Tuesday, 23 June 2015

"An Odd Post" Some Numismatic Theory for Book-shy NumisFondlers

Hoard that "may have been found in Cyprus"
sold piecemeal by Forum Ancient Coins
. Coin
dealing destroys archaeological context
Washington lawyer Peter Tompa, the IAPN's public representative,  seems not really to have much grounding in numismatic theory. That's what you get for seemingly being shy of libraries:
Cultural Property Observer said... I note [Paul] Barford has an odd post in response to this blog [link omitted]. In it, he seems to claim based on evidence derived from Polish medieval hoards that hoarding does not reflect circulation trends. This is a rather odd statement. Leaving aside the fact that he is comparing apples to oranges, one wonders how the coins got into hoards if not because they also circulated in the area. I suppose they just materialized there somehow.
Wow. First of all when discussing a phenomenon generally, here thesaurisation, it is not in any way "comparing apples with oranges" to look at the issue diachronically, it is called "context" Mr Tompa. Context. The context is that it is a methodological mistake to assume that all deposits of metal (round discs or not) were put in the ground for the same reason and before they were put in the ground all functioned in the same way in direct relation to other systems.

Wayne Sayles claims his red-dot-distribution maps of only hoard finds have something to say about "the circulation of contemporary Cypriot coins of the Pre-Classical, Classical and Hellenistic eras". Monetary circulation is by definition the process of the continuous movement of money as a medium of circulation and payment. Hoarded coins are not in circulation, the term 'currency in circulation' refers to currency that is physically used to conduct transactions (for example between consumers and businesses) or being used for investment, rather than stored in some treasury, banking system or private/ institutional hoard or removed from circulation for other purposes (for example votive deposits, grave goods). Hoarding  (thesaurisation) is therefore a leakage in the income stream, it takes money out of circulation, concentrates it in certain hands and reduces total income. The velocity of money in circulation varies inversely with the rate of hoarding, the more income hoarded in the form of money, the more slowly money turns over. I really would have though that anyone employed by the IAPN to represent them in public would at least have heard of Gresham's law which explicitly relates what types of money will leave the country or disappear from circulation into hoards, and which then flood into circulation, thus what is found in hoards is not a picture of what is in circulation. The concept is an old one, the Polish scholar Nicholas Copernicus wrote about it in his 'Monetae cudendae ratio' (1526) probably known to many coineys who actually read books. Perhaps Peter Tompa is not one of their number.

A place where a hoard is found is not necessarily identical to the place where it was accumulated. A hoard can be moved in a strongbox, or on a pack animal. It can be taken out of the region where the coins it contains were in circulation as part of a market economy (a Greek city state and its hinterland for example) to an area where the issues which it contains no longer had that function. The coins could be moved as loot, tribute, a merchant's cashbox, a diplomatic gift, a dowry, personal property of an exile, a cashbox of a recruiter of mercenaries, or whatever. In that exterior region, the hoar could be split and redistributed, perhaps the coins being used as so-called special purpose currency, changing hands by other processes and fulfilling other social needs than in the region where they originally functioned. Familiarity with the literature would inform Tompa that this was, for example, the case with the Greek and Roman coins found in Barbaricum in the Later Iron Age (the period Sayles is discussing). This is not however the same as the coins being in monetary circulation in a market economy. There too metal objects such as coins were hoarded (a whole range of Barbarian silver and gold hoards).

Byzantine coins and their copies occur in seventh century Anglo-Saxon contexts, English pennies in Viking hacksilber hoards. These areas are not extensions of the area of circulation of these coins (the economic systems of Byzantium or Anglo-Saxon England). The coins have a  different function there. The same goes for Greek coins and Alexandrian tetradrachms recorded by the PAS in England. They do not mark areas where the economies of Athens or Alexandria were functioning. Many of them were probably more recent Grand Tour losses anyway ('Alexandrian Tetras and US Coiney Dishonesty' PACHI Monday, 2 June 2014).
It is not "odd" to point out that ancient coin hoards taken by themselves are NOT indicators of the patterns of local circulation of currency. It is a simple fact about the proper interpretation of numismatic finds from the past of which both Mr Sayles and Mr Tompa seem not be be aware. 

UPDATE 22.06.2015
Peter Tompa, the IAPN's "Cultural Property Observer", now redefines the concept of monetary circulation as: "coins travel - and what does it matter if its in a group or singly for that purpose?". He says...
I see [Paul] Barford has now explained himself [link omitted] [...] However, now I get it-- he's suggesting that not all hoards reflect what is in circulation in a given area because they could have been accumulated elsewhere and brought as a group and buried somewhere else.
No, Peter Tompa does not "get it" and probably never will. What a loser. Making an exhibition of himself for the IAPN dollar.

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