As well as thousands years ago, before becoming a coin a piece of metal has a long way to go – from a mine to master’s stamp.
Coining technology has always been keeping up with human’s scientific and practical knowledge. Studying ancient coins and the technology of their production we can find out by the tree’s cutout, what the level of peoples’ knowledge on the metallurgy industry was. We can find out how the crafts were developed and try to understand the esthetic ideas of one region and time or another, try to find out the political and economic situation of that time.
Archeologists and numismatists came to conclusion that the coins were invented as means of paying in the Mediterranean between 700-600 BC. Couple hundreds of years later coining became the basic way of producing coins there, but not the casting as it was earlier. These kinds of coins had a lot of advantages. They were more detailed, which was impossible to see during the process of casting. But the process of coining itself was so complicated that producing such coins without special equipment was impossible. The coining also became an additional “step of protection” from false-coiners of that period: false casted coin could be defined visually, by the empty sectors, by cavities from the air bubbles, by indistinct relief of the image and the lack of gloss that was a characteristic of original coin.
Lidia, Croesus (about 560-546 BC) 1/2 of stater.
Gradually, the tail’s image became more complicated, squares and rectangles were changed into complex images; the letters, palmettes and images of plants appeared. The next step of tails decorating was placing the negative concave heads image of the coin. This type of coins is a characteristic of Greece colonies of Southern Italy.
Southern Italy, Metapontium in Lucania, nomos (520-510 BC)
While coining technique development and artists’ and engravers’ skills improvement the image of tails became more and more complicated and turned into the candle-holder of the heads. Sides’ ranking was taken into consideration in the technology of coining as well: upper stamp (tails) wore out much faster, that is why supportive images were there, while the lower stamp (heads) contained the images of God or kings. Gradually, during the process of coining and further circulation, round coins with two-sided method of coining pushed out all other forms of currency. So, the coin got all the basic features and form, which has not almost changed until today.
Upper bronze stamp of the Athens tetra-drachm, which was found in Egypt, and the tails of the Athens silver coin of the 4 century BC
Prime days of the ancient coining art were in Classic and Hellenistic Greece from where the best masterpieces came. Regular coins of the Ancient Greece amaze with the highest level of artistic and technical performance.
DecadrachmorSyracuse (400-395 BC)
Dinars coining was made by two stamps; the lower one was safely fastened in clutches, and the upper one was held by a hand and set while coining. High relief of the Roman coins, as well as Greek, was high, so for all the details to be well-coined, working material was preliminary made red-hot in the oven. Heated working material was less rigid, which helped iron and bronze stamps last longer.
Emperor Maximinus’s dinar (235-238) and the iron stamps of the first centuries AC
The engravers – scalptores monetae — were the ones to make stamps in Rome, and they formed specific corporation at the mint, which was headed by praepositus. After getting the sketch and the text of the legend of the future coin, the masters started to produce coining instrument. Two iron or bronze bars were used as stamp’s working materials. The lower stamp was shorter than the upper one for the reason of convenient holding by a hand. The butt-end of stamps was made even and then polished. After that fringe and legend marking was drawn on the working surface with the help of compasses. The base of the negative profile image was coined at the stamp with a previously prepared puncheon with the Emperor’s silhouette and head on it. Portrait details were coined on that base with the help of some smaller and simpler puncheons with a dotted, triangle, crescent or ring working edge. The nose, eyes, lips and hair appeared like that, until the image started to look complete. It is hard to believe, but while making such a realistic and live portrait, the master did not practically use the graver. When the portrait or other compositions were done, the master started to do the edge and the legend. Almost all Latin letters were coined with the help of several puncheons: long and short “I”, big and small “C” and “S”. When the image was done, the stamps were polished for the second time. Markings and metal leftovers, which were forced out with a puncheon while making the deeper image, vanished at the final stage. After hardening the stamp was ready for coining.
Linked stamp of Konstant I coin with Antiokhian mint letters, which was found in France, and bronze follis of this Emperor coined in Antiokhia
Roman political and economic crisis was reflected in the money system come-down as well. The quantity of the pure silver of the basic coin of that period (silver dinar) was constantly reducing. So, by the end of the century the dinar had a fineness of 500.