he production of money
has been the prerogative of the State in the West almost from the
moment it was invented in Asia Minor. Control of the production of
money is a profitable enterprise, and because of its importance to
the economy and military power of the State, it has remained in the
control (at least theoretically) of the State ever since.
Electrum 1/3 stater,
2nd quarter of the
7th century B.C.
Struck or cast coinage—the
first form of ‘money’ as we know it today was invented in the early
7th century BC in Asia Minor and about the same time
in China. An important aspect of this invention was that coinage
was the first mass-producible medium of communication—a message
could be reproduced exactly as intended in large quantities for
distribution among a large audience for the first time. Very early
on rulers began to realize the propaganda value of coins as symbols
of power—the Kings of Lydia used the Lion and the Bull, symbols
of their dynasty in the 7th century BC. Within 50 years
the Greek City–States of Asia Minor and Greece proper had begun
to produce their own coinages—each with their own representative
symbols—a sea turtle for Aigina, the Pegasus for Corinth, Athena
for Athens, a seal for Phokis, etc. These symbols were designed
to be easily associated with the city that produced the coins—often
they were puns on the city name or pictured the patron deity of
the city. Soon tiny little towns with little political power and
petty dynasts were issuing coinages as expressions of their independence.
This association of money
with national sovereignty has continued to the present day, as witnessed
by the insistence of new nations on producing their own paper currency
and coinage almost before the institutions of State are fully formed.
This despite the costs involved and the likelihood that the money
will not gain much international acceptance—the important thing
for these States is to get the message out that they exist and are
The Romans developed the
political use of coinage to unprecedented levels. Theirs was the
first fully monetized society in the sense of money being used in
the minor daily transactions of the majority of people. The Romans
made full use of this huge audience through the development of a
sophisticated, multi-faceted series of messages in writing and through
symbols on their coinage. The messages were designed to support
the Imperial government through expressions of the military prowess
of the Emperor, the loyalty of the army, the happiness of the people,
Imperial generosity and so on—the symbols used on these coins continue
to be used today. After the fall of the Roman Empire, coins continued
to be produced on the Roman model and the repertoire of symbols
was retained and expanded.
| Exhibit scope:
exhibit will cover the entire history of money from the 7th
century BC to the present day—the last section will place particular
emphasis on the development of the Euro and the controversies over
its adoption and appearance—all centered on the question of National
sovereignty and identity. The exhibit may be as small as three cases
and could be expanded to incorporate a case such as the rail case
at the IMF HQ that incorporates the modern paper money of each of
its member nations. There are three core ideas to be developed in
Money as an expression of sovereignty.
Money as a means of communication.
The symbols of sovereignty as they appear on money.
Objects: Examples of early
coinages—Lydian, Greek, Chinese, Indian, Roman. Carry on with a
discussion of the development and use of propaganda and “standard”
symbols on coinage associated with royalty, sovereignty, personal
Include examples of coins
and early paper money produced by newly constituted nations (American
Revolution, French Revolution, unified Germany, unified Italy, Ethiopia)
followed by examples of money from recently formed nations in Africa,
Asia, and Eastern Europe.
This note was produced in 1779 by the new State of South Carolina—
notice the dual denomination—$90 or £146s5, suggesting that full
intellectual independence had not yet been achieved.
may be said, with hardly a suggestion of metaphor, to have
a language of their own; but it is a language that is only
partially expressed in words and depends more on pictures
to convey its meanings.”
first thing to notice is that there has been relatively little written
on the subject of Money and Sovereignty as a separate area of study.
The next is to note that, in the Chinese monetary tradition, the
idea of national sovereignty is not closely connected with the issuance
and design of coins, nor is there a tradition of image use on coinage,
whereas the Indian tradition incorporates concepts of coinage largely
similar to those of the Greek tradition (due probably to the close
contacts with Greek coinage traditions through Persia and Alexander
the Great.) with some exceptions. Thus this exhibit will concentrate
on the Western coinage tradition, which emerged as the dominant
world monetary system during the late 19th and early
| Liberty walking with torch and olive
branch from a pattern Saint–Gaudens
gold high–relief double–Eagle, 1907.
Most general numismatic
histories include a section on coin types in which topics such as
propaganda on coins and the details and meanings of the images on
the coins is discussed. This is not the same as discussing the history
of the iconography used on coins to proclaim individual and national
sovereignty, and how the act of coining or producing currency has
been synonymous with an expression of independence since the earliest
years of coinage in Ancient Greece.
