archive also available
|Chicago Coin Club|
|Volume 48 No. 11||November 2002|
Old Business -
New Business -
Respectfully submitted by Steven Zitowsky
Presented by Donald Tzvi Ariel, head of the Coin Department of the Israel Antiquities Authority, to our October 9, 2002 meeting.
Coins are very regional in nature and when I was trying to decide on what to speak about tonight I picked something that I hope will be more stimulating on a theoretical level. I'll be speaking on the invention and dissemination of the idea of coinage. I'll be bringing examples from the region I'm familiar with that is the southern Levant (countries bordering on the eastern Mediterranean) but clearly these issues relate to a lot of numismatic research therefore I'm sure it has raminfications for the kinds of work most of you do. Although if you're working in modern coinage it may be less relevant.
Coins are among the most important historic documents that remain from ancient classical times. The first coins were struck in Lydia in western Anatolia, at the end of the seventh century BCE. But I do not intend to speak of the date and place of the first coins, but rather what were the functions behind their invention, and how, when and why did this important innovation spread. In fact, we do not know as much as we would like about the process by which the idea of striking coins came about, by whom and when. It would also be helpful to know more about how, why and when the use of coinage spread through the ancient world.
Coins are metal discs (1) usually struck (2) bearing a symbol(s) (3) and used as a means of exchange (4). The first coins were made of gold, silver or electrum (a more-or-less naturally appearing alloy of gold and silver), and were introduced and the end of the seventh and the beginning the sixth century BCE in western Anatolia.
In the course of this presentation we will touch upon most of these points of view. For the purpose of understanding the invention of coinage we must focus upon the the point of view of the ruler. Two of the principal benefits a nation derives from its own system of coinage are to signal the establishment of sovereignty and to control an economy. Since its invention, circulating coinage, sanctioned and manufactured by a sovereign, has been the ultimate document projecting sovereignty and defining an independent nation. While the idea behind and daily use of coins was to provide for a number of economic functions, they also had communication and propaganda values which, it has been claimed, are often overlooked. The importance of propaganda, for example, cannot be underestimated, especially in a world in which the coins themselves were perhaps the most advanced form of mass communications. Nevertheless, we do not know at what point after the invention of the idea of coinage, their propaganda value was discovered. I'm going to claim here that though we understand in the Roman period that coins had propaganda value, that in the earliest periods people didn't understand what could be done for disseminating knowledge on coins and there were other ideas behind the original use and invention of coins.
Numismatics developed as a entity separate from archaeology originally because it was one of the first of the antiquarian specializations in the Renaissance, well before archaeology came into its own. For that reason, from its beginnings, numismatics has had a strong art-historical component. Ironically, the realization of coins' obviously economic underpinning actually came well after the field developed. I would roughly date the study of the economics of numismatics to the nineteenth century. It is that focus which interests us here today. The art-historical numismatists focused on the messages on the coins, their so-called propaganda value. While this aspect of coins always existed, in fact it only fully came to the fore in the Roman period.
Before there were coins people conducted economic transactions using barter systems. The main commodities traded were agricultural products, metals, and manufactured goods. First would be the negotiation between the two parties. When the terms of the transaction was agreed upon, the two parties would have to measure out or weigh the commodities being exchanged. This measuring procedure would be the same, regardless if the commodity weighed were figs or flour or gold.
These commodities were weighed on free-balance scales, a cumbersome procedure to say the least. A technological innovation in the weighing procedure was accomplished a few centuries earlier than the invention of coinage, with the use of scale weights of recognizable shape, implying a certain weight or at least weight standard, and yet later with the addition of markings indicating the actual weight. They relate very closely to the invention of coins. Just as the valuable metals from which coins would later be struck were of course commodities themselves before the idea of coining was invented, so too the denominations which later became those of coins were originally weight standards for weighing upon the scale.
There were of course objects which could be described as primitive money, or pre-money, which run the gamut from pre-weighed but unmarked dumps, to punched and striated pieces. Perhaps not all, but most had to be weighed on a scale. Examples are specially cast ingots of valuable metals. Sometimes you have to take the money and weigh it to see what it's worth in the premonetary period. We believe that their use was less common, even though they exist in the archaeological record. It is logical that the more mundane premonetary transactions did not employ such sophistications. In pre-monetary economies people bartered, they negoitated, they agreed on a price and then they weighed out one commodity against another.
Before coinage, the weighing of bullion, silver for example, took place by cutting off fragments of partially melted broken jewelry or debris from silversmithing. Another view is that standard silver jewelry items themselves were of standard weights.
