An Essay on the History of Minting
in the Society for Creative Anachronism, by
His Lordship Ian Cnulle, Fellow of the IKMG
People in the SCA have undoubtedly wanted to make "our own money," preferably in
period style and by period methods, since the beginning and, from time to time, uncountable
isolated individuals have tried (the earliest dated SCA coin in my own collection is AS VIII).
However, at least in terms of authenticity, success was rare as there has been no literature telling
how to do it.
Based on largely untested assumptions, academic numismatic literature usually describes
the technology as very simple and leaves it at that. In fact, it is a simple technology, but when an
attempt is made, it is readily apparent that many practical details are not self-evident and must be
reconstructed by trial and error. (There is little detailed period documentation because the
chronic threat of counterfeiting made the technical details akin to state secrets or the arcane of
One of the earliest successes, perhaps as much as twenty years ago, was when Richard of
Redeggio (somewhere in the East) minted a fairly authentic looking Anglo-Saxon style penny (in
pewter, I believe) presumably using period style methods. This coin inspired two influential
individuals. The first was Bill Jensen, known for many years as William Arbuthnot, the
"Moneyer of Pennsic." He minted sterling silver reproductions of original medieval coins that
were so accurate he stamped them with the word "COPY" to comply with the federal Hobby
Protection Act of 1973. He sold his silver penny repros for $5 apiece as souvenirs and
collectibles; some merchants at Pennsic accepted them for $5 and Bill repurchased them from the
merchants at a discount. Before he dropped out, he trained a number of apprentices, one of
whom was Thomas Olsen.
Olsen has been very prolific, minting perhaps a dozen different coins, and ten thousand
pieces of one of his coins. Several years ago, he had a how-to-do-it article published in
Tournaments Illuminated; however, I do not recommend this article as a source. He told me that
excessive editing distorted the historical part of the article to the point that it is inaccurate and
misleading. The technical part of the article describes Bill Jensen's method of striking
(involving a string tied around the upper die) which is not a period method. Olsen recognized the
desirability of a moneyers' guild, and his article mentions an informal "organization" facetiously
called "the Counterfeiters' Guild," but Bill indicates it amounted to little more than an agreement
among moneyers (presumably trained by Jensen) in the eastern kingdoms concerning the
exchange value of gaming tokens.
The other person inspired to action by Richard of Redeggio's coin was Master Emmerich
of Vakkerfjell OL (who was elevated to Laurel mainly for his moneying activities). With his
close friend, Karl the Meek & Mild (aka "Beerslayer"), he began making pewter medals and
tokens cast in plaster molds in the early 80's. When they started hand-hammering coins with
steel dies and training other people how to do it, they founded the Moneyers' Guild of (the
Principality of) Cynagua. This soon expanded to involve the whole Kingdom and was Chartered
as the Moneyers' Guild of the West ("MGW"). Over more than a dozen years, the MGW has
minted several tens of thousands of hammered coins of several dozen different types in their
idiosyncratic and rather primitive, though often handsome, sort of Anglo-Saxon style. At any
one time, their membership list includes up to three dozen individuals, although many are
apprentices whose participation is ephemeral. The MGW is now being run by "third generation"
people, i.e., people trained by people who were trained by Emmerich and Beerslayer.
Of the usual many local attempts at period style moneying in An Tir, one of the most
prolific, and probably the longest running, was the production of beer tokens by the shire (and
later, Barony) of Terra Pomaria (Salem, Keizer and Silverton, OR, where I live). These coins
were primitive and not really period style, while the methods of production ranged from not quite
period (hammered with dies punched into old leaf springs) to not at all period (hydraulic press
with dremel engraved dies). However, everybody (including myself) loved them, and the
opportunity to try something more period is what persuaded me to join the SCA in Fall, 1989. I
taught myself how to do die sinking and hammer striking by trial and error - with some important
advice from David Holland of the Bigbury Mint in Devonshire, England. (David is a
professional engraver who has been minting for British historical re-enactment groups for many
In 1991, I learned of the existence of the MGW and made contact at An Tir/West War,
where Emmerich immediately inducted me into the MGW as a Journeyman on the basis of my
first set of steel coining dies. Emmerich then commissioned me to establish a branch of the
Moneyers' Guild in An Tir, which I duly did. The Moneyers' Guild of An Tir (or "MGoAT" -
the Guild badge is a rampant billy goat) was chartered by the Crown in September AS XXIX,
after a year-and-a-half incipiency period. The MGoAT is more formally organized than the
MGW, having written Bylaws and an SCA bank account. Membership has always been small,
partly because of more stringent requirements for Journeyman (particularly requiring proficiency
in die-cutting), and because I don't include the ephemeral apprentices.
