe dated to the second quarter of the fifth century BC (Fig. 4).
These coins, some of which were previously only known only from unique specimens, also provided several new, previously unrecorded types. Among these new types was a stater featuring the head of a bearded man (Fig. 5), which closely resembles the images of Scythians found on metalwork from the kurgans of the Black Sea Steppes (Fig. 6). 
The introduction of patently Scythian portraits on coinage suggests that people’s growing power. Scythian determination to rule the steppes had been noted in Herodotus’ legend about Heracles, which became entwined with local religious and epic traditions concerning a hero in whom the Scythians saw the progenitor of their race (4.8–10). In this myth, Herodotus tells us how Heracles arrived in Scythia with the herd of cattle stolen from Geryon. There, in the sacred place of the Olbiopolitans named Hylaia, he encountered Erchidna, a snake-legged local chthonic divinity. From the subsequent union of demi-god and monster, three sons were born. The myth further relates how Heracles said that the son who could draw his bow would inherit the Scythian lands. “He took off one of his bows (hitherto he had carried two), and he showed the way in which the belt was put on” (4.10). Scythes, the youngest, was the only one who was able to draw Heracles’ bow, thereby proving himself to be the strongest, and so he inherited the land and the power. This mythological tale is recalled on the first Olbian silver coins, struck around 460–440 BC, bearing the legend EMINAKO and showing Heracles stringing his bow (Fig. 7).
This myth also is reflected on the gold vase of the fourth century BC, from the Kul-Oba kurgan, a famous Scythian barrow excavated in 1830 in eastern Crimea, modern Ukraine (Fig. 8).
Although the mythology behind the type is clear, the name EMINAKO has engendered a vigorous debate. Some hold that the coins show the dependence of Olbia upon the Scythians and that a ruler with the name EMINAKO—which is attested for some Scythian rulers—resided near Olbia.  Others argue that this image of Heracles shows him as a Greek hero with his usual attributes and that the name Eminakos could be an Olbiopolitan magistrate. Another hypothesis suggests that the brief emission of these staters is to be associated with the rule of a tyrant in Olbia. Whether the coin is a Scythian issue or an Olbiopolitan issue, it should be pointed out that these coins were in circulation in Olbia proper during the fifth century BC, which demonstrates that the Hellenes of Olbia were not distinct from nor hostile towards the religious and epic traditions of the autochthonous population. The mythology also reflects a positive relationship between Greek and non-Greek people through the conclusion of a sacred marriage between the famous Greek hero and the local snake goddess, an event epitomizing mixed marriages between Greeks and Scythians and a religious syncretism in their beliefs.
At the beginning of the second quarter of the fifth century BC, the Scythians not only controlled the Pontic steppe regions but also held economic and political sway over the Greek cities. Although some scholars have taken issue with the idea of a “Scythian protectorate,” numismatic evidence shows that the Scythian king Scyles (470–450 BC), the son of King Ariapeithes, exercised control over the lower Dniester basin. In this period Scyles began to issue his own bronze cast coinage in the city of Nikonion, with the image of an owl and his own name, ΣΚ, ΣΚΥ or ΣΚΥΛ (Figs. 9–10).
Nikonion, founded in the second half of the sixth century BC on the eastern shore of the Dniester (ancient Tyras) estuary together with Tyra (another important Ionian colony on the western edge of the Dniester Liman) played a key role in the trade and commerce of the Dniester-Danubian region.
Scythian control may have also extended to Istros, a Milesian colony in the lower Danubian area. Scyles was the son, after all, not only of the Scythian king Ariapeithes, but of a Greek mother from Istros (Herodotus 4.78). Numerous finds of Istros’ cast coins with the wheel device at Nikonion and the lower Dniester basin may be offered as support for the hypothesis that Nikonion was in fact a colony of Istros.
The use of the owl, a quintessential Athenian image, on the coins of Scyles surely indicates the importance of Athens in the Black Sea region after the Athenians’ decisive victories over the Persians in 490 and 480/79 BC, when imports from Athens increased in the northern Black Sea region. Athenian influence in the North Pontic area grew still further after Pericles’ expedition into the Pontus in 437 BC. Olbia, Tyra, Nikonion, and Istros were included in the Athenian maritime league. This influence was possible because the Scythians’ control over the Greek colonies was weakening. Increasing sedentism disrupted the traditional nomadic social system and weakened Scythian military power in the last quarter of the fifth century BC. The growth of the nomad population and limited territory led to active foreign expansion.
