LAST WORDS (part two)
We turn our attention now from the Coriosolite people to their coinage. Although some Armoricans had an earlier coinage of gold, the Coriosolites appear to have introduced money with the billion issues described here. The earliest issues contained about 32% silver: after the 25% devaluation, this was reduced to about 24%. These figures are averages, as there was little care taken to insure that each coin was of the same value.
In a market economy, this inaccuracy would lead to many problems, but the Coriosolite coinage was intended to be paid out in large sums for the commitment of troops by members of the elite. With large sums, only averages are relevant. The above figures are for the products of Series X. The other two series are of slightly lower intrinsic value, but we should be careful about ascribing a later date based solely on this, as the figures do not seem to indicate another official devaluation: changes of one or two percentage points might require more sophisticated arithmetic than the Celts were capable of. The official devaluation of 25%, or one in four, is in keeping with the presumed Celtic system of division by threes or fours. One possible explanation for reduction by such small amounts is that there was an attempt on the part of the other two mints to obtain a little more for less money without making the deception obvious.
It is difficult to be certain about the chronology, except within a series, although Series X is obviously the earliest, as the devaluation occurs within this series. The start of Class IV would likely precede the start of Class I, if only because the mint of Series X was already in production, when it was decided to start the mint for Series Y.
The differences in time between Series Y and Series Z are difficult to assess. The Merdrignac hoard contained no coins of Class III, but it did contain coins of Class II, leaving us to decide whether the Class II coins were able to arrive in that area faster than the Class III coins, or whether they were actually minted first. There is no simple solution, very few Class II coins have been analyzed. J. -B. Colbert de Beaulieu compared the amount of silver in six Class II coins with the amount in five Class III coins, but the results were inconclusive: two of the Class III coins contained more silver than any of the Class II coins, but three of the Class III coins contained less silver than any of the Class II coins. The averages placed the silver content of the Class II coins more than 17% higher than that of Class III; however, as one of the Class III coins had less than 50% of the silver content of another of the same class, the averages on such a small number of coins are meaningless. The maximum silver contents were only 5% higher in the Class III coins.
Katherine Gruel, in her analysis of the Trébry hoard, places Class II last. This is a difficult analysis to disentangle. She has divided Class II into two parts, one of which is labeled as a Class IV/II transition. Furthermore, she has confused Group J, which is the transition from Classes I to III, with a transition between Classes III and II, and has included the analyses of these coins with that of Class II. In effect, there were only three coins of Class II in the Trébry hoard. The mistake would have been impossible to detect had it not been for the photographs of the alleged Class III/II transition. This stresses the importance of considering as many design elements as possible in arriving at a chronology, and not being led astray by superficial resemblances of the most conservative parts of the coins' designs. A more fruitful line of research would be to analyze a large number of the more than five thousand Class II coins of Jersey 9.
There is a lack of care in the manufacture of Coriosolite coins: an example of this lack is furnished by an analysis of one of these coins reported by Evans, in which the silver content is only 4.1%, while the tin content is excessively high, being 11.66%. A coin such as this might be assumed to be a contemporary forgery; however, many other coins of low silver content exist, with a marked diversity of alloys.
Most ancient forgeries are in the form of plated coins. Forgers are likely to adopt one method and stay with it. In the case of the coin with the high tin content, I feel a more plausible explanation is that some potin coins of high tin content were mistaken for silver when the bullion was sorted. Celtic potin coins were minted in places far removed from Armorica, and their unfamiliarity could easily account for the mistake. Another coin had a silver content of 1.03%, but in that example, the tin content was only 0.5%, and the coin would have appeared to be copper. There is no mention of the coin being plated, which would have been essential if it was to be passed singly, or with a few others. At the other end of the scale, a Class III coin was analyzed and was found to contain 33.3% silver, about 11% higher than the mean.
There would have been a natural tendency to avoid being too generous with the silver, while allowing the copper content to increase until it became noticeable. To arbitrarily label some coins as forgeries, while being mute about the coins too rich in their alloy, is a misinterpretation of the data.
More than 80 coins were analyzed by Gruel. Of the coins within each class, only 5 shared the same silver content with another. No three coins had the same silver content to within 0.1%. The densest concentration was within Class I, where 5 of the 10 coins had silver content within 1%, no coins were in a lower range, but the next coin was 1.7% higher. With the Class III coins only 57% of the 21 coins had a silver content between 19.9 and 24.1%.
The chart shows the range of silver content in some of the coins from the Trébry hoard. The column for Class Vb. may be slightly misleading, as Vb. could contain coins of Group B, which are likely contemporary with the earliest coins of Group A. These Group B coins are so rare that, unless they were favored for analysis or unusually dominant in the hoard, the chance of encountering any in this small sample is minimal. The range of the Class VI coins is greater than that of Class Vb. As these were the first attempt at producing a coinage, this is to be expected. In Class Va, the range is considerably greater.
Logic would suggest that as we practice an activity we should become more proficient. In reality, this is not the case. With repetition of an activity, the degree of efficiency starts low, and increases with practice until the activity becomes boring, at which time efficiency drops off steeply. When that happens, it is necessary to take measures to counteract this. It may be in the form of a "pep-talk," or even, if necessary, threats of retribution, but the important thing is to eradicate the feeling of boredom. The worker is thus revitalized and continues afresh. Later on his efficiency will again decrease, and the process has to be repeated.
The coins of Class IV were minted after the coalition. As a new project, the degree of efficiency would be naturally higher for this issue than for the preceding one. So much for Series X. Series Y, starting conscientiously in Class I, lapses into wild abandon in Class III. There are not enough coins of Series Z analyzed, but from their workmanship, and their probable hurried production, a wide range in metal content is to be expected.
Too often, data is interpreted as intent. In a perfect universe, this would be appropriate, but when human beings are part of the equation, aspiration can only be guessed at.
As I have said, the need for accuracy in weight and metal purity is not as vital when the coins were to be paid out in large sums. As the society changed after the Gallic war, and there was a shift away from the slave state of the warrior class to a market based economy, these coins became a problem. A token coinage would be unpopular, and if the coins were valued too low it would have resulted in many of the richer ones being melted down in order to profit on the silver. If this occurred, our statistical analyses might be considerably inaccurate, as coins of noticeably higher silver content would have been culled from the circulation pool.
I have mentioned the possibility that the moneyers were being stingy with the amounts of silver in the alloys, either for personal profit or for fear that the silver would be used up before the copper, thus exposing them to retribution for being too generous. The idea that the figures that we have do not represent the alloy of the coins struck, but instead, the alloy of the coins that have survived adds further complication to the problem. Both explanations may be true, each contributing a part to the results. One thing is certain: basing conclusions on a miniscule part of the whole, and finding significance in a difference of only a few percentage points, is of dubious validity. In the post-war period, when smaller amounts of money was needed for an emerging market economy, billion coins of widely varying intrinsic value would have been a problem. The only solution would be to turn the coins back to bullion and separate the silver from the copper.