Another point to make
in the discussion of the following authors and their works (with
the exception of some of the economists) is that they are overwhelmingly
modern in their approach to history, mostly due to the nature of
their evidence. Coins are among the most solid and enduring of primary
documents and generally provide fewer problems of interpretation
than comparable documents in other media. This is partly due to
their small size, which limits the extent and complexity of their
content, and also due to the fact that so many coins survive, allowing
for comparison and checking of interpretations over large numbers
of objects, something impossible in most other forms of written
documentation due to their low survival rate. This is not to say
that controversy and rival interpretations do not exist, but that
they are largely concerned with appears on the coins as opposed
to applying post-modernist ideologies to them. The changes which
have occurred over the last century in Numismatic historiography
have been concentrated in the area of technical knowledge of the
coining process and the application of that knowledge in the form
of die studies and the analysis of horde evidence. The research
conducted in these areas has provided previously unavailable precision
and insights into the dating of coins and their relationship to
political and economic events testified to in other sources, as
well as allowing for statistical analysis to illuminate otherwise
opaque aspects of history.
A major reason for the
lack of interest on the part of post-modernists in numismatics per-se
appears to be the fact that the issuance of money has always been
an “elite” activity performed by governmental authorities or large-scale
merchants. There is little scope for re-interpretation of the purpose
and use of money in the modern sense as invented by the Greeks,
Indians, and the Chinese.
Iron ‘manillas,’ used on the Gold
Coast of West Africa as money for
centuries. Their value depended
on their size and metallic quality.
On the other hand, there is plenty of room for the interpretation
of the uses and purposes of “traditional” money as used in sub-Saharan
Africa, Oceania up until the mid–20th century, and the
rest of the world prior to the invention or introduction of modern
monetary forms. This is reflected in the virtual explosion of works
on the subject of the symbols and forms of traditional money. This
research has been appearing most frequently in anthropological journals
and books since the 1970s, as well as in some economic journals.
Alfred R. Bellinger’s
(1893–1978) article “The Coins and Byzantine Imperial Policy” includes
a useful discussion of the iconography of the Byzantine coinage
and its purpose. Bellinger distinguishes iconography of the court
and that of the church on the Byzantine gold coins. Particularly
interesting is his identification of the audience for the political
and religious messages of the coins as the Byzantine bureaucracy
and aristocracy. These audiences were the only part of Byzantine
society to regularly deal with gold coins, and the rest of the coinage
is largely static for long periods, reflecting a general indifference
on the part of the Byzantine government in the opinions of the general
public, a situation vastly different from that of the early Roman
Empire. The bulk of the article discusses Byzantine history, using
the coinage to highlight and illuminate imperial policy and pointing
out where coinage anticipates the appearance of policy changes in
Andrew Burnett is the
Keeper (head of Department) of the Department of Coins and Medals
at the British Museum. Burnett’s book Coins: Interpreting the
Past includes a useful discussion of the designs of western
coinages through history. The book is primarily aimed at illustrating
the importance of coins in the reconstruction of history through
interpretation of their designs, inscriptions, physical characteristics,
dating, and their find spots. Burnett begins with a definition of
money and a discussion of the difference between simple lumps of
metal (bullion) and coins. This difference is that coins are issued
“with a recognized value by a competent authority.”
This definition serves as a jumping off point for discussions of
state control of coinage systems and the purposes to which coins
were put as a background for their potential as historical resources.
Frank van Dun is a Belgian
philosopher who has written extensively on the subject of the principles
of law and issues of taxation. He has a Ph.D. in the philosophy
of law and legal theory from the University of Ghent, and is a lecturer
there as well as at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands.
Dr. van Dun’s article
“National Sovereignty and International Monetary Regimes” is a philosophical
tract dealing with the theoretical basis for National Sovereignty
and how it is challenged by the development of supranational organizations
such as the EEC. The article is set within the context of a book
produced in order to combat what Dowd and Timberlake (the editors
of the book) identify in their introduction as political interference
in the national financial systems. The argument is that individual
politicians through government powers enact misguided legislation
for their own benefit that tends to undermine the stability of money,
and thus the interests of the mass of people. The goal of the book
is to advocate a monetary system constitutionally prescribed, operating
under the rule of law and not subject to the whims of individual
states or politicians. Given
the timing of the book, it is clearly aimed at influencing the development
of the EEC’s financial institutions.
Michael Grant (1914–) is a renowned and prolific ancient historian
with his early roots in the numismatics of the Roman Empire. He
was born in London, England and educated at Trinity College, Cambridge.
Among his many memberships and awards, Grant was President of the
Royal Numismatic Society from 1953 to 1956, and has received the
prestigious Royal Numismatic Society Medal. Grant pursued a career
in academics and administration until 1966, when he began his career
as a full-time writer. He currently lives in Italy.
Roman History From
Coins is essentially a discussion of how numismatic data can
be used to augment and broaden more traditional historical sources.
