Wikipedia entry: “Coin Weights”

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by EWC3, Jun 5, 2020.

  1. EWC3

    EWC3 (mood: stubborn)

    A thought on the Wikipedia entry “Coin Weights”:

    How did things get this bad?

    WCW > Coin weights are weights which were designed to weigh coins in order to assure their quality.

    No. “Coin weights” are designed to check the weight of individual coins – which is the quantity of their metal – not its quality. (They will usually weigh lower than the mint issue weight – being set to some legal minimum for trade standard)

    WCN > The usage of coin weights, especially glass ones, goes back to Ptolemaic times.

    Anyone ever seen such an item? (I have not)

    WCN > The usage of coin weights, especially glass ones, goes back to Byzantine times.

    Late Roman and Byzantine brass weights for solidi are common – has anyone seen weights for checking aurii or denarii coins? I never looked into that. (Byz solidi coin weights seem to be fairly common in glass)

    WCN > Coin weights were also known in Ancient China.

    This appears to be nonsense

    WCN > In Islamic civilization, where they are called Sanadjāt, coin weights are said to have been introduced by a Jew named Sumair in 694.

    Nope. Some sources credit one Samayr (or Samair) as devising the weight standard of ‘Abd al-Malik’s coinage

    WCN > Up to that point coins were only compared to coins of good quality.

    Quotes a 10th century source which is itself confused

    WCN > Islamic coin weights were made of bronze, iron, and later glass (considered to be unalterable).

    Misleading - they made glass coin weights very early

    WCN > They bear inscriptions related to Islamic rulers and moneyers and are therefore valuable epigraphical objects.

    Nope – I have noticed Caliphs and local government officials, but not moniers.

    WCN > Coins weights were also known in the Carolingian Empire, where they were stamped with regular coin dyes to clarify their attribution.

    The reference is actually to putative money weights – not coin weights. I never saw a Carolingian coin weight

    WCN > Islamic coin weights were introduced to Great Britain in the 9-10th century CE through the Vikings.

    In general – Vikings did not use coins but bullion by weight. Essentially by that time Islam was doing the same. So neither are strictly coin weights. Also Viking and Islamic weight standards were not the same……..

    Hard to find anything which is actually correct............

    Rob T

    A lot of the above seems to come from just one source - itself confused…...
    Ryro, paschka, rrdenarius and 4 others like this.
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  3. Roerbakmix

    Roerbakmix Well-Known Member

    So why not edit it then?
  4. EWC3

    EWC3 (mood: stubborn)

    But why would I pick on that one? All the wiki pages on metrology seem to be in a flux of errors. Would seem like building on quicksand.

    Am more interested in my own question - What has gone wrong? (And part of it I judge is the way Wiki is set up).

    But if anyone can answer my questions - that would be nice to hear too

    Rob T
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  5. Roerbakmix

    Roerbakmix Well-Known Member

    I don't think there is an answer to 'what has gone wrong', as it's inherent (imho) to the wikipedia setup. Medical pages tend to be a bit more objective and complete, but still it's often a mess of half truths, hearsay and sources that 404'th.
    Alegandron likes this.
  6. EWC3

    EWC3 (mood: stubborn)

    I take your point – its hard for anyone to claim an objective view of the whole wiki world – but still I do think the metrological sections, in a special way, worse than all others I come across.

    In the case in point - the writer on “Coin Weights” - does not know what a coin weight is. Did you ever find a medical page that bad?

    (Some might know Paul & Bente Withers put out a bunch of books on them – and correctly explains it in one sentence at the start (I just checked))

    Rob T
  7. GH#75

    GH#75 Well-Known Member

    And I've heard that Wikipedia is the best encyclopedia compared to other encyclopedias at the time.:confused:
  8. Roerbakmix

    Roerbakmix Well-Known Member

    paschka likes this.
  9. Ocatarinetabellatchitchix

    Ocatarinetabellatchitchix Supporter! Supporter

  10. physics-fan3.14

    physics-fan3.14 You got any more of them.... prooflikes? Supporter

    Most of those edits appear to be typographical or format edits (updating broken links and such). Very few if any appear to be actually correcting or revising the article.

