Dump Design Coverage

Summary of discussion on southasia-coins eGroup.

From: Kavan Ratnatunga
Date: 2000 May 19, 5:55pm

I am curious, if there is any understanding why most coin dumps from
South Asia don't cover the full design making each coin from the same
mint/year slightly different. I can understand if a higher
denomination was also used to make lower values and those don't have
the full design. It however seems to me that even the highest
denomination is incomplete. Surely it was easy to estimate how big a
design was needed for a coin of selected mass and thickness. Was it
the inability to control the thickness when the coin was struck.

Thanks for any insight.

From: Jim Farr Date: 2000 May 19, 6:18pm I don't know the answer to your question, but I have a related question that has been driving me nuts since I first started getting a few dumps. Why don't catalogues of dump coins include a drawing of the full design so that it would be easier to identify them? Krause has one or two that are drawn completely, but mostly it is a drawing or a photo of an actual coin which never has the part of the design that I have.
From: Alan VanArsdale Date: 2000 May 19, 7:16pm I do not know very much about dump issues but this process is common throughout history, and may be the cause for the partial designs. Coins, are valued to varying degrees upon bullion value and the good faith of the maker to redeem them for face value in some sort of goods, or to insure that value. The tendency is to be very faithfull over time to design and to size of the design (interestingly this faithfullness actually causes more degeneracy, as the coins in current circulation are copied rather than going back to some older example, so copying errors magnify over time). The problem throughout ancient history is die engravers can not make exact copies of circulating coins, and valuations are seldom stable. Most periods are inflationary in the history of the World, the deflationary periods tend to be shorter and often wind up in the scrapping of the old monetary system. Two possible responses to inflation, reduction in metal purity for precious metals or reduction in weight of the coin for base metals, or both. But over and over again the die engravers want to loyally copy the older die size, or are even unable to reduce the image they need to engrave (that is their engraving skill is not up to reducing the image in size along with the coin). So over and over in history reduced flan size is seen, without equal reduction in image size. Sometimes flans are thinned rather than the coin being made of smaller diameter, but this can result in broken or fragile coins, so in coins made for circulation by count usually the flan size is reduced rather than thinned, or both.
From: Stan Goron, Croydon, UK Date: 2000 May 20, 4:18am I suspect the reason that catalogues do not include drawings of the complete coin legends is simply practical: 1. It would require more space 2. It would require knowledge of the complete coin design 3. It would require someone capable of drawing the designs properly In many cases the complete design can be obtained by studying a number of specimens especially ones struck off centre if they can found. In other cases, not enough specimens are known to be able to determine the complete design or it may be that off-centre specimens cannot be found. Some attempts have been made to show full coin designs, eg by W.W. Webb in his Currencies of the Hindu States of Rajputana but such drawings, while helpful in giving the full design, hardly reflect the coins as they usually turn up. I have often wondered why the engravers bothered to put significant information like mint and date details in coins margins only for that information often to be omitted on the coins as struck. I expect it is a matter of striking technique: easier to strike coins put between two large dies than between two small dies, or rather easier to strike with some part of the legend than make sure that all the legend gets struck up. But for the collector or student of the things, it can certainly be very frustrating.
From: William F. Spengler Date: 2000 May 20, 11:17am I agree with all the logical points of explanation raised by Stan, but the practical reason, at least for Krause Publications, is that Krause for years has pursued a policy of replacing line drawings of coins with photographs of real specimens wherever possible, even if the photographs are not in EF condition. Their reasoning is that collectors are more likely to recognize a coin in hand from an actual specimen which circulated rather than from some sometimes fanciful drawing twice the size. The best example I can cite is KM Type 38 in the South Asia catalogue and in SCWC, the heavy copper tanka (2 dam) of Akbar which is generally found as a thick glob almost half the diameter of the drawing, especially those of Bairata and Gobindpur mints. The drawing shown is of Dehli and its issues are often found with full flan.
