Happy Birthday John Reilly!

Frances Reilly card front sm
Homemade birthday card from John Reilly’s daughter

A while back I stumbled onto this great homemade card in the John Reilly, Jr. papers and have been waiting for February 3 to wish Mr. Reilly a happy 141st birthday. It was made by his daughter Frances (born in 1912), sometime in the late 1910s. Two decades later, in 1937, she would formally donate his Far Eastern collections to the ANS. During World War II, Frances was living in Hong Kong with her husband when the city fell to the Japanese. She was imprisoned there for nearly a year, finally coming home in late 1942. She died in 2001.

Frances Reilly card back sm
The back of the card

Remembered warmly as “Long John” by his Princeton classmates, the six-foot-four John Reilly once lent “his lanky southern paw to the varsity pitching staff” of the college. The result was one long inning, with 17 bases on balls and 23 hits—and a game that had to be called when they ran out of daylight (according to his class’s 50th anniversary reunion book, anyway). He was only associated with the ANS for twenty years or so (1910-1931), serving as treasurer and governor, but his contributions were enormous, and his presence can certainly be felt today, not only in the ANS’s prized collection of Far Eastern coins, but also in his personal papers and library of books that reside in the ANS Rare Book Room.

John Reilly, Jr.

In the ANS Library, we have begun to catalog his mostly nineteenth-century books, producing records with titles and authors in both Roman and Chinese characters, and noting various forms, including English and pinyin. This work is being done by ANS member and volunteer Christopher (Zhengcheng) Li, a recent graduate of Sotheby’s Institute of Art. Christopher is making many interesting discoveries along the way, including some that update the findings of Arthur Braddan Coole, published in The Encyclopedia of Chinese Coins, 1967 (an updated version of his Bibliography on Far Eastern Numismatics, 1940), the standard bibliographical reference for Far Eastern numismatics.

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Books in the Reilly library

It seems that Reilly’s library and papers never stop yielding treasures. I’ve written about his photographs of the World’s Columbian Exhibition of 1893, taken when he was seventeen years old. More on Reilly and his Far Eastern coin collection can be found here.

The American Numismatic Society 2017 Gala

On Thursday, January 12, 2017, over 150 friends of The American Numismatic Society gathered to honor Anthony J. Terranova, the Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society, and the Newman Numismatic Portal with the Trustees’ Award at the Annual Gala at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.

Andrew Photo 1Anthony Terranova, a noted collector, dealer, and researcher in numismatics, joined the Society 40 years ago. He was elected Fellow in 1992, became a Life Fellow in 1995, and has been a member of the Augustus B. Sage Society since 2006. He has greatly enhanced the ANS collections with important donations to the numismatic cabinet, and with many books, archives, and auction catalogues to the Harry W. Bass, Jr. Library, as well as with many generous donations. Known for his honest and fair dealings, encouragement, and engaging personality, the Society was delighted to acknowledge his exemplary devotion and commitment to numismatics through the presentation of the Trustees’ Award by ANS Board President, Sydney Martin.

Kenneth Edlow, Chairman of the ANS Board, presented the Trustees’ Award to the Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society and the Newman Numismatic Portal, accepted by Mrs. Linda Newman Schapiro and Mr. Leonard Augusburger, respectively.

Andrew Photo 2

The Newman Numismatic Portal (NNP), an online numismatic resource, is sponsored by a grant from the Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society, and works with the ANS on a scanning project that enables greater access to American numismatic research material on both the ANS Digital Library and Newman Portal websites.

Mr. Q. David Bowers, the evening’s emcee, provided an inviting and entertaining atmosphere for the attendees who enjoyed dinner, music by the Astrid Kuljanic quintet, and a lively auction led by the engaging Melissa Karstedt of Stack’s Bowers Galleries. Thanks to the generosity of many dedicated friends, the 2017 Gala raised approximately $172,000 in funds that are much needed for the Society’s many projects.

Past recipients of the Trustees’ Award include such notable numismatists and donors as Ms. Shelby White and Mr. Leon Levy, Mr. Jamie Stewart, Mr. Kenneth L. Edlow, Mr. George Kolbe, Mr. Q. David Bowers, Mr. Chester L. Krause, Mr. Donald G. Partrick, Mr. Harvey Stack, Mr. Victor England, Jr., Mr. Ira Goldberg, Mr. Larry Goldberg, Mr. Harlan J. Berk, Mr. Roger S. Siboni, Mrs. Marian Scheuer Sofaer and the Honorable Abraham D. Sofaer, Mrs. Elizabeth Forbes Hazard Scott and Mr. Stanley DeForest Scott, and Mr. and Mrs. John W. Adams.

