Ancient coins bring history to life at Nicolet College
Nicolet College student Carly McGinnis sat in awe of the ancient coin resting in the palm of her hand.
“It’s like holding history,” she said as she inspected the currency estimated to be about 1,500 years old and used during the Roman Empire. “It’s fascinating to look at all of the symbols and the wording and then figure out what they mean, what was going on in history when this coin was created.”
McGinnis was studying the coin and deciphering its past as part of a project in her Nicolet College Liberal Arts course-Thinking Critically and Creatively. It meets for three hours once a week.
“I just love learning like this where everything is so hands-on,” she said. “It seems like I learn so much more and it’s so much more interesting.”
Each student in the class received their own ancient coin, had to clean it, and then look for clues in the markings, symbols and words (in Latin), on the coin to put together its history.
“It’s one thing to learn history out of a textbook or in a lecture and another thing entirely when students can actually hold history in their hands,” Gary Entz, the Nicolet instructor teaching the class, said. “Carly and the other students had to make assumptions about what was on the coin and then do the research to see if their assumptions were correct. It’s like putting together a puzzle where some of the pieces are intact and others not so much.”
One might think coins so old and rare are quite valuable. But Entz said that is not the case. He purchased them online through an academic brokerage house for a few dollars apiece.
As for McGinnis, she said the hands-on aspect of this project and all of the others in the class is appealing.
“It’s too bad we only get to meet once a week,” she said. “I wish it was a lot more.”