Sunday, September 10, 2017

“White Gold” Conference Talks on the Origin of Electrum Coinage

Some of the evidence I reviewed in this post on the origin of electrum coinage was from a conference called “White Gold: Revealing the World’s Earliest Coins,” held from 25–26th June, 2012 (International Congress at Israel Museum, Jerusalem).

The edited proceedings of this conference will be published as White Gold: Studies in Early Electrum Coinage (edited by Peter Van Alfen and Ute Wartenberg), but the talks are available in these videos:
(1) White Gold, International Congress, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Part 1:
June 25: Session 1
Catharine Lorber and Haim Gitler, “Opening Remarks.”
Michael Kerschner and Koray Konuk, “The Chronology of the Electrum Coins Found in the Artemision of Ephesus: The Contribution of the Archaeological Find Context.”
Jack Kroll, “On the Ephesus Inscription.”
Bob Wallace, “Revisiting the Dates of Croesus.”

(2) White Gold, International Congress, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Part 2
June 25: Session 2
Bernhard Weisser, “An Electrum Hecte from the Sanctuary of Aphrodite outside the Gates of Miletus and the Striated Coins.”
Koray Konuk, “An Electrum Croeseid.”

June 25: Session 3
Wolfgang Fischer-Bossert, “Some Thoughts about the Internal Spread of the Early Electrum Standards: Local Rather than Chronological Patterns?”
Jack Kroll, “Don’t forget the Dynastai.”
Peter van Alfen, “Public Benefactor or Profiteer? The Role of ‘the State’ and Early Electrum Coinage.”

(3) White Gold, International Congress, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Part 3
June 25: Session 4
Frédérique Duyrat and Maryse Blet-Lemarquand, “Proton Activation Analysis of Electrum Coins in the Bibliothèque nationale de France.”
Nick Cahill and Jill Hari, “Preliminary Analysis of Electrum Coins and natural Gold from Sardis.”

June 26: Session 1
Ute Wartenberg Kagan, “Was there an Ionian Revolt Coinage? Hoard Evidence for Electrum Coins after the Introduction of Bimetallism.”

(4) White Gold, International Congress, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Part 4
June 26: Session 1
Mariusz Mielczarek, “Cyzicene Electrum Coinage and the Black Sea Grain Trade.”
François de Callataÿ, “Iconography of Cyzicene Electrum Coinage (with Quantitative Study).”

June 26: Session 2
Katerini Liampi, “Thraco-Macedonian Electrum Coinage.”
Ken Sheedy, “Electrum Inscriptions and Literary Sources.”
Selene Psoma, “The Electrum Coinage of Athens.”

(5) White Gold, International Congress, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Part 5
June 26: Session 3
Alain Bresson, “Metrology of Silver Ingots in the Levant and Silver Coins in Western Asia Minor: Economic implications, Implications for Price of Electrum Coins.”
François Velde, “Electrum Coinage in the Light of Monetary Economic Theory.”
A number of these talks are highly relevant to whether the Lydian kings and Greek city-states were the first to coin money, as follows:
Michael Kerschner and Koray Konuk, “The Chronology of the Electrum Coins Found in the Artemision of Ephesus: The Contribution of the Archaeological Find Context.”
Wolfgang Fischer-Bossert, “Some Thoughts about the Internal Spread of the Early Electrum Standards: Local Rather than Chronological Patterns?”
Jack Kroll, “Don’t forget the Dynastai.”
Peter van Alfen, “Public Benefactor or Profiteer? The Role of ‘the State’ and Early Electrum Coinage.”
Frédérique Duyrat and Maryse Blet-Lemarquand, “Proton Activation Analysis of Electrum Coins in the Bibliothèque nationale de France.”
Nick Cahill and Jill Hari, “Preliminary Analysis of Electrum Coins and natural Gold from Sardis.”
François Velde, “Electrum Coinage in the Light of Monetary Economic Theory.”
In particular, Jack Kroll in his talk “Don’t forget the Dynastai” points out that some early electrum coins might have been struck by early Lydian dynasts (or local rulers below the king who functioned as quasi-governmental great landowners), but in this case such dynasts were far more like local rulers, and they were not private merchants, bankers, or goldsmiths. And, even if this suggestion is true, it does not follow that the private sector invented electrum coinage either, as the local dynasts in question would have been quasi-governmental agents.

In the talk “Public Benefactor or Profiteer? The Role of ‘the State’ and Early Electrum Coinage,” Peter van Alfen seems to distance himself from the idea that bankers and merchants minted coins, but instead prefers wealthy elites, like large landowners. But this view is very much like Kroll’s, as stated above, and implies that these elites were more like local rulers and dynasts than private agents in the conventional sense.

The full list of my posts on this subject is here:
“Larry White on the Origins of Coined Money: A Critique,” August 26, 2017.

“Reply to Selgin on the Origin of Electrum Coinage, Part 1,” September 3, 2017

“The Majority View in Modern Scholarship on the Origin of Electrum Coinage: An Update,” September 4, 2017.

“Reply to Selgin on the Origin of Electrum Coinage, Part 2,” September 5, 2017.
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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Reply to Selgin on the Origin of Electrum Coinage, Part 2

This is part 2 of my response to George Selgin’s post here:
George Selgin, “‘Lord Keynes’ contra White on the Beginnings of Coinage,” Alt-M Ideas for an Alternative Monetary Future, August 30, 2017.
Selgin refers to various new data from the past 20 years or so, and much of the new evidence was presented at a conference called “White Gold: Revealing the World’s Earliest Coins,” held from 25–26th June, 2012 (International Congress at Israel Museum, Jerusalem).

Wartenberg (2017), for instance, refers to the edited proceedings of this conference: White Gold: Studies in Early Electrum Coinage (edited by Peter Van Alfen and Ute Wartenberg). But this book will not be published until December 31, 2017, so I can hardly evaluate the evidence there, but have to go on published summaries of the papers.

The new data can be described as follows:
(1) new archaeological work on the Artemisium of Ephesus discussed in Cahill and Kroll (2005) demonstrates that electrum coins already existed in the last quarter of the 7th century BC (625–601 BC), which confirms the older dating of the invention of coins to the period around 630 BC (de Callataӱ 2013: 13).

(2) recent investigation of electrum coins with advanced scientific techniques indicates to some scholars that these early electrum coins were minted from combining gold and silver, and so were not minted from natural electrum alloys (de Callataӱ 2013: 9).

Wartenberg (2017) reports that laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LAICP-MS) analysis of early electrum coins shows that their gold-to-silver content was more uniform than previously thought: e.g., a panther or lion head series had a gold-to-silver ratio of 55–45%, with 1–2% copper. A striated coin series (which might be a later series) has a gold-to-silver ratio of about 60–40% ratio.

Wartenberg also concludes that LAICP-MS analysis shows that early electrum coins were not minted in naturally occurring electrum, but deliberately minted by “combining pure gold and silver, which was previously refined” to achieve stable gold-to-silver ratios, even in the late 7th century (Wartenberg 2017: 27).

(3) there is much more evidence for lower denomination coins in the early electrum series, even down to 1/192 of a stater (Wartenberg 2017: 27), though it remains true that many higher denomination coins were also minted.
Datum (1) does not refute older interpretations.

Datum (2) and (3) do provide evidence against the some versions of the orthodox Chartalist hypothesis that individual early electrum coins (supposedly minted from natural electrum) had a much more variable gold-to-silver content (Price 1983: 5), and so were fiduciary to the extent that the gold content varied between individual coins, and was not always the same as the face value.

But do these data provide good evidence that private agents were the innovators in coining electrum coins, under the Mengerian theory of the emergence of money? The answer is: not really.

First, let us re-state some important points. The first coins were minted in the second half of the 7th century BC (650–600 BC) in what is now western Turkey (what was called “Asia Minor” by the Classical Greeks) in ancient Lydia, and in the Greek colonies in Ionia.

Both the ancient writers Xenophanes (as cited in Pollux, Onom. 9.83) and Herodotus (Histories 1.94) report this. This region was dominated by the ancient kingdom of Lydia, with the royal capital at Sardis, which was populated by an Indo-European speaking people, and the extent of the Lydian kingdom can be seen in this map:


The earliest coins consisted of stamped pieces of electrum, an alloy of gold and silver with trace amounts of copper, but with a roughly uniform weight. Here is an example of an early Lydian electrum coin with lion-head:


Ancient Lydia was rich in electrum, which was panned from the rivers, as well as mined. It is established that Lydian alluvial electrum (that is, electrum taken from the rivers) had a natural variable gold content from about 65% to 85% (Konuk 2012: 44; Meeks 2000: 145–148).

However, natural electrum was peculiarly unsuited to be the most saleable commodity that emerged as the general money commodity in line with Menger’s theory of the origin of money. We can review why this is the case.

For one thing, small-sized electrum and electrum dust could not be easily tested for purity (Kroll 2012: 38):
“When offered in a transaction, the quality of the [sc. electrum] metal first had to be tested visually from the color of streaks made on a touchstone (No. 16), and while such testing presented no problems with larger lumps of electrum, it would have been practically impossible to test a bagful of dozens of small nuggets and crumbs of the metal. Even if each small piece were separately tested, it would have been exceedingly difficult to determine with any accuracy the value of an entire bag of pieces, each with a different weight and fineness. Over time, as the complexities and unreliability of electrum bullion became widely recognized, Lydians and their Greek and Carian neighbors who had accumulated large stocks of this metal must have found it increasingly difficult to utilize it in payments that others would accept.”
Kroll, John H. “The Coins of Sardis,” Sardisexpedition.org
http://www.sardisexpedition.org/en/essays/latw-kroll-coins-of-sardis
In light of this, natural electrum can hardly have been Menger’s “most saleable commodity,” since many people will have required small size electrum or electrum dust for ordinary, low-value transactions in trade and in the market-place (or in the agora, as the Greeks called it).

The average percentage of gold in natural electrum was probably about 70–75% (Konuk 2012: 44), whereas, as we have seen, the most recent analysis of the early lion-head electrum coin series (likely from Lydian kings) shows that they tended to have a stable but lower percentage of gold at about 54% with about 2% copper (Cowell and Hyne 2000: 170–171; Keyser and Clark 2001: 114). Another panther or lion-head series (probably early Lydian coins), analysed with laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LAICP-MS), had a gold-to-silver ratio of 55–45%, with 1–2% copper (Wartenberg 2017: 26; see also Velde 2012: 19).

So whoever was minting these coins struck them with an alloy in which the gold content – although consistent – was lower than the average found in natural electrum (Konuk 2012: 44).

The stable gold content gave these coins a definite consistent colour, and, along with their standard weight, can be seen as part of the process of standardising them. Perhaps copper was even added to give them a colour like that of electrum with a higher gold content.