Anthony Terranova is a widely admired coin dealer and a specialist in early American coinage whose interest in collecting began as a teenager in Brooklyn with classic United States series. He is well known among early American collectors, not least for the invaluable input generated by his research. He is the recipient of the American Numismatic Association’s 2011 Farran Zerbe Memorial Award for distinguished service and the Professional Numismatist Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. He is a member of the New York Numismatic Club. The Anthony Terranova Collection of Counterstamped Coins sold at auction with Stack’s Bowers.

Administered through Washington University Libraries in St. Louis, the Newman Numismatic Portal has contracted with Internet Archive for the scanning operation at the ANS Library. Internet Archive is a non-profit organization dedicated to digital preservation of all media. The NNP, 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 170,000 pages of ANS documents alone to date.

The ANS Library’s entire run of early American auction catalogs, which include those of Frossard, Woodward, Chapman, Elder, and other notable names in the field, were first to be scanned. Unique archival collections such as dealer and collector correspondence, housed in the ANS Library’s Rare Book Room, will also be scanned so they can be access on a large scale.

Every year the American Numismatic Society raises critical revenue through Gala ticket sales, program advertisements, sponsorships, contributions, and the proceeds from a live auction. These funds are used to further the Society’s mission of supporting research and education in numismatics.

For information, please contact Catherine DiTuri at 212-571-4470, ext. 117, membership@numismatics.org, or visit the ANS website.

The American Numismatic Society, organized in 1858 and incorporated in 1865 in New York State, operates as a research museum under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and is recognized as a publicly supported organization under section 170(b)(1)(A)(vi) as confirmed on November 1, 1970.


Open Access, Academia.edu, and why I’m all-in on Zenodo.org

Note: The majority of this post and the migration framework (academia-migrate) were authored about a year ago, but placed on the back burner while other projects demanded my time. Between the revelation that Academia.edu has implemented banner ads on some profiles and Sarah Bond’s article in Forbes, I have been motivated to finally push this project into production.

Many scholars throughout the world use Academia.edu to broaden access to their own research, which includes not only published documents, but unpublished manuscripts or presentation materials (such as Powerpoint slideshows) that would otherwise never be submitted to peer-reviewed journals. Academia.edu bills itself as a “disruptive” service that takes a shot at the increased commercialization (and resulting access restrictions) of academic publication. For scholars that want their research to be made available to the widest possible audience, peer-reviewed journals are falling short. Peer review offers a certain cachet required by university administrators for considerations toward tenured professorship, but more and more journals are owned and distributed by fewer and fewer publishers. University libraries are strapped with increasing costs to subscribe to journals, and unaffiliated scholars are on the outside looking in with regard to access to current scholarship, unless they would like to pay as much as $50 to acquire a single article. Academia.edu has changed this somewhat. With HTML microdata and pathways for search robots to crawl full-text articles, researchers are able to find relevant articles through Google, and Google’s algorithms tend to favor Academia.edu over other harder-to-crawl sources.

On the surface, this seems great for scholars. And it was good in the beginning, but this has changed over the last year. Despite its domain name, Academia.edu is a commercial venture. It is beholden to investors, not the scholarly community it serves, nor universities, governments, or taxpayers. Recently, an Academia.edu developer approached a scholar about his willingness to participate in a pay-to-play system. I won’t go into great detail, as the initial exchange and subsequent outrage on Twitter have already been covered thoroughly. But what does paying for a recommendation mean? Aside from sacrificing a certain intellectual honestly, a recommendation essentially enhances visibility and access to your work. By definition, though, not paying for a recommendation thus reduces visibility and access to your work. If the Academia.edu developers alter the metadata provided to robots to improve search relevance for those that pay for their publications to be promoted, this necessarily reduces relevance for non-paying users. As a result, access declines, which reduces the likelihood of citation, and may even negatively impact administrative reviews of faculty output.

Furthermore, it appears that Academia.edu is now experimenting with banner advertisements. They do not yet appear to be a permanent fixture, but I believe we are seeing the beginning of overt attempts at generating income on top of research that scholars have published to the site in good faith that it is free and open.

So is there a solution?

Yes. It is Zenodo.org.

