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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Numism  |  For the New Ancient Coin Collector (Moderators: wolfgang336, Stkp, Lucas H)  |  Topic: Why were coins holed? 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Sosius
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« on: November 09, 2009, 02:00:35 pm »

Hello all,

This may be a painfully obvious question, but does anybody know why coins were holed in antiquity?  I have read two theories: 1) that they were holed so they could be kept on a string; and 2) that they were nailed to doorways for good luck.

Any truth to these theories?  Any others?

Cliff
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Sosius

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« Reply #1 on: November 09, 2009, 02:10:53 pm »

One more obvious answer, so they could be worn as medallions.
There are quite a few coins where the hole was placed so carefully that this seems the most likely explanation.
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Andreas Reich
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« Reply #2 on: November 09, 2009, 02:14:16 pm »

For the following coin I consider another speculative reason as a reasonable possibility a display of loyalty during a power struggle:

Bactria, Agathokles I, ca. 175-165 BC, AR Pedigree Tetradrachm
Obv:  EYΘYΔHMOY ΘEOY Diademed head of Euthydemos right.
Rev:  ΒΑΣΙΛΕYONTOΣ AΓAΘOKΛEOYΣ ΔIKAIOY Herakles seated on rock, holding club set on rocks; ΦΩΛ monogram lower right field.
Ref:   Bopearachchi 16B; SNG ANS 261, Mitchiner 145. (31mm, 16.67g, 12h)
 
Agathokles and Antimachos issued pedigree tetradrachms in the later years of the struggle for regency with Eukratides. Such coins sought to assert the legitimacy of the incumbent Euthydemid rulers through association with forbears and even unrelated predecessors back to Alexander.
 
An iron pin, passing through a carefully placed iron plate on the obverse, pierces this coin. Remnants of both remain lodged in the fabric of the coin. The iron pin appears to be the remains of an attachment placed in a manner to avoid defacing the image of Euthydemos. The careful attachment of this coin for its use as an item of display may have been an overt statement of loyalty to the Euthydemid line. The coin shows similar wear patterns of nicks and abrasion on both sides, suggesting that both sides were equally subject to wear and tear. The iron attachment plate on the obverse has been turned up along one edge, apparently in antiquity, as if in an attempted removal. Severed from its mounting it may have been retained as a souvenir of war, subsequently to become part of a hoard in the troubled time associated with and following the ascent of Eukratides the Great.
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moonmoth
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« Reply #3 on: November 09, 2009, 04:06:24 pm »

My holed coins page and galleries have lots of examples, including some more possible reasons for piercing coins.

https://www.forumancientcoins.com/moonmoth/holed_coins.html

Including an obol of Hadrian with the remains of two bronze nails still embedded:



and a siliqua of Valens with a hook attached with a rivet through the coin, for a rather more temporary display of loyalty:



Bill
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"... A form of twisted symbolical bedsock ... the true purpose of which, as they realised at first glance, would never (alas) be revealed to mankind."
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« Reply #4 on: November 09, 2009, 05:22:21 pm »

Or as a charm of some sort?



Thasos, Thrace
AR stater
510-490 BC
Nude ithyphallic satyr carrying protesting nymph r.
quadripartite incuse square
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Lloyd Taylor
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« Reply #5 on: November 09, 2009, 05:32:26 pm »

A well worn ithyphallic satyr coin that has seen some mileage ... perhaps the charm served its purpose receiving abrasion along the way? Smiley
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moonmoth
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« Reply #6 on: November 10, 2009, 01:55:44 pm »

This AE24 of Philip II from Perga, with its prize chest and three purses, was probably a good luck charm for wealth.



The wear around the hole suggests it has hung round someone's neck for a while.
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« Reply #7 on: November 10, 2009, 04:40:11 pm »

Perhaps a well placed nail by Sajanus?  Grin
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« Reply #8 on: November 10, 2009, 05:41:09 pm »

Thanks for the informative and amusing responses. Great site Moonmoth! 

With appreciation,
cliff
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Sosius

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« Reply #9 on: March 20, 2010, 07:06:40 am »

Another possiblity, especially with larger coins neatly holed in each of the four quarters (see link), may be for use as a phalera or a military award.

[BROKEN LINK REMOVED BY ADMIN]

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commodus
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« Reply #10 on: March 20, 2010, 07:58:19 am »

Ornamentation in many cases, such as jewelry.
I expect there are as many reasons as there are holed coins.
I see a lot of holed modern coins as well -- some of them VERY modern. I have no clue why anyone would have holed them but holed they are.
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Eric Brock (1966 - 2011)
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« Reply #11 on: March 20, 2010, 09:33:27 am »


Another possiblity, especially with larger coins neatly holed in each of the four quarters (see link), may be for use as a phalera or a military award.

[BROKEN LINK REMOVED BY ADMIN]

John


The link is dead but I guess below is the coin you were linking to?

