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How much lead are in ancient coins?  
 

 
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 Posted 05/05/2017  10:32 pm Show Profile   Bookmark this topic Add Justinokay to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
I was just wondering how much lead do ancient coins from Rome/China have?

Diem

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 Posted 05/05/2017  10:38 pm  Show Profile   Check echizento's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add echizento to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Not a question that can easily be answered without testing a large number of different coin types.
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 Posted 05/06/2017  08:13 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Sap to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Ancient metal refining techniques were not as efficient and precise as our modern technologies. Lead is a very common background element in coins, be they gold, silver or bronze. I have a collection of scientific research papers which were compiled into a book on numismatic metallurgy, which offers the following insights following chemical analysis of lead in coins:
- Ancient "archaic period" Greek silver coins: lead levels ranging from 0.05% to 3%
- Mediaeval English Northumbrian brass stycas: lead levels ranging from 0.5% to 2%
- Ancient Roman bronze coins, early 1st century: lead levels ranging from zero to 0.4%
- Ancient Roman silver coins, late 1st century: lead levels ranging from 0.2% to 0.9%
- Mediaeval Byzantine base-silver trachy: one analysed, lead reported at 0.99%
- Mediaeval Islamic Samanid double-dirham: one analysed, lead reported at 0.44%
- Mediaeval English Edward III pennies: two analysed, reported lead results 0.85% and 0.96%
- Mediaeval Scottish debased-silver coinages: lead levels ranging from 0.4% to 1.1%

As you can see, levels of lead around 1% are quite common; certain series are known to be much higher in lead. Late-period Romano-Egyptian tetradrachms, for example, are often quite high in lead.
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 Posted 05/06/2017  09:06 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Spence to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Very interesting @sap. Could you please share the title and author of your book on numismatic metallurgy?
"It certainly strikes the beholder with astonishment, to perceive what vast difficulties can be overcome by the pigmy arms of little mortal man, aided by science and directed by superior skill." --Henry VIII
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 Posted 05/06/2017  10:30 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Sap to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
"Metallurgy in Numismatics, Volume 1" edited by D.M. Metcalf and W.A. Oddy, published by the Royal Numismatic Society in 1980. I have no idea if they ever made further volumes.
Don't say "infinitely" when you mean "very"; otherwise, you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite. - C. S. Lewis
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 Posted 05/06/2017  11:04 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Spence to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Ok super--thanks! I can find all four volumes on the ABE website.
"It certainly strikes the beholder with astonishment, to perceive what vast difficulties can be overcome by the pigmy arms of little mortal man, aided by science and directed by superior skill." --Henry VIII
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 Posted 05/06/2017  1:52 pm  Show Profile   Check echizento's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add echizento to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I didn't know a study was done on so many different types. That is really interesting.
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 Posted 05/07/2017  1:34 pm  Show Profile   Check FVRIVS RVFVS's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add FVRIVS RVFVS to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I have read that the practice of recycling bronze coinage from previous regimes lead to the degadation and "embrittlement" of the alloys.
Particularly the orichalcum used in the sestertius and dupondius. In recycling of alloy it is recommended that more than half the alloy always be "fresh". By smelting old coinage the process leads to evaporation and loss of the zinc which gives orichalcum its golden color. Additionally the increases in lead content (counter intuitively) leads to the actual embrittlement of the alloys which is why later bronzes often have large fractures.
Of the first century bronzes in my collection none have fractures. By late 2nd century and early 3rd century they become the norm.

Romans were good metallurgists but some things (like evaporation) were beyond their understanding.
Recycling iron weapons was necessary as they were often broken when used. Repeated smelting of iron eventually creates low grade steel as carbon is absorbed from the coal used to fire the furnace.
In that case they certainly could not have understood how it was happening but certainly appreciated the improvements in performance.
I am sure the better steel blades were highly prized heirlooms.

Not too long ago I found this on eBay.
A seller in Spain had what looked like some detector finds.
Mostly assorted Roman coins and 'stuff'.
I bought a nice denarius and spied this oddity.
I believe it is an ingot from a small backyard smelting operation.
It is lead. 45mm and weighs just over 85 grams.

IN GOD WE TRVST ....... all others pay cash !

COGITO ERGO SPVD
I think ...... therefore I yam
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 Posted 06/18/2017  07:36 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Veton to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Hi! I am sorry. Now, I see this topic.

We can find lead not only as a trace but as an element in bronze alloy (ternary bronze: copper, tin and lead). So is very usual in iberian and roman-hispanic coins. I attach this graphic from a 1995 paper (Juan Manuel Abascal and Pere Pau Ripollés: Composicion metalica de algunas monedas ibericas del Museu d,A lcoi).

References are V (Vives) and Vill (Villaronga)

Edited by Veton
06/18/2017 07:38 am
Valued Member
Spain
86 Posts
 Posted 06/19/2017  04:40 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Veton to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
FVRIVS RVFVS, perhaps your ingot is a cap, stopple or similar, (it seems to be screwed in order to fit well in the mouth of some kind of recipient ?).

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