Zenodo.org is a truly open access scholarly publication framework that is capable of replacing Academia.edu. Zenodo is open to “research outputs from across all fields of science,” including the humanities and social sciences. Like Academia, users may upload journal articles, conference papers, posters, and presentations, but may also upload raw research data. Zenodo is developed by CERN, which has long demonstrated its devotion to open science and the web. It is backed by funding from the European Union. Moreover, Zenodo has a well-documented API for publishing and harvesting content via well-known open web standards. This is in stark contrast to Academia.edu, which goes to great lengths to prevent users from harvesting publication metadata and makes it impossible to download documents without registering for an account (which also inflates their userbase). Academia.edu prides itself in being disruptive, but it too needs to be disrupted.

Migrating from Academia.edu to Zenodo.org

I fully advocate leaving Academia.edu, but what purpose does it serve to simply delete your account? You are removing publications that are, in the very least, freely and openly available at the moment. Essentially, the best decision is to migrate documents to Zenodo.org, and allow at least one week for Google to fully index migrated content before deleting the Academia.edu account. My MA thesis entitled “Recent Advances in Roman Numismatics,” about the application of Linked Open Data methodologies toward Roman numismatics with Nomisma.org and Online Coins of the Roman Empire, had been available in both the ANS Digital Library and Academia.edu as of January 28, 2016. Due to our superior use of microdata and full-text indexing, the ANS Digital Library version surpassed Academia days after it was published. I uploaded my thesis to Zenodo.org January 29, 2016, and it was already on the first page of Google three days later.

Many of us have uploaded a substantial number of documents to Academia.edu, and it might be tedious to re-upload these documents into a new system, especially with regard to re-entering publication metadata. I have sought to rectify this by facilitating a more efficient migration system. I have developed a framework that is capable of parsing metadata from an Academia.edu profile (although not all publications are listed when the profile page loads), accepting re-uploaded documents (since these cannot be extracted from Academia.edu directly), and uploading these contents into Zenodo.org. This framework itself is open source and available on Github. I will save the technical discussion for different venue.

Screen capture of one of Terhi Nurmikko-Fuller's papers after parsed from Academia.edu
Screen capture of one of Terhi Nurmikko-Fuller’s papers after parsed from Academia.edu

This system took about a week to develop, but I hope that this migration process might save each user several minutes per publication. I hope that this work will encourage more scholars to consider migrating to Zenodo.org from Academia. Migration ultimately enhances the value of these publications, as they can be harvested en masse by members of the general public, who might be able to use them for statistical analyses, to enhance them with named entity recognition or improved interlinking between publications (via Library of Congress Subject Headings, which are incorporated into Zenodo’s metadata entry system), or to simply read them without the obstacle of registering for an account. It is time to accept that the Academia.edu is seeking to shift the academic publishing paradigm from one commercial provider to another.

The Secret Chord: Harps and Lyres on Ancient and Modern Coins

Last month, on November 7, 2016, the internationally acclaimed Canadian artist Leonard Cohen died of cancer. He was regarded as a man of many talents, who painted, wrote novels, poetry, and the songs for which he was best known. He was a man of art, culture, and ideas, who appreciated the value of both Manhattan and Berlin.

Within the large oeuvre left behind by Cohen, the song Hallelujah stands out for its great popularity and the life of its own that it has taken on in the hands of the many other musicians (now more than 300 in multiple languages according to Wikipedia) who have played and modified its lyrics since it was first released in 1984. However, all versions begin with Cohen’s original lament “Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord / That David played, and it pleased the Lord / But you don’t really care for music, do you?” and this has prompted the topic for this edition of the ANS blog. Regardless of whether a numismatist does care for music (Cohen’s or anyone else’s) or not, David’s secret chord and those of other lyric poets have made an impact on coins from antiquity up to modern times.

Fig. 1: ANS 1927.38.76

David is depicted playing his chord on the enigmatic Irish St. Patrick coinage of the seventeenth century, some of which was carried off to New Jersey to serve as halfpence in the cash-starved colony. Its production in two denominations (or one that was later reduced in weight?), date of issue, meaning of its iconography, and the circumstances of its arrival in New Jersey have captured the imagination of Colonial American numismatists for decades and even became the topic for an ANS Coinage of the Americas Conference in 2006. The famous king also plays on contemporary coins of Nuremberg and the Papal States, as well as on psalmenpfennige (medallic awards for the completion of Protestant religious education, which included the memorization of Psalms—the Biblical songs attributed to David).

