Jere M. Wickens

In a coin, especially an ancient coin, form follows function; its function as legal currency controls many elements of both its production and its design. To produce a coin a legitimate authority stamps a disk or lump of metal of a certain purity and weight on one or, more usually, both sides with designs ("types") and sometimes inscriptions ("legends"). The types and legends identify the authority and certify that the piece of metal is legal currency, at least within the area governed by that authority. The requirements then to produce a coin are: an authority to issue and guarantee the coin's worth as money, possession of the bullion or metal from which the coin will be made, the ability to refine the metal to the desired purity or fineness, and the tools and techniques to fabricate the coin from the metal. Almost all early coins were struck by hand, and the striking process changed little from the beginning of coinage until the sixteenth century, when coins began to be machine-milled. Striking coins by hand involved three stages: making a blank (or "flan"), the plain lump or disk of metal which when impressed with the types becomes the coin; making the dies, the stamps used to transfer the types onto the flan; and striking the coin.


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The coin depicted above is No. 27 in the catalogue, tetradrachm of Ainos, c. 380 B.C. Obverse: Facing head of Hermes.

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Lawrence University
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