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Questions about Carolingian coins of Charles the Fat


ValiantKnight
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Are there any coin types that are 100% attributed to Charles the Fat? Or at least have a good chance of being from him? I’ve been looking to find and purchase a coin of him, but my internet research has not found any information regarding coin types definitely attributed to him. I was only able to find a digitized old paper on Carolingian coins that said that imperial issues of Charles the Bald and Charles the Fat are indistinguishable from each other. I found one imperial type: the Carlvs Imp Avg denier with the monogram on the reverse (from Nevers, Toulouse, and Bourges; I don’t know if there are other mints). To add to my confusion I’ve seen it described in online listings as an “immobilized type”. I know some Carolingian types were continued for a century or so afterwards, and I want to avoid getting what seems like  a Charles the Fat coin but was actually minted long after his reign. And what about the Gratia Di Rex deniers started under Charles the Bald? Were they continued under Charles the Fat?

And while we are here. Are there any East Frankish coin types/rulers that can be reasonably affordable (like sub $500)? And are there any publicly available/free informational resources on Carolingian coinage? 

I am very much a newbie when it comes to Carolingian coinage, as you might tell. So thank you for any help with this! 

Edited by ValiantKnight
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I sadly purged some of my old French coin books, but that information may reside in the book below, though it's all in French (I can read enough to get by).

61f4ck3mYFL._SX355_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

I may get another copy because it had information in it that I could not find anywhere else. Sometimes an impulsive book purge can come back to haunt you. 😶

Edited by ewomack
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I'm interested in these questions too! (@JeandAcre, any thoughts?)  

MEC Vol. 1 (highly recommended, for some of your other interests too!) has something to say about the Charles The Fat vs. Charles the Bald question, as well as the question of whether any East Frankish coinage can be attributed to a particular ruler.  The answer seems to be yes, at least sort of, and maybe there are some affordable ones as some are described as "relatively common." Here are a few relevant passages, omitting anything about super rare coins.

Louis the German (pp. 226-7): "Lotharingian coins combining a Hludoviccus inscription with a a Karolus monogram and struck at the palace mint and at Huy, Maastricht, and Visé certainly belong to Louis the German."

Louis the Young (p. 227): "Coins of Metz and neighbouring Marsal could be of either Louis the Young or his father, but the spelling LVDOCCICVS" (without initial H) favours the former."

Charles the Fat (p. 227): "Charles minted as emperor in several Lotharingian mints as well as at Milan (listed as MEC 1.1012) and Pavia.... It is probable that the only [French coins] of Charles the Fat are those from the Lotharingian and Provençal mints, all of which use his title alone, without his name, in their inscriptions." [more on p. 233] "Scholars have generally thought it to be impossible to distinguish coins of Charles the Bald as emperor from those of Charles the Fat (885-7) save in the case of such mints as Metz which never formed part of Charles the Bald's kingdom."  It goes on to say Charles the Fat only minted in Maastricht, Metz, Verdun, and perhaps Saint-Géry, but it's not clear to me if those are all unique to him, like Metz.  In the catalogue, though, there's a coin uniquely attributed to him from Cambrai, Saint-Géry, #969, legend around Carolus monogram with retrograde S.

Louis the Child (p. 228): "His coins are distinguished from those of earlier rulers of the same name partly by hoard evidence but mainly through their resemblances to coins of his predecessor Arnulf or of Charles the Simple, who succeeded him in Lotharingia. His coins of Cologne, Mainz, and Strasbourg are relatively common."

