1. Best Book on Ancient or Medieval Coins (pre-1500): White Gold: Studies in Early Electrum Coinage (Peter van Alfen, et al., eds.)
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.
To subscribe and hear new episodes each month, visit Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and other podcasting platforms, and click/tap the “Subscribe” button. You can even receive email reminders whenever a new episode is published. Subscriptions to the podcast and its current and forthcoming episodes are free for ANS Members and non-Members as well.
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.
The eponymous J. Sanford Saltus Award was initiated in 1913 by J. Sanford Saltus, who donated $5,000 (roughly the equivalent of $120,000 today) to the ANS to establish a permanent fund for the striking of a medal to reward and recognize sculptors “for distinguished achievement in the field of the art of the medal.” Since 1919, when the first Saltus Award was given, the Society has selected 58 outstanding medallic artists to receive what has become one of the most coveted and prestigious awards in the field. On December 12, we honored our 59th recipient, the New York City-based artist, Mashiko. Examples of the work of all of our Saltus award recipients over the last century can be viewed in an exhibit in our Member’s Lounge, which was assembled by Elena Stolyarik, Scott Miller, and Peter van Alfen.
Saltus, like many of his peers on the Society’s Council at the time, was a strong supporter of contemporary medallic artists, who sought as well to encourage greater appreciation for their work among the Society’s members. This same initiative continues to this day. The ANS is firmly committed to supporting the medallic arts not just through the prestigious Saltus Award, but also through our own commissions of medallic art, our teaching, and our publications, which feature a medallic art series. The latest volume in this series, in fact, just appeared last week: Michael Ross’s study of Jacques Wiener’s architectural medals. Most significantly, the ANS purchased the archives of the Medallic Arts Company in 2018, including 50,000 individual items such as medals, dies, galvanos, plaques, and paper and digital archives, that we aim to publish and make available to the public.
It had been intended that the Saltus Award would be given on an annual basis, but already in the 1920s and 1930s there were years when there was no award, included the nine-year gap between 1937 and 1946 roughly coinciding with the Second World War. In more recent years, the Award has been given every 2–3 years with the delays caused in part by the cumbersome arrangement of the Saltus Award Committee itself consisting of more than a dozen voting members, and in part by a persistent lack of supporting funds. In 2017, the Society’s then-Executive Director, Ute Wartenberg, and the Committee’s secretary, Peter van Alfen, proposed to the Board of Trustees a new arrangement for the Committee, which it was hoped would help speed the selection process and allow for the Award to be given once again on an annual basis. With the Board’s approval, the Award Committee was pared down to five voting members consisting of Donald Scarinci as chair (replacing Stephen Scher, whose nearly two decades of service as chair is most appreciated), Ute Wartenberg, Peter van Alfen (secretary), Gwen Pier (Executive Director, National Sculpture Society), and until recently, Luke Syson (then Curator in Charge of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, Metropolitan Museum of Art). In addition, the Committee now has an Advisory Board, chaired by Philip Attwood (Keeper of Coins and Medals, British Museum), to help form a pool of suitable candidates from which the Committee then selects a winner. This Board is comprised of curators and other individuals particularly well versed in contemporary medallic art including: Marjan Scharloo (Director of the Teylers Museum, Haarlem, Netherlands); Maria Rosa Figueiredo (Curator, Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon, Portugal); Gunnel Sievers (Past President of the Guild of the Medal in Finland); Erika Grniakova (Curator, Coin and Medal Museum, Kremnica, Slovakia); Bernhard Weisser (Director of the Münzkabinett, Berlin, Germany); Alan Stahl (Curator, Firestone Library, Princeton University); and Mashiko, who was kept unaware of her nomination for the Award. This new arrangement went into effect in the summer of 2017 and since then the ANS has again been presenting the Saltus award on an annual basis.
There are few universal memories that make each of us think back and say, “Ah, I remember…”. One of these took place on July 20, 1969, when all nations were held mesmerized watching Apollo 11 and humanity’s first steps on the moon.
My link to that day culminated in an opportunity, as a member of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, to attend the ceremonial strike for the Apollo 11 $1 silver coin at the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia on December 13. I was able to strike my own $1 coin, ably assisted by Coin Press Operator, Kenneth Holland. Other “temporary” press operators were the children of the Apollo 11 astronauts, Mark Armstrong, son of Neil Armstrong, Andy Aldrin, son of Buzz Aldrin, and Ann Starr, daughter of Michael Collins.
The Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Program had been passed two years earlier by Congress, with common obverses and reverses required for the four coins in the series: a curved $5 gold coin, a curved $1 silver coin, a curved half-dollar clad coin, and a curved 5-ounce 3-inch $1 silver proof coin, the largest curved coin ever struck by the U.S. Mint. Quantities struck from this series should enable collectors to add to their collections – 50,000 $5 gold half-eagles, 400,000 $1 silver coins, 750,000 clad half-dollars, and 100,000 5-ounce $1 silver proof coins. The coins will be available for sale on January 24, 2019, and can be obtained at www.usmint.gov.