Fig. 2: ANS 1954.203.63

Harps appear without players on English silver coins struck for use in Ireland in the sixteenth century, but it is not clear whether any reference to King David was intended in this heraldic emblem or whether the instrument alluded only to contemporary Irish culture, which held its native harpers in high esteem. David’s harp (indicated by the winged female column symbolizing the unearthly beauty of its music), occurs on English halfpence produced for Ireland English halfpence produced for Ireland in the eighteenth century—perhaps not coincidentally after more than 100 years of repressive policies had all but crushed the native tradition of harping in Ireland. A pointedly Celtic harp (Irish cláirseach) has been used on all Irish coins, including the current euro, since the creation of the Irish Free State (Republic of Ireland after 1948) in 1922.

Fig. 3: ANS 1944.100.63061

Although it is regularly described and depicted as a harp in medieval and modern texts and artworks, David’s stringed instrument was actually a form of lyre known in Hebrew as the kinnor. A related instrument, the nebel was regularly played as part of celebratory worship in the Jerusalem Temple. The connection of these instruments to the Temple and to David lies behind their prominent depiction on coins struck by Jewish rebels against Rome during the disastrous Bar Kokhba War (AD 132-136). This bloody conflict erupted when the emperor Hadrian sought to refound Jerusalem (already destroyed by Titus in AD 70) as a pagan city. The kinnor and nebel of the Bar Kokhba coins had a dual purpose. They evoked the longing memory of days when the Temple still stood and great Jewish kings ruled the land while casting Simon bar Kokhba, the leader of the revolt, as a Messianic figure who might lead his people to victory and restore the Temple.

Fig. 4: ANS 1944.100.41956

The chelys (Latin testudo) and kithara of the Greeks and Romans appear to have been the rough equivalents of the kinnor and nebel, respectively. The former, which included a sound box made from a tortoise shell or wood formed into the shape of a shell, was said to have been discovered by the god Hermes. While traveling along a riverbank, he was attracted by a beautiful sound and when he went to investigate he found that the wind was blowing tendons that had been stretched across a tortoise shell. From this he fashioned the first chelys to be played by gods and men. The kithara, however, was a more elevated instrument of wooden construction associated with Apollo and the Muses as patrons of culture and the arts. Indeed, music lessons on the kithara or chelys were a staple of state education programs for citizens of the ancient Greek cities. The important role of music in Greek education is underlined by coins of the Bithynian king Prusias II that depict Chiron, the centaur tutor of Herakles, playing a kithara. The instrument is the only element of the type that allows the viewer to identify the subject as the educator Chiron and not some other centaur.

Fig. 5: ANS 1967.152.280

Apollo is a ubiquitous deity on Greek coins struck in the Classical and Hellenistic periods and even under the Roman Empire, who often appears in his role as Kitharoidos—the kithara player. His kithara is also depicted on coins, often paired with the head of its divine player or by itself, as on early coins of Delos, the island of Apollo’s birth. Less commonly, even great human lyric poets or the Muses who inspired them to greatness appear on Greek and Roman coins. Sappho is shown playing a kithara on coins of Mytilene in the Roman period as a means of advertising the cultural importance of the city while Terpsichore, Kalliope, and Erato, the respective Muses of choral song, epic poetry, and love poetry appear holding a kithara (Kalliope) or chelys (Terpsichore and Kalliope) on coins of the Roman Republican moneyer Q. Pomponius Musa as an extended pun on his cognomen Musa.

Fig. 6: ANS 1944.100.2329

While Leonard Cohen attributes a single secret chord to David in his song, the numerous symbolic uses to which harps, lyres, and their players were put on coins of ancient and more modern times would seem to suggest that through the ages there were in fact many such chords aimed at pleasing the mortal as well as the divine.

ANS Accepting Applications for 2017 Graduate Summer Seminar


The American Numismatic Society is now accepting applications for the 63rd Annual Eric P. Newman Graduate Summer Seminar in Numismatics to be held at the ANS in New York City from June 5 through July 28, 2017.

For over half a century, the American Numismatic Society, a scholarly organization and museum of coins, money, and economic history, has offered select graduate students and junior faculty the opportunity to work hands-on with its preeminent numismatic collections. With over three-quarters of a million objects, the collection is particularly strong in Greek, Roman, Islamic, Far Eastern, and US and Colonial coinages, as well as Medallic Art. Located in New York City’s SoHo district, the Society also houses the world’s most complete numismatic library.

The rigorous eight-week course, taught by ANS staff, guest lecturers, and a Visiting Scholar, introduces students to the methods, theories, and history of the discipline. In addition to the lecture program, students will select a numismatic research topic and, utilizing ANS resources, complete a paper or digital project while in residence. The Seminar is intended to provide students of History, Art History, Textual Studies, Archeology, and Data Science who have little or no numismatic background with a working knowledge of a body of evidence that is often overlooked and poorly understood.

