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VIRTUAL - Coin Production and ‘Monetary Policy’ of the Roman Imperial Period

October 27, 2023 @ 7:00 pm PDT

This is an online event.

AIA Society: Stanford

Lecturer: Benjamin Hellings

Without mint or mining records, calculating the total quantity of produced coins in the ancient world cannot ever be precise so we must instead study the coins themselves to produce estimates. This has thus led to one of the great debates in numismatics: the methodology and implications calculating the total quantity of produced coins, with notable academics either arguing that it cannot be done or contesting the ways that meaningful results can be uncovered. These estimates can come through die-studies or through an analysis of the surviving number of coins in absolute terms. Each of these two methods has a different set of data, problems, and limitations, which are often easily missed or overlooked.

In this presentation I will demonstrate a method of using coin finds from northwest continental Europe to estimate Roman imperial coin production; a relative frequency calculation is presented with consideration of the duration of production periods. This method provides a glimpse into the operation of the imperial mint while also offering the potential to assess reasons for changes in coin production quantities. Since coins were issued in fluctuating quantities, it is imperative not only to consider the relative frequency in terms of absolute numbers but also to compare the relative frequency to adjusted per day calculations to account for different production lengths. When these fluctuated frequencies are assessed together with iconographic changes, metallurgical data, and hoarding patterns, we can further our understanding of why production rates may have changed, the nature of a particular change, and whether there was a grand Roman imperial ‘monetary policy’.

Metcalf lecture

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October 27, 2023
7:00 pm PDT
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