April 20th 2020.


All meetings are cancelled for the foreseeable future.




April article ‘Coin handling at the Ashmolean’.


Thank you to Peter for our first couple of member contributed articles.


Two Club members help the Ashmolean Museum by manning the Hands-on Coins desk in the Money Gallery. Some 14 coins are made available for visitors (under supervision) to handle – guided by experts with cheat notes.


….. is it a bear…?

This is one of the commonest questions asked by visitors about this coin.

The answer is sad – but first some background. The coin, in the name of Otacilia Severa, was authorised by her husband, the Roman emperor Philip, to commemorate the Saecular Games – the games held in 248 CE celebrating the 1,000th anniversary of the foundation of Rome. The IIII on the coin tells us it was made in the fourth officina, or workshop, in the mint – reserved for coins of Otacilia.


Philip had become emperor after the assassination of his predecessor in 244. He and his family died in 249 following a successful revolt by Trajan Decius, one of his generals.


So, it was sad for Philip and his family but what about the bear? It’s a hippopotamus, and represents one of the thousands of animals sent to Rome for mass slaughter in the Coliseum during the Saecular Games.



Another silver antoninianus of Marcia Otacilia Severa, celebrating the Saecular Games (248).


Nasir al-Din Shah


Chances are that you have never heard of Nasir al-Din Shah! So why are there two of his silver coins in the 14 coins available for visitors to handle? - Actually, I have no idea!


The coins date from AD1869 and 1870. Both coins tell you in Persian that they are issued by Nasir al-Din, son of the previous King, Defender of the Faith, all in beautiful in calligraphy. They are handmade. The reverses of the coins tell you in Arabic where they were minted – obliquely – The abode of the Sultanate (Isfahan) and The Holy Territory of the [martyred] Imam Ali, peace by upon Him (Mashad), and minting dates - AH1286 and 1287 - an inheritance of the mid-7th Century Muslim conquest.


Probably more interesting than the coins is the real-life Nasir al-Din Shah. He ruled Persia between 1848 and 1896 (when he was assassinated) but his authority was undermined by local tribal leaders. Unable to regain the territory lost to Russia, in 1856 Naser al-Din seized Herat, whose leader had decided to switch allegiance to Great Britain. The British declared war, which resulted in the recovery of Herat as well as Persia's recognition of the Kingdom of Afghanistan, an important British objective.

Nasir al-Din was the first modern Persian monarch to visit Europe and, in 1873, he was appointed a Knight of the Order of the Garter by Queen Victoria, the most senior order of knighthood in the British honours system - outranked in precedence only by holders of the Victoria Cross and the George Cross. He was amazed with the technology he saw during his travels in Europe, including the manufacture of coins by machines, which he adopted on return to Persia.


Past Events

·         10 years ago – “An Introduction to Indo-Greek coinage” - Mr S Bhandare

·         20 years ago – "Finds of Roman Coins: Their significance to Archaeology" - Jill Greenaway

·         40 years ago – Members evening and coin fair

Club Secretary.