Successful applicants are typically doctoral candidates or junior faculty in a related discipline, but masters candidates are admitted as well. This year’s Visiting Scholar will be Dr. Thomas Faucher of the Institut de recherche sur les archéomatériaux, Centre Ernest-Babelon, part of the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) and the Université d’Orléans (Orléans, France). Dr. Faucher is, among other things, a specialist in ancient coin production and Ptolemaic coinages.

Applications are due no later than February 10, 2017. A limited number of stipends of up to $4000 are available to US citizens, and non-US citizens studying at US institutions under certain visas. For application forms and further information, please see the Summer Seminar page of our website, or contact the Seminar Director, Dr. Peter van Alfen (212.571.4470 x153).

Wealth and Warfare: The Archaeology of Money in Ancient Syria


The American Numismatic Society is proud to announce the publication of Wealth and Warfare: The Archaeology of Money in Ancient Syria, by Frédérique Duyrat. Syria has been the theater of one of the most barbarous wars of the last centuries, characterized by war crimes and persecution of civilians. Beyond the human aspect of this conflict, one of the distinctive features of the war in Syria has been the treatment of cultural heritage. It takes two different forms. The most obvious is the systematic destruction of historical artifacts and remains by ISIS, dubbed “cultural cleansing” by UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova. There is a second aspect to the “cultural strategy” of ISIS. This group is completely different from all the preceding forms of international terrorist organizations since it is only marginally dependent on foreign funding and has accumulated an impressive war chest. The traffic of antiquities has, among other activities, become an essential resource for the group. The income represented by looting and illegal traffic of antiquities has been estimated at around $200 million per year, and may represent the second largest source of income for ISIS. Moreover, the chaos caused by this multiparty war is beneficial to different groups of looters, whatever the cause they defend.

It is extremely difficult to identify objects that come from looting. If they have never been catalogued by a museum or in archaeological records, they have no established provenance. The sand or earth remaining on those artifacts is often the only sign of a recent archaeological discovery. Coins are even more difficult to trace to their source. Mass-produced in large numbers and often circulating over wide areas, they have an intrinsic value when struck in precious metal, as well as an artistic and historical interest. Moreover, they can be easily found with basic metal detectors. Official alerts regarding the looting of coins are extremely rare, although coins are often found in illegal commerce, or in military raids. If the recently publicized documents photographed by the Association for the Protection of Syrian Archaeology are authentic, it is noticeable that the licenses for looting granted by ISIS to individuals cover “collecting antiquities and buried money.” Moreover, the looters’ interest in numismatics has been emphasized by the discovery, in June 2015, of an ISIS cache containing weapons and a book with articles on numismatics. As noted by Ute Wartenberg, it is an academic book probably stolen from a museum library, and it contains useful numismatic overviews on coinage issued in Syria from the fifth century BCE to Byzantine times.

In such a context, the role of the historian of antiquity is particularly crucial: to gather all that can allow us to reconstitute this endangered past, to interpret the artifacts, to make them available for future generations in a future time of peace when people will be able to rediscover their roots. But how can numismatics be involved in such an important mission? Coins are tiny, scattered, and they require highly specialized skills to be interpreted. Even studied with care, they remain difficult to understand as a whole. One of the reasons why coins are such a difficult source is their number: issued in the millions, lost or hoarded in the tens of thousands, they form an ocean in which the non-specialist feels lost. To study the coinages of an entire region is a way to approach coins as a single source. Moreover, to study ancient Syria through this particular source sheds light on new aspects of the past of a region currently devastated by war. This is what author Frédérique Duyrat has done in Wealth and Warfare. The Archaeology of Money in Ancient Syria.

This book assembles for the first time the evidence for coin finds in the region of ancient Syria from the 5th to the 1st century BCE. A full catalogue of all known coin hoards and published excavation finds serves as the basis for an explanation of monetary behavior in an area extending over parts of modern Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Palestine, and Turkey. In seven chapters of analysis, Duyrat establishes the limits of what we can learn from coin circulation, to compare the data from commerce to the data from legal excavations, to try to understand the chronological evolution of coin circulation and how much political events or warfare affect it, and to evaluate what coin finds tell us of the wealth and poverty of the people who assembled them. One chapter is devoted to how the contemporary history of the countries within the scope of this study has influenced the documentation. This book determines more precisely than ever what circulated in the ancient Near East and can provide the patterns by which to evaluate the loss suffered by the cultural heritage of this region.

