Meetings 2021-22

Programme of lectures

Meetings take place at 6-7.30pm on the third Tuesday of each month. Please note that some meetings will take place on Zoom only, while others will be in-person and recorded on Zoom. The venue for the in-person meetings is the Society of Antiquaries of London (Burlington House, Piccadilly).

Zoom log-in details for Tuesday 17th May

Meeting ID: 980 3284 9875
Passcode: 261346

19th October Marie-Astrid Voisin Pelsdonk (PhD candidate, Utrecht; Secretary general of FIDEM). Venue: Zoom.

‘On the quest of a Swedish royal gift to Pius VI: a gift of friendship and peace lost to the Napoleonic armies?’

Abstract: In 1783 to 1784, the Swedish king, Gustav III, a great patron of the arts, made a trip to Italy. He arrived in Rome on Christmas Eve of 1783 and was the first Protestant Swedish king to visit and attend a Catholic mass in the Vatican. On the occasion, Pope Pius VI gave the king a guided tour through parts of the Vatican Museum and its Library. The king left Rome on Good Friday in 1784 and left a gift of “three boxes of wood, containing a collection of Swedish medals in gold and silver” to the Pope. A gift which “left Rome in astonishment”.

What did these “three boxes” contain? What has happened to this gift, which is a historical and art historical testimony of peace and friendship from a Protestant king to a Catholic pope? And where is it today? Did the medals follow Pius VI to Paris in 1799 when he was imprisoned and the Papal State was changed to a Roman Republic? Were they left in Rome or looted by the French armies? Or were they, like some parts of Pius’ collection, returned to the Vatican after his death and the fall of Napoleon?

16th November Debbie Marriott (Design Lead, Banknote Development, Notes Directorate, Bank of England). Venue: Zoom

‘Designing banknotes: the story of designing the new Turing £50 note note’

Abstract Debbie joined the Bank of England in 1990 having graduated with a BA in Fine Art. She was the first woman Banknote designer employed by the Bank of England and is most recently responsible for the design and project management of the new £20 and £50 polymer designs. Debbie worked closely with specialists including scientists, engineers and designers as well as anti-counterfeit, production and quality control teams to ensure the £50 banknote design optimises all the necessary security features and can be manufactured to a high quality.

15th December Helen Wang. Venue: Zoom.

Annual General Meeting to be followed by the speaker.

‘A Short Tour of Money Museums in China’

Abstract There are thousands of museums in China, many of which have collections of coins, bank notes and other money-objects. In 2019, Helen visited several museums with important collections of money. In this presentation, Helen will talk about some of those museums, share photos of the galleries, and highlight some of themed exhibitions of money in China since 2019.

18th January Medallist’s Lecture: François de Callataÿ (Royal Library of Belgium, RNS Medallist for 2020-21). Venue: Zoom.

‘The Republic of Medals before 1800: how the project Fontes Inediti Numismaticae Antiquae (FINA) can recreate it’

Abstract The project Fontes Inediti Numismaticae Antiquae (FINA) aims at collecting, reading, studying and publishing unprinted textual evidence related to ancient coins created before 1800. The background is twofold: first, a growing general interest in antiquarianism and historiography, of which numismatics forms an important part; second, a developing awareness that, so far, studies on antiquarian numismatics have been based mainly on printed books, which – though very numerous ‒ form only a small portion of the information available to scholars. To date, the FINA website ( is displaying information for ca 4400 letters, 1700 bibliographic references, 1500 persons, etc. etc. with possibilities to create maps and statistics using grids and keywords.

To be followed by presentation of the Society’s Medal for 2021-22.

15th February Early Career Lectures. Venue: Zoom.

  1. Emily Rowe (Lecturer in early modern literature at the University of Manchester)

‘Shaved crowns and washed heads: Coining crimes and haircutting in early modern England’

Abstract: In John Taylor’s A shilling or, The trauailes of twelue-pence (1621), a shilling narrates its travels across Europe. Speaking of those who illegally alter it, the shilling says, ‘Some of my Masters would take paines to haue me, / And like to Barbars, wash, clip, poll, and shaue me’. Washing and clipping (also referred to as ‘shaving’) were common methods of removing valuable metals from coins and to ‘poll’ and ‘shave’ could mean both to cut hair or to steal. Taylor’s playing on haircutting and coining crimes alerts us to the shared language of these acts. Closer attention to the materiality of these acts, however, throws light on how closely connected they were. Looking at coin clippings preserved in the archives, it is striking how similar they appear to locks of hair, often having the appearance of being clipped in one motion with a pair of shears. Coin clippers and barbers share more than shears in common; both profit from, as the pamphleteer Thomas Nashe puts it in 1596, the ‘excrementall superfluities’, or the ‘trimmings’, of the ‘crowns’ they clip. This paper examines the material and metaphoric relationship between coining crimes and haircutting in early modern England. In this context, I will then discuss Nashe’s extended metaphor on coin clipping to haircutting in his 1596 dedication to the Cambridge barber-surgeon Richard Lichfield, who Nashe describes as the ‘chiefe Crowner or clipper of crownes’ and requests that he ‘cut’ and ‘shave’ the head of Nashe’s literary rival, Gabriel Harvey.

