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If It’s Baroque, Someone Should Fix It!

by Elizabeth Hahn Benge, previous ANS Librarian

Truer words could not be said by someone with a passion for ancient history, especially when the baroque takes over the ancient. Such is the case with a Roman Bust of Antinous in the collection of the Museo Nazionale Romano, Palazzo Altemps, in Rome. After the original ancient Roman face was broken at some unknown time, the bust received a “new” baroque-style face that was added by the mid-18th century. To many viewers, it is apparent that the face does not match the style of the rest of the bust and is a restoration added later. But then what happened to the original face?

The answer can be found in a new exhibition titled A Portrait of Antinous, in Two Parts, at the Art Institute of Chicago that opened on April 2, 2016. Loans from the American Numismatic Society help introduce Antinous—the Greek youth and companion of Roman emperor Hadrian, who mysteriously drowned in the Nile River in A.D. 130—and his enduring interest throughout history. The ANS loans include four bronze coins of Antinous (1967.152.356; 1944.100.62226; 1944.100.58522; 1944.100.58531) and a 1711 book from the Harry W. Bass, Jr. Library. The coins demonstrate the same iconographic features that were likely inspired by sculptures of the same type of Antinous: broad shoulders, bare chest, and lush, curly hair.

ANS 1944.100.62226
ANS 1944.100.62226

The show brings together years of research that took place to determine whether or not the Art Institute of Chicago’s Fragment of a Portrait Head of Antinous was the original face of the Bust of Antinous (inv. no. 8620) that belongs to the Palazzo Altemps museum, a suggestion first put forth by W. Raymond Johnson, Egyptologist at the University of Chicago. Since the “new” face that the Palazzo Altemps bust received is part of the sculpture’s history, it could not be removed, and added to the challenges of understanding if, and how, the Art Institute’s fragment might have fit. But—Spoiler Alert!—it did!

Left: Fragment of a Portrait Head of Antinous, mid-2nd century A.D. Roman. Gift of Mrs. Charles L. Hutchinson. Right: Bust of Antinous, mid-2nd century A.D. Roman, with 18th-century restorations. Museo Nazionale Romano, Palazzo Altemps, Rome, 8620. Archivio Fotografico SS-Col, num. 589475. Photo by Stefano Castellani.
Left: Fragment of a Portrait Head of Antinous, mid-2nd century A.D. Roman. Gift of Mrs. Charles L. Hutchinson.
Right: Bust of Antinous, mid-2nd century A.D. Roman, with 18th-century restorations. Museo Nazionale Romano, Palazzo Altemps, Rome, 8620. Archivio Fotografico SS-Col, num. 589475. Photo by Stefano Castellani.

This conclusion, and the years of research that led to it, are the focus of the exhibition. Modern 3D printing technology was used to create a mold from which a plaster replica was made in order for the team to effectively demonstrate that the two parts were in fact originally part of one ancient bust. The show is centered around these two parts: the fragment of a portrait head from the Art Institute and the bust from the Palazzo Altemps, which are displayed together along with the full-scale plaster cast reconstruction that gives the impression of its original appearance in antiquity.

The exhibition further tells how the fragment ended up in Chicago, an ocean away from its original location. A video documenting the research and creation of the plaster cast accompanies the show, while a timeline of events spans nearly 40 feet of wall in the gallery. I’ve had fun working on this project, and it is a fascinating story with a lot of content, which can be difficult to convey through photographs alone, and is one of many reasons I hope readers will be able to visit the show in person!

A Portrait of Antinous, in Two Parts will be on display through August 28, 2016, at The Art Institute of Chicago.

The exhibition website can be found here.

And the video that is also part of the exhibition can be found here.



Brasher dubloon (ANS 1969.62.1)
Brasher dubloon (ANS 1969.62.1)

When thinking about the collection of the American Numismatic Society, the mind often leaps first to the trays of gold and silver coins, to beautiful and famous rarities, and the extremely valuable pieces that only a select few could ever hope to own privately. The shiny stuff has a great allure. There is no question about that. Who doesn’t like the warm glow of the Brasher doubloon or appreciate the rarity of the Confederate States silver half-dollar? I can personally attest to the great thrill of holding one of these in each hand while we were preparing the Drachmas, Doubloons, and Dollars exhibit for the Federal Reserve back in 2000.

Lead token of Boure, A., Canada (ANS 1966.176.492)
Lead token of Boure, A., Canada (ANS 1966.176.492)

This edition of Pocket Change, however, is not about such pretty and valuable coins. Instead it is about the coins in the collection that many readers may not know about. They are the forgotten coins, the odd coins, the sometimes distrusted and maligned coins. They are those humble and unsung heroes of the ANS cabinet—the lead coins.

It may come as some surprise (perhaps even shock) to learn that the ANS collection includes some 4,448 lead pieces (including ancient scale weights, seal impressionsmedals, and modern fakes). These range in place and period from Archaic Greece and Classical India to the Netherlands in the sixteenth century and the United States in the nineteenth century.

Samian lead hemistater (ANS 1979.116.1)
Samian lead hemistater (ANS 1979.116.1)

Lead coins of all periods generally fall into one of four main categories:

  • Counterfeits intended to deceive the unwary in commercial transactions. This use of lead can be traced in the Western World all the way back to the late sixth century BC, not long after coinage was invented. Herodotus reports a rumor that Polycrates, the tyrant of Samos, struck lead coins and plated them with gold (probably really electrum, an alloy of gold and silver) to buy off a besieging Spartan force in 525/4 BC. Despite the doubts of the Father of History, the ANS collection includes a Samian lead hemistater that tends to support the story as well as several Milesian lead issues of even earlier vintage (c. 560-545 BC). Although plated bronze cores seem to have been far more common than plated lead in later periods, lead counterfeits were still produced by unscrupulous individuals to pass as silver coins as late as the early twentieth century AD. The Society’s collection includes a number of lead U.S. half-dollars, quarters, and dimes that were cast from authentic silver examples, apparently for circulation.
Lead half-dollar (ANS 1934. 2010.22.11)
  • Official coinages. When other forms of metal currency—especially copper/bronze—were in short supply, governments sometimes produced official fiduciary coinages in lead as a means of preventing the collapse of quotidian transactions. Thus, in southern China of the Ten Kingdoms Period (AD 907-979) lead coins were cast both officially and in private with value ratings against copper cash coins. Lead sporadically occurs as a coinage metal in India of the Classical Period (first-third centuries AD), especially in central India, but also later under the occupation of the English East India Company in the eighteenth century. The Company’s lead pice not only filled a need for low-value coinage, but also returned a hefty profit since the face value of the coin was much greater than the cost of the lead from which it was made.
Lead pice, Mumbai, 1741 (ANS 1988.21.63)
Lead pice, Mumbai, 1741 (ANS 1988.21.63)
  • These coin-like objects are distinguished from emergency coinages in that they were produced officially or privately usually to be exchanged for goods or services rather than to circulate as money, although in times when other low value coin was scarce they were pressed into service as emergency money. In Roman times, tokens, known as tesserae, were used by emperors and lesser officials in Rome and the provinces to distribute the grain dole and other bonuses to the populace. The also seem to have been used by private businesses. The ANS collection is notable for a group of tesserae from the Roman client-kingdom of Nabataea, which may have been distributed in the context of a religious celebration or were used as tokens to purchase votive gifts in a temple. English shopkeepers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries also often produced their own tokens in part because there was rarely enough copper halfpence in circulation for daily transactions. Lead tokens made business more manageable and some of the more trusted issues even gained the status of local currencies. Lead tokens were still used by small businesses in North America and elsewhere in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Lead tessera (ANS 1967.160.11)
Lead tessera (ANS 1967.160.11)
  • Test strikes and patterns. As a soft metal, lead was often used for trial strikes at many mints in different periods in order to test the quality of dies and their engraving or as patterns for coins and medals not yet struck. The ANS collection includes a variety of lead trial pieces and patterns for U.S. coins that were ultimately rejected by the Mint. It also holds numerous lead trial pieces for medals struck or planned by the American Numismatic Society during its long history as a medal-producing institution. Indeed, even as late as the 1990s lead blanks were used to demonstrate hammer-striking when the Society used to have its open house at the old Audubon Terrace location. Some readers may still have one of these ANS “test strikes” carried off as a memento. As one of the demonstrators back then, I still have mine. Out of a concern for safety, all demonstration strikes made at the ANS now use plasticene rather than lead.
Lead half-dollar, Philadelphia, 1859 (ANS 1956.122.3)
Lead half-dollar, Philadelphia, 1859 (ANS 1956.122.3)

It is easy to love gold and silver, but this brief survey of the Society’s holdings of lead should shown that their humble cousin, lead, is of comparable interest from the historical and numismatic technical perspective. Just because they are often small, have less than stunning patinas, and could cause physical harm if you do not wash your hands after handling them, there is no reason why they should not sometimes share the spotlight with their shinier and more attractive relatives. After all, in some cases there might not have been the finished gold or silver coin in the trays if there had not already been a lead piece first.

The Coin in the Fish’s Mouth

Jesus, as a practicing Jew, was aware of his annual financial obligation to the Jerusalem Temple. This annual tribute is nicely illustrated in the parable of the coin in the fish’s mouth.

Each year, Jewish officials requested that the annual Temple contribution at the beginning of the Hebrew month of Adar, preceding Passover. On the fifteenth day of Adar, tables of the money changers were set up through the Holy Land to receive these contributions. Talmudic traditions mention various cities in Galilee where lists of those who had given were gathered and transferred to Jerusalem.

After 10 days, on the twenty-fifth of Adar, the money-changers terminated their local collections and continued their operations only in the immediate area of the Jerusalem Temple.

Virtually all Jews, including those who had expressed reservations about the current state of the Temple and its system of sacrifices, also sent their contributions to the Temple. Matthew 17:24-27 (NIV) tells the story of how Jesus and his disciples were solicited and gave their contribution to the collectors of the Temple tribute:

24 After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”

25 “Yes, he does,” he replied.

When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?”

26 “From others,” Peter answered.

“Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. 27 “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”

This story of the coin in the fish’s mouth is never verified beyond this telling—in other words, we don’t know if this is a true story, partially true, based on a legend, or a parable intended to otherwise enlighten readers. If a coin really was found in a fish’s mouth, however, it seems clear from Matthew’s report that it would have been a shekel of Tyre since that was the singular coin accepted as payment of the annual half-shekel Temple tribute for both Jesus and for Peter the fisherman.

Shekels and half-shekels of Tyre (together with fewer Seleucid tetradrachms and didrachms often struck in Tyre, Sidon, or Antioch) were certainly the most commonly circulated silver coins in the ancient Holy Land from the first century BC to the time of the Jewish War Against Rome, which ended in 70 AD.

Tyre shekel struck 103/102 BC at Tyre. The obverse depicts the god Melquart, a Tyrian version of Herakles, and the reverse depicts an eagle with a club to left, the club is a mintmark of Tyre. The reverse inscription, in Greek, contains the date, and proclaims, “[money of] Tyre, the Holy and Inviolable.” (photo courtesy
Tyre shekel struck 103/102 BC at Tyre. The obverse depicts the god Melquart, a Tyrian version of Herakles, and the reverse depicts an eagle with a club to left, the club is a mintmark of Tyre. The reverse inscription, in Greek, contains the date, and proclaims, “[money of] Tyre, the Holy and Inviolable.” (photo courtesy

It is also known, as discussed above, that during this period, the Tyre silver shekels and half-shekels were the only coins accepted as payment of the annual tribute to the Jerusalem Temple of one half shekel per Jewish adult male.

Ya’akov Meshorer theorizes that there were two basic issues of Tyrian silver coins. The first issue was struck in Tyre from 126/5 BC until 19/18 BC and the second issue was struck in or near Jerusalem, from 18/17 BC until 79/60 AD. This is possible, though other numismatists have argued that the second issue, which is cruder in style and manufacture than the first, may not have been minted at Tyre, but was probably minted somewhere other than Jerusalem.

tyre shekel 126 10 11 ad
Tyre shekel minted during the life of Jesus, in 10/11 AD. Meshorer believed that the Tyre shekels and half-shekels minted after 18/17 BC were struck in Jerusalem. Others believe that the coins may not have been minted at Tyre, but were probably not struck in Jerusalem. (photo by David Hendin)

tyre shekel

Whether struck in Tyre or farther south, it is clear that the silver coins of ancient Tyre were well known in the ancient world for their weight and quality of silver. The Talmud makes it a point to explain that “Silver, whenever mentioned in the Pentateuch, is Tyrian silver.” (Tosephta Kethuboth 13,20)

Because of this quotation, backed up by the obviously large quantity of the coins originally minted, it is quite clear that many New Testament stories, such as the coin in the fish’s mouth mentioned above, the 30 pieces of silver paid to Judas for his betrayal of Jesus (Matthew 26: 14-15), and the large silver coins used to bribe the soldiers who had fled from their watch at the Holy Sepulcher on Easter morning (Matthew 28:11) each most likely involved the shekels and the half-shekels of Tyre.

