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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:

Image result for roger bland

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.

RNS Medallist 2013: Michael Alram

Over the course of the next few weeks the RNS blog will revisit some of the more recent awardees of the RNS medal. Traditionally, the President’s address on the subject of the Medallist, and the Medallist’s response if they were not present to accept in person, were published in the Numismatic Chronicle. This record of the achievements of senior colleagues in the field is now migrating to the web, and these posts are also linked to the list of Medallists under ‘Society Honours and Awards‘. 

In awarding the medal at the Ordinary Meeting of the Society on 17 December 2013, the President, Andrew Burnett, said:

The Royal Numismatic Society’s Medal was instituted in 1883, and is awarded annually to ‘some person highly distinguished for services to Numismatic Science’. The current design for the medal was first presented in 1993, and is made from a design commissioned from Ian Rank-Broadley, the artist responsible, among many other things, for the Queen’s portrait on our coins today. It depicts Hercules struggling with the Nemean lion, a metaphor of the recipient’s long and arduous – but ultimately successful – struggle and achievement.

This year it is a great pleasure to award it to Michael Alram.

Michael Alram

Michael Alram, image used from Coins Weekly

Michael Alram was appointed as Curator for Byzantine, Medieval and Oriental Coins at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna in 1986, and in 2008 became the Director of the Coin Cabinet. In that time he has made a significant contribution to scholarship, both with personal research and through teaching, collaboration, and public engagement. His principal interest is Iran and Central Asia; he has contributed articles on the Hunnic coinages of the fourth to eighth centuries, and is presently leading efforts to catalogue pre-Islamic Iranian coinages through the Sylloge Nummorum Sasanidarum (with Rika Gyselen) – for which he was awarded our own Gilljam Prize – , and Sylloge Nummorum Parthicorum (with Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis). A complete list of his work on this field is extremely lengthy. He has actively encouraged new engagement with the neglected periods of Central Asia through the Coins, Art and Chronology International Conferences, both resulting in major edited volumes (in 1999 and 2011). He has established contacts with numismatists both in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and he has been involved in training Afghan numismatists in Kabul and Vienna. He enjoys a cordial relationship with colleagues at the National Museum of Iran.

His contribution is not limited to Central Asia and Iran. Dr Alram has also published major works on fields: an admirable incursion into Roman coinage (such as Die Münzprägung des Kaisers Maximinus I. Thrax (235/238) in 1989) and a number of studies on medieval coinage, especially that of Austria.

He has been actively involved in teaching, mostly in Vienna, and also at the American Numismatic Society, where he was Visiting Scholar in 1997, and the Institute of Advanced Studies in New Delhi. Alongside teaching there has been a strong engagement with the numismatic community, as Vice-President of ICOMON (1998-2004), Vice-Chair and then Chair of the Numismatic Commission of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. He recently became Vice-President of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, and is Secretary of the International Numismatic Commission, as well as a Senior Fellow of the prestigious ISAW in New York.

He has also shown a strong commitment to what would be called ‘impact’ nowadays in Britain, by organising many exhibitions including “Weihrauch und Seide – Alte Kulturen an der Seidenstrasse” (1996), “7000 Jahre Persische Kunst – Meisterwerke aus dem Iranischen Nationalmuseum Teheran” (2000), “Geld aus China” (2003), and, currently – a brave attempt to rehabilitate the reputation of the Huns – “Das Antlitz des Fremden (2012)” (The Face of a Stranger). Michael: you are no stranger, but among your friends, all of whom are delighted to congratulate on this award of the Society’s medal.


In accepting the medal, Michael Alram said:

Sehr geehrter Herr Präsident,

für die hohe Auszeichnung, die mir heute zuteil geworden ist, darf ich mich sehr herzlich bedanken! In den illustren Kreis der Medallists der Royal Numismatic Society aufgenommen worden zu sein, ist für jeden Numismatiker eine ganz besondere  Ehre, und ich habe mich außerordentlich darüber gefreut! 

Meine ersten Kontakte mit britischen Kollegen gehen in das Jahr 1980 zurück, als mich mein Lehrer, Robert Göbl, ans British Museum schickte, um einige Kushanmünzen für sein Corpuswerk zu fotografieren. Als kleiner Student erstmals das berühmte Department of Coins and Medals betreten zu dürfen, war für mich natürlich sehr aufregend, doch der überaus freundliche Empfang durch Robert Carson, der mich mit einer Tasse Tee beruhigte, nahm mir rasch die erste Scheu. Weitergereicht wurde ich an einen jungen Kollegen, Joe Cribb, der mich mit den gewünschten Münzen versorgte. Wir kamen dabei rasch ins Gespräch, und Joe zeigte mir einen Fund aus dem nordwestindischen Raum, in dem er Münzen eines bisher unbekannten indo-parthischen Königs namens Hybouzanes entdeckt hatte. Sprachlos  zeigte ich ihm daraufhin meine jüngste Entdeckung: auch ich war nämlich auf den Namen des Hybouzanes gestoßen, jedoch auf ostiransichen Drachmen aus Sistan. Das war meine erste „große“ numismatische Entdeckung, und Joe hatte mir dazu eine glänzende Bestätigung geliefert.

