The Turkmen states of medieval Anatolia (11th-14th centuries) ruled areas which had formerly been under Byzantine governance. Though the Turkmen leaders and many of their troops were Muslim, there were also large Christian and Jewish populations living in the areas under their rule. Their coinage is remarkable for its blending of Christian and Muslim imagery … Read more


Prior to the rise of Islam in the seventh century, the power which most effectively matched the Byzantine Empire in the east was the Sasanian Persian Empire, based around the areas of modern Iran and Iraq, and centred on its capital city of Ktesiphon, near modern Baghdad. In comparison to the Byzantine Empire, little is … Read more


British coinage in the Barber collection begins in the first century BC with coins produced in the Channel Islands, under the influence of Continental models. By the first century AD local rulers were producing coins with clear Roman influences, until Britain was largely brought under Roman rule. From the mid first century A.D. until 410 … Read more

Merovingian and Burgundian

The Merovingians and Burgundians ruled areas of modern France and Italy in the immediately post-Roman period of western European history (from the fifth century). Although the rulers of these groups traced their lineage to mobile Germanic-speaking people who had migrated from the north and east their models of government were overwhelmingly Roman. They took over … Read more

Western Medieval

The Barber Institute collection of western medieval coins is small but contains some fine examples of Visigothic, Vandal, Merovingian and Burgundian coins, Lombard and Norman issues, a selection of British coins charting the development of British coinage from the pre-Roman to the modern period, and an important collection of coins of the Crusader states.


In addition to coins and seals, the Barber Institute Coin Room also houses a small selection of paranumismatica (things like or associated with coins). These provide useful teaching aids and in some cases supplement a historical understanding of coins by providing information about their creation and use in markets. In particular, the Coin Room houses … Read more


In AD 622 the Prophet Muhammad led a community from the city of Mecca in the Arabian Peninsula to the city of Medina. This date has come to form the beginning of the Muslim calendar as it represents the first founding of a community based on belief in Muhammad’s teachings and the revelation of the … Read more

Eastern Medieval

The Barber collection has significant strengths in eastern medieval coinage, including some unique examples of early Arab-Byzantine issues, a large selection of Sasanian coinage, extensive holdings of Turkmen coins and a range of Georgian and Armenian coinage. Elements of this collection are the focus of the 2013-14 numismatic exhibition Faith and Fortune: visualizing the divine … Read more

Late Byzantine

For images of the coins mentioned below, see the gallery to the right of this page. In 1092, the Emperor Alexios I Komnenos (1081-1118) reformed the Byzantine gold coinage to reverse the debasement which had been progressing through the eleventh century. This can be considered as the beginning of Late Byzantine coinage. The concave shape … Read more

Middle Byzantine

For images of the coins mentioned below, see the gallery to the right of this page. Around the year 830, the Emperor Theophilos (829-842) reformed the Byzantine coinage again, removing the now redundant denominational marks, which, while relevant in the sixth and early seventh centuries, had been reduced simply to the follis by the early ninth … Read more

Early Byzantine

For images of the coins mentioned below, see the gallery to the right of this page. Following the monetary reforms of Anastasius I (491-517) in 498, the Byzantine monetary system reached the height of its complexity in the sixth century. Several mints in cities across the Empire struck coins of gold, silver and base metal (copper … Read more

Byzantine Coins

The single largest section of the Barber Institute’s coin collection comprises its Byzantine coins. The most important collection of Byzantine coins in Europe, the Barber Institute houses examples of all periods of Byzantine monetary history and a number of rare specimens. Around 8,000 of the Barber’s 16,000 coins are Byzantine. The Byzantine Empire is the … Read more

Roman Republic

Rome began producing what may be considered proto-coins before the fourth century BC. These aes rude, as they are known, were essentially lumps of bronze or copper and are often found in hoards near sacred springs and fountains. The aes rude appear to have had no regulation of weight and are assumed to have functioned as part … Read more


Aeneas was one of the legendary founders of Rome (as well as Romulus and Remus in a different legend), whose story is most famously immortalised in Virgil’s Aeneid. As well as a founder of Rome, Aeneas was believed a son of Venus-Aphrodite, a survivor of the Trojan war, the lover of the African Queen Dido, and the … Read more

Roman Coins

The Barber Institute has a significant collection of Roman coins, including both republican and imperial issues, as well as a substantial number of Roman Egyptian tetradrachms. The Barber’s Roman coins total just over 5,000, out of the 16,000-strong collection. Roman coins are considered to continue until the reforms of Anastasius I (491-517) in 498, whereafter the … Read more

Byzantine Seals

In the Byzantine Empire seals were used, especially from the seventh century, though they had also been used in the Roman world, to verify that documents came from their official sender and to prove that they had not been opened or tampered with. They were an early form of document security and an important way … Read more

Hellenistic Coins

The Barber Institute collection of Hellenistic coins is small but contains some fine specimens of early Greek coins, the earliest examples of ancient western coinage. It also contains some of the most beautiful and finely struck examples of Greek royal coinage. The reign of Alexander the Great provides a valuable case study of the powerful … Read more

The Edgar Guest Collection of Hungarian Coinage

In April 2004, the Barber Institute of Fine Arts was given a comprehensive collection of rare Hungarian and Transylvanian coins by Edgar Guest, an alumnus of the University of Birmingham. Mr Guest has painstakingly collected numismatic issues from nearly every Hungarian ruler of the last millennium. Mr Guest also generously donated his extensive collection of … Read more


In addition to its world-class medieval coin collection and impressive selection of Roman coins, the Barber Institute Coin Room also houses various selections of modern coins, a small range of Hellenistic coinage and a small but significant collection of Byzantine lead seals. Some of these have resulted from generous donations. Others form part of the … Read more

History of the Coin Collection

In 1967 the Trustees supplemented the Barber’s magnificent works of art by acquiring over 15,000 coins from Philip Whitting and Geoffrey Haines, two distinguished collectors and numismatists. Philip Whitting had taught at the University of Birmingham (where he now has the main Byzantine Studies seminar room named after him) and so decided to donate his … Read more