The Marne Money Manufactory

This paper was read before the Numismatic Society on 22nd November 1838.

Account of a
Manufactory for Money
Discovered at Damery
in
The Department of Marne
1830

The examination of the question, whether the moulds for Roman money found near Lyons, had been used by forgers, or by the officers of government, an inquiry in which M. Poey d’ Avant has lately been engaged, after the Academy of Inscriptions, and almost all the antiquaries of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, gives a new value to the discovery now under consideration ; and in fact, though it may not decide the question, it at least throws a new light upon it.

The moulds were made by pressing officially issued Roman coins … into clay to create a mirror-image of the markings on the coin.

Lingwell Gate Roman Coin Moulds – Emily Tilley
York Museums and Gallery Trust

https://www.yorkmuseumstrust.org.uk/blog/lingwell-gate-roman-coin-moulds-by-emily-tilley-collections-facilitator-for-roman-archaeology/

Relics and remains of the Romans are more numerous.

The insignificant hamlet of Lingwell Gate is known to almost every student of Roman Antiquities.

Coins were found there in Camden’s time, 1607.

A large number of coins, and coin moulds, and four crucibles, were found in 1821.

Some coin moulds, about 70 in number, and a funnel from this place were presented to the Leeds Philosophical Society by J. Peel Clapham, Esq., in 1829, and may be seen in a large case on the ground floor of the museum near the entrance.

A considerable number of coins and moulds were picked up in 1814 and 1815 by a girl named Sarah Waterhouse. Some years later a large number were found by a farmer named William Spurr, who picked them up whilst ploughing.

Coins and moulds were also found by a gardener named Bramley in 1840, and others have been picked up at various times down to 1879. They extend from Hadrian to Alexander Severus, and have doubtless been struck near where they were found.

The field in which all these coins and moulds were discovered is situate in the township of Lofthouse, though it is near Lingwell Gate.

A beck runs down one side of the field.

In 1815 a quantity of prostrate oaks were dug up from the soil, which is deep and very black. The wood was as black as ebony, but sound, and some of it was used by the farmers as late as 1875 for staddle wood beneath the stacks. Black oak has also been dug up in another part of the township, near a stream.

Topography and Natural History of Lofthouse
George Roberts – 1882

https://archive.org/details/topographynatura00robe/page/2

Lofthouse is a village between … Wakefield and Leeds …

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lofthouse,_West_Yorkshire

During the winter of 1829-1830, some excavations made in a very small part of the site of the park of the old castle of Damery, a town near Epernay, built on the ruins of Bibe, the first station on the military road from Rheims to Beauvais, brought to view, at the depth of several feet, under a heap of ashes, charcoal and broken tiles, the remains of extensive buildings demolished by fire, having evidently served for baths and a moneyer’s workshop.

https://www.openstreetmap.org/?mlat=49.0719&mlon=3.8783&zoom=12#map=12/49.0719/3.8783

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damery,_Marne

The Champagne province is located near the northern limits of the wine world along the 49th parallel.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Champagne_%28wine_region%29

In some adjoining apartments, there were found, in a short space of time, several vases full of coins.

The first vase contained at least 2000 pieces of base silver, more than 1500 of which bore the head of Postumus ; the remainder presented the series which is generally found from the elder Philip down to that tyrant : the only rare piece was one of the younger Macrianus; the reverses, although very various for the coins of Postumus, were all common; lastly, the fabric was bad, and the metal much reduced : and those with the impression of Postumus were comparatively more defective than the others.

Marcus Cassianius Latinius Postumus was a Roman commander of Batavian origin who ruled as Emperor in the West. The Roman army in Gaul threw off its allegiance to Gallienus around the year 260, and Postumus assumed the title and powers of Emperor in the provinces of Gaul, Germania, Britannia and Hispania, thereby founding what scholars have dubbed the Gallic Empire.

