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.

Numismatic Job Opportunity

The Royal Numismatic Society has been made aware of a job opportunity as Senior Curator (Numismatics and the Welsh Economy) at St Fagans and National Museum Cardiff. Details can be found below.

Senior Curator: Numismatics and the Welsh Economy
St Fagans and National Museum Cardiff 
Uwch Guradur: Niwmismateg ac Economi Cymru
Sain Ffagan ac Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Caerdydd 
Permanent Contract
35 hours per week
Grade E £26,095.18 – £32,089.12
The ability to speak Welsh is desirable for this post.
Contract Parhaol
35 awr yr wythnos
Gradd E £26,095.18 – £32,089.12
Mae’r gallu i siarad Cymraeg yn dymunol am y swydd hon.
Closing date: January 2019 (by 5.00 pm) For more information and to complete an application form go to www.museumwales.ac.uk/jobs Dyddiad cau: Ionawr 2019 (erbyn 5pm)   Am fwy o wybodaeth ac i lenwi ffurflen cais ewch i www.amgueddfacymru.ac.uk/swyddi

Happy New Year and Society Lecture, 19th January

Welcome back to 2019 from the RNS. The first meeting of the new year was held on 19th January when Julian Bowsher and Robert Kenyon presented on ‘Roman London’s first coins’.

Abstract: Archaeological activity in London produces more Roman coins than any other type of coin. A number of large-scale excavations by Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) over the last 20 years, in particular at the Bloomberg site, have provided a rich potential resource for research.

This talk concentrates on the coins in use during the first twenty-five years of Roman annexation and rule of Britain. In a number of excavations, certain types appear again and again in early archaeological contexts almost becoming – in modern parlance -‘signature collections’. This is, of course, matched at other sites in southern Britain associated with the initial invasion which suggests that, apart from official funds, the first coins came in soldier’s purses. The absence of any British Iron Age presence in central London confirms that the large number of pre-Claudian Roman coins was associated with post-invasion deposition rather than pre-conquest exchange.

A typical assemblage includes Republican denarii and coins of the first three emperors – plated copies and aes – whose circulation can be gauged from their presence in early archaeological strata. However, bronze coins of Claudius I (AD 41-54) are the most commonly found coins in those early archaeological contexts and it is the production, supply and use of those coins that will be a major focus of our talk.

Excavation of the 453 bronze coins of Claudius I found at Bloomberg and adjacent sites in London provided an opportunity to reconsider the classification of those coins previously described as “Claudian copies” in light of the important work by Paul-André Besombes and Jean-Noël Barrandon published at the turn of this century. In that work Besombes and Barrandon, employing stylistic, metrological and chemical analyses,concluded that the majority of Claudian copies found in Gaul were in fact products of secondary imperial mints operating in the western provinces of Gaul and the Iberian Peninsula. The results of Besombes’s analyses of the 8,666 Claudian copies found in the river-bed deposit at Saint-Léonard allowed him to reclassify almost seventy percent of those bronze coins as orthodox coins, the majority of a provincial style, with the remainder being the products of illicit mints. However, the results of our analyses of this sample of Claudian aesfrom London suggest a very different picture of coin-supply to Britain in the early period of its annexation as a Roman imperial province.

The production and issue of irregular Claudian coinage continued after the emperor’s death in AD 54, but it would be a further ten years before the resumption of minting aes occurred under Nero. The production of good weight and quality aes in cAD 64 was to sound the eventual death knell for the prolific irregular Claudian pieces in Roman London where many are found in Flavian deposits.

RNS Lecture and Christmas Party, 18th December

Spink and Sons Ltd., 6pm, 18th December

On Tuesday 18th December the Society will hold its final meeting before Christmas. The Society Medal will be awarded, before an address by the medallist, John van Heesch. This will be followed by the annual Christmas party, with drinks and nibbles. The medallist will speak to the following topic:

A new representation of the Antwerp mint (AD 1625)

In the first quarter of the 17the century the mint at Antwerp (Brabant, Belgium) was one of the most productive ones in northern Europe. Millions of gold coins and large silver ‘thalers’ were struck during the reign of Albert & Isabella, to whom Philip II of Spain handed over the power over the Netherlands in 1598. In this talk, a new and exceptionally detailed image of the Antwerp mint, cast or embossed out of silver, will be presented. It shows the gift of a presentation piece (piedfort) to the sovereigns visiting the mint (1615) and possibly also a portrait of the famous painter Rubens, as well as the interior of the building with particular attention to the process of fabricating coin blanks. It illuminates the complexity of this process and shows a range of tools that are rarely –some even only here- represented. This object remained unknown in numismatic literature and its interpretation is facilitated using 17th century dictionaries as the one published by Furetière in 1690, that contains clear descriptions of tools used by the moneyers. As everywhere, also the minters of Brabant formed a privileged community exempt from taxes and with their own jurisdiction. Our silver guild representation of the Antwerp mint was made in honor of one of their leaders (the “provoost”), Balthasar van Nispen, who left money in his will to manufacture this wonderful and prestigious object.

RNS Grant Report: Roman Provincial Coinages under Gordian III (AD 238-244) and Philip the Arab (AD 244-249)

By Marguerite Spoerri Butcher, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

Vienna, outside the Kunsthistorisches Museum

The Roman Provincial Coinage series, initiated by Dr Andrew Burnett (London) and Dr Michel Amandry (Paris), intends to provide an authoritative account of all the coins minted in the provinces of the Roman empire. These coins provide a unique insight into local politics, culture and religion of the eastern, Greek part of the empire. So far, five volumes have been published on paper since 1992 and a lot of the material is now available online at: http://rpc.ashmus.ox.ac.uk.

An international collaborative approach has been chosen in order to address coinages minted under Gordian III and Philip the Arab, covering the period between AD 238 and 249 and resulting in the publication, both online and on paper, of RPC volumes VII.2 and VIII. The team consists (in alphabetical order) of M. Amandry, R. Bland, K. Butcher, J. Mairat, J. Nollé, J. Nurpetlian, U. Peter and M. Spoerri Butcher. Together with J. Mairat, I am responsible for the editorial work on the dataset and the printed volumes.

Thanks to the generous support of the RNS (with funds provided by the CNG Roman and Byzantine Fund and the Martin Price Fund for Ancient Greek Numismatics), I was able to go to Vienna in October 2018 and record material for our team of researchers. The Münzkabinett at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna is one of the 10 core collections of the RPC series and I received a very warm welcome by Dr Klaus Vondrovec, curator of the collection of ancient coins. During the week I worked there, I am extremely pleased to say that I was able to photograph and record all the coins needed for our research project, a whopping 1,981 specimens! Holdings for Thrace, Moesia Inferior, but also Lydia and Phrygia proved to be quite rich.

Vienna, Institut für Numismatik und Geldgeschichte

I also spent two days at the Institut für Numismatik und Geldgeschichte (University of Vienna). The institute, directed by Prof. R. Wolters, holds a very rich card index derived from sales catalogues. I could photograph all the cards pertaining to the reign of Philip the Arab, and half of the ones of the reign of Gordian III (3,700 in total). This will constitute an excellent documentation that we can easily complement with holdings from the Sackler library in Oxford.

Vienna is not only a beautiful and vibrant city, but also hosts a variety of numismatic talks and events throughout the year. While I was there, I was able to attend the public lecture that Dr W. Fischer-Bossert (Austrian Academy of Sciences) gave on ‘Hermeneutik griechischer Münzbilder’ as part of his habilitation examination. Congratulations to Dr Fischer-Bossert for the award of his new academic degree!