William E. Metcalf

in The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Coinage

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780195305746
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks


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This article elucidates the fundamentals of numismatic study. It defines a coin as “a piece of metal” certified by a mark or marks upon it to be of a definite exchange value, and issued by governmental authority to be used as money. These metals have to be scarce enough to have intrinsic value but plentiful enough to provide raw material. Virtually all other ancient coins are struck from gold, silver, or copper, sometimes alloyed with tin or zinc. The “mark or marks” have preoccupied numismatists since the beginning; this is probably owing to the interest in antiquity, roused in the Renaissance, that saw in coins miniature ancient monuments comparable to sculpture and other art forms. For the Greek world, discussion of economic history is surprisingly free of references to coinage. However, the numismatic evidence has not yet been exploited to the degree necessary for its proper appreciation.

Keywords: numismatic study; coin; money; metal; Greek world; coinage

Article.  3896 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Ancient Greek History ; Ancient Roman History

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