He ruled for the better part of ten years before he was murdered by his own troops.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postumus

The Gallic Empire or the Gallic Roman Empire are names used in modern historiography for a breakaway part of the Roman Empire that functioned de facto as a separate state from 260 to 274.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gallic_Empire

Another vase contained

1. A Silver coin of Antoninus.

2. Five small brass, of the money of Treves, with the types of Rome and Constantinople.

3. 100 other small brass, of the money of Treves, Lyons, Aries, Aquileia, Sisseg (P.S), and Rome ; with the impressions of Constans and Constantius, sons of Constantine, and having for those three Emperors, the three same reverses, viz. FELIX TEMP REPARATIO ; a warrior giving his hand to a small figure same inscription, the Emperor standing on a galley VICTORIAS DD AVGG NN. Victories presenting crowns.

4. About 3900 pieces in small brass of the fourth size, all in perfect preservation, and all with the impressions of the same emperors, Constans and Constantius, and with the unusual reverse of a Phoenix on a globe, placed on a rock, with the inscription FELIX TEMP REPARATIO.

The greater part of these pieces bore on the exergue the mark of the money of Treves, several that of the money of Lyons, and one only bore the exergueal letters SIS, attributed in like manner to the money of Sisseg.

The types were various.

Nevertheless, and in the face of these formal indications of manufacture in places far distant from one another, the identity of the alloy and of the impression of these 3900 coins was such, and their preservation so perfect and so equal, that the thought forces itself upon us, that they had been made in the same manufactory, and that they had never quitted it to be put into circulation.

This supposition, justified also by the uniformity of the impressions, seems fully confirmed by the discovery in an adjoining apartment, of a money manufactory in full activity.

There, under a heap of ashes and tiles, were found together, shears, and the remains of other iron instruments, suitable for the making of money ; and several collections of moulds of baked earth, still containing the pieces which had been cast in them, and the ingot formed by the superfluous metal.

https://archive.org/stream/chroniclenumi01royauoft#page/n15/mode/1up

These moulds, not so thick, and of a coarser earth than those communicated by M. Poey d’ Avant, were in other respects entirely similar.

Like those found at Fourvieres, they were moulded from the money which they were intended to reproduce, by pressing the models between disks of worked clay of larger diameter, in order to form ledges, and were then placed one upon another, so that with the exception of the first and last, they received on each face the stamp of the obverse and the reverse of a piece.

The cavities and the impressions being obtained by this process both easily and accurately, the disks composing the moulds were notched, in order to form a passage for the fused metal; they were then hardened in the fire, replaced on one another, notch over notch, and in the same order as when moulded, and lastly, luted with clay, so as to form a cylinder similar to that found at Fourvieres, and described by M. de Caylus.

But the last operation that preceded the founding escaped the notice of that antiquary.

The piles of moulds were combined in threes, 1 placed at the side of one another, and in contact, so that the notches, for the introduction of the metal, communicated with the hollow space formed by the three cylindrical surfaces when applied to one another ; which space, therefore, served as a general channel for the melted matter.

Such was the disposition of the groups of moulds found in the ruins of Bibe.

The ingot drawn in illustration of these observations, is one of those formed by the superabundant metal in the channel.

It is bristled with three longitudinal lines of 12 points each, more or less prominent, these points being the remains of the ramification of metal that entered by the notches of the 12 moulds, in each of the three piles constituting the group, and thus 36 pieces were cast at once.

These observations, M. de Caylus was not enabled to make.

There is no doubt but these moulds, as well as those much more perfect, found at Fourvieres, were used for more than one casting; with a little care, the pieces were taken out without breaking the moulds ; and M. de Caylus made an experiment on the latter, which even some of those found in the ruins of Bibe might bear, although they had undergone, at the time of the conflagration of this Roman establishment, the action of the most violent fire.

The moulds found at various times at Fourvieres, were of the types of Septimius Severus, Julia Domna, Caracalla, Geta, Soemias, Msesa, and Alexander Severus.