Dieses Erlebnis stand gleichsam am Beginn meiner wissenschaftlichen Karriere, die ohne die immer enger werdenden Verbindungen zu meinen britischen Kollegen und Freunden wohl anders verlaufen wäre. Sie alle haben somit auch Anteil an dieser Auszeichnung, für die ich noch einmal aufrichtig zu danken habe!

Medallists Remembered (2018)

by Andrew Burnett

It is the sad duty of the Society President each year to report on losses from our Society. This year we have lost, sadly, many prominent figures. In particular, four of our previous medallists have died, whom I would like to commemorate in the order of the year in which they were awarded the medal. This text is edited and excerpted from  that given at the RNS AGM on 19th June 2018. A full text of the report as given to the AGM can be found here.


Ted Buttrey in the Fitzwilliam Museum, image linked from Coins Weekly.

Ted Buttrey (1929-2018) was RNS Medallist as long ago as 1983, and served as the Society’s President from 1989 to 1993. He will be best remembered for his work on Roman Republican coins, the Roman Imperial Coinage of the Flavian period (2007) and his controversial views on modern attempts to reconstruct the size of ancient coinages. He also worked on modern coinages, publishing the guide book to Mexican coins, and, never shy of controversy, engaging in a long dispute over the authenticity of modern US gold bars. He has also been rsponsible for building up the rich collection of sales catalogues, housed in the Fitzwilliam Museum.







Lord Stewartby (left) with Sir Kenneth Calman and Lady Stewartby, donating his collection of over 600 Scottish coins to the Hunterian Museum. Image linked from the Hunterian Museum website.

Ian (Lord) Stewartby (1935-2018) was not only a Member of Parliament and a Minister of the Crown, especially so in those difficult years in Northern Ireland, but was a very distinguished student of the coinage of the British Isles, especially of Scotland. He was awarded the Medal in 1996, and he was also awarded the Society’s Parkes Weber prize as long ago as 1956. He donated his substantial collection of Scottish coins to the Hunterian Museum, University of Glasgow. 









Jean-Baptiste Giard, image linked from Coins Weekly.

Jean-Baptiste Giard (1932-2018) was for many years curator of Roman coins at the Bibliothèque nationale de France. A somewhat shy and diffident, but generous, man, he produced three substantial volumes of the catalogue of the Roman coins in the French national collection, for which he was awarded our medal in 1998, as well as for his wide range articles on the minting and circulation of Roman coins. He was also interested in what would nowadays be called reception studies, again publishing many articles on the rediscovery of Roman coins played in the early Renaissance,







Peter Spufford

Peter Spufford, pictured in Cambridge.

Peter Spufford (1934-2017) was the most distinguished medieval monetary historian of our times, his work ranging far beyond the coins themselves, and including many seminal books on the topic, not least, Power and Profit: The Merchant in Medieval Europe (2002), since translated into a number of European languages, the book which triggered his award of the medal in 2005. We were pleased to publish only last year, and not so long before his death, a collection of essays to celebrate the 30-year anniversary of his ground-breaking Money and its Use in Medieval Europe (1988).

President’s Report 2018

Andrew Burnett delivering the President's Annual Address, 19th June 2018 at Spink's. Image by Sushma Jansari.

Andrew Burnett delivering the President’s Annual Address, 19th June 2018 at Spink’s. Image by Sushma Jansari.

by Andrew Burnett, President

This report is modified from that given at the RNS AGM on 19th June 2018. A full text of the report as given to the AGM can be found here.

I am glad to be able to report  that the Society in 2018 is in a good state, both in terms of its finances and its activities. As the annual accounts show, the Society has now received very substantial legacies from the late Marion Archibald and, in particular, John Casey.