Discussions include portraits of Augustus and Nero and why one should
be remembered as the “pater patriae” of Rome while the other has
been vilified by history. The discussions include useful information
on the types of Roman coins and their relationship to state propaganda
and glorification of the autocrat. The work is written using a modernist
methodology; coins and primary documents are “facts” which can be
used to illuminate or even discredit each other, thus Grant’s initial
comparison of Nero and Augustus from evidence of the coins and from
documentary and architectural remains—truly broad based research.
Philip Grierson was born
in Dublin, Ireland in 1910 and received his M.A. from Gonville and
Caius College at Cambridge. Grierson’s historical specialty has
been Byzantine and Medieval European numismatics. He worked as an
academic professor in England and Brussels before retiring in 1978
to pursue his own writings and research. Grierson is a past president
of the Royal Numismatic Society (1961–1966) and a member of numerous
other prestigious academic societies and organizations.
Coins includes information on iconography, both religious and
political and is considered to be a standard reference for the history
of Byzantine coinage. It is a good source for the identification
of symbols of sovereignty that influenced medieval Europe and the
Grierson’s discussion covers the design elements of the images on
Byzantine coins in depth, such as the meaning of the different types
of costume and insignia worn by the emperors on their coinage. The
book is profusely illustrated and well annotated allowing the researcher
to see the changes in the coinage directly and to follow up on Grierson’s
conclusions. The most useful portions of the book for this exhibit
appear between pages 27 and 42 in the discussion of Byzantine coin
Gold solidus of Justinian I, Byzantine Emperor from
527–565 A.D. Notice the globus cruciger held by the
emperor himself and by the male ‘angel’ only
recently converted from the female goddess Nike,
who also holds a staff with the chi–rho symbol,
just to make sure the Christian association of the
figure is made.
| Sir George MacDonald (1862–1940)
was the Honorary Curator of the Hunterian Coin Cabinet of the Fitzwilliam
Museum. His book, Evolution of Coinage, is a concise discussion
on the development of coinage. The book contains separate chapters
for “Coinage and the States” (of particular relevance for this study)
and for “Types and Legends” of coins up to the time of the book’s
publication, though most of the examples are taken from the ancient
world, MacDonald’s specialty. This book represents a refinement of
the author’s previous thinking as presented in Coin Types: Their
Origin & Development 700 BC to 1604. Numismatic historiography
had not yet advanced to the stage of using die studies and horde analysis
to date otherwise undated coins, but these techniques were in the
first stages of development and were to come into their own over the
| George McDonald’s book Coin
Types: Their Origin & Development 700 BC to 1604 is a collection
of essays on the subject of coin designs delivered in the form of
six lectures during 1905. The lectures were designed as an introduction
to coinage design and represented a break from earlier thinking in
numismatic literature because McDonald stressed that designs on early
Greek coins owed more to identifying their place of origin than any
to any commercial or religious connections. This debate reopened the
problem of locating the mint cities of these ancient coins, thus focusing
scholarship on an area that has made many of the advances in numismatic
knowledge since 1905 possible. Mint identification using the designs
of these early coins was complemented by the advent of professional
archaeology based on scientific principles. Archaeology provided site
finds of coins and hordes of coins associated with known and newly
identified city-sites, plus the discovery of previously unknown city
sites. All of this served to reinforce the political aspect of the
production of coins.
Coins: An Illustrated
Survey contains a wealth of images and articles by a variety
of authors about coinages from all over the world—several of which
have useful information on iconography. John Porteous is a numismatist
well known for his general survey of numismatics entitled Coins:
Pleasures and Treasures. Coins: An Illustrated Survey
is based on the coin collection of the British museum, the foremost
collection in the world. Martin Jessop Price, the editor, was the
Deputy Keeper of the Department of Coins and Medals of the British
Museum and a noted numismatic scholar of ancient coins as well as
the Secretary of the Royal Numismatic Society. The authors of the
book were selected for their expertise in various numismatic geographic
and temporal specialties. John Porteous’ article serves as the introduction
to the volume as a whole. The article has a concise discussion of
the development and uses of money from its invention to the modern
day, emphasizing the continuity over time of certain aspects of
overall design and purpose.
Paul Romanoff (1899–1943)
was a professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America with
a background of studies in the Talmud and Mishna and a serious interest
in numismatics. Dr. Romanoff was an alumnus of the Dropsie College
for Hebrew and Cognate Learning. Jewish Symbols on Jewish Coins
is a specialized work on an area of numismatics rarely covered in
such detail and is considered to be a classic in its field. The
approach toward history in the book is modernist in that the author
attempts to describe the types of Jewish coins as contemporaneous
Jews understood them. He views coins as another source of information
with which to reconstruct the psychology of the people of the past. Despite
conscious limitation of the scope to Jewish symbols on Jewish coins,
Romanoff’s book goes beyond the specialized Jewish uses and meanings
of the symbols covered, making it invaluable as a research tool
for interpreting the ancient meanings for a host of types from palm
trees to trumpets.