Unless they were explicitly given a face value at the monetary value of the gold-to-silver content, early electrum coins would still have been fiduciary to some extent if the issuing authority tried to give them a value at the average gold content of electrum, and if the public expected them to contain the average gold content of natural electrum (about 70–75%). However, in reality the early coins clearly did not have that gold value, since they had a relatively stable but lower gold content of 54%.

Many modern scholars – and probably a majority – continue to argue that the actual exchange value of the early electrum coins was larger than their intrinsic metallic value, perhaps by as much as 20% (Le Rider 2001: 94–95; Cahill and Kroll 2005: 612–613; Kroll 2008: 21; Konuk 2012: 44; Kroll 2012: 39; Furtwängler 2011: 17; for older views on the overvaluation of electrum coins, see Bolin 1958: 11–45, who saw it as a secret fraud by the Lydian kings).

So, in view of this, the Chartalist view is hardly refuted by the discovery of a more stable gold content in the early coins, since the Lydian kings may well have accepted them in payment at the higher face value.

In short, if the Lydian kings deliberately minted early electrum coins with a gold content of 54%, but gave them a conventional face value in line with the average 70% gold value of natural electrum, and then accepted the coins back again in taxes, fines or other payments, then they could still have been fiduciary coins, to some extent, in a closed monetary system in Lydia and its subject Greek city-states (Rider 2001: 94–95, 116).

The Lydian kings would have had substantial expenditures, since they fought major wars and engaged in huge building programs at Sardis, their capital (on the archaeology of Lydia, see Roosevelt 2009; Greenewalt 2011; Roosevelt 2012), so that they surely made payments to soldiers, labourers, and artisans on a large scale.

Price (1983) suggested that the early electrum coins were intended as gifts that only later became monetised, but the discovery of many more smaller denomination electrum coins than previously thought in the early issues strongly suggests that these coins were intended for exchange and monetary transactions.

The Lydian kings are still the best candidates for the inventors of the coins, since (1) the Lydian kings had large stocks of the necessary electrum, (2) could accept the coins back as payment as taxes or obligations (if they were intended as money), and (3) had many large-scale payments to make.

Furtwängler (2011: 18) argues that – over time – the Lydo-Milesian standard electrum coins with their 54% gold content (below the average gold content of natural electrum) did not win widespread acceptance in the Greek city-states outside the Lydian empire (see also Kroll 2012: 39). Croesus – perhaps as much for political as for economic reasons – implemented a currency reform around 560 BC (or perhaps even earlier if his accession was around c. 585 BC, as argued by Wallace 2016), and recalled his electrum coins, and, by cementation techniques, used them to mint a new pure gold and silver coinage to restore confidence (Furtwängler 2011: 18).

Evidence for the higher face value of the older electrum coins has been adduced from peculiar data about Croesus’ new gold stater issues.

During the reign of the last Lydian king Croesus (who ruled from c. 585 or 560–546 BC), the king minted a new pure gold and silver coinage called “Croeseids” (and recent archaeological evidence proves that this coinage reform had been implemented by the time of Croesus, and not later under the Persians as some scholars have argued; see Cahill and Kroll 2005).

But the weight and two specific issues of the new gold staters are suggestive:
(1) probably at first, the new gold staters (sometimes called “Heavy Croeseids”) were issued and struck with 10.8 grams of gold. Given the value of gold to silver was probably about 1:13.3 in this period, the new gold stater of 10.8 grams would have been equivalent to an electrum stater of 14.15 grams, but only if the electrum staters were artificially overvalued at the gold content of natural electrum (which stood at about 70–75% gold). Since the value of the electrum staters had been partly fiduciary and possibly confidence in them was in question by this period, this exchange ratio with the new gold coins would have maintained the government guarantee of accepting them at their artificial face value. This was intended to recall the old electrum coins (Konuk 2012: 50; Cahill and Kroll 2005: 612–613; Kroll 2001b: 201–202).

(2) however, at some point – presumably when a large quantity of electrum coins had been recalled – Croesus minted a new pure gold stater with a reduced size, and struck at 8.1 grams (the so-called “Light Croeseids”). This reflected the value of the actual gold content of the old electrum coins, whose gold content had been fixed at about 54% and 44% silver (Konuk 2012: 50; Cahill and Kroll 2005: 612–613; Walburg 1991). The Lydian kings now abandoned their experiment with overvalued electrum coins, perhaps for political as much as economic reasons, and instead minted a pure gold and silver stater coinage, along with smaller denominations of each gold and silver stater type.
The fact that Croesus’ “Heavy Croeseids” (presumably minted before the light kind) seem to match the postulated artificial value of the early electrum coins is considered by many scholars to be strong evidence that they really had been overvalued by state guarantee, and this seems to be the best explanation of the data.

Finally, the absence of electrum coins from the list of precious metal revenue on a lead tablet dated to the period around 600 BC from the Artemisium temple of Ephesus – before Ephesus was conquered by the Lydian king Croesus and politically subject to Lydian suzerainty – suggests that the early Lydian electrum coins were not accepted at the temple, probably because they were understood to be overvalued (Kroll 2008: 18–21).

So, all in all, the case for a qualified Chartalist interpretation of the earliest electrum coinage of Lydia is still strong.

Furthermore, recent analysis of the electrum coinage of Samos has established that the gold content of Samian coins was much more variable, and ranged from 46 to 86%, and the electrum coinage of Phocaea also had a highly variable gold content (Konuk 2005; Wallace 2013: 2359; Avaldi et al. 1984). In short, both the Samian and Phocaean electrum coinage can still be explained by means of a Chatalist explanation too.

But let us assume – for the sake of argument – that the early Lydian electrum coins were given a face value equal to their real gold-to-silver content (so making the Chartalist explanation false), does this rule out the Lydian kings as the inventors of coinage? Again, the answer is: not at all.

The Lydian kings may well have struck these coins as prestigious payment objects for their soldiers, mercenaries and other employees and guaranteed a stable metal content consistent with market value, just as they – and numerous Greek city-states – later struck pure gold and silver coins.

We know that the most common type of early electrum coins shows the lion-head or lion paw, which is the royal symbol of the Lydian kings (Wartenberg 2017: 15 and 24; Konuk 2012: 45; Spier 1998), which in turn strongly suggests that most of these coins were stamped with the symbol of the Lydian state.

Bresson (2009: 3–4) points out that the Lydia kings conquered or forced the political submission of a large number of Greek city-states on the coast of Asia Minor, and that consequently that Lydian kings may well have established a monetary union with their electrum coins being a standard. The Lydo-Milesian (or often simply called the “Milesian”) standard was based on the stater with a weight of about 14.30–14.40 grams. The Lydian kings would then have set up this standard and demanded it of their subject Greek city-states, so that it was the state that was driving force behind a monetary standard, and that allowed the elimination of transaction costs such as heavy exchange fees between coins of a different standard.

Bresson (2009: 3, citing Cowell et al. 1998: 529–530 and Cowell and Hyne 2000: 169–174) also puts the gold content of early Lydian electrum coins at about 53% with most coins not deviating more than 1% from this.

Under this view of Bresson, the state weighed, standardised, and guaranteed the value and weight of electrum coins to reduce transaction costs for private individuals who no longer had to engage in the expensive process of checking the value of the coins (Bresson 2006; Bresson 2009).

The fact that the Lydo-Milesian standard was adopted in areas under the political domination of the Lydian kings does not suggest that the standard was a spontaneous development from the private sector. So, even if we assume that electrum coins were given a monetary value consistent with their gold content, the evidence that the private sector was the driving force behind this is still feeble.

As we seen, however, most scholars do still think that the early electrum coins were overvalued, and a qualified Chartalist explanation is still convincing.

Let us now turn to the final section: a critical review of the arguments made by those who contend that private sector agents first invented coins.

The Evidence for the Private Sector as Inventor of Electrum Coins is still Feeble
Modern defenders of the private sector as the inventor of electrum coins make the following arguments. They contend that the early coins seem to have had a large number of series with different obverse types and reverse punches, perhaps as many as 250–300 (van Alfen 2014: 2–3). Peter van Alfen takes this as evidence of many private elite issuers, such as goldsmiths, bankers or merchants (van Alfen 2014: 2–3, 3, n. 11).

But we know for a fact that later state-issued coinage by Greek city states like Cyzicus, Mytilene and Phocaea did regularly change their obverse types, and as often as once a year (which van Alfen 2014: 3, n. 11 himself admits; Price 1983: 4). The multiplicity of obverse types is not a strong argument for private sector coining at all, since there is no reason why both the Lydian kings and early Greek city-states could not have minted large numbers of obverse types with different symbols and insignia (de Callataӱ 2013: 11).

Peter van Alfen (2014) argues that the early coinages were minted by wealthy elite individuals who, he thinks, owned mines and had large-scale access to metals, and that the Lydian kings only gradually displaced private issuers and then gained a near monopoly on coin issue by the time of Croesus (who ruled Lydia from c. 585 or 560–546 BC) (see van Alfen 2014: 21).

Unfortunately, many of van Alfen’s claims about private wealth in Lydia are based on data in Roosevelt (2009) from the later Persian and Hellenistic periods (as admitted by van Alfen 2014: 19, n. 64 and 20, n. 68 himself), not the relevant period of the pre-Persian Lydian kingdom.

Moreover, the earliest coins minted from 650 to 600 BC were made of electrum, which was a naturally occurring alloy in ancient Lydia (Kroll 2008: 17–18).

Sardis – the Lydian capital – was dominated by the king’s palace and archaeological evidence seems to show that the processing of gold was dominated by the king, not private merchants (Hanfmann 1983: 73, 76, 83, 85, 246, n. 87). The evidence shows that the Lydian kings either controlled the mines in their kingdom directly (Koray and Lorber 2012: 13; Briant 2002: 400), and/or levied taxes on mining or extraction of metals. Indeed, a certain Lydian called Pythius under the later Persian empire, who owned a number of mines in Lydia, may have been a descendant of the Lydian royal family who had inherited these mines as private family property (Briant 2002: 401). Did private agents really have access to this type of wealth when the kings controlled mining and panning of precious metals?

It follows that, if the Lydian kings extracted and owned much of the silver, gold and electrum (mined or panned from the rivers), it is most probable that the kings also minted the first electrum coinage too, since a very large quantity of this metal was needed for the many coin issues over many years.

Despite Selgin, this is not a non sequitur. It is an inductive argument, on the basis of empirical evidence, and does not claim to yield a certain conclusion, only a probabilistic one.

Finally, let us now review the evidence adduced by the Free Bankers and defenders of the private sector as the inventors of early electrum coinage, and the counterarguments:
(1) Larry White in his original post here argued that:
“Once sovereigns monopolized the mints they took advantage of the propaganda value of stamping their own faces on the coins, of course. But as far as we know coins were already in use among merchants before that happened. Very early coins from ancient Lydia, in what is now Turkey, were not inscribed with human faces but rather animal figures. The Ancient History Encyclopedia states: ‘It appears that many early Lydian coins were minted by merchants as tokens to be used in trade transactions. The Lydian state also minted coins.’”
Larry White, “Why the ‘State Theory of Money’ doesn’t explain the Coinage of Precious Metals,” Alt-M Ideas for an Alternative Monetary Future, August 24, 2017.
But the assumption here is incorrect: early monarchs did not put their images on coins. For a very long time in the ancient world, coins did not carry any images of living human rulers, and rarely carried writing, and there may well have been a superstitious taboo against depicting living people on coins.