About the author: Frédérique Duyrat is director of the Department of Coins, Medals, and Antiques of the Bibliothèque nationale de France and is associated to the research team Orient et Méditerranée—Mondes sémitiques (University Paris–Sorbonne) and the Ecole doctorale Archéologie of the University Paris I–Panthéon Sorbonne. She has written and edited more than 50 books and articles on the coinage, history and archaeology of ancient Syria and Phoenicia.

Wealth and Warfare: The Archaeology of Money in Ancient Syria

Numismatic Studies 34, ISSN 0517-404-x

ISBN 978-0-89722-346-1

Hardcover, 600 pages, b/w figures, tables

Wealth and Warfare is available for purchase through the ANS’s book distribution partner Casemate Academic/Oxbow Books. ANS Members qualify for a member discount and should write to Andrew Reinhard, ANS Director of Publications,  for the online discount code.

The Emergence and Spread of the Reduced Aiginetan Standard in Hellenistic Greece

Ruben Post is a PhD candidate in Ancient History at the University of Pennsylvania. Ruben’s area of interest is the economic and environmental of Hellenistic Greece, with a particular focus on federal states. His dissertation examines the relationship between the exploitation of natural resources, land tenure patterns, federal institutions, and economic networks in the Hellenistic Achaean League.

Following the conquests of Alexander the Great (334–324 BCE), the many civic mints of the Greek world continued to produce silver coinage on several different weight standards. In southern Greece, the principal standard was the so-called Aiginetan (based on a drachm of c. 6 g). In the course of the 3rd c. BCE, however, most of these mints ceased to operate, and city after city joined increasingly powerful federal states, until in the early 2nd c. BCE only three such states—the Aitolian, Boiotian, and Achaian Leagues—came to dominate much of mainland Greece. At this same time, federal coinages unsurprisingly replaced local coinages; these federal issues were struck predominantly on a new standard, referred to commonly as the Reduced Aiginetan (based on a drachm of c. 5 g). My project for the graduate seminar has been to examine how this new standard emerged and why so many states came to adopt it.

Full-weight silver stater, Aigina, 380–370 BCE. (ANS 1967.152.314)
Full-weight silver stater, Aigina, 380–370 BCE. (ANS 1967.152.314)

While the main outlines of this process have been known for some time, little attention has been focused on the chronology and initial stages of the spread of the Reduced Aiginetan standard. In my research I found that, while much attention has been paid to the adoption of this standard by federal states, it has gone unnoticed that the first evidence we have for its adoption in southern Greece comes from the coinages associated with two famous Peloponnesian sanctuaries: Olympia and Epidauros. These sanctuaries seem to have required all foreigners to use their coinages exclusively, and administrators thus realized that by lowering the weight of silver used to strike their coins they could make a considerable profit through moneychanging. This monetary reform can be dated fairly securely based on hoard evidence to right around 250 BCE in both cases, though it is unclear who was following whom. When we turn to the federal states of Greece, however, our evidence is less clear. The Boiotian League appears to have been the first to adopt this new standard around 250 BCE, though there is ambiguous evidence suggesting that it may have been adopted some decades earlier. In the case of the Aitolian League, it is clear that the new standard was only adopted in the 230s BCE, and the Achaian League does not appear to have issued Reduced Aiginetan coinage until the beginning of the 2nd c. BCE.

Reduced-weight silver hemidrachm, Olympia. (ANS 1955.54.357)
Reduced-weight silver hemidrachm, Olympia. (ANS 1955.54.357)

Why did these states opt to reduce the weight standard of their coinage? There are two likely factors. The first is that older, well-used Aiginetan coins continued to circulate as legal tender at this time; hoard evidence demonstrates that as a result a significant proportion of small silver coinage circulating in central and southern Greece in the mid-3rd c. BCE weighed c. 2.5 g (the weight of new Reduced Aiginetan hemidrachms). As such, states that derived revenue from circulating coinage were losing out if they struck full-weight issues. The second is that within a couple of decades this standard became the norm for military pay throughout much of Greece. In later 3rd c. BCE inscriptions, this Reduced Aiginetan coinage is referred to as “alliance silver”; it has been plausibly suggested that this name derives from the Hellenic Alliance of 224/3 BCE, a coalition of several federal states including the Achaians and Boiotians. The need to pay troops of different origins serving together thus probably provided the ultimate impulse leading to the widespread adoption of this standard by c. 200 BCE.

