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All Posts Tagged With: "Roman Coins"

Using Ancient Coins to Map Trade Routes in Mediterranean Europe

Researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton have launched a research project in which nuclear radiation is used to identify changes in metal content among ancient Greek and Roman coins held in a world-class collection amassed at the university since the 1940s.

By probing the metal content of coins exchanged thousands of years ago in Mediterranean Europe, the scientists have discovered a new way to map ancient trade patterns, to retrace economic ups and downs at the dawn of Western Civilization and even to shed new light on the collapse of the Roman Empire.

“As we determine what the coins are made of, we are then able to reconstruct ancient trade routes, understand the development of economies and even determine the extent of counterfeiting,” McMaster archeologist Dr.Spencer Pope states in a project summary issued Tuesday. “This research will help us link the archeological to the historical to understand how we, as a society, got to where we are today.”

A joint project between the university’s classics department and its department of medical physics and applied radiation sciences, the ancient coin initiative involves x-ray analysis and a “proton microprobe” to determine how much silver, bronze or gold is contained in each piece of money.

“We use multiple systems to look for a number of metals — gold, copper, silver — present in the outer layer of the coins,” said radiation scientist Michael Farquharson. “Then we use the McMaster Nuclear Reactor to penetrate deeper into the coin to determine whether or not the coin was plated with a different material than it was actually made of.”

“For the Roman period, there are many crises that can be recognized in the numismatic record,” said Pope, describing one “budget crunch” during Punic Wars of the 3rd century B.C., when Rome was battling Carthage — centred in present-day Tunisia — for control of the Mediterranean world.

“We can see metal coins begin to have more base metal — junk metal — added to ‘debase’ the coins,” he noted. “As Rome and other cities fall into crises and get into economic trouble, more bronze coins appear (rather than silver), and even these are diluted by tin or lead.” So far, about 20 coins have undergone this “deep probe”. (more…)

Second Edition of Rasiel Suarez’ Book “Encyclopedia of Roman Imperial Coins” Available

OLYMPIA, WA. November, 2010 — Lovers of classical Rome along with legions of coin collectors helped drive 2005’s “Encyclopedia of Roman Imperial Coins” to an unlikely Top Ten position in the most sought after out-of-print books in America according to Bookfinder.com the news of which was then brought to national attention in an article in the Christian Science Monitor. These fans were pleased when noted numismatist Rasiel Suarez announced the availability of the long-awaited second edition just days later.

Customers who had been on the preorder queue, many for several months, were instantly impressed with the heft and sheer beauty of the book which tips the scales at just short of ten pounds. Amazon and Facebook fan page reviews continued praise in monolothic response with the common denominator being the breathtaking scope of the information covered and the eye candy of so many thousands of rare coins reproduced in high resolution color photography; a welcome departure from the customary fuzzy gray images otherwise so prevalent in numismatic literature.

The sizzle may sell but ultimately it’s the steak that feeds. ERIC II’s content catalogues a dizzying 60,000+ coin varieties far outclassing all previous Roman reference works in this critical metric then adds current market pricing and rarity data in an innovative approach that is considerably more accurate than the vague price guides published up until now.

Besides the text dealing directly with the coinage, the author has crammed every nook and cranny with biographical and historical notes relevant to each of the reigns. Even in this capacity, where photographs are not essential, the author nevertheless spares no opportunity to include even more of them in a bid to make each of its almost 300 sections a tidy, self-contained database of all the knowledge pertinent to that domain thus earning it the encyclopedia status of its namesake title.

First printing limited to 3,000 units, $149.95. Autographed and numbered copies of ERIC II: The Encyclopedia of Roman Imperial Coins may be ordered from the publisher’s website at dirtyoldbooks.com

About the Author

Rasiel Suarez is owner and co-founder of Dirty Old Coins, LLC, a company founded in 2002 with the vision of bringing the hobby of ancient coin collecting to a broad demographic largely unaware that owning genuine ancient coins was both possible and affordable. 2005 saw the release of his first book, The Encyclopedia of Roman Imperial Coins, which broke new ground in making the subject much more accessible to those entering the hobby.

