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Talking Up ACE Print E-mail
ACE Director Scott Uhrick shares some of the talking points he has used in his many school visits. They will provide you a good place to start as well as givng ideas on what to be prepared for.

Talking Up ACE - (Reflections on In-Person ACE Assistance)

Written by Scott Uhrick

I've given four talks on ancient coins to schoolkids, three of them within the ACE program. Here are three things I've learned;

1) Remember that the primary interest of the kids is in their coin. Everything else is secondary at best. After all, what sets an ACE talk apart from other lectures is the fact that the kids have been handed a tangible, hopefully identifiable piece of the past. Keep talks about ancient coins and history brief. If you are quick on your feet you will be able to work such info in later while you are helping the kids attribute their coins. In my last visit one kid had a barbaric imitation and since it was her barbaric imitation, she and every one else listened and adsorbed much more info about the need for coinage and barbaric illiteracy than they would have from a dry lecture. Another kid turned up a limes denarius of Faustina Jr. When told that she was a real "party girl" he immediately said, "You mean, orgies???" (this was high school, thank god). I just winked and said "I didn't say that". He immediately ran over to a reference book and began reading up on Faustina. So many little factors lend themselves to a quick sound bite, which sparks interest;


Valens - damn near lost the Empire to the Goths in Rome's greatest defeat.

Constantine - Christianity

Crispus - killed by his father

Constantine II - killed while attacking his brother

Constans - same as above only on the winning side.

Jovian - killed in his tent by fumes from a charcoal heater

Julian - tried to reverse the trend toward Christianity


FEL TEMP REPARATIO - yippee, we are killing barbarians again

IOVI CONSERVATOR - makes the fact that people worshiped extinct gods more real

VOT #### - vows made to the state and people

GLORIA EXERCITAS - always keep the guys with the spears happy

Coin Types

Limes - border coins of necessity

Barbaric imitations - show the force of Roman culture on outlying areas

Roman Provincial - stress that much of the Empire spoke Greek, not Latin

So you can work a lot of information into the mix while attributing their coins. If you really want to talk about coins and their history I suggest showing up at the school twice; once to hand out the coins (Editor's note: Scott generously "Sponsors" his school in Chappaqua, supplying their uncleaned and cleaned coins - normally ACE coins are sent direct to the Teacher at the School) and a second time to help id them. Give the talk before handing out the coins because you won't have their attention afterwards.

2) Be prepared to show HOW you attributed their coin.

It is going to seem like magic to them. They show you a coin, which they can't make heads or tails of (literally) and you quickly bring it down to an Emperor or a basic type. It is so hard to explain that after one handles hundreds of these coins one learns to id a coin from a few letters on the obverse, a sandal poking out of the dirt on the reverse or other little hints. I try to show up with nice examples of all of the common coins which are likely to show up in these lots. I then place their coin and the cleaned coin down together and point out the similarities. Shown that way, they see and believe. Photos of the common coins can work just as well.

Most of these classrooms have at least one PC with an internet connection. Point the browser to , give the kid a Sear number and let them find other examples of their coin. This also helps with the next subject;

3) Be Prepared for These Questions

a) How much is my coin worth?

The correct answers is, of course, "priceless". Refer the kids to wildwinds as suggested above.

b) How much was my coin worth?

Really hard to answer for late Roman coinage. Reply that coinage by this time had devalued to the coin where it took a bag of these to make even a small purchase. I illustrate the point that the coins were known to be of little value with the fact that, while the government ordered the people to accept these cons at face value, taxes had to be paid in gold or goods.

c) Aren't these very rare?

Explain that they were banging them out by the millions. This question lets one sidestep into minting practices and the fact that it was a dirty job done by slave labor.

d) Where do they come from?

The answer is, the Balkans mostly. Either detector finds or from farmers plowing their fields.