AIA-7B: Coins, Copies, and Prototypes (Joint AIA/SCS Colloquium)

  In-Person   AIA Session   Colloquium

Sponsored by:

Friends of Numismatics


Nathan Elkins, American Numismatic Society; and Roberta Stewart, Dartmouth College


Benjamin Hellings, Yale University Art Gallery

Overview Statement

Every element of coin design (legend, portrait, symbols, and their placement) is a product of conscious selection and also of coining traditions. The images on coins relate directly to other visual media and traditions in the time and place that they were made. Coins also carry words that mirror epigraphic conventions and models. Together, word and image on coins reflect political, social, and cultural ideas iterated in ancient prose and poetry. As mass-produced objects used in commerce, coins were a primary means of communication and they and their designs were subject to copying and imitation. Copies and near copies of ancient coins could be made by communities for various reasons or by individuals seeking illegal profits. Some coins and their designs also served as prototypes for later numismatic designs to recall particular concepts, especially in a political context.

Historians, archaeologists, and numismatists have studied coin design across time and place, both the reuse of types or the use of modified types, in order to plot manufacture, to track cross-cultural communication, as well as to study historical processes of continuity and change. The study of types, copies, imitations, and prototypes also allows scholars to consider the function of coins to communicate, their intelligibility, within and across cultures.

Coins, Copies, and Prototypes features papers that address the myriad ways that coins reflect, mediate, transform, and communicate ideas related in other visual or textual media, or how those other media might have been influenced by the coinage. Papers also address the phenomenon of copying itself, whether it be coins drawing from other numismatic prototypes or from models in the visual arts or literature.