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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Numismatic and History Discussions  |  For the New Ancient Coin Collector (Moderators: wolfgang336, cscoppa, Gavignano, Lucas H)  |  Topic: Officina question 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Kennius Naughtius
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« on: December 05, 2010, 07:30:18 pm »

In any given city where coins were minted,
was there only one facility(mint)and the
different officina were departments/workshops
within that one facility?
(or)
Were there several or more locations throughout
the city and each were assigned a number/letter?
Thanks,
K.N.
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dougsmit
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« Reply #1 on: December 05, 2010, 08:20:24 pm »

Don't know.  You can't answer a question of this nature.  Even if you had absolute proof that mint A used a separate building for each shop, you would not have proof about the set up at mint B.  There are enough examples of coins struck for a ruler which are common for one officina and rare for another to suggest that there might have been an occasional error where a reverse for one ruler's officina was used with the wrong portrait that it makes sense that they were located in the same building but that, again, does not allow proof that all mints did things by the same rules.   Even to answer a question of this type for one mint during one time period would require a complete die study of thousands of examples and a great deal of luck to turn up patterns that might shed some light on the relationship between shops and there are enough other questions competing for limited academic resources that it may never happen.  Of course it would be nice if someone found a diary written by a mint employee answering all this but that is less likely than just about anything I can imagine. 
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curtislclay
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« Reply #2 on: December 05, 2010, 09:16:17 pm »

The usual assumption, however, is that the different officinae were part of one and the same mint establishment, located in one and the same building.

Supporting evidence for this assumption: (1) the style of the different officinae of each mint is the same, suggesting that the dies were engraved centrally by the same artists. I have never been convinced by occasional claims to be able to tell officinae apart stylistically!

(2) It's not uncommon for the same obverse dies to be used by different officinae.

(3) On some late Roman and Byzantine coins we can observe that the officina number has been altered in the die. This makes far more sense if the officinae were all under one roof rather than spread over various locations in the city.
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Curtis Clay
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« Reply #3 on: December 05, 2010, 09:57:14 pm »

Doug/Curtis,
I was leaning towards a central location,dispite finding nothing on the
web about this.I guess(as in later times)monitoring/regulating
such an important operation would be much more difficult if spread out.
Thanks for the replies,
K.N.
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Maffeo
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« Reply #4 on: December 06, 2010, 12:21:06 am »

I suspect that this very interesting question is the kind of question that could only be answered on the basis of documentation that we simply do not have, and not on the basis of the coins alone.
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« Reply #5 on: December 06, 2010, 12:56:47 am »

Is there any evidence or any inherent or logical reason that would give any support whatever to the second idea, that the officinae were separate organizations located in different places?

An additional point speaking against separate locations: the number of officinae at a particular mint can vary substantially, often being 4-6, but sometimes rising to 8 or 12 or more, and then, maybe in the next reign, reverting to 4-6. So one emperor was doubling the number of mint locations in a city, and then the next emperor was halving that number again? Doesn't an expansion and then contraction of the production at one and the same site seem far more likely?

I may say that I am an agnostic about officinae; I don't know how the mints arranged their production of dies and blanks and their striking of coins, and how the officina numbers on the coins related to the whole process. But I see no reason at all to consider the possibility that officinae were separate workshops in different locations, nor am I aware that any writer on mint organization has ever suggested such a possibility.
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Curtis Clay
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« Reply #6 on: December 06, 2010, 03:59:44 am »

Putting a completely non-numismatic view into this discussion, and throwing in some non-researched thoughts, surely the mint had to be one of the most secure establishments of the Roman world.  As such it wouldn't make sense to locate the different officinae in different places, as ensuring that theft was kept low would be far more difficult across different facilities. 
Also, logistically, why would you want to move quantities of metal to different places to be prepared for minting?  Surely it makes more sense to have a central location for the stock of metal and/or blanks, to be pulled from for use.
Finally, overall control.  Whoever ran the mint would have had to answer for any issues.  If I was running an operation like that where my head could be on the block should there be any major issues, I would want to ensure that I kept it all as close as possible.
regards
Mark
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otlichnik
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« Reply #7 on: December 06, 2010, 05:45:08 am »

I don't doubt that the central thesis is the most likely.

However, looking at Mr. Clay's central paragraph made me wonder a few things.  Was there always room in the given facilities for such large expansions? 

