The currency of coins

Tucked away, down a long stretch of corridor in the Peter MacKinnon building, is the Museum of Antiquities. Though small in size, the room is grand in its contributions. The museum aims to offer the public a “reliable and critical account of the artistic accomplishments of major Western civilizations and epochs from approximately 3000 BC to AD 1500,” ensuring that right here on campus, the past is present for examination.

On April 28, an exhibit created exclusively upon donations by Terence Cheesman, had people pressed against cabinet glass, hoping to travel back in time. NVMISMANIA—A Celebration of Ancient Coinage showcases a sampling of ancient coins. Terence is a generous supporter of the museum and a Numismatist by trade, having spent countless hours studying and collecting coins over the years.

The depictions on the coins offer a glimpse into the social and economic culture of the time. One coin, blueish green in colour—bruised with time—depicts an ear of grain. This is an ancient Celtic bronze coin from Ilipense, Spain, dating from 150-100 BCE. Grain, as it happens, was one of the commodities that this city was known for and took pride in at the time.

Featured in the exhibit, an ancient Celtic bronze coin from Ilipense, Spain, dating from 150-100 BCE.

Director of the museum, Tracene Harvey commented, “I like to imagine that if Saskatchewan minted its own coins, this is a coin image that would be most fitting for our province.”

Tracene is proud to note that the Museum of Antiquities has recently grown their coin collection, jumping from approximately 80 to around 460 coins. The majority of these artifacts have come from Terence’s personal collection. The museum uses the coin collection extensively for the purposes of teaching, experiential learning and research, including experiments conducted by U of S students at the Canadian Light Source synchrotron.

For history Professor Angela Kalinowski, the coins are a great hands-on learning experience for her students. “The legends on the coins are easy to decipher, making the students feel really connected to what they are learning in class. Seeing the history, holding it, decoding it, rather than simply reading about it in a book— has a lot more impact and meaning” she said.

Terence can relate to the tactile significance of the coins—it’s part of the appeal for him, too. He describes the process of holding an ancient coin as “breaking the fairy-tale” in which the mythical stories of the past are suddenly stationed in reality by this small object. His passion for coins is so palpable, it makes one question how he can part with the tiny pieces of history he has gathered and studied. Terence calls this process “re-infection” and hopes that his donations will inspire others to fall in love with coins and their ability to inform the past.

There is no question that the coins have influenced a number of people. By the excited chatter by members of the community and engaged students in the museum, it would appear that the currency of coins is strong, thanks to Terence Cheesman.

Visit the Museum of Antiquities:
Monday to Friday, 9 am – 4 pm; Saturday, noon – 4:30 pm