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
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
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!