We find archaeological evidence of silver lumps melted together found from Anatolia to Egypt, and there are a good number of examples from the southern Levant. Pot hoards in which silver jewlery has been melted together into one large lump could be interpreted as raw materials for a silversmith, but may also be the materials of large barter transactions. For conducting a smaller purchase, all one had to do was to break off a piece of this hoarded material, and weigh it on a scale against a standard scale weight.
Since the time of Aristotle it has been assumed, and most people believe so to this day, that the logic of coinage was to facilitate the exchange process. Coins had symbols struck into them, and as long as the symbols were clear the weight and composition of the coins were considered to be known. According to this assumption, with the appearance of coins, overnight scale-weights should have became obsolete. For the first numismatists, who were art-historians, this assumption was satisfactory. Today it is not. Today we have to assume that together with the invention of coinage people were continuing to conduct many of their transactions in the barter technique. Today people still use barter and we have to understand that in tandem with the monetary economy there was/is barter.
The assumption of the facilitation of the exchange process may be broken down into two differing categories, akin to the difference between macro- and micro-economics. On the macro scale this implies that minting coins was meant to assist in transactions between nation-states. Of course we know of many, many transactions in the earliest periods of coinage in which very large quantities of coins were transferred between nation-states, for tribute and for other reasons. These transactions were described in ancient sources often in denominations of talents, but the actual transaction was made with sacks of raw silver or coins. When these coins arrived at their destination they were often melted down so that the bullion could be used for the minting of local currency. That being the case it does not appear that the inter-national exchange process was the original logical focus for the invention of coinage. Why would one expend energy to strike coins (no matter how inexpensive manpower was in those days), in order to weigh coins in sacks, and send those sacks abroad, where they were likely to be melted down? It doesn't make sense.
For the theory that coins were first introduced in order to resolve complexities of inter-regional (or international) exchange one would expect to find very large denominations, and not the 15 gram average coin weight known from those times. We must therefore search beyond the macro-economic explanation for the invention of the first coins.
In order to understand the micro-economic logic for the invention of coins, let us consider the point of view of the ruler of a region or city-state. Did he have an interest in facilitating the process of exchanging goods in his city's marketplace? This may perhaps be the case as relates to upscale purchases, ones that entail the exchange of one or a number of 15 gram silver coins. The merchants dealing on that level of commerce, called wholesalers, would have been important to a regional ruler and he would have wanted to assist them. At the same time, that regional ruler would likely not have cared less about simplifying the process by which one would buy fruits and vegetables in the marketplace.
We therefore believe that there is more to the invention of coinage than the facilitation of mid-level exchange. We believe that the explanation for the introduction of coins in early sixth century economies of western Anatolia has to do with the king's own profit motive:
Some enterprising potentate in Anatolia realized that he could mint coins with his symbol on them that was a fraction lighter than the guaranteed weight. The extra silver/electrum/gold that ruler would make from the transaction by underweighing the coin would more than cover the labor costs of minting the coins.
After minting these slightly lighter coins, the potentate could then obligate his subject to pay taxes to him with these coins, as opposed to taxes in kind (the barter system). In order for the ruler's subjects to accomplish this, they would have to go to the potentate or his representatives, and exchange pure specie at full weight for the slightly lighter coins. And in this way the ruler makes a profit on his first transactions. This is now an idea of how it came about that a ruler would want to mint coins in the very earliest period.
The first factor in the dynast's mind therefore regards his revenue, in the form of taxes. A second consideration for the ruler in the minting of local currency relates to his expenditures. One of the largest expenditures for a ruler was his military activity, from the labor for construction of fortifications, timber for war-galleys, to the support of of a standing army, meaning mercenaries. War in the ancient world was almost continuous. The minting of 15 gram silver denominations was a appropriate size for disbursing monthly payments to mercenaries, who were generally not poorly paid. Payment in slightly lighter coin as opposed to weighed silver weighed on a scale would also constitute a savings for the ruler.
Let us add a legend to the story of the first appearance of coins. You may be familiar of the story of the "Midas touch" - the king who has his wish fulfilled that whatever he touched would turn into gold. This legend is set in the sixth century in western Anatolia. While it is only a legend, it is interesting that there is a commonality of elements with the first introduction of coins in the world, especially a certain king named Croesus (560-546 BCE) to whom the development of the first coins is attributed. A potentate in western Anatolia was preoccupied with gold, and came up with a way of making money from it.
Who minted coins?
We already said that coins were minted by local authorities. Like most generalizations this one too has its exceptions. Still for the most part, coins were minted for the leading political frameworks. In the sixth century this was the city-state, and alliances, leagues between city-states. Later dynasties, monarchies, etc. were minting authorities as well.
