Coin Hoards, Egalitarian Numismatics

I decided that I’d written too much about the pretty pictures.  So as my “break” from edits today I read a chapter about whether hoard evidence can tell us if their was a monetary crisis between 54-44 BC.  Basically, it was trying to get a handle on the money supply and how to estimate coin loss.   One the most striking statements was the “Even after thirty years of shrinking the output of the eighties still made up more than a third of the money supply in circulation in 50 BCE.”  It got me thinking about whether or not I could reproduce the scholarship.  Did the numbers make sense? Where were they coming from?  How could I ever explain that to any one?  I’ve done a hoard and thus I felt I knew hoards but I haven’t ever really done HOARDS plural in my own research.  Where to start?  To my incredible delight Kris Lockyear and the ANS have teamed up to make Crawford’s research and all Lockyear’s additional work digitizing new material and Crawford’s files accessible TO EVERYONE — CHRR Online.  No digital glass ceiling here!  Just beautiful, beautiful data.  I’m just getting started navigating it and trying to figure out its potential.  Thus I picked a hoard with early coins, Herdade da Milia, but I found it by searching by coin type not for the specific hoard.  The coin up top is the type of the earliest identified coin in this hoard (not the exact specimen).  The latest identified coin type is of this type (again not the exact specimen):

[A wild image I’m going to resist writing about.] This dates to 113 BC-112 BC and if you click on the hoard link above there are some fun distribution graphs on a time line.  That said the official closing date of this hoard is listed at 31 BC.  That’s a head scratcher…  Until one notes that there are 16 unidentified denarii in the hoard that could have been made any time between 211 B.C. – 31 B.C., the whole run of the republican series.  We do need to allow for some of those 16 coins to be later than 112 BC, but the distribution of the coins in the hoard needs to also have some weight.  When using this type of hoard in analyses we should begin by comparing it to others closing in the last decade or so of the 2nd century BC.

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One thought on “Coin Hoards, Egalitarian Numismatics

  1. I suspect it’s true that coin issue in the mid 1st c.BC was drastically reduced in volume, and certainly true that Social War era coinage was still predominant a half century later. What the implication is, I don’t know, as a simple switch from melt-and-coin-new to reissuing old coins could well account for a drastic reduction in coinage volume without indicating any financial difficulty whatsoever. The whole matter of issue size is anyway a well known minefield, witness the decades long discussions between MHC, TVB and FdC… It’s a shame really that the recently published Oxford Handbook did not include a chapter on numismatic techniques, some ground rules about how to read hoards, and how to read sequences of hoards. Because it’s a subject deserving attention.

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