Attalid Cistophori and Roman Foreign Affairs in Asia Minor

In his important essay on the coinage of Aristonicus’ rebellion, E. S. G. Robinson famously stated:

The cistophorus, with its writhing serpents and  over-elaborate ornamentation, is perhaps the ugliest coin in the Greek series.  Collectors have tended to pass it by, and, maybe in consequence, it has not yet yielded to the Historian all the nourishment which he might extract from it (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. Lydia, Apollonis. Silver Cistophorus issued by Aristonicus, 132–131 BCE. ANS 2015.20.1326. Bequest of R. B. Witschonke.

While we perhaps do not agree with Robinson’s aesthetic evaluation of the cistophorus, it is certain that the study of cistophoric coinage is instrumental to a better understanding of the history of the Attalid kingdom (later Provincia Asia) at least between the second century BCE and the second century CE, when the Emperor Hadrian issued a significant amount of it (Figs. 2–3). I will focus here, however, on the beginnings of this coinage.

Figure  2. Mysia, Pergamum. Silver Cistophorus, 166–160 BCE. ANS 1951.5.1.
Figure  3. Ionia, Ephesus. Silver Cistophorusof Hadrian, 128–132 CE. ANS 1955.21.12.

The cistophorus, a tetradrachm of ca. 12.5 g, was introduced sometime in the course of the reign of Eumenes II (197–158 BCE). It bears on the obverse a cista mystica (hence the name) and on the reverse two snakes coil around a bow case (Figs. 4–5).

Figure 4. Bust of Eumenes II (putative, also known more generically as the young commander). Herculaneum, Villa dei Papiri.
Figure 5. The Acropolis of Pergamum.

It was a reduced standard—and thus overvalued— silver currency, since it was almost 25% lighter than the Attic-standard tetradrachms that had been issued by the Attalids until then, and that probably continued being issued even after the introduction of the cistophorus. Andrew Meadows has now conclusively shown that the mint of Pergamum kept producing Philetaeri, the Attic standard tetradrachms with the portrait of Philetaerus, the founder of the dynasty, at least until the 160s BCE, i.e., after the introduction of the cistophoric coinage. Meadows’ argument is based on a Westermann’s Group VII Philetairos overstruck on a coin issued by the Seleucid king Antiochus IV (175–164 BCE) (Figs. 6–7).

Figure 6. Mysia, Pergamum. Silver Tetradrachm of Eumenes II, 175–164 BCE. Obv. Laureate head of Philetairus right. Rev. Athena seated to left, left elbow resting on shield, crowning ΦΙΛΕΤΑΙΡΟΥ with wreath; bow behind. SNG France -; BMC -; SNG Copenhagen -; Westermark -, cf. Group VII (V.CLIII-R.1). Roma Numismatics 7, March 22, 2014, lot 675. 37 mm. 16.67 g. The following traces of the undertype are visible on the reverse: letters TH-E-O-Y on Athena’s shoulder; folders of Zeus’ himation on Athena’s face; and leg of Zeus’ throne on Athena’s right arm.

The overstruck coin presented in Fig. 6 is of extreme relevance not only because it gives a terminus post quem for this group of Philetaeri, but also because— since it has been proven that this series is contemporary to the first cistophori —it decisively places the inception of the cistophoric coinage in the 160s BCE, not in the earlier decades, as previously thought.

Figure 7. Syria, Antioch. Silver Tetradrachm of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, 173–68 BCE. ANS 1944.100.75257. Bequest of E. T. Newell.

The reign of Eumenes II thus represented a very complex period of production of the Pergamene mint.  Together with cistophori and Philetaeri, the mint also produced three other Attic-standard silver tetradrachms. The first one consists of posthumous Alexanders (Price nos. 1491–95), while the second one is represented by the exceedingly rare tetradrachms with the portrait of Eumenes II on the obverse and the Cabiri on the reverse, now known in three specimens (Figs. 8–9).

Figure  8. Mysia, Pergamum. Silver Tetradrachm, 197–168 BCE. ANS 1951.90.47.
Figure 9. Mysia, Pergamum. Silver Tetradrachm, after 189 BCE. Obv. Draped bust of Eumenes II. Rev. ΒAΣIΛEΩΣ – EYMENOY. Dioscuri (or Cabiri) with piloi; above, two stars; on left, thyrsus; in exergue, AP. All within laurel crown. SNG France 5, 1627. BMC 47 (var). Lanz 156, June 2, 2013, lot 177. 32 mm. 16.74 g.

The third variety of Attic-standard silver coinage, the so-called Athena Nikephoros tetradrachms, were also almost certainly struck in Pergamum, despite the absence of the ethnic (Fig. 10).