C. H. V. Sutherland was
born in London, England in 1908 and earned a doctorate in literature
from Oxford University. His professional career has encompassed
numismatics primarily at the Ashmolean Museum as their Keeper of
Coins but also included work as a lecturer at various institutions
in the U.K. and the U.S. His major contribution to numismatics has
been his editing and contributions to the first nine volumes of
the Roman Imperial Coinage, the standard reference for the
coins issued in the name of the Roman emperors.
Art in Coinage
is mainly concerned with the artistry that appears on coinage from
its invention to the present day (1956), as one would expect, but
it also includes discussions about the purposes for the designs
and inscriptions found upon coins. Sutherland states that the art
appearing on coins is “a preeminently social art.” As such, he believes
they reflect the spirit of their times and especially important
as they are much more available than other sources of history. The
primary characteristic of coins is their economic and social function,
which requires that they constantly move through time and space.
Thus they are particularly suited for a specialized form of art
and propaganda, which Sutherland elaborates as new aspects develop
over time, from the first use of identifiable images associated
to particular cities through the development of symbols with generally
understood meanings and the use of inscriptions to convey political
and religious messages.
Lawrence H. White is an
associate professor of Economics at the University of Georgia. He
earned his doctorate from UCLA in Economics. He is a prolific writer
on the subjects of finance, market economies and banking.
Paul D. van Wie is Adjunct
Associate Professor of Political Science at Hofstra University and
is Commissioner of Landmarks and Historic Preservation, Town of
Hempstead— Long Island, New York. Image, History, and Politics
is an in-depth discussion of the coinage of modern Europe for the
last two centuries beginning with the French Revolution in 1789.
Van Wie covers each of the major European countries in seven chapters
with discussions of the coin types and their symbolism. The questions
of sovereignty and national identity and their representation on
national coinages are dealt with as a central part of the book.
The book is written in a straightforward modernist style, stressing
evidence from the coins to illustrate the major political events
of the times. The detailed discussion of the images on the coins
makes this book particularly useful for the background of this exhibit.
Jere L., “Dinar versus the Ducat,” International Journal of
Middle East Studies, Vol. 4, No. 1. (Jan., 1973), pp. 77-96.
Alfred R., “The Coins and Byzantine Imperial Policy,” Speculum,
Vol. 31, No. 1. (Jan., 1956), pp. 70-81.
Andrew, Coins: Interpreting the Past, Great Britain: University
of California Press/British Museum, 1991.
| Dun, Frank
van, “National Sovereignty and International Monetary Regimes,”
Money and the Nation State: The Financial Revolution, Government
and the World Monetary System, Dowd, Kevin and Timberlake, Richard
H., Jr. eds., New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1998.
Michael, Roman History From Coins, Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1958.
Philip, Byzantine Coins, London: Methuen & Co., Ltd,
George, The Evolution of Coinage, New York: G. P. Putnam’s
| MacDonald, George,
Coin Types: Their Origin & Development 700 BC to 1604,
Chicago: Argonaut, Inc., Publishers, 1969 (reprint of 1905 edition).
John, “The Nature of Coinage,” Coins: An Illustrated Survey
650 BC to the Present Day, Price, Martin Jessop, General Editor,
New York: The Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited, 1980.
Paul, Jewish Symbols on Ancient Jewish Coins, Philadelphia:
The Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning, 1944.
C. H. V., Art in Coinage, New York: Philosophical Library,
| Wie, Paul
D. Van, Image, History, and Politics, Lanham: University
Press of America, Inc., 1999.
Lawrence H., “Monetary Nationalism Reconsidered,” Money and
the Nation State: The Financial Revolution, Government and the World
Monetary System, Dowd, Kevin and Timberlake, Richard H., Jr. eds.,
New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1998.
| Mattingly, Harold, Roman
Coins: From the Earliest Times to the Fall of the Roman Empire,
London: Methuen & CO LTD, 1962. p. 48.
 Bellinger, Alfred R.,
“The Coins and Byzantine Imperial Policy,” Speculum, Vol. 31,
No. 1. (Jan., 1956), pp. 72–73. Bellinger identifies the re-appearance
of Christ on the coins of Theodora a decade or more prior to the re-introduction
of icons into mosaics.
 Burnett, Andrew, Coins:
Interpreting the Past, Great Britain: University of California
Press/British Museum, 1991. p. 10.
 Dowd, Kevin and Timberlake,
Richard H. Jr., Money and the Nation State: The Financial Revolution,
Government and the World Monetary System, New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction
Publishers, 1998. pp. 1–2.
Paul, Jewish Symbols on Ancient Jewish Coins, Philadelphia:
The Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning, 1944, pp. 5–6.
C. H. V., Art in Coinage, New York: Philosophical Library,
Inc., 1956. p. 17.