Author Topic: Silver 1/192 stater  (Read 932 times)

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Offline Figleaf

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Re: Silver 1/192 stater
« Reply #15 on: February 02, 2018, 12:12:46 AM »
I am not aware of these studies, but I believe you. Just two practical points. First, I doubt that there are enough specimen of the electrum Lydian coins to draw hard statistical conclusions. I realise that this is a normal problem for all but the large coin finds and archeologists will have to do with what is available, but it is important in relation to my second point.

This is that the electrum used was as mined. It is hard to see how a natural alloy, unchanged by human hands, would have yielded a constant ratio of gold and silver. Though I would readily accept that the ratio in each batch of metal was reasonably stable, due to smelting, the ratio must have been different between batches, also in river mining, as the nuggets would come from different veins. If the ore came from mines, when a mine is exhausted and another one used, it would be practically miraculous if the ratio were the same.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Matteo

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Re: Silver 1/192 stater
« Reply #16 on: February 02, 2018, 09:19:36 AM »
For example on the gold/silver ratio, pp. 13-14: https://www.academia.edu/2313012/K._Konuk_and_C._Lorber_White_Gold_Revealing_the_World_s_Earliest_Coins_H._Gitler_ed._Jerusalem_2012


"The invention of coinage was apparently spurred by the deficiency of alluvial electrum as a medium of exchange. Its variable gold content, ranging from ca. 65% to 85%, implied an unreliable intrinsic value, so that electrum in its bullion form had to be tested with a touchstone (“Lydian stone”) every time it changed hands.
 When electrum took the form of a coin, the device of the issuing authority guaranteed its face value, which was probably fixed at the maximum intrinsic value of electrum. Remarkably careful weight control, within a tolerance measured by hundredths of grams, may also have facilitated the use of electrum coinage in exchange. Metallurgical analyses of electrum coins indicate that natural alluvial ore was soon replaced by an artificial alloy with a lower gold content and a higher percentage of silver, usually adulterated with copper to enrich its color. For example, early electrum coins from the island of Samos show great variability in their gold content, from 84% to 46% with an average around 55–60%; those with the highest gold content may have been struck from natural electrum whereas the rest employed a manipulated alloy. In contrast, royal Lydian coins of the lion-forepart or lion-head type (below, figs. 20–24) were from the beginning made of an artificial alloy containing about 54% gold and 2% copper, yet they were probably valued as if minted from natural electrum with an average gold content of 70–75%. Electrum coinage was thus a fiduciary coinage, and the profit that accrued to the issuing authorities may be another reason, or even the main reason, for the invention of coinage".

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Silver 1/192 stater
« Reply #17 on: February 02, 2018, 03:45:18 PM »
Metallurgical analyses of electrum coins indicate that natural alluvial ore was soon replaced by an artificial alloy with a lower gold content and a higher percentage of silver, usually adulterated with copper to enrich its color. For example, early electrum coins from the island of Samos show great variability in their gold content, from 84% to 46% with an average around 55–60%

Thank you, Mateo, that clarifies stuff. We were perhaps thinking of different periods or areas. This again raises the question of why use an artificial alloy for coinage when you can separate the gold and silver (though mercury refining hadn't been invented yet) and get coins that are more desirable, because they are easier to test and value.

In contrast, royal Lydian coins of the lion-forepart or lion-head type (below, figs. 20–24) were from the beginning made of an artificial alloy containing about 54% gold and 2% copper, yet they were probably valued as if minted from natural electrum with an average gold content of 70–75%. Electrum coinage was thus a fiduciary coinage, and the profit that accrued to the issuing authorities may be another reason, or even the main reason, for the invention of coinage".

This is confusing. I thought Lydian coins preceded Samos coins. Are we talking about two separate traditions? Anyway, I am delighted to know how the Lydian and Chinese coins were connected in being called fiduciary (avant la lettre). I am not convinced in either case. Let me explain.

Coining is a service. It transforms metal that must be weighed and assayed into pre-weighed and assayed objects. Coining has a cost. It is reasonable that at least part of the cost is paid by the user in the form of seigniorage. Seigniorage can be higher or lower than minting cost. However, if seigniorage is higher than minting cost, it does not follow that the coins are fiduciary. If that were the case, practically only bullion coins would not be fiduciary coins and the  distinction between full value coins and fiduciary coins would be without a difference.

Fiduciary coins have a bullion value that has no relation with the denomination. Therefore, neither the metal nor the weight are of importance. That is clearly not the case for the electrum coins. What remains is that in modern eyes, seigniorage is higher than minting cost. I wonder if contemporaries saw the coins in the same way. First, do we have a good idea about minting cost? Second, do we take into account such factors as "coins are easy to hide" and "coins have a weight that is in line with accepted weight standards"? In short, can we really conclude that the minting authority made an excess profit?