Figure 10. Mysia, Pergamum. Silver tetradrachm of Athena Nikephoros, ca. 180–165 BCE. Obv. Head of Medusa facing. Rev. ΑΘΗΝΑΣ ΝΙΚΗΦΟΡΟΥ. Archaistic cult statue of Athena Nikephoros, facing and holding trophy and spear. BM 1975,0208.1. 30 mm. 16.06 g. BM, 1975,0208.1.

The complexity of the Pergamene production under Eumenes II could easily be explained with the unprecedented consequences of Roman expansion in the area. In 188 BCE the treaty of Apamea established that the defeated Seleucid king Antiochus III had to abandon Europe altogether and all of Asia west of the Taurus Mountains (Fig. 11).

Figure 11. Map of Asia Minor after the Treaty of Apamea, with the gains of Pergamon (light blue) and Rhodes (light green).

Rome gave the control of a large part of Asia Minor to Eumenes. Antiochus kept the region of Cilicia, while most of Lycia and Caria became part of the Rhodian Peraea. With the placet of the Roman authorities, the Attalid kingdom grew overnight to almost ten times its original size. This sudden expansion created the necessity of a proportionally enhanced monetary production. Part of this monetary demand was met by the already mentioned posthumous Alexanders and Philetaeri, but their production size failed to grow according to the size of the kingdom, as rightly noted by François de Callataÿ (tables 6.3–4).

The gap in monetary supply for the decade immediately following Apamea was thus probably filled by the Pamphylian tetradrachms from Phaselis, Perge, Aspendos, and Side countermarked with the so-called “cistophoric countermarks” (Figs. 12–13).

Figure 12. Pamphylia, Side. Silver tetradrachm, Side, 210–190 BCE (countermarked by Pergamum, ca. 188–183 BCE. ANS 2015.20.1203. Bequest of R. B. Witschonke.
Figure 13. Pamphylia, Aspendus. Silver tetradrachm, ca. 212–182 BCE (countermarked by Pergamum, ca. 188–183 BCE). Obv. Head of Herakles right, wearing lion’s skin. Countermark: bowcase, ΠΕΡ ΓΑ. Rev. AΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΥ, Zeus seated left, holding eagle in right hand. Uncertain year. Price 2876–2912; Bauslaugh 1990 – (cf.p. 41, but possibly different year). ANS 2015.20.1762. Bequest of R. B. Witschonke. 30.1 mm. 16.48 g.

In spite of their name, these countermarks, consisting of a bow in case with the initials of the countermarking authority, are not cistophoric since they bear no cista.  The bow in case would become the reverse type of the cistophori, but it was already present on the reverse of the Philetaeri from the beginning of their production. Also, there is no perfect correspondence between the cities countermarking the Pamphylian tetradrachms and the one that would become cistophoric mints (Fig. 14).

Figure 14. Summary of the identifiable cistophoric countermarks from de Callataÿ 2013, Table 6.6.

Ephesus, the second cistophoric mint in the kingdom in order of importance, is almost absent from the list of the countermarking authorities, and so is Sardis. On the other hand, other cities (Sale, Stratonicea, Toriaion and Kormasa) that would not become cistophoric mints were included among the countermarking authorities.  While the host coins are variously dated between the last quarter of the third century and the first two decades of the second century BCE, Robert Bauslaugh dates the countermarking activity to the years 188–183 BCE and attributes it to the necessity of pushing into the Attalid monetary system the foreign currency resulting from the tribute imposed on Antiochus III by the Romans.

The historian Polybius (Histories 21.42) reports that, according to the Treaty of Apamea, the defeated Antiochus III was to pay  477 talents of “best silver coinage” to Eumenes II over the course of five years. In Bauslaugh’s words, the Pamphylian cities issuing the countermarked tetradrachms:

may have been mints over which Antiochus III retained nominal, if disputed, control after Apamea; but their silver coinages must, in any case, have been available to the Seleucids in substantial quantities, because these and other foreign coinages continuously passed into Seleucid territory.

p. 58

If Antiochus’ payment of this fine to Eumenes II began in 187, it ended in 183 BCE, then it corresponds to the likely period of countermarking. As Bauslaugh puts it: “the countermarks represent a device for placing foreign payments in circulation as they were dispersed to various cities” (p. 63). The 477 talents of Antiochus’ indemnity were thus mostly paid with the countermarked Pamphylian issues that, added to the actual production of the mint of the last Pergamene Alexanders, may come close to representing Pergamene expenditure immediately after Apamea.

