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Coins without symbols are incomplete. Symbols play a very important role in defining a coin. The prominent ones that are seen on the obverse or the reverse of the coins are the dynastic emblems or symbols. Other than these symbols we see other motifs that are sometimes referred to as secondary or auxiliary symbols.

Many times, you might have come across coins with the obverse, especially the face of ruler defaced with letters and symbols.  Have you ever wonder what those marks could be? Have you ever heard of Bankers mark? Test cuts? Chop marks? Or Shroff marks?

Do not worry as today we will be discussing all of them!  Ancient India makes us wonder about its various facts. The more we know, the more curious we get. Before starting our today’s blog we would like you to read our previous blog Numismatics Facts: Let’s Get familiar.

Since we know how coins came into existence, we can go further into our discussion. Hope you all notice the coins with great interest!

So what are Bankers mark:

The Bankers marks are the marks to check or verify the composition of metal or authenticity of the metal of a coin. The very first bankers marks are seen on the Punched Mark Coins.  The banker’s marks are different from the official marks.

The Bankers marks serve the purpose of:-

  • Testing the metal for purity
  • To detect plated forgeries with a base metal core

 

The bank mark was first added on the obverse of the coin and then on the reverse. On the early PMC Series 0 and Series I of the Magadha coinage, the bankers mark are on the obverse and by the Series 1 they became very common and were put on reverse. The size of the Bank marks became small from the Series II. There is variation in the form of shape and size of the bankers marks, which largely depends on the size of the flan. So in short, the early series had large flan and large bank marks and in later series, the flan became small and so did the size of the bankers marks.

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What are Miniature Reverse Marks and Bold Reverse Marks?

Miniature reverse marks are seen from the Series II of the PMC and were at the peak at on the coin of Series IV d.  They become fewer on coins of Series Va and VIa and finally disappeared in the later series and this was the point when the ‘Bold’ reverse mark came into existence. Bold marks are the full-size mark seen on the reverse of the coin. What would have been the purpose of these marks?

They seem to represent the mint’s attempt to bring the whole phenomenon of illegal making under control.

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(Image courtesy: Punchmarked Coinage of the Indian Sub-continent: Magadha-Mauryan Series; P L GUPTA, T R HARDAKER, pg:241)

The term Bankers Mark was used specifically to denote the marks on PMC’s. The above image shows the various banker mark on PMC’s on its reverse.

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Bank Marks on Ancient Greek Coins

Bankers Marks are also found on various Ancient Greek coins of Athens having the same purpose of testing the purity of the metal.

The given picture of the coin depicts the Goddess Athena facing right having a round bank mark on her face. The reverse depicts a standing Owl (Athena’s attribute) facing right. Olive spring and crescent on the left and inscription ‘AΘE’ on the right. Sometimes the marks are also seen on both the sides of the coin.

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What are Shroff  Marks?

The Bankers Mark are sometimes also known as Shroff Marks. The term Shroff is derived from the Arabic word ‘Sarraf’ meaning ‘money charger’. A Shroff who was nominated would impress a small hole upon the face of the coin to test the metal, and this became to known as Shroff mark.

Few of the coins of Sher Shah Suri have Shroff Mark on Obverse and Reverse (Refer image A).  But the Sultanates of Bengal are quite well known for their Shroff marks. A variety of Shroff mark symbols are seen on their coins such as geometric, floral, insect, animals, birds, etc and also sometimes one or two Bengali letters. The given picture of the coin (Refer image B) was issued by Bengal Sultanate ruler Ala-al-Din Hussain where a tiny floral Shroff mark on it.

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Difference Between Banker’s Mark and Counter’s Mark (Counter strike)

Do you know the difference between Banker’s Mark and Counter’s Mark?

The countermarks are those marks which show the authority of the king.  Here, the Counters Mark shows the political significance of the ruler while the Bankers mark serves as the cross-checking process of purity. The symbols put as countermarks have a dynastic symbol or inscription or legend on it.

The best example of Counter struck coins are of Nahapana (Kshatrap) which were overstruck by Gautamiputra  Satakarni of Satavahana Dynasty (refer to the image A).

 And the coin (Refer image B) of Gautamiputra  Satakarni of Satavhana that were overstruck by Nahapana.  We have an amazing example to show you that it’s not always compulsory to have a symbolic countermark, sometimes legend countermark are also seen on the coins. Here a coin of a Hephthalites (Refer image C) has countermark of a bust of a ruler and reverse has a (countermark) legend ΦOPO – The phi (Φ) is written as º|º.

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What are Test cuts?

The test cut was an easy method to expose the “innards” of the coin and reveal what was beneath the coin’s surface. Some would scratch the coin’s surface while some would cut a large gash as we often see in ancient silver coins.

Coins of Athens appear to be having these Test cuts. There must be a reason why the Athenian Owl was so mistrusted!

Apparently, these test cuts mark have been seen on the coins of Bengal Sultan too.

Few people think that coins having such cuts are not worth collecting. This is not true as you can collect the various test cut coins and make you collection very unique. There are Edge Cuts where the cuts were made on the edge of the coin to determine if the coin was not a plated fake.

The Chop marks are similar to Test mark or Bankers mark. There are Number Chop Marks which are moderately scarce. The coins were struck with a particular number, the number 8 being the most common and then followed by 5. Bankers Ink Chops are the ink marks made in red, blue, purple and black ink. These marks were also used to test the coin.

Test cuts and Chop marks are somewhat similar. Variety of chop marks are seen on the coins. Edge cuts and Number Chop marks are part of Chop marks.

Modern Forgeries

The Bankers mark can either increase or decrease the value, depending on the place of detail and amount of distraction it causes to the overall design.

Just because the coin has a Bankers Mark or Test Cut does not mean it is genuine. Contemporary fakes are known to have test cuts which are made to look as ‘tested and approved’.

Have you come across anything as such? Apparently counterfeit coins have been around since ancient times. There is no wonder why ancient people came with the concepts like Bankers mark, Test Cuts, etc.

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Hope the blog on auxiliary symbols has helped you. We will keep coming with various Numismatics Facts. Next time you come across any such auxiliary symbols try to identify them.  Till then spread the word. And which mark are you thinking to collect?

 

The Mintage World Team comprises of experts, researchers and writers from the field of Philately, Notaphily and Numismatics who try to shed light on some of the most interesting aspects of coins, banknotes and stamps from not just India but across the globe as well.
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