Only 32 moulds were found uninjured in the ruins of the work at Bibe, and these are scarcely the tenth part of the whole. Three bear the head of Caracalla, four, that of the elder Philip, and twenty-five that of Postumus with nine varieties of reverses.

The following is the description in detail, of the impressions on the moulds preserved in the cabinets of M. Lucas Desaint, of Rheims, and M. Thiers, with the number of duplicates.

We may suppose that the broken or dispersed moulds reproduced the different impressions of the silver pieces found in great numbers in the apartments adjoining the workshop, pieces which must in great measure have proceeded from the active casting that was going on.

This supposition seems especially to hold for the 1500 silver pieces of Postumus, in which the bad alloy and defective make were particularly remarkable.

With respect to the 3900 small brass, with the reverse of the phoenix, it is maintained, that they were struck in the manufactory of Bibe, although bearing the marks of the money of Treves and Lyons. And indeed it is conceived, that in those times of confusion, the money of the emperors
must have followed their camps, and been continually within reach of their residence.

The simultaneous discovery under the same ruins of these small brass coins, with the effigies of Constans and Constantius, and of moulds still enclosing the money of Caracalla, Philip, and Postumus, which had been cast in them, proves besides this very important fact, that the latter had been made under the reign of those two first emperors only.

Independently of these considerable stores, there have been frequently found at Damery, isolated pieces; but none of those submitted to my inspection was after the reign of the sons of Constantine, the period to which we must assign the total ruin of Bibe by the Franks, who then were making incursions into Belgic Gaul.

Old postcard images of Damery: https://youtu.be/u298eGuBqFs

The following conclusions result from these discoveries, discoveries which we have endeavoured minutely to describe, and which are of more importance to the critic than those of Fourvieres :-

That if, according to the testimony of Pliny, forgers were the first to adopt the method of casting, to counterfeit ancient money, the emperors from the time of Postumus availed themselves of this process to reproduce secretly, and in metal of bad alloy, the money of their predecessors.

That it is to these reproductions (clandestine) we must attribute the enormous quantity of silver money, of inferior quality and defective make, with the impressions of the Caesars, from the time of Septimius Severus, down to Postumus.

Septimius Severus, also known as Severus, was Roman emperor from 193 to 211. He was born in Leptis Magna in the Roman province of Africa.

To maintain his enlarged military, he debased the Roman currency.

Upon his accession he decreased the silver purity of the denarius from 81.5% to 78.5%, although the silver weight actually increased, rising from 2.40 grams to 2.46 grams.

Nevertheless, the following year he debased the denarius again because of rising military expenditures.

The silver purity decreased from 78.5% to 64.5% – the silver weight dropping from 2.46 grams to 1.98 grams.

In 196 he reduced the purity and silver weight of the denarius again, to 54% and 1.82 grams respectively.

Severus’ currency debasement was the largest since the reign of Nero, compromising the long-term strength of the economy.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Septimius_Severus#Assessment_and_legacy

Starting with Nero in AD 64, the Romans continuously debased their silver coins until, by the end of the 3rd century AD, hardly any silver was left.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denarius

Chronology errors would explain why there are replicated series of Roman coins in the 3rd century.

See: https://malagabay.wordpress.com/2018/04/05/the-cock-up-of-the-3rd-century/

Lastly, they explain the total want of silver money, from Victorinus to Dioclesian, and the great rarity of that of the lower empire.

See: https://malagabay.wordpress.com/2019/11/11/bristol-mendip-hoard-of-1866/

Marcus Piavonius Victorinus was emperor in the Gallic provinces from 268 to 270 or 269 to 271, following the brief reign of Marius.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victorinus

Diocletian, born Diocles, was a Roman emperor from 284 to 305.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diocletian

In fact, it results, from these discoveries, that under the reigns of the Caesars, Constans, and Constantius, there were cast, in a mint established at Bibe, large quantities of money, with the stamp of the emperors who had reigned from Caracalla to Postumus, and that this manufactory, situated in the heart of a town, and near public baths, did not belong to forgers, but was for the imperial money, in which copper money was struck with the die of the reigning emperors, and the silver money of the ancient Caesars, still more adulterated than the original pieces, was reproduced by founding.