In the decade after the treaty of Apamea, there was then no apparent need for yet another silver currency, especially a reduced-standard one like the cistophorus, which would have had a hard time circulating outside the boundaries of the Attalid kingdom. If Meadows is correct in arguing for the beginning of its production in the 160s BCE, then this coinage was created precisely when Roman policy in the East shifted towards a tighter control, as famously exemplified by the behavior of C. Popillius Laenas, who in 168 BCE famously ordered the new Seleucid king Antiochus IV to stop the hostilities against Egypt at once, under threat of a (possible) Roman intervention (Polybius, Histories 29.27) (Fig. 15).

Figure  15. Cilicia, Soli-Pompeiopolis. Silver Tetradrachm of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, 175–168 BCE. ANS 1973.113.1.

Tighter Roman control also resulted in Rhodes being deprived of the tax immunity for its harbor and of its rights over Caria (Polybius, Histories 30.31). In precisely the same years, the friendly relationship between the Romans and Eumenes began to falter.  In 169–168 BCE, Eumenes was accused of having had secret dealings with the rebel Macedonian king Perseus, who had just been defeated at the battle of Pydna (Polybius, Histories 29.6–9) (Figs. 16–17).

Figure 16. Budapest, Museum of Fine Arts. Perseus V of Macedonia surrenders to L. Aemilius Paullus. Painting by Jean-François Pierre Peyron (1802). Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest.
Figure  17. Macedon, Silver Tetradrachm of Perseus, 178–168 BCE. ANS 1957.172.711.

As a consequence, the following year his brother Attalus was persuaded to appear before the Senate to discuss his seizure of the Pergamene throne and Eumenes himself, who had come to Italy in order to defend his position, was ordered to leave the country (Polybius, Histories 30.1–3). 

However, it seems apparent that the Romans were not trying to destroy the Attalid power, but probably just trying to avoid its excessive growth, which would have altered the power balance among client kings.  It is only this attempt to maintain the power balance in the region of Asia Minor that could ultimately explain why only a few years later, in 156/5 BCE, the Romans stopped the invasion of the Attalid kingdom at the hands of Prusias of Bithynia, but still left him on his throne (Appian, Mithridatic Wars 1.3).  Moreover, the 500 talents of indemnity that Prusias had to pay to the Attalids in 20 years were probably the bullion used to issue the so-called “wreathed tetradrachms”, issued between 154 and 135 BCE (Figs. 18–19).

Figure  18. Aeolis, Myrina. Silver “Wreathed” Tetradrachm, ca. 154–135 BCE. ANS 1944.100.44224. Bequest of E. T. Newell.
Figure  19. Aeolis, Aegae. Silver “Wreathed” Tetradrachm, ca. 154–135 BCE. ANS 1948.19.1167.

Kings in Asia Minor were thus permitted to exercise a considerable amount of autonomy, as long as they did not alter too much the status quo. The creation of the cistophorus should be understood in this particular light, as proof of the autonomy enjoyed by Eumenes II even in the context of tighter Roman control.

The cistophorus was above all an epichoric coinage, issued in order to enhance the cohesion of the Attalid kingdom. As Peter Thonemann rightly argued, Eumenes II was in no position to create a strictly vertical royal power, as his royal authority was entirely “exogenous,” granted by the Romans, as the king himself bluntly admitted. Eumenes was therefore in need of a more “horizontal” consensus. Indeed, Attalid kings specifically sought civic approval, which must have represented one of the leading reasons for giving the cistophorus the appearance of a federal coinage, rather than a royal one. At the same time, the uniformity of the design, the sharing of some dies between different civic mints (Figs. 20–21) and the sheer volume of issues proves that the Attalids were the ones providing the bullion (Fig. 22).

Figure 20. Phrygia, Apamea. Silver Cistophorus, 150–140 BCE. Obv. Cista mystica with half-open lid, from which a serpent issues to r.; all within ivy wreath. Rev. Two coiled serpents with heads erect; between them an ornamented bow-case with strap at r. On l., monogram (ECC, p. 91, series 21); on r. Dioscurus cap surmounted by star. ECC, p. 91, series 21, dies 24-I (same obverse die as Pergamum 46). 29.3 mm. 12.48 g. ANS 2015.20.1788. Bequest of R. B. Witschonke.
Figure  21. Mysia, Pergamum. Silver cistophorus, 150–140 BCE. ANS 1965.70.1 (same obverse dies as Apamea 24).
Figure 22. Comparisons between the coinages issued by the Attalids with the late cistophori (ca.133–67 BCE) and Athens (ca.180–45 BCE) from de Callataÿ 2013, Table 6.12.

The cistophorus presented in Fig. 23 probably bears an ethnic of Apamea recut to Pergamum, even if Thomas Drew-Bear and Gorges Le Rider attributed this ethnic to the Mysian city of Praepenissus.