St. Helena, the First Christian Pilgrim

church santa croce de gerusalemme
Santa Croce in Gerusalemme (photo:

On a visit to Rome, we sought out the church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. My American Express Guide to Rome (long out of print, but still handy) says it was “One of the seven pilgrim churches of Rome, it is said to have been built to house the precious relics of the True Cross brought to Rome from Jerusalem by St. Helena, the mother of Constantine.”

It is said that Helena founded the church on land where her private palace stood. Although it was on the edgte of the city, the relics of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ that Helena brought back from Jerusalem made Santa Croce in Gerusalemme a center for pilgrimage. Most important were some pieces of Christ’s Cross (croce means “cross”) and part of Pontius Pilate’s inscription, called the Titulus Crucis, proclaiming “Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews,” written in Latin, Hebrew, and Greek. There is little doubt that this wooden plaque is very old, but numerous tests performed over the years have never established its authenticity absolutely. Nevertheless, even to a non-Christian observer, it is quite moving to view these relics.

Remaining fragment of the plaque that was supposedly attached to the cross of Jesus, which is said to have been brought to Rome by Helena, mother of Constantine I, and placed in the church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme (photo: photo:

When we entered the church, only a few days after Easter, we seemed to be the only visitors. We walked up to the altar and around the chapel. We did not see any relics, so we made our way into the smaller side rooms and found them in a small room behind the main altar. Here we saw St. Helena’s relics: three pieces of wood set in a larger cross; they are said to be actual pieces of the True Cross. Two thorns, said to be from Jesus’ crown of thorns are mounted and stand alongside it, as does a piece of a bronze nail, said to be from the crucifixion itself. And finally, we saw the piece of wood that is said to be from the sign Pontius Pilate was said to have erected over Jesus while he was crucified.

Whether or not they are authentic relics, I cannot say. But seeing them was a fascinating experience.

It led me to recall the importance of Helena, later revered as St. Helena, to the ancient land of Israel. Hers is a real “rags to riches” story. We believe Helena was born in about 249 AD in the town of Drepanum in Bythnia, which Constantine later renamed Helenopolis. St. Ambrose referred to her as an inn-keeper, others say she was a simple bar maid in her father’s tavern. Eventually she attracted the attention of a Roman soldier, Constantius Chlorus and she became either his longtime mistress, or his wife. In either case there is no doubt that together they bore a son, Constantine.

constantius i chlorus as caesar
Constantius I Chlorus follis (307/310–337), father of Constantine I, first husband of Helena (photo:

In 292, when Constantius became Caesar of Spain, Gaul, and Britain, he dumped Helena and married Theodora, the daughter of Maximian, his patron.

Theodora, died before 337 AD, follies (photo:
Theodora, died before 337 AD, follies (photo:

Meanwhile, Helena’s son Constantine became a soldier, and spent a lot of time at Diocletian’s court. When Constantine persuaded the Roman legions in Britain to proclaim him Caesar in 306, he immediately called for his mother and installed her in his court with the appropriate honors befitting the mother of the Emperor.

Constantine I bronze struck at Constantinople. The reverse depicts a labarum crowned by a Christogram, piercing a serpent, with the legend SPES PVBLIC (hope for the public). Constantine saw the Christogram in a vision and also began to wear it on his helmet and shield (photo:
Constantine I bronze struck at Constantinople. The reverse depicts a labarum crowned by a Christogram, piercing a serpent, with the legend SPES PVBLIC (hope for the public). Constantine saw the Christogram in a vision and also began to wear it on his helmet and shield (photo:

In 312, the most significant event of Constantine’s reign occurred. While preparing for a battle with the army of his rival Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge in Rome, he saw a cross in the sky with the inscription IN HOC SIGNO VINCES (“In this sign you will conquer”). He immediately ordered his troops to paint the monogram of Jesus, the labarum, on their shields and this extra strength enabled their victory and gave Constantine control of the West as well as the East, whereupon Constantine vowed to make the Roman Empire a Christian nation.

Vetranio bronze (c. 350 AD) struck under Constantius II (337 – 361 AD) as Siscia. The reverse legend is HOC SIGNO VICTORERIS (In this sign, you will conquer). The scene and legend on this coin provide a re-enactment of Constantine I’s victory at the Milvian Bridge. (photo: cngcoins.com_
Vetranio bronze (c. 350 AD) struck under Constantius II (337–361 AD) as Siscia. The reverse legend is HOC SIGNO VICTORERIS (In this sign, you will conquer). The scene and legend on this coin provide a re-enactment of Constantine I’s victory at the Milvian Bridge. (photo: cngcoins.com_

In 324 AD Constantine named Helena as “Augusta,” a title that was established by Augustus for Livia, but certainly not granted every empress, much less every royal mother.

Helena as Augusta 324-328/30, bronze follis (photo:
Helena as Augusta 324–328/30, bronze follis (photo:

In 325 AD, the Council of Nicea met and Constantine declared Christianity to be the nation’s official religion. Incidentally, it is not clear whether Constantine himself actually ever became a Christian. His mother, Helena, was not only converted but was so excited by her spiritual experience that it enticed her to make a pilgrimage, circa 326 AD to Judea, where she could visit all of the sites that were important in the life of Jesus. She was in her late 70s at the time she embarked. Helena’s pilgrimage was the prototype for the travels of virtually every Christian pilgrim to the Holy Land for some 1,700 years, right up to today.

Until Helena’s visit, nobody outside of the Christians in the Holy Land had paid much attention to the sites there. In Helena’s day the Jews maintained important academies at Tiberius, Sepphoris, and Lydda (Lod). Led by Rabbi Yehudah Ha’Nassi the Jewish scholars were in the final stages of developing the Talmud itself. When I was the numismatist at the Joint Sepphoris Expedition in 1985 and 1986, led by Duke’s Eric and Carol Meyers and Hebrew University’s Ehud Netzer, we discovered some remarkable mosaic floors—and many more were subsequently discovered at Sepphoris—which indicated that the city was extremely wealthy at the time Helena arrived in the country. In fact, we dated some of these mosaics by small groups of Constantinian coins lying on top of and just under them.

