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A Question For Medieval Coin Collectors

 
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 Posted 10/02/2017  07:52 am Show Profile   Check echizento's eBay Listings Bookmark this topic Add echizento to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
I've have been interested in Medieval coins of Europe for years but have not pursued that interest for two reasons. First the coins have no substance to them. What I mean is that they are small and paper thin weighing in most cases under 1 gram. And second they tend to be expensive and I can't seem to justify the expense.

Why were they struck on light and small flans, and why do they tend to be so expensive? I'd like to hear your thoughts on this.

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United Kingdom
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 Posted 10/02/2017  09:12 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add DavidUK to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
One would pressume that being so thin they don't survive intact so often.

I am with you on not seeing the value but when I have looked at coins many are weakly struck, clipped and illegable or otherwise lacking in appeal and the minority of presentable ones therefore represent their relative excellence through price tag.

Just my speculation...
Edited by DavidUK
10/02/2017 10:01 am
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 Posted 10/02/2017  09:17 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Finn235 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
My understanding was a loss of technology, or perhaps inability to staff, maintain, and defend Roman-scale minting operations. The Romans heated their coins in a furnace to soften them, but the medieval Europeans just hammered sheets of room temperature silver. You could staff a medieval mint with just a handful of guys; Roman mints probably had hundreds of employees.

What I have always wondered is, are medieval coppers so uncommon because of inability to manufacture them, or because of a deep-seated mistrust of any non-precious metal coinage after the Roman follis shrunk down to a tiny copper pill? I'm not terribly well versed in medieval coinage, but my understanding is that aside from the Byzantines (and the stray Islamic fals being traded), there was basically no copper in circulation.
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Australia
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 Posted 10/02/2017  10:15 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add sel_69l to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Islamic silver and gold of the same era tends to be very thin as well, and as Finn325 has suggested, probably for the same reasons.

I would add that hammered coins perhaps give the idea of good intrinsic value, due to their larger diameter for their weight.

Perhaps another reason why ancient coins are preferred, is that it is difficult to read Lombardic script that is often found on European hammered coins, although the languages used are derived from Latin. Multiple cuneiform punches were used to form each letter on the dies.

Certainly, I found Roman coins easier to understand than either European hammered coins or Greek with it's different script. With the exception of my avatar, it was 20 years before I started into ancient Greek or European hammered coins. I think that may be a shared experience with many of us.
Edited by sel_69l
10/02/2017 10:28 am
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Canada
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 Posted 10/02/2017  10:33 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add oriole to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Being thin and light may have been part of the ongoing debasement process.

On the other hand, the lack of artistic merit may have been part of the philosophy of the time. Making attractive coins might have been a bit sinful. That is something I read somewhere, but I forget when and where.
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 Posted 10/02/2017  11:27 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add orfew to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I have a small collection of hammered and like them very much. However, your are correct they are often expensive and in comparison to Roman coins, are poorly made. However, they are also fascinating pieces of history. They tell the stories of the middle age as well as any book. However, much expertise is necessary in collecting them. This is another reason some collectors avoid them. They are fragile difficult to read and interpret and as said above are often debased. I love them still for their connection to the past and for the challenges inherent in assembling a collection.

For anyone interested in this area I highly recommend a paperback entitled "England's striking history". A small book that provides a great introduction to hammered coinage and provides information on how to distinguish the types and rulers amongst much additional useful information. It is also a decent but short history of England.

I am however still somewhat ambivalent when it comes to these coins. There are a few rulers I would like to have coins of but the expense is making me consider my prospective purchases very carefully. For example, I would love to have a coin of Richard III. However, a penny weighing less than .5 grams and 14 mm in diameter can cost as much as 2-3 byzantine solidii! When I consider my collection I think I would prefer the solidii. I would also like a coin of Henry IV but for similar reasons I have not bought one yet. I still do not know if I will will ever pursue these coins because in terms of value for dollar I have having trouble sinking that much money into something so small and fragile.

Still I will add more hammered to my collection. I have a coin of Eleanor of Aquitaine. I waited about one year for one to appear on the market. They are not terribly rare but they are very sought after and this makes them difficult to acquire. Eleanor was a fascinating figure and one of history's most formidable women. The rest of hammered coinage is full of characters who had immeasurable impact on the modern world. This definitely makes them worth collecting, but not without some serious thought and commitment.

"Cave ab homine unius libri"
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Belgium
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 Posted 10/02/2017  11:35 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add antwerpen2306 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
After the Roman Empire , the coins , struck in Western Europe were allways silver or of silver alloy till the 12/13th century .At that moment , Venice began with golden coins for the trade with the East.
In the Dark Ages , after the Merowingians and Carolingians , the political power was concentrated in small communities , abbeys and feudal entities .They struck the money for local use mostly . The problem was that there were only a few silver and iron mines , no copper . So the coins are all of silver(alloy) . As it was a local money and there was no much trade , there was no need for coins as we know . It is only after about the year 1000 that the situation changed , there came a new central power and the coins become again 'normal' coins .
You find all prices for coins after 850 BC , some are expensive , others not . It is possible to find very nice coins , f.e. from Reims or Valence under 50 € . al
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 Posted 10/02/2017  1:18 pm  Show Profile   Check echizento's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add echizento to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
It would seem to me that the influence and culture that the Byzantine empire had through trade with Europe, their minting process would also filter into those areas. In Venice it did somewhat, but not in other areas of Europe. During the Crusades the Europeans were also exposed to Byzantine coinage, but because of their Western Christian belief versus the Eastern Christian belief of the Byzantines put them at odds with each other.

