Friday, March 18, 2016

New in the ANS Digital Library: Coin hoards, by Sydney Noe

Coin hoards




There is no branch of numismatics which would have a greater appeal to the average man than the study of hoards and treasure trove. To some it will cause surprise that such material should need study. Not so to the archaeologist or the historian, who often has had reason to be grateful for the data supplied by coin finds. The presentation of some of the causes of hoarding and of the deductions we may draw from recovered buried treasure is submitted that the value of some of these results may be made clearer.
We Americans, probably because we are without many opportunities of such a nature this side of the water, find this subject of especial interest. To be sure, the treasuries of the Incas of Peru which have been unearthed included the precious metals in many forms but nothing that has been identified as currency. The tumuli of the Maya and Aztec civilizations of Central America will some day yield rich returns to the investigator, but the material heretofore secured is archaeological or ethnological, and, like that of Peru, has included little of a numismatic nature. In both cases, the finds are more closely analogous to those of ancient Egypt where the accounts often prove more thrilling than fiction. It stimulates the imagination to read of unrifled tombs where lie haughty princesses of long ago. Their jewels and the implements of their daily life were placed near at hand in readiness for the after-world, but food and drink were considered more necessary than gold. Only with the burials of the later and least interesting period does numismatic material occur. This is owing to the fact that the early money of the Egyptians consisted of bullion in an unminted form whose exchange value was determined by weight. During the Per- sian domination, the darics and sigloi of the invaders seem to have been in use to a limited degree, but finds show also that the early coinage of the Greeks circulated to a much more considerable extent.
Although finds of coin do not occur in this country as frequently as in Europe, one of the basic causes of these burials, hoarding, is not so foreign to our experience as might be supposed. Only when a hoard has been buried is there a chance of its becoming treasure trove and we are not accustomed to burying our savings. Civilization has accustomed us to other means of safekeeping, and experience has approved them satisfactory. In the cities, our savings are placed in banks or safe deposits. Let there be a run on the bank, however, and we see a return to primitive conditions—deposits are withdrawn as quickly as possible; and until confidence in some other institution overcomes the distrust caused by the failure, money is hoarded just as carefully as it was in the time of the Greeks and Romans. When we turn from a section remote from city life, to districts far removed from the conveniences which civilization affords, there is little difference from the procedure of the Ancients. Among the miners, hiding gold-dust becomes a necessity. So even to-day hoarding is not as exceptional a thing as it is thought.

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