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Lecture Highlights From the XVI International Numismatic Congress

By John Thomassen for American Numismatic Society (ANS) ……
It has been roughly two weeks since the close of the INC 2022 – XVI International Numismatic Congress in Warsaw, Poland. In that time, I’ve been able to reflect upon my experience there, re-watch some of the presentations I saw in person, and view for the first time many of the lectures that I was not able to attend in person due to the overlapping nature of the talks.

For this blog post, I thought I would highlight some of the presentations I found most interesting, and try to tie them back to objects in the American Numismatic Society’s collection as best I could. Of course, due to the sheer volume of lectures given, it was difficult to whittle it down to just a few for this blog post, but I suppose that is just the nature of the beast when it comes to large, international conferences such as these.

So without further ado, here were some of my top picks from this year’s Congress.

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The Engravers of James VI’s 9th Scottish Coinage (1605–9) by Cameron Maclean from the University of Glasgow

The synopsis of Maclean’s talk was that “the identities of the engravers of James VI’s 9th Scottish coinage (1605–9) have not been satisfactorily established in the secondary literature. Cochran-Patrick ascribed the work to Thomas Foulis, an engraver based at the Edinburgh mint, whereas Burns credited James Acheson, an engraver employed at the Tower Mint, London.”

Through careful analysis of both published and unpublished Scottish mint records, reviewing the punches used by Foulis, as well as studying the ninth Scottish coinage of James VI available in the collection of The Hunterian in Glasgow, Scotland, Maclean was able to deduce that Foulis and Acheson worked jointly to create the dies for this coinage, despite the Foulis working in Edinburgh and Acheson in London.

For example, Foulis’ handiwork can be seen most notably in his use of “&” instead of “ET” on the obverse legend of certain gold issues, in addition to his flat-sided harp on the reverses (see Fig. 1 for examples of both on a gold unite in the ANS’s collection). Whereas Acheson’s coins employed the full Latin word “ET” on the obverse and a more rounded harp on the reverse (Fig. 2) on these same gold types. Maclean discussed other diagnostics as well, but these are the easiest to spot with minimal effort.

Lecture Highlights From the XVI International Numismatic Congress
Figure 1. Gold unite of James VI of Scotland (James I of England), Scotland (Edinburgh Mint)
Lecture Highlights From the XVI International Numismatic Congress
Figure 2. Gold unite of James I of England (James VI of Scotland), England (London Mint)

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For “Change and Charitie” or Power and Profit? An Overview of British 17th-Century Trade Tokens by Laura Burnett

Burnett, who is currently studying for a PhD at the University of Exeter in History and Archaeology, argued in her summary that “Non-state coinages have not received the same level of scholarly attention as state issues. Yet they have huge potential to help us understand not just non-state coinages of today, but also money more broadly.”

Her talk provided a fascinating look at the incredible token issues of 17th-century Britain. With over 10,000 issuers striking tokens over a (roughly) 25-year period, there is a vast array of different types to be analyzed and studied. Burnett’s work is focused not only on who used such tokens—generally the poor, who had limited access to and use for the silver coinage officially produced by the state, and therefore had to rely on copper token coinage to fill the gap in small change (a common thread throughout history)—and those who caused said tokens to be produced, and their motivations for doing so, e.g., a genuine desire to make small transactions easier? Profit derived from seigniorage? A pure promotion play with respect to their name and business entities?

Burnett’s overview was also a reminder that I used two coffee-themed 17th-century tokens in one of my first blog posts for the ANS. The token shown in Fig. 3 is just one of hundreds in the Society’s collection that have yet to be fully cataloged and photographed, a great project for anyone interested in understanding the relationship between official state coinage and privately-produced tokens.

Figure 3. Copper alloy 1/2 penny token of John Thomlinson, London

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Cuban Complementary Notes by Tom Hockenhull from the British Museum

Hockenhull stated that “Cuban ‘notas complementarias’ are certificates awarded to citizens in recognition of their contribution to state activity through voluntary work and payments to state organizations.” This was a really fascinating talk and discussed an area of which I was hitherto completely unaware.

In fact, there seems to be very little out there on these “supplementary notes” at all, such that I could not find a single example of one to include in this blog post, either in the Society’s collection or elsewhere online.

