Coin Production in the Roman World

Coins were made of pieces of gold, silver, or bronze, known as blanks, which were cast or cut to specific weights. To make a coin, a blank was sandwiched between a pair of dies with engraved designs. This was then struck, or hit with a hammer, the force of which impressed the designs into the coin on both sides. Struck from solid gold, this type of Roman coin, called a solidus, was first minted in the late 3rd century A.D. and was used until the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453. Although many of the techniques used in the ancient world for striking coins are lost to us today, this video demonstrates one possible way the Art Institute’s solidus of Constantine the Great might have been made. This video was produced with the generous support of a Long Range Fund grant provided by the Community Associates of the Art Institute of Chicago. It was created for LaunchPad, a program of digital interpretive materials that supplement the viewing of works of art on display in the Art Institute of Chicago’s galleries.

The Art Institute of Chicago

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