The idea of minting coins took some time to become common. We believe it did become common precisely because the trading classes found in it a convenient way of conducting their business. So I'm claiming the original incentive might have been the rulers to make some profit from the use of coins, but the people who got the ball rolling in a real way were the upper classes and merchants. The king would not have cared too much that coins were convenient, he wanted to get his "piece of the action", but the merchants saw the convenience and encouraged the king to continue making coins. The idea of minting coins first spread from western Anatolia to the Greek peninsula and islands. Within one century silver became the standard for valuable specie coins for the ancient world - besides the earliest issues, in those periods minting in gold and especially in electrum was very rare. The weight of the coins were based on the age-old weighing standards used with scale-weighing: the drachm, stater, daric, denar, and sheqel.
So the invention of coinage resulted from a marriage of economic interests, primarily that of the minting authority, and secondarily, but not less significantly the coins' usefulness for the upscale trading community.
As I have indicated, scholars have not always held these views of the development and propagation of coinage. A great deal of the study of subject has been colored by texts in the Bible. There, Abraham purchased the Machpela cave in Hebron as a burial place for his wife, from an Ephron the Hittite, for the sum of 400 silver sheqels. In many other places in the Bible we hear of taxes, payments and other transactions. The first Bible scholars thought these transactions implied the use of coins. Later, after it became clear that coins were not invented in the time of Abraham scholars restricted themselves to identifying ancient coins in words in those books of the Bible that date to after 600 BCE. I am referring to the books of Ezra and Nehemia. We now know that all of the books of the Bible were redacted or edited after the destruction of the first Temple in 586 BCE, and consequently after the inventions of coinage. In Ezra & Nehemia we find the words 'drkwn and drkmwn. These words certainly relate to the word drachm. Bible scholars believed that because there were coins called drachmas by that time, that here we have mention of them. In fact, while it is true that there were coins in existence by this time, they most likely had not made their way to Judea. And if they had, it is not sure that in such a backward place as Judea was at that time, people would have recognized the functionality of the object as a coin. So there are no references to coins in the Bible. The opposite is true: the many reference to weighing silver in the Bible shows us how very common it was in antiquity to breakout the scales, and do one's transaction by weighing. The Bible interdicts against scales that have been tampered with, as well as criminally inaccurate scale weights. This was important in the Bible because all purchases were conducted by weighing: weighing one commodity against another, or weighing a commodity against silver.
The idea of minting coins did not spread as quickly to the east. While the idea came into being around the Neo-Babylonian period (in the terminology of the southern Levant), the idea did not spread there until much later. The Persians could have adopted the innovation of coinage, but essentially did not, until late in their rule. The one coin series with Persian types is today thought to be the local currency of a more enlightened Lydian satrap, and was minted in Sardis. If alternatively it was a royal coinage of King Darius, it was only meant for commerce with the newly monied west.
Why did the idea of coining not spread easily to the east? While the Persian empire was very powerful, and well-organized, it was still organized on a very traditional framework, which was interested neither in innovation, nor in developments like improving commerce. The Persians maintained a benign administration over the southern Levant. For them the whole area belonged in a satrapy called "eber nahara" - beyond the river (not the Jordan but the Euphrates River). In fact, this "eber nahara" was subdivided into districts. Some of the known ones were: Cilicia (northwest Syria), Phoenicia, Samaria, Judea, Philistia, South Arabia, and Egypt.
On a more mundane level, the Persian world was based on an even lower level of agrarian economy. Payment of taxes was "in kind" (paid with produce from the fields). The local satrap would not succeed were he to insist that his backward people pay their taxes in coin.
The first research on the subject of the dissemination of the idea of coinage in the Levant considered stray-finds of coins in order to establish the acceptance of coins as money. Coins are found in the Levant, where I come from, but the quantities are low enough that we can suspect they were not in fact viewed as coins when they arrived in the region. These early coin finds should be viewed as curios or heirlooms (objects collected/preserved for sentimental value at a much later date than when they were originally used). Some of those coins have crude incision marks, indicating the coins were examined for their purity. This suggests a culture in which coins were not yet accepted as such.
The few coins appearing in the region from this time are from the Greek peninsula and islands: Kos, Aegae, Lycia, Thasos and especially the Athenian tetradrachm, which became by far the most important coin later in the Persian period. All of these coins date to the fifth century BCE.
