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Category: Ancients

Ponterio & Associates Kicks-Off 2011 with the January N.Y.I.N.C. Auction

Sale features outstanding selection of Mexican and ancient coinage and Italian banknotes

Ponterio & Associates, a division of Bowers and Merena Auctions, is pleased to present the January 2011 N.Y.I.N.C. Auction at the Waldorf Astoria in New York on Jan. 7-8. The auction will feature 2,558 lots including Part I of the Len Novotny Collection of Mexican Coinage, the Michael Demling Collection of Ancient Coinage, David Ian Wright Collection of Italian Banknotes and a superb selection of Fussli specimens.

“After wrapping up our December Hong Kong auction with the Wa She Wong Collection, we are excited to offer another extremely diverse selection of ancient and world coins and paper money,” said Rick Ponterio, executive vice president of Bowers and Merena. “Sure to be the center of attention, the 1854 Guatemala 8 Reales, lot 1036 and graded AU-55 by NGC, is perhaps the rarest crown-sized type coin for all of Latin America.”

Shortly after the production of this coin, the Republic of Guatemala adopted the decimal system and began producing coinage in Pesos and Centavo-equivalent denominations. This marks the coin as the first, last and only 8 Reales produced by the Republic of Guatemala.

Another anchor of the sale is lot 827, an extremely rare and important 1897 Anhwei Pattern Dollar, graded MS-62 by PCGS. “This particular specimen is clearly intended for special presentation purposes as it exhibits a bold, full-bodied strike with all special characters and sharp details,” said Ponterio.

Furthering the significance of the piece, the short-lived Anhwei mint only produced silver coinage for approximately two years before operations ceased and the mint was dismantled.

Additional coin and paper money highlights of the auction include:

· Lot 116, 1784/3 Mexico 8 Escudos, Key Charles III Proper Portrait, Choice Extremely Fine

· Lot 131, 1823 Mexico 8 Escudos, Hookneck Eagle, AU-55 (NGC)

· Lot 258, 1835 Belgium 40 Francs, MS-64 (NGC)

· Lot 357, 1850 Costa Rica ½ Onza, SP-61 (NGC), (Ex: Fredrick Mayer Collection)

· Lot 464, 1883 Honduras 10 Pesos, , AU-50 (NGC)

· Lot 549, 1926 Italy 50 Lire, MS-64 (NGC)

· Lot 550, 1926-R Italy 20 Lire, MS-65 (PCGS)

· Lot 2031, 264 B.C. Siculo-Punic Silver Dekadrachm, Time of First Punic War, Sicilian Mint, Choice Very Fine

· Lot 2536, 1892 Bank of Greece 100 Drachmai, P-45

· Lot 2611, 1913 Imperial Bank of Persia 2 Tomans, P-2, About Uncirculated, Consecutive pair

· Lot 2613, 1890-1923 Imperial Bank of Persia 1,000 Tomans Specimen, P-10s, Choice Uncirculated

The first day of the two-day auction will feature Part I of the Len Novontny Collection of Mexican Coinage and an array of world gold coins, world crowns and minors. The second day will host the Michael Demling Collection of Ancient Coinage, David Ian Wright Collection of Italian Banknotes, and ancient and world paper money including Fussli specimens. Lot viewing will be conducted before the sale at the Waldorf Astoria in the Morgan Suite, floor 18, Jan. 5-8. (more…)

Heritage’s World and Ancient Coin Auction in NYC

International numismatic treasures highlighted by rare German, Polish and South American coins, as well as the largest gold coin in the world, a Chinese 321+ ounce Beijing Olympics gold 100,000 Yuan

DALLAS, TX – As the profile of Heritage Auctions’ World & Ancient Coins category has continued to skyrocket over the last few years, each consecutive offering has raised the bar significantly. With the Jan. 3-4 New York Signature? World & Ancient Coin Auction at the Waldorf Astoria, coinciding with the New York International Coin Show (NYINC), Heritage has not only assembled its largest World Coin auction to date, it has also once again raised the bar in terms of absolute quality.

“With more than 5,000 total lots in this auction we have literally scoured the planet for the best possible international numismatic offerings,” said Cristiano Bierrenbach, Vice President of International Numismatics at Heritage. “The incredible scope of countries represented, and the depth to which the collections go is so advanced that putting this catalog together was like a getting a graduate degree in world numismatics at a crash course pace.”

More than 240 consignors have placed coins in the auction, most of which will be on display for lot viewing, Dec. 29 and 30, at Heritage’s jewelbox New York space at 445 Park Avenue (at 57th). To further entice International coin collectors, Heritage will have highlights from the upcoming auction the Norman Jacobs Collection of Korean and Japanese Coins, the most important collection of its kind, on display at the NYINC, January 6-9, at the Waldorf-Astoria.

A Polish Sigismund III gold 10 Dukats 1588, Fr-83, XF45 NGC represents one of the superb early highlights of the auction. This exceedingly rare type, with its clean lines and striking imagery is appealing as much for its numismatic value as for its artistic value, and is sure to be the subject of spirited bidding. It carries an estimate of $175,000+. (more…)

Using Ancient Coins to Map Trade Routes in Mediterranean Europe

Researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton have launched a research project in which nuclear radiation is used to identify changes in metal content among ancient Greek and Roman coins held in a world-class collection amassed at the university since the 1940s.

By probing the metal content of coins exchanged thousands of years ago in Mediterranean Europe, the scientists have discovered a new way to map ancient trade patterns, to retrace economic ups and downs at the dawn of Western Civilization and even to shed new light on the collapse of the Roman Empire.

“As we determine what the coins are made of, we are then able to reconstruct ancient trade routes, understand the development of economies and even determine the extent of counterfeiting,” McMaster archeologist Dr.Spencer Pope states in a project summary issued Tuesday. “This research will help us link the archeological to the historical to understand how we, as a society, got to where we are today.”

A joint project between the university’s classics department and its department of medical physics and applied radiation sciences, the ancient coin initiative involves x-ray analysis and a “proton microprobe” to determine how much silver, bronze or gold is contained in each piece of money.

“We use multiple systems to look for a number of metals — gold, copper, silver — present in the outer layer of the coins,” said radiation scientist Michael Farquharson. “Then we use the McMaster Nuclear Reactor to penetrate deeper into the coin to determine whether or not the coin was plated with a different material than it was actually made of.”

“For the Roman period, there are many crises that can be recognized in the numismatic record,” said Pope, describing one “budget crunch” during Punic Wars of the 3rd century B.C., when Rome was battling Carthage — centred in present-day Tunisia — for control of the Mediterranean world.

“We can see metal coins begin to have more base metal — junk metal — added to ‘debase’ the coins,” he noted. “As Rome and other cities fall into crises and get into economic trouble, more bronze coins appear (rather than silver), and even these are diluted by tin or lead.” So far, about 20 coins have undergone this “deep probe”. (more…)

Second Edition of Rasiel Suarez’ Book “Encyclopedia of Roman Imperial Coins” Available

OLYMPIA, WA. November, 2010 — Lovers of classical Rome along with legions of coin collectors helped drive 2005’s “Encyclopedia of Roman Imperial Coins” to an unlikely Top Ten position in the most sought after out-of-print books in America according to Bookfinder.com the news of which was then brought to national attention in an article in the Christian Science Monitor. These fans were pleased when noted numismatist Rasiel Suarez announced the availability of the long-awaited second edition just days later.