Figure 23. Phrygia, Apamea (recut to Pergamum?). Silver Cistophorus, 166–160 BCE. Obv. Cysta mystica with half-open lid, from which a serpent issues to r.; all within ivy wreath. Rev. Two coiled serpents with heads erect; between them an ornamented bow-case with strap at r.; to l., monogram (see Kleiner 1980, Apamea recut to Pergamum); on r. dolphin downward. ECC (cf. p. 86, series 2. Also ECC Pergamum series 3). 27.1 mm. 12.67 g. ANS 2015.20.1487. Bequest of R. B. Witschonke.

In addition, cistophori not only enhanced the prestige of cities with a consistent numismatic past, but were also struck by cities that had never struck coinage before, such as the cities of Dionysopolis, Dioshieron, and perhaps Lysias and Blaundus (Figs. 24–26).

Figure 24. Phrygia, Dionysopolis. Silver Cistophorus, 160–150 BCE. Obv. Cysta mystica with half-open lid, from which a serpent issues to r.; all within ivy wreath. Rev. Two coiled serpents with heads erect; between them an ornamented bow-case with strap at r.; to l., monogram (cf. ECC, p. 79, series 6, 10); to r., sword in sheath, horizontal. ECC, p. 79, series 6, 10. 28 mm. 12.57 g. Solidus Numismatik 71, January 26, 2021, lot 76.
Figure  25. Lydia, Dioshieron. Silver Cistophorus, 166–133 BCE. ANS 1944.100.37595. Bequest of E. T. Newell.
Figure 26. Lydia, Blaundus? Silver Cistophorus, ca. 160–150 BCE. Obv. Cista mystica with serpent; all within ivy wreath. Rev. Bow-case with serpents; BA to the left, EY and a star to the right, AP lower left. ECC (cf. series 7 o.d. 9). 28 mm. 12.59 g. CNG MBS 57, April 4, 2001, lot 425.

The cistophorus thus aimed at enhancing the geographical and political cohesion of the Attalid kingdom by establishing new cistophoric mints in previously under-monetized rural areas and, at the same time, by enhancing the civic role in the production of these coins through its formal civic appearance. This is to be expected of an epichoric coinage, and the eminently local function is also confirmed by its very limited circulation.

The 150s BC, however, marked a turning point in the monetary relations between the Romans and the Attalids. Macedonian mines were reopened in 158 BC, and at the same time cistophoric overstrikes on Macedonian and Thasian coins began to appear. The overstrikes appear on only two Ephesian issues, dated between 150 and 139 BCE, and one Tralles issue, dated between 155 and 145 BCE (Figs. 27–29).

Figure 27. Ionia, Ephesus. Silver cistophorus, 140–139 BCE. ANS 2015.20.1273. Bequest of R. B. Witschonke. Overstruck on a Macedonian tetradrachm of the First Meris.
Figure 28. Ionia, Ephesus. Silver cistophorus, ca. 150–140 BCE. Obv. Cista mystica with serpent; all within ivy wreath. Rev. EΦE, bow-case with serpents; bee to left, serpent on cista to right. ECC, p. 34, series 28. 29 mm. 12.49 g. CNG Triton VII, January 12, 2004, lot 233. Overstruck on a Macedonian tetradrachm of the First Meris.
Figure 29. Lydia, Tralles. Silver cistophorus, 155–145 BCE. Obv. Cista mystica with serpent; all within ivy wreath. Rev. Bow-case with serpents; filleted tripod to the right. ECC, p. 67, series 23. 30 mm. 12.69 g. CNG MBS 57, April 4, 2001, lot 440. Overstruck on a Macedonian tetradrachm of the First Meris.

The coins on which the cistophori were overstruck came from the Macedonian First Meris and Thasos, coinages which were almost absent from the circulation pool of the Attalid kingdom. Their presence in the Attalid kingdom could be explained by an external power coordinating this movement of coinage, probably to be identified with the Romans.

Thus, the cistophorus was initially created as an epichoric coinage, which functioned to strengthen the internal cohesion of the Attalid state. However, Roman involvement in cistophoric production began very early, in the mid-150s BC, well before the kingdom was bequeathed to them by Attalus III in 133 BC. This involvement consisted not only of a sort of indirect control over the conflicts in Asia Minor (as testified by the end of the war between Prusias and the Attalids with the subsequent indemnity), but also of the direct provision of at least part of the bullion used for the cistophori (as proven by the overstrikes).