Constans or Constans I was Roman Emperor from 337 to 350.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constans

Constantius II was Roman Emperor from 337 to 361.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constantius_II

See: https://malagabay.wordpress.com/2019/11/11/bristol-mendip-hoard-of-1866/

Hence, the possibility that the reigning emperor did not strike silver money with his die, nor maintain faithfully the quality of the small quantity which he issued ; since at the same time that he threw into circulation the quantity of specie necessary for civil and commercial transactions, by means of ancient money secretly reproduced he diminished its intrinsic value.

It was besides evident that the small number of silver pieces struck with the die of the Caesars, from the time of Dioclesian down to the destruction of the Western Empire, could not satisfy the wants of the public ; and that even in those disastrous times, the money of the former Caesars had continued current during that period, but, disappearing in the continual concealments that took place in consequence of war and endless ravages, the emperors, to their great profit, clandestinely reproduced it, instead of multiplying specie of good standard, struck with their own die.

We conceive, then, that having the choice, they reproduced in preference money, the quality of which had been reduced previously; and thus all the moulds discovered, bear the head of Septimius Severus who had altered the money first, and of his successors down to Postumus, who had all followed his example; for though it is easy to discover, by mere inspection, whether the silver of any money be pure or not, it is impossible to judge, by this means, of the quantity of adulteration.

It had long been remarked, that there was a great inequality in the degree of alteration (or reduction) of the money struck at the same time, and with the mark of the same emperor.

We cannot now doubt that such differences are the consequence of these fraudulent reproductions.

And thus, if the emperors punished the alteration of the money as a sacrilege, it was certainly with the view of securing to themselves the monopoly of this shameful source of profit..

HIVER

The Numismatic Chronicle and Journal of the Royal Numismatic Society
Royal Numismatic Society (Great Britain)
Volume I June 1838 – April 1839
https://archive.org/stream/chroniclenumi01royauoft#page/154/mode/1up

Footnote #1
It appears the Lingwell Gate moulds were used by “forgers”.

Observations on
The Roman Coin-Moulds
Found at Lingwell-Gate, Near Wakefield,
In the years
1697, 1706, 1820, and 1830
by the
Rev J B Reade, MA, FRS



If now we refer to the very different circumstances which are connected with the discovery at Lingwell-Gate, we shall find that the clandestine operation of forgers stands in striking contrast with the recognised and open proceedings of the constituted authorities at Bibe.

Concealment here takes the place of publicity ; and the selected spot is no longer in the centre of a town, but in the heart of a forest ; and at a distance from the main road, instead of near public baths.

The money, also, now produced, and which, in some instances, is still remaining in the moulds, was not of largely alloyed silver, as at Bibe, but of
copper
; and since, at this period of the empire, mere copper denarii would be worse than useless, there can be no doubt that the skill of the forgers would supply a coating of silver, before putting them into circulation.

On the whole, therefore, it seems to amount almost to a certainty, that the moulds were made on, or near, the spot, where they are from time to time discovered, and that they were used in common by forgers, and by the Triumviri Monetales ; by the former at Lingwell-Gate, for the purpose of procuring a private supply of counterfeit money; and by
the latter at Bibe, for the purpose of filling the exhausted coffers of the state with a debased coinage of the ancient Caesars.

Thus, in each case it is evident, that in those degenerate days both kings and subjects acted out, in practice, what in the Augustan age was confined to words,

The Numismatic Chronicle and Journal of the Royal Numismatic Society
Royal Numismatic Society (Great Britain)
Volume I June 1838 – April 1839
https://archive.org/stream/chroniclenumi01royauoft#page/161/mode/1up

The referenced Roman Coin Mould articles from 1838
are package in a 22 page pdf file at
https://www.jstor.org/stable/42728647

https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magistrato_monetario

During the Roman Republic, moneyers were called tresviri aere argento auro flando feriundo, literally “three men for casting (and) striking bronze, silver (and) gold (coins)”.