Customers who had been on the preorder queue, many for several months, were instantly impressed with the heft and sheer beauty of the book which tips the scales at just short of ten pounds. Amazon and Facebook fan page reviews continued praise in monolothic response with the common denominator being the breathtaking scope of the information covered and the eye candy of so many thousands of rare coins reproduced in high resolution color photography; a welcome departure from the customary fuzzy gray images otherwise so prevalent in numismatic literature.

The sizzle may sell but ultimately it’s the steak that feeds. ERIC II’s content catalogues a dizzying 60,000+ coin varieties far outclassing all previous Roman reference works in this critical metric then adds current market pricing and rarity data in an innovative approach that is considerably more accurate than the vague price guides published up until now.

Besides the text dealing directly with the coinage, the author has crammed every nook and cranny with biographical and historical notes relevant to each of the reigns. Even in this capacity, where photographs are not essential, the author nevertheless spares no opportunity to include even more of them in a bid to make each of its almost 300 sections a tidy, self-contained database of all the knowledge pertinent to that domain thus earning it the encyclopedia status of its namesake title.

First printing limited to 3,000 units, $149.95. Autographed and numbered copies of ERIC II: The Encyclopedia of Roman Imperial Coins may be ordered from the publisher’s website at dirtyoldbooks.com

About the Author

Rasiel Suarez is owner and co-founder of Dirty Old Coins, LLC, a company founded in 2002 with the vision of bringing the hobby of ancient coin collecting to a broad demographic largely unaware that owning genuine ancient coins was both possible and affordable. 2005 saw the release of his first book, The Encyclopedia of Roman Imperial Coins, which broke new ground in making the subject much more accessible to those entering the hobby.

By 2007 the company had sold over one million Roman coins by way of retail-ready coin kits that taught thousands of families how to restore these ancient artifacts using the same methods museums use. His success as an author and recognized expert in the field of Roman numismatics was cemented by the release of the second edition of his Encyclopedia in the Fall of 2010. An avid traveler and photographer, Rasiel lives with his family in Olympia, Washington.

Morton & Eden Ancient and World Coin Auction Yields Surprise Result

Below are the Top Ten prices for a sale of Islamic, Ancient, British and World Coins Medals and Memorabilia relating to Edward VIII Historical and Renaissance Medals and Plaquettes, held at London specialist auctioneers Morton & Eden on Thursday November 11.

The surprise of the sale was the outstanding price paid for the Roman aureus of Maximinus I Thrax (AD 235-238) which tripled estimate to sell for £195,500 to a European private collector, bidding against telephones and internet interest (lot 272).

This wide-ranging sale also registered strong interest in Islamic coins where a poorly preserved but extremely rare Umayyad dirham of Ifriqiya dated AH120 also tripled its top estimate to sell for £4,370 (lot 30).

English coins were in demand and the Charing Hoard of coins of Edward IV (1461-70), discovered by a metal detectorist in Kent last year sold for a total of £2,300.

There were strong results for Italian Renaissance plaquettes and medals where a finely preserved plaquette of Marcus Curtius (the legendary saviour of Rome) by the famous sculptor Riccio sold to a U.S. collector for £16,100, more than double its top estimate (lot 585).

The sale demonstrated the continuing strength of the numismatic market despite the current world economic climate. Images are available on request.

Lot 272
*Maximinus I, Thrax (235-238), aureus, Rome, April-December 235, IMP MAXIMINVS PIVS AVG, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right, rev., PAX AVGVSTI, Pax standing left holding branch and transverse spear, 5.37g (RIC 12; BMC 4; C. 30; Calico 3159; Alram 10/1B), well struck on a broad flan, a few minor marks but about extremely fine and extremely rare.

Ex Nelson Bunker Hunt Collection, Part 2, Sotheby’s New York, 21-22 June 1990, lot 789 and Rauch auction 46, Vienna, 14 May 1991, lot 597.

While the silver coinage of Maximinus is plentiful, in contrast, his gold is extremely rare. Of lowly birth in Thrace, Gaius Julius Verus Maximinus, known for his enormous stature (the Historia Augusta claimed he was over 8 feet tall) came to the notice of Septimius Severus and rose through the ranks of the army. When there was rebellion against the policies of Severus Alexander and his mother Julia Mamaea during the German campaign, the emperor was murdered at Moguntiacum (Mainz) and Maximinus was proclaimed emperor, bringing an end to the Severan dynasty. Maximinus’s reign marked the beginning of the so-called Crisis of the Third Century. He never set foot in Rome itself, and his harsh rule was resented by the Senate. On his way to Rome to deal with the insurrection there, he and his son Maximus were assassinated at Aquileia by disaffected soldiers.

Estimate: £40,000-60,000 SOLD FOR £195,500 Purchased by private European collector (more…)

Ancient Coins: How old is “Ancient”?

By Wayne Sayles – Ancient Coin Collecting Blog

The classification of cultures generally tracks along two interrelated lines: chronological and geographical. For centuries, coin collectors struggled with the lack of a coherent system for cataloguing the vast array of issues from antiquity through the modern era. Joseph Eckhel (1737-1798), a secularized Jesuit abbot who served as numismatist to the imperial court of the Holy Roman Empire, devised a system for arranging coins geographically that is still in use today.

This system basically records coins in a progression beginning at the northeast quadrant of the Mediterranean basin and continuing from west to east, then south through the Levant and from east to west through northern Africa. Though far from perfect, nobody has yet devised a better approach for non-Roman coins. The classification of coins and cultures into chronological divisions is far more complex than the Echkel scheme.

Chronologically, the primary divisions of coinage are almost universally accepted as being Ancient, Medieval and Modern. Within the United States, collectors tend to separate U.S. coins from the modern coins of other nations by referring to the latter as “World Coins.” Coins in the West were first struck in Western Anatolia during the 7th century BC. The transition point between ancient and medieval is more difficult to date.

Some would argue that the end of the ancient period is coincident with the fall of Rome in AD 476. Others choose the accession of Anastasius I in AD 491 as the transition point. But, almost everyone who collects “Byzantine” coins thinks of them as being “ancient” even though they start with the accession of Anastasius and end in 1453 with the fall of Constantinople.

Likewise, coins struck in India and Central Asia are typically thought of as ancient up to the Islamic conquests, which did not happen at a single point in time.

Further complicating the chronological classification, coins of the post-Roman era in western Europe (e.g. Spain, Gaul, Britain and Germany) from as early as the sixth century AD are thought of by many as ‘Medieval”.

In fact, by the time of Constantinople’s fall, some coinage in western Europe is already being thought of by collectors and scholars as falling into the “Modern” or “World” classification. The incongruity is difficult to understand and even more difficult to explain to a new collector.

Illustration Note: [Above] Imago Mundi – Babylonian map, the oldest known world map, 6th century BCE .

From a purely practical point of view, the distinction may not be all that important. After all, a rose is a rose…. But, to a cataloguer it is frequently a conundrum. Perhaps the next Joseph Eckhel is reading these lines right now and conjuring up a system that will allow for the vastly differing cultural environments and reshape our definitions in a way that seems sensible.