    And the beauty of Wikipedia is, if its wrong, it is very easy to fix. Just go in, edit the article, fix it, cite your sources, and now the world is a better place!
    Alegandron, lordmarcovan and DonnaML like this.
  11. jamesicus

    jamesicus Well-Known Member

    Charles I bronze Crown weight (c. 1644)


    Diameter: 17mm, Weight: 4.50gm, Whithers 292

    Obverse depiction: Crowned bust of Charles I facing left

    Inscription: CAROLVS REX - small B below bust

    (King Charles - initial of Nicholas Briot, die cutter)

    Reverse depiction: Centered Crown over Inscriptional letters

    Inscription: X over S centered below crown with lozenges either side

    (Ten shillings)


    1. These were used by Merchants to verify weights of coins.
    2. This one was most likely struck by the traveling mint of Charles I at New Inn Hall, Oxford, by the official Royal die maker, Nicholas Briot, in 1644.
    3. Numerous coin issues of Charles I were struck at traveling mints as he moved his headquarters around the country.
  12. Greg Bayes

    Greg Bayes Where's the loo?

    I have known for many years that Wiki is not to be relied on. I thought most folks knew that.
    Nicholas Molinari likes this.
  13. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    There are two reasons for publishing information using any medium or platform. One is to spread that information as you see it. The other is to sell books. When information is given freely by volunteers we have to watch for accidental errors or just plain lies. When we pay good money for that same information, strangely enough, we still have to watch for accidental errors and lies either accidental or deliberate to promote some agenda. In the link provided above
    we see Wikipedia is quite aware of being so freely editable but they above all understand that there is no one who knows everything and could edit every page. We do the best we can with the resources of volunteers.

    The above is the big point about all online sources. When I started my web pages in 1997 I stated near the bottom of the index page:
    This page is very much a 'fast food' or 'pop culture' approach to the subject of ancient numismatics. I am an amateur collector and offer no guarantee of completeness or accuracy on any material on this site. I recommend that you research your questions rather than accepting blindly anything posted here. I also recommend you apply this same degree of care in using any other source material online or in hard copy. This site was intended to expose new collectors to an enjoyable hobby. No claim is made to serious scholarship. Serious numismatists are also welcomed here while they await publication of more proper and scholarly coverage of this material.
    I'm still waiting. This is exactly how I feel about Wikipedia. Perhaps in a perfect world the greatest scholars would publish for world enlightenment but in the current world many are more driven by the need for receiving financial grants and selling books. Those who find issues with Wikipedia are free to join in the project and edit what is there. Those who just complain are doing no good for the cause of information exchange.

    On more than one occasion in the last few years I have considered taking down all my web pages because of the errors I know it contains and the fact that I no longer have the energy to update it in proper fashion. Is that 'throwing out the baby with the bath water' or is it an honest realization that the bath water can get muddy enough that there is no benefit to washing with it? I started my pages with the goal of spreading information without fees on my one particular subject. Wikipedia tries to do it all. That would require cooperation in a positive sense from many people whose interest in free public education is stronger than their desires for financial gain. Perhaps that is an impossible dream.

    Traditional wisdom tends to be the basis for many subjects online and in books. This can spread both information and misinformation. That is also the problem with 'peer reviewed' information. If anyone does serious and groundbreaking research that shows traditional views on the matter are wrong, the first step is to get it past the 'peers' who obviously do not know as much about the subject and who have, at best, read and accepted the traditional views. This is a slow matter even when the results are a matter of life and death. It might be glacial when we are dealing with minute details of subjects found to be not worth the effort by the 'peers'. That is why we have things like Wikipedia and Open Source software where ideas can compete and, hopefully, truth can rise to the top.
  14. physics-fan3.14