In the first half of the fourth century BC, an independent group of Scythians under King Ateas crossed the mouth of the Danude delta and invaded the Dobrudja (the territory situated between the lower Danube and the Western Black Sea region). This event marks a new chapter in the history of Scythian relations with the Greek colonies of the Western part of the Black sea littoral. By this time the old token currencies and the early mythological references to Scythian foundations were all abandoned, and new, up-and-coming rulers seeking to consolidate their power struck a variety of emissions bearing their names and likenesses, following traditions well established by the neighboring Greek cities.
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The first three numismatic societies in the United States were founded in the major cities of the Northeast in the middle of the nineteenth century, products of a “mania for coin collecting” that swept the nation at the time. Philadelphia’s was first, with its official meeting held in January 1858. Next came New York’s American Numismatic Society a couple of months later. A Boston group was formed in 1860. These societies had a lot in common—similar goals and procedures, and, in some cases, members.
New Yorker Isaac Francis Wood (1841–1895) was a member of all three groups. He was a pretty important figure—and I’m not just saying that because he was one of the ANS’s first librarians. He helped resurrect the ANS after the Civil War, was instrumental in getting it incorporated by New York State, and had a hand in launching the first United States numismatic journal, the American Journal of Numismatics. When the three numismatic societies formed a joint committee to help convince the U.S. Mint to keep selling them coins at wholesale prices, the ANS chose Wood as its representative. His wife, Sarah, became the first female member of the ANS in 1878, a major milestone that somehow seems to have passed by without comment in the early records.
Wood had a great interest in medals—as a collector and as a dealer, but also as an issuer—commissioning works from engravers like William Key and George Lovett. In 1873 he issued a medal, honoring the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant, on behalf of the Boston Numismatic Society and the New England Historical and Genealogical Society.
He also issued several satirical medalets having to do with the hotly disputed presidential election of 1876. These lampooned candidate Samuel Tilden who was forced to concede to Rutherford B. Hayes after he won the popular vote but came up short in the electoral college.
Writers have commented on Wood’s droll sense of humor, as revealed in his letters. This is certainly on display in a questionnaire he filled out late in the century. These forms were completed by ANS members and sent to the Society’s historiographer, who mostly used them to write obituaries. He responded to questions like, did he have any children? “No chickens successfully hatched,” he replied. “The right sort of ‘incubator’ doesn’t appear to have been thus far invented.” Were any members of his family deceased? “My mother-in-law is still very much alive!” Did he know of any printed history of his family? “Hope to gracious I never shall.” And so on.
I’ve never seen a photograph of Wood, and his questionnaire tells us why. He had “an aversion to being ‘pictured,’” he said, and hadn’t “sat to anything except a good dinner & a bottle of wine with satisfaction for many years.”
His characteristic comical tone can be detected in a letter attached to the questionnaire Written in 1886 when he was 44 years old, it also contains some darker musings. “My life has been so insignificant and useless,” he wrote. “In fact such a bitter failure that perhaps the joking only conceals the pain. That I have tried hard in times past to serve the Society as a Sec[retary] & after as Librarian, & always as a member, is I hope some excuse for my having been born & existed to date.” As a fellow ANS librarian, I only hope that he wrote these words knowing the recipient would understand them to be a comic exaggeration. Wood died nine years later.
The American Numismatic Society is proud to announce the launch of its podcast, The Planchet. Recorded for non-specialists and professionals alike, The Planchet shares conversations by numismatists and other scholars about the stories and histories of currency and medals. Why did we call it “The Planchet“? Listen to Episode 1 to find out!
For those who do not know what a podcast is, think of it as being a radio show played on your computer, tablet, or smart phone. iPhone users will already have (or can download) the free Apple Podcast app. Android users will be able to use the Google Podcasts app. Both phones can access the podcast via the Spotify app. If you do not want to listen via an app, you can stream the audio directly on your computer or phone by visiting the podcast’s webpage and pressing the “Play” button at the bottom of an episode’s description.
The ANS plans on producing an hour-long numismatic conversation each month as well as occasional, short episodes filled with ANS news. If you have any questions, comments, or requests for topics, send an email to The Planchet.
Episode 1: Jesse Kraft, ANS Curator of the Americas
From the earliest days of the British-American colonies, up through the late 1850s, a variety of foreign coinage circulated in the United States, including Spanish-American, British, French, and Portuguese formed a majority of the hard-money supply in the United States. Most of these coins did not conform to the predominant unit of account (i.e. “dollars” or “pounds”) and forced American consumers and merchants to navigate this system through a variety of ingenious, though sometimes confounding methods. This episode will discuss those methods, including the use of abstract mathematical formulas, a variety of exchange charts, the prolonged usage of British monetary terminologies, and ways to evade the heightened threat of counterfeit coins.