In light of this, there is no reason why the kings would have bothered to put their images or names on the coins when people at the time knew perfectly well that they had been minted by the state. Early coins of the state, even produced by kings, mostly depicted gods, seals or other symbols. In Western civilization, one of the first kings to be depicted on coins was Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC, even though it was probably the kings who ruled after him who first put his explicit image on coins (Shipley 2000: 69). But this was centuries after the first electrum coins had been invented.

Notably, Selgin does not seem to dispute this. I assume that on this point Free Bankers will concede White is wrong?

(2) some few early Lydian coins do carry inscriptions, in the Lydian script and language, and refer to .WALWE. (also read as walwet) and .KALI. (Schaps 2004: 96). However, the question of who or what these names refers to is not settled with certainty, though interesting – even plausible – suggestions have been made.

That the coins themselves were of the Lydian kings is strongly suggested by the lion symbol which appears on them – the symbol of the Lydian royal house (Schaps 2004: 96), so that already the notion that private sector agents independently minted them is shaky (although Furtwängler 2011: 16–17 regards them as the names of private electrum coin producers under the Lydian kings). Both coin types are linked by a common punch mark, so that they are likely to be by the same issuer (Wallace 2016: 176–177; Koray and Lorber 2012: 15).

The .WALWE. inscription has been read as Walwetalim, which can be linked to the Lydian king whom the Greeks called “Alyattes” (Karwiese 1991: 8–14; Wallace 2006). Koray and Lorber (2012: 15) state the walwet is now “usually interpreted” as the name of the Lydian king Alyattes. If so, then this is a coin explicitly minted by the king.

In addition, some have read .KALI. as KUKALIM and identified this with the Lydian name “Gyges” (Wallace 2006), and even if this does not refer to the first king of the dynasty, it may well refer to a royal prince during the reign of Alyattes in the late 7th century BC who was also allowed to issue coinage, as argued by Wallace (2006).

Furthermore, Howgego (1995: 3) suggests that the names may be those of mints, not of individuals, and Wallace (1988) argued that walwe could be the Lydian name for “lion” and be a simple noun referring to the lion symbol on the coins.

Finally, even if the inscriptions do not refer to Lydian kings and princes, they could be individuals who minted the coins for the Lydian kings as mint masters (Wallace 1987: 393, n. 51).

But there are good arguments for thinking these coins do name Lydian kings or members of the royal family, as demonstrated by Wallace (2006).

(3) it is true we have about four coins with the Greek inscription Φάνεως ειμί σήμα, which can be translated as “I am the badge of Phanes.” Though they do not carry the Greek inscription, there are supposedly some 250 pieces in the same series in smaller denominations with the same stag symbol (Wartenberg 2017: 17).

If “I am the badge of Phanes” is the correct translation of the inscription, it is unclear who this Phanes was. Peter van Alfen (2014: 23) assumes “Phanes” was an elite private Greek who minted coins, but there is little evidence to support this.

There is a reasonable discussion of the complexities of the issue here.

Konuk (2012: 45–47) makes a good case that the stag emblem on these coins is associated with the goddess Artemis at Ephesus (and Kastner 1986 had already suggested that the name “Phanes” may have been that of a god, not a human being; see Howgego 1995: 4). If the stag symbol is an official emblem of Ephesus, then the coin series in question is likely to have been an official coin issue of the city, since the same symbol reappears in later coin issues of Ephesus (Velde 2012: 10; Velde 2012: 10 also states “There is no consensus on whether Phanes is the name of an individual or refers to Artemis”; cf. Koray and Lorber 2012: 15). The name “Phanes,” far from being that of a human being, may be some cult name or word associated with the cult of Artemis at Ephesus.

By contrast, if “Phanes” is a human being, he is perhaps an official at Ephesus who minted or was responsible for the minting of the coins. Howgego (1995: 4) speculates that, even if Phanes was the name of a human being, he might have been an unknown local tyrant or ruler.
So, as in my original post, I once again conclude that the evidence for the private sector being the inventor, or driving force, behind the creation of the first electrum coinage is feeble.

We have also seen that the new evidence adduced by Selgin does not refute the older interpretation that the earliest electrum coins were overvalued.

Finally, as can be seen from a large sample of modern scholarship here, there is a majority view that the earliest electrum coins were invented by the Lydian kings.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Avaldi, L., Canfalonieri, L., Milazzo, M., Paltrinieri, E., Testi, R. and E. Winsemann-Falghera. 1984. “Quantitative Results of XRF Analysis of Ancient Coins by Monchromatic x-ray Excitation,” Archaeometry 26: 82–95.

Bolin, Anders Sture Ragnar. 1958. State and Currency in the Roman Empire to 300 A.D.. Almqvist & Wiksell, Stockholm.

Bellinger, A. R. 1968. “Electrum Coins from Gordion,” in C. M. Kraay and G. K. Jenkins (eds.), Essays in Greek Coinage Presented to Stanley Robinson. Clarendon Press, Oxford. 10–15.

Breglia, Laura. 1964. Numismatica antica: Storia e metodologia. Feltrinelli, Milan.

Bresson, Alain. 2006. “The Origin of Lydian and Greek Coinage: Cost and Quantity,” based on a paper at 3rd International Conference of Ancient History, Fudan University, Shanghai, 17–21 August, 2005
http://economics.yale.edu/sites/default/files/files/Workshops-Seminars/Economic-History/bresson-090921a.pdf

Bresson, Alain. 2009. “Electrum Coins, Currency Exchange and Transaction Costs in Archaic and Classical Greece,” Revue Belge de Numismatique et de Sigillographie 155: 71–80.

Bresson, Alain. 2016. The Making of the Ancient Greek Economy: Institutions, Markets, and Growth in the City-States (trans. Steven Rendall). Princeton University Press, Princeton.

Cahill, Nicholas and John H. Kroll. 2005. “New Archaic Coin Finds at Sardis,” American Journal of Archaeology 109.4: 589–617.

Cowell, M. R., Hyne, K., Meeks, N. D. and P. T. Craddock. 1998. “Analyses of the Lydian Electrum, Gold and Silver Coinages,” in W. A. Oddy and M. R. Cowell (eds.), Metallurgy in Numismatics. Volume 4. Royal Numismatic Society Special Publication No. 30, London. 526–538.

Cowell, M. R. and K. Hyne. 2000. “Scientific Examination of the Lydian Precious Metal Coinages,” in A. Ramage and P. Craddock (eds.), King Croesus’ Gold. Excavations at Sardis and the History of Gold Refining. British Museum Press, London and Cambridge, Mass. 169–174.

de Callataӱ, François. 2013. “White Gold: An Enigmatic Start to Greek Coinage,” American Numismatic Society Magazine 12.2: 6–17.

Furtwängler, Andreas. 1986. “Neue Beobachtungen zur frühesten Münzprägung,” Schweizer Numismatische Rundschau 65: 153–165.

Furtwängler, Andreas. 2011. “Die ‘Erfindung’ der Münze – wer, wann, wo und Warum,” in Reinhold Walburg (ed.), Geschichte im Geldmuseum 2010. Deutsche Bundesbank, Frankfurt am Main. 5–19.

Greenewalt, Crawford H. 2011. “Sardis: A First Millennium B.C.E. Capital Western Anatolia,” in Sharon R. Steadman and Gregory McMahon (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Anatolia (10,000–323 BCE). Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York. 1112–1130.

Hanfmann, George M. A. 1983. Sardis from Prehistoric to Roman Times: Results of the Archaeological Exploration of Sardis, 1958–1975. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass. and London.

Howgego, Christopher J. 1995. Ancient History from Coins. Routledge, London.

Karwiese, Stefan. 1991. “The Artemisium Coin Hoard and the First Coins of Ephesus,” Revue beige de numismatique 137: 1–28.

Keyser, P. T. and D. D. Clark. 2001. “Analyzing and Interpreting the Metallurgy of Early Electrum Coins,” in M. S. Balmuth (ed.), Hacksilber to Coinage: New Insights into the Monetary History of the Near East and Greece. American Numismatic Society, New York. 105–126.

Konuk, Konuk. 2005. “The Electrum Coinage of Samos in the Light of a Recent Hoard,” in E. Schwertheim and E. Winter (eds.), Neue Forschungen zu Ionien: Fahri Işık zum 60. Geburtstag gewidmet. Habelt, Bonn. 44–53.

Koray, Konuk and Catharine Lorber. 2012. “White Gold: An Introduction to Electrum Coinage,” in H. Gitler (ed.), White Gold: Revealing the World’s Earliest Coins. The Israel Museum, Jerusalem. 13–32.

Konuk, Koray. 2012. “Asia Minor to the Ionian Revolt,” in William E. Metcalf (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Coinage. Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York. 43–60.

Kraay, Colin M. 1964. “Hoards, Small Change and the Origin of Coinage,” Journal of Hellenic Studies 84: 76–91.

Kraay, Colin M. 1976. Archaic and Classical Greek Coins. University of California Press, Berkeley, Calif.

Kraay, C. M. 1977. “Early Electrum Coinage” (Review of Probleme der frühen Elektronprägung by Liselotte Weidauer,” The Classical Review n.s. 27.2: 255–256.

Kraay, Colin M. 1988. “Coinage,” in J. Boardman, N. G. L. Hammond, D. M. Lewis, and M. Ostwald (eds.), The Cambridge Ancient History. Volume IV. Persia, Greece and the Western Mediterranean c. 525 to 479 B.C. (2nd edn.). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 431–445.

Kroll, John H. “The Coins of Sardis,” Sardisexpedition.org
http://www.sardisexpedition.org/en/essays/latw-kroll-coins-of-sardis

Kroll, John H. 2001a. “Observations on Monetary Instruments in Pre-Coinage Greece,” in M. S. Balmuth (ed.), Hacksilber to Coinage: New Insights into the Monetary History of the Near East and Greece. American Numismatic Society, New York. 77–91.

Kroll, John H. 2001b. Review of La Naissance de la monnaie, pratiques monétaires de l’Orient ancient by Georges le Rider. Schweizerische Numismatische Rundschau 80: 199–206.

Kroll, J. H. 2008. “The Monetary Use of Weighted Bullion in Archaic Greece,” in W. V. Harris (ed.) The Monetary Systems of the Greeks and Romans. Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York. 12–37.

Kroll, John H. 2012. “The Monetary Background of Early Coinage,” in William E. Metcalf (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Coinage. Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York. 33–42.