While there is no doubt that the local traditions held some, or perhaps many of the sites Helena visited as holy shrines, it did not hurt that the mother of the Emperor of Christian Rome further declared the sites to be true.

And indeed, Helena was said to have:

—Proclaimed the actual path Jesus took on his way to the cross, the Via Dolorosa, and declared the precise spots of all of the fourteen Stations of the Cross;

Fifth Station of the Cross (left) and the Via Dolorosa in the Old City of Jerusalem. (photos: David Hendin)
Fifth Station of the Cross (above) and the Via Dolorosa in the Old City of Jerusalem (below). (photos: David Hendin)

via dolorosa dh

—Found at least several pieces of the true cross itself;

—Identified the spot near the Sea of Galilee where the miracle of fish and loaves occurred;

—Confirmed the place where Jesus stood when he gave his Sermon on the Mount;

—Marked the place of the Annunciation, where Mary learned that she would give birth to Jesus;

—And she also identified places where Joseph’s carpentry shop stood, where Jesus was born, the field in which the shepherds saw the Bethlehem Star, and the inn of the Good Samaritan.

The story of Helena’s pilgrimage is certainly not fantasy. In his Life of Constantine (c. 340 AD), Eusebius wrote (only about ten years after her death) that Helena lavished good deeds on the Holy Land, and “Although well advanced in years, she came, fired by youthful fervor, in order to know this land” and she “explored it with remarkable discernment…And by her endless admiration for the footsteps of the Savior…she granted those who came after her the fruits of her piety. Afterward she built two houses of prayer to the God she revered, one in the Grotto of the Nativity (this is the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem) and the other on the Mount of the Ascension (this is the Eleona Church on the Mount of Olives).” Helena also is said to have identified the spot where Jesus was crucified and buried, and ordered the first Church of the Holy Sepulcher to be built there.

It is a matter of some interest that while Helena’s important pilgrimage is well documented, not a single numismatic memento of these events was issued. So the coins of Helena can only offer us a glimpse of the appearance of this important woman of antiquity.

ANS Scanning Project Passes 30,000 Pages

John Graffeo works the controls of the Table Top Scribe at the ANS.
John Graffeo works the controls of the Table Top Scribe at the ANS.

In December 2015, the American Numismatic Society began a joint project with the Newman Numismatic Portal, an online numismatic resource, in order to enable greater access to American numismatic research material on both the ANS Digital Library and Newman Portal websites.

One of the many rare catalogues scanned by the ANS so far.
One of the many rare catalogues scanned by the ANS so far.

To date, nearly 500 early American auction catalogues have been scanned by the ANS for this project totaling over 30,000 pages so far. These catalogues include those of Frossard, Woodward, Chapman, Elder, and other notable names in the field.

Scanned ANS auction catalogues as they appear online now.
Scanned ANS auction catalogues as they appear online now.

John Graffeo, the scanner operator, trained first with ANS librarian/archivist David Hill throughout 2015 in the care and handling of the Society’s rare books, and later trained in Princeton with the Internet Archive on how to use the revolutionary Table Top Scribe scanner. The scanning process includes matching an auction catalogue with its metadata (information about the book) in the ANS’s library catalogue, taking a test image, and then proceeding to scan the rest of the volume.

Pages of a catalogue are ready to be scanned on the Table Top Scribe.

The scanner itself is comprised of a metal carriage that cradles each book so as not to effect the spine. Graffeo uses a foot-pedal to raise the book to a pair of glass panes after which he clicks a button to activate two cameras, which photograph the book’s spread.

John Graffeo checks the quality of the scans before proceeding to the next auction catalogue.

After the catalogue has been photographed, Graffeo checks for image quality, tags each page (front matter, interior pages, back matter, cover), and then crops each image, being sure to maintain all of the data on the page including handwritten marginalia such as sale prices and buyer names. Once the volume is complete, Graffeo uploads it to the Internet Archive for a spot-check on quality, after which it goes live online at the Newman Numismatic Portal as part of the ANS’s collection of online auction catalogues. Some of the auction catalogues are exceedingly fragile, so scanning them in this fashion helps to preserve their contents without destroying or damaging the books.

Sample scanned pages as the appear online. All of these scans may be searched and also saved in a variety of digital formats.

“This is a great project,” Graffeo said between scans. “It’s extending the wealth of numismatic information and sharing it for the public good.” All of the scans are available immediately as Open Access for free use by anyone for any reason. The content is shared, and the artifact of the book is preserved. Numismatics has been an interdisciplinary subject since its inception, and making all of the ANS’s holdings publicly available remains central to the Society’s mission.

newmannumismaticThe Newman Numismatic Portal, sponsored by a $2 million grant from the Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society to the Washington University Libraries, began operations in December 2014. It has digitized over 1,000 documents to date, including a unique set of bid books from the firms of Samuel and Henry Chapman, which were generously loaned by ANS Trustee Dan Hamelberg.

Internet-Archive-LogoAdministered through Washington University Libraries in St. Louis, the Newman Portal contracted with Internet Archive, which has provided equipment, training, and staff for the scanning operation at the ANS Library. Internet Archive is a non-profit organization dedicated to digital preservation of all media.

“We are thrilled to have this opportunity to begin distributing some of the Library’s research collections on a large scale in the same way that much of the Society’s coin collections are being made available through online research tools like PELLA, OCRE, and MANTIS,” David Hill, supervisor of the onsite operations, said. “When you think about all of the materials in the Library’s Rare Book Room, which include unique archival collections such as dealer and collector correspondence, you really begin to realize what an impact a project like this can have.”

(all photos by Alan Roche, American Numismatic Society)

War Of Queitus

There was a significant “Third Revolt” of the Jews during the reign of the emperor Trajan (98–117 AD). This war took place between the Jewish War (First Revolt: 66–70 AD) and the Bar Kokhba War (Second Revolt: 132–135 AD).

It was called “the war of Quietus” and took place between the years 115 and 117 AD. It was fought in Cyrenaica, Cyprus, Egypt, and Mesopotamia, but apparently not in Judaea.

More accurately, the “war of Quietus” was a series of revolts. These revolts were likely the direct results of both the aftermath of the reign of Domitian (who was especially hard on Christians and Jews) as well as attacks under Trajan’s rule on both Christian and Jewish leaders.

