In July A.S. 58, the Æthelmearc Moneyers Guild finished assembling the kits for our Baronial Coin Project. As part of this project, we thought we would let the populace know how it came to be and what we hope it achieves.
How it began
The stated goals of the Guild include “We… strive to make recreated medieval currency ubiquitous in the Sylvan Kingdom, and to include as many gentles as possible in the process of coinmaking.” That’s a heck of a challenge! Although we have a solid core group in the Debatable Lands, we felt strongly about getting more people throughout the kingdom making coins, because the more people are making coins, the more coins there will be!
But it’s not enough for coins to be made; they have to get out to the populace, too. The Royalty already help with this by handing out their own coins, so expanding this to the Baronies felt like a very natural approach.
The project was announced by Duke Byron during his reign in the summer of 2022.
Historical precedent for Baronial coins
In our modern age, we’re accustomed to thinking of currency as something controlled by a central government, but that’s a post-medieval reality. Pre-1600’s Europe, with the exception of Britain, didn’t centrally control their currencies the way we do today. A monarchy might use its political power to influence monetary policy, but the mints themselves were usually owned and operated by local governments, and sometimes even by private individuals.
This is easily the most common question we’re asked, and the answers can range from simple to philosophical.
The most common uses for the coins are to give them as favors and use them for playing betting games at events. Glückshaus is easy and fun, so it’s not hard to find somebody up for a game.
More philosophically, coins are a profound medium of communication. Symbols and words on the coin can communicate ideas for as long as the coins are around, and can tell you a lot about the person or people who made them. When given freely, they embody kindness and generosity, so when somebody gives you a coin, you learn something about that person as well.
An economy of gifting
Most importantly, coins are meant to be traded through the populace. The word “currency” even comes from the Latin “currere” which means “to run” or “to flow.” When somebody gives you a few coins as a favor, you might keep one for yourself but the rest can be passed along. This constant giving to one another is already common in the SCA, and this Gift Economy is one of the things that makes our community so special. Coins are one more easy and fun way to boost this very special part of the SCA experience.
One thing that makes giving away coins easy and fun is having lots of coins in the first place. That’s why one of our goals is to make coins ubiquitous in our kingdom. The Guild has been working hard to produce as many coins as possible and get them out to the populace. We strike no less than 240 coins for each reign, and 600 coins for use in betting at each Crown Tournament. That’s 1,680 coins every year! Not bad, but it’s also not enough.
In each kit, we included 300 coins for a total of 2100 coins, a 25% increase over the Guild’s current annual production, just for this project alone. Although it will take time for these coins to be distributed to the populace, moneyers across the kingdom can use this experience to begin producing their own coins for their Barony, for themselves, and for others.
How you can participate
The kits will be going out to one volunteer from each Barony, but there’s still room for everyone to participate. First, reach out to your Baronage and get in touch with the volunteer from your Barony. There may be opportunities to help design the coin, helping with the actual striking of the coins, or just focus on learning the process so that you can start making your own coins right away.
You can also join the Guild! We have other projects running constantly throughout the year, and we need more moneyers to help. For example, we are always looking for new people to design and carve dies for the Crown Tourney betting coins. The betting coins are an easy way to get involved because we only need one die carved (the other face stays the same from tournament to tournament), and there is lots of flexibility in the design.
We look forward to a day when coin pouches are a standard part of everyone’s kit, and the jingle of coins a commonplace sound. We don’t want the populace to feel like they’re losing something when they give away a coin, but rather that they’re gaining a shared experience unique and special to the SCA. In this way we aim to achieve our most ambitious goal: to enrich the SCA life for everyone who loves the dream.