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Silver coins testify to ancient global trade reaching northern Germany

DPA/The Local · 5 Sep 2010, 14:36

Published: 05 Sep 2010 14:36 GMT+02:00

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The find – 82 silver coins and coin fragments, as well as a silver bracelet and three silver bars – is said to be one of the most significant from the early Middle Ages in the southern North Sea area.

Archaeologists working in a field near Anklam in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania found the collection at the end of August, and have now successfully dated the pieces.

“Coins from this time are extremely rare, and to find them in such numbers is really significant,” said archaeologist Michael Schirren, from the state office for culture and memorials.

The oldest coins date back to around 610, the newest to around 820, he said, and are thought to have been made in northern Africa, Iran, Iraq or Afghanistan. They would have reached the northern German coastal region via eastern Europe, along the Black Sea and other trade routes.

They were found near the known remains of a Slavic settlement area, adding to evidence that the area along the River Peene was booming at the time – it is near the Viking settlement of Menzlin which was an important strategic spot, and a trading post between east and west.

Story continues below…

The coins would have lost their monetary value so far from their place of origin, but would have been used to trade as pieces of silver, and even have been in some cases cut into pieces. It is estimated that the 200 grams of silver in the coins would have been traded for four oxen or even a human slave.

DPA/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

18:16 September 5, 2010 by wenddiver
I believe the Slav Peoples west of the Oder are called Wends. Current Germans call them Sorbs , The ones who emmigrated to Texas and Australia still call themselves Wends. Read the Jomsviking Sagas, this Slav and Viking villages side by side will make perfect sence..
00:32 September 6, 2010 by William Thirteen
from the beginning Germany has been an export oriented community!
10:26 September 6, 2010 by michael4096
Quite right

Bavarian made bangles have been found in scottish graves dating over 3500 years ago
11:53 September 6, 2010 by HANNIBAL-BARCA
This article does a good job of reporting on this most interesting archaeological find. Unfortunately the authors are not objective observers of economic history.

The closing paragraph states;

"The coins would have lost their monetary value so far from their place of origin, but would have been used to trade as pieces of silver, and even have been in some cases cut into pieces. It is estimated that the 200 grams of silver in the coins would have been traded for four oxen or even a human slave."

Silver & Gold have always been sound money throughout history and remain today as they will be in the future. In fact the authors openly contradict themselves by falsely claiming the coins would have lost their monetary value so far from their home but yet retain the power of an internationally accepted medium of exchange!

What does the author think money is other than a medium of exchange? The more widely accepted the greater it's value. The coins lost superficial symbolic value to a degree though they also spread the renown of the issuer as well. The author admits that the coins themselves could be cut into pieces, yet retain value as a medium of internationally accepted exchange!

Does the author think that if they tore any of their worthless Fiat money into pieces and tried to exchange it at any bank that it would be accepted? Know that it would not, simply because Fiat currency has no intrinsic value, being at best a confidence game.
00:51 September 7, 2010 by DavidtheNorseman

In defense of the article the monetary value of a coin and its base-metal value are different things.

Nero got in big trouble for devaluing Roman coinage base-metal content while keeping the monetary value the same.

An English gold sovereign would have bought me a lot more in 1885 at its monetary value than its base-metal value on ebay would get me today (partly as once the base-metal value of a coin exceeds its monetary value people quickly buy up the supply, melt it down and sell it - see Canadian silver coins and their fate in the mid 1960's when their silver content value was higher than their monetary value).
13:19 September 7, 2010 by HANNIBAL-BARCA

Let us first be clear of at least one issue; Gold is not a base-metal! Further despite it's current regard as an industrial metal history suggest that Silver is in fact a Precious Metal not a base metal.

Again since we are speaking on the subject of Economic History please let us speak in economic terms.

The difference to which you allude between a Coin's intrinsic or market value rather than the value decreed by the issuer is not a difference of monetary value and base-metal value as you incorrectly state.

It may more correctly be stated as a difference of Nominal Value and Market Value, Intrinsic Value or Monetary Value. Since the issuer, whether that be Nero or the English Mint under control of the prevailing Monarch, sought to devalue the intrinsic value of the Coin by decreasing it's Precious Metal content and increasing production to pay down debts.

Thereby de facto increasing it's base metal content attenuated it's monetary value, this is a matter of inflation.

