Made from bronze and smaller than a ten pence piece, the coin depicts a man and a woman engaged in an intimate act.
Experts believe it is the first example of its kind to be found in Britain. It lay preserved in mud for almost 2,000 years until it was unearthed by an amateur archaeologist with a metal detector.
On the reverse of the token is the numeral XIIII, which historians say could indicate that the holder handed over 14 small Roman coins called asses to buy it. This would have been the equivalent of one day’s pay for a labourer in the first century AD.
The holder would then have taken the token to one of the many Londinium brothels and handed it to a sex slave in exchange for the act depicted on the coin.
We don\’t know what that \”intimate act\” is but we can of course guess.
I\’m afraid that I don\’t know what the going rate for an \”intimate act\” on a commercial basis is today either. But a day\’s pay is around £70 (£26,000 annual full time median income/365) and I wouldn\’t be at all surprised to find that that\’s around and about what that rate is in a brothel these days.
Which is an interesting example of Baumol\’s Cost Disease really. The price of services (and prostitution is a great example of a service unchanged by advances in technology) rise along with general wages, thus rise against the prices of manufactures.
There is, unless it\’s already been done, an interesting paper to be done on this for any budding economic historian. The thesis to be tested is that Baumol was actually right, that services do rise in cost in this manner, the service to be tested is commercial sex. And we do have historical records for many societies of average wages, the price of wheat (or other main grain) and commercial sex. Show that the price of sex has risen in lock step with average wages, risen against the price of wheat, and you\’ve proven, empirically, the thesis.