By 2007 the company had sold over one million Roman coins by way of retail-ready coin kits that taught thousands of families how to restore these ancient artifacts using the same methods museums use. His success as an author and recognized expert in the field of Roman numismatics was cemented by the release of the second edition of his Encyclopedia in the Fall of 2010. An avid traveler and photographer, Rasiel lives with his family in Olympia, Washington.

Testimony at the Cultural Property Advisory Committee Hearing: To Be or Not To Be

By Wayne Sayles – Ancient Coin Collecting

That is the Question on everyone’s mind this morning as the Cultural Property Advisory Committee reconvened on Friday to consider the extension of a bilateral agreement with Italy that restricts the importation of certain classes of antiquities into the United States. Thursday morning, the committee heard comments in open public session from representatives of five main groups of concerned citizens—Archaeologists, Museum Administrators, Art and Antiquity Collectors, the Numismatic Trade and Ancient Coin Collectors.

From the numismatic community’s perspective, extension of the current Memorandum Of Understanding in some form seems a foregone conclusion, though some opponents argued very persuasively that the whole MOU is badly flawed and should be scrapped. The pressing issue for coin collectors is whether the addition of coins, already exempted in two previous five-year terms of the MOU, is to be or not to be.

In an era when politicians on both sides of the aisle are clamoring for transparent government and “sunshine” laws offer a promise of fair play and access, the U.S. State Department doggedly maintains its “distance” from the looking glass of public scrutiny.

None of the seven speakers from the numismatic community had the foggiest notion whether Italy had even requested that coins should be added—an ironic situation, since the State Department hearing was held in that part of Washington known as “Foggy Bottom.”

Unlike the mysterious Chinese request some years ago, one might presume, from the comments of Mr. Stefano De Caro, General Director of Antiquities within the Italian Ministry of Culture, that Italy did indeed ask for the addition of coins—even though the State Department ignored direct requests for an answer to that question.

Sebastian Heath, whose affiliation was vague and was actually the point of a followup question by one committee member, was listed by the State Department as an American Institute of Archaeology representative. He claimed, upon pressing of the point, that he actually represented himself. The fact that Heath often works for or at the American Numismatic Society, and personally participated in drafting the ANS statement on cultural property, was questioned in light of his recommendation that coins be added to the MOU.

The ANS statement says, in part, “…..within the world of artifacts, coins as a class do, in fact, stand apart.” Heath avoided the apparent conflict of positions by stating repeatedly that to his knowledge the ANS takes no position in the issue. It would have been interesting to see that question explored in some depth, but Mr. Heath mercifully escaped being hoist with his own petard for lack of time in the busy agenda. (more…)

A Time to Speak Out – Will Ancient Coins from Italy be Restricted?

The U.S. State Department has announced a date of May 6-7 for Cultural Property Advisory Committee hearings on the request for renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding with Italy. Hopefully your eyes are not already glazed over by this first sentence.

In practical terms, the U.S. government is about to decide whether antiquities and other forms of cultural property that Italy claims as its heritage ought to be restricted from entry into the U.S. unless accompanied by Italian export permits. There is already such an agreement in place, but ancient coins have been exempted twice before in these renewal requests that cover a 5-year window.

We have very good reason to believe that Italy and members of the archaeological community will this time seek to add coins to the list of restricted items.

There is a period open for public comment on the issue and the best way to comment is by fax. Don’t despair, this is VERY easily done. Simply go to the ACCG web site at http://accg.us and click on the Fax Wizard link (picture of U.S. Capitol Building) on the left side of the page. It says “Fax Your Legislator” but will indeed send your message to the State Department. You will be guided through a brief and easy to follow process that sends a free fax to the State Department registering your views.

Why oppose these import restrictions? Because Roman coins are at the very core of the cultural experience that we all treasure. They have circulated all over the known world in antiquity and since through trade and collector markets. It is impossible to distinguish a Roman coin found in Britain, for example, from exactly the same type, mint, etc found in Italy.

Requiring an export permit from Italy on a coin found and legally exported from Britain would not only be impractical, it would not have any legal foundation. Still, any court challenge by an individual is unlikely since the legal costs usually far exceed the value of seized objects.