This was a board of the college of the vigintiviri, or Board of twenty (later briefly the Board of twenty-six), vigintisexviri.

The title was abbreviated III. VIR. AAAFF. or even III. VIR. A.P.F. (tresviri ad pecuniam feriundam) on the coinage itself.

These men were collectively known as the tresviri monetales or sometimes, less correctly, as the triumviri monetales.

The singular is triumvir monetalis.

In English, they are most correctly called mint magistrates, since ‘moneyers’ may imply that they actually struck the coins themselves.

These magistrates were responsible for the production of the Roman coinage.

They were not simple mint workers (monetarii), they were officials who controlled the process, including the design on the coins themselves.

Membership in the vigintisexvirate was for most of them the first step on the cursus honorum, the age when the post could be held appears to have been approximately 30, although some held it at a greater age and there is some evidence that the position was appointed rather than elected.

Some coins appear to have been special issues bearing the legend S C or EX S. C. (ex senatus consulto).

Some of these special issues do not bear the signature of a triumvir monetalis, but the inscription CVR. X. FL. i. e. curator denariorum flandorum, or are signed by praetors (P), aediles (CVR AED), or quaestors (Q).

During the Roman Empire, this appears on the bronze coinage only (except during the first few years of hero’s reign, when it is also found on the precious metal coinage), and it suggests that although the emperor kept the minting of gold and silver coins under his own authority, the Senate, as a sop to its pride, was allowed to retain nominal authority over bronze coinage.

In any case, the magistrate’s control of the legend on the coinage lent itself to the production of coins containing political messages.

This was self-advertising to further the political career of the moneyers themselves (or their families) or that of their patrons; in a word, propaganda.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Roman_moneyers_during_the_Republic

Lingwell Gate Roman Coin Moulds
MrHooley21
Published on Aug 19, 2009

Coin Production in the Roman World
The Art Institute of Chicago
Published on Apr 11, 2013

Coins were made of pieces of gold, silver, or bronze, known as blanks, which were cast or cut to specific weights.

To make a coin, a blank was sandwiched between a pair of dies with engraved designs.

This was then struck, or hit with a hammer, the force of which impressed the designs into the coin on both sides.

Struck from solid gold, this type of Roman coin, called a solidus, was first minted in the late 3rd century A.D. and was used until the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453.

Although many of the techniques used in the ancient world for striking coins are lost to us today, this video demonstrates one possible way the Art Institute’s solidus of Constantine the Great might have been made.

This video was produced with the generous support of a Long Range Fund grant provided by the Community Associates of the Art Institute of Chicago.

It was created for LaunchPad, a program of digital interpretive materials that supplement the viewing of works of art on display in the Art Institute of Chicago’s galleries.

Footnote #2
Somerset is also associated with clandestine coins.

Remains Found in the Marshes round the Polden Hills

The Polden Hills form a long thin ridge of upland, 200-300 feet above sea-level, which runs east and west between the neighbourhood of Glastonbury and that of Bridgwater, and divides the marshes of the Brue from King’s Sedgemoor.

Striking remains of both the British and the Roman periods have been found near their western end.

We are here concerned only with the latter.

We have here to deal with a different kind, or rather two kinds, of remains.

The first of these are coin-moulds made in clay, of which great numbers have come to light.

Bawdrip is a village and civil parish in the Sedgemoor district of Somerset, England. The village is on the south side of the Polden Hills about 4 miles (6.4 km) north-east of Bridgwater.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bawdrip

In 1670, as Paschal writes to Aubrey, “several hundreds of casting-moulds of fine clay” were found three or four feet deep, in low ground, on a site not easy to identify, but probably near Bawdrip, on the south side of the Polden Hills.