That said, following the Cuban Revolution, it became a common-enough practice to volunteer one’s time (or money) to help with various community endeavors, be it food collection and distribution, building projects, etc. These volunteer activities generally took place on Sundays, and after a certain number of hours contributed, one would receive a nota complementaria as a certificate of completion of sorts.

Unlike local time-based currencies—Ithaca HOURS, as an example—these notes did not seem to have any inherent value, and were not necessarily tradeable or exchangeable, perhaps because there is some doubt as to how “voluntary” this kind of weekend work actually was. As such, Hockehull recalled that he first ran across these notes being used as bookmarks in a bookstore in Cuba as a testament to their perceived worth, despite the time it took to earn them. Design-wise, they often portrayed revolutionary themes, and harkened back to the military bonds issued by the Movimiento 26 de Julio (otherwise known as M-26-7) to help fund the nascent Cuban Revolution.

Lecture Highlights From the XVI International Numismatic Congress
Figure 4. Movimiento 26 Julio Military Bond, Cuba (images courtesy www.numismondo.net)

* * *

Fur Money of the Ancient Rus’ by Dzmitry Huletski from the European Humanities University, and Silver Payment Ingots in Eastern Europe, Genesis and Dating by Ilya Shtalenkov from the Belarusian Numismatic Society

This is really a two-in-one, as both lectures spoke to the same types of silver ingot money found in the area ruled by the Kievan Rus’ (comprising mostly of portions of modern-day Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine).

Huletski used written accounts from travelers, second-hand eyewitness reports, plus verified finds of fur money seals (a devalued fiat representation of the furs themselves) to come to the conclusion that “most researchers now agree that fur money was in circulation in 11th–13th century Rus’. This form of commodity money was in use only in the cultural and political borders of the early Rus’ and did not spread beyond its borders.” Both the furs and the fiat seals had a value that corresponded to a certain weight in silver, and that silver mostly took the form of silver ingots called grivnas (this is also where the currency of Ukraine, the hryvnia, gets its name).

Shtalenkov’s summary noted that “the author presents an up-to-date chronological classification of silver payment ingots from Eastern Europe that circulated in the 11th–15th centuries.” True to their word, Shtalenkov presented a classification that included 11 main types categorized by morphology and weight, based on both past and recent finds. Wonderfully, the Society’s collection happens to contain not one, but three examples of grivna: one of the classic Kievan type, and two of the “long Novgorod” types. Featured below (Figs. 5–6) is one of each type.

Lecture Highlights From the XVI International Numismatic Congress
Figure 5. Silver grivna of Sviatoslav Jaroslavitch, Kiev
Figure 6. Silver grivna of Ivan Fedorovitch, Ryazan

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Finding the “Missing Pieces”: Late Medieval and Renaissance Coin Weights from England and Wales by Murray Andrews from the Kulturhistorisk Museum, University of Oslo

Lastly, we have Andrews’ talk on coin weights, wherein he argued that “copper-alloy weights were used throughout the late medieval and Renaissance periods to control and monitor the circulation of gold coins, and their presence on archaeological sites offers a unique means of evaluating the nature and extend of gold circulation in places that otherwise lack gold coin finds.”

By leveraging over 1,000 finds of 14th- to 16th-century weights in England and Wales, Andrews was able to successfully argue that coin weights can act as a reliable proxy for the distribution and use of gold coins, even where there is limited (or no) recorded gold finds otherwise. On its surface, it makes sense that finds of the objects used to measure and weigh gold coinage could function as a stand-in for the coins themselves, at least as far as distribution and density of usage is concerned, but Andrews backed up his claims with excellent data, making his conclusion a very convincing one.

As such, it was easily one of my favorite presentations at the conference.

Figure 7. Brass double crown coin weight of James I, British Isles

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American Numismatic Society (ANS)

American Numismatic Society
American Numismatic Societyhttps://numismatics.org
The American Numismatic Society (ANS), organized in 1858 and incorporated in 1865 in New York State, operates as a research museum and is recognized as a publicly supported organization. "The mission of The American Numismatic Society is to be the preeminent national institution advancing the study and appreciation of coins, medals and related objects of all cultures as historical and artistic documents, by maintaining the foremost numismatic collection and library, by supporting scholarly research and publications, and by sponsoring educational and interpretive programs for diverse audiences."

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