Kurke, Leslie V. 1999. Coins, Bodies, Games, and Gold: The Politics of Meaning in Archaic Greece. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.

Le Rider, G. 2001. La naissance de la monnaie: pratiques monétaires de l’Orient ancient. Presses universitaires de France, Paris.

Meeks, N. D. 2000. “Scanning Electron Microscopy of the Refractory Remains and the Gold and the Gold from Sardis,” in Andrew Ramage and Paul Craddock (eds.), King Croesus’ Gold: Excavations at Sardis and the History of Gold Refining. British Museum Press, London and Cambridge, Mass. 99–156.

Melitz, Jacques. 2017. “A Model of the Beginnings of Coinage in Antiquity,” European Review of Economic History 21.1: 83–103.

Melville Jones, J. R. 1998. “The Value of Electrum and Gold in Greece and Asia,” in R. Ashton and S. Hurter (eds.). Studies in Greek Numismatics in Memory of Martin Jessop Price. Spink, London. 259–268.

Price, Martin Jessop. 1983. “Thoughts on the Beginnings of Coinage,” in C. N. L. Brooke et al., Studies in Numismatic Method Presented to Philip Grierson. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 1–10.

Ramage, Andrew and Paul Craddock. 2000. King Croesus’ Gold: Excavations at Sardis and the History of Gold Refining. British Museum Press, London and Cambridge, Mass.

Roosevelt, Christopher H. 2009. The Archaeology of Lydia from Gyges to Alexander. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Roosevelt, Christopher H. 2012. “Iron Age Western Anatolia: The Lydian Empire and Dynastic Lycia,” in D. T. Potts (ed.), A Companion to the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East. Wiley, Chicester. 896–913.

Semenova, Alla. 2011. The Origins of Money: Evaluating Chartalist and Metallist Theories in the Context of Ancient Greece and Mesopotamia. PhD dissert., University of Missouri-Kansas City, Kansas City, Missouri.

Schaps, D. M. 2004. The Invention of Coinage and the Monetization of Ancient Greece. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor.

Schaps, David M. 2006. “The Invention of Coinage in Lydia, in India, and in China,” paper, XIV International Economic History Congress, Helsinki
http://www.helsinki.fi/iehc2006/papers1/Schaps.pdf

Shipley, G. 2000. The Greek World after Alexander, 323–30 B.C. Routledge, London and New York.

Spier, Jeffrey. 1998. “Notes on Early Electrum Coinage and a Die-Linked Issue from Lydia,” in Richard Ashton and Silvia Hurter (eds.), Studies in Greek Numismatics in Memory of Martin Jessop Price. Spink, London. 327–334.

Stingl, Timo. 2000–2001. “Barren oder Münzen? Überlegungen zum Beginn der Elektronprägung in Westkleinasien,” Boreas 23–24: 35–52.

van Alfen, Peter. 2012. “Problems in the Political Economy of Archaic Greek Coinage,” Notae Numismaticae 7: 13–32.
https://www.academia.edu/2237122/Problems_in_the_Political_Economy_of_Archaic_Greek_Coinage._Notae_Numismaticae_VII_pp._13-32

van Alfen, Peter. 2014. “The Role of ‘the State’ and Early Electrum Coinage,” Working Paper v.31.1.2014
https://www.academia.edu/7343906/The_role_of_the_state_and_early_electrum_coinage

van Alfen, Peter. 2017. “Public Benefactor or Profiteer? The Role of “the State” and Early Electrum Coinage,” in P. van Alfen, U. Wartenberg, K. Konuk, H. Gitler and W. Fischer-Bossert (eds.). White Gold: Studies in Early Electrum Coinage. American Numismatic Society and Israel Numismatic Society, New York and Jerusalem, forthcoming 31 December 2017.

van Alfen, P., Wartenberg, U., Konuk, K., Gitler, H. and W. Fischer-Bossert (eds.). 2017 White Gold: Studies in Early Electrum Coinage. American Numismatic Society and Israel Numismatic Society, New York and Jerusalem, forthcoming 31 December 2017.

Velde, François R. 2012. “On the Origin of Specie,” Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, February 15, 2012
https://www.frbatlanta.org/-/media/documents/news/conferences/2012/monetary-economics/papers/velde.pdf

von Reden, Sitta. 2002. “Money in the Ancient Economy: A Survey of Recent Research,” Klio 84.1: 141–174.

Walburg, R. 1991. “Lydisch oder persisch? Ein Goldobjekt aus der Frühzeit der Münzprägung,” Schweizerische Numismatische Rundschau 70: 5–17.

Wallace, Robert W. 1987. “The Origin of Electrum Coinage,” American Journal of Archaeology 91: 385–397.

Wallace, Robert W. 1988. “Walwe. and. Kali,” The Journal of Hellenic Studies 108: 203–207.

Wallace, Robert W. 2001. “Remarks on the Value and Standards of Early Electrum Coins,” in Miriam S. Balmuth (ed.), Hacksilber to Coinage: New Insights into the Monetary History of the Near East and Greece. American Numismatic Society, New York. 127–134.

Wallace, Robert W. 2006. “KUKALIM, WALWET, and the Artemision Deposit: Problems in Early Anatolian Electrum Coinage,” in P. van Alfen (ed.), Agoranomia. Studies in Money and Exchange. Festschrift for John H. Kroll, The American Numismatic Society, 37–48.

Wallace, Robert W. 2013. “Electrum, electrum coinage,” in Roger S. Bagnall, Kai Brodersen, Craige B. Champion, Andrew Erskine and Sabine R. Huebner (eds.), The Encyclopedia of Ancient History. Volume V. Wiley-Blackwell, Malden, MA. 2359–2360.

Wallace, Robert W. 2016. “Redating Croesus: Herodotean Chronologies, and the Dates of the Earliest Coinages,” Journal of Hellenic Studies 136: 168–181.

Wartenberg, Ute. 2016. “Die Geburt der Münze: Die frühe Elektronprägung. Neue Wege der Forschung,” Mitteilungen der Österreichischen Numismatischen Gesellschaft 56.1: 30–49.

Wartenberg, Ute. 2017. “The Birth of Coinage Old questions – New Answers,” Presentation delivered at Ossolineum, Wrocaw, 3 July 2017
https://www.academia.edu/34043055/The_Birth_of_Coinage._Old_Questions_-_New_Answers

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Monday, September 4, 2017

The Majority View in Modern Scholarship on the Origin of Electrum Coinage: An Update

In the last post here, I gave a large sample of 48 published works in modern scholarship on the question of the origins of electrum coinage.

I took a sample of late 20th and early 21st century general and specialist ancient historians, numismatists and other relevant scholars.

Professor Selgin points out here that I included some MMT economists in Group 1, but I could have included some free bankers or other libertarian scholars in Group 3.

This is easy to do.

Once again, I take “majority” to mean more than 50% of general and specialist ancient historians and relevant scholars – and a clear majority to be a percentage in the upper range of 55–60% or, ideally, even higher.

Let us start with an updated list of “Group 3” scholars.

Once again, “Group 3” scholars are those who argue explicitly for the private sector (or mostly the private sector) – whether the private wealthy elite, merchants, bankers, or goldsmiths – being the first inventor of coined electrum, or the driving force behind it, and new additions are in bold type:
Group 3:
Seltman (1955: 17–18)
Breglia (1964: 42)
Holloway (1978a: 10–13)
Holloway (1978b)
Price (1983: 6–7)
Furtwängler (1986: 164–165)
Redish (1987: 377)
Selgin (1988: 18)
Glasner (1989: 30)
White (1989: 221)

Schaps (2004: 100)
Furtwängler (2011)
Graeber (2011: 224–225)
van Alfen (2012: 26–27)
van Alfen 2014 (forthcoming in van Alfen 2017)
Melitz (2017: 84): Melitz states it is “possible” private initiate came first in minting coins, but it “cannot be proven.”
Total number of works: 16
If people wish to suggest more additions in the comments, I will update this again.

However, a few hours of research allows one to also update Groups 1 and 2.

So here is a list of “Group 1” modern scholars who support the view that the Lydian kings invented coinage, or at least were the driving force behind it, even if some scholars allow that the kings might have employed private goldsmiths or mint masters to make the coins, with new additions in bold type:
Group 1:
Cook (1958)
Bolin (1958)
Kraay (1964)
Thompson (1966: 2–4)
Jenkins (1972)
Grierson (1975: 10)
Kraay (1976: 28, 317–324)
Grierson (1977: 2–3)
Picard (1978)
Wallace (1987: 386)
Kraay (1988)
Jenkins (1990: 28)
Howgego (1995: 3): Howgego notes that no certain evidence in all of antiquity for coins being produced by private individuals.
Osborne (1996: 256)
Goodhart (1998: 415)
Kurke (1999: 6–10, especially p. 10. n. 19): Kurke accepts Cook (1958) modified by Price (1983), but rejecting the view that private individuals minted coins, and accepting ancient states as the inventor.
Wray (2000: 46)
Stingl (2000–2001: 48)
Whitley (2001: 193)
Le Rider (2001: 85–86, 94–100, 116)
Wallace (2001)
Kim (2001: 10)
von Reden (2002: 152–153)
Wray (2003: 44)
Freeman (2004: 185)
Sacks et al. (2005: 87)
Bresson (2006: 13–14, 5): “These first electrum coins were struck on the same standard by the Lydian kings, but certainly also by a series of Greek cities of the coast, among them Miletus and Teos, and also by Phokaia, but on a different, local standard.”
Wallace (2006)
Peacock (2006)
Rhodes (2007: 38)
Kroll (2008: 17–18)
Hoover (2010: 238)
Semenova (2011a)
Kroll (2012: 44)
Rutter (2012: 342)
Peacock (2013)
de Callataӱ (2013: 13–14)
Hornblower et al. (2014: 182)
Semenova and Wray (2015: 12–13)
Bresson (2016: 264): Bresson states that coined money was invented between 650–625 BC and the ratio of metals manipulated by the “monetary authorities of the city-states and the Lydian monarchy.”
Total number of works: 40
Finally, an addition to “Group 2” scholars, who accept a significant role for the state in inventing coinage, but argue that private individuals were allowed by the state to mint their own independent coins, or were allowed to mint on behalf of the state:
Group 2:
Seaford (2004: 132–134): “with coins perhaps issued by individuals.”
Roisman and Yardley (2011: 7)
Koray and Lorber (2012: 13, 15)
Konuk (2012: 44): “Electrum was a commodity available locally and was largely controlled by the Lydian kings, who turned some of it into coins by applying a design on lumps of electrum of consistent weights”; Konuk (2012: 47): later states: “We do not know whether there was a state monopoly on issuing coinage or whether some wealthy private individuals such as bankers or merchants were also allowed to strike coins of their own.”
Total number of works: 4
So now we can recalculate approximate percentages for the range of opinion in modern scholarship. I have now provided a total sample of 60 published works by late 20th and early 21st century general and specialist scholars.