We know that at least in China, the idea - or maybe the fiction - was that the cash coins were full value, but containing a large seigniorage. Maybe the better conclusion is that Greek coin users were able to drive down seigniorage in time, while Chinese coin users could not. If that is so, one explanation may be that the organisation of the Chinese (large, unitary, authoritarian units) was radically different from that of the Greeks (small, quite different, competing city states with a republican tendency).

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Matteo

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Re: Silver 1/192 stater
« Reply #18 on: February 02, 2018, 08:14:51 PM »
Dear Peter,

a good summarize of the studies on the composition of early electrum coinage is in F. Velde, On the origin of specie. It's too long to past it here. I add another extract from K. Konuk, Asia Minor to the Ionian revolt:

Quote
A further set of coins to have been probed are the Lydian lion head issues which have a
much more stable proportion of gold at around 54% with c. 2% copper (Cowell and Hyne
2000: 170-171; Keyser and Clark 2001: 114). Lydian coins were clearly struck with a
manipulated alloy which contained a lower proportion of gold than is found in natural
electrum (70-75% gold on average). The face or exchange value of these coins would have
been superior to their intrinsic value, perhaps by as much as some 20% to coincide with a
value close to that of natural electrum (Le Rider 2001: 94-5; see below for an anecdote in
Herodotus involving a gift made by Croesus from which the value in question may perhaps be
determined).

I'm sorry if my answers are not good as your observations are, but I'm not an expert.

I'm agree that probably it is not correct to talk about "fiduciary coinage": in my opinion "fiduciary coins" means that people know they are using a coin with a bullion value lower than its denomination. Are we sure that Lydian people know the real intrinsic value of their coins?

For example Bolin talked "about a large scale swindle":

Quote
“The very contrast between appearance and reality—on the one hand the care with which
the weights of the coins were tested and their alleged equal value, and on the other hand their strongly
varying percentage of gold and the impossibility of checking it—makes it possible to regard the
introduction of coinage as an imposture, a large-scale swindle.”

So it could be possible that in a first step issuers used a natural alloy with a fixed value. This value was high enough to have a right profit.
In the next step (see for example what Konuk says for Lydia) issuers used an artificial alloy to know the exact gold/silver ratio and to increase their profits.

Offline EWC

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Re: Silver 1/192 stater
« Reply #19 on: February 03, 2018, 09:40:24 AM »
Matteo > I'm agree that probably it is not correct to talk about "fiduciary coinage": in my opinion "fiduciary coins" means that people know they are using a coin with a bullion value lower than its denomination.

Interesting discussion between yourself and Peter, but errors of fact are cropping up too fast for me to find time to correct them all.  Most of these have to do with the meaning of words.  For instance - when Plato wrote about a "Republic" - was that an honest use of the word?

On this fiduciary matter - all British coins from 1666 to 1816 apparently contained their full value in metal - and when a seigniorage was applied to silver after 1816, at about 6%, the coins were called token - implying they were fiduciary.  That is a fact.  But we the way we use words is only really a fact about our personal psychology, political stance etc.  Its not really a fact about the real world. 

The cost of making silver coin - traditionally called brassage - seems to have been about 2% in a big well run mint (like medieval Venice).  The alloy of the early electrum varies quite a lot, but it is claimed to be artificial and around 20%+ below natural electrum, or about 45% below gold. I am with you and Bolin - that for me counts as fiduciary. All these claims are contested of course, we are way into guesswork territory - but my guess is still that they were fiduciary and may well have been tariffed as pure gold at a big profit for all we know.

Practice in China varied widely - but it looks a lot like Northern Sung cash were cast close to full value.  But full value itself is a pretty meaningless phrase - since the biggest customer for copper was the state for use in coinage, so the metal value itself is going to be a function of state coining decisions.  Bullionists heads are often way into the sand on that matter.

Rob


Offline Figleaf

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Re: Silver 1/192 stater
« Reply #20 on: February 04, 2018, 08:44:55 AM »
Due to personal engagements, I have no time to refute your arguments extensively. I think you are confusing republic and democracy, government and state, full weight and (very) approximate full weight, brassage and seigniorage, you still don't know about prices in ancient times, you are wrong on China and you are wrong to transpose modern terms to ancient and medieval situations. Sorry for brevity.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline EWC

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Re: Silver 1/192 stater
« Reply #21 on: February 04, 2018, 02:19:24 PM »
No problem about the brevity Peter - I fully understand - I am very busy myself.

However, if anyone with more time wishes to defend any of the diverse claims you make, about my being “wrong” or “confused” I would ask them to first quote the specific message they have in mind, and then give salient facts backing their criticism. 

Meanwhile, all I say in rely is, I think you are wrong.

As I say, I am busy too, so apologies in advance if I am slow to respond to anyone

Rob