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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:

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! 

Society Lecture, 20 November: Medals, Museums & the First World War – a case study from Leeds

Please note: this lecture will take place at 6pm at Swedenborg Hall, 20-21 Bloomsbury Way, London, WC1A 2TH

On 20th November the Society welcomes Lucy Moore, from Leeds to talk about medallic display in the commemoration of World War One.


Leeds Museums & Galleries is the UK’s largest local authority museum service. Planning for the delivery of the 1914-18 centenaries began in 2012 and in 2013 a Project Curator was appointed to work across all nine sites and across collections with a focus on public engagement. The medals as part of the wider numismatic collection is one of the strongest areas relating to the First World War that we have.

As part of our centenary activities we wanted to think about new ways we can engage people with our medal collection – inspiring people with the object as well as the story behind it. One of our largest projects was to create a new digital learning interactive enabling teachers and pupils to learn about both the medal and the awardee []. In creating playful and informative online experiences, people from across the world have engaged with our Leeds-based, in secure storage, medals collection.

Our programme also included conservation volunteers, displaying medals to illustrate the global reach of the war, using medals in outreach with communities and research into our Leeds-built medal press. This paper highlights how we’ve worked with medals both on and off-site to get people excited about the centenary of the First World War.

Confirmation of New Council for 2018-19

The Royal Numismatic Society “is the UK’s foremost society for numismatics – the study of coins, medals and related currency items.” 

It promotes numismatics by:

  • publishing the Numismatic Chronicle and Special Publications
  • distributing grants for numismatic research and training
  • awarding prizes for publications on numismatics
  • awarding the RNS medal for exceptional contribution to numismatic scholarship
  • awarding Honorary Fellowship for exceptional contribution to numismatics
  • supporting the annual RNS/BNS conference on numismatics
  • providing a regular series of lectures on numismatics
  • encouraging young scholars (student lecture, Lhotka Prize)

All Council Members have specialist expertise and represent different groups of the broader numismatic community. Everyone serving on Council does so on a voluntary basis, and their contribution to the RNS is appreciated.

Following the first meeting of the Society in the academic year 2018/19, the new Council can be confirmed. Further information about the roles and duties of the Council can be found here. The new composition of the Council is as follows:

President: Roger Bland

Vice Presidents: Helen Wang and Martin Allen

Secretaries: Megan Gooch and Henry Flynn

Treasurer: Peter Knapton

Librarian: Brad Shepherd

Members of Council: 

Rebecca Darley

Tristan Hillgarth

Claire Rowan

Matthew Ball

Simon Glenn

Abigail Kenvyn

Richard Morel

Kris Lockyear (Editor, SPs)

Marcus Phillips (Editor NC)

New President


Roger Bland (left) and Andrew Burnett (right) – the incoming and retiring Presidents at the RNS end-of-year dinner, June 2018. Photograph by Sushma Jansari.

The new year brings not just a new programme of meetings but also bigger changes. After five years as President of the Society, Andrew Burnett has retired from this post and is replaced by Roger Bland. As a medallist of the Society, further information can be found about Roger’s career and numismatic interests here. The RNS is grateful to Andrew for his leadership and immense efforts on behalf of numismatics in the UK and beyond. His generosity towards and encouragement of junior scholars has been particularly appreciated, reflected not just in his personal interest but also in innovations such as the introduction of early career lectures in the RNS schedule of meetings, and changes to the deadline for submission of the Parkes Weber Prize (now December of each year) to fit better with assignment calendars of students in Higher Education. The Society, in turn, welcomes Roger to his Presidency and we all look forward to going forward under his leadership in the coming years.

Society Lecture, 16 October: The Politics of Coin Design: The 1967 New Zealand decimal reverses

On Tuesday 16 October 2018 at the Warburg Institute, Mark Stocker of the Numismatics Association of Australia kicked off the 2018/19 Society lecture schedule with a discussion of his research into decimal coin reverses in New Zealand. This presentation drew upon earlier published research (‘“Coins of the People: The 1967 New Zealand Decimal Coin Reverses’, [BNJ 70 (2000)), in which Mark Stocker stated that ‘Tantalisingly, only the minutes of the first, anodyne, meeting’ of the Coinage Design Advisory Committee (CDAC) were ‘deposited with the Treasury papers in the National Archives in Wellington, and the rest are presumed destroyed’.

As he summarised the paper in his own words: Happily, I have been proved wrong. In 1967, Dr Allan Sutherland, the namesake of the doyen of mid-20th century New Zealand numismatics, deposited his late father’s papers relating to the decimal coinage in Auckland Central Library, but only recently have they been catalogued. A history of the reverse designs can now be told far more accurately. This paper aims to do this, drawing on the agendas and minutes of the seventeen CDAC meetings between 1964 and 1966, and also utilises related correspondence to and from Sutherland in the same archive. It benefits from further questioning of the sole CDAC surviving member, my good friend Professor John Simpson, who has just turned 93 but remains as lucid as ever.

What I didn’t know was how the designs – which appeared satisfactory to the CDAC – were suddenly collectively jeopardised when a Cabinet minister, ignorant of abstraction, objected to one of the best designs; or how the dynamic shifted on the committee, with a split between artistic and pragmatic/populist elements, with Sutherland the chief advocate of the latter. The relationship between the CDAC and the ad hoc Cabinet coinage committee is now clearer, revealing individual ministers’ views on the designs, including a surprising one by future Prime Minister, Robert Muldoon, on Paul Beadle’s inspirational but unadopted set. Finally, Muldoon’s own influence is repeatedly hinted, but remains enigmatic.