Reduced-weight silver drachm, Boiotian League. (ANS 1944.100.20197)
Reduced-weight silver drachm, Boiotian League. (ANS 1944.100.20197)
Reduced-weight silver hemidrachm, Achaian League, Argos. (ANS 1963.31.807)
Reduced-weight silver hemidrachm, Achaian League, Argos. (ANS 1963.31.807)

ANS Assists with Stepping Wavertree Mast

The Wavertree docked at New York City's South Street Seaport. (Photo Wikimedia Commons)
The Wavertree docked at New York City’s South Street Seaport. (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

As part of the revitalization of New York City’s premiere maritime museum, South Street Seaport, the ship Wavertree is currently undergoing restoration at Caldwell Marine in Staten Island. Once the restoration work is completed within the next month, Wavertree will return to her berth in the East River near the Brooklyn Bridge, where she will be open for display and will sail again on a limited basis within New York Harbor. The restoration work on the ship included the removal of all three of her masts, which provided an opportunity to perform the age-old tradition of placing a coin in the mast step before the mast is lowered and secured.

Three children place the coin in the socket for the Wavertree‘s mizzen mast. (Photo Alan Roche)

From archaeological evidence we know that this tradition dates back to at least the Roman Republican period, and very likely dates back even further. The reason for placing the coin is probably sacrificial, much like the coin dedications found in and around ancient temple sites. In this case the dedication was no doubt meant for Poseidon in the hopes he would look favorably upon the ship as it traversed his realm.

The mizzen mast is put in place atop the ANS-donated coin. (Photo Alan Roche)

As the curators at the South Street Seaport prepared for the stepping of Wavertree‘s masts, they approached the ANS for a coin that they might place under the mizzen, the last of the masts to go in. Since Wavertree was built in England in 1885, we selected a maundy fourpence of that year to donate for this auspicious occasion. Given by the British Monarch on Maundy Thursday as alms, these small silver coins serve more of a symbolic than monetary purpose. Thus a symbolic coin meant to serve a good purpose seemed the right choice for yet another occasion meant to serve a good purpose.

1885 Maundy Fourpence (ANS 2004.9.3729)

On August 16th, ANS curator Peter van Alfen and photographer Alan Roche were among the two dozen guests invited to witness the stepping of Wavertree’s last mast. The ANS’s donated maundy fourpence, now encased in lucite, was diligently placed in the mast step by three children before the 10-ton mast was finally lowered into place, where the coin will rest secure until the ship’s next refit, probably sometime around 2066. You will be able to find more information about this event, and the tradition of placing a coin in the mast step in ANS Magazine 2016, vol. 4.

ANS 2004.9.3729 encased in Lucite prior to being placed under the new mizzen mast. (Photo Alan Roche)

ANS Publications Honored with 2016 Numismatic Literary Guild Awards


Several ANS publications were honored by the Numismatics Literary Guild (NLG) at the American Numismatic Association’s 2016 World’s Fair of Money (August 9–13), winning three awards, and earning four honorable mentions:

Winner, Best World Paper Money Book: Michael Bonine, The Banknotes of the Imperial Bank of Persia: An Analysis of a Complex System with Catalogue

Winner, Best Website Token and Medal Article: “Emancipatory Day Token: Sarah Ann Proud” on the ANS Pocket Change blog, by Matt Wittmann

Winner, Clement F. Bailey Memorial Award, Best New Writer: Lara Fabian, for her ANS Magazine article, “The Starosselsky Collection: Imperial Histories and Cultural Currencies”

Extraordinary Merit went to Christopher McDowell (Colonial Newsletter editor) for his book, Abel Buell and the History of the Connecticut and Fugio Coppers, Scott Miller for Medallic Art of the American Numismatic Society, 1865–2014, and to Nathan Elkins for Monuments in Miniature: Architecture on Roman Coinage. Extraordinary Merit also went to David Hill for his ANS Magazine column, “Archives.”

Making Sense of Greco-Roman Legends on Western Kṣatrapa Coinage

1D3_8405Today’s post is written by Jeremy Simmonsa PhD candidate in the Classical Studies program at Columbia University. He has written on the topic of Indo-Roman trade, and in particular, the spice trade in antiquity.  His dissertation will look specifically at patterns of consumption in the larger Indian Ocean trade network, including the engagement between Indian monetary systems and imported Roman coinage. His project, as a participant of the the 2016 Eric P. Newman Graduate Summer Seminar, focuses on Western Kṣatrapa coins.