The Whole Cultural Record

By Wayne Sayles – Ancient Coin Collecting

In the latest issue of Archaeology magazine (Nov-Dec 2010) AIA President Brian Rose proposes an intriguing professional goal, saying — “We must preserve the whole cultural record.” By “We”, I presume that he means archaeologists, since nobody else on the planet would dare to dream so big. We need not guess about what he means by the “whole” record. Dr. Rose decries a series of events from the Damnatio Memoriae of Nero to the anti-Saddam activities of president day Iraqis and views a panoply of destructive events in history as examples of “Iconoclasm”. He makes the interesting statement that “For me, as an archaeologist, there is no excuse for the destruction of cultural property…” he goes on to say “We may never be able to temper the passion for destruction, but we can at least situate those passions in historical perspective and ensure that today’s historical evidence will still be here tomorrow.”

The logic itself escapes me because the “iconoclastic” events mentioned were in themselves cultural acts and just as historical and important as the events they reacted to. Deplorable and despicable as their destruction may have been, are the empty niches of the Bamiyan Buddhas any less a cultural record than the statues that once stood there? His statement is all the more remarkable since some archaeologists have openly advocated destroying cultural property recovered from their excavations, rather than allowing it to fall into private collector hands—and who in fact followed through with the deed.

How, I have to wonder, could everything listed in the UNESCO resolution as “cultural property” be stewarded by archaeologists ad aeternum? Here is the laundry list of items so defined in that resolution—I’ve posted it before, but it’s worth another look:

(a) Rare collections and specimens of fauna, flora, minerals and anatomy, and objects of palaeontological interest;

(b) property relating to history, including the history of science and technology and military and social history, to the life of national leaders, thinkers, scientists and artist and to events of national importance;

(c) products of archaeological excavations (including regular and clandestine)
or of archaeological discoveries ;

(d) elements of artistic or historical monuments or archaeological sites which have been dismembered;

(e) antiquities more than one hundred years old, such as inscriptions, coins and engraved seals;

(f) objects of ethnological interest; (more…)

Ancient Coins: The Yin and Yang – A Smorgasbord of Views on Cultural Property

This week I was treated to a smorgasbord of views on cultural property from members of the archaeological and collecting communities.

On Tuesday morning, I listened with interest to the presentations of several archaeologists at the U.S. State Department’s Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) in Washington, DC. This was my fifth appearance at a CPAC hearing in as many years. In every case, the general tenor of oral comments by public presenters has reflected a dichotomy of interests—those of collectors versus those of nationalist governments (defended mainly by the archaeological community). The dividing line has always been clear, and not just in the rhetoric that is entered into the public record at these events. Even the informal assemblage of speakers prior to the event (call them gaggles, if you will) is indicative of the diverse philosophical views. I suppose it’s only natural for like-minded people to congregate, but the atmosphere is and has very much been one of “us and them” . This is not to say that either camp is overtly unfriendly, in fact the opposite is true. I think both camps try very hard to be polite and cordial in a personal sense. But camps there are, and gaggle they do.

The Collector camp is comprised mainly of collector advocacy groups. Occasionally, individual collectors, dealers or concerned citizens have appeared or have been represented by counsel. However, the lion’s share of opposition to Memorandums of Understanding these days has come from the Ancient Coin Collecting community and the Art Museum community. The former is represented by advocacy groups, like the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG) and the American Numismatic Association (ANA), along with representatives of the numismatic trade and other non-profit organizations like Ancient Coins for Education. The latter is represented primarily by the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD).

The proponents of Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) are primarily the representatives of governments seeking import restrictions and the archaeological community, including its related museums—most of which are institutional. The advocacy group Saving Antiquities For Everyone (SAFE) has consistently supported import restrictions, but has not appeared before CPAC in the public sessions lately. A rather late attempt by SAFE to compile and introduce a petition in support of the MOU with Greece was apparently aborted when it failed to meet the State Department imposed deadline for public comment. (more…)

The Widow’s Mite Coin

By Stewart Huckaby
Every week, my church sends me an e-mail about the upcoming Sunday service — what the sermon will be, what some of the related activities will be, and so on. Part of this message includes a mention of the verses of the Bible that will be covered during the service.

I’m in the habit of cheating a little bit and reading the appropriate verses a bit early. My iPhone has a very nice (and very free) application that allows the user to read the Bible in his choice of translations; it even provides a selection of reading plans. So, when I receive these e-mails, I take advantage.

Recently, one of these e-mails mentioned the passage in Mark 12:41-44, the parable of the widow’s mite. The New American Standard Bible translation reads as follows:

And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.”

I’ll leave it to you to draw your own conclusions about the meaning of the passage; I prefer to leave the theological discussions for Sunday. However, coin weenie that I am, I noticed the following (Mark 12:42): “A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent.”

Stop right there. The concept of a cent didn’t exist until about the 18th century; never mind that the value of a cent changes both over time and depending on who issued it. Something clearly got lost in this translation. How much were the widow’s mites really worth?

Most of the additional translations were unrevealing. The King James version states, “And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.” Other available versions of the Bible translate the value of the coins as: (more…)

Ancient Coins: Freedom of Information and New Import Restrictions sought on Greek “Cultural Property”

By Wayne Sayles – Ancient Coin Collecting Blog

Comments related to issues of cultural property management

The Freedom of Information Act, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1966, was born from the notion that “the people” (as in each individual citizen) have a constitutional right to know how the government acts in their behalf. This is of course a democratic notion that nationalist governments do not share. One might wonder at times if it is a notion that the U.S. Government shares?

FOIA has been amended and altered in its execution by Executive Branch order or parallel legislation many times during the past 24 years. While a forest of trees have been exterminated in filling FOIA requests, the amount of information provided to the public has been a matter of constant and continuous concern and variability. What the situation boils down to, in a nutshell, is that the Executive Branch of the U.S. government releases eactly and only what it wants to release and when it wants to release it. The public often is obligated to fight in the courts for the most innocuous of details about some item or action of interest.

Filing a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit is an adventure in frustration—fraught with government impediments. The prosecution of a simple suit can be delayed by repeated government requests for extensions of time and the excruciatingly slow pace of the legal system in general. Then, the ultimate judgement is not always a black and white reflection of law. Political persuasion is not a stranger to the bench, and the outcome of litigation can depend, it seems, nearly as much on luck of the draw as on the merit of arguments presented. The consequence of this cumbersome review process is that the impetus for a request may well be moot by the time a judgement is rendered. The suit itself is sometimes more important, as a statement of dissatisfaction with government, and demand for accountability, than the material that might conceivably be released.

Why should any person, or organization, have to endure the trials and tribulations of litigation against their government to affirm basic rights promised by the law of the land?

The cause of this pervasive and untenable attitude of secrecy and unresponsiveness in American government is its very structure. Law is rightly regarded by the Legislative Branch as a means to assure rights and protections. Elected officials within the Executive Branch typically espouse a similar view. However, neither elected officials nor political appointees are directly involved in the execution and enforcement of law. This key, and often most important, element of any law is delegated to an army of bureaucrats that are directly responsible for that part where the rubber meets the road. The technical authority of politically appointed Secretaries and Undersecretaries, etc., means little in a world of revolving doors. Just as bureaucratic agencies can drag an issue on in the courts for years, they also can “stonewall” the most ardent elected or appointed official with relative ease and virtual impunity. The judiciary often seems, perhaps understandably, reluctant to serve as the nation’s guardian against government excess. (more…)

Ancient Coins: Gold Octodrachm (Mnaieion) Coin Minted in Alexandria by Ptolemy V in 191 BCE Found In Israel

As recently reported in Art Daily and E-Sylum,  an extremely rare  ancient gold coin was uncovered recently in the excavations of the University of Michigan and University of Minnesota at Tell Kedesh in Israel near its Lebanese border.