We do not know a great deal about the “war of Quietus,” and one reason is that there is not any known numismatic material that references this war. By comparison, the numismatic evidence from the First Revolt consists of both the coins of the Jews of the period, as well as the JUDAEA CAPTA coins of the Flavians, which reflect a great deal on their view of Rome’s victory.

Bar Kokhba’s coins are likewise very important to our knowledge of the so-called Second Revolt. Indeed, the first name of Bar Kokhba, “Simon” was known ONLY from his coins until 40 years ago—1960 to be exact—when the Bar Kokhba letters, discovered in caves near the Dead Sea, were discovered and translated.

Bar Kokhba bronze coin with the name of Simon. (Image © by David Hendin)
Bar Kokhba bronze coin with the name of Simon. (Image © by David Hendin)

After Domitian’s harsh rule, his successor, Nerva, was less abusive to his subjects.

There is no doubt that at this time in history there was quite a lot of animosity against the Jews. If you don’t believe it, read the very anti-Jewish first-century historian Tacitus, who in small part stated: “The other practices of the Jews are sinister and revolting, and have entrenched themselves by their very wickedness.”

Early in the second century, under Trajan’s rule, the head of the Judaeo-Christian Church, Simeon, son of Cleophas, was executed by the Roman governor of Judaea.

Furthermore, Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, a leading gentile Christian, was sent to Rome and executed about the year 110. Grant describes him as “the first significant Christian churchman.” (At this point in the history of Christianity there were both Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. Originally Christianity was an offshoot of Judaism, thus the earliest Christians needed first to be Jews. Later, as Paul spread the gospel throughout the world, he preached that non-Jews could convert directly to Christianity without becoming Jewish first.)

The reasons for these executions are not clear, but they are probably part of a religious persecution by Rome that also underscored the Jewish unrest.

In 110, Trajan moved against Parthia, thus ending a 50-year peace that Nero had established. The Parthians had been weakened by the new and powerful Kushan kingdom in eastern Iran. A few years later, Trajan also annexed Armenia, and moved his armies into upper Mesopotamia and Adiabene. Adiabene is a country of special interest, since its ruling dynasty (led by Queen Helena) had voluntary converted to Judaism in the first century. (Helena’s tomb stands today in East Jerusalem, it is known as the “Tomb of the Kings.)

During these various military operations, a large number of Jewish communities came under Trajan’s control.

The first uprising came in Cyrenaica, where a Jewish king named Lukuas (also called Andrew) violently attacked the local Greek governments and Roman provincial authorities—all of whom had been weakened in favor of Trajan’s Parthian campaigns.   Cassius Dio painted a grim picture of Jewish atrocities, culminating with the Jews forcing the Romans and Greeks to fight with wild animals, or as gladiators in the arena. This sounds almost as if the Jews were exacting revenge for similar fates suffered by so many Jewish captives in Rome some 45 years earlier after the First Revolt.

The outbreak had meanwhile spread to Cyprus, and Eusebius, the “father of church history” reports its capital Salamis was laid waste by them. There is no information about how the Cyprus revolt was ended, but we know of the consequence, Cassius Dio reports that from that time forward Jews were not allowed to appear on the island, under penalty of death. Violent fighting also followed in Egypt and the synagogue of Alexandria, said to be a marvel of Egyptian architecture, was destroyed. To quell these Jewish outbreaks, Trajan’s first move was to call in a general named Martius Turbo. By repeated onslaughts against the Jews he overcame the rebellions in Cyprus, Egypt, and Cyrenaica.

To oppose the Jews closer to his own army, in the district of the Euphrates, Trajan turned to his favorite general, Lucius Quietus, a Moorish prince, known for his unpleasant disposition.

Emil Shurer writes in The Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ that “with barbarous cruelty Quietus executed his commission and laid waste to the mostly Jewish towns of Nisibis and Edessa. Thousands of Jews were put to death. Thus was order restored, and Quietus, in recognition of his services, was appointed governor of Palestine.”

Even though accounts of the “war of Quietus” are skimpy, some sources say that as many as half a million casualties occurred amongst the foes.

Apparently as a reward for his good work, in about 117 AD Trajan sent Quietus to Judaea as governor of Palestine with unlimited power. This seems to indicate that there was also a certain level of Jewish rebellion in Palestine. However, the main Jewish insurrections at this time were clearly outside of Judaea. On the other hand, it is quite probable that the Jewish restiveness in Judaea at the time was the precursor to the Bar Kokhba War which erupted only 14 years later in 131/132 AD.

Possibly partly because of the Jewish uprisings, Trajan was finally unsuccessful in his Parthian campaign and he eventually had to give up on his grandiose plan to turn Parthia into a Roman province. At this time Trajan became very sick. He was taken to Antioch, and died a few months later in Cilicia. His wife, Plotina, told the army that before his death Trajan had named Hadrian as his adopted son and successor.

When Hadrian became emperor, he removed Quietus from this post, probably because the Moorish General had favored Trajan’s expansionism, which was not Hadrian’s style. Quietus was executed in Rome the following year, accused of participating in a conspiracy against the emperor.

I discussed the “war of Quietus” with Rabbi Benjamin Yablok, a numismatist and Talmudic scholar. He pointed out that the “war of Quietus” had at least one interesting, long-lasting effect on Jewish tradition. Based on writings in the Talmud, Rabbi Yablok explains, when Jewish women were married they would wear golden tiaras or crowns to the ceremony. But, “in commemoration of the misfortunes caused by Lucius Quietus, the Rabbinical sages decreed that brides should no longer wear crowns.” Jewish women have not worn golden marriage crowns since that time.

There is no numismatic evidence of the Jewish War of Quietus, 115-117 AD. However, this eastern issue semis of Trajan gives him the title PARTHICO “The Parthian” which refers to his early success against the Parthians during this period. The Jewish Talmud refers to this denomination as a “mismis.” (Image courtesy
There is no numismatic evidence of the Jewish War of Quietus, 115–117 AD. However, this eastern issue semis of Trajan gives him the title PARTHICO “The Parthian” which refers to his early success against the Parthians during this period. The Jewish Talmud refers to this denomination as a “mismis.” (Image courtesy

by David Hendin, ANS Adjunct Curator

ANS Acquires Authentic Banksy £10 Diana Note

ANS 2016.9.1

The ANS recently acquired a £10 “Di-faced” banknote created by the street artist Banksy (active 1992–). The note was purchased at the 2016 New York International Numismatic Convention (NYINC) from Joseph Linzalone of Wolfshead Gallery, who, along with James Hallgate (a Banksy dealer) of Lucius Books, had jointly obtained eight of these specimens directly from Banksy’s manager in 2014.

The note parodies British £10 notes from the mid-2000s, replacing the face of Queen Elizabeth II with that of Diana, Princess of Wales. The elaborate script at the top of the note’s obverse reads, “Banksy of England”, replacing “Bank of England.” The reverse of the note remains largely unchanged except for the all-caps legend “trust no one” in the lower-right corner. Weighing ca. 1.32 g, the note is printed with inks on paper nearly identical to that used on official, UK-issued currency.

Uncut sheet of Banksy notes. Source:

Banksy, known for his satirical and subversive street art, created a large quantity of the Princess Diana notes in August 2004, a roll of which was reportedly thrown into the crowd at the Notting Hill Carnival and at the Reading Festival that year. Some of these bills were used by festival-goers as actual currency, prompting Banksy to cease distribution. He re-used the note’s image later in a lithograph commemorating Princess Diana’s death, and also in 2009’s “Million-Pound Briefcase”. Uncut sheets of these notes have fetched as much as £16,000 and £24,000 at auction.

“Million-Pound Briefcase”. Source:

The creation of the banknotes went relatively unreported from 2004 until 2007 at the 10-year anniversary of Princess Diana’s death; Banksy was not sought for any counterfeiting charges, unlike American currency artist J. S. G. Boggs. In Banksy’s film Exit Through the Gift Shop, Banksy speaks to the fact that after the incidents at the festivals, he realized he had forged around £100,000,000, nearly all of which remain in his possession.

$5 bill by J. S. G. Boggs. Source:

Perhaps the most unique aspect of the note the ANS acquired is its secure provenance. Genuinely authentic Banksy banknotes are exceedingly rare, and are often counterfeited/copied and sold online via auction sites such as ebay. Most sellers claim to have been at either the Nottingham Carnival or Reading Festival in 2004, and the fake notes sold are either photocopies or printed scans.

“Reproduction” Di-faced Banksy note. Source:

The market for Banksy notes is so great that it has generated detailed online discussions and videos of how to spot fakes. Many of the Princess Diana notes are listed online as auctions at between $200 and $600, nearly all of which are private listings that mask bidders’ identities and allow the seller to drive up the bids using shell ebay accounts. People interested in acquiring an authentic Banksy note should work through a reputable dealer or auction house.

The ANS’s Banksy note (ANS 2016.9.1) is the first specimen of fine-art paper currency at the Society, joining several examples of defaced/modified coins in the cabinet. Visitors to the ANS may schedule a time to see the Banksy note, or other items in the collection.

NOTE: On October 6, 2016, the ANS received the following notice from the Bank of England asking us to remove the images of the front and back of an official 10-pound note, which was in violation of copyright. Here is the text of the message:

From: Gemma Godfrey <>

Subject: Unauthorised Bank of England Banknote Images

Message Body:

Dear Sir,

It has been brought to our attention that your company is reproducing images of Bank of England banknotes on your website:

You may not be aware, but it is a criminal offence under section 18 of The Forgery and Counterfeit Act 1981 to reproduce banknotes without prior written permission from the Bank of England.  The Bank of England also owns the copyright in its banknotes.

The Bank may grant permission to reproduce banknotes, providing those reproductions meet the standards set out in our guidelines:

I would like to take this opportunity to remind you of the importance of requesting permission from the Bank, before producing anything containing Bank of England banknote images. 

If you wish to reproduce any part of a Bank of England banknote, please follow the correct procedure and submit a banknote reproduction application form:

Please remove the images from your website until you have obtained permission.  If you have any questions, or wish to discuss the matter further, please do not hesitate to contact me. 

Kind regards


Reproductions Officer

Banknote Education Team | Notes Directorate

Bank of England | Threadneedle Street | London | EC2R 8AH

Tel: +44 (0) 20 7601 4028 | Fax: +44 (0) 20 7601 3263


World War I Centennial 2018 Commemorative Coin Design Competition

United State Mint
United States Mint

The United States Mint today issued a press release regarding a new coin design competition, and we at the ANS would like to share it with you:

The United States Mint is pleased to share official information about the World War I Centennial 2018 Commemorative Coin Design Competition. We invite you to visit a dedicated landing page – – where you can access the rules, schedule and details on how to enter when the competition opens to the public on Feb. 29, 2016.

As an organization that places value on the arts and design, we hope you will help spread the word about this opportunity to design a commemorative coin that will pay tribute to the bravery, actions and sacrifices of Americans during the country’s involvement in World War I almost 100 years ago. The winner will not only have his or her initials on the final coin, but will also receive a $10,000 prize.

Be sure to visit this site, and follow the United States Mint on Twitter or Facebook for reminders and updates. We look forward to launching this exciting competition later this month and hope that many individuals will enter.

On Open Access

Why the American Numismatic Society is Open Access . . . and why your institution, learned society, publisher, etc., should be, too

Open_Access_logo_PLoS_white.svgAcademic and scholarly publication is at a crossroads as publishers, authors, and institutions of research and higher learning consider both the financial and ‘moral’ implications of publishing new scholarship as Open Access. The American Numismatic Society (ANS) has adopted what some would consider a progressive approach, while others would find these points to simply be common sense and good manners. As you read the points below, I challenge you to formulate arguments against each one that does not include money. Profit and loss in academic publishing is a very real concern, but it can be demonstrated (and has been in my nine years of experience as an academic publisher) that publishing niche scholarship is (and likely always will be) a money-losing venture. Publication is often built into the mission statements of learned societies, and funding needs to be sought from sources beyond book sales and journal subscriptions to keep the publishing enterprise sustainable.

The ANS has addressed each of the following problems in its efforts to make published research open without taking a hit financially.

Problem: Gold Open Access

One method some publishers use to offset production costs is to charge those authors (or their institutions) who wish to make their research freely available online immediately upon publication instead of waiting some contractually agreed amount of time before being given permission to post the work the web or via a university repository. These costs often range from the hundreds into the low thousands of dollars (e.g., Maney Publishing’s “Article Publishing Charge” (APC) for immediate Open Access publication). Charging authors for Open Access creates an economic barrier to scholars, some of whom cannot afford the fee, and whose institutions may not have budgeted for such costs. Unaffiliated and independent scholars are especially affected by these fees, which they have to pay out-of-pocket and may even require securing a loan.