In order to promote cooperation between the guilds and expand organized moneying by
period methods to the rest of the society, Emmerich proclaimed the Interkingdom Moneyers'
Guild in AS XXVIII (the MGW and the MgoAT are affiliates). In order to make way for the
next generation of leadership in the MGW, Emmerich became the Minister of the IKMG.
However, the IKMG was little more than a dream until Thirtieth Year Celebration, when
Emmerich recruited new moneyers from half a dozen Kingdoms and also began selling his newly
published The Moneyers Handbook, which is an introductory how-to manual based on many
years of practical experience in large scale (by SCA standards) production by many people. It is
written in an accessible, conversation style. On the basis of this manual, a person with no prior
experience should be able to produce a reasonably authentic looking Anglo-Saxon style penny in
pewter. The book is available from Emmerich for $10 (including postage) at:
2115A South Old Stage Road
Mt. Shasta, CA 960671
The IKMG and its affiliates exist to promote production and use of period style coins by
period style methods. We mint coins on site at events as a demo for the populace and as training
for members. Members teach classes at guild faires and in conjunction with SCA educational
institutions (e.g., the University of St. Hildegard and An Tir's University of Ithra). We can
provide some assistance to any SCA moneyers in the form of some tools and materials, more or
less at cost.
Most of the "coins" produced by the guilds as guild projects are commemorative medals
(usually produced as fund raisers), Royal presentation coins, and single function tokens (e.g., site
fee tokens, mainly for Crown events). Coins produced by SCA moneyers (regardless of whether
they're guild members) also include "vanity coins," (i.e., personal presentation coins) symbolic
money (e.g., fighter pay, bride price) and single function tokens such as gaming tokens, feast
tokens, beer tokens, ransom tourney tokens, etc.
Far more ambitious and consequently less common, are attempt to circulate "general
function tokens," i.e., something like "real money" that can be used for any transactions on site.
William Arbuthnot's repros sold and used at Pennsic were an informal example. The brass
"tygers" of the Kingdom of the East were a kingdom level attempt.
The "barak buck" copper follies of the University of St. Hildegard ("USH") are probably
the most ambitious attempt to date in terms of the scale of mintage and the geographical breadth
of circulation. The primary purpose of the baraks is to promote awareness of USH. However, at
the same event (Festival of St. Hildegard II) where the baraks were first introduced, I also started
issuing higher denomination trade coins as my own personal, private trade coins. Because I am
presently the sole issuer of these higher denominations, and because I generally don't travel
outside An Tir, my coins (at least theoretically) only circulate at about half a dozen major
(usually Crown) events in An Tir each year where I set up as "money changer." The USH follies
are intended to circulate Society-wide (at least within the U.S.).
In denominations ranging from $4 to $50, my personal trade coins are minted in small
qualities in pure silver and gold using the most authentic methods used anywhere in the Knowne
World. It is not practical for me to mint the necessary quantities of the much needed $1
denominations, and became of restrictions in the guild's Bylaws, I cannot call upon the resources
of the guild for assistance with a private enterprise of this nature. USH's mint is not restricted
by Guild rules, and can make the concessions to modern technology necessary for the requisite
mass production while still producing a reasonably authentic looking coin that perfectly
compliments my own trade coin system. My own higher denomination coins are restricted by practicality to circulation in An Tir.
Dear Reader, if you know about any SCA minting activity not mentioned in this essay,
please rest assured the reason was not because of any judgment that it is not worthy of mention,
but rather because I simply haven't heard about it - yet. Please inform me.
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