The coin is 2,200 years old and was minted in Alexandria, Egypt in 191 BCE by Ptolemy V and bears the name of the wife of Ptolemy II, Arsinoe. The Israel Antiquities Authority says the coin is the heaviest and has the highest contemporary value of any coin ever found in an excavation in Israel. The coin weighs almost one ounce (27.71 grams), while most ancient gold coins weighed 4.5 grams.

The denomination is called a mnaieion, meaning a one-mina coin, and is equivalent to 100 silver drachms, or a mina of silver.

According to Dr. Donald T. Ariel, head of the Coin Department of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “This is an amazing numismatic find. The coin is beautiful and in excellent preservation. It is the heaviest gold coin with the highest contemporary value of any coin ever found in an excavation in Israel. The coin weighs almost one ounce (27.71 grams), while most ancient gold coins weighed 4.5 grams. In Ariel’s words, “This extraordinary coin was apparently not in popular or commercial use, but had a symbolic function. The coin may have had a ceremonial function related to a festival in honor of Queen Arsinoë, who was deified in her lifetime. The denomination is called a mnaieion, meaning a one-mina coin, and is equivalent to 100 silver drachms, or a mina of silver.

The obverse (‘head’) of the coin depicts Arsinoë II Philadelphus. The reverse (‘tail’) depicts two overlapping cornucopias (horns-of-plenty) decorated with fillets. The meaning of the word Philadelphus is brotherly love. Arsinoë II, daughter of Ptolemy I Soter, was married at age 15 to one of Alexander the Great’s generals, Lysimachus, king of Thrace. After Lysimachus’ death she married her brother, Ptolemy II, who established a cult in her honor. This mnaieion from Tel Kedesh attests to the staying power of the cult, since the coin was minted a full 80 years after the queen’s death.

According to Ariel, “It is rare to find Ptolemaic coins in Israel dating after the country came under Seleucid rule in 200 BCE. The only other gold Ptolemaic coin from an excavation in Israel (from `Akko) dates from the period of Ptolemaic hegemony, in the third century BCE, and weighs less than two grams.”

Ariel notes that although the inscription on the coin identifies the queen as Arsinoë Philadelphus, “it is plausible that the second-century BCE mnaieia actually depict cryptic portraits of the reigning queens. Consequently, the queen represented on the Tell Kedesh mnaieion may actually be Cleopatra I, daughter of Antiochus III, whose marriage to Ptolemy V in 193 sealed the formal end of the Fifth Syrian War.”

Some three years ago an Alexandrine hoard of Ptolemaic gold coins appeared on the world antiquities market. That hoard, however, contained no coins of Ptolemy V, so the extreme rarity of the mnaieion from Tell Kedesh remains unimpaired.

2,500 year-old Greek coin anchors ancient offerings in Heritage Boston ANA auction

Coin originated in Rhegion region – modern day Reggio, Italy – was struck between 415 and 387 BC; offered as part of Heritage ANA World Coin event

A nearly 2,500-year old silver coin of Rhegion, an ancient Greek city located in would become Italy, is expected to bring upwards of $25,000 at the Heritage Signature® Auction of Ancient and World Coins at the ANA World’s Fair of Money in Boston, Thursday, Aug. 12, starting at 6 p.m..

The silver tetradrachm – lot number 20007 – a coin about the diameter of a quarter but much thicker and heavier, depicts the stylized head of a lion on the obverse and a profile portrait of Apollo, Greek god of wisdom and enlightenment, on the reverse. It was struck between 415 and 387 BC, a time when the Greek cities of Italy and Sicily were competing with each other and with Carthage in North Africa for control of the western Mediterranean.

“Simply stated, this piece is an artistic masterwork,” said David S. Michaels, director of Ancient Coins for Heritage. “The artist who engraved the dies was a supremely talented individual who employed a host of sophisticated techniques in creating an image of unique power and beauty.”

The lion’s head on the obverse uses foreshortening and compression to create an illusion of extreme depth, while his piercing gaze is shifted slightly to the left, as though zeroing in on his prey. The image of Apollo on the reverse is also created with such lifelike distinction that, were he to walk into a room, he would be instantly recognizable from his image on the coin.

Rhegion, modern Reggio, Italy, also called Regium, is located on the “toe” of Italy, just across the Straits of Messina from the island of Sicily. The second-oldest city in Italy, it was founded by Greek colonists from two cities on mainland Greece, Chalkis and Messenia. According to legend, the Chalkidians set forth after a famine in their homeland. The citizens appealed to the god Apollo for help, who replied through an oracle that a large body of colonists should seek a fresh start in fertile southern Italy.

Rhegion (meaning “it breaks away”) prospered and built a temple dedicated to Apollo, who appears prominently on the city’s coinage. The Messenian component worshipped the demigod Herakles. The lion on the obverse likely refers to the Nemean Lion slain by Herakles as one of his Twelve Labors.

Rhegion grew rich and powerful by controlling trade through the Straits of Messina.

“During its heyday in the fifth century BC, Rhegion produced coins as beautiful as those of the great contemporary Greek cities of Sicily, including Syracuse, Akragas, and Messana,” said Michaels. “There seemed to be a competition among these cities to produce the most attractive coins in commerce. Now it’s one of the highlights of one of our best-ever offerings of ancient coins.” (more…)

First Gold Coin Struck in the Name of an English King to be Sold by Spink

[CoinLink News] The UK auction firm of Spink has announced the upcoming sale of an Anglo-Saxon gold Shilling of King Eadbald of Kent dating from c.620-635. This is the first gold coin struck in the name of an English King and a rare and important piece of English history. Found near Deal Kent in 2010, this coin will be sold at auction on June 24th and is expected to fetch upwards of £8,000. (Editor: Seems very Inexpensive)

This type was long known to be amongst the earliest of Anglo-Saxon gold coins with a single example present in the important Crondall hoard found in Hampshire in 1828 and dating from c.670. The conclusive attribution of these coins to king Eadbald of Kent, reigned 616-640, though was only made in 1998. This followed the emergence of new finds which enabled the obverse inscription to be confirmed as avdvarld reges, and translated as ‘of King Audvarld’.

The name ‘auduarldus’ appears in Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica completed in 731 in which he wrote about king Eadbald of Kent. Given this and the presence of one of these coins in the Crondall hoard, the attribution to Eadbald is now accepted

While the Kentish Shilling or Thrymsa seems to have sought to match the Merovingian Tremissis, the design of this coin is peculiarly Anglo-Saxon using neither motifs found on Merovingian coins nor seeking to copy Roman types. In common with some other coins (e.g. the so called ‘Witmen’ and ‘Londiniv/Londeniv’ types), this coin has an inscription on the reverse. This can be clearly read on a example in the Ashmolean Museum as containing the word londenv indicating London as the mint or die source for these coins all of which share the same obverse die.