For my ANS Seminar Project, I decided to look at silver coins of the Western Kṣatrapas, who ruled in the modern day Indian states of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh from the mid-first to early fifth centuries CE (Figure 1). These coins have been indispensable for reconstructing the chronology of the Western Kṣatrapa kings, as well as the line of succession, due to the presence of dates (in the Śaka Era) and patronymics on coins. However, the feature of these coins that drew me to this project is the obverse legend, which appears to be written in a script that mixes Greek and Roman characters at random.

Fig. 1: Rudrasiṃha I coin, minted in year 118 of the Śaka Era (c. 196 CE) [BM 1889.0105.25]
These legends have been little discussed in scholarship (as opposed to the Brāhmī legends on the reverse), and have been variously labeled “Greek,” “corrupt/pseudo/blundered Greek,” or “Greco-Roman,” without much consideration of the larger implications of these different descriptions. In fact, it is a general practice to not record the obverse legends of Kṣatrapa coins in catalogues or other publications: cataloguers justify their actions by stating that the legends become corrupt over time and cease to have any meaning; and those publishing or auctioning a single coin tend not to transcribe the obverse legend at all.

This lack of scholarly attention arises from the assumption that the obverse legends at one point communicated written language—specifically, the coins of the early kings like Nahapāna, which have Greco-Roman script transliterations of the Prakrit reverse legends (Figure 2)—but that later die-cutters, due to their lack of skill or knowledge of Greek and Latin, merely rendered corrupt versions as a form of ornamentation. I believe this narrative of decline, first suggested over a century ago, is not only based on the limited evidence of early collections, but has been perpetuated by a regrettable practice of not recording positive data.

Fig. 2: Nahapāna coin, with transliterated obverse legend ΡΑΝΝΙω ΞΑΗΑΡΑΤΑC ΝΑΗΑΠΑΝΑC (rannio ksaharatas nahapanas, “of king Nahapāna, the Kṣaharata”; mid first century CE) [CNG Auction 369, Lot 24, 24 Feb. 2016]
Fig. 2: Nahapāna coin, with transliterated obverse legend ΡΑΝΝΙω ΞΑΗΑΡΑΤΑC ΝΑΗΑΠΑΝΑC (rannio ksaharatas nahapanas, “of king Nahapāna, the Kṣaharata”; mid-first century CE) [CNG Auction 369, Lot 24, 24 Feb. 2016]
In order to correct the treatment of obverse legends on Kṣatrapa coins in scholarship, I have created a database of Greco-Roman obverse legends found on silver coins minted during the three-and-a-half centuries of Kṣatrapa rule (from Nahapāna to Rudrasiṃha III). I gathered these legends from specimens presented in various museum catalogues, auction listings, and publications. While this task involved some difficulties due to the damaged nature of most obverse legends (Figure 3) and the poor quality of photographs, I managed to assemble a large corpus of data in order to supplement existing descriptions and serve as the basis of my initial observations.

Fig. 3: Vijayasena coin, with corroded traces of obverse legend (r. 238-250 CE) [ANS 1978.51.6]
Fig. 3: Vijayasena coin, with corroded traces of obverse legend (r. 238-250 CE) [ANS 1978.51.6]
It is my hope that these observations will contribute to the following aims: 1) determining which paleographic features of the obverse script are Greek versus Roman, in order to mitigate the problem of variable terminology; 2) outlining possible sources of inspiration for these legends, whether it be local precedents (e.g., Indo-Greek, Indo-Scythian, and Indo-Parthian), imported Roman coinage, or imitation Roman coinage produced in India (Figures 4 and 5); 3) uncovering any evidence of conscious design behind these legends (as opposed to mindless copying as previously suggested), indicated by similar patterns of letters, standardization of legends, etc.; 4) and, most importantly, speculating why the Kṣatrapa kings would design coins with unreadable obverse legends alongside very legible Brāhmī legends and numerals.

Fig. 4: Indo-Greek drachm of Apollodotus II, with Greek obverse legend (early first century BCE) [BM 1922.0424.120]
Fig. 4: Indo-Greek drachm of Apollodotus II, with Greek obverse legend (early first century BCE) [BM 1922.0424.120]
At the very least, it is my hope to show the merits in investigating elements of a coinage tradition that many have disregarded as “meaningless.”

Fig. 5: Imitation Roman aureus of Septimius Severus, found in India (early third century CE?) [ANS 1905.57.375; photo Klaus Vondrovec]
Fig. 5: Imitation Roman aureus of Septimius Severus, found in India (early third century CE?) [ANS 1905.57.375; photo Klaus Vondrovec]



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