    physics-fan3.14 You got any more of them.... prooflikes? Supporter

    The big difference is, Wikipedia is not, has not ever been, and will never be a resource for original research. It is essentially an online encyclopedia. In the heirarchy of sources, it is considered a "tertiary" source. Primary sources are the original journals, speeches, and historical documents. Secondary sources are the scholarly works or reporting on those primary sources. Wikipedia is an amalgamation of those secondary sources. They don't publish original research, they merely attempt to make existing information more accessible.
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  15. lordmarcovan

    lordmarcovan Eclectic & Eccentric Moderator

    Well spoken, @dougsmit. One has to accept that there will be errors and imperfections. Don't scrap your web pages. Let them stand, even if some can't be fixed. I think most of the content should stand the test of time well, and most future readers will make allowances for the parts which seem dated, once they actually do become dated.

    As to Wikipedia, I accept its limitations and find it a valuable resource. I daresay I'd pick it as the most useful web resource I use.

    Just think- I have an entire library in this small device within the palm of my hand. Sometimes the 21st century really does amaze me.
  16. rrdenarius

    rrdenarius non omnibus dormio Supporter

    Interesting find Rob. There are plenty of articles that are not worth the paper they are written on. A Wikipedia page is pretty thin. On line pages give new meaning to the saying.
  17. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    Exactly. Coins are a primary source. Hoard reports and in depth studies of coins (I'm thinking the level of Boehringer's die studies of Syracuse) are secondary sources derived from the coins. RIC and such catalogs are derived from the individual studies as listed in the Bibliography in their volumes and, therefore tertiary. Books on Roman coins based on their author having read RIC are hardly good enough to be tertiary but it is popular to consider them as sources. Web pages like mine and Coin Talk postings fall into this same lower echelon of tertiary at best and 'conspiracy theory' in some cases. Ancient documents written a century after the events are not primary. I am wholly unaware of any extensive textual primary sources on ancient coins. We have no mint records but just a few passing mentions of a term here and there. Add to that the fact that most written texts show a bias on the part of the author to a point that is not all that different from a Victory coin issued by a loser. Truth is hard to find in 2020 regarding things that happen today. It is no easier when mellowed for 2000 years.
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  18. rrdenarius

    rrdenarius non omnibus dormio Supporter

    There is some primary info on coins and some from much later.
    Brutus tells us that the Romans were freed from tyranny on March 15th. (Maybe that was early fake news.)
    Several generations later the Sabine family tells stories of the founding of Rome.
    Bing and paschka like this.
  19. EWC3

    EWC3 (mood: stubborn)

    But contra-wise, the ugliness of Wikipedia is that some other fellow can then change it on a whim, and just mess your efforts up. And the discussion format just does not seem to me to allow for proper open debate of controversial matters.

    Thus - like Doug - I prefer to spread my information without fees in a stand alone context.

    But nobody seems to be addressing the point I actually made. I find most Wiki sites reasonably accurate and very helpful. I am greatly surprised at how many have been willing to toil away to make it what it is. But something is very specifically wrong for nearly all Wiki entries concerning metrology. Look at a couple of random alternative wiki sites – say the battle of Waterloo and Beethoven. Like most - they look detailed and reasonably accurate to me.

    The sample metrology site on "coin weights" has one picture – of an Islamic glass “pound” weight.

    That is not a coin weight!*

    Do we find the Beethoven site kicking off with a pic of Mozart? Or the Waterloo site kicking off with a picture of Actium? Its unthinkable.

    Doug said earlier that he was not much interested in weight standards. Fair enough of course. But here I am just pointing out something weird has happened concerning this subject as a whole. In the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica the weight standards entry was huge. By 1975 – there was not any entry on the topic at all. Its as if the population as a whole have been subtly persuaded to ignore it…….

    Rob T

    * c. 337g as I seem to recall – but the site does not bother to tell us – nor does the museum who owns it. Some might recall that Grierson never illustrated a coin without a caption stating its weight. Modern Archaeologists on the other hand frequently illustrate weights - but almost never caption to tell us what they weight…..
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