The real significance of these coins though is in the obverse inscription naming the historical figure of king Eadbald. This is exceptional for a coin of this period and is only certainly found again at the end of the seventh century with the Sceattas of Aldfrith of Northumbria (685-705). As such the Eadbald Thrymsa is the earliest coin issued in the name of an English king.

Eadbald succeded Aethelberht as king of Kent in 616. Aethelberht is principally remembered for having accepted St. Augustine into his kingdom and his subsequent conversion to Roman Christianity. It seems, according to Bede, that after his accession Eadbald fell foul of the young Church, rejecting Christianity, ejecting its Bishops and incurring the wrath of the Church committing ‘such fornication as the Apostle Paul mentioned as being unheard of even among the heathen, in that he took his father’s (second) wife as his own.’

Whatever Eadbald did, this situation did not last for he repented and was duly baptized, rejecting his wife and thereafter favouring the Church within his kingdom. (more…)

Putting History Into the Hands of Children with Ancient Coins

ACE projects create a new learning experience for many young students.

Ancient Coins for Education, Inc., entirely run by volunteers, was established in 2001 as a registered non-profit organization to encourage learning about Classical (Greek, Roman, and Byzantine) history and culture through the use of ancient coins. ACE provides coins to students nationwide for their study and attribution with the help of online and computer resources.

ACE is supported by professional and amateur numismatists that have donated coins for the students, their time and knowledge as classroom mentors, and even books on the subject. Each year ACE holds essay contests for students with the subject of the essay being a Roman Emperor or a member of their family. The prize is an ancient coin for the student to keep. Last years national winner, 15-year-old Wendy Owens, was celebrated in her local newspaper:

http://www.gazette.net/stories/03042010/urbanew163749_32555.php

Zee Ann Poerio, an ACE director and teacher at St. Louise de Marillac School in Pittsburgh, PA, pioneered the Ancient Coin Museums project, which has brought displays of history through ancient coins to a growing number of schools. Parents at the first opening in Pittsburgh were amazed to see the exhibits and many said they wished that they had such an opportunity when they were at school.

ACE students are not only learning about history, but are also introduced to archaeology in the form of simulated digs where they can excavate authentic ancient coins. The coins used in this project are mostly in poorer condition than the coins used as inspiration and prizes for the essay contests or in the museum displays. Though actually quite common, they are typical of the coins also found at most Roman period archaeological sites.

The private sector, too, has recognized the valuable work of ACE and the Ancient Coin Museum project. In 2007, a $2,500 Best Buy Teach Award was presented to St. Louise de Marillac School for demonstrating how interactive technology can be used to make learning more fun for students.

The Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG) supports the valuable work of ACE and all of its teachers in bringing new dimensions to learning about our classical heritage.

For information about ACE, and how to help with their worthwhile projects, visit:
http://ancientcoinsforeducation.org/

Ancient Gold Aureus Coin of Brutus brings $525,000 in GoldBergs Auction

[ CoinLink News]  After Julius Caesar, the second most recognizable name of the imperatorial era is Marcus Junius Brutus. Was he the last guardian of the Republican age or only an infamous and most vile assassin of Caesar?

Born about 85 BC, Brutus was thrust into the political realm and early became a follower of Cato, a staunch Republican. Later, Brutus built a fortune by lending money at usurious rates and eventually became a Roman senator. What did Brutus really want? Like Edward G. Robinson in Key Largo, “More”?

There grew a great friendship between Caesar and Brutus, but during the Civil War it was clear that Caesar would never return to the former Republican government. Instead, Caesar was swayed by his many victories and public adulation, ultimately accepting the title “dictator for life.”

Caesar’s portrait graced many coin issues, and his likeness was the first of a living person to be depicted upon the specie we now revere. It is ironic to also find the portrayal of Brutus on Coinage.

Marcus Junius Brutus, d. 42 BC. Gold Aureus (8.07 g), struck at a traveling mint in Macedonia or Western Asia Minor, summer/autumn 42 BC. With moneyer, P. Servilius Casca Longus. Bare head right of Brutus with short beard, BRVTVS IMP on either side, all within laurel wreath.

Reverse: Combined military and naval trophies, with prows and shields at base; a small L to left of trophy; CASCA LONGVS on either side. Fr-24 (this coin); Craw 507/1b; BMCRR 62; Syd. 1297; Vagi 94; Kent-Hirmer 99. Faint double striking at back of head, otherwise a splendid likeness, in high relief. Lustrous and sharp! One of the most historic of Roman issues, gold or silver!

Excessively rare. Probably the finest of only 8 recorded specimens. NGC graded Choice About Uncirculated.

The ensuing struggle, the loss of life and of ideals, and the change of government are witnessed and related on this wonderful coin. Shakespeare (perhaps one in the same with Francis Bacon) gave us the perfect glimpse into the stage as life; Joseph Mankiewiez and John Houseman created a magnificent vision in their 1953 film Julius Caesar. With Marlon Brando, James Mason, John Gielgud, Greer Garson, Deborah Kerr and other stellar actors, it is a movie to view and view again. The next time you see it, ponder this aureus .

Estimated Value $400,000 – 500,000. Realized $525,000
Ex John Whitney Walter Collection, Stack’s-Berk Auction (11-29-90), lot 7; ex NFA Auction XXII (06-01-89), lot 23; ex Leu Auction 22 (05-08-79), lot 184. Illustrated in Money of the World, coin 30. Ex Millennia, Lot 75.

Ancient Coin Importation Restrictions: Thoughts on becoming a target of the “cultural property” advocates.

By Wayne Sayles – Ancient Coin Collecting Blog

Some people crave attention and will do almost anything to draw a spotlight toward themselves, even if it is outrageous. I’m not one of those people by nature. I much prefer the serenity and seclusion of our pastoral environment here in the Ozarks to the hustle and bustle of the city or the glad-handing that people in the corporate and political world call “networking.”

In fact, my most precious moments have been on a sailboat ghosting along in a light breeze with nothing but sky and water to contemplate. I find an isolated mountain stream equally inviting if I have a rod in hand and a trout waiting to be tempted. Yet, I often find myself drawn to the city and sometimes into the spotlight as a matter of necessity. Why? Having endured all that I could stand of the outlandish criticisms and insults hurled by fanatical archaeologists at the antiquities market, and by extension at my lifelong passion of ancient coin collecting, I felt compelled to speak out.

That happened in 2004, and here I am six years later still speaking out against the same atrocious behavior. If anything, the situation has gotten worse since the antiquities trade and the museum world have essentially abdicated before a combination of foreign and home-grown nationalist attacks. The numismatic community seems to be the only roadblock these days to sweeping nationalist and institutional control of cultural property and thereby to absolute control of history and the record of the past. Is that bad? Only from the point of view of those who favor truth over revisionism or those who feel that culture is as much a personal as a national heritage, or believe in personal property rights and freedoms. Of course it is also bad for the numismatists who have suddenly been thrust into that unwelcome spotlight.

Personally, my career in numismatics dates back some 40+ years and I enjoyed that time in the comfort that the discipline, call it a hobby if you will, was genteel. The relationships between professional and amateur numismatists were not only friendly and cooperative, they were in most cases collegial. Respect flowed both ways. What a difference we see today! Understandably, I’ve become a focal point for criticism, along with others, by virtue of my active opposition to cultural nationalism. That, I expected.