What the ANS is Doing About It: It is our opinion that authors (and their institutions) should never be charged to make their own research available to the world immediately upon publication.

ajn26coverProblem: Embargo Periods

Going hand-in-glove with “gold” Open Access is the common practice of an embargo period, which is the time (anywhere from one to five years in most cases) between when research is published and when an author can make that work freely available. The point of the embargo period is to allow the publisher to recover the production costs of that publication prior to making it available as Open Access. Authors are forbidden to post more than a citation or abstract, and their work is often locked behind a paywall until the embargo expires. Timely research becomes less so as long as the embargo period lasts, except to those readers who opt for early access. Scholars who wish to access that author’s work must either pay to access the publication, wait until the embargo ends, ask the author for a PDF offprint (which is normally forbidden) or their login credentials to a paywalled platform (even more forbidden). As with file-sharing of other media, many people tend to look for the free version of something they would otherwise have to pay for, thereby short-circuiting the embargo period and the paywall, which nets both the publisher and paywall provider nothing, i.e., the same amount they would make by giving away the published work.

ccWhat the ANS is Doing About It: Authors of ANS publications may place their published work wherever they like upon publication, and may assign to it whichever Creative Commons license that they are the most comfortable using. A brief word on the types of Creative Commons licenses follows below.

Problem: Paywalls

As stated above regarding embargos on published research, paywalls do little to discourage the exchange of files between colleagues, and also place a barrier in the way of scientific progress. Platforms such as JSTOR can strike a happy medium in curating content into packages to which institutional libraries may subscribe, thereby providing a revenue stream for publishers. That same content can be shared with individuals on a non-commercial basis provided the publisher has successfully negotiated a content-sharing agreement.

What the ANS is Doing About It: The ANS has such an agreement with JSTOR, and is making some of its publications available on that platform for library subscribers, while also making those same publications available for free to individuals via the Hathi Trust Digital Library and with our own Digital Library.


Problem: “Predatory” Publishers

Following the paywall model is the usury of so-called “predatory” publishers that charge libraries and individuals hundreds and even thousands of dollars to access newly published research. Authors should be wary of publishing in journals owned by these companies as their work will reach a limited set of eyes. If most authors found other journals in which to publish, the dearth of content would force predatory publishers to either change their business model or to close entirely. Libraries can also choose not to subscribe to those journals, favoring instead those with a more reasonable Open Access policy.

What the ANS is Doing About It: The ANS has no intention of partnering with any of the large publishing companies that choose to lock current research behind paywalls with formidable access costs.

Problem: Geography-Based Access

Some Open Access content is not globally available. Sometimes this is a technical issue, and, for some publishers, this is a conscious decision based on their understanding and implementation of copyright. Actively choosing to limit access to content that is otherwise open deprives international scholars of their ability to read that work freely, at which point they must resort to paying for access, or to bending the rules and asking colleagues for a free copy or access to something.

What the ANS is Doing About It: The ANS makes every effort to ensure that its Open Access content is available worldwide. Much of it is hosted via and various subdomains. Agreements signed with partners such as HathiTrust make sure that the content is available globally without restriction.

ANS, 0000.999.52801
ANS, 0000.999.52801

Problem: Profit-Based Publishing

One of the greatest mistakes a learned society or institution can make is to become focused on making its publications turn a profit. Scholarly publications typically cater to a niche market and sell dozens or occasionally hundreds of copies over a period of three years. Sales beyond three years of the original publication date are rare. If an organization recognizes the fact that it will realize little (or no) profit from the sale of what it publishes, it can strategize how to pay the not inconsiderable production costs. These costs can be built into annual budgets, can be inserted into grant applications for projects, and can be sought in the form of subventions. Basing choices of what to publish by what the publisher (or Board) thinks will sell can be a mistake, especially when what is to be published fulfills the mission of the parent institution.

What the ANS is Doing About It: The ANS favors a mission-based approach to publishing. It understands that some publications will never recover their production costs, but nevertheless that the content is exceedingly important in fulfilling the Society’s stated goals for research and dissemination of that research.

Problem: “Commercial” Publications

Non-profit, academic institutions historically have published scholarship as non-commercial ventures. As stated above, the publication of journals and monographs is hardly a money-making enterprise. Books and subscriptions are sold in order to recover some production costs. Recently one major international rights-holder updated its Terms of Service regarding the reproduction of its images in scholarly publications, classing journals and scholarly monographs as “commercial”, which then allows charging for image permissions. Typically a reciprocal relationship exists between institutions where no permissions fees are charged for non-commercial, scholarly, short-run publications. In switching the Terms of Service to “commercial”, the budget for publishing books or articles featuring images from one of these rights-holders expands by hundreds if not thousands of dollars. This charge represents another barrier to scholarship; publishers will simply go elsewhere for similar images. This also actually hurts the rights holder, in effect limiting wider access to its own holdings and hiding them behind a self-inflicted paywall.

What the ANS is Doing About It: The ANS will never class scholarly publications as “commercial,” and will not charge reproduction fees for the use of its images in scholarly publications.

Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 11.10.05 AM

Problem: Permissions Charges

Most academic publishers ask the authors to pay for their own image permissions. The publishers cannot themselves afford to pay the fees, so the charges get passed to the author. For many authors, however, many of their images can be used without any permissions fees because of the non-commercial nature of their work. Should an institution opt to charge an author for an image, it is possible that the author will opt to find a similar image elsewhere, or will choose not to use an image at all. Either way, the rights holder receives no revenue, and also loses whatever additional exposure it would have otherwise received via a credit line in the publication. Charging authors for image permissions further limits access to content that would otherwise be freely available.

What the ANS is Doing About It: The ANS will not charge authors for the use of its images in non-commercial publications.

ANS, 1916.192.368
ANS, 1916.192.368

Problem: Print-Only Publishing

Arguably the biggest roadblock to Open Access research is publishing solely in print. Publishing in print restricts access to the content locked on the pages and favors those readers with library access or the ability to purchase the publication. Print editions of scholarship, while useful to many, are themselves silos of information, unable to interact with anything other than the active reader. This is the opposite of Open Access. Making print editions available online as digital editions unlocks that content, making it searchable, and perhaps more importantly, gives the content the ability to link to any other data available openly online, as well as making itself available to be linked to from other online sources.

What the ANS is Doing About It: The ANS will continue to produce print editions of scholarship, but it will make digital editions of all of its publications past, present, and future available online as Open Access. Doing so allows the ANS to play well with others, to be a good academic citizen, and to contribute to the work of others. By sharing publications openly, this guarantees that multiple copies will be made and circulated thereby preventing loss of that content should something happen to the original publisher.