We can see the following percentages:
(1) Group 1: Kings or the State invented Coinage:
66.66% of total sample.

(2) Group 2: Kings or the State invented Coinage with Private Issues allowed:
6.6% of total sample.

(3) Group 3: The Private Sector invented Coinage:
26.66% of total sample.
So, even in the new percentages, roughly 67% of works of modern scholars support the Group (1) view that the Lydian kings or ancient governments invented electrum coinage. If we combine Group (1) and Group (2) works, then we get a percentage of 73%.

This is a clear majority. There are roughly 27% of scholarly works that form a minority, in which these minority scholars argue that the private sector was the inventor of electrum coinage.

So, just as I predicted, even by expanding our sample size, the percentages have hardly shifted.

At 60 items, this list is surely large enough to be a representative sample, but I can update the list if people suggest more works.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Bolin, Anders Sture Ragnar. 1958. State and Currency in the Roman Empire to 300 A.D.. Almqvist & Wiksell, Stockholm.

Bellinger, A. R. 1968. “Electrum Coins from Gordion,” in C. M. Kraay and G. K. Jenkins (eds.), Essays in Greek Coinage Presented to Stanley Robinson. Clarendon Press, Oxford. 10–15.

Breglia, Laura. 1964. Numismatica antica: Storia e metodologia. Feltrinelli, Milan.

Bresson, Alain. 2006. “The Origin of Lydian and Greek Coinage: Cost and Quantity,” based on a paper at 3rd International Conference of Ancient History, Fudan University, Shanghai, 17–21 August, 2005
http://economics.yale.edu/sites/default/files/files/Workshops-Seminars/Economic-History/bresson-090921a.pdf

Bresson, Alain. 2009. “Electrum Coins, Currency Exchange and Transaction Costs in Archaic and Classical Greece,” Revue Belge de Numismatique et de Sigillographie 155: 71–80.

Bresson, Alain. 2016. The Making of the Ancient Greek Economy: Institutions, Markets, and Growth in the City-States (trans. Steven Rendall). Princeton University Press, Princeton.

de Callataӱ, François. 2013. “White Gold: An Enigmatic Start to Greek Coinage,” American Numismatic Society Magazine 12.2: 6–17.

Freeman, Charles. 2004. Egypt, Greece and Rome: Civilizations of the Ancient Mediterranean. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Furtwängler, Andreas. 1986. “Neue Beobachtungen zur frühesten Münzprägung,” Schweizer Numismatische Rundschau 65: 153–165.

Furtwängler, Andreas. 2011. “Die ‘Erfindung’ der Münze – wer, wann, wo und Warum,” in Reinhold Walburg (ed.), Geschichte im Geldmuseum 2010. Deutsche Bundesbank, Frankfurt am Main. 5–19.

Glasner, David. 1989. Free Banking and Monetary Reform. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Goodhart, C. A. E. 1998. “The Two Concepts of Money: Implications for the Analysis of Optimal Currency Areas,” European Journal of Political Economy 14.3: 407–432.

Graeber, David. 2011. Debt: The First 5,000 Years. Melville House, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Grierson, Philip. 1975. Numismatics.Oxford University Press, London.

Grierson, P. 1977. The Origins of Money. Athlone Press and University of London, London.

Hall, Jonathan M. 2013. A History of the Archaic Greek World, ca. 1200–479 BCE (2nd edn.). Wiley-Blackwell, Hoboken.

Holloway, R. Ross. 1978a. Art and Coinage in Magna Graecia. Edizioni Arte e Moneta, Bellinzona.

Holloway, R. Ross. 1978b. “La ricerca attuale sull’origine della moneta,” Rivista italiana di numismatica e scienze affini 80: 7–14.

Hoover, Oliver D. 2010. “Coins and Coinage,” in Michael Gagarin and Elaine Fantham (eds.), The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome: Volume 1. Academy–Bible. Oxford University Press, Oxford. 238–248.

Hornblower, Simon, Spawforth, Antony and Esther Eidinow (eds.). 2014. Oxford Companion to Classical Civilization. Oxford University Press, New York.

Howgego, Christopher J. 1995. Ancient History from Coins. Routledge, London.

Jenkins, Gilbert Kenneth. 1972. Ancient Greek Coins. Putnam, New York.

Jenkins, Gilbert Kenneth. 1990. Ancient Greek Coins (2nd rev. edn.). Seaby, London.

Kim, H. S. 2001. “Archaic Coinage as Evidence for the Use of Money,” in Andrew Meadows and Kirsty Shipton (eds.). Money and its Uses in the Ancient Greek World. Oxford University Press, Oxford. 7–21.

Koray, Konuk and Catharine Lorber. 2012. “White Gold: An Introduction to Electrum Coinage,” in H. Gitler (ed.), White Gold: Revealing the World’s Earliest Coins. The Israel Museum, Jerusalem. 13–32.

Konuk, Koray. 2012. “Asia Minor to the Ionian Revolt,” in William E. Metcalf (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Coinage. Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York. 43–60.

Kraay, Colin M. 1964. “Hoards, Small Change and the Origin of Coinage,” Journal of Hellenic Studies 84: 76–91.

Kraay, Colin M. 1976. Archaic and Classical Greek Coins. University of California Press, Berkeley, Calif.

Kraay, C. M. 1977. “Early Electrum Coinage” (Review of Probleme der frühen Elektronprägung by Liselotte Weidauer,” The Classical Review n.s. 27.2: 255–256.

Kraay, Colin M. 1988. “Coinage,” in J. Boardman, N. G. L. Hammond, D. M. Lewis, and M. Ostwald (eds.), The Cambridge Ancient History. Volume IV. Persia, Greece and the Western Mediterranean c. 525 to 479 B.C. (2nd edn.). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 431–445.

Kroll, John H. “The Coins of Sardis,” Sardisexpedition.org
http://www.sardisexpedition.org/en/essays/latw-kroll-coins-of-sardis

Kroll, John H. 2001a. “Observations on Monetary Instruments in Pre-Coinage Greece,” in M. S. Balmuth (ed.), Hacksilber to Coinage: New Insights into the Monetary History of the Near East and Greece. American Numismatic Society, New York. 77–91.

Kroll, John H. 2001b. Review of La Naissance de la monnaie, pratiques monétaires de l’Orient ancien by Georges le Rider. Schweizerische Numismatische Rundschau 80: 201–202.

Kroll, J. H. 2008. “The Monetary Use of Weighted Bullion in Archaic Greece,” in W. V. Harris (ed.) The Monetary Systems of the Greeks and Romans. Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York. 12–37.

Kroll, John H. 2012. “The Monetary Background of Early Coinage,” in William E. Metcalf (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Coinage. Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York. 33–42.

Kurke, Leslie V. 1999. Coins, Bodies, Games, and Gold: The Politics of Meaning in Archaic Greece. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.

Le Rider, G. 2001. La naissance de la monnaie: pratiques monétaires de l’Orient ancient. Presses universitaires de France, Paris.

Meeks, N. D. 2000. “Scanning Electron Microscopy of the Refractory Remains and the Gold and the Gold from Sardis,” in Andrew Ramage and Paul Craddock (eds.), King Croesus’ Gold: Excavations at Sardis and the History of Gold Refining. British Museum Press, London and Cambridge, Mass. 99–156.

Melitz, Jacques. 2017. “A Model of the Beginnings of Coinage in Antiquity,” European Review of Economic History 21.1: 83–103.

Melville Jones, J. R. 1998. “The Value of Electrum and Gold in Greece and Asia,” in R. Ashton and S. Hurter (eds.). Studies in Greek Numismatics in Memory of Martin Jessop Price. Spink, London. 259–268.

Osborne, Robin. 1996. Greece in the Making, 1200–479 BC. Routledge, Abindon.

Peacock, M. S. 2006. “The Origins of Money in Ancient Greece: The Political Economy of Coinage and Exchange,” Cambridge Journal of Economics 30: 637–650.

Peacock, Mark. 2013. Introducing Money. Routledge, London.

Picard, Olivier. 1978. “Les Origines du monnayage en Grèce,” L’Histoire 6: 13–20.

Price, Martin Jessop. 1983. “Thoughts on the Beginnings of Coinage,” in C. N. L. Brooke et al., Studies in Numismatic Method Presented to Philip Grierson. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 1–10.

Redish, Angela. 1987. “Coinage, development of,” in J. Eatwell, M. Murray and P. Newman (eds.), The New Palgrave Dictionary of Money and Finance. Macmillan, London. 376–377.

Rhodes, P. J. 2007. The Greek City States: A Source Book (2nd edn.). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Robinson, E. S. G. 1956. “The Date of the Earliest Coins,” The Numismatic Chronicle and Journal of the Royal Numismatic Society 16: 1–8.

Roisman, Joseph and J. C. Yardley. 2011. Ancient Greece from Homer to Alexander: The Evidence. Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester.

Rutter, N. Keith. 2012. “Coinage, Greek,” in Simon Hornblower, Antony Spawforth and Esther Eidinow (eds.), The Oxford Classical Dictionary (4th edn.). Oxford University Press, Oxford. 342–344.

Sacks, David, Murray, Oswyn and Lisa R. Brody. 2005. Encyclopedia of the Ancient Greek World (rev. edn.). Facts On File, New York. s.v. “coinage,” pp. 87–88.

Schaps, D. M. 2004. The Invention of Coinage and the Monetization of Ancient Greece. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor.

Schaps, David M. 2006. “The Invention of Coinage in Lydia, in India, and in China,” paper, XIV International Economic History Congress, Helsinki
http://www.helsinki.fi/iehc2006/papers1/Schaps.pdf

Seltman, C. T. 1955. Greek Coins: A History of Metallic Currency and Coinage down to the Fall of the Hellenistic Kingdoms. Methuen, London.

Semenova, Alla. 2011a. The Origins of Money: Evaluating Chartalist and Metallist Theories in the Context of Ancient Greece and Mesopotamia. Phd dissert., University of Missouri-Kansas City, Kansas City, Missouri.

Semenova, A. 2011b. “Would You Barter With God? Why Holy Debts and not Profane Markets Created Money,” American Journal of Economics and Sociology 70.2: 376–400.

Semenova, Alla and L. Randall Wray. 2015. “The Rise of Money and Class Society: The Contributions of John F. Henry,” Working Paper No. 832, Levy Economics Institute of Bard College, February 2015
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Selgin, George A. 1988. The Theory of Free Banking: Money Supply under Competitive Note Issue. Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, MD.

Shipley, G. 2000. The Greek World after Alexander, 323–30 B.C. Routledge, London and New York.

Spier, Jeffrey. 1998. “Notes on Early Electrum Coinage and a Die-Linked Issue from Lydia,” in Richard Ashton and Silvia Hurter (eds.), Studies in Greek Numismatics in Memory of Martin Jessop Price. Spink, London. 327–334.

