A rare coin tool was recently released from the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, an organization part of New York University. The tool promises to dramatically change the way archaeologists, dealers, curators, and collectors approach numismatics. Rare coins can be searched for using the tool so that they can be better researched, identified and cataloged. The name of the tool is OCRE, which stands for Online Coins of the Roman Empire; currently, the tool is in phase one of its overall development. This means that coinage minted between 27 B.C. and 128 A.D., a span of time covering the reigns of Augustus through Hadrian, can be searched for. Later expansions promise to cover a much larger swath of Roman coin history.
By linking to the Institute's vast database, which includes a basic description of each rare coin variety included within it, OCRE will be able to show images of the coinage that those using the tool can use as a visual reference. Rare coins will also be cataloged by the typical facets that numismatists will be familiar with, such as reverse and obverse legends. In addition, one could also use the tool to search the database for more specific references made on coins such as deities, portraits or other personifications depicted.
The Institute's Executive Director, Ute Wartenberg Kagan, told the press, "Building on years of curatorial work to catalog our coins, we hope that our new web-based tools will make that work available to as broad an audience as possible, in as flexible a way as possible."
Indeed, the tool looks to be incredibly robust. Experienced collectors believe it could be an incredible help for those who may not have access to a large numismatics library or other sources of information which could assist them in identifying Roman coins they come across. Since the tool is accessible online, it also proves to be a mobile resource that adds another dimension of convenience to those who may be at a show, shop or even in the field when they discover a coin they are curious about.
Paper-based catalogs, the predecessor to the digital tools used by archaeologists, collectors, and numismatic experts today, were unwieldy and presented many challenges when it came to accurately assess coins and collections. Now, thanks to OCRE's forward-thinking design, collectors will eventually be able to get far more data regarding the coinage of the Roman Empire and make smarter decisions about what and how they collect. More and more data is promised in the future so that OCRE can be a tool that historians and archaeologists in the field can use to get their work done as well.
Roman imperial coins have fascinated collectors for years. They continue to be held by many today, not just for their value in terms of the precious metals they contain, but their historical relevance and impressive designs. Due to the variety of conditions, versions, and types of these coins, a solid and centralized database has long been needed. The team behind OCRE hopes that their tool will help bring not just collectors, but the world itself, a great deal more knowledge about Roman culture, history, geography and the coins that powered that ancient economy.