What I did not expect and am sincerely saddened by is the depth of hatred and hostility that permeates the opposition today. Being the focus of an ideological polemic is one thing, but being personally villified and ridiculed by educated people, from a discipline that I once respected, is something entirely different. That sort of verbal barrage has now become a daily event in my life. Initially, I was offended.

My career as an officer in the U.S. military instilled in me a very strong sense of personal pride, integrity and responsibility. I founded the ACCG to create a voice for ancient coin collectors that was conspicuously absent in the face of a growing assault. The numismatic trade in this field had its advocacy groups, collectors had none. I’ve spent the past six years, as a volunteer, working for the interests of collectors. (more…)

Testimony at the Cultural Property Advisory Committee Hearing: To Be or Not To Be

By Wayne Sayles – Ancient Coin Collecting

That is the Question on everyone’s mind this morning as the Cultural Property Advisory Committee reconvened on Friday to consider the extension of a bilateral agreement with Italy that restricts the importation of certain classes of antiquities into the United States. Thursday morning, the committee heard comments in open public session from representatives of five main groups of concerned citizens—Archaeologists, Museum Administrators, Art and Antiquity Collectors, the Numismatic Trade and Ancient Coin Collectors.

From the numismatic community’s perspective, extension of the current Memorandum Of Understanding in some form seems a foregone conclusion, though some opponents argued very persuasively that the whole MOU is badly flawed and should be scrapped. The pressing issue for coin collectors is whether the addition of coins, already exempted in two previous five-year terms of the MOU, is to be or not to be.

In an era when politicians on both sides of the aisle are clamoring for transparent government and “sunshine” laws offer a promise of fair play and access, the U.S. State Department doggedly maintains its “distance” from the looking glass of public scrutiny.

None of the seven speakers from the numismatic community had the foggiest notion whether Italy had even requested that coins should be added—an ironic situation, since the State Department hearing was held in that part of Washington known as “Foggy Bottom.”

Unlike the mysterious Chinese request some years ago, one might presume, from the comments of Mr. Stefano De Caro, General Director of Antiquities within the Italian Ministry of Culture, that Italy did indeed ask for the addition of coins—even though the State Department ignored direct requests for an answer to that question.

Sebastian Heath, whose affiliation was vague and was actually the point of a followup question by one committee member, was listed by the State Department as an American Institute of Archaeology representative. He claimed, upon pressing of the point, that he actually represented himself. The fact that Heath often works for or at the American Numismatic Society, and personally participated in drafting the ANS statement on cultural property, was questioned in light of his recommendation that coins be added to the MOU.

The ANS statement says, in part, “…..within the world of artifacts, coins as a class do, in fact, stand apart.” Heath avoided the apparent conflict of positions by stating repeatedly that to his knowledge the ANS takes no position in the issue. It would have been interesting to see that question explored in some depth, but Mr. Heath mercifully escaped being hoist with his own petard for lack of time in the busy agenda. (more…)

Ponterio Baltimore Auction to Offer Diverse Selection of Ancient and World Coins, Plus Currency

Ponterio & Associates, Inc., the world and ancients auction division of Bowers and Merena Auctions, will conduct its Baltimore Auction of World and Ancient Coins and Paper Money as part of Bowers and Merena’s Official Auction of the June 2010 Whitman Coin & Collectibles Baltimore Expo.

The two-session sale will be conducted June 18 and 19 at the Baltimore Convention Center. More than 2,300 lots will be offered, including approximately 1,500 lots of Ancient and foreign coins and 825 lots of world paper money.

Executive vice president, Rick Ponterio states, “Our June 2010 Baltimore Auction is sure to see strong bidder participation—and competition—among specialists in many areas of foreign coins and paper money. Featured among the coin offerings in this sale are important rarities from many periods of history, ranging from Ancient Greece to the modern era.”

Continued Ponterio: “An example of the diversity in this sale can be found in two of the more important highlights. The first is a very rare Zeugitana, Carthage AV Trihemistater, or 1 ½ Shekel, that dates to the early period of the First Punic War (ca. 264-260 BC). The coin is attributed alternatively as Jenkins & Lewis Group IX Pl.18#392 (same dies) and Muller-Pg.86#66, and has been certified by NGC as AU, Strike: 5/5, Surface: 3/5.”

“We will also present a Yuan Dynasty Zhi Yuan 50 Tael Sycee Ingot that is extremely rare and historically significant,” Ponterio added. “It is dated the 14th year of the Zhìyuán era (1273 A.D.), inscribed with the denomination at upper left and the ruler’s name and date at lower center, Khubilai Khan, the fifth Great Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan (1260-94). It is among the earliest known Chinese 50 Tael Sycee ingot.”

MORE THAN 825 LOTS OF WORLD PAPER MONEY TO BE OFFERED

“We have received a wide array of important world paper money consignments for this sale,” stated Bowers and Merena’s director of currency auctions, Matthew Quinn. “A splendid selection of Iranian notes from the 1920s and 1930s figure prominently among the highlights in this auction, and they include a stunning Choice Uncirculated 1 Toman note dated 1.6.1920 and attributed as P-1b. Also of note is a China, Republic, 5 Yuan dated 4.10.1914 and attributed as P-34. The note grades Very Fine and is significant because examples of this type are usually seen only in remainder form without signatures and perforated ‘canceled,’ which is a fate this note escaped. We anticipate strong bidder competition for these and other important world paper money lots in this sale.” (more…)

A Time to Speak Out – Will Ancient Coins from Italy be Restricted?

The U.S. State Department has announced a date of May 6-7 for Cultural Property Advisory Committee hearings on the request for renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding with Italy. Hopefully your eyes are not already glazed over by this first sentence.

In practical terms, the U.S. government is about to decide whether antiquities and other forms of cultural property that Italy claims as its heritage ought to be restricted from entry into the U.S. unless accompanied by Italian export permits. There is already such an agreement in place, but ancient coins have been exempted twice before in these renewal requests that cover a 5-year window.

We have very good reason to believe that Italy and members of the archaeological community will this time seek to add coins to the list of restricted items.

There is a period open for public comment on the issue and the best way to comment is by fax. Don’t despair, this is VERY easily done. Simply go to the ACCG web site at http://accg.us and click on the Fax Wizard link (picture of U.S. Capitol Building) on the left side of the page. It says “Fax Your Legislator” but will indeed send your message to the State Department. You will be guided through a brief and easy to follow process that sends a free fax to the State Department registering your views.

Why oppose these import restrictions? Because Roman coins are at the very core of the cultural experience that we all treasure. They have circulated all over the known world in antiquity and since through trade and collector markets. It is impossible to distinguish a Roman coin found in Britain, for example, from exactly the same type, mint, etc found in Italy.

Requiring an export permit from Italy on a coin found and legally exported from Britain would not only be impractical, it would not have any legal foundation. Still, any court challenge by an individual is unlikely since the legal costs usually far exceed the value of seized objects.

We simply MUST oppose any expansion of the MOU with Italy to include coins. We must do so with an absolutely resounding voice.