Stingl, Timo. 2000–2001. “Barren oder Münzen? Überlegungen zum Beginn der Elektronprägung in Westkleinasien,” Boreas 23–24: 35–52.

Thompson, Margaret. 1966. “Some Noteworthy Greek Accessions,” Museum Notes 12: 1–18.

van Alfen, Peter. 2012. “Problems in the Political Economy of Archaic Greek Coinage,” Notae Numismaticae 7: 13–32.
https://www.academia.edu/2237122/Problems_in_the_Political_Economy_of_Archaic_Greek_Coinage._Notae_Numismaticae_VII_pp._13-32

van Alfen, Peter. 2014. “The Role of ‘the State’ and Early Electrum Coinage,” Working Paper v.31.1.2014
https://www.academia.edu/7343906/The_role_of_the_state_and_early_electrum_coinage

van Alfen, Peter. 2017. “Public Benefactor or Profiteer? The Role of “the State” and Early Electrum Coinage,” in P. van Alfen, U. Wartenberg, K. Konuk, H. Gitler and W. Fischer-Bossert (eds.). White Gold: Studies in Early Electrum Coinage. American Numismatic Society and Israel Numismatic Society, New York and Jerusalem, forthcoming 31 December 2017.

van Alfen, P., Wartenberg, U., Konuk, K., Gitler, H. and W. Fischer-Bossert (eds.). 2017 White Gold: Studies in Early Electrum Coinage. American Numismatic Society and Israel Numismatic Society, New York and Jerusalem, forthcoming 31 December 2017.

Velde, François R. 2012. “On the Origin of Specie,” Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, February 15, 2012
https://www.frbatlanta.org/-/media/documents/news/conferences/2012/monetary-economics/papers/velde.pdf

von Reden, Sitta. 2002. “Money in the Ancient Economy: A Survey of Recent Research,” Klio 84.1: 141–174.

Wallace, R. 1987. “The Origin of Electrum Coinage,” American Journal of Archaeology 91: 385–397.

Wallace, Robert W. 1988. “Walwe. and. Kali,” The Journal of Hellenic Studies 108: 203–207.

Wallace, Robert W. 2001. “Remarks on the Value and Standards of Early Electrum Coins,” in Miriam S. Balmuth (ed.), Hacksilber to Coinage: New Insights into the Monetary History of the Near East and Greece. American Numismatic Society, New York. 127–134.

Wallace, Robert W. 2006. “KUKALIM, WALWET, and the Artemision Deposit: Problems in Early Anatolian Electrum Coinage,” in P. van Alfen (ed.), Agoranomia. Studies in Money and Exchange. Festschrift for John H. Kroll, The American Numismatic Society, 37–48.

Wallace, Robert W. 2013. “Electrum, electrum coinage,” in Roger S. Bagnall, Kai Brodersen, Craige B. Champion, Andrew Erskine and Sabine R. Huebner (eds.), The Encyclopedia of Ancient History. Volume V. Wiley-Blackwell, Malden, MA. 2359–2360.

Wallace, Robert W. 2016. “Redating Croesus: Herodotean Chronologies, and the Dates of the Earliest Coinages,” Journal of Hellenic Studies 136: 168–181.

Wartenberg, Ute. 2016. “Die Geburt der Münze: Die frühe Elektronprägung. Neue Wege der Forschung,” Mitteilungen der Österreichischen Numismatischen Gesellschaft 56.1: 30–49.

Wartenberg, Ute. 2017. “The Birth of Coinage Old questions – New Answers,” Presentation delivered at Ossolineum, Wrocaw, 3 July 2017
https://www.academia.edu/34043055/The_Birth_of_Coinage._Old_Questions_-_New_Answers

White, Lawrence H. 1989. Competition and Currency: Essays on Free Banking and Money. New York University Press, New York and London.

Whitley, James. 2001. The Archaeology of Ancient Greece. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Wray, L. Randall. 2000. “Modern Money,” in John Smithin (ed.), What is Money?. Routledge, London and New York. 42–66.

Wray, L. Randall. 2003. Understanding Modern Money: The Key to Full Employment and Price Stability. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Reply to Selgin on the Origin of Electrum Coinage, Part 1

George Selgin replies to my post here in the following critique:
George Selgin, “‘Lord Keynes’ contra White on the Beginnings of Coinage,” Alt-M Ideas for an Alternative Monetary Future, August 30, 2017.
You can follow the complete debate in these posts as follows:
Larry White, “Why the ‘State Theory of Money’ doesn’t explain the Coinage of Precious Metals,” Alt-M Ideas for an Alternative Monetary Future, August 24, 2017.

“Larry White on the Origins of Coined Money: A Critique,” August 26, 2017.

George Selgin, “‘Lord Keynes’ contra White on the Beginnings of Coinage,” Alt-M Ideas for an Alternative Monetary Future, August 30, 2017.
The issue here is how electrum coinage in ancient Lydia and Asia Minor arose, and who first invented it. The issues are so many and complex that my responses will be in two different posts.

This is the first post.

Selgin’s reply to me here is interesting, an enjoyable read, and deserves a serious response. I recommend everybody read it first.

The first issue I discuss here is the current scholarly “consensus.”

What I meant by “Consensus”
Selgin questions my claim that there is a modern consensus that the Lydian state invented coined money.

Of course, by the word “consensus” I meant “the majority view” (one of the legitimate definitions in English dictionaries), not that all scholars think so, as Selgin seems to imply.

I meant that, amongst general and specialist ancient historians of the late 20th and early 21st century, most seem to think that coined money was invented by the Lydian kings or at least the Lydian kings were the fundamental driving force behind it. I take “majority” to mean more than 50% of general and specialist ancient historians and scholars – and ideally a percentage in the upper range of 55–60% or higher.

So let us try and calculate some percentages from a broad sample of the work of late 20th and early 21st century general and specialist ancient historians, numismatists and other relevant scholars.

Here is a list of “Group 1” modern scholars who support the view that the Lydian kings invented coinage, or at least were the driving force behind it, even if some scholars allow that the kings might have employed private goldsmiths or mint masters to make the coins:
Group 1:
Cook (1958)
Bolin (1958)
Kraay (1964)
Thompson (1966: 2–4)
Jenkins (1972)
Grierson (1975: 10)
Kraay (1976: 28, 317–324)
Grierson (1977: 2–3)
Picard (1978)
Wallace (1987: 386)
Kraay (1988)
Jenkins (1990: 28)
Howgego (1995: 3): Howgego notes that no certain evidence in all of antiquity for coins being produced by private individuals.
Osborne (1996: 256)
Kurke (1999: 6–10, especially p. 10. n. 19): Kurke accepts Cook (1958) modified by Price (1983), but rejecting the view that private individuals minted coins, and accepting ancient states as the inventor.
Wray (2000: 46)
Whitley (2001: 193)
Le Rider (2001: 85–86, 94–100, 116)
Wallace (2001)
Kim (2001: 10)
von Reden (2002: 152–153)
Freeman (2004: 185)
Bresson (2006: 13–14, 5): “These first electrum coins were struck on the same standard by the Lydian kings, but certainly also by a series of Greek cities of the coast, among them Miletus and Teos, and also by Phokaia, but on a different, local standard.”
Wallace (2006)
Peacock (2006)
Kroll (2008: 17–18)
Semenova (2011a)
Kroll (2012: 44)
Rutter (2012: 342)
Peacock (2013)
de Callataӱ (2013: 13–14)
Hornblower et al. (2014: 182)
Bresson (2016: 264): Bresson states that coined money was invented between 650–625 BC and the ratio of metals manipulated by the “monetary authorities of the city-states and the Lydian monarchy.”
I have been far from exhaustive here, and no doubt more scholars could be added who hold the same view: e.g., some like Hall (2013: 275–280) do not take a clear view, but do seem to imply that the state lay behind the minting of the first coins.

Then we have “Group 2” scholars who accept a significant role for the state in inventing coinage, but argue that private individuals were allowed by the state to mint their own independent coins, or were allowed to mint on behalf of the state:
Group 2:
Seaford (2004: 132–134): “with coins perhaps issued by individuals.”
Roisman and Yardley (2011: 7)
Konuk (2012: 44): “Electrum was a commodity available locally and was largely controlled by the Lydian kings, who turned some of it into coins by applying a design on lumps of electrum of consistent weights”; Konuk (2012: 47): later states: “We do not know whether there was a state monopoly on issuing coinage or whether some wealthy private individuals such as bankers or merchants were also allowed to strike coins of their own.”
Group 2 scholars do not really vindicate the free bankers, since most acknowledge the fundamental role of the state.

Then there are “Group 3” scholars who argue explicitly for the private sector (or mostly the private sector) – whether the private wealthy elite, merchants, bankers, or goldsmiths – being the first inventor of coined electrum, or the driving force behind it:
Group 3:
Seltman (1955: 17–18)
Breglia (1964: 42)
Holloway (1978a: 10–13)
Holloway (1978b)
Price (1983: 6–7)
Furtwängler (1986: 164–165)
Schaps (2004: 100)
Furtwängler (2011)
Graeber (2011: 224–225)
van Alfen (2012: 26–27)
van Alfen 2014 (forthcoming in van Alfen 2017)
Melitz (2017: 84): Melitz states it is “possible” private initiate came first in minting coins, but it “cannot be proven.”
I have been generous in listing Melitz (2017) here, since his support for this position is weak.

Strange to say, David Graeber in Debt: The First 5,000 Years (2011: 224–225) takes the view that electrum coins were first invented by “ordinary jewellers” in Lydia or Ionia, and then their production was quickly monopolised by the state (he also asserts that coinage in China and India was first invented “by private citizens, … [sc. but was] quickly monopolized by the state”; Graeber 2011: 225).

In my original post, I did not deny that there are these dissenters listed in Group (3).

But now we can calculate some approximate percentages for the range of opinion in modern scholarship. I have provided a sample of 48 published works by late 20th and early 21st century general and specialist scholars.

We can see the following percentages:
(1) Group 1: Kings or the State invented Coinage:
69% of total sample.

(2) Group 2: Kings or the State invented Coinage with Private Issues allowed:
6% of total sample.

(3) Group 3: The Private Sector invented Coinage:
25% of total sample.
So roughly 70% of works of modern scholars support the Group (1) view that the Lydian kings or ancient governments invented electrum coinage. If we combine Group (1) and Group (2) works, then we get a percentage of 75%.

This is a clear majority. There are roughly 25% of scholarly works that form a minority, and in which other scholars argue that the private sector was the inventor of electrum coinage.

It is perfectly possible that free bankers can add a few more scholars to Group 3, but – since I have not been exhaustive in listing Group 1 – I could no doubt easily add another 1 scholar to Group 1 for every new scholar added to Group 3.

The bottom line is: these percentages are not likely to change by very much.

So this should settle the issue for reasonable people.

Now we turn to some specific issues about what individual scholars have argued, as discussed by Selgin.