The American Negro Commemorative Society

Today’s post is authored by Jaharia Knowles, ANS intern. Knowles is a high school senior from New York City. A passionate student activist, she became a member of Black Students Demanding Change, a student-led group devoted to creating racially equitable reform in NYC private schools, while researching the American Negro Commemorative Society last summer. In addition, she is a visual artist and musician. Jaharia is excited to explore the intersections of history, identity, politics, and art in her future academic studies, and is dedicated to make her community a more accepting and equitable place.

The assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968, sent shockwaves across the country and marked the end of the Civil Rights Movement. Almost immediately, riots erupted in several of the nation’s largest cities, including Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, a public display of the Black community’s grief and anger not only towards King’s assassin, but also towards the nation’s deeply rooted racism. The loss of such a prominent figure of the Movement only exacerbated Black Americans’ discontent with segregation, redlining, and other forms of institutional racism that had existed in the country for decades. Less than a week after King’s assassination, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act, which prohibited housing discrimination based on race, religion, gender, or national origin, in part due to pressure from protestors. While the national riots and the subsequent passing of the Fair Housing Act are well-known effects of King’s death, one other effect that has received very little attention was the creation of the American Negro Commemorative Society (ANCS).

Figure 1: ANCS medal featuring Martin Luther King, Jr. (ANS 1969.25.1)

George A. Beach, a 32-year-old advertising designer based in Pennsylvania founded the Society in collaboration with the Franklin Mint for the purpose of highlighting Black American historical figures. With the ANCS, Beach sought to educate Americans, especially Black Americans, on influential Black figures who were often left out of “traditional,” whitewashed narratives of American history. The subjects featured on the medals lived as early as the Revolutionary era, illustrating how ingrained Black people are in the nation’s history. In fact, many of those featured were pioneers in their field, such as W. C. Handy, self-proclaimed “Father of the Blues,” and George Washington Carver, who made significant contributions to the study of agriculture in the early twentieth century.

Figure 2: ANCS medal featuring Carter G. Woodson. (ANS 1970.64.1)

The commemoration of Black historical figures on medals, at least in the United States, was unprecedented. The ANCS addressed this in one of their advertisements, saying, “Many notable American Negroes were given some recognition in their time, but nearly all have been sadly neglected in numismatics. We hope to fill that void.” The ANCS’s efforts to highlight previously overlooked Black Americans was part of a greater push to include Black history in American history started earlier in the century by Carter G. Woodson, founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (also featured on one of the ANCS medals).

Figure 3: ANSC medal featuring Jean Baptiste Pointe Du Sable. (ANS 1969.25.2)

While some of the Black Americans featured on the ANCS’ medals have become household names, such as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, others are not as well-known. For instance, Jean Baptiste Pointe Du Sable, a tradesman and the first non-indigenous permanent resident of Chicago, had not been recognized for his role in the city’s history until recently. For decades, John Kinzie, a white Canadian who bought Du Sable’s property in 1804, had been wrongly given the title. While that began to change in the early twentieth century due to the determination of African-American led groups in Chicago, many Americans, even Chicagoans, were unfamiliar with Du Sable. The ANCS’s commemoration of the tradesman was part of a long mission to redress a historical wrong. Today, Du Sable is widely recognized as the “Father of Chicago,” but that would have been impossible without the contributions of Black activists, writers, and organizations, including the ANCS.

Figure 4: ANSC medal featuring Henry Ossian Flipper. (ANS 1970.201.2)

The commemoration of Henry Ossian Flipper served a similar purpose. Flipper was born enslaved on March 21st, 1856, in Thomasville, Georgia. However, after the Civil War, he was able to attend West Point Academy, becoming the first black graduate of the school. That same year, he became the second lieutenant of the 10th Cavalry, which made him the first Black officer to lead the all-Black regiment. However, despite his achievements, Flipper’s career was marred by false accusations of misconduct from his racist, white peers, and eventually came to end when Colonel William Rufus Shafter framed the lieutenant for embezzling government funds. Flipper spent the remainder of his life trying to clear his name. Although most people who knew the lieutenant doubted the legitimacy of Shafter’s accusation, he was unable to regain his commission.

Figure 5: ANSC medal featuring Harriet Tubman. (ANS 1969.90.1)

The ANCS’ commemoration of Flipper in 1970 is most likely the first time Flipper had been celebrated for his accomplishments after his death. Six years later, Flipper’s descendants applied for a review of his court-martial and dismissal, resulting in the Department of the Army changing his dismissal to an honorable discharge.  Shortly after, West Point displayed a bust of Flipper on its campus. In 1999, President Bill Clinton pardoned the soldier.

In a forthcoming feature in the ANS Magazine, I will offer an in-depth look at all 64 medals and explore other aspects of the Society, including the marketing of the medals, their reception, and the ANCS’s ultimate demise.

