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How many were produced

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Mark J2:
Is there a way to know how many of a certain coin were struck?

Like (1) how many shekel of Tyre were minted?
(2)In the world today?


--- Quote from: Mark J2 on September 10, 2021, 10:19:47 pm ---... Is there a way to know how many of a certain coin were struck? ...
--- End quote ---
Since some years there is something some people call "quantitative numismatics" where it is tried to answer exactly this question.

Some of the basic papers are written by Warren Esty: (not all of his papers are dealing with numismatics, there are also some others),
you even find a talk by him on YouTube:

But warning: Basically this is hard mathematics, and if you take it seriously, the preconditions for applying his theory never are all given in a numismatic context :-\.

To find out how many coins can be produced until a die is done there has been some experimental work, see e.g. these by Thomas Faucher and others:

There is also a video about these experiments:

I don't know if there are such calculations for the Tyrian Shekels :-\.



To estimate how many coins of a certain type were struck you need to know (a) how many dies were used for that type and (b) how many coins were struck on average from each die.

As Altamura has said Warren Esty has published several articles which deal with formulae estimating the number of dies, and a (somewhat) simplified summary of these and other formulae can be found here:

We only have rough guesses as to how many coins were produced by ancient dies, but we do know from preserved English mint records that in medieval times roughly 30,000 to 35,000 silver pennies were struck from the obverse dies (with a lot less from the reverse dies).

Ancient coins however generally have higher relief than medieval pennies, which means they require more work to produce, and hence more die wear, which in turn suggests that ancient denarii dies (for example) might have struck say 10,000 to 20,000 coins per die, with probably significantly lower figures for high relief coins like Greek tetradrachms.

Ross G.

Virgil H:
I think it was ANS that hosted a great discussion of die studies by Warren Etsy. Very interesting and informative. Just as an aside, I had no idea that numbers of coins produced by a given die were so high, including the numbers you mention for ancients. Those things were more durable than I thought. Maybe it also explains why so many coins look rough. I understand worn dies, but I always assumed much of this was due to wear, aging, and being in the ground for hundreds of years. Then, there is the difference between silver and bronze. So many interesting things to think about, if I were young again, it could be a wonderful field of study in an academic sense rather than as a hobbyist.


Another way of looking at the question is to ask how many coins were needed.  As Kenneth Harl (1996) explored, during the middle period of the Roman Republic, soldiers were paid in new silver coins.  Each ordinary soldier was paid 225 denarii per year, and there were roughly 5000 soldiers in a legion.  So, paying one legion required at least 1.125 million new coins. And there were increasingly more legions.  There are many variables in this concept, and debate over whether the legions were always paid in fresh coin and whether other state expenses were also paid that way, but that gives some idea of the volume of production of denarii.


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