The dates of the earliest coin hoards in a region can also provide a date for the acceptance of a coined money economy. For the Levant at least, the earliest coin hoards date from the 5th century B.C.E. and they come together with the hacksilber, silversmithing debris. Those earliest coin hoards can provide a date for the acceptance of a coin money economy in the Levant. Alongside the coins there appear broken pieces of silver ("hacksilber"), indicating the people didn't have a clear sense of what a coin was for and how it could be used. These hoards are evidence of the time when, while coins were accepted for what they were, their value as silver was equally obvious. The person who hoarded those coins could use the coin as a coin, or as a piece of silver, depending on his needs. This phenomenon continued to a much lesser extent for many centuries.
Moreover, the range of variation of weights of the earliest coins was great, up to 25%. Therefore, it seems that in the first period of the local coinages, in spite of the symbols struck on the coins many coins were themselves still placed on scales, in the course of transactions, in order to verify the weight. People still did not quite get what the usefulness of coins were if they had to weight them anyway.
However, it would appear that the above ways only determine the date by which coins were accepted in the macro-economy of a region. The first coinages noted above were silver coinages, and the earliest hoards noted above were silver hoards. Silver coins were more relevant for use in large transactions within a region and between regions. What about the microeconomics of small cities, or even the village marketplace? One would presume that the further one goes from trading centers, the traditional methods of barter would remain as the predominant means of exchange, and the acceptance of coined money would be slower.
It appears that the above ways only determined the date that coins were accepted in the macro-economy of a region. We can also establish the date for the acceptance of coins by the local minting of coins. While we have in the Levant imported coins from the west, the moment we find a local mint making coins we must assume that by then they understood what coins were for. While in 600 BCE we have coins in the west, in the east the first coins minted were made somewhere around 450 BCE. That's a 150 year difference. This process continued through to the end of the Persian period to the time of Alexander the Great.
For the micro-economy of the ancient classical world, another phenomenon can establish the date by which coins were accepted. This phenomenon is the introduction of coins of bronze. The components of bronze, copper with tin (added to provide hardness), are - relative to gold and silver - quite inexpensive. Bronze is a composite material. Therefore it would be difficult for it to serve as a denominational standard. How could anyone be sure of the value of the material, if the two components could be found in very different proportions? Bronze coins had some denominational relationship with regard to silver coins, but as should be expected, it was likely that the relationship had to do with the market forces in the marketplace, and with the amount of wear and tear the coin underwent.
It may be that bronze came to be minted in order to replace the inconvenient, very minute silver coins of the southern Levant. Or it may be - from the point of view of the minting authority - that bronze coins were minted in order to provide change for fractional tax payments, or to simplify fractional expenditures. But there is no doubt that they almost immediately provided a function in the marketplace, and facilitated small purchases. With the development of bronze coins we have finally and unequivocally reached the stage in which coinage was used to universally facilitate the exchange process. This is called a fiduciary coinage: the bronze coins only have value by virtue of their linkage to truly valuable bullion, silver or gold.
The development of bronze coinage occurs at the end of the fifth century BCE in the west, and in the fourth century BCE in the east. This is two centuries after the invention of the idea of coinage. In the regions noted above (Cilicia, Phoenicia, Philistia, Samaria, Judea and Egypt), only two cities, both in Phoenicia (Sidon and Tyre), minted bronze coins before the appearance of Alexander the Great. This would suggest that popular, universal acceptance of coinage for daily transactions began first in the most developed of municipal centers.
The dissemination of these bronze coins from Sidon and Tyre can be traced. They appear along the coastline. Obviously more are known from northern sites than from southern sites. Less are known from inland. It is only with the appearance of Alexander the Great that we can be sure that the acceptance of coinage for other than large transactions was complete in the Levant. His bronzes and bronzes of the early Ptolemaic and Seleucid kings are much more prevalent than the pre-Alexandrine bronzes. In the third but especially in the second century BCE many cities also minted bronze coins for their local needs.
However, we must bear in mind that traditional methods of barter and payment in kind prevailed for many centuries and never disappeared completely. The literary evidence, even in the Zenon papyri, is equivocal. Today there is a difference between the words "coins" and "money". In antiquity, the same was the case. But the word for "money" was the same as the word for "silver". Many times we cannot know whether payments were made in coin or by weighing on a scale.
To Summarize: The reason for the invention of coinage may be more complex than originally thought, being dependent on the rationales of both the minting authorities and other classes in the ancient world. Later, the acceptance of the idea of coinage spread, for a number of reasons. These latter reasons were in all likelihood quite different than those reasons for their invention. So while the first coins were minted around 600 BCE, their acceptance was slow and irregular. In the regions of Phoenicia and Philistia, and their economic backwaters (Galilee, Samaria and Judea), there was a creeping acceptance of the use of coins until the end of the fourth century BCE, even whilst the traditional barter systems did not disappear.