Import restrictions are simply not a viable solution to protecting archaeological sites. They are an idealist panacea that cause far more harm to society than any possible good. Excluding the U.S. collector and trade from the legitimate world market for Roman coins, or unilaterally forcing draconian documentation requirements on Americans, would be grossly prejudicial and would certainly be against the interests of American citizens and their traditional freedoms. (more…)

Possibly Unique “Ides Of March” Gold Coin to be Displayed at British Museum

A possibly unique gold coin celebrating the assassination of Julius Caesar will go on display at the British Museum today – the Ides of March, marking the 2,054th anniversary of his death.

The coin was struck in honour of Marcus Junius Brutus, one of the assassins of Julius Caesar. The reverse shows the cap of liberty given to freed slaves flanked by two daggers. This indicates Brutus’ intention of freeing Rome from Caesar’s imperial ambitions and the murder weapons employed to do so. Below the daggers is the day of the deed; EID.MAR, the ides of March.

Few coins capture a moment in history with such stark and brutal imagery. Brutus had carried out the attack with some fellow Roman Senators in 44 BC when Caesar had come unarmed to address the Senate on 15 March. This day was known to the Romans as the ides, or the middle day of the month and was recognised on a new calendar system that Caesar himself had established just two years before.

The assassins, or ‘freedom party’ as they regarded themselves, fled Rome to Macedonia to raise an army. However, they were defeated by Caesar’s allies led by Mark Antony and Octavian at the Battle of Philippi (42 BC). Brutus subsequently committed suicide.

The decision to flee east was probably influenced by the richness of the provinces of the eastern Roman Empire – raising an army was a very costly business. Supplies needed to be bought and soldiers needed wages. Amongst the coins the conspirators briefly struck to this end was this one.

Although numerous surviving examples of the silver version are known, including several in the British Museum’s coins and medals collection, there were only believed to be two in gold.

Curiously, King George III (reigned 1760-1820) owned one of the two gold examples as part of his large chronological sequence of coins and medals followed a system common among eighteenth-century collectors to arrange their ancient Roman coin collections. Experts now believe that this coin is a fake.

The present example on display was offered for sale to the British Museum in 1932 but they couldn’t afford to buy it. Sold privately to a number of collectors , its present owner (anonymous) has loaned the coin to the museum, and it will be displayed publicly for the first time.

Exaggeration in the “Cultural Heritage” Debate on Ancient Coins

By Wayne Sayles – Ancient Coin Collecting
Many readers of this blog have undoubtedly been to Disney World in Orlando, Florida and taken a course at the Imagination Institute sponsored by Eastman Kodak. Figment, a cute and colorful dragon accompanies the visitor on a “people-mover” journey through the land of dreams.

The whole experience is accompanied by a captivating musical composition in which the theme IMAGINATION spools repeatedly. That tune becomes so deeply imbedded in the subconscious that one finds themselves humming it for the rest of the day and truthfully for years after.

The Cyprus mail article, titled “US collectors to regain right to trade ancient Cyprus coins” was a tiny bit of an exaggeration, unless the author knows something that I don’t know.

When I read a recent press release on Cyprus Mail, I couldn’t shake that Disney tune. But, instead of IMAGINATION ringing in my ears it was EXAGGERATION!

The ACCG has merely begun the long and tedious challenge that will ultimately ensue. Even though it would be the prudent, honorable and decent thing to do, I don’t see Cyprus or the U.S. State Department folding their cards on this issue. But the Cyprus Mail article contains an interesting quote nonetheless. Maria Hadjicosti, Director of the Department of Antiquities, Cyprus Museum Nicosia, said about the coins imported by ACCG for the subject test case:

“There is not much financial value in antiquities, but the coins are not just money….They are important archaeological items, because they can be accurately dated and used for historical study.” This is basically a true statement as it pertains to coins. While even archaeologists debate the utility of coins for dating strata, they obviously are of some value to anybody who finds them, including archaeologists. The most striking portion of the quote is however the admission that, relatively speaking, there is not much value in them—either financially or in terms of national heritage. Certainly not when compared to unique objects like the Rosetta Stone or the Euphronios Krater.

That revelation by Ms. Hadjicosti flies directly in the face of sensationalizing statements (exaggerations) by nationalist advocates who claim that the antiquities trade is third only in size to the illegal drug and weapons trades. These same nationalist gurus, mainly archaeologists, promote themselves and their “colleagues” as brighter, morally superior and specially ordained to promulgate their dogma.

(more…)

The Bishop’s Wood Hoard of Roman Coins To Be Sold By Baldwins

Baldwin’s are delighted to announce that they will be offering for sale by auction a portion of Roman coins from the Bishop’s Wood Hoard of 1895 as part of their 4-5 May 2010 London event.

The extensive hoard was unearthed at Bishop’s Wood, near Ross-on-Wye, just across the Herefordshire border and within the surroundings of the Forest of Dean. Several other, smaller finds, of similar coins had also been found along this route but none as vast or as interesting as this. It was discovered in a rough walling built against the hillside by workmen who were in the process of repairing a road and who struck an earthenware vessel containing the coins. The accidental strike from a pick broke the jar and scattered its contents in various directions.

Details of the hoard were first published in the 1896 edition of the Numismatic Chronicle, and also in the editorial of the Numismatic Circular in November of that year. In both publications a total of 17,550 coins were listed, although a number had already been lifted and dispersed around the region by the time the coins were rescued. Many of these coins were subsequently given to local museums and the portion now being sold by Baldwin’s (containing 1,661 coins and the restored jar that contained them) has remained in the family of the original landowner since they were found in 1895.

Included with the hoard is a reprint of the article from the Numsimatic Chronicle of 1896 and a reprint of ‘Notes on a Great Hoard of Roman Coins found at Bishop’s Wood in 1895’ from the “Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society”, vol. XIX, pp. 399-420, both written by Mary Bagnall-Oakeley. The latter also includes the author’s handwritten annotations and a list, dated March 1898, of the museums and institutions that she was aware had received portions of the hoard. (more…)

A.H Baldwin January Ancient and World Coin New York Auction Results

Held as part of the 38th annual New York International Numismatic Convention, A.H. Baldwins & Sons New York Sale proved to be a welcome move away from the subdued bidding of 2009. The majority of the interesting lots offered during the course of the week were from the Baldwin’s/Dmitry Markov/M&M auction and the high prices achieved reflected the recent trend for buyers paying well above estimate for quality and rarity.

Peter_1_1707_Half_Tymf_baldwin2010In marked contrast to last year’s event the bidders appeared to be out in force. Seth Freeman of Baldwin’s commented that there was a real buzz around this years event, both the convention and the auction and buyers ‘seemed to be focused on one thing, spending money to secure key items’.

The results from the sale this year reflected the more optimistic view of the financial markets for 2010. Across the board bidders seemed less cautious than last year and prices realised on particular items were substantially higher.

Highlights from the first day of the sale included the catalogue cover piece (pictured above), lot 128, a Roman Empire Drusus Sestertius which sold for $17,250 USD against a pre-sale estimate of $8,500 USD; and lot 251, a Constantinus II Solidus, Treveri, which achieved $34,500 USD.

As ever the Indian section was strong and attracted a lot of attention, the most interesting lot being 304, a very rare Gupta Dinar, Tiger-slayer type depicting the goddess Ganga standing on an elephant-headed fish, sold for $21,850 USD.

