Collecting ancient coins can be very exciting. You have the opportunity to own a piece of ancient history when you invest in the right coins. Byzantine coins are popular among collectors who value money from ancient times.
The Byzantine Empire arose out of the fall of the Roman Empire, so coins produced during this time period have an interesting story.
One of the characteristics that makes Byzantine coins so unique is the prevalence of devaluations found within the coins circulated throughout the time. Learn more about the devaluations you may run into as you search for Byzantine coins to add to your own collection.
The value of each ancient coin was based on the metal from which it was made. The Byzantine Empire utilized coins made from gold, silver, and copper. The gold coins were most valuable.
Unfortunately, dwindling reserves in state coffers resulted in several emperors tinkering with the purity of the coins they put into circulation. Instead of pure gold, silver, and copper, alloys were used to reduce the purity of each coin.
This type of devaluation did increase short-term financial stability for the state as a whole, but ultimately resulted in a complete lack of confidence in the Byzantine monetary system.
Knowing that emperors decreased the purity of their coins means that when you run across a Byzantine coin with compromised purity, you shouldn't dismiss it as a fake.
Another type of devaluation that is common among Byzantine coins is restriking.
Merchants and travelers carried Byzantine coins far and wide. Emperors wanted to extend their power and fame as far as possible in an effort to expand their territory. Featuring their own image on coins was a simple and effective way to accomplish this task.
Each time the coins changed hands, more people were exposed to the featured emperor. Instead of taking the time to mint all new coins whenever a new emperor rose to power, a new image would simple be struck over the existing one.
These restrikes allowed coins to remain in circulation and retain their value.
Restriking did compromise the clarity and sharpness of some images, so you may see ancient coins that look like they have been tampered with. Bear in mind that these may be restrikes, so you will need to do further research to determine the authenticity of the coin.
Cupping was another devaluation process that Byzantine emperors used to help reduce the volume of precious metal in each coin.
A few grams would be shaved off the weight of the coin, then the remaining precious metal would be rolled out into roughly the original size. This process resulted in many ancient coins taking on a curved, or cupped, shape.
Novice coin collectors often expect all coins to be completely flat. While early examples of Byzantine coins are almost always flat, cupped coins became the norm as emperors struggled to pay for the services of mercenary soldiers with declining tax revenue caused by the plague.
As long as all other characteristics of the coin appear to be authentic, a cupped shape does not categorize a Byzantine coin as a fake.
Collecting Byzantine coins allows you to relive a fascinating period of ancient history. These coins tell the stories of military battles, economic hardships, and the rise and fall of ancient politicians.
Devaluations are just additional characteristics that contribute to the overall narrative of Byzantine coins.
The best way to ensure that a devaluation like reduced metal purity, restriking, and cupping doesn't interfere with the value of your coins is to purchase only from reputable dealers and collectors.