We simply MUST oppose any expansion of the MOU with Italy to include coins. We must do so with an absolutely resounding voice.

Import restrictions are simply not a viable solution to protecting archaeological sites. They are an idealist panacea that cause far more harm to society than any possible good. Excluding the U.S. collector and trade from the legitimate world market for Roman coins, or unilaterally forcing draconian documentation requirements on Americans, would be grossly prejudicial and would certainly be against the interests of American citizens and their traditional freedoms. (more…)

The Bishop’s Wood Hoard of Roman Coins To Be Sold By Baldwins

Baldwin’s are delighted to announce that they will be offering for sale by auction a portion of Roman coins from the Bishop’s Wood Hoard of 1895 as part of their 4-5 May 2010 London event.

The extensive hoard was unearthed at Bishop’s Wood, near Ross-on-Wye, just across the Herefordshire border and within the surroundings of the Forest of Dean. Several other, smaller finds, of similar coins had also been found along this route but none as vast or as interesting as this. It was discovered in a rough walling built against the hillside by workmen who were in the process of repairing a road and who struck an earthenware vessel containing the coins. The accidental strike from a pick broke the jar and scattered its contents in various directions.

Details of the hoard were first published in the 1896 edition of the Numismatic Chronicle, and also in the editorial of the Numismatic Circular in November of that year. In both publications a total of 17,550 coins were listed, although a number had already been lifted and dispersed around the region by the time the coins were rescued. Many of these coins were subsequently given to local museums and the portion now being sold by Baldwin’s (containing 1,661 coins and the restored jar that contained them) has remained in the family of the original landowner since they were found in 1895.

Included with the hoard is a reprint of the article from the Numsimatic Chronicle of 1896 and a reprint of ‘Notes on a Great Hoard of Roman Coins found at Bishop’s Wood in 1895’ from the “Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society”, vol. XIX, pp. 399-420, both written by Mary Bagnall-Oakeley. The latter also includes the author’s handwritten annotations and a list, dated March 1898, of the museums and institutions that she was aware had received portions of the hoard. (more…)

Baldwin’s Auction 62 & 63 to Feature Ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine Coins

The latest auction organised by Baldwin’s auction department begins with an impressive selection of Ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine coins featuring a very rare Greek Medallion (lot 105, pictured below). It is presumed that this medallion was produced to commemorate an African victory of the emperor Commodus, although it appears to have few details of any specific campaign, and it is thought that this could be the specimen illustrated in Gnecchi.

baldwins_commodus_medalThe British section of the auction comprises over 400 lots and includes a collection of 69 Maundy Sets from the period 1660 – 2008, 38 lots of Anglo-Saxon Pennies and a fine selection of 5 Guinea pieces. Alongside these coins are a selection of high grade British 19th Century copper tokens, including some rare and unpublished varieties. A small but well-formed group of rare English banknotes, includes as the highlight, an Isle of Man, Bank of Mona Specimen £5 from 1867 (lot 596).

The first day of the auction concludes with a highly comprehensive range of world coins including an outstanding collection of Danish coins and an interesting group of South American and Spanish American coinage. The Danish collection of coins features many incredible rarities, including lots 605 and 652, a Christian III (1535-1559) Gold Gulden and a Christian VII (1766-1808) Gold Ducat, both desirable pieces, and an exceptionally rare square gold 6-Daler from 1604 (lot 606), which is possibly a unique die combination. The highlight of the South American/Spanish American collection is lot 706, a gold 8-Escudos which is among the “top five known” in quality for this date. These two collections are complemented by nice groups of coins from modern Cyprus, medieval Georgia and modern Greece.

An outstanding collection of Scottish gallantry and campaign medals forms the basis of the first part of the second day of the auction. Awarded, in the main, to soldiers with the surname Rennie, the most notable amongst the group is lot 1104, an extremely rare Great War Military Medal with two bars (pictured above). This particular medal was awarded to Private W. Rennie Gordon, a member of the Gordon Highlanders who were renowned for their bravery. (more…)