From: Michael Bates Date: 2000 May 22, 10:06am It's largely a matter of speculation, but I don't think we need to resort to sophisticated economic theories to explain why copper dumps--and silver rupees and gold mohurs--were struck in India and Iran with dies larger than the flan or blank. It's easier: the strikers don't have to be as careful to get the flan precisely on the lower die nor to make sure the upper die is centered on the flan. Older Iranian coins show what happens when the minters work at maximum speed with dies the same size as the flans: the coins are often off-center or partly blank. With larger dies, they can work faster. The inflation part doesn't seem to apply to the rupees and mohurs, which were not as a rule debased or reduced in weight. Anyway, one point I think is certainly not realistic: no mint or government ever guaranteed the value of its coins by redeeming them in goods or anything else. Once they left the mint, they were out there on their own. As a result of the reforms of 1816, Britain for the first time in history was in a position to guarantee its minor coins against gold coins and banknotes, but the guarantee was from the Bank of England, not the government or mint, and only good for small amounts. That's still true today--try bringing in a truckload of dimes to the Federal Reserve Bank, or a truckload of any small coin to any central bank or mint. The value of the various small coins is supported today by their worthlessness for any other purpose, which enables automatic regulation of the quantity of their issue--if any coin starts to become too common in circulation, banks stop ordering it from the mint until the supply drops back to the appropriate level. In India, as in other countries before the 19th century, all coins had a substantial metal value and as a result it was impossible to keep coins in a fixed relationship to each other or to other goods. As Jim Farr says, it would be helpful to have full size reconstructed drawings of the copper dump coin types. It would be an interesting project for someone to undertake, starting from the beginning of Mughal rule.
From: Alan VanArsdale Date: 2000 May 22, 3:45pm As to making the striking easier to make oversize dies I do not see the point. With oversized dies legends are being routinely lost. The only reason oversized dies would make work faster is if the worker with the correct sized dies was using caution to strike the coins on center. As with oversized dies every coin is effectively struck off center, the worker with the correct sized die is at no disadvantage, as he will do at least as well working quickly as the corresponding striker with the oversize die. There are many examples in history of oversized dies being used because of reductions in flan size without corresponding reductions in die size. As in any process the most common explanation may not be the only explantion. Examples are inflationary late Roman bronze, and their barbaric imitations. In medieval times this is seen over and over, especially in Russian silver. It is also seen a number of times in bronze issues of Northern Greece, for example the anonomous head of Apollo / youth on horse issues, which some places were reduced over time and so often lost image as the dies were not also reduced. Often inflation reflected in reduced flan size can actually occur before the dies have even worn out completely, and we can see very worn dies on reduced flans losing edge inscriptions (example-posthumous silver drachms of Alexander the great). Coins were given secret die marks, so that they could be recognised and withdrawn once the metal content equalled or exceeeded the circulation value. With time these systems usually collapsed, once the gold content became to low to continue the deception the units suddenly became obvioulsy debased and collapsed in value (as public confidence was destroyed), or they were reduced in size and struck with oversized dies (as the dies were much to complex for any human hand to reduce in size faithfully, and the exact imitation of the dies was the key to the acceptance of the issues). I have read that dump issues are by nature inflationary, that is they do not need to have any real intrinsic value as often no goods or services are even given in exchange for them or they are forced upon the native populace by conquest (for example temple money). So they need only to weakly imitate the unit of currency they are following. So upon this line of reasoning it seems probably that dump issues are often struck by oversize dies for the same reason as most other coins in history similarly struck. That is inflationary pressure resulting in reduced flan size. There easily might be other explanations, speed of workmanship has not been demonstrated on this list to be one of them. It makes no sense that to guarantee every coin is off center saves labor over blindly striking as fast as possible with a correct sized dies, so at least some of the product will have full legends by chance. A flan can as quickly be layed upon a correct sized die as it can be layed upon an oversized one. Nor can I see any other mechanical explanation as to why striking speed is increased by oversized engraving. In fact I can argue the opposite. For at least the image engraved on the hammer it is better to make it smaller. This way the hammer can be smaller and lighter in weight. So the striker will be able to work longer hours, and swing the hammer faster and more times per hour (as any carpenter can testify to). The anvil size is not a function of the size of the engraving as there is no motive to make it smaller even if possible. Better to keep it a certain minimum size for greater durability.