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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.

Lecture Schedule for 2018-19

Programme of lectures

Meetings take place at 6-7.30pm on the third Tuesday of each month at the Warburg Institute, Woburn Square, London WCIH 0AB

However, due to renovation works at the Warburg this year, members are advised to check the RNS website before each meeting to check the location of the talk.


16 Oct Mark Stocker

  The Politics of Coin Design: The 1967 New Zealand decimal reverses

20 Nov Lucy Moore

Medals, Museums & the First World War – a case study from Leeds

18 Dec Johan van Heesch

A new representation of the Antwerp mint (AD 1625)

Presentation of the Medal, Christmas Party

15 Jan Julian Bowsher and Robert Kenyon

Roman London’s first coins

19 Feb Student/early career lectures:

  1. David Swan
  2. Johannes Hartmann

19 Mar Panagiotis Iossif

Big Data, Big Troubles? Approaching ancient numismatics through big datasets; the Seleucid case

16 Apr Richard Kelleher

“So rare, so barbarous, so little known”: Revisiting the coinage of Crusader Edessa

21 May Jane Kershaw

Tracing loot: the fate of European coins in Viking hands in the ninth century

18 Jun Roger Bland

Problems in Ancient Numismatics I: Die-studies versus coin finds: how to   estimate the size of a coinage

AGM, President’s Address, Summer Party

RNS Medallist: Lutz Illisch 2017

This is part of a series of posts about recent recipients of the RNS Medal.

In awarding the medal at the Ordinary Meeting of the Society on 19 December 2017, the President, Andrew Burnett, said:

Lutz Ilisch (r.) receiving the Society Medal from Andrew Burnett (l.) 2017.

Dr Lutz Ilisch is the leading academic specialist in Islamic numismatics today, as well as a generous and helpful colleague and teacher. His accomplishments as a scholar are matched by his achievements as curator of the Tübingen University collection of Islamic coins, which now ranks as the most comprehensive in the world.

The collection of Islamic coins which he has curated for twenty-five years in the Forschungsstelle für islamische Numismatik Tübingen (FINT) is larger and more representative than any of the great museum collections. It totals 76,000 pieces, and covers all regions of the Islamic world, with particular strengths in Yemen, Greater Syria, the Jazira and the Iranian lands. It is strong in the unfashionable field of late medieval coinage; and it has a consistent coverage of most areas and periods of pre-machine-struck coinage, and indeed some of machine-struck coins. It is a unicum: and now, with his recent retirement, Lutz has supervised its transfer to the Orientalisches Seminar in Tübingen, thus guaranteeing its curation and further integration into the field of Islamic studies for the indefinite future.

Nine volumes of the Tübingen Sylloge of Islamic coins have been published under Lutz’s editorship to date, two of which were written by him. These catalogues are not only of the highest quality, with excellent plates, but have established the principle, long accepted in classical and medieval numismatics but until the 1990s a novelty in the Islamic field, that die studies are a fundamental requirement for the study of monetary history. The Tübingen sylloge series has been taken as a model for catalogues of smaller collections (Oxford and Jena) which followed the Tübingen initiative.

After periods working in the British Museum and Swedish Royal Coin Cabinet and elsewhere, Lutz was subsequently appointed Kustos of the FINT collection. He put his expertise at the service of the academic community. He organised two ground-breaking symposia in Tübingen in the 1990s; he has organised annual meetings of the German branch of the Oriental Numismatic Society from 1987 to the present day; he is famous for being helpful to all; and he has taught a number of younger German scholars, and has had particular success in mentoring and supporting colleagues from beyond Europe, notably from Syria, Egypt, Uzbekistan and Azarbayjan.

His own publications include seminal contributions to the field of early Islamic coinage (in which he was a pioneer of the study of pre-reform copper coinage); a series of ground-breaking papers on Islamic donative coinage in the 1980s; a leading role in a major project of XRF analysis of Islamic and non-Islamic silver coinage; publications of Viking-Age silver finds from Mecklenburg-Vorpommern; many other hoard publications in Coin Hoards and elsewhere; publication of coins and weights from Santueri, Mallorca; surveys of Islamic numismatic research for the International Numismatic commission; as well as a host of shorter articles generated by his work on the Tübingen collection and his knowledge of the history of Islamic numismatic collections.

Lutz Ilisch is very much the doyen of the field of Islamic numismatics today. The Tübingen collection has been shaped by him and will continue to be of unparalleled significance in coming generations.

For these reasons and many more, I am delighted today to present Lutz with the medal of the Royal Numismatic Society.

Updates from the RNS/BNS Joint Library


Books newly returned from the book binder’s.

by Brad Shepherd

The accessioning of Robert Thompson’s bequest of books to the British Numismatic Society has just been completed.  There are over 350 books with a strong emphasis on tokens – which significantly enlarges the library’s holding on this area of numismatic research.


A programme of conservation is also currently underway and the latest batch of books are back from the bookbinders.  It’s great to see them repaired and ready for many more years of use. If visitors to the RNS/BNS library find a book that needs rebinding, then please bring it to the Librarian’s attention by leaving the book and a note on the Librarian’s desk.

RNS Medallist: Pere Pau Ripollès 2016

This is part of a series of posts about recent recipients of the RNS Medal.


In awarding the medal at the Ordinary Meeting of the Society on 20 December 2016, the President, Andrew Burnett, said:

Per Pau Ripollès, picture from Andrew Burnett.

