Coins. Reach into any pocket or purse and you’re certain to find a few. They are an integral part of daily life, so ubiquitous that we rarely think about them. Few objects are as universally employed by human culture. Throughout the world, every civilized society uses coins as a medium of exchange. Coins serve as a kind of propaganda, an advertisement for the aims and ambitions of the people who mint them. Values vary, as do shapes and decoration, but the function is always the same. It is rare that a useful invention should have endured with so little alteration in form. In the course of an average day, we might use coins in a dozen different ways: to make a phone call, feed a parking meter, buy a newspaper, or tip a waiter. In antiquity, of course, the main purpose of coinage was to provide equivalent value for goods and services. Comparing a modern coin to an ancient one, very little has changed. Except for the uniformity of the minting process, all the major components – inscriptions, and metals – are similar. New monetary innovations such as paper currency, credit cards, and computer banking have reduced the need for coinage, but nothing has entirely replaced it, even after twenty-five centuries.
Yet for all these similarities, there is a Romance, an adventure, about collecting ancient coins which is unlike any other sensation. It’s an elusive concept, but ancient coins have an individual character, a sense of personal history, that is missing in modern numismatics. A lot of it has to do with the minting process. In modern mints, machines stamp coins of uniform size and weight; each penny looks exactly like the next. The coins may be beautiful, but there is little that sets one apart from another. From the invention of coinage through Medieval times, almost all coins were struck by hand. A flan of hot metal was placed on a stationary obverse side while the reverse die, held by hand, was hammered from above. While this method produced coins of extraordinary beauty, it also allowed for an enormous variation from coin to coin. No two ancient coins are ever exactly alike: their edges are irregular, their diameters vary according to how the molten metal was struck, weights were only sporadically uniform, and the human hand allowed for considerable variation in the angles of striking. Like people themselves, ancient coins have a personal tale to tell, a unique accounting of their journey through time.
The Numismatics segment of the Barakat Collection is primarily comprised of Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Judean coins spanning the breadth of the ancient world. In addition to this there are substantial selections of Persian, Islamic, and Indian coins as well as coin forgers dies from the 17th and 18th centuries. This comprehensive collection reflects the history of currency from the 6th century BC to the modern era.