The Denier Tournois

One manifestation of the centralization of states is the standardization of measures, and no system of measurement is of more concern to a state than that of money. Standardization can be a complicated and difficult process, though, because it is most advantageous for those whose local system is adopted as the general standard. The long struggle of many generations of French kings to create a centralized state in the Middle Ages provides an interesting example of the process.

Charlemagne had established a unified system of coinage for much of western Europe, including France, in the late 700s, based on the silver denier. The Carolingian monetary system also provided the system of account—deniers, sous, and livres—that lasted into the modern era.

A late Carolingian denier issued by the Abbey of St. Martin of Tours (ANS 1960.87.4).

During the feudal era, however, as political power—and with it control over coinage—fragmented, the standards of different localities diverged. From the denier provinois of the Counts of Champagne and the denier angevin of the Counts of Anjou to the denier tolosain of the Counts of Toulouse and the denier melgorien of the Counts of Melgueil, there were many different monetary standards in twelfth-century France.

A denier provinois of the eleventh or twelfth century from Provins in Champagne (ANS 1923.82.19, gift of Edward T. Newell).
A denier melgorien of the twelfth or thirteenth century from the County of Melgueil or Bishopric of Maguelone (ANS 1967.182.199, bequest of Douglas P. Dickie).

When King Philip II of France transformed the French monarchy into the dominant political force throughout France in the decades around 1200, monetary standardization was an important part of his policies. In the abstract, one might have expected him to make the denier parisis—the coinage established as the standard of the Paris region by his father, Louis VII—into a national standard. The reality is both messier and more interesting.

When Philip II was crowned in 1179, the most important ruler in France was Henry of Anjou—who, apart from being King of England, was also Duke of Normandy, Duke of Aquitaine, and Count of Anjou, and thus overlord of the western half of France. Some of the other regional lords, such as the Counts of Champagne and of Toulouse, were also more powerful than their theoretical suzerain, the king. There were several local monetary standards in the Angevin half of France, of which one of the most prominent was the denier tournois of the Abbey of St. Martin of Tours.

A denier tournois of the eleventh or twelfth century from the Abbey of St. Martin of Tours (ANS 1916.224.35).

Through a combination of deft diplomacy and military successes, between 1193 and 1214 Philip managed to take the majority of Angevin France from Henry’s sons Richard and John, including Tours. The vastly increased royal domain now contained many coinages again, and much of it was not accustomed to the denier parisis. Philip’s solution was to establish a dual standard for the kingdom: the denier parisis and the denier tournois were both produced as royal coinages to circulate throughout France.

A denier tournois of the thirteenth century of Louis VIII or Louis IX of France (ANS 1942.23.93).

In the long run, the denier tournois, already widely used in a large part of France, proved to be a more standard than the denier parisis, which was only used in northeastern France. The relationship of the two standards was fixed such that 1 denier tournois was always equal to 0.8 deniers parisis. Minting of the denier parisis as a physical coin ceased in the fourteenth century, but the denier, sou, and livre parisis continued in use as a system of money of account in the Paris area until the seventeenth century. In the rest of France, however, the denier, sou, and livre tournois had become the general standard system of money of account. The physical coins of this system included the denier tournois and the double tournois, valued at 2 deniers.

A double tournois of Henry IV dated 1599 (ANS 1928.59.8, gift of Mary T. Cockcroft).

As Louis XIV continued the centralization of the French state in the seventeenth century, the dominance of the tournois system made it possible to impose a single monetary standard on the entire kingdom. His government ended the use of the parisis system in 1667, thus completing Philip II’s monetary standardization by making the system of the Abbey of St. Martin of Tours, once part of Angevin France, the official national standard.

Banknote of the Banque Royale for 100 livres tournois, 1 January 1720 (ANS 1992.23.1).

Crystal Palace Medals

The collections of the American Numismatic Society include many medals pertaining to famous architecture, including some of buildings which have been destroyed since their medallic depiction. Among these are the medals dedicated to the Crystal Palaces of London and New York.

The original Crystal Palace was built in London’s Hyde Park in 1851. It was designed and erected by the famous English gardener and architect Joseph Paxton (1803–1865). As head gardener for the Duke of Devonshire, Paxton had already designed and built major greenhouses for his employer. His plan for the Crystal Palace was based on that experience as well as the cruciform shape of Gothic churches.

Fig. 1. United Kingdom. White metal medal portraying Joseph Paxton (1803–1865), by L. C. Wyon, 1854. ANS 1940.100.1519

Construction of this technically innovative building, the largest in the world at the time, took only 17 weeks, because it was assembled from prefabricated modular cast iron columns and beams and standardized glass panes. At times there were 2,000 people working to build it, but it cost less than £180,000 to build—much less than any of the competing designs. It stood 135 feet tall, with a length of 1,848 feet and a ground floor area exceeding 770,000 square feet.