The moulds bore the heads and names of Severus, Caracalla, Julia and Plautilla.

Paschal sent a “boxful” to the Royal Society, and Aubrey gave twenty to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, but both donations have disappeared.

Chilton Polden is a rural village and civil parish, situated close to Edington on the Somerset Levels to the north of the Polden Hills in the Sedgemoor district of Somerset, England.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chilton_Polden

A second discovery was made in 1801 on the north side of the Polden range, in digging a drain, a quarter of a mile north of the village of Chilton, in low ground on or near the Nidons.

Here the Rev. J. Poole picked up some hundreds of moulds in a space of four feet square and at a depth of some nine inches.

They bore the heads of Severus, Julia, Caracalla, Plautilla, Geta, Macrinus, Elagabalus, Severus Alexander, Julia Paula, and Mamaea.

More finds followed in 1835 in the same marsh, and probably about the same spot, between Chilton village and Edington Burtle — moulds bearing the heads of Commodus, Severus, Julia, Caracalla, Geta, Mamaea, and Severus Alexander, and two actual coins of base (appar-
ently white) metal, one of Severus, and the other of Geta.

Yet a fourth discovery, of which fewer details are recorded, was made in Highbridge in 1804.

Seven feet deep in the alluvial deposit, workmen who were excavating new drainage channels, found a layer of hard peat, and, lying upon it, Roman potsherds, bricks suggestive of kilns and several moulds for casting coins.

Lastly, an illegible mould preserved in Brighton Museum is said to have been found at “Pointing Hill, near Bridgwater,” though its other history is lost.

Similar discoveries of clay moulds for casting coins have occurred elsewhere in Britain and in other parts of the western empire, Gaul, Germany, Noricum and Africa (Tunis), though apparently not in Italy or the east.

They occur both in large towns and in remote and lonely places.

The period when they were principally made and used seems to have been that dark age of the Roman currency from about AD 210-280.

The majority of the specimens bear the heads of Septimius Severus, his sons Caracalla and Geta, or their successor Elagabalus ; some show later emperors of the third century, while a few represent those of the second century or of the first half of the fourth century.

Almost all appear intended for casting either denarii, and especially the debased denarii current in the third century, or bronze folles of the early fourth century.

Several theories have been advanced as to their use.

They have been attributed to forgers,

They have been attributed to the Government, attempting by travelling mints to supply local deficiencies in currency for the use of soldiers and traders.

They have, thirdly, been ascribed to private coiners working to the same end with the sanction, or at least the acquiescence, of the State.

Of these three origins the first is the most generally probable, and it alone is applicable to our present case.

We can imagine forgers plying in the secret and lonely marshes of west Somerset.

We cannot imagine the State sending thither a travelling mint, or private coiners, other than forgers, selecting the spot.

Evidence, moreover, is wholly wanting which might prove that either travelling mints or authorised (or tolerated) private coiners really existed.

Both are hypotheses, invented to suit the views of special writers.

Both, so far as I can judge, are quite unnecessary.

Victoria County History of Somerset: Romano-British Remains
Francis Haverfield – 1906

https://archive.org/details/romanobritishre00havegoog/page/n223

Gallery | This entry was posted in Books, Dark Earth, History, Roman Chronology. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Marne Money Manufactory

  1. Yry says:

    “Doubt is the chief stimulus to inquiry, to research and so to discovery.
    Doubt sets in when an alleged truth fails to satisfy us.”
    – PP. 77-78 ‘Our Human Truths’ by methodologist F. C. S. Schiller.

    “We can believe that there is good evidence for the past without
    believing that any propositions about it are beyond question…
    historical facts have in every case to be established : They are
    never simply given.” – P. 83 ‘Practising Historian’ by Prof. W. H. Walsh.

    —- to a master inquirer, thank you Tim.

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