Speaking of the large number of obverse types of early electrum coins, Selgin states that “most authorities continue to allow that they may bear private markings.”

But this is not true. Most scholars are inclined to think they were coined by city-state governments, tyrants or kings, or, if by private agents, were minted for some government or king, and even John H. Kroll says so in this discussion of the subject here (which Selgin himself cites), and, at most, Kroll allows that some wealthy “large landholders” might have minted them too. Kroll does not state that merchants or private agents were first to invent electrum coins.

Even Konuk (2012: 44, 47) – also cited by Selgin in his reply to me – seems to accept that the Lydian kings first invented coins, and only allowed private merchants to mint them later. So, too, Bresson (2016: 264) (cited by Selgin) strongly implies that he thinks that the Lydian kings were the driving force behind the invention of coins.

And, unfortunately, Schaps is plainly wrong in making the following statement:
“It is by no means clear, however, that the first coins were official royal issues. Some twenty coins with the legend .WALWE. might seem to bear the name of the king that Herodotus calls Alyattes, father of Croesus; but from the same place we find others with the inscription .KALI., which is not the name of any Lydian king. The prevailing opinion is that the types of the coins (there are some twenty, many more than the two or three kings who reigned from the time coins were invented until the end of the Lydian empire) identify not the king under whom they were struck, but the producer of the coin—perhaps a royal functionary, more likely an independent gold-merchant.” (Schaps 2006: 12–13).
The only scholars that Schaps cites for this assertion are Breglia (1964: 42) and Furtwängler (1986: 157–158), neither of whom, as we can see, represent the majority opinion.

The fact is that the earliest electrum coins yet discovered were excavated in the 1904–1905 archaeological work on the temple of Artemis at Ephesus, dated to the last half of the 7th century BC, and already of these nearly half of them (Koray and Lorber 2012: 20) are lion-head electrum coins with Lydian inscriptions almost certainly royal issues of the Lydian kings, because the lion-heard is the symbol of the Lydian kings. The other issues are probably from Greek city state governments or tyrants. Some Chartalists have argued early coins might even have been minted by temples (Semenova 2011b), but this is an issue for the next post.

Another early coin hoard has been found in the Phrygian capital of Gordion in which there were 45 royal lion-head electrum coins, dated to the early 6th century BC (Bellinger 1968). On current evidence, from the very beginning the Lydian state or royal kings were minting coins. Where is the evidence of clear privately-issued coins before these royal issues?

At any rate, this post establishes that there is a consensus (understood as a majority opinion) in modern scholarship, and it does not support the free bankers.

In the next post (part 2), I will turn to the issue of the new evidence on the nature of electrum coins adduced by Selgin.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
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Bellinger, A. R. 1968. “Electrum Coins from Gordion,” in C. M. Kraay and G. K. Jenkins (eds.), Essays in Greek Coinage Presented to Stanley Robinson. Clarendon Press, Oxford. 10–15.

Breglia, Laura. 1964. Numismatica antica: Storia e metodologia. Feltrinelli, Milan.

Bresson, Alain. 2006. “The Origin of Lydian and Greek Coinage: Cost and Quantity,” based on a paper at 3rd International Conference of Ancient History, Fudan University, Shanghai, 17–21 August, 2005
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Bresson, Alain. 2009. “Electrum Coins, Currency Exchange and Transaction Costs in Archaic and Classical Greece,” Revue Belge de Numismatique et de Sigillographie 155: 71–80.

Bresson, Alain. 2016. The Making of the Ancient Greek Economy: Institutions, Markets, and Growth in the City-States (trans. Steven Rendall). Princeton University Press, Princeton.

de Callataӱ, François. 2013. “White Gold: An Enigmatic Start to Greek Coinage,” American Numismatic Society Magazine 12.2: 6–17.

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Furtwängler, Andreas. 2011. “Die ‘Erfindung’ der Münze – wer, wann, wo und Warum,” in Reinhold Walburg (ed.), Geschichte im Geldmuseum 2010. Deutsche Bundesbank, Frankfurt am Main. 5–19.

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Kim, H. S. 2001. “Archaic Coinage as Evidence for the Use of Money,” in Andrew Meadows and Kirsty Shipton (eds.). Money and its Uses in the Ancient Greek World. Oxford University Press, Oxford. 7–21.

Koray, Konuk and Catharine Lorber. 2012. “White Gold: An Introduction to Electrum Coinage,” in H. Gitler (ed.), White Gold: Revealing the World’s Earliest Coins. The Israel Museum, Jerusalem. 13–32.

Konuk, Koray. 2012. “Asia Minor to the Ionian Revolt,” in William E. Metcalf (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Coinage. Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York. 43–60.

Kraay, Colin M. 1964. “Hoards, Small Change and the Origin of Coinage,” Journal of Hellenic Studies 84: 76–91.

Kraay, Colin M. 1976. Archaic and Classical Greek Coins. University of California Press, Berkeley, Calif.

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Kraay, Colin M. 1988. “Coinage,” in J. Boardman, N. G. L. Hammond, D. M. Lewis, and M. Ostwald (eds.), The Cambridge Ancient History. Volume IV. Persia, Greece and the Western Mediterranean c. 525 to 479 B.C. (2nd edn.). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 431–445.

Kroll, John H. “The Coins of Sardis,” Sardisexpedition.org
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Kroll, John H. 2001a. “Observations on Monetary Instruments in Pre-Coinage Greece,” in M. S. Balmuth (ed.), Hacksilber to Coinage: New Insights into the Monetary History of the Near East and Greece. American Numismatic Society, New York. 77–91.

Kroll, John H. 2001b. Review of La Naissance de la monnaie, pratiques monétaires de l’Orient ancien by Georges le Rider. Schweizerische Numismatische Rundschau 80: 201–202.

Kroll, J. H. 2008. “The Monetary Use of Weighted Bullion in Archaic Greece,” in W. V. Harris (ed.) The Monetary Systems of the Greeks and Romans. Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York. 12–37.

Kroll, John H. 2012. “The Monetary Background of Early Coinage,” in William E. Metcalf (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Coinage. Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York. 33–42.

Kurke, Leslie V. 1999. Coins, Bodies, Games, and Gold: The Politics of Meaning in Archaic Greece. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.

Le Rider, G. 2001. La naissance de la monnaie: pratiques monétaires de l’Orient ancient. Presses universitaires de France, Paris.

Meeks, N. D. 2000. “Scanning Electron Microscopy of the Refractory Remains and the Gold and the Gold from Sardis,” in Andrew Ramage and Paul Craddock (eds.), King Croesus’ Gold: Excavations at Sardis and the History of Gold Refining. British Museum Press, London and Cambridge, Mass. 99–156.

Melitz, Jacques. 2017. “A Model of the Beginnings of Coinage in Antiquity,” European Review of Economic History 21.1: 83–103.

Melville Jones, J. R. 1998. “The Value of Electrum and Gold in Greece and Asia,” in R. Ashton and S. Hurter (eds.). Studies in Greek Numismatics in Memory of Martin Jessop Price. Spink, London. 259–268.

Osborne, Robin. 1996. Greece in the Making, 1200–479 BC. Routledge, Abindon.

Peacock, M. S. 2006. “The Origins of Money in Ancient Greece: The Political Economy of Coinage and Exchange,” Cambridge Journal of Economics 30: 637–650.

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Price, Martin Jessop. 1983. “Thoughts on the Beginnings of Coinage,” in C. N. L. Brooke et al., Studies in Numismatic Method Presented to Philip Grierson. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 1–10.

Robinson, E. S. G. 1956. “The Date of the Earliest Coins,” The Numismatic Chronicle and Journal of the Royal Numismatic Society 16: 1–8.

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Semenova, Alla. 2011a. The Origins of Money: Evaluating Chartalist and Metallist Theories in the Context of Ancient Greece and Mesopotamia. Phd dissert., University of Missouri-Kansas City, Kansas City, Missouri.

Semenova, A. 2011b. “Would You Barter With God? Why Holy Debts and not Profane Markets Created Money,” American Journal of Economics and Sociology 70.2: 376–400.

Schaps, D. M. 2004. The Invention of Coinage and the Monetization of Ancient Greece. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor.

Schaps, David M. 2006. “The Invention of Coinage in Lydia, in India, and in China,” paper,
XIV International Economic History Congress, Helsinki
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Spier, Jeffrey. 1998. “Notes on Early Electrum Coinage and a Die-Linked Issue from Lydia,” in Richard Ashton and Silvia Hurter (eds.), Studies in Greek Numismatics in Memory of Martin Jessop Price. Spink, London. 327–334.

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van Alfen, Peter. 2012. “Problems in the Political Economy of Archaic Greek Coinage,” Notae Numismaticae 7: 13–32.
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van Alfen, Peter. 2014. “The Role of ‘the State’ and Early Electrum Coinage,” Working Paper v.31.1.2014
https://www.academia.edu/7343906/The_role_of_the_state_and_early_electrum_coinage

van Alfen, Peter. 2017. “Public Benefactor or Profiteer? The Role of “the State” and Early Electrum Coinage,” in P. van Alfen, U. Wartenberg, K. Konuk, H. Gitler and W. Fischer-Bossert (eds.). White Gold: Studies in Early Electrum Coinage. American Numismatic Society and Israel Numismatic Society, New York and Jerusalem, forthcoming 31 December 2017.

van Alfen, P., Wartenberg, U., Konuk, K., Gitler, H. and W. Fischer-Bossert (eds.). 2017 White Gold: Studies in Early Electrum Coinage. American Numismatic Society and Israel Numismatic Society, New York and Jerusalem, forthcoming 31 December 2017.

Velde, François R. 2012. “On the Origin of Specie,” Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, February 15, 2012
https://www.frbatlanta.org/-/media/documents/news/conferences/2012/monetary-economics/papers/velde.pdf

von Reden, Sitta. 2002. “Money in the Ancient Economy: A Survey of Recent Research,” Klio 84.1: 141–174.

Wallace, R. 1987. “The Origin of Electrum Coinage,” American Journal of Archaeology 91: 385–397.

Wallace, Robert W. 1988. “Walwe. and. Kali,” The Journal of Hellenic Studies 108: 203–207.

Wallace, Robert W. 2001. “Remarks on the Value and Standards of Early Electrum Coins,” in Miriam S. Balmuth (ed.), Hacksilber to Coinage: New Insights into the Monetary History of the Near East and Greece. American Numismatic Society, New York. 127–134.

Wallace, Robert W. 2006. “KUKALIM, WALWET, and the Artemision Deposit: Problems in Early Anatolian Electrum Coinage,” in P. van Alfen (ed.), Agoranomia. Studies in Money and Exchange. Festschrift for John H. Kroll, The American Numismatic Society, 37–48.