2. Olivia Denk (Department of Ancient Civilizations, University of Basel)

‘Imaging Hellenistic astronomy on coins: Rethinking the coinage of Ouranopolis’

Abstract: Probably in 316 BC, Alexarchos, the brother of the Macedonian king Cassander, founded Ouranopolis (“Heavenly City”) on the Chalcidice peninsula in northern Greece. The location of the city is linked today with the area of ancient Sane near modern Nea Roda, where a Hellenistic cult building has been excavated. The archaeological material suggests that Apollo or Apollo-Helios was worshipped in a trinity with Artemis and Leto or with Selene and Eos. The coinage of Ouranopolis represents a particularly interesting case in terms of the illustration of astronomic related components. The silver and bronze coins show on the obverse a solar disc or an eight-rayed star or rather a star with a crescent moon, while on the reverse sits a figure usually interpreted as Aphrodite Ourania on a celestial sphere with special headdress and holding a scepter. The legend reads ΟΥΡΑΝΙΔΩΝ (the Ouranids) or ΟΥΡΑΝΙΔΟΩΝ ΠΟΛΕΩΣ (of the city of the Ouranids), providing an insight into a unique community. The aim of this paper is to discuss the attribution to Aphrodite Ourania through literary sources and archaeological remains in relation to the symbols depicted on the Ouranopolitan coins. The celestial elements (sun, crescent moon, star) and other features will be analysed with the focus of a new interpretation, which proposes that the coin depict the god Helios or the personification of the sky (Ouranos) instead of the heavenly Aphrodite. This case study explores a new interdisciplinary approach to Ouranopolitian coinage and reveals the value of numismatic imagery to investigate Hellenistic astronomy.

15th March Cecilia von Heijne (The Royal Coin Cabinet, National Museum of Economy, Sweden). Venue: Zoom.

‘On the verge of a new time’

Abstract The collections of the Royal Coin Cabinet in Sweden celebrate 450 years in 2022. Thus, it is one of Sweden’s oldest museum collections. At the same time the museum is on the brink of a new era. New permanent exhibitions will open in late 2023 due to a move from premises in the Old town to a new location in the same building as the Swedish History Museum, both in Stockholm.

When building new permanent exhibitions some essential questions are addressed, such as how to present the collections and make them attract a wide audience? How do we display the objects and at the same time show their historical context? Together with the renowned museum designer company Ralph Appelbaum Associates we aim to take a new grip and to create a link between history and today.  

The museum is a part of the government agency National Historical Museums, as one out of seven museums. The National Historical Museums is tasked with promoting knowledge of and interest in Sweden’s history and with preserving and developing the cultural heritage that the agency administers. 

19th April Elina Screen (Departmental Lecturer in History, Classics & Archaeology, Birkbeck, and College Lecturer in Medieval History, Trinity College, Oxford). Venue: Zoom.

‘Gendered money: women and coinage in early medieval Europe, c. 300-1100’

Abstract Numismatic attention has largely focused on analysing the coins issued by queens and empresses in Byzantium and the West, and the portraits of royal women on coins. However, when it comes to coin-use by women in general, it is harder to pin down women’s access to coinage and the contexts and purposes for which they used coins. In Viking-age Scandinavia and the Baltic, coins in women’s graves tend to be interpreted as ornaments and associated with display, while those in men’s graves are linked with trade. I shall revisit the different strands of evidence for women’s involvement with and use of the coinage in the light of recent archaeological and historical scholarship on gender. This has developed our understanding of masculine and feminine gender expectations in the early middle ages. Drawing on recent archaeological research and comparative evidence, I shall explore women’s involvement in coin use and trade, and revisit long-standing discussions about their potential role in coin production, to see how the coinage evidence contributes to current debates on gender roles in the early middle ages.  

17th May Ellen Feingold (Curator of the National Numismatic Collection, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution). Venue: Zoom.

Really BIG Money: The Smithsonian’s New Money Gallery for Children’

Abstract In April 2022, the Smithsonian will open a new exhibition called Really BIG Money. The exhibition is designed for elementary-aged children and features some of the National Numismatic Collection’s biggest objects – in size, denomination, and quantity – selected for their potential to surprise and delight young visitors. Created through a close partnership between curators and educators, the interpretation of these objects is shaped by existing classroom curriculum on money and economics with the aim of supporting classroom learning and improving financial literacy. Dr. Feingold will talk about the process of developing a money gallery for children and the ways which very large monetary objects can help children practice creative thinking and learn about the world around them.  

21st June Presidential Address: Roger Bland. Venue: Zoom and in-person (location TBC).

‘Problems in ancient numismatics 3. The trustworthiness of coinage in the ancient world’

Abstract This talk will explore the question of how far ancient coinages were fiduciary or bullion in nature. This is sometimes called `chartalism’ as against `metallism’. Could states enforce the value of their currencies and does their ability to do this change over time and place? What trends can we detect and what are the effects of the debasement on the economy?

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