Pacific Ancient Numismatists (PAN)
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The striking of ancient coins by Joseph Kleinman

Most of us who collect modern coins have an understanding of the modern minting process. Additionally, some of us may also be knowledgeable regarding the work of the coin die engraver. For instance, most of us know that modern coin blanks are punched out from sheets of metal that were produced at a mill. We also know that the dies are cut by machinery using digital technology. Things were quite different in ancient times.

In ancient times none of the techniques or technology existed that would or could be used to produce the exquisite results that they nevertheless achieved. How did they do it?

Beginning with the flan or planchet, we know that they were manufactured by a casting process. Molten metal was poured into a mold and then broken out after cooling. This process didnít always produce flans of equal size and weight. That is just one of he reasons why any two ancient coins of the same issue are never exactly alike. The coin dies were cut by hand individually. A bow drill was most likely used to produce a reverse image on a bronze die that was work-hardened. Remember that the die engraver didnít have the benefit of strong acids, high magnification or even an adequate source of available light. The actual process of striking the coin is illustrated on this Roman Republican Silver Denarius of the mint official T. CARISIVS, a senator responsible for the operation of the mint in 46 BC when this coin was struck. The aforementioned flan was heated in an annealing oven and when the desired temperature was reached the flan was removed from the oven (with the tongs shown) and placed on the anvil holding the reverse die. The obverse die (shown above the anvil) was struck with the hammer (shown to the right of the anvil). The obverse die is in the shape of the cap warn by Vulcan, the Roman god of the forge.

The coin features the bust of Juno Moneta (from where we get the word money). The Mint of Rome was located adjacent to the temple of Juno Moneta on the Arx summit of the Capitoline Hill.


Photo credits: Perry Seigel of Herakles Numismatics and Dave Surber of WildWinds.
Click on photo to enlarge.