Wallace, Robert W. 2013. “Electrum, electrum coinage,” in Roger S. Bagnall, Kai Brodersen, Craige B. Champion, Andrew Erskine and Sabine R. Huebner (eds.), The Encyclopedia of Ancient History. Volume V. Wiley-Blackwell, Malden, MA. 2359–2360.

Wallace, Robert W. 2016. “Redating Croesus: Herodotean Chronologies, and the Dates of the Earliest Coinages,” Journal of Hellenic Studies 136: 168–181.

Wartenberg, Ute. 2016. “Die Geburt der Münze: Die frühe Elektronprägung. Neue Wege der Forschung,” Mitteilungen der Österreichischen Numismatischen Gesellschaft 56.1: 30–49.

Wartenberg, Ute. 2017. “The Birth of Coinage Old questions – New Answers,” Presentation delivered at Ossolineum, Wrocaw, 3 July 2017
https://www.academia.edu/34043055/The_Birth_of_Coinage._Old_Questions_-_New_Answers

Whitley, James. 2001. The Archaeology of Ancient Greece. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Wray, L. Randall. 2000. “Modern Money,” in John Smithin (ed.), What is Money?. Routledge, London and New York. 42–66.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Larry White on the Origins of Coined Money: A Critique

The free banker Larry White has a recent post here on the origins of coined money:
Larry White, “Why the ‘State Theory of Money’ doesn’t explain the Coinage of Precious Metals,” Alt-M Ideas for an Alternative Monetary Future, August 24, 2017.
White is essentially talking about the origins of coined money in ancient Lydia and Greece.

First of all, there are some points in White’s article that may be freely acknowledged as correct, as follows:
(1) Chartalism does not have a universal theory of the origins of money (as defined as a general medium of exchange, unit of account and store of purchasing power) anymore than Neoclassical economics does. But it does have part of the story.

(2) it is true that the theories of certain MMT economists who wish to argue that ancient states chose silver and gold coins only as state-issued tax-anticipation tokens ignores the subjective value that gold and silver did have for human beings. Precious metals were high prestige goods and did obtain value in the market, to some extent, by the subjective value people had for them. So, in this sense, precious metal gold and silver coins were not simply “mere tokens” for the ancients, although some important qualifications can be said about electrum coins, as we will see below.
But now we turn to the flaws in White’s theory.

To begin with, it is empirically wrong to assert that opposition to the Neoclassical/Austrian barter theory of the origins of money is in resurgence just because of Chartalism. In reality, anthropology had already – by the mid-20th century – presented strong evidence against the Austrian/Neoclassical theory, and modern opponents of it are not all necessarily Chartalists.

Secondly, the really serious and empirically dubious claim in White’s argument is his contention that coined money was invented by the private sector in ancient Lydia and Greece:
“An important technical advance came with the introduction and spread of coinage in Turkey and Greece during the 7th to 5th centuries BCE. Unlike raw nuggets straight from the mine or variously refined precious-metal bars, coined pieces of silver and gold gained a major additional advantage: they became (5) uniform in size and quality, so that traders need not incur the cost of testing (or the risk of not testing) each piece for its weight and its fineness (percentage of pure silver or gold content). Early coining entrepreneurs could have profited, as later mint masters in California did, by charging for the service of converting raw silver or gold into easier-to-spend uniform coins. With the spread of coinage to India, the Middle East, and Europe, merchants found silver and gold payments easier to make and to accept. ….

Once sovereigns monopolized the mints they took advantage of the propaganda value of stamping their own faces on the coins, of course. But as far as we know coins were already in use among merchants before that happened. Very early coins from ancient Lydia, in what is now Turkey, were not inscribed with human faces but rather animal figures. The Ancient History Encyclopedia states: ‘It appears that many early Lydian coins were minted by merchants as tokens to be used in trade transactions. The Lydian state also minted coins.’ Regarding Lydian coins inscribed with the names Walwel and Kalil, the British Museum comments: ‘It is unclear whether these are names of kings or just rich men who produced the earliest coins.’ Regarding a nearly contemporary ancient Greek coin bearing the legend ‘I am the badge of Phanes,’ the Museum comments: ‘We cannot be certain who this Phanes was, but it seems that he was placing his badge on coins as a guarantee of their quality.’”
Larry White, “Why the ‘State Theory of Money’ doesn’t explain the Coinage of Precious Metals,” Alt-M Ideas for an Alternative Monetary Future, August 24, 2017.
White is clearly asserting that coined money was invented by the private sector in ancient Lydia and Greece.

But is this true? The evidence for it is feeble at best, and there is much evidence against it.

The first coins were minted in the second half of the 7th century BC (650–600) in what is now western Turkey (what was called “Asia Minor” by the Classical Greeks) in ancient Ionia and within the ancient kingdom of Lydia. Both the ancient writers Xenophanes (as cited in Pollux, Onom. 9.83) and Herodotus (Histories 1.94) report this.

Let us run through the counterarguments to White as follows:
(1) the earliest coins were made of electrum, which was a naturally occurring alloy in ancient Lydia (Kroll 2008: 17–18). The evidence shows that the Lydian kings either controlled the mines in their kingdom directly (Briant 2002: 400), and/or levied taxes on mining or extraction of metals, and indeed a certain Lydian called Pythius under the later Persian empire, who owned a number of mines in Lydia, may have been a descendant of the Lydian royal family who had inherited these mines as private family property (Briant 2002: 401). It follows that, if the Lydian kings extracted and owned much of the silver, gold and electrum (panned from the rivers), it is most probable that the kings also minted the first electrum coinage too, since a large quantity of this metal was needed.

(2) that the “early coins from ancient Lydia, in what is now Turkey, were not inscribed with human faces but rather animal figures” does not provide good evidence against them having been minted by, or for, the Lydian kings: for a long time in the ancient world, coins did not carry any images of living human beings nor writing, and there is no reason why the kings would have bothered to put their images or names on the coins when people at the time knew perfectly well that they had been minted by the state. Early coins of the state mostly depicted gods, seals or other symbols. In Western civilization, one of the first kings to be depicted on coins in his own lifetime was Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC, but centuries after coins had been invented.

(3) it is true that some early Lydian coins carry an inscription, apparently in the Lydian language, and refer to .WALWE. and .KALI. (Schaps 2004: 96). However, the question of who or what these names refers to is not settled at all in modern scholarship. Howgego (1995: 3) suggests that the names may be those of mints, not of individuals. And, even if they do refer to human beings, they could be individuals who minted the coins for the Lydian kings as mint masters (Wallace 1987: 393, n. 51), and this is strongly suggested by the lion symbol which appears on many such early coins, the symbol of the Lydian royal house (Schaps 2004: 96).

(4) it is true we have about four coins with the Greek inscription Φάνεως ειμί σήμα, which can be translated as “I am the badge of Phanes” or “I am the sign of light.” However, as in the case of (3) above, if “I am the badge of Phanes” is the correct translation, it is unclear who this Phanes was. There is a reasonable discussion of the complexities of the issue here.

Kastner (1986) points out that the name may well be that of a god, not a human being (Howgego 1995: 4). Howgego (1995: 4) speculates that even if Phanes was the name of a human being, he might have been an unknown local tyrant or ruler.
So, at best, the evidence for private individuals or merchants being the driving force behind the first minting of coins is feeble.

What is the case for the Lydian kings having minted the earliest electrum coins?

Although it is true that some early 20th-century scholars supported the view that electrum coins were invented by the private merchants, this was strongly criticised by Cook (1958) and Kraay (1964), both of whom made the case that early coins were minted by the Lydian kings or states to pay state expenses, particularly mercenaries.

Early electrum coins did not circulate much beyond the areas where they were minted, and the most common ones were of very high denomination: perhaps worth more than 10 sheep and not useful for small transactions (Cook 1958: 260). If merchants invented early electrum coins, why were they mostly useless for small ordinary commercial transactions in the market? (Schaps 2004: 97; for recent evidence on later smaller denomination coins, see Kim 2002 and Kagan 2006).

R. M. Cook concluded that early electrum coins were minted by the Lydian kings in order to make large payments in a portable and durable form to people owed a large debt by the king, most probably soldiers or mercenaries (Cook 1958: 261).

This view has won large-scale acceptance in modern scholarship. We can take a standard work for reference here: The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Coinage (Oxford and New York, 2012). In this work, Kroll (2012: 44) concludes electrum coins were created by the kings of Lydia. The view is held by Wallace (1987: 386), Osborne (1996: 256), Kim (2001: 10), Whitley (2001: 193), Hornblower et al. (2014: 182), Freeman (2004: 185), and Howgego (1995: 3, noting that no certain evidence in all of antiquity for coins being produced by private individuals).

There are a few dissenters like Holloway (1978), but their arguments, as can be seen from the scant evidence above, are weak. And, while both Schaps (2004: 100) and Seaford (2004: 133) allow some role for private individuals, both concede a large role for the Lydian state in driving the process and being the impetus for it.

Notably, while these early electrum coins had a surprisingly near uniform weight, they were actually variable in their metallic content, and the proportion of gold to silver varied in these coins: for example, one study has found that the silver content of the electrum coins could range from 20% to 75%, which reflected the natural variability of the electrum alloy itself, or even further dilution with extra silver (Wallace 1987: 386).

The near uniform weight but variable metal content of the electrum coins is an important datum. It would have been very difficult for the public to test the true metal content of early electrum coins (Wallace 1987: 392), or indeed small bits of electrum or electrum dust (Kroll 2008: 18). The great difficulty in ascertaining the gold to silver content and metallic value of electrum even before it was coined is actually good evidence against the Mengerian/Neoclassical explanation of its emergence as money.

Given the variable metal content of electrum and difficulties of assessing its value, one cannot easily argue that early merchants invented electrum coins as standardised money with consistent gold and silver value as the most saleable medium of exchange.

Rather, various scholars (see Wallace 1987: 393, Kroll 2012: 44) concluded that the Lydian kings invented electrum coins as a way of standardising the value of individual issues of electrum (despite the variability of the gold to silver content in the coins) by means of a royal seal on the coin, so that this would stabilise their value by accepting the coins back at the same value, presumably as taxes, fines or payments due to the government.

That is to say, the royal stamp was a sign of redeemability at a fixed value (Seaford 2004: 133; Osborne 1996: 256). In the sense that value was not always equal to the metallic content of the coins, electrum coins were fiduciary and state-guaranteed money (Wallace 1987: 393).

These points count against electrum coinage having been an invention of the private sector, because, as we have seen, the difficulty of ascertaining the gold or silver content of electrum coins, or earlier small electrum portions or electrum dust, does not suggest electrum was the most saleable commodity that emerged as money by the barter spot trade.

Instead, it was a royal government that selected electrum as a state-guaranteed money or form of payment, and that could overcome people’s concerns about the actual metal content of the coins by fixing value.

Further Reading
“The Origin of Money and Coinage in Western Civilisation: The Case of Ancient Greece,” April 5, 2013.

“George Selgin versus David Graeber on the Origin of Money,” March 30, 2016.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
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