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Dernière modification : 3 septembre 2018

From Ore to Money
Mining, Trading, Minting

Colloque international

September 5-6, 2018
Tallinn, Estonia



  • DAMIN Project (Georges Depeyrot, AOrOc)
  • Estonian History Museum
  • Institute of History, Archaeology and Art History of Tallinn University


In order to make coins, metal was first needed. Besides gold and silver, copper constituted a significant although not so valuable coinage metal in the ancient world. Asia, China, Japan, etc., have been using copper coinage extensively for centuries. During the European Middle Ages copper, on the contrary, was almost abandoned. Its importance began to rise due to the great bullion famine of the late 14th–15th c. However, gold and silver maintained their role for coinage purposes. The need for money increased with the further economic development, in particular, of the 16th–17th c. onwards.

To meet the growing needs of consumers for precious metals, mines, especially in the Middle East, Germany and Bohemia, later on in Peru, Mexico, Bolivia, finally those of the US, Australia and Russia, etc., were largely exploited. Swedes and, later on, the English, then the producers of North America and South America provided the world with copper. In the Far East, Japan was an important supplier of copper, too.

A lot of countries, e.g. the huge Russian state, did not have its own bullion resources for a long time and were totally dependent on exports. Thus, all the coinage metals had to be transported from producers to end-users. It is where the merchants took the business over. Large-scale trade with gold, silver and copper has been taking place between the continents throughout history. Let us just mention African gold or American silver. A number of in-between countries also benefitted from the bullion trade.

The bigger the economy, the bigger its need for money. The attitudes of nations towards their monetary policy have been extremely diverse. Whereas England tried to sustain silver coinage, Sweden and Spain minted mainly pure copper in the 17th c. The heavy and inconvenient coins, and especially, increasing expenditures caused the introduction of paper money in Europe. The 18th–19th c. saw the triumph of copper coinage and paper money almost all around the world. On the other hand, the monetary systems were based on gold and silver standards. Problems concerning the bimetallism and changing values of its components occurred.

The aim of the conference is to address the path of minting coins starting from mining until fresh coins are issued from mints. There are, indeed, estimations on the scope of mining, trading and minting, as well as a general understanding about the processes having gone on. However, the actual way everything happened is in many details uncertain and needs to be expounded.

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