[BROKEN LINK REMOVED BY ADMIN]

Holes dont detract much from a coin for me. Typically they remove less than 1% of surface area, far more is lost due to offstrikes or damage or wear typically. I dont really understand why collectors of ancient coins have any fundamental objection to a hole in an otherwise good coin. Of course it reduces value - as any damage does - but to my eyes a hole is no worse than a crack or an edge chip or corrosion area.
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commodus
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« Reply #12 on: March 21, 2010, 02:49:46 pm »

I am inclined to agree with Andrew. I am glad, however, that they do sufficiently devalue coins in the minds of most dealers and collectors. Because of tiny and unobtrusive holes I have been able to acquire several important coins for prices in the two digit range which, if they weren't holed, would have cost in the four digit range. It is after all, the coin that I want, and I'd rather have a little hole in the coin than a hole in my collection for a coin I'd never otherwise be able to acquire.
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Eric Brock (1966 - 2011)
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« Reply #13 on: March 21, 2010, 03:09:54 pm »

I don't actually have that many holed coins in my collection, but my observation is that they drop the cost by some 40-50%, which is a very similar drop you get for a plated coin. But they are quite different beasts in my views, a holed coin is a genuine coin which someone loved so much they wanted to wear it around their neck, whereas a plated coin is an ancient fake. Below is one of my favourite holed coins which I think I paid about tuppence for; a RR bronze of that type and condition would be ordinarily hundreds of dollars. Numa Pompilius and Ancus Marcius are the guys on the obverse.

The second coin below is another strange beast, again bought at a subustantial discount. It is an ex-jewellery Crawford 26 didrachm, Apollo / horse left, ROMA above. Except during its period as jewellery someone scratched off the word ROMA so as to leave a pure sculpture of a prancing horse. Although of course it was vandalism for a numismatists, I rather like to think that the owner admired the aesthetic qualities of the horse so much that he didn't want it impeded by text. I think I understand. After all it is a lovely horse.
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« Reply #14 on: March 22, 2010, 07:45:33 am »

I agree that 50%ish is rather typical. However, I have picked up some scarce holed coins at shows for a FAR greater discount than that from time to time, at least two of which would have cost me at least several hundred dollars, if not more, which I was able to pick up for under $100 (in one case for $10!). All Republican denarii, incidentally.

Coins were frequently made into jewelry in ancient times, including being set into bezels. I have seen some pieces in bezels that appear ancient offered from time to time as Victorian. Maybe they were, but I suspect some have been the real deal. I don't think there has been much (if any) serious study done on ancient coin jewelry except as it relates to ancient jewelry in general, rather than to numismatics. Holed and bezel-set ancient coins are a fascinating historical and aesthetic phenomenon in and of themselves and are far too underappreciated.
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Eric Brock (1966 - 2011)
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« Reply #15 on: March 22, 2020, 08:47:26 am »

Reviving this dormant topic to add some new sources.

I have recently started a new gallery for my holed coins:

https://www.forumancientcoins.com/gallery/thumbnails.php?album=7310

I have been researching these coins, and the question of why coins were holed or perforated in general, and wanted to share some resources I have found.  I found most via academia.edu:

 star star star star star

Jean-Marc Doyen.  THE CHAIRMANS ADDRESS: THE CHARONS OBOL: SOME METHODOLOGICAL REFLEXIONS, in The Journal of Archaeological Numismatics, 2, 2012.

Jean-Marc Doyen.  THE CHAIRMANS ADDRESS: ENTRE AMULETTES ET TALISMANS, LES MONNAIES TROUES : CE QUI SE CACHE SOUS LES APPARENCES, in The Journal of Archaeological Numismatics, 3, 2013.

Agnes Gazdac-Alfoldy and Christian Gazdac.  Coins in Funerary Contexts: The Case of Brigetio, in Ex OfficiniaStudia in Honorem Denes Gabler, 2009.

Claudia Perassi, MONETE ROMANE FORATE: QUALCHE RIFLESSIONE SU UN GRAND THEME EUROPEEN, in Aevum, #85, 2011.

Mirjana Vojvoda, PERFORATED COINS FROM GRAVES AT THE VIMINACIUM NECROPOLIS OF PECINE, in Starinar, #68, 2018.

Mirjana Vojvoda, PERFORATED COINS FROM GRAVES AT THE VIMINACIUM NECROPOLIS OF VISE GROBALJA, in Starinar, #65, 2015.

Lajos Juhsz.  Perforated Roman coins from the Aquincum-Graphisoft cemetery, in Numismatica Pannonica I, 2019.

 star star star star star

As you can see all seven of these works were published since the last posting on this thread....  So there is a lot of exciting new information out there.

To me, the most important information comes from the works by Vojvoda and Juhasz as they address the question of holed coins in the central Balkans - where many of my coins came from.  Their findings are that one of the main, if not the main use of perforated coins was on small bracelets or necklaces, especially for children.  These consisted of one or a few coins plus things like a bulla, shell prices, perforated stones, small amulets, etc. These strings likely served a couple of purposes - entertained for infants as rattles and such, but also as apotropaic (or sympathetic magical protection) amulets....

SC
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SC
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« Reply #16 on: March 22, 2020, 12:49:17 pm »

I add three holed coins from my gallery. Two from Ragusa in the Balkins, in which the holes appear to be randomly oriented, and a third from Denmark, in which the hole could have been made for pendant orientation. Stkp
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