In 1204 when Constantinople was taken over by western Christians rather that learning the process the Byzantines used for striking coins and striking their own coinage, they just clipped the large Byzantine trachy into small pieces of metal and used that as coinage for the next 46 years. It seems to me that prior to the renaissance in Europe that they just wanted to remain a feudal society and really didn't want to improve or paid much importance to their coinage.
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 Posted 10/02/2017  3:17 pm  Show Profile   Check Collects82's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add Collects82 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I'm working on a set that will ultimately include a coin of every century as far back as I can. Along the way, I've picked up some hammered coins to fill some holes.

I can understand the hesitation because their comparative quality might not be equal to many other periods, but for me their history and the stories they can tell far surpass the intrinsic deficiencies. The Persian hammered stuff from the ~8th century has some pretty wild designs, and I enjoy the regal portraits and royal symbols that slowly emerged in Europe in the later Medieval periods, even if somewhat crude. For me, the really dark toning / patina that often obscures much of designs on an original "uncleaned" coin can be my biggest deterrent.

I agree that for Europe, their dedication to their feudal system certainly prolonged the low quality minting, but that's history for ya. They spent so many centuries limiting education and generally dumbing themselves post-Roman, just about everything got worse.
My hoard of '82s is up to 204! 218 BC x 1, 118 BC x 3, 18 BC x 1, 82 x 1, 182 x 1, 282 x 2, 382 x 1, 582 x 2, 682 x 1, 782 x 2, 882 x 1, 982 x 4, 1082 x 1 1182 x 8, 1282 x 2, 1382 x 1, 1482 x 5, 1582 x 13, 1682 x 15, 1782 x 57, 1882 x 49, 1982 x 33
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Australia
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 Posted 10/02/2017  10:10 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add sel_69l to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Pre 1,000 AD coins of Europe are less numerous than post 1,000 AD coins. That has a tendency to make them pricier. Far fewer of these coins have survived into modern times; they were mostly melted to be re issued as newer coins.

With later European hammered coinages, the letters were cut into the dies with whole letter punches.
That makes the lettering on the coins easier to read.

These two factors together make later hammered coins more numerous in my collection. The survivability rate of later hammered coinages would contribute to them being more numerous in a general museum collection.

A parallel to this, is the fact that machine made coins are far numerous than hammered and ancients combined, in a general collection, all ages and eras, such as my collection happens to be. I think that the same would apply to general museum collections.
The growth in World population and trade over the last two centuries has placed a much greater demand on the need for coins.

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 Posted 10/03/2017  09:31 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Finn235 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
With medievals, there is also a more personal connection for most. I'm a smorgasbord of different European blood - Finnish (ever wondered about my name?), German, Irish, Scottish, English, French, and lord knows what else. Yeah, I could collect Roman coins with mintmarks in several of those countries, but a penny of William I seems more personally aligned to my Heritage than a follis of Constantine I from the London mint. I suppose that's why things like European medievals and Celtic types are more valuable than tangibly more rare coins from say India, Chach, or Soghd. Larger, more affluent demographic who want to collect an intrinsically scarce coin.
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Japan Type set Tokugawa + Modern
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Lithuania
363 Posts
 Posted 10/07/2017  3:42 pm  Show Profile   Check giedrius's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add giedrius to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
There are many cheap medieval and post-medieval coins, f.e. not expensive Lithuanian half-groats of Alexander Jagiellon and Sigismund the Old .The price per-item is from 2 euros in internet auctions http://www.rare.lt/lietuva1.htm
More about these coins You can find in our catalogue http://www.ebay.com/itm/Post-mediev...AOSw2gxYxQsD or in facebook page https://www.facebook.com/halfgroats/
Catalogue of Lithuanian half-groats 1495-1529 http://goccf.com/t/282866
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Lithuania
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 Posted 10/08/2017  06:01 am  Show Profile   Check giedrius's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add giedrius to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
„Why were they struck on light and small flans". It was the silver crisis in Medieval Europe. You can read more http://mygeologypage.ucdavis.edu/co.../115ch7.html
Catalogue of Lithuanian half-groats 1495-1529 http://goccf.com/t/282866
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 Posted 10/08/2017  06:55 am  Show Profile   Check echizento's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add echizento to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks for the links giedrius.
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 Posted 10/08/2017  9:18 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Sap to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
As the silver supply dried up, the price of silver rose. This meant a small piece of silver could buy quite a lot. So useful pieces of money had to be quite small. However, deteriorating artwork standards meant that the skill of carving tiny letters onto coin dies had been lost. So, in order to make room for the design and lettering, the coins had to get wider, and therefore thinner.

They were also presumably following the model of the Byzantines and Arabs, who were trying to outdo each other in fitting as much religious propaganda on their coins as possible.

The changing shape and form of coins also changed as people handled coins differently.

In ancient times, coins tended to be handled in bulk by weight. So making them "stackable" wasn't important. Which is why Greek and early Roman coins could have that very pronounced "3-D" effect which makes it physically impossible to stack even two such coins on top of each other.

Late Roman bronzes had values disassociated from their metal content value, so were handled by counting. So they need to be stackable, to make counting easier. The habit of counting money by stacking continued into mediaeval times.

The ancients carried money around in purses. But as coins got thinner in mediaeval times, purses became less practical; a small, thin, lightweight silver coin could easily get stuck inside the folds of a purse. So people began to carry coins around by bending them onto pieces of string. This is why so many mediaeval silver soins show evidence of having been bent and unbent several times. You can't bend a thick coin, nor a copper coin.

As for expense, it's largely a case of supply and demand. Supply is low (due to the shortage of coinage generally) and, for some series such as English hammered, demand is high.
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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