It follows that your first historical assertion concerning Nero is blatantly false. His trouble arose from increasing the base-metal content while decreasing the precious metal content while still demanding the same monetary value or services though the coins only retained their nominal value.

Your second postulation concerning the English Gold Sovereign is at least equally egregious for all the aforementioned reasons and more. Again Gold nor Silver are base metals. The former has amazingly retained much of it's value while the fiat currencies have decreased in value relative to gold displaying extreme volatility. The later is currently out of line regarding it's historical ratio to the former though this is a matter beyond your scope.

Your final citation on the Canadian Silver coin epidemic of the 1960's is again a function of the value of Silver remaining constant while the value of the fiat currency fell relative to Silver, hence the volatility.

In conclusion your defense of the article's false assertions is utterly incorrect as you do not have a firm understanding of correct economic terms or historical values. There is so much more I could say, but I will leave it there, you should do likewise.
13:50 September 7, 2010 by NYsteve
Fiat money, intrinsic value, base metal...wasn't hopin' for an economics lesson!...BUT based on all the above....I bet these coins are worth WAY more now just being 1200-1400 year old coins!!! just a humble opinion.... (note to self: MAN!...these guys are educated!!)
00:21 September 8, 2010 by DavidtheNorseman

I ought to have used the term "bullion" instead of base-metal, I agree. Mea Culpa I think in those terms due to an interest in nuismatics wherein rare coins have (as NYsteve I'm sure quite correctly indicated) values above those of the basic metal of the coin and more common coins (like the British Sovereign) are sold according to their basic gold bullion value.

As you state "Base Metal" in it's technical sense refers to non-precious metals (you will note I used the phrase base-metal value which is not the same thing).

So you and I are in agreement that Nero devalued the silver coinage by diminishing the amount of silver in each coin.

I still contend that the article is correct. What you call the nominal value is the monetary value. The value of the silver content is an intrinsic value not necessarily related to the nominal or monetary value. The Local is correct.

I found it interesting to note that 200 g of silver - less than 10 Maria Theresa Trade Dollars at 23.3890 g Ag/Thaler - would buy 4 oxen at the time whereas it wouldn't buy even one where I live now.
09:19 September 8, 2010 by alterjank
This article describes a find in "the southern North Sea area," but goes on to describe a location in the southern Ostsee/Baltic area. Am I the one who is confused here, or is it the author?
15:11 September 8, 2010 by HANNIBAL-BARCA

Against reason and logic, yet you pursue your failed argument. Either words in a given language have a defined meaning which a significant amount of intelligent people agree upon based upon empirical and theoretical data or chaos prevails!

Your alleged interest in Numismatics is insufficient to comment on Economic History with any authority.

Nominal Value is not equal to Monetary Value, never has been, never will. This fact is learned in Econ. 101 or 2nd year World Civilizations.

The difference is indisputable and easily observed; The King needs to pay down his war debt so he instructs the mint to decrease the Ag content of the $100 coin from 100g to 50g filling the remainder with Pb.

Now the $100 Coin will retain it's "Nominal Value" of $100, however, the Market will recognize this specious coinage and assign to it the proper "Monetary Value."

The root meaning of the word "Nominal" is "name" therefore this is the official given value of the issuer. Note that the value of the issuer's word is only equal to that the market assigns to it. It is the Market therefore that assigns the "Monetary Value" to a given currency versus another.

Remembering that money is only a medium of exchange, nothing more, nothing less. Therefore as all things economic money is subject to the invariable laws of supply and demand. The Human Race has used Cowrie Beads, Bird Feathers, or cigarettes in prison as money to cite just a few of numerous examples.

The more widely accepted a given form of money is, the more universal it's appeal, then the greater it's demand versus other forms of money, thus it's greater MONETARY VALUE.

Therefore whereas Au & Ag have both retained their power as a store of value over thousands of years, fiat currencies have fallen to be replaced by others that with time fall as well. Both the $ and € have lost Monetary Value versus the Precious Metals in the past decade. Note, however, that both $50 and the €50 note have retained there NOMINAL VALUE!

Your argument david is vacuous. The authors of this article made an interesting report on some alleged archaeological findings. I merely cited an error they perhaps naively made and gave a demonstration to reveal their error. You have attempted to apologize for the author by revealing your own ignorance on this subject, as if to say "if you think they are stupid, check out what I have to say!"

Again Nominal Value does not equal Monetary Value, it never has, it never will.
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