I am very grateful to all the members of Council who give their time and expertise so freely to the Society. This year, three members are retiring – Graham Barker, Alex Magub and Max Tursi. In addition Sushma Jansari is stepping down as one of our Secretaries, after several years of cheerfully organising our grant programme and social media communication, among other things; Chris Howgego and Roger Bland are also completing their quinquennial term as Vice-Presidents, and I would thank them for all the support they has given me and the Society over that period. The officers of the Society take on the main burden of running the Society and they, as all members of Council, take on their functions voluntarily and in addition to their other activities; and they are not, of course, paid anything at all. I am especially grateful to the other Secretary Megan Gooch, who, together with Sushma and our new Treasurer, Peter Knapton, run the Society. They shoulder the administrative load (with the support of Henry Lythe), and I am grateful to them not just for their efficiency and effectiveness, but also for their seemingly endless patience and continuous geniality. Over the last year Peter has done a huge amount of work in improving the way our finances are organised and run. He has been replaced as Independent Examiner by Stefano Mazzola, and we are very grateful to him for taking on the role.

I would also like to thank the other members of the Finance and Investment sub-committee – Tristan Hillgarth, Eric McFadden and Chris Howgego, who so generously lend their expertise to ensuring the proper supervision of the Society’s funds. On their advice, Council have taken one major decision this year, to switch the Society’s investments from M&G to Smith and Williamson, a well-established and regarded investment manager, as this will allow the Society’s reserves to be actively managed.

I am also very grateful for Brad Shepherd who is taking on the role, with both Societies (the RNS and the BNS), of joint Hon. Librarian. Changes are being made to the way we run our library, and Brad is throwing himself into them with enormous energy. Our library is a priceless asset and for years access to it has been impaired by the absence of an online catalogue and by the very short opening hours. I reported last year on discussions with the Warburg Institute, and, though they were delayed by the appointment of a new Director of the Warburg, matters have now been almost finalised. Under the new arrangements the new catalogue of the books will appear online in the Warburg’s website and on COPAC, and the library will be run by the staff of the Warburg, allowing it to be open 6 days a week. All Fellows will be entitled to become readers of the Warburg library as a whole, with access to its whole stock of books and its many electronic resources. There will be a difficult transition period over the next year or so, and there will be one down side, inasmuch as the books will not be borrowable. But after the Warburg moves back into its refurbished premises in about two years, we hope that the new system will be up and running, and that the books will enjoy not only better premises and care, but also be available to a much wider range of readers, vastly increasing the availability of numismatic publications to both the academic and wider community.

The academic programme of lectures has, as usual, been a rich and varied diet, ranging from the classical period to the 21st century.  It would be invidious to single out any individual papers, but we have of course particularly enjoyed hearing our medallist, Professor Lutz Ilisch, from Tübingen. The recent initiative of having a student lecture was fulfilled with great accomplishment this year with a lecture by Denise Wilding. Applications for this slot continue at a very healthy level, a good sign for the future of the subject.

Richard Ashton, Marcus Phillips and Susan Tyler-Smith continue as editors of the Numismatic Chronicle, which seems to get bigger and better every year.  Kris Lockyear and Susan Tyler-Smith edit the Special Publications, and several titles are in the pipeline, although none has actually been published this year.

Every year we award a medal and a number of prizes. This year the Society’s medal has been awarded to Johan van Heesch of the Royal Library of Belgium. The award ceremony will take place in December.

This year’s prizes have been awarded as follows:

The Lhotka Memorial Prize (for the best publication for the ‘elementary student of numismatics’) has had two winners: Dario Calomino, Defacing The Past – Damnation and Desecration in Imperial Rome (2016), and Peter Thonemann, The Hellenistic World: Using Coins as Sources (Guides to the Coinage of the Ancient World; 2016).

No award was made last year for the Parkes Weber Prize (for the best essay by a young author), but we had several applications this year and decided to make two awards, to George Green and Charlotte Mann.

The Shamma Prize for a publication on Islamic numismatics, awarded biennially, was shared between.Hassan al-Akra, L’histoire de Baalbek à l’époque médiévale d’après les monnaies (636-1516), (Beirut/Damascus, Institut français du Proche-Orient, 2016); and Arianna d’Ottone Rambach, La collezione di Vittorio Emanuele III – Monete arabe (Bollettino di Numismatica 35, 2015).

We have been able to make a number of financial grants, as usual, from the funds we hold which have been very generously donated to the Society to promote research, and we are very grateful to the donors. Next year we will add the new Casey and Archibald Funds, which will enable us, as a result of John’s generosity, to make more generous grants than has been hitherto possible.

RNS President’s Lecture and Annual Summer Party, 19 June

The final Society meeting of the year will take place on Tuesday 19th June at Tuesday 19th June 2018 at Spink & Son Ltd., 69 Southampton Row, London WC1B 4ET. The Society President, Andrew Burnett, will present on the title Coinage in Rome and the Roman Provinces V. This lecture accompanies the Annual Society Summer Party. Please join us for drinks, refreshments and a summary of the business of the Society in 2017/18, as well as ballots for Society posts in 2018/19.