Numismatic and History Discussions > Roman Coins

Ancient flans - hot or cold

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Altamura:
Interesting article, but without a single reference to others  ???

In one of the basic books about ancient minting technology by Hasso Moesta and Peter Robert Franke, "Antike Metallurgie und Münzprägung", Basel 1995, this topic is already discussed. They conclude that there is a difference between silver and gold on one side and bronze on the other.
Bronze has to be struck cold because the deformability is much better when the flan is cold (in effect it is much more complicated and also depends from the composition of the alloy).
There is no clear decision whether silver coins have been struck hot or cold, there seem to be indications for both.

Already in 2007 and 2008 a French group around Thomas Faucher did a huge amount of experimental minting and struck 12281 silver coins. The results have been published 2009 by Faucher et al., "À la recherche des ateliers monétaires grecs: l’apport de l’expérimentation", RN 2009, p. 43-80: https://www.persee.fr/doc/numi_0484-8942_2009_num_6_165_2867
They conclude that minting of silver coins probably mostly had been with cold flans but that there had been exceptions as well.

There is also a short movie about these minting experiments on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4G6vqUWMELo
(and this is available in English too :) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGsc2TeeAkg )

Regards

Altamura

SC:
Such views are not universally accepted.

Cope (who was a professional metallurgist) was clear that Roman bronze coins show clear signs of having been struck while hot. Analysis of their internal structure revealed a uniformity of crystal structure and a very fine grain size showing that they had been given a prolonged anneal, perhaps to a dull red heat for several hours, and that the coin blanks themselves had been substantially worked to flan dimensions near to those of the finished coins before being given their final hot striking. Many showed signs of multiple heating and cooling cycles. 

He knew of no other way to explain the crystal structure of the metal.

See: Cope, Lawrence H. 1974. The Metallurgical Development of the Roman Imperial Coinage during the first Five Centuries A.D. Unpublished PhD Thesis, Department of Chemistry, Liverpool Polytechnic, March 1974.

SC

SC:
Georges Depeyrot addresses this question in his excellent introductory handbook to Numismatics "Numismatique antique et medievale en Occident", Paris 2002.

He notes that the debate between cold striking and hot striking began in the 70s and was first based primarily on experimentation.  He noted that in the 80s and especially 90s scientific analyses was increasingly done to study the internal structure of coins.

He notes that large coins, especially large bronzes required multiple strikes and this required heated flans to ensure malleability.  But also noted that different techniques were used for different sizes, metals and eras and that not all coins were struck hot.

He quotes the following works:

Bouyon, Depeyrot & Desnier.  Le systeme et la technologie des monnaies de bronze (4e s avant J.C. - 3e s après J.C.), 2000.

Oddy. Metallurgy in Numismatics 2, 1988.

Moesta & Franke.  Antike Metallurgie und Munzpragung, Ein Beitrag zur Technikgeschichte, 1995.


I am not saying this (the hot theory) is absolutely right, but it is what I have relied on up to now.  I would love to know where this debate is these days.

I wonder in the Oxford Companion book addresses it?

SC

Meepzorp:
Hi folks,

This is an interesting topic.

Until several years ago, I had always assumed that ancient coins were struck hot. However, several years ago (before I was a Forum member), an article appeared in the ANA's "The Numismatist" magazine regarding this topic. In preparation for this article, they actually tested both methods. This article concluded that ancient coins were struck cold, not hot. It also conclude that it would have been physically impossible to strike ancient coins hot, for numerous reasons. The main reason is that it would have been extremely inefficient.

The conclusions of that article didn't sit right with me. This was before I had internet access, so I wrote a letter (by snail mail) to the ANA hoping that it would be published in their magazine. But they never published it. I contacted them to ask why. I spoke by phone to the editor of "The Numismatist". I was told that they refused to publish my letter in the magazine because the Board of Directors of the ANA strongly disagreed with my objections. They insisted that ancient coins were struck cold, not hot.

One of the reasons I felt that ancient coins were struck hot is that, on more than one issue, there are references to ancient coins being struck hot. For example, there is the Roman Republic T. Carisius issue (Cr. 464/2) and the Greek Italy Samnium, Aesernia issue (SNG ANS 118-123).

Here are my own examples of these 2 issues:

https://www.forumancientcoins.com/meepzorp/rr_pt38.htm (third coin)
https://www.forumancientcoins.com/meepzorp/gi_samnium_aesernia.htm (second coin)

Why would the ancients have put those devices and symbols (Vulcan, Vulcan's cap, tongs, etc.) on ancient coins if they weren't struck hot?

I actually raised this point in my letter to the ANA and pointed out to them those 2 issues. However, the BOD of the ANA dismissed it, stating that the ancients simply put those devices and symbols on ancient coins for entertainment purposes, and that ancient coins weren't really struck hot.

I am not stating that I was right and the BOD of the ANA was wrong. I am just stating that I felt at that time that the evidence wasn't conclusive enough.

By the way, otl's posts (above) are very interesting.

Meepzorp

SC:
This is indeed a fascinating subject. 

Too many of the "cold" arguments rely on a "we experimented and it couldn't be done" kind of argument, which is entirely too unscientific for me.

Just because a modern experimenter couldn't figure out how to strike a hot flan doesn't mean the ancients didn't.

There is a picture by English painter A. W. Devis done circa 1792 that shows two men striking coins at the Calcutta mint while two men in the background work a fire with bellows.  From the article Minting Technology in Mughal India by Najar Haider.  Other old Indian illustrations related to striking coins all have a tended fire nearby.  Haider makes clear the Mughal Indian flans were finished hot, but his wording is unclear on whether the flan was then struck immediately while hot or later. 

On the other hand, Thomas Faucher's 2017 article on experimental striking of Ptolemaic coins finds that while striking larger bronzes coins would be easier if they were hot, he does not believe that they were.  This belief is based on the following:
- the signs of mis-strikes and duplicate show it was hard to strike them and therefore he believes that they were probably striking them cold,
- it is very difficult process-wise to handle hot blanks and coins, and
- the heating would leave a black layer which would have to be cleaned off.
Faucher is a well respected French academic.  But again the paper relies on experimental archeology.

I would really like to see more metallurgical analysis.

Was Cope right, or can what he found be explained away as the effect of heatings during flan fabrication and preparation???

SC


 

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