Bidding interest and excitement centered on the Medieval, Portuguese and Russian sections and this is demonstrated by the incredibly strong prices achieved. Highlights of the section incorporate lots 470 and 628, a Carolingian Denarius of Toulouse, and a Portuguese Sancho I Morabitino which sold for $13,800 USD and $25,000 USD respectively.

Lot 1027, a 1707 Shestak Half Tymf, was one of the most unique and interesting pieces in the sale. This coin was first recorded in 1897 where it was the only image available of this very rare coin and soon became the plate coin in all standard references. The groups research produced no other specimen of this particular coin offered at public auction and this was reflected in the realised price of $97,500 USD. (more…)

Collectors Claim Bias Epitomizes State Department Advisory Committee Management

Kerry Wetterstrom, representing the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild, opposed adding U.S. import restrictions on coins at a Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) hearing November 13, 2009. The occasion was an interim review of a Memorandum of Understanding with Italy. Wetterstrom, publisher/editor of The Celator, wrote in his latest editorial:

accg_cyp_chi_coins“This was the first such hearing that I have attended, and it was an interesting, albeit a bit frustrating, experience. I came away from this hearing with the strong belief that the odds are against the ancient coin collecting community in receiving a ‘fair shake’ from the U.S. Department of State, specifically its Cultural Heritage Center office, at these CPAC hearings.

“The three speakers representing collectors and dealers were invited to speak first, each speaker was limited to five minutes, and we were informed that this would be strictly enforced…

“…though I entered the hearing with a bit of trepidation, the hearing’s casual atmosphere had a calming effect on my nerves. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to finish reading the two-page statement that I had prepared, and after answering a couple of questions from the committee, I walked back to my seat thinking that this was the fastest five minutes I had ever experienced. Later, several people commented to me that they believed I had been cut off before the end of my allotted time.”

Other speakers, who advocate import restrictions on coins, were reportedly allowed to exceed the published time limit with comments ranging up to 30 minutes. Wetterstrom concluded that, “Based on this experience, I now know that the best option that the ancient coin collecting community has for a ‘fair hearing,’… is through the court system…” (more…)

Princeton University Numismatic Collection Acquires 7th Century “Jesus” Coin

From The Times of Trenton, NJ

It’s not the kind of coin you’d want to plunk into a soda machine, nor is it the kind you’d find while digging around under your couch cushions.

pinceton_jesus_coinIt’s a Byzantine gold coin from the seventh century with an image of Jesus Christ on its face, issued by Emperor Justinian II. It’s the first known coin to have a Christ image, and it now has a new home in the Princeton University Numismatic Collection.

It’s a high quality specimen that Alan Stahl, the university’s curator of numismatics, said he had been seeking for several years, only to be outbid at auction again and again.

“Finally, a dealer with whom I’d placed a bid a couple of times found one in a private collection and offered it to us at a reasonable price.” The coin has been dated to the year 692.

According to Stahl, the Princeton University’s numismatic collection contains about 100,000 items and is reputed to be the oldest institutional collection in the country.

He said the gold coin was a specimen valuable not only in terms of the coinage of the eastern Mediterranean in the Middle Ages, but in the history of all coinage.

“The most important thing is that it’s the first time the image of Christ is used as the main image on the coin,” Alan Stahl – Curator of Numismatics

Until this time, most coins had only featured portraits of the period’s ruling emperor. In this case, Justinian II was cast on the reverse of the coin.

And while this may seem like a benign bit of imagery to us today, it sent shock waves across the region in its time.

“This was considered really shocking in its time, and it got reactions all over,” he said.

To read the complete article, see: Princeton acquires coin with an image of Jesus from the 7th century (www.nj.com/news/times/regional/index.ssf?/base/news-18/1259909134180700.xml&coll=5)

Ruling in FOIA case condones DOS intransigence on ancient coin import restrictions

A long-awaited ruling fails to address serious issues within the U.S. State Department bureaucracy.

accg_cyp_chi_coinsUS District Court Judge Richard Leon—well known for his pro-government views—has issued a ruling upholding the State Department’s refusal to disclose information about the controversial decisions to impose import restrictions on coins of Cypriot and Chinese type. The Ancient Coin Collectors Guild and the other Plaintiffs in this suit remain committed to seeking transparency and accountability from the State Department (DOS) bureaucracy and are considering whether to appeal this ruling to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Despite the disappointing decision, this litigation was in many ways a win for the plaintiffs. The mere fact that ACCG and the other Plaintiffs brought this FOIA action forced the State Department to process all the Plaintiff’s FOIA requests–including some that had been ignored by DOS for as much as three years. As a result of this action, literally hundreds of pages of requested text were released and the State Department was prompted to produce documents implicating high level political interference as the reason for the Cypriot decision. Other information stemming from this litigation suggests that State Department personnel added coins to the Chinese request without a formal request from China for that inclusion. The decision rendered by Judge Leon dealt with those items still remaining on the plaintiff’s list that DOS had refused to release. While the plaintiffs obviously would have been happier with a summary judgment on their motion, the process was not without considerable rewards.

The Ancient Coin Collectors Guild still plans to pursue a test case regarding whether those import restrictions were promulgated in an arbitrary and capricious fashion. A copy of Judge Leon’s Memorandum Opinion can be found here.

Symbiosis Lost and Nuance in New York

By Wayne Sayles – Ancient Coin Blog

Ancient coins have existed since the 7th century BC. They attracted the interest of collectors shortly after that and have continued to inspire ordinary people around the world for going on three millennia.

coin_warsDuring the Italian Renaissance, the collecting of ancient coins became so popular that a sophisticated commercial market emerged and numismatic scholarship blossomed. Anyone with sufficient interest and erudition was able to study the past through its coins. The development of numismatics as a science is a result mainly of private collectors and their dedication to the pursuit of knowledge. When academia became aware of the value of coins as voices from the past, coin collectors and professional scholars found that they had much in common and worked closely together. Yes, that was a long time ago.

What we see today is a bitter turf war between private collectors, independent scholars, museums, nationalist governments and archaeologists. What happened to the symbiosis?

Deep within the collecting community, there is still a longing for cooperation and symbiotic support with those academics who dedicate their lives to study of the past. But, the mutual cooperation and respect of those halcyon days is all but gone. The only words that most private collectors hear from archaeologists these day are disparaging. And, in equal measure, the response is unfriendly.

As archaeological blog comments about the recent CPAC hearing on Italy reveal, the symbiosis is all but dead. It is unlikely ever to reappear to the extent that we saw in the 19th or 20th centuries. That is sad from a collector’s point of view, but is it equally sad from the academic archaeologist’s point of view? I am coming to doubt that it is. They have very little use for private collectors and are not reticent to say so. (more…)

The “illicit” antiquities trade

By Wayne Sayles – Ancient Coin Collecting Blog

clutural_nationalismFor the past five years I have read a nauseating stream of blog posts, news articles, discussion list comments and convention presentation reports that condemn the “illicit” trade in antiquities. The fact that anyone might condemn illicit activity is not in itself nauseating, but the ringing of the same bell 24/7 until the brain fogs over in biological rejection is not only nauseating but obnoxious. It reminds me of the parent in a grocery story who repeatedly harps (in the most irritating shrill cacaphony) “Johnny, don’t touch that!” over and over and over until you wish they would take little Johnny and paddle his behind (even though that is certainly not PC these days.) Really, it’s not little Johnny that needs paddling, it is the parent for not approaