Construction workers in Spain excavated a treasure trove of 1,300 pounds of ancient bronze Roman coins. The workers were reportedly creating a ditch to install a new water line when they struck 19 amphoras filled with coins.
The coins, discovered in 2016 in the city of Tomares in Andalusia, featured a Roman emperor, either Constantine or Maximian on one side, and Roman literature on the other. Archeologists remarked at that time that the coins were minted in the third and fourth centuries and may have been set aside to pay taxes or to compensate Roman soldiers who were situated in Spain at that time.
While the Roman pots were a spectacular archaeological discovery, they highlight how the value of a fiat currency is tied to the success of a central authority. Without a thriving government to back up a currency, its value can fall or completely collapse with tons of physical coins relegated to history.
— Consejería de Cultura y Patrimonio Histórico (@CulturaAND) April 28, 2016
Ana Navarro, head of Seville’s Archeology Museum, pegged the value of the coins at several million euros.
“The majority were newly minted and some of them probably were bathed in silver, not just bronze. I could not give you an economic value, because the value they really have is historical and you can’t calculate that.”
Rare coins still hold value as collectibles. Last week a former International House of Pancakes (IHOP) located on Lombard Street in San Francisco flipped into Witter Coins, a rare coin dealer. According to a report by the San Francisco Chronicle, store owner Seth Chandler has a $1-million gold piece from 1855 on display.
“In addition to the free pennies and the $1 million gold piece, Chandler has got nickels for $200, dimes for $26, quarters for $350 and half dollars for $500 and up — mostly up. None of them is for carrying in your pocket and buying stuff with. Most high-end coins are “slabbed” — graded by professionals and encased in clear plastic holders, where they can never be felt, fondled or flipped.”
In 2018, the costs associated with minting new one-cent and five-cent coins in the United States ranked even higher than their economic value. The cost to produce and distribute a Lincoln cent is 2.06 cents. The production and distribution of the Jefferson five-cent coin costs 7.53 cents, according to the United States Mint, April 2019 report.
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