Online, a place to start might be Simon Coupland's Academia page.  I found this paper very helpful when trying to get a Charlemagne denier on the cheap.  Based on what Coupland found, the early Melle deniers attributable to Charlemagne tended to have certain characteristics, including the coin is neatly produced; it has barred A’s on the reverse; it features a chevron in the central lozenge of the monogram; and finally a cross occurring at 1 o’clock with respect to a vertical monogram.  Each of these indicators by itself makes it probable, but far from certain, that a coin is Charlemagne’s.  In addition, MEC asserts that long thin cross crossbars is another indicator (again based on hoard evidence, those dating from 800-825).  A coin like the one I eventually found (below), which has all of these indicators (especially the barred A’s and chevron, which are not very common), was almost certainly produced under Charlemagne:

image.jpeg.5e4c4c304fe1c0bc61a15dc0afeba0fc.jpeg

But it's quite challenging to find one that has them all.

3 hours ago, ewomack said:

I sadly purged some of my old French coin books, but that information may reside in the book below, though it's all in French (I can read enough to get by).

61f4ck3mYFL._SX355_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

I may get another copy because it had information in it that I could not find anywhere else. Sometimes an impulsive book purge can come back to haunt you. 😶

Unfortunately this book, like Duplessy, starts with Hughes Capet, so it won't work. 😞 

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@ValiantKnight, I truly feel your pain.  Here's a post from the old forum that was about Charles the Simple.

https://www.cointalk.com/threads/finally-a-carolingian-coin-unambiguously-attributable-to-charles-the-simple-i-hope.392553/

...And, Dang, the two references I have in print for Carolingians are so Francocentric that neither of them even lists Charles the Fat.  If it was me, I'd look on Acsearch.  Some of the listings there are good for citations of references.  ...Just, best of luck.

(Edit:) @Severus Alexander, many thanks ...but you beat me to it, with what looks like a lot more help than I was good for.  ...Now it's time to actually read your post!

Edited by JeandAcre
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@Severus Alexander, See?  Just, See?  That's how good you are.

I'd dearly love to have a volume of MEC besides v. 6 (Iberian), which I fell into on the cheap.  Yep, the first one would be a solid candidate.  But the prices are kind of scary.

And, Dang, I believe you about the Melle denier being Charlemagne.  It's almost surreal how closely it resembles a pre-GDR issue of Charles the Bald.  But No, that's only because I believe you.

Honest, though, @ValiantKnight, I'd start with ACSearch.  Best you're likely to get from here.

Edited by JeandAcre
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1 hour ago, JeandAcre said:

I'd dearly love to have a volume of MEC besides v. 6 (Iberian), which I fell into on the cheap.  Yep, the first one would be a solid candidate.  But the prices are kind of scary.

I have mine out from the library. 😄 Nobody has recalled it yet... 🤞

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...Aaah, libraries that are good for something.  I miss those.  A couple of times I've gotten things (one was the last ed. of Metcalf on Crusader coins), and xeroxed the (expletive of choice) out of 'em.  In the case of Metcalf, the institution that had it stopped lending their copy.

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Posted (edited)

Thanks guys for the replies!

On 8/1/2022 at 12:22 AM, Severus Alexander said:

I'm interested in these questions too! (@JeandAcre, any thoughts?)  

MEC Vol. 1 (highly recommended, for some of your other interests too!) has something to say about the Charles The Fat vs. Charles the Bald question, as well as the question of whether any East Frankish coinage can be attributed to a particular ruler.  The answer seems to be yes, at least sort of, and maybe there are some affordable ones as some are described as "relatively common." Here are a few relevant passages, omitting anything about super rare coins.

Louis the German (pp. 226-7): "Lotharingian coins combining a Hludoviccus inscription with a a Karolus monogram and struck at the palace mint and at Huy, Maastricht, and Visé certainly belong to Louis the German."

Louis the Young (p. 227): "Coins of Metz and neighbouring Marsal could be of either Louis the Young or his father, but the spelling LVDOCCICVS" (without initial H) favours the former."

