I would like to understand how the Romans minted coins. Mining, smelting and refining are no mystery; I can envision ways in which uniform coin-blanks might have been made : but the big problems are (1) the striking of the coins themselves, and (2) the means of mass production.
The dies were small, and intricate in design, but what tools were used to shape them? Have any tools for die-sinking ever been identified and, if so, what were they made of? Was there any aid to vision? And what was the material of the dies? To withstand repeated hammering of bronze or silver, a die must resist wear and distortion (the stress in stamping gold is significantly less), so was there a hardening process?
And once all that has been settled, how was the necessarily prodigious striking rate achieved? Allowing that a blank stock sufficient to allow uninterrupted striking is plausible is one thing, but at, say one minute per coin, during twelve hours of daylight, one pair of dies would produce 720 coins per day, by which time the die might be quite well worn. At such a rate, to turn out a million coins would need 1,400 working days — and the circulation could actually run into billions of sesterces!
One reads of two opposing dies being struck with a hammer (there are even photographs of them), but I have never come across a believable account of the whole business. The industry would have been a large employer of highly skilled labour, but I can't find any discussion of it. Was there any way of increasing efficiency, in the way that (for instance) the spinning jenny revolutionised the textile industry?
I have already asked this question on the Latin language site, but to no avail. Over the years I've tried to discuss this with all manner of people who I thought might help, but few had paused to think it out. Maybe I've been asking (and looking) in the wrong places. Can anyone point me to ancient sources for solid information?