RNS Medallist: Roger Bland 2014

This is part of a series of posts commemorating recent awardees of the RNS Medal.

In awarding the medal at the Ordinary Meeting of the Society on 16 December 2014, the President, Andrew Burnett, said:

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Roger Bland, image linked from the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

Roger Bland is President of the British Numismatic Society and Vice President of the Royal Numismatic Society. He has also done more than his ‘share’ of supporting the RNS: two stints on the Council, the joint Librarian (1987-90) and Secretary and Special Publications Editor (1990-95).

Roger is currently Keeper of Department of Britain, Europe & Prehistory at the British Museum. He was previously Keeper of Portable Antiquities and Treasure, but his career began as a curator in the Department of Coins and Medals at the British Museum (1979-2005), but, as we shall see, his coin work began long before that. He is also now an Honorary Lecturer at the Institute of Archaeology, University of London, and a Fellow of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge. He is also an editor of the Roman Imperial Coinage series, and has been editor for the series Coin Hoards from Roman Britain.


Roger has made a fundamental long-term contribution to the recording system for archaeological and numismatic finds across the country. During a period of secondment at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, he was responsible for drawing up the provisions of Treasure Act 1996 and in general for cultural property policy. During the time he inaugurated the first steps and the rapid expansion of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, which has revolutionized the collection and use of numismatic and other archaeological data in England and Wales. Neither it nor the Treasure Act had an easy birth, and that they exist today is the result of Roger’s legendary powers of persistence and persuasion. He started the collection of data across the country, working with over 30 partners, and against a background of much initial suspicion from both the archaeological and metal detecting lobbies. Between them (the Treasure Act and the PAS system), these new provisions have transformed the situation here, and have provided a model for the rest of the world. Far more hoards are now declared Treasure than ever before and many of them find their way into museums, predominantly outside London, for future posterity. Since its inception PAS has recorded information about over 1 million objects, an incredible achievement and a source of knowledge which would otherwise simply have been lost. But the scheme has not just recovered information about finds; it has also stimulated a enormous number of research projects: over 400 in all, including 13 major AHRC, etc., projects and 86 PhDs. Roger himself has lead many of these (as PI or supervisor). To support it all he has raised money for Collaborative Doctoral Awards and Research Projects (to a total, when I last counted, of £4.8m). In respect of this work for the public good he was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2008, for services to heritage.

In terms of his own numismatic work, Roger has been described as ‘one of the finest and most prolific numismatic scholars of his generation.’ His online CV lists 36 (!) monographs and 217 articles or other works. He started young (he needed to!), his first article being published when he was only 19. His particular area of expertise is the coinage of Roman Britain and the western provinces, but he has worked intensively on the East as well. He has researched and published widely on coin finds and the Roman coinage of the third century AD and later. His most substantial recent book is a Corpus of Roman and Early Byzantine Gold Coins found in Britain and Ireland (2010, with X. Loriot). Other highlights include The Cunetio Treasure (with E.M. Besly, 1983) and The Normanby Hoard (with A. Burnett, 1988), which both marked major advances in our knowledge of, and a revised classification for, the coinage of the third century AD and of the Gallic Empire in particular.

Roger’s main future project is to produce a new edition of the standard Roman Imperial Coinage IViii (Gordian III – Uranius Antoninus, AD 238-254). The grounds for this work were laid long ago in his PhD (The Coinage of Gordian III from the mints of Antioch and Caesarea); he does eastern Rome as well as western, an unusual combination  which can make a crucial contribution to our understanding of the Roman monetary system as a whole. There is a desperate lack of die studies of coinage in the third century AD, which are key to quantification and thus to our understanding of the economic aspects of the third-century ‘crisis’. Roger’s thesis made available data and analyses of general importance for economic history as well as for Roman numismatics. The focus of the work on the East is important, as the vast majority of recent work on Roman imperial coinage had been on the West.

Roger’s achievements are without parallel and there is much more to come. He has always been a good colleague, to many of us, not just those in the British Museum, and is much loved throughout the world. It is no surprise that in 2012 he was awarded the Jeton de Vermeil of the Société Française de Numismatique, and in 2011 the Prix Allier de Hauteroche of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres. Most recently he was appointed a Visiting Professor at the University of Leicester. I can think of no one to whom it would give me greater pleasure to award the RNS silver medal than Roger Bland.

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