What actually occured if the officinae doubled in a relatively short period.  Doubling of the number of skilled employees (like engravers)?  Maybe in cases where officinae at some mints closed while those at others opened but unlikely when there was overall growth as you don't just hire these artisans on the street.  Double the number of unskilled employees?  Certainly easy to do.  Double the number of forges, anvils, etc?  And, most importantly for my point double the amount of space required?

If the space requirement went up how easily could this need be met?  You could argue that the mint was a very important function and likely to get priority.  However, the heart (if that is indeed where mints were located) of any Roman city was a very densely packed area and mints might have been cheek to jowl with other high priority functions - temples, courts, military offices, etc.

The existence of the travelling/wandering gold mints at certain periods shows that the shop elements of a mint could be relocated.

So, while I am not arguing for any conscious plan to located different officinae in different locations I am not sure that we could rule out the idea of a mint being situated in more than one location in a city for some perids of time.

Shawn

PS Are all ancient literary references to mints indexed anywhere?  I though I saw such an index somewhere but can't recall where now.
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curtislclay
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« Reply #8 on: December 06, 2010, 08:10:54 am »

Since we don't really know what an officina was, we don't know what changes in equipment, floor space, and personell were involved in increasing or lowering their number.

In the absence of any decisive evidence, it's not worth speculating at length about such details of coin production, including the role and location of officinae. But I think that both logic and the little evidence we have support, and nothing contradicts, the assumption that mints were generally centralized at one location.
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Curtis Clay
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« Reply #9 on: December 06, 2010, 02:23:12 pm »

To answer the other part of the question, there are occasional cases of their being two mints in one city. At one time, Viminacium had both a imperial mint and a provincial mint, striking coins in entirely different styles.
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Robert Brenchley

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curtislclay
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« Reply #10 on: December 06, 2010, 03:05:52 pm »

Robert,

Your statement may well be correct, but I question the example.

Virtually everybody has followed Elmer in attributing a series of antoniniani of Valerian and Gallienus to Viminacium, but in my opinion the earliest coins of that series definitely cannot have been struck at Viminacium, which was still under Aemilian's control at the time, and the coincidence of obverse legends is insufficient evidence for attributing the later antoniniani to Viminacium, since nothing prevented the local mint of Viminacium from copying its obverse legends from antoniniani struck elsewhere!
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Curtis Clay
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« Reply #11 on: December 06, 2010, 05:00:05 pm »

Very good question initially, and its great to hear from all.
Although I agree 100% with Curtis that it doesn't make much sense to speculate beyond a few general possibilities, it sure is fun to speculate a little!!
I would think teamwork in such an enterprise as minting coins would be quite important, so I'll throw out there that the officina may have been individual teams, assembled for a certain period of time. I could see the teams being in different rooms or wings of a central buliding.
If I could just drag in a related topic, how about field marks? Are these "quality control" symbols, relating to making a mark for a specific "batch" of coinage? In later parts of the empire, did they  take on different meanings?
I don't think  there is hard evidence here either, but does the idea that they are quality control markers hold up with all?
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« Reply #12 on: December 07, 2010, 12:19:39 am »

Gavignano,

I am still trying to fully understand late Roman field marks.  I think they can best be described as an option to allow fuller control of sequential issues of the same coin type.  An option that was used for reasons we can't be absolutely sure of.

The diversity of field marks in individual coin types perhaps reaches its peak with the SECVRITAS REIPVBLICAE Victory advancing left with branch and wreath and GLORIA ROMANORVM Emperor leading captive right of Valentinian I, Valens and Gratian of AD 364 - 378.  Sirmium, Cyzicus, and Alexandria do not appear to have used field marks.  Nicomedia and Antioch only very rarely.  Most other non-Balkan mints used a few field marks.  However, three of the mints closest to the main military action of the period used many marks.  Aquileia used a fair number and Thessalomika and Siscia used a bewildering variety.  It seems likely that the high number of field marks in these three mints reflects a very high issuance reflective of the large number of troops and civil servants in the area.  However, it is also clear that the there is not an exact correlation between number of field marks and coin issuance.  In other words it seems hard to believe that Siscia issued as many times more coins than Constantinople as the ratio of field marks issued between the two would appear to indicate.  And what of mints that used no marks like Alexandria - was their output really 1/60th or less that of Siscia?  So it seems that some mints felt the need to use more stringent control mechanisms.  Was this just a reflection of the larger output?  Was it a reflection of some extra transition or confusion in the mints?  More new staff introduced?  Interestingly Siscia absorbed the two officinae from Sirmium in 365 and so there it was a situation of two staffs re-integrating.  However Thessalonika did not add officinae during this period and in fact had reduced by one around 361.

Shawn
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SC
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