Pere Pau Ripollès is Professor Catedrático at the University of Valencia, Spain. He has worked for most of his career in the Department of Prehistory and Archaeology, rising up the ranks to the top level of professor.

He himself is a prolific author, as his list of publications indicates. There are so many, beginning in 1977,  that it is hard to know where to start or which ones to cite: his site offers a mere 17 books and 66 papers! I shall mention only a small selection, grouped thematically.

The first group is an excellent series of several catalogues of Iberian coins in important museum collections, such as those in Paris, in Stockholm, in the Royal Historical Academy in Madrid, the Vatican Library and several Italian collections: Monedas Hispánicas de la Bibliothèque nationale de France (Madrid, 2005) ; Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum. Sweden II. The Collection of the Royal Coin Cabinet. National Museum of Economy, Stockholm (Stockholm, 2003); Las acuñaciones provinciales romanas de Hispania (Madrid, 2010);  ‘Corpus Nummorum Hispanorum. I. Medagliere Vaticano’ (Italica 6, 1982); and Le monete ispaniche nelle Collezioni Italiane (Bollettino di Numismatica, Serie Speciale, Roma, 1986).

Secondly, he has authored or co-authored several mint studies of ancient Iberian cities: Valencia, Segobriga, Lauro, Saguntum and, most recently, Saitabi: La ceca de Valentia (València, 1988); Las monedas de la ciudad romana de Segobriga (Saelices, Cuenca) (Madrid-Barcelona, 1996, with J.M. Abascal); Les encunyacions ibèriques de Lauro (Granollers, 1998, with M.M. Llorens); Arse-Saguntum. Historia monetaria de la ciudad y su territorio (Sagunto, 2002, with M.M. Llorens); and Las acuñaciones de la ciudad ibérica de Saitabi (Valencia, 2007).

Thirdly, he has published a series of studies of regional circulation, such as those about the areas of Valencia and Tarraco, and many, many coin hoards: La circulación monetaria en las Tierras Valencianas (Asociación Numismática Española, Barcelona, 1980); La circulación monetaria en la Tarraconense Mediterránea (Valencia, 1982); Hallazgo Numismático en la calle Libertad.  Seu de les Corts Valencianes (Valencia, 1994, with M.M. Llorens and C. Matamoros); and El tesoro de la familia Ferrer de Plegamans (Valencia, 1997, with A. Martínez).

He has also collaborated on the Roman Provincial Coinage project and was of the principal authors of Volume I (Roman Provincial Coinage, From the death of Caesar to the death of Vitellius (44 B.C.-A.D. 69) (London-París, 1992, and subsequent editions). Since then he also has taken on the broader role of responsibility for the publications of supplementary material to RPC, and three such supplements have already appeared. I first got involved together on the RPC project on the special train to York that was chartered for the excursion to York from the 1986 London International Numismatic Congress, and Pere Pau has been a hard-working colleague and a good friend ever since, not least introducing me to Spanish gastronomic delights, such as horchata and churros. Sometimes his interests have taken him in what may seems to us to be surprising directions such as his studies of the contributions coins can make to our understanding of the ancient fauna and flora of Spain.

But, more generally, he has raised the level of numismatics in Spain to a truly international level, from the somewhat mundane state it was in when he began his career, for example by introducing the new methods of die studies, statistics and metal analysis. He has been a regular traveller to other countries, such as France and the UK, and this has led to many fruitful exchanges of ideas and collabortaive initiatives.

He has had several distinguished students, such as Maria del Mar Llorens and Manuel Gozalbes, and he himself has been deservedly honoured elsewhere. He has been visiting scholar at the American Numismatic Society. He is a member of the Real Academia de la Historia. and he was awarded the jeton de vermeil of the Société Française de Numismatique in 1998. He is a member of the International Numismatic Commission, currently its Vice-President. He has done his bit. So I am delighted that we are honouring him today with the award of the silver medal of the Royal Numismatic Society.


In accepting the medal, Pere Pau Ripollès said:

Colleagues and friends:

Thank you, Dr. Burnett, for your kind and generous introduction. I want to thank the Royal Numismatic Society for this very great honour. I never thought I would achieve such an honour when eandre Villaronga showed me the RNS medal, when he was awarded it in 1989.

At that time, I had a pleasant feeling when I handled it, not just because the medal was impressive in itself, in its design and weight, but also because he shared with me his pride and joy of having been awarded it.

In accepting this recognition with which you have honoured me, I would like to acknowledge the debt I owe to many people, some of whom are present here today, because a large part of my research has been conducted in the United Kingdom or with British colleagues. When I was notified of this medal, I thought about my experiences in the United Kingdom and I realized how enriching and valuable they have been. Honestly, I always have received great opportunities from this country. My first contact with British colleagues was in 1986. After the International Numismatic Congress held in London that year, I remained a few days working in the British Museum. The visit was very fruitful in another way, since it was the occasion on which I was invited, by Andrew Burnett and Michel Amandry to work in the Roman Provincial Coinage project.

Since then, I have had the privilege of working in all the leading British institutions. All my stays have been wonderful, but the months spent at the Ashmolean Museum and the British Museum especially have given me many valuable perspectives on numismatics and numismatic research.

In addition, I don’t want to forget the University of Valencia, since it has been my great fortune to be teaching in it for many years, and it is there that I have developed my entire academic curriculum.

Needless to say, I have had and continue to have a lot of support from my wife María José, who has always been at my side.

I am certainly fortunate to have been selected for this honour from among many deserving scholars and colleagues. So, once again, I thank the Royal Numismatic Society for bestowing this honour on me.

Thank you again.