ANS offers ancients database

OCRE covers Roman Imperial coins
Published : 08/05/12
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Collectors of Roman Imperial coinage can now tap an online resource to aid in the identification, research and cataloging of the coins of the ancient world.

The American Numismatic Society, in collaboration with New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, announced July 17 the debut of the OCRE, or Online Coins of the Roman Empire, database.

The project is an attempt to present, in an easily searchable form, all the varieties of the coinage issued by the emperors of ancient Rome.

The database offers users Browse, Search and Maps interfaces to assist them in finding the information being sought.

Launching Phase 1

Phase 1, which just launched, covers the coinage of the first emperors, from Augustus to Hadrian (27 B.C. to A.D. 138).

The site presents a basic description of each published variety based on the ANS’s collection catalog (MANTIS). Each of these descriptions is linked to examples present in the ANS collection and, where available, to images. Searches are presented in a way that will already be familiar to users of other ANS search tools.

Traditional searches of familiar numismatic categories such as obverse and reverse legends and types are provided, in the hope that OCRE will provide an identification tool useful to collectors, dealers, curators and field archaeologists. Subject searches have also been provided to allow more general researchers to find personifications, deities and portraits.

“OCRE is yet another example of the way that the ANS is both presenting numismatic material to those knowledgeable in the field, as well as expanding the accessibility of numismatic material to broader audiences,” said ANS Executive Director Ute Wartenberg Kagan. “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.”

ANS database developer Ethan Gruber built OCRE, designing it to use a linked data approach to deliver added functionality. Gruber said that OCRE was built on Numishare, an open source suite of applications for managing and publishing numismatic collections on the Web.

The database relied on several Web-based classification systems and catalogs, including Data about specimens — images, weights, findspots — can be extracted for statistical and geographic analyses in OCRE, Gruber said.

Linking to other resources

A key element in the design has also been to link other stable resources describing the ancient world, such as the Pleiades project for ancient geography.

According to the ANS, the attraction of OCRE is that it is built as an open system. Any significant public or private collection may now link to OCRE and make its coins available to the wider public, according to Gilles Bransbourg, who is OCRE project manager and ANS adjunct curator of Roman coins.

“OCRE is a leap forward for numismatists, historians and archaeologists alike. Until now, any research into Roman imperial coinage had to rely on paper-based catalogues, online auctions or the very few collections available online. OCRE offers a single, central online catalog that allows users to view, download and organize digitized information covering the entire history of the Roman imperial coinage,” Bransbourg said.

The digitized availability of relevant information like weights, modules, materials, legends, images, issuers, mints, location of find, and finally pictures, “opens vast fields of research in many different directions and will hopefully inspire other areas in numismatics and beyond,” he said.

Visit the OCRE database at

For more information, send an email message to Bransbourg at or telephone him in New York City at 212-571-4470, Ext. 156.

The Institute for the Study of the Ancient World can be reached online at or reached by telephone at 212-992-7800. ■

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