Charles the Fat (p. 227): "Charles minted as emperor in several Lotharingian mints as well as at Milan (listed as MEC 1.1012) and Pavia.... It is probable that the only [French coins] of Charles the Fat are those from the Lotharingian and Provençal mints, all of which use his title alone, without his name, in their inscriptions." [more on p. 233] "Scholars have generally thought it to be impossible to distinguish coins of Charles the Bald as emperor from those of Charles the Fat (885-7) save in the case of such mints as Metz which never formed part of Charles the Bald's kingdom."  It goes on to say Charles the Fat only minted in Maastricht, Metz, Verdun, and perhaps Saint-Géry, but it's not clear to me if those are all unique to him, like Metz.  In the catalogue, though, there's a coin uniquely attributed to him from Cambrai, Saint-Géry, #969, legend around Carolus monogram with retrograde S.

Louis the Child (p. 228): "His coins are distinguished from those of earlier rulers of the same name partly by hoard evidence but mainly through their resemblances to coins of his predecessor Arnulf or of Charles the Simple, who succeeded him in Lotharingia. His coins of Cologne, Mainz, and Strasbourg are relatively common."

Online, a place to start might be Simon Coupland's Academia page.  I found this paper very helpful when trying to get a Charlemagne denier on the cheap.  Based on what Coupland found, the early Melle deniers attributable to Charlemagne tended to have certain characteristics, including the coin is neatly produced; it has barred A’s on the reverse; it features a chevron in the central lozenge of the monogram; and finally a cross occurring at 1 o’clock with respect to a vertical monogram.  Each of these indicators by itself makes it probable, but far from certain, that a coin is Charlemagne’s.  In addition, MEC asserts that long thin cross crossbars is another indicator (again based on hoard evidence, those dating from 800-825).  A coin like the one I eventually found (below), which has all of these indicators (especially the barred A’s and chevron, which are not very common), was almost certainly produced under Charlemagne:

image.jpeg.5e4c4c304fe1c0bc61a15dc0afeba0fc.jpeg

But it's quite challenging to find one that has them all.

Unfortunately this book, like Duplessy, starts with Hughes Capet, so it won't work. 😞 

Really helpful information here @Severus Alexander, thank you! I'll definitely refer back to this when I decide to actively search for an East Frankish ruler for my collection. And thats a great denier you posted. I believe you as well with this being a Charlemagne issue and based on those indicators I'd accept a similar one as Charlemagne in my own collection. For sure one I'll be on the lookout for as well.

On 8/1/2022 at 12:33 AM, JeandAcre said:

@ValiantKnight, I truly feel your pain.  Here's a post from the old forum that was about Charles the Simple.

https://www.cointalk.com/threads/finally-a-carolingian-coin-unambiguously-attributable-to-charles-the-simple-i-hope.392553/

...And, Dang, the two references I have in print for Carolingians are so Francocentric that neither of them even lists Charles the Fat.  If it was me, I'd look on Acsearch.  Some of the listings there are good for citations of references.  ...Just, best of luck.

(Edit:) @Severus Alexander, many thanks ...but you beat me to it, with what looks like a lot more help than I was good for.  ...Now it's time to actually read your post!

Thanks @JeandAcre! I remember finding that thread when looking up information on Carolingian coins. Eventually I will want to add a Charles the Simple to my collection as well. The weight will help me out, and it seems like there is also noticeable difference in style between the "official issues" and the later 10-11th century immobilizations.

On 8/1/2022 at 12:49 AM, JeandAcre said:

Honest, though, @ValiantKnight, I'd start with ACSearch.  Best you're likely to get from here.

I ended up doing just this, and the type that came up the most was the "CARLVS IMP AVG" from Bourges (Depeyrot 198). While most listings had it down as "Charles the Bald or Charles the Fat", Heritage thinks this type either attributable to Mr. Fat or Mr. Simple, going by this logic: "An immobilized type, although these Bourges pieces have classically been ascribed to the period between the reigns of Charles the Bald and Charles the Fat (the former being the first Charles of the dynasty after his grandfather to assume the title of emperor), it is much more likely that they were struck under either Charles the Fat or Charles the Simple. The primary evidence for this theory comes from the fact that Charles the Bald was emperor for only 2 years (assuming the imperial dignity in 875) before his death, while the immense numbers of these Bourges deniers suggest a much longer period of issue. As noted by Simon Coupland, this type was clearly in circulation for a long while after their initial issue, as 18 ended up in the Cuerdale hoard of c. 905 and 17 in the Rennes hoard of c. 920". 

