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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Numismatic and History Discussions  |  Greek Coins (Moderators: Dino, Meepzorp)  |  Topic: Attic weight gold vs. silver coin values in ancient times 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: Attic weight gold vs. silver coin values in ancient times  (Read 80 times)
PtolemAE
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« on: April 06, 2021, 07:36:20 pm »

Maybe there are experts here on the ancient values of coins who can tell if, say, the 'value' of an Attic-weight gold stater (e.g. Alexander the Great gold coin of ~ 8.6 gm) was intended to be equivalent to 10 or 20 or 50 silver drachmae (e.g. Alexander the Great silver drachm ~ 4.3 gm).

There's probably a simple table of relative values somewhere I could look up with a suitable reference.


Thank you,

PtolemAE

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« Reply #1 on: April 06, 2021, 08:44:22 pm »

Quote from: PtolemAE on April 06, 2021, 07:36:20 pm
... e.g. Alexander the Great gold coin of ~ 8.6 gm) was intended to be equivalent to 10 or 20 or 50 silver drachmae (e.g. Alexander the Great silver drachm ~ 4.3 gm ...
In the book of Price you find: "At a ratio of 10:1 five of Alexander's new Attic tetradrachms (twenty drachmae) would pass for one gold stater."

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Altamura

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PtolemAE
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« Reply #2 on: April 08, 2021, 04:23:47 pm »

Quote from: PtolemAE on April 06, 2021, 07:36:20 pm
... e.g. Alexander the Great gold coin of ~ 8.6 gm) was intended to be equivalent to 10 or 20 or 50 silver drachmae (e.g. Alexander the Great silver drachm ~ 4.3 gm ...
In the book of Price you find: "At a ratio of 10:1 five of Alexander's new Attic tetradrachms (twenty drachmae) would pass for one gold stater."

Regards

Altamura


Thank you. Not sure how to interpret that... At a ratio of 20:1, ten tetradrachms (40 drachmae) would pass for one gold stater.

Does Price actually state that 10:1 *was* the ratio (gold to silver values) in effect for Alexander's the Attic coin-weight/monetary value system ?

PtolemAE
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Virgil H
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« Reply #3 on: April 09, 2021, 02:26:36 am »

I have seen a number of explanations of coin values relative to various denominations. For example, in the Sear books and in a few articles. But, that doesn't tell me what I really want to know and that is what would one of these coins buy? Any coin. There are some studies that get at it in terms of wages and buying power and I know this changes over time, inflation, etc. But, in 550 BC, how did someone buy a loaf of bread or lodging, including a meal and drink? I don't think things like this would require an electrum coin. I may be totally wrong. My guess is that in the early days, common people used no coins. They may have been paid in kind. They paid in crop shares, etc. They may barter some, but that has limitations. You can't carry chickens around to pay for things. Or trade all your stuff away. Prior to widespread use of money, things had to be run on a different level for the common person as well as soldiers. You only have so many opportunities to pillage. The small purchases are what fascinates me. How did one get a loaf of bread?

Virgil
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PtolemAE
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« Reply #4 on: April 09, 2021, 07:24:20 am »

I have seen a number of explanations of coin values relative to various denominations. For example, in the Sear books and in a few articles. But, that doesn't tell me what I really want to know and that is what would one of these coins buy? Any coin. There are some studies that get at it in terms of wages and buying power and I know this changes over time, inflation, etc. But, in 550 BC, how did someone buy a loaf of bread or lodging, including a meal and drink? I don't think things like this would require an electrum coin. I may be totally wrong. My guess is that in the early days, common people used no coins. They may have been paid in kind. They paid in crop shares, etc. They may barter some, but that has limitations. You can't carry chickens around to pay for things. Or trade all your stuff away. Prior to widespread use of money, things had to be run on a different level for the common person as well as soldiers. You only have so many opportunities to pillage. The small purchases are what fascinates me. How did one get a loaf of bread?

Virgil

Thanks, Virgil

My question is slightly different. Wish to know the metal value ratio; if (in the Attic system of Alexander the Great), say, a 10-gram gold coin was worth as much as 10 5-gram silver coins (5:1 ratio) or maybe 20 5-gram silver coins (10:1 ratio), etc. In the mid-3rd C. Ptolemaic system, for example, a 27.6 gram gold coin (mnaeion) was equal to 100 drachmae or 25 silver tetradrachms -  a ratio of a bit less than 13 silver grams to 1 gold gram.

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n.igma
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« Reply #5 on: April 09, 2021, 10:23:43 am »

Le Rider (2007) Alexander the Great, Coinage, Finances and Policy p 140 ...  "We do not know if the relative value of the two metals [gold ans silver], which was theoretically 1 to 13.33 under the Persians, remained the same under Alexander [the Great] or it went to 1 to 10 as in Greece."

Most scholars assume the Greek valuation prevailed after ca. 333 BC, which makes sense given the massive amount of Persian gold bullion coined under Alexander and his successors. Prior to this gold coinage was a relatively scarce phenomenon. Subsequent relative abundance would tend to cause economic depreciation of value and reflect the relative valuation in Greece under the Attic weight system used by Alexander.
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« Reply #6 on: April 09, 2021, 12:50:37 pm »

See also Théodore Reinach, "De la valeur proportionelle de l'or et de l'argent dans l'Antiquité grecque", RN, s. 3, 11, 1893, pp. 1-26:
http://bibnum.enc.sorbonne.fr/files/original/dda6bb4c50efc5d1911173a303a2c83d.PDF#page=6&zoom=auto,-303,656

and Maria Alföldi, "Ancient Gold Coins", Frankfurt 1983, page XVII:
https://www.bundesbank.de/resource/blob/607732/001c599cf9211422c98a8bff31338e78/mL/ancient-gold-coins-data.pdf#page=21&zoom=auto,-138,688

They both claim a ratio of 1:10 throughout the Hellenistic era.

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Altamura

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Altamura
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« Reply #7 on: April 09, 2021, 01:02:43 pm »

Another source (the longer you search the more you find  Smiley ) is Alfred Bellinger, "Essays on the Coinage of Alexander the Great", American Numismatic Society, Numismatic Studies no. 11. New. York, 1963, on page 31:
https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=inu.30000055037786&view=image&seq=45

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Altamura

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PtolemAE
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« Reply #8 on: April 09, 2021, 09:00:44 pm »

Another source (the longer you search the more you find  Smiley ) is Alfred Bellinger, "Essays on the Coinage of Alexander the Great", American Numismatic Society, Numismatic Studies no. 11. New. York, 1963, on page 31:
https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=inu.30000055037786&view=image&seq=45

Regards

Altamura



Thanks to you and to n.igma for your detailed replies. In going over related questions for some of the early period coinage of Hieron II there's a distinct impression that the gold:silver ratio of values is 10:1 and some aspects of that coinage look like an 'Attic' weight and value model. But it's not necessarily obvious or certain so it seems sensible to compare with Attic money systems elsewhere at about that time (1st half of 3rd C. BC).

The ANS publications are always helpful and B. V. Head's book may be as well.

Best,

PtolemAE
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