We can use the appearance of local mints to establish the acceptance of the idea of coinage. And we can use the bronze issues to prove the acceptance in the retail market of the use of coinage in its earliest periods.
Each image has a scale in the lower-left corner, with the tics spaced 1 mm apart. Because the brightness and contrast were manipulated on a computer, the coloring of a coin's image differs from the coin's actual coloring.
The annual Banquet will be held at the Alpine Banquet Haus located at 11141 West Roosevelt Road (at Wolf Road), Westchester, IL 60154. Phone 708-409-8640.
We will have the Alpine Banquet Haus from 6:00 PM until 10:30 or later at our discretion. The cost is $20.00 per person and members are encouraged to bring family, friends and neighbors. Checks should be made out to the Chicago Coin Club, and may be given to Lyle Daly or mailed to the club's mail box, P.O. Box 2301, Chicago, IL 60690.
The location is very easy to get to and there is ample FREE parking only a few feet from their front door. There will be an open cash bar with a knowledgeable bartender.
The dinner meal will be served family style and consists of:
The owner and chef is European trained and has worked for Hotel Nikko, Ritz Carlton, the Whitehall, Mayfair Regent International and Chez Paul. The banquets many of us have attended there in the past have always been very professionally done and the cuisine is excellent.
submitted by Bob Feiler
During my June 2002 trip to the Czech Republic, hobbies of Genealogy and Numismatics suddenly joined hands, lo and behold, when visiting Jirí (George) Ryant in Prague, I learned he was a noted numismatist honored for his research by the American Numismatic Society. Jirí has well over 80 trays of coins, ancient and modern, as well as bank notes. One USA bank note that I saw was a crisp UNC 1835 New York bank note.
Jirí's library has a copy of Yeoman's Red Book. In the picture, Jirí is showing me (CCC Member #369) and my wife Rosalind (CCC Member #900) his copy of the Red Book.
The next day at the 2nd Ryant Family reunion, Jirí gave me an UNC 1931 10 Crown and an UNC 1934 20 Crown, which were minted for regular circulation. He also gave me commemmmorative coins, an UNC 1928 10 Crown celebrating the 10th Anniversary of Independence and and UNC 1937 20 Crown honoring Masaryk.
Rest assured, the next time I can attend a CCC Meeting, these coins will be my "show & tell" so all will have an opportunity to view these beautiful coins.
|June 18, 2002||Charles L. Ryant, Jr.|
Here are the lots known to us by October 30, 2002. The gaps in the lot numbering are intentional; they simplify our book keeping. The auction will be held near the start of the meeting, after a short time for lot examination; consignments are accepted until the auction starts.
Material Donated to Club:
Duplicates from the Club's archives:
Material consigned by members.
The nominations committee agreed on the following nominees for the 2003 - 2004 officers and Board. The election will be held during the December meeting.
|1st VP||Robert Feiler|
|2nd VP||Jeff Rosinia|
Bill Burd, Committee Chair
|Date:||November 13, 2002|
Please remember the security measures at our meeting building: give a club officer the names of all your guests prior to the meeting day; and everyone must show their photo-ID at the security desk.
|Member Auction:||Although the deadline for listing lots in the Chatter is past,
you can still bring your lots with you to the November meeting.
In the past few years, club
related material (and Chicago area numismatic items) have
realized the best results. Please consider using the club auction
to dispose of the numismatic items you no longer need.
You can place a reserve on each lot, and there is no commission charged to either the buyer or seller. Auction lot viewing will be held before the meeting starts, and again briefly before the auction starts.
Please find elsewhere in this issue of the Chatter a listing of all auction lots that were known to us by DWednesday, October 30.
|November||13||CCC Meeting - Club Auction - no featured speaker|
|December||11||CCC Meeting - Annual Banquet - Featured Speaker to be announced|
|December||6||Allen H. Meyer||1990|
|December||6||M. Michael Williams||2000|
|December||7||Brian C. Stubbs||1980|
|December||26||Kevin J. Blocker||2000|
|December||31||Phillip J. Carrigan||1989|
All correspondence pertaining to Club matters
should be addressed to the Secretary and mailed to:
CHICAGO COIN CLUB
P.O. Box 2301
CHICAGO, IL 60690
|Carl Wolf||- President|
|Robert Feiler||- First Vice President|
|Donald Dool||- Second Vice President|
|Other positions held are:|
|Lyle Daly||- Secretary Treasurer|
|Paul Hybert||- Chatter Editor|
|Phil Carrigan||- Archivist|