|Volume 69 No. 3||March, 2023|
The 1249th meeting of the Chicago Coin Club was called to order by President John Riley at 6:45 PM CST, Wednesday February 8, 2023. This was a hybrid in-person and online meeting. Attendance at the meeting was 17 in person and 30 online for a total of 47.
Club Meeting Minutes and Treasurer’s Report
The January 2023 meeting minutes were approved as published in the Chatter, both in print and on the CCC website. The January treasurer’s report was shown to the club, reporting income of $1,801.00 with expenses of $0.00, for a period gain of $1,801.00. The report was approved by the membership.
The club was reminded that due to the 1250th Banquet and counterstamped American Silver Eagle sales, income will be recorded in multiple months however expenses will likely hit all in February, showing a single period loss; overall banquets and coin/medal sales are close to revenue neutral.
Guests and New Members
One guest was announced: Noah J. Graf, a guest of Deven Kane. Two new membership applications were submitted for their first reading. New member readings were for Tyler M. Rossi and Noah J. Graf.
First Vice President Melissa Gumm introduced the featured program, Eduardo Garcia-Molina on Small Change, Big Change: Researching Seleukid “Bottlecap” Bronzes at the American Numismatic Society.
Second Vice President Deven Kane announced there were 12 Show and Tell presentations.
Our next meeting will be March 8, 2023, and will be in-person only at Capri Restaurant, Palos Heights.
John Riley adjourned the meeting at 9:01pm CST.
Scott A. McGowan, Secretary
by Eduardo Garcia-Molina,
presented to our February 8, 2023 meeting
(abridged by Chatter editor)
As a general introduction, the American Numismatic Society hosts a yearly eight week summer seminar on numismatic training that is generally divided into two chunks: the first is roughly four weeks of intensive lectures on numismatic history and more general ones on methodology, hoards, and even publishing, and the second being more open and research-focused which allows you time to construct your research project. I very much enjoyed my time at the ANS and my research benefitted immensely not only from the numismatic training and resources available, but also from the scholarly community it continually strives to foster. Since I study Hellenistic coins, they paired me with Dr. Peter van Alfen, the current Chief Curator and a prolific scholar on, among other things, Greek coinage. Between our first lectures, I had a meeting with Peter to discuss the aims of my tentative project. At that point, I only had one Seleukid coin in mind – an elephant holds a torch in its trunk on one side of a coin with serrations around both sides. Peter, who is a very kind and generous scholar, encouraged me to broaden my scope and think not only about the iconography itself, but how the coin fit into broader trends in Seleukid coinage of the time. This is an often-overlooked aspect in some numismatic inquiries; the allure of the iconographical readings without sufficient consideration of either the quantitative aspects, like levels of monetization, hoards, and metrological data or qualitative aspects beyond the initial iconographical elements, the fabric of the coin and consideration of the coin as a worked object requiring a substantial investment to produce.
I took the opportunity to access the ANS vault and sit down with trays of coins that I had only ever seen in images within articles and books, behind glass, or online. There really is something to the tactile experience of holding a coin, a sort of experiential bridge between modernity and antiquity. As I went through the trays, I started encountering these bronzes with odd, jagged edges. Serrated bronzes appear in the Western portions of the Seleukid Empire for roughly 50 years between the 170s and the 120s BC. This naturally led me to ask the question, “Why?” These were generally thought to be stylistic choices, but if we recall Peter’s advice, we must attempt to situate coins as worked objects that require coordination and thus purpose; plus “style” in and of itself serves a function. Herein I think is one of the strengths of this program. It has been explicitly stated by scholars working on Hellenistic coinage, that their production is almost always predicated by a tangible purpose, the most common of which, especially for bronzes, is large-scale payments to soldiers. This is why scholars must treat numismatic evidence seriously, beyond the allure of the figures on the coins themselves; these figures very frequently work in tandem with other aspects and you run the risk, as some have, of misrepresenting the evidence. Here, for instance, it is not only the serrations that are introduced; there are control marks and central cavities, too. Such innovations, I believe, were spurred by the changing geopolitical situation, especially the acquisition of the former Ptolemaic territories of Koile Syria and Phoenicia, and Seleukid responses to these regions’ monetary customs. Thus in order for me to attempt to answer this question of “why serrations”, I had to examine when these coins were first created to attempt to glean a purpose. So let us now turn to the first Seleukid king to make use of this type of fabric, Seleukos IV.