Fig. 2. United Kingdom. White metal medal depicting the Crystal Palace with some construction statistics, 1851. ANS 1940.100.1510
Fig. 3. Color print of the pavilion of the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London.
Fig. 4. United Kingdom. White metal medal showing exterior and interior views of the Crystal Palace, by Allen & Moore, 1851. ANS 1940.100.1530

The building was originally created for the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations, the first “World’s Fair”. Around 25 European and American nations took part in this international show, which exhibited the technical achievements of the industrial era. The Exhibition lasted for 140 days and was visited over 6.3 million people. One of the leading individuals organizing this great event was the prince consort Albert (1819–1861), husband of Queen Victoria (1819–1901).

Fig. 5. United Kingdom. White metal medal featuring busts of Victoria and Albert and a representation of Britannia accompanied by symbols of industry, by John Ottley, 1851. ANS 1940.100.1522
Fig. 6. United Kingdom. White metal medal portraying Prince Albert and depicting the Crystal Palace, by John Ottley, 1851. ANS 1940.100.1526

After the end of the Great Exhibition, the Crystal Palace could not remain in Hyde Park. Instead, it was disassembled and moved to Sydenham Hill, then on the outskirts of London, where the components were rebuilt to a different and even larger design. The work was completed in 1854, including a surrounding park with gardens, trees, fountains, and life-size figures of dinosaurs, which attracted particular attention, as well as statuary, including a bust of Paxton, who died in 1865.

Fig. 7. United Kingdom. White metal medal commemorating the re-opening of the Crystal Palace in its new location at Sydenham Hill, by John Pinches, 1854. ANS 1940.100.1506
Fig. 8. United Kingdom. White metal medal juxtaposing the Crystal Palace with the building for another World’s Fair, the International Exhibition of 1862, by G. Dowler, 1862. ANS 1940.100.1512

The new Crystal Palace hosted many events and exhibits for public education, as well as other displays for recreation and amusement, but it was plagued by financial problems. In 1911, just after it hosted a Festival of Empire, the largest exhibition in its history, it went into public ownership after bankruptcy.

Fig. 9. United Kingdom. White metal medal commemorating a visit to the Crystal Palace by the Ancient Order of Foresters, by T. R. Pinches,1854. ANS 1940.100.1508

The Crystal Palace met its unhappy fate on the evening of November 30, 1936, when a fire spread out of control. Despite the efforts of hundreds of firefighters, by morning it had been completely destroyed.

Fig. 10. The ruins of the Crystal Palace on December 1, 1936, the morning after it was devastated by fire.

London’s Great Exhibition became the model for subsequent World’s Fairs organized in various countries. In July 1853, New York emulated London’s example with its Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations. Like London, New York built a modern structure of cast iron and glass for its exhibition and named it a Crystal Palace. It was designed by the Danish-American businessman Georg Carstensen (1812–1857) and the German-American architect Karl Gildemeister (1820–1869). Constrained by the limited space available, the location that is now Bryant Park in Manhattan, they designed it in the form of a Greek cross with an enormous central dome. When it became clear that the building needed more space for exhibits of machinery, they modified the ground floor to an octagonal shape.

Fig. 11. United States. White metal medal commemorating the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations held in New York City’s Crystal Palace, 1853. ANS 1940.100.1018
Fig. 12. United States. White metal medal commemorating the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations held in New York City’s Crystal Palace, by George Hampden Lovett, 1853. ANS 1858.5.1
Fig. 13. United States. White metal medal commemorating the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations held in New York City’s Crystal Palace, by Anthony C. Paquet, 1853. ANS 1940.100.1005

The Exhibition of 1853 in New York was the first World’s Fair held in the United States, and it served to promote the achievements of the young nation and its largest city. Thousands of exhibitors presented their consumer goods, artworks, and technological innovations to more than a million visitors.

Fig. 14. United States. Silver award medal for the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations held in New York City’s Crystal Palace, designed by J. A. Oertel and engraved by Charles C. Wright, 1853. ANS 1887.24.2

After the Exhibition closed in 1854, New York’s Crystal Palace was used for other events, but unfortunately it met the same fate as its exemplar in London. The building was destroyed in a fire in less than half an hour in 1858.

Fig. 15. Color print of the New York Crystal Palace on fire in 1858.
Fig. 16. United States. White metal medal depicting the Crystal Palace in flames, by Anthony C. Paquet, 1858. ANS 0000.999.8214

Although the buildings did not last, both the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London and the Exhibition of Industry of 1853 in New York marked a change in the ways that people engaged with the world in an age of rapid social, political, and economic transformation. The medals depicting these innovative buildings show the pride in industrial achievements and the close relationship seen between the exhibitions and the buildings that housed them.

