Society Lecture, 19th February: early career lectures

On Tuesday 19th February, two early-career numismatists, David Swan and Johannes Hartmann, will present on their current research. The papers will be presented at the Warburg Institute, on the following topics:

David Swan, The Silver Corridor: The Impact of Caesar’s Invasion and its aftermath in North-West Gaul, seen through coin hoards.

Julius Caesar’s invasion and later Roman Imperialism had a major impact on the politics, economies and societies of Gaul and, due to the close relationship maintained through cross-Channel trade and communications, Britain too. This paper explores these cross-channel relationships, and the impact of Roman intervention up to AD 43 upon them. This is accomplished through the use of coin hoard evidence, to map geographical and chronological differences in the composition of metals within them.

Debased silver coinage was hoarded extensively not only in eastern Brittany, but also directly opposite in what is now Dorset. I have termed this phenomenon the “Silver Corridor”, owing to its strong regional tendency towards the metal in coin hoards as opposed to the more gold-rich hoarding regions either side of it. It is suggested that the aftermath of Caesar’s invasion led to this pattern, as north-west Gaul struggled to recover from Caesar’s assault and the trading situation suffered as a result. The changes brought by Caesar’s invasion can be demonstrated from a long-term perspective, as the hoarding patterns of north-west Gaul and south-west Britain preceding and following the hoards of the Silver Corridor are examined. This includes the limited hoarding of the early first century BC, the larger-scale hoarding marking the tumultuous period after the war, and the rapid decline in indigenous coins and hoards from the time of Augustus onwards.

While there is great variety in the archaeological record amongst the Channel-bordering communities, coin hoards appear throughout almost all Channel-bordering regions, and act as a fixed variable to study connectivity and divergence amongst these communities. Roman texts and the limited number of surviving objects that had crossed the Channel have previously been favoured for such examinations, so using a dataset as large as coinage provides a new understanding of Channel-bordering regional connectivity. Additionally, within Iron Age numismatics, few studies have compared regional hoarding patterns from both Gaul and Britain simultaneously, and this paper and the wider study of the PhD Thesis addresses this.

Johannes Hartmann, The Nation in an Album: Collecting the German Notgeld, 1914-1923

In the time from 1914 to 1923, the German Reichsbank periodically allowed municipalities, cities, and occasionally event businesses to issue their own money – the so-called ‘Notgeld’ (emergency money), in order to combat cash shortages. These ‘Notgeld’ banknotes became a wide-spread form of currency until the introduction of the Rentenmark in 1923. The designs of the notes became increasingly elaborate and they gained enormous popularity among collectors. 

In my presentation I will focus on these Notgeld collectors of the early 1920s. By that time, Notgeld collecting had already become a wide-spread hobby. As I will show, the demand by collectors had a significant impact on the increasing issuance of Notgeld, and towns and municipalities made a considerable profit by designing evermore aesthetic and elaborate Notgeld to sell to collectors. The divide between Notgeld as currency and as collectors’ items became increasingly blurred, a fact that makes the classification of Notgeld often difficult for historians and numismatists today.

To explain the ‘Notgeld craze’ of these years I will take a closer look at the Notgeld images and their ‘themes’, to find out why they appealed to so many Germans in the post-war years. Combined with an analysis of collectors’ journals and periodicals of the time, I will attempt to determine who the Notgeld collectors were, and why this gained such rapid popularity in the early 1920s.

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