Preceded and succeeded by two of the most prominent Seleukid monarchs, much of Seleukos IV’s twelve-year reign is shrouded in uncertainty. A consequence of this is that his rule has drawn little attention compared to those of his predecessor, Antiokhos III, and his successor, Antiokhos IV, both of whom are much better attested in sources and have been the subjects of scholarly monographs and conferences. Nevertheless, Seleukos IV, who has generally been painted as a feeble king by ancient sources, assumed the throne and reigned during a significant time in Seleukid history. The Seleukid Kingdom was a Hellenistic polity which stretched at its greatest extent from Ionia on the west coast of modern Turkey to Baktria in modern Afghanistan and was founded in 312 BC. While the severity of their impact is still subject to debate, it is clear that the conquest of Koile Syria and Phoenicia, the loss of Asia Minor, and the stipulations codified in the Treaty of Apameia that followed the Seleukid defeat in the Roman-Seleukid War from 192 to 188 BC, right before Seleukos IV’s reign, affected the subsequent governance of the Hellenistic empire.
Among the many stipulations were: the cessation of Seleukid rule and further claims over the lucrative territories beyond the Taurus, the prohibition of elephants and warships above a certain number and size, and the payment of indemnities to the Romans and Eumenes through an initial lump sum (3,000 talents) to be followed by yearly installments of 1,000 talents for twelve years (12,000 talents) in addition to a payment of 350 talents to Eumenes spread over five years; notably, the Romans demanded these sums be paid in high quality silver coinage under the Attic standard. This did not result in debasement of the coinage; one must consider the open monetary policy of the Seleukids which allowed for all coins of the Attic standard to circulate and wherein debasement would have carried consequences for the mercantile standing of the polity in the interconnected trade networks of the Hellenistic Mediterranean. The open monetary policy utilized by the Seleukids allowed for a degree of flexibility since Seleukid coins circulated alongside non-Seleukid coins with some modern estimates presenting a ratio of 1:2 in favor of non-Seleukid coinage. This would have allowed for selectivity in the coinage used to pay the yearly payments of Apameia with the Romans demanding silver coins under the Attic standard with no provision concerning their origin. When one also accounts for the loss of Asia Minor and a fruitless final campaign, the numerous years of constant warfare by his predecessor, and events that hint at financial duress, it would be surprising if there had been no financial strain. Note I employ the word “strain,” not collapse or crisis. There is clear pressure which coincides with an increased effort to monetize the western portion of the empire in a push to extract more funds.
The introduction of bronze currency presents to us an opportunity to examine how the state apparatus interacted with subject populations and vice versa. This is what led me to examine a particular series of bronze coins instituted under the reign of Seleukos IV which feature a relative oddity, serrated edges. Now, when I say serrated edges, I do not mean those more well-known ones found on Roman denarii which were scored manually after striking. These serrations were crafted into the very molds for the flans. Because of this, they are at times referred to as “bottlecap” coins. But it is not only the serrations that are introduced. The role of these serrations has been largely consigned by scholars to a stylistic one with little consideration given to their relationship with the circulation of Seleukid bronzes during this period, the restructuring of Seleukid minting and broader administrative practices, and the other innovations I noted. I think that form is congruous with function; the serration and other innovations of Seleukos IV’s bronzes indicate a change in the way the Seleukid administration operated and represented itself in a specific region.
Once I had sketched out the initial historical context surrounding Seleukos with the resources of the ANS Library, I approached the bronzes themselves. I was helped in this endeavor by complementing lectures on metrological analysis and further discussions with not only my fellow students and our invited scholar, Jerome Jambu from the Universté de Lille, but various curators in addition to ANS members and guests who would just be on the premises at various points. Serration on coins has little precedent before this issue; the only comparable evidence is from a series of concurrent bronzes from Antigonid Makedonia under Philip V and his son Perseus and Kappadokian bronzes that were either minted under Ariarathes IV, V, or X. It has been suggested that the Seleukid serration was the result of the increased relations between the Antigonid and Seleukid Kingdoms; while this may have served as the inspiration for the serration, wholesale emulation does not satisfyingly explain why this practice was transferred to Antiokheia and why it continued to be employed alongside more traditional designs at Antiokheia and other mints for roughly 60 years afterwards. Additionally, the dating of the Makedonian issues is difficult and the serrated design could have just as easily originated in Seleukid Syria and then found its way into Antigonid mints. The original attribution of the serrated design as an Antigonid fabrication is thus at least questionable. Since chronology is currently the topic, it is also interesting to note that these serrated bronzes possibly appear during times of Antigonid and Seleukid monetary reforms in the face of war indemnities after engagements with Romans. It is curious that these serrations pop up in moments where both the Antigonid and Seleukid states are pushing for more intensive collection of taxes and fees through administrative restructuring following a substantial military defeat. Even if such a pattern of adoption is coincidental, the usage of serrated bronzes by the Ariarathids, Antigonids, and Seleukids at various points invites a reexamination of the process by which these coins are produced and their value beyond simply that of style.
|Denom.||Antiokhos III||Seleukos IV|
|A||(Series I) 12-12.49g
(Series II) 9.08-15.87g
(Series III) 12g
|C||(Series I) 3-3.49g
(Series III) 3.20-4.27g
(most > 4g)
|D||(Series I) 1.5-1.99g
(Series II) 1.5-1.99g
(Series III) 1-1.49g
|E(?)||(Series III) 1.08-1.21g||9-10mm||2.5-2.99g||12-14mm|
In terms of production, the serrated form demanded that new molds be made, from which the flans could be produced. Following the standard practice for bronzes, the value of these coins was largely fiduciary. An examination of the metrological data, however, reveals the largest denomination (A) was smaller in both diameter and weight under Seleukos IV while the lower denominations (C, D, E) all appear to have been made larger and heavier along with the resurfacing of Denomination B which had not been produced in Antiokheia under Antiokhos III. This closing of the weight disparity among these coins along with the usage of consistent iconography for each denomination does appear to be a way of standardizing bronzes. While the fabric of the flan demanded greater care, it is evident that quality control for these bronzes was not exercised as frequently when it came to weight and striking errors; both of these aspects are unsurprising given the fiduciary value of these coins and their mass production as smaller change which saw quality control lessen when compared to silver and gold coinage. Tetradrachms minted in Antiokheia during this period also feature a different control mark from the serrated bronzes, possibly indicating that the mint had different officials in charge of the different coinage. However, the lack of quality control with respect to weight, mold remnants, and striking errors does not necessarily mean these coins were neglected. In a stark departure from previous Seleukid bronzes, serrated ones feature control marks on both the obverse and reverse. In the later issues from Ptolemaïs-Ake, the control mark mirrors the one used on the obverse of those in Antiokheia; this has been suggested to mean that the mint official of Antiokheia was moved down to instruct workers on the new practices and to oversee the production of these new issues.
In addition, these serrated bronzes are also the first time central cavities are consistently employed by a Seleukid mint; there are two prior examples: bronzes from Seleukos II in an undisclosed mint and bronzes minted in Tyre under Antiokhos III. Such cavities are, however, common for bronzes minted by the Ptolemies. While we do not know the mint that produced divoted bronzes under Seleukos II, Tyre under Antiokhos III makes sense since they did indeed mint Ptolemaic bronzes with central cavities and continued the practice under Seleukid rule. The purpose of the central cavity, which we see sporadically in other mints across space and time, is still somewhat uncertain. Possibly, the cavities helped coins stand on a lathe where they could be smoothed and polished before striking to ensure a level surface; this is bolstered by some blank flans we have that show circular scoring. Notably, the lathe did not appear to clamp down on both sides, explaining why the cavities on the obverse and reverse are off center and frequently mismatched. For the serrated bronzes, the central cavity helped the bronzes be recognized as legitimate currency in regions where the Ptolemies once held sway and spread their own bronzes.
The new methods introduced into Seleukid minting practices with these serrated bronzes show an increase in attention by the state to smaller change to boost their status as legitimate currency in newly administered regions wherein Seleukid bronzes had not been the standard; such choices make these coins stand out. It must be said that the feel of the serrations truly makes these coins different. The added steps also likely made attempts at counterfeiting harder since the process of casting serrated flans was more intensive in addition to the inclusion of control marks and divots on both sides. Interestingly, many of these practices did not transfer to the eastern mints of the empire which continued to produce unserrated coins with no central cavities of various denominations with differences in diameter and weights from those at Antiokheia; this is unsurprising given that Seleukid bronzes were likely the only bronzes circulating in those eastern regions.
The use of Antiokheia as the main mint for these bronzes is a deliberate one. One would expect local mints to be allowed to continue, like we see in Tyre, in a territory as monetized (when compared to other regions) and lucrative as Phoenicia and Koile Syria. This is certainly what occurs during the reign of Antiokhos IV. Such a decision is even more pronounced when one accounts for the relatively low circulation pattern of bronzes, typically not traveling far from their minting locations. These serrated bronzes, however, were moved to the south from Antiokheia. This was likely not a singular occurrence, since these coins pop up with relative frequency in Koile Syria and Phoenicia. There had to be some financial gain underlying this decision and it is clear this is part of an attempt to impose bronze uniformity in a newly conquered region that still operated under the closed Ptolemaic monetary system; it was a way of encroaching on that system and extracting resources without destabilizing its economy. The production of bronzes at Ptolemaïs-Ake appears to have been started later in Seleukos’ reign, was relegated to a smaller denomination (C), and was overseen by the same official from Antiokheia due to his control mark appearing in coins minted here.
I should note that scholars have generally linked the production of bronze and more precious metals coinage under the Seleukids to payments for soldiers. I offer no repudiation of this claim, which has found general acceptance, but do wish to consider the implications. If soldiers are the main motivation behind their production and the spreaders of these coins, instead of say a more purposeful shipping of new coins in bulk into a new region, an interesting dynamic is presented with Antiokheia being the center for the production of these coins. It would make sense since two of the regions wherein the coins circulated, Koile Syria and Phoenicia, were recently taken and their security would demand increased military presence in the form of garrisons. If the main vehicles for the diffusion of the new currency were soldiers, however, why are so many innovations introduced? And who accepted these coins from soldiers? We are treading on shakier ground, but it appears to me that the main anxiety behind the innovations is one of trust. That is to say, that Seleukid bronzes, due to their fiduciary nature, needed to display a variety of signifiers that would lead audiences, particularly those in Koile Syria and Phoenicia which have dealt with Ptolemaic bronzes before, to recognize their value and possibly differentiate Seleukid bronzes from Ptolemaic remnants still in circulation. Before I wrap up the project, let us take a brief look at some of the iconographical elements displayed on these bronzes.
Denomination A, the largest, offers a fairly programmatic design that is replicated in a variety of Seleukid coins; we have Apollo, the heavenly progenitor of the stock of Seleukos, wearing what scholars have deemed an archaic hairstyle on the obverse and a nude standing Apollo, resting on a tripod and inspecting his arrow on the reverse. Denomination D features Apollo as well, but the reverse has him assuming a seated position on an omphalos. Denomination B features a prow on the reverse, another rarity on Seleukid royal coinage before this period and a symbol of naval might that would have resonated with many, but especially the Phoenician cities, and the odd inclusion of Dionysos, denoted by the ivy wreath. I say odd because Dionysos and Dionysian imagery is also exceedingly rare on Seleukid coins before this period. Dionysos, however, is also arguably one of the most transmutable gods, similar to Zeus, among a variety of cultures; a god of fertility and wine, he certainly would have resonated in the territories where these coins circulated among a variety of peoples of varying faiths and where wine was a major export and import. Denomination C features Artemis, the sister of Apollo and another prominent deity in the Seleukid pantheon, on both the obverse and reverse.
Denomination C or E, there is some question about where these stand, features an elephant on the reverse, a symbol similar to the prow which reinforces the military might of the Seleukids even after the Treaty of Apameia sought to reduce the number of both. That being said, I do have some reservation in always linking the elephant so solely military might, I do think they are elevated to be more linked to royal prestige since their upkeep is tremendous. The obverse features another rarity for Seleukid coinage before this period: a Seleukid queen. Most scholars are comfortable with labeling her as Laodike IV, the daughter of Antiokhos III, who first married his short-lived successor, Antiokhos, before then marrying her other brother, Seleukos IV. She would later also marry Antiokhos IV and was an absolute pillar of the state during this period. Veiled and with a diadem, she evokes some earlier profiles of Lagid queens, notably Arsinoe II, who are featured on Ptolemaic coins, but also stands on her own as the first priestess for the royal cult that Antiokhos III began for the queen, Laodike III. It appears to me that the main anxiety presented in the iconography on these coins is legitimacy. Much like the choice of serration, it was a new product predicated on a blending of innovations and traditions, something the Seleukids knew very well how to accomplish and would continue to develop and experiment with throughout the second and early first century.
Their fixed visual elements denoted the legitimacy of the new ruler, presenting a mixture of established Seleukid iconography and newer inclusions that I have teased as having local appeal in newer regions (though, as ever, we must be guarded about such readings). I have underscored that the main reason for such innovations has to do with anxiety over establishing trust in these coins in newly conquered regions. The so-called bottlecap coins thus fit into a wider pattern of increased centralization and administrative oversight that defined and, thanks to hostile ancient sources, maligned much of Seleukos’ reign. Beyond simply style, these serrated coins held a tangible function and are indicative of a trend that began during the second century of Seleukid fiscal experimentation and increased monetization which would result in one of the most dynamic periods for Seleukid coinage, showing that small change can be indicative of big change.
|Chicago Coin Company|
|Harlan J. Berk, Ltd.|
|Kedzie Koins Inc.|
|Classical Numismatic Group|
Items shown at our February 8, 2023 meeting,
reported by Deven Kane.
February 15, 2023
The meeting was called to order by club President John Riley at 6:15pm.
Board members present for the meeting were John Riley, Melissa Gumm, Deven Kane, Scott McGowan, Paul Hybert, Mark Wieclaw, Steve Zitowsky, Rich Lipman, Jeff Rosinia, and Ray Dagenais. Excused were Carl Wolf, Bill Burd and Elliott Krieter.
Next CCC Board Meeting on May 17, 2023 at 6:00pm CDT; on-line versus in-person, to be determined.
President John Riley adjourned the meeting at 8:12pm.
Scott A. McGowan, Secretary
|Date:||March 8, 2023 Reservations are required. This banquet meeting is in-person only.|
|Time:||5:45pm Reception, fried calamari and cash bar.
6:30pm Dinner (Family Style).
7:30pm Meeting called to order.
|Location:||Capri Italian Restaurant, 12307 S. Harlem Avenue, Palos Heights, IL 60463.|
The cost is $35 if paid by February 28 – if you cannot pay
by the cutoff, let Bill Burd know via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) by
March 2, and pay $40 at the door.
Early commitments and payments are greatly appreciated.
There will be a cash bar for those wanting an alcoholic beverage.
Make your reservation by mailing your check (payable to Chicago
Coin Club) to P.O. Box 2301, Chicago, IL 60690; or by paying
electronically (see the Chatter Matter page for details).
• Our family style dinner will start at 6:30pm, with a House Salad.
• Mostaccioli with marinara sauce, Chicken ala Capri, and Vesuvio potatoes will be served.
• Dessert will be Italian lemon ice and mini canoli.
|Parking:||There is a large free parking lot attached.|
The speaker is Robert Leonard, on The Lasting Contributions of Honorees of the Chicago Coin Club’s Hall of Fame.
In 2018 past president Robert Leonard suggested that the Chicago Coin Club institute a Hall of Fame to commemorate its centennial the next year. This was approved, together with a group of 12 honorees, from charter members to recently deceased, and Bob researched them and prepared citations for review. The final versions were released at a rate of one per month throughout 2019, and generated much favorable publicity for the club. Since then, five more people have been inducted. Bob will focus on their notable accomplishments and their service to the Club over the decades, with some personal anecdotes not included in the citations.
All attendees will recieve a souvenir card and elongated coin.
There will be door prizes.
• There will be no Show-and-Tell session after the featured speaker.
Unless stated otherwise, our regular monthly CCC Meeting is in downtown Chicago and also online on the second Wednesday of the month; the starting time is 6:45PM CT.
|February||26||Will County Coin Club Show, to be held at the Weitendorf Ag Ed Center (Joliet Junior College), 17840 W. Laraway Road in Joliet, Illinois.|
|March||2-4||ANA’s National Money Show at Phoenix, Arizona. Details at https://www.money.org/NationalMoneyShow|
|March||8||CCC Meeting - Featured Speaker - Robert Leonard on The Lasting Contributions of Honorees of the Chicago Coin Club’s Hall of Fame|
|April||12||CCC Meeting - Featured Speaker - to be announced|
|April||27-29||84th Anniversary Convention of the Central States Numismatic Society at the Schaumburg Renaissance Hotel & Convention Center, 1551 North Thoreau Drive, Schaumburg, IL. There is a $15 per day admission charge, a 3-day pass for $30, free for youth (17 and under), and free for CSNS Members. For details, refer to their website, https://www.csns.org/|
|April||29||CCC Meeting - 1pm at the CSNS Convention,
which is held at the Schaumburg Convention Center.
No admission charge for our meeting.
Featured Speaker - to be announced
|May||10||CCC Meeting - Featured Speaker - to be announced|
|June||14||CCC Meeting - Featured Speaker - to be announced|
|July||12||CCC Meeting - Featured Speaker - to be announced|
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CHICAGO COIN CLUB
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