I've been reading a bit Morrison's 1967 work on Carolingian coins (probably shouldn't be since its over 50 years old, but it was the only immediate reference I found), and if I'm reading the relevant passage correctly, it informs that there was a general weight reduction in deniers struck by an "Emperor Charles". The Gratia Di Rex types from the later reign of Charles the Bald had a standard of around 1.71 grams, of which we do not see again until restored during Odo's reign. Morrison indicates that it is reasonable that this reduction can be attributed to Charles the Fat, due to his reign and control over his lands being less stable (although I don't know if he's still referring to just the Gratia type with this or the deniers in general). He also recognizes Charles the Fat's longer reign as emperor and presence "in the lands represented by the 'coins in the name of an Emperor Charles', but, reasonably, does not see this as undisputable evidence supporting attributing "the Fat" to imperial issues.

Nonetheless, going by the fact that most listings of this type identified this as possibly of Mr. Fat, and that he had a longer reign, I decided to buy a Depeyrot 198 this week. I agree that there's no way for sure to tell that this is indeed from Charles the Fat's reign, but I'm fine with checking him off my "to get" list with this coin. Its weight works in my favor with regards to Morrison's comments about the weight reduction; 1.51 grams. What do you guys think about my coin?

charlesthefatvk.jpg.0b883329e0c99770e473d95c8a7f38f1.jpg

Edited by ValiantKnight
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41 minutes ago, JeandAcre said:

@ValiantKnight, I'm smack in the middle of trying to post a response that's already been on the front burner for too long, but from here --my two cents, for what they're worth-- you Did Good.

 

Thanks! It’s also the fastest coin delivery I’ve ever had. Just took one day to travel from France to here in Florida!

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The point about the weight reduction seems a promising one!  The only thing that gives me pause about it is that the earlier portrait issue of Charles the Bald (as mere King) from Bourges (Depyrot 190) seems to have been struck on an even lighter standard close to 1g.  (I'm gathering this just from looking at acsearch examples.  I was seeing if there were any correlations between style and weight.  I didn't really find anything for the monogram coins.) Was the Charles the Bald standard of 1.7g as emperor the product of an increase from an earlier light standard? 

CNG example of the portrait type, 0.98g:

image.png.a65aec7fe7e33759092c7e0a902e19a0.png

Ah!  I see there's a relevant paper by Simon Coupland: https://www.jstor.org/stable/42667696

Looking at that, it seems these Bourges portrait issues fall at the low end of a large range of weights for the earlier coinage of Charles the Bald.  Coupland has a graph of the distribution for this pre-864 coinage:

image.jpeg.4b022b3ad0185ea0d78fa8ed1b9b57dc.jpeg

Looks like a highly variable standard centred around 1.6g.  Initially that doesn't seem to support your coin's probably being Fat's. (Note that the official standard set by Charlemagne was indeed 1.7g.)  Here's the text that goes with the figure:

image.jpeg.367f6dbcad588b8321d61a75e7a351ed.jpeg

That leaves the crucial question of whether Bald raised the standard back to 1.7g as emperor.  And low and behold, at the end of the paper:

image.jpeg.eb568e05d7012dd160e7db6d6322d310.jpeg

Aha!  So one would expect his coins of your type to hover around the 1.7g standard, and your very light coin is highly likely to be The Fat!  In addition, I see that in selling his own collection through CNG, Coupland notes that most of your Bourges type were probably minted under Fat.

I'm convinced. 🙂 Thanks for sending me on a scenic research detour today!

Edited by Severus Alexander
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