A Word on Creative Commons Licensing

There are several varieties of Creative Commons (CC) licensing available to authors and publishers that both protect and promote content on the Internet and elsewhere. Anything published as Open Access must have a CC license attached to it, otherwise the content is not free to use. Most Open Access publications have a CC-BY (users must cite the source) or CC-BY-NC (citation required, and must be used for non-commercial purposes only). On rare occasions, the most open CC license, CC0 (content may be used for any purpose, commercial or otherwise, with or without citation) is used. The ANS’s Open Access publications online are posted under a CC license, usually CC-BY or CC-BY-NC. Its publications on HathiTrust are posted as CC0. The ANS works with its authors to determine which CC license they are most comfortable with prior to posting their work online.

ANS, 1927.64.5
ANS, 1927.64.5


If Open Access publication of content is not part of your institution’s/society’s/publisher’s strategy, it should be. As authors and as consumers of content, it is within your rights to ask (and in some cases demand) that your research (or the scholarship you need) be made openly available online. Open Access does not require the cessation of the sale of that same content. Many readers still prefer to read printed books and journals, and will pay for them (or will ask their libraries to pay for them). Most readers prefer a suite of media with which to work, using print in concert with digital as they produce new scholarship. The end goal of the production of that scholarship should not be to make money, but instead to advance the humanities, arts, and sciences. The best way to do that is to make that scholarship available immediately to the world upon publication. Openly. The ANS hopes that other institutions, learned societies, and publishers will share in this approach to placing published work online without cumbersome restrictions. The Internet is genetically predisposed to facilitate such sharing, which makes it the greatest enabler of advancing our collective intellectual enterprise.

Andrew Reinhard

Lottery Mania in Colonial America

ANS, 0000.999.16549
ANS, 0000.999.16549

As Powerball mania sweeps the nation, I thought it would be interesting to explore the longer history of lotteries in America with a look back to the eighteenth century. For a run-down of the particulars about how they operated, Ainsworth Rand Spofford, who served as the official Librarian of the United States, wrote a useful introduction to the subject you can read here. By way of a short summary, the practice of holding lotteries to raise money for local governments and private entities was brought by English colonists to North America in the seventeenth century. The Third Virginia Charter of 1612 granted the Virginia Company of London a license to conduct yearly lotteries to raise funds for supplies for early colonists. Spofford goes on to note that the award for what seems to have been the first proper lottery to take place in colonial America in 1720 was rather unusually for a brick house in Philadelphia rather than a cash prize.

As an essentially speculative venture, lotteries bred a certain amount of attendant trouble as they were easy to manipulate and in some cases the holders simply neglected to have a drawing and made off with the money altogether. Abuses such as this led to a swath of legislation, but both private and public lotteries proliferated. The more reputable ventures were authorized by local governments and fronted by prominent citizens, frequently with the aim of funding some worthwhile public project. As Spofford notes, it was looked upon as a kind of “voluntary tax” for public works, with the added benefit for subscribers of potentially getting a windfall.

Spanish "piece of eight," 1746. ANS, 1955.130.3
Spanish “piece of eight,” 1746.
ANS, 1955.130.3

The Scheme of the Second Philadelphia Lottery (1748) published by Benjamin Franklin gives a good overview of how a contemporary public lottery operated. Numismatists will be interested to note that all of the values were enumerated in terms of “pieces of eight” as Spanish dollars were the dominant form of coin in circulation. The drawing was done by putting all of the numbers in a wheeled bin that could be spun during the drawing. The plan was to sell seventy-five thousand dollars worth of tickets while ultimately reserving twelve-and-a-half percent or $9,375 dollars for public use with the balance being awarded as prizes. Schemes such as these were so popular and innocuous that even churches held lotteries to raise funds for their endeavors.

The American Numismatic Society holds about a dozen eighteenth-century lottery tickets. They are interesting in part for the numismatic and economic information they reveal, but also in terms of their design. Counterfeiters could easily manufacture a ‘winning’ lottery ticket because they were pen-numbered (and thus easily altered) and it took time for reports of the numbers to circulate and for winning tickets to be redeemed. Precautions needed be taken to prevent chicanery, which led to some innovative features.

ANS, 1945.42.818
ANS, 1945.42.818

The 1753 Connecticut lottery ticket above has a seemingly haphazard left edge because it was cut from a larger sheet. Anyone redeeming a winning ticket thus needed to have both the correct number and an edge matching the original sheet to validate its authenticity. Because the lottery was so much smaller, tickets were simply issued with consecutive numbers over the much more complex systems of today. Incidentally, this 1753 lottery was one of several held for the benefit of the “College of New Jersey,” i.e. Princeton University, and this particular one seems to have funded the construction of Nassau Hall.

Connecticut was a very active place for lotteries. In 1754 one was held to construct a wharf in New Haven. The ticket for that lottery at the ANS is particularly noteworthy because it seems to have been a winning ticket for the sum of £25. All in all, eighteenth-century lotteries were much more even in terms of dispersing winnings, with larger tiers of moderate payouts over what is more or less the winner-take-all format of today.


Arguably the most important lottery in American history was created by the Continental Congress in 1776 for “carrying on the present and most just and necessary war.” The “scheme” of the inaugural United States Lottery rather entertainingly refers to ticket holders as “adventurers.” Tickets were issued in different classes as the amount of awards and the cost of tickets escalated. This “Class the Third” ticket in the ANS collection was rather curiously signed but not seemingly issued as it lacks a number. Note the lines in the ‘No.’ field, which was meant to prevent alteration after a given ticket had a number written on it.

ANS, 0000.999.57379
ANS, 0000.999.57379

Just as the issuing and counterfeiting of Continental currency was part and parcel of the larger conflict, financing via lottery was another arena of contention. The ticket below was used as part of a Loyalist lottery held in British-occupied New York City in 1777 to raise money for the provisioning of British troops.

ANS, 0000.999.57381
ANS, 0000.999.57381

Although the rebellious colonists prevailed, the victory seemed to have done little to whet the public’s appetite for the lottery, and they proliferated in the United States during the late eighteenth century. A series of scandals in the nineteenth century, and the burgeoning of more or less fraudulent commercial lotteries hurt their reputation, but as today’s Powerball drawing suggests, the lottery still occupies a prominent place in American life and continues to play a significant role in funding public projects.

Matthew Wittmann