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Numismatics: A Practical Guide


Admission requirements

This course is part of the (Res)MA History Programme. It is not accessible for BA students.


Coinage is one of the best preserved sources of antiquity, and it forms a direct source of the ancient world. This course will focus on Roman coinage and will offer a practical guide how to use Roman coins for research.

The course is divided into two parts. In the first part, the course will give an overview of the emerge of Roman coinage, the development of the different monetary systems in Rome, and the spread of coinage in the Roman Empire. In two library workshops, students will be introduced how to find, read and interpret numismatic catalogues and online databases, during which students will also learn how to determine Roman coin types. Special attention will be given to the various abbreviations and symbols used on Roman coinage and how these are documented in the numismatic handbooks. Here, it must be noted that students do not have to be acquainted with the Greek of Latin language. Through a short test, students can prove whether they have become familiar with the numismatic science.

In the second part, students will contribute to ongoing research in cooperation with the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden. The museum hosts several collections of Roman coins, received through donations and excavations. Yet, not all are determined or published, waiting in a dark cellar to reveal their secrets. Through some hands-on sessions, the students will be taught to submit the coin collections discussed into a database, from which the students can analyse the coins and determine them when needed. Under the guidance of the lecturer, students will search through a literature study after the collection’s history, composition and archaeological context. An excursion to the numismatic library of the Dutch National Bank in Amsterdam will contribute to this research.

Course objectives

General learning objectives

The student has acquired:

  • 1) The ability to analyse and evaluate literature with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;

  • 2) The ability to give a clear and well-founded oral and written report on research results in correct English, when required, or Dutch, meeting the criteria of the discipline;

  • 3) The ability to provide constructive feedback to and formulate criticism of the work of others and the ability to evaluate the value of such criticism and feedback on one’s own work and incorporate it;

  • 4) The ability to participate in current debates in the specialisation;

  • 5) (ResMA only:) The ability to participate in a discussion of the theoretical foundations of the discipline.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialisation

  • 6) Thorough knowledge and comprehension of one of the specialisations or subspecialisations as well as of the historiography of the specialisation, focusing particularly on the following;

  • in the specialisation Ancient History: unification processes in the Graeco-Roman World, 400 BC – 400 AD; insight into the recent large-scale debates in the field with respect to both the history of mentality and socio-economic history.

  • 7) (ResMA only): Thorough knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical foundation of the discipline and of its position vis-à-vis other disciplines.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Literature Seminar

The student:

  • 8) will get acquainted with the emerge and development of Roman coinage and monetarism.

  • 9) will acquire knowledge of how to find and use numismatic sourcebooks and material.

  • 10) will be able to determine Roman coinage.

  • 11) will be able to create a numismatic database.

  • 12) will be able to apply the acquired knowledge and research skills on a coin collection.

  • 13) (ResMA students will be able to focus on the higher complexity of the corpus of Roman coinage that is analysed in comparison to regular MA students; and they have the ability to set up and carry research from new approaches which raises new questions)


The timetable is available on the MA History website

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar with hands-on sessions, workshops and excursions to the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden and the Dutch National Bank in Amsterdam

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours= 280 hours

  • Lectures: 20h

  • Practical work at Rijksmuseum van Oudheden: 8h

  • Excursion Dutch National Library: 4h

  • Study of compulsory literature: 50h

  • Assignment: creation of database: 70h

  • Writing research report: 106h

  • Preparation exam: 20h

  • Exam: 2h

Assessment method


  • Essay: research report
    *Measured learning objectives: 1-4 (5); 6 (7); 12 (13)

  • Assignment 1: Written examination with closed questions (eg multiple choice) and short open questions
    *Measured learning objectives: 2; 6 (7); 8

  • Assignment 2: Creation coin database
    *Measured learning objectives: 3-4 (5); 6 (7); 9-11


Written research report: 60%
Exam: 20 %
Assignment: Coin database: 20%

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the written report must always be sufficent.


Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, students can only retake the exam.

Exam review

How and when a review of the written paper will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the results, a review of the exam and of the written paper will have to be organised.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • Discussion

  • Sharing of results

  • Study documents

Reading list

Students are asked to read before the start of the course:

  • C. Howgego, Ancient history from coins (Londen, 1995), 1-18; 22-43; 56-63; 67-94; 100-140.

  • R.P. Duncan-Jones, R. P., “Empire-wide patterns in Roman coin hoards.” In: C.E. King and D.G. Wigg, Coin finds and coin use in the Roman world: the thirteenth Oxford Symposium on Coinage and Monetary History (Berlin 1996) 139-152.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Dr. L.M.G.F.E. Claes