The Plastic Slides of William Guild

Every so often, something truly unique enters the American Numismatic Society’s collection. Thanks to a generous donation by Vicken Yegparian, Vice President of Numismatics for Stack’s Bowers Galleries, this took place once again. On the eve of this past Thanksgiving, Vicken reached out to see if the ANS had interest in receiving more than 2,000 plastic slides of various coins. While the basic description may not seem very appealing, both the physical slides and the coins they portrayed proved extremely interesting and quite important.

On the morning of January 7, I entered my office to find two rather large boxes on my desk. They each contained nine (9) double-row red boxes for storing coins in 2” × 2” holders—for a total of 18 boxes! After opening some, it was quickly apparent that the slides were not commercially manufactured. They were produced in the late 1940s by William Guild, of West Newton, Massachusetts, a real estate agent and relatively-unknown coin collector.

Figure 1: Three slides made by William Guild ca. 1947.

The slides are made of polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), also known as lucite or by its trademarked name of Plexiglas (fig. 1). They are 2” × 2” with a thickness of roughly one-eighth of an inch. They are all completely transparent, except the depiction of the coin. After Guild pressed a coin into the heated lucite, the exact details transposed over in a translucent white, very similar in appearance to a soft cameo. The slides were made by pressing real coins into hot plastic for an exact replication of the design. Since the plastic was clear, a positive image was visible by simply looking through the other side, despite the fact that the initial impression technically created a negative. Most of the coins were from the United States, though included some foreign and ancient coins as well. The most-heavily represented of any single type, however, were of United States pattern coins—a specialty of Guild.

Figure 2: Cover of United States Pattern Coins, Experimental, and Trial Pieces. While credited to Judd, the work was largely written by Guild and Breen.

Guild was apparently an early mentor and collaborator of Walter Breen. It is believed that Guild and Breen co-authored United States Pattern Coins, Experimental, and Trial Pieces, despite the fact that the name of J. Hewitt Judd, M.D. graced the cover (fig. 2). Judd, it is now thought, was more of a financier for the project rather than a contributor of information. As such, the Guild collection of patterns (forever memorialized in these slides) played an important role in the completion of the project.

In addition to the slides of coins, the donation came with some supporting materials. These included a few pieces of correspondence between Guild and some local clubs, such as the Thursday Club of Brookline, which used some of Guild’s slides for presentation purposes in 1949. Perhaps the best piece of supporting material is Guild’s personal copy of The Coin Recorder—essentially a checklist. This contained many details into both Guild’s personal coin collection, as well as the production of the lucite slides.

Excitedly, I began to dive further into the production of these slides—both historically and physically. With minor research into the ANS archives, it became quickly apparent that Guild had a history with the Society, with most of his communications having occurred in 1947 and 1948—just when it was thought he produced the slides. To my surprise, I found that one of the very first individuals that Guild shared his slides with was none other than ANS Curator, Sydney P. Noe (1885–1969), who not only offered advice on how to perfect the slides, but also loaned coins from the ANS collection to Guild for this purpose!

As I unpacked more and more from the archives, it became clear that a much larger study is needed about William Guild, his plastic slides, and the role that the ANS played in their creation. Until then, please review the following list provided by Vicken, which breaks down the collection into major categories. If you have any interest in knowing what specific coins are represented in any of the groups, please do reach out to And do keep an eye out for any future publications on this fascinating collection. Thank you, again, Vicken!

The William Guild Archive of 2″ x 2″ Plastic Slides of US, World, Ancient Coins, etc. Donated to the American Numismatic Society by Vicken Yegparian, 12/30/2020

CategoryApproximate Quantity of Slides
Washington coins/medals/tokens53
Medals and tokens92
Half Cents105
Large Cents49
Small Cents69
Two Cents10
Three Cents (Nickel and Silver)12
Half Dimes43
Twenty Cents12
Half Dollars172
Silver Dollars92
Trade Dollars16
Gold Dollars18
Quarter Eagles32
Three Dollars22
Half Eagles40
Double Eagles32
Commemorative Gold Coins28
California Small Gold and Related44
Territorial Gold6
San Francisco Mint Silver Bar1
Confederate Coinage10
Hawaiian Coinage2
Commemorative Silver Coins138
Private Patterns and World Patterns38
Sing Sing Prison Tokens20
World Coins302
Ancient Coins73
Private photos and photos of numismatic literature163
Natural History19

Total:                                 2817