While the image of the reverse was mandated by the law—the famous ‘‘Buzz Aldrin on the Moon’’ photograph taken July 20, 1969, that shows just the visor and part of the helmet of astronaut Buzz Aldrin, in which the mirrored visor reflects the image of the United States flag, the lunar lander, and the remainder of the helmet has a frosted finish—the obverse design was open to a juried competition, judged by selected members of both the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee and the Commission of Fine Arts, with the final selection made by the Secretary of the Treasury.
Gary Cooper had his design of the boot imprint on the lunar surface selected as the winning representation, sculpted by U.S. Mint Sculptor-Engraver Joseph Menna. U.S. Mint Sculptor-Engraver Phebe Hemphill sculpted the reverse.
A sell-out of these coins will result in surcharges of $14 million for the three designated beneficiaries—50% to the Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum’s Destination Moon exhibit, 25% to the Astronauts Memorial Foundation, and 25% to the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.
—Mary Lannin, ANS Trustee
The Annual Report of the American Numismatic Society (FY2017–2018) is now available to download in advance of the Annual Meeting to be held on October 20th. Questions about the annual meeting and report can be addressed to Emma Pratte, Membership Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 212.571.4470 x117.
On August 16, 2018, the Numismatic Literary Guild recognized two American Numismatic Society publications at its annual bash and awards ceremony.
A Monetary History of Central America by Brian Stickney won the award for best book on world coinage (1500–present).
ANS Deputy Director Gilles Bransbourg won the award for best article or story of the year for his piece in ANS Magazine, “U.S. Money Doctors in Latin America: Between War and Depression, the Short-Lived Reinstatement of the Gold Standard,” which appeared in issue 2017.4.
ANS Members receive ANS Magazine four times a year as part of their membership, as well as a 30% discount on books. To become a Member of the ANS, call Emma Pratte at 212.571.4470 x117.
Steven Burges is a PhD candidate in the Department of History of Art & Architecture at Boston University. He is currently writing a dissertation that examines the representation of Roman imperial funerary pyres on the coinage of Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius and the commemorative significance of these representations within the ideology of antiquity and beyond. He was a participant in the 2018 Eric P. Newman Graduate Seminar.
In March of the year 161 CE, the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius died at the age of 74 at his villa near Rome after reportedly “eating Alpine cheese at dinner rather greedily” (Historia Augusta, M. Ant. 12.4). His death marked a turning point in Roman imperial history, since, for the first time, a deceased emperor was succeeded by a set of official co-regents, Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus. Hadrian had organized their joint adoption by Antoninus 23 years earlier.
The co-rulers issued coinage – bearing the obverse legend Divus Antoninus, or the divine Antoninus—to commemorate their father’s passing and subsequent deification, and it reflected the unprecedented transition of power and the continuation of the familial piety that had earned Antoninus the title “Pius.” An unparalleled type from the series contained the first images of a funerary pyre on which the emperor was cremated to appear on gold denominations of the Roman mint (fig. 1). In fact, the pyre became the exclusive reverse type of the aurei struck for Divus Antoninus in addition to becoming the most prevalent type of the silver and bronze issues. All included the legend consecratio, which likely referred to the funereal process of deification itself.
In an effort to discover why the innovative iconography of the pyre came to dominate the commemorative coinages of Antoninus, I conducted a die study and hoard analysis of the aurei honoring Divus Antoninus. I then compared the results to studies of aurei minted after the death of his wife, the empress Faustina the Elder. She died and achieved godhood in 140 CE, at the beginning of her husband’s reign. While Antoninus produced a massive series of aurei for Diva Faustina with 24 different reverse types over a period of nearly twenty years, only one uncommon type from the early issues bore the consecratio inscription (fig. 2). It depicts the empress and a female driver in a quadriga – perhaps the celestial vehicle that bore her to the heavens. Although absent from her aurei, contemporary bronzes announcing her apotheosis were the first of any denomination to carry images of a funerary pyre.
In the years to follow pyres continued to adorn currency honoring deceased empresses and emperors, but primarily, they were found on the silver and bronze coins. The numerous tiers and ornate decorative sculptures, garlands, and tapestries align with the descriptions of ancient eyewitnesses (Cassius Dio, Historia Romana 75.4-5). Between the years 310 and 313 CE, the emperor Constantine would strike the last pyre coin, a rare gold solidus, to honor his deified father, Divus Constantius (fig. 3).
My analysis of the original Divus Antoninus aurei has enabled the identification of 30 obverse and reverse dies from 70 coins all with the same reverse type. In contrast, the earlier aurei of Diva Faustina survive in over 900 examples with nearly two dozen reverses, reflecting both the extraordinary scale and longevity of their production (Martin Beckmann, Diva Faustina: Coinage and Cult in Rome and the Provinces, 2012). Despite the limited run of the Antoninus coins, the ratio of dies observed to the number of coin examples is nearly equivalent. Hoard evidence from Italy, France, and Portugal also suggests that the two coinages circulated within similar regions.
The difference lies in the significant expansion of the novel consecratio reverse with the pyre to the aurei under the adopted Marcus and Lucius. This suggests that they intended the pyre to serve as a specifically Antonine advertisement of dynastic continuity for the elite users of gold coinage. Further, it was a memento of the cremation and deification ceremony itself, which the co-rulers jointly oversaw, as the inscription on the pedestal of the column of Antoninus Pius indicates. The dynastic uncertainty of the time had been likewise countered in some of the last coins struck during Antoninus’s life. They depict the fecundity of his daughter Faustina the Younger surrounded by her four daughters: Lucilla, Cornificia, Fadilla, and Annia Faustina (fig. 4).
As I continue this research, I will expand the scope to the pyre reverses found in other denominations struck under Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus along with other contemporary consecratio types, in order to continue unveiling the significance they held for the citizens, soldiers, and senators who used the coins.
The ANS is pleased to have contributed to the publication of a new book on engraved gems from antiquity, which is now available for purchase. Ancient Engraved Gems in the National Museum in Krakow, by Paweł Gołyźniak (in English), is considerable in size and top in quality. It consists mostly of the specimens assembled by the extraordinary collector and art dealer Constantine Schmidt-Ciążyński (1818–1889). Almost 780 cameos, intaglios, scarabs, and finger rings are presented in this beautifully designed volume. This book will be useful not only to scholars interested in gems, but also to those who study the history of the art market and collecting, as well as to enthusiasts of Classical art and archaeology.
Part I: History and Character of the Collections (includes a brief biography of Constantine Schmidt-Ciążyński and the history and original structure of the collection).
Part II: Catalogue (includes hundreds of entries featuring a Babylonian cylinder seal, Egyptian plaque, Mycenaean seal, Archaic Greek gems, Classical Greek finger rings, Hellenistic Gems and Finger Rings, Etruscan scarabs and ring stones, Italic and Roman Republican gems, Augustan gems, Roman Imperial gems, Cameos, Early Christian gems, and appendixes on magical and Sassanian gems). Indexed by collectors and collections, subjects, and materials, with a concordance and bibliography.
Publisher: Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag
Hardcover, 318 pages, 30 b/w figures, 112 b/w plates
8.5″ x 12″, lay-flat binding
$150 plus shipping, no Member discount
Order directly from the ANS by contacting Emma Pratte at email@example.com or 212-571-4470, ext. 117, or order online with PayPal.
The Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) recently honored two ANS books with awards at the 2017 Worlds Fair of Money:
Irritamenta: Numismatic Treasures of a Renaissance Collector, by John Cunnally, won the award for Best Specialized Book on World Coins.
The Art of Devastation: Medals and Posters of the Great War, edited by Peter van Alfen and Patricia Phagan, took home the prize for Best Specialized Book on Tokens and Medals.
The ANS thanks the NLG jury for recognizing the numismatic work of the authors and editors, and looks forward to continuing its 100+ year tradition of publishing a diversity of numismatic scholarship.
The Art of Devastation: Medals and Posters of the Great War premiered as an online exhibition on July 31, 2017. Based on the physical exhibition by the same name, which ran from January 27–April 9 at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College, the online edition includes each of the 130 medals and posters with text and high-quality, “zoomable” color images. The online exhibition also includes video, maps, and links to the ANS’s collections database. Guests can browse the exhibit on their computers, tablets, and smart phones. The exhibition and its catalogue were co-edited by Peter van Alfen, the Margaret Thompson Curator of Greek Coins and head of Curatorial at the ANS, and Patricia Phagan, the Philip and Lynn Straus Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center. The online exhibit was created by Andrew Reinhard, ANS Director of Publications.
This marks the first in a new series of free online exhibits created and curated by the ANS using tools provided by the Google Cultural Institute. The ANS collections include more numismatic specimens and artifacts than could ever be shown in its public exhibition space, or through loans to other museums. By curating permanent, online exhibits, the ANS can share its collections in organized, thematic ways for anyone to enjoy. Future online exhibits for 2017 include Funny Money: The Fight of the U.S. Secret Service against Counterfeit Money, curated by Ute Wartenberg, and an exhibition on Umayyad coinage curated by Vivek Gupta.
The printed exhibition catalogue for The Art of Devastation is available for purchase through the ANS’s store.