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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Numismatic and History Discussions  |  Byzantine Coins (Moderators: vercingetorix, wileyc, Paleologos)  |  Topic: Byzantine cup coins. 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: Byzantine cup coins.  (Read 3453 times)
LordBest
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« on: December 04, 2001, 03:25:02 am »

Having just purchased my first good quality Byzantine coin, and reexamioning all the bad uality ones i got in uncleaned lots:(, I am wondering: Why and how were Byzantine cup coins manufactured? The ones I have are almost like thimbles, and I cant see the point of minting coins like that. surely they wouldnt waste time with unneccessary work just to get a few wierd looking coins?
     Thanks for any answers you can provide,
          LordBest. Cool
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Young Fogey.

What Would Machiavelli Do?

Inter arma enim silent leges
- Cicero
Jimj
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« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2002, 11:31:40 am »

I am a novice collector, but it is my theory that the scyphate coins were made in the way they are to facilitate stacking.? As to how they were struck, that is an intriguing mystery. A lot do seem to be double struck, so does'nt seem to be an altogether efficient way to mint.  Jim Jeffries
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Xerburous
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« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2002, 07:01:01 pm »

They are stronger and feel better in your fingers...50% of the coin would wear slower than the other so maybe inscriptions inside the cup were of more importance than the rounded side..they also would make more noise when put in a bag more melodic Wink tax collectors would hear you running..would give the term shakedown new meaning..and it could double for a thimble if need be. Grin
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LordBest
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« Reply #3 on: December 05, 2002, 07:15:51 pm »

They also look more sophisticated.Wink It could be they struck them scyphate becaue they could, while all teh other poor medieval folks couldnt have struck em scyphate if they tried. Cept for Hungary, they had some scyphated copied of Byx ones...
                          LordBest. Cool
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Young Fogey.

What Would Machiavelli Do?

Inter arma enim silent leges
- Cicero
solidus
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« Reply #4 on: June 01, 2003, 07:50:19 pm »

Re scyphate coins:

In addition to all the already noted information, it needs to be added that the original question has not been answered.  That question was HOW they were made, and the answer, quite frankly, is one we do not KNOW.

We speculate that the flans were cast in cup form, and the reverse die (for the convex coin) was on the bottom. It's usually the other way around, but these are unusual coins.  As has been noted, the coins were struck twice with the upper/obverse die being larger than the lower die/planchet combination so that the coin and two dies would not jam together and stick.  A previous respondent suggested that the dies were rocked, left side struck first, right side second.  Recent research by Simon Bendell has suggested that actually two different dies were used for right and left side strikes.  However it was done, there is frequent doubling in the center of scyphate coins, especially the crude billon/copper trachea.  

As to WHY scyphate coins were struck, I believe that there is some connection to the cupping which first appears with Byzantine gold just about the same time the quality of the gold is being debased.  I wonder if it might have been started as an indication of gold content similar to the arrows on 1853 silver US coins? Whatever the reason for its introduction, it was certainly NOT to make coins easier to stack.  Anyone who has ever had the opportunity to stack a large number of scyphates will confirm that their cup shape is no advantage at all.  That answer is pure speculation with no substance in fact.  What we do know for certain is (1.) The technology needed to accomplish scyphate coins was high, thus discouraging counterfeiting. (Bullion scyphates did encourage clipping, but that is another story).  (2.) The cup shape enabled a large yet thin coin.  This meant less metal used to make a coin that was difficult to loose or misplace, and strong enough to carry or survive in the bottom of a vault bag.

Finally, it needs to be admitted that scyphate coins are difficult to collect.  They are hard on mylar flips, and they take up lots of space, which makes them difficult to store.  They are impossible to encapsulate (goody!)!  The billon ones are really difficult to attribute, because needed inscriptions are frequently unstruck or illegible.

That being said, they are a wonderful concentration for a collection.  Because so many of the billon coins are crummy, nice ones can be found in the market very cheap!  If a collector takes the time to learn the series, and has the patience to look through a lot of junk scyphates, he or she will come up with an abundance of rare coins in remarkable condition for very little money.  As the series is yet to be discovered, learning it NOW before it IS discovered, can put a collector in the advantage.

Suggestions: look for full strikes and readable legends, especially on the reverse (convex).  For the billon coins, look for original silver: this is not "silvering," as it was not added before after the coin was struck.  The silver comes from the silver in the billon, which would, given a good alloy and a hot planchet, rise to the surface in a good strike.

Because there is so much potential to this series, these coins are worth seeking.  But, you will have to look hard because they have been so unpopular that many dealers just don't bother to bring them to shows or carry them in stock.  Talk about diamonds in the rough!
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LordBest
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« Reply #5 on: June 01, 2003, 09:00:25 pm »

Another theory is that they were made to be scyphate to be more impressive and take up more space in bags to impress the barbarians they were being sent to to buy their support. Wink This isfor gold, and id imagine if they set up huge resources for scyphate gold minting they would start using it for bronze to save time and effort.
They are fun to collect though, if anyone gets an Issac Comnenus of Cyprus or an Alexius IV, let me know. Roll Eyes
                                        LordBest. Cool
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Young Fogey.

What Would Machiavelli Do?

Inter arma enim silent leges
- Cicero
Douglas
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« Reply #6 on: February 29, 2004, 07:56:48 am »

I have a few byzantine cup coins in my piles of "to be cleaned" coins. They are also particularly effective at holding dirt. I keep putting them off, but I do like the byzantine coins. One of the first coins that I am close to attributing is a Justin and Sophia. I like the artwork on it. It is somewhat haunting. Just my aesthetic 2 cents.
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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Numismatic and History Discussions  |  Byzantine Coins (Moderators: vercingetorix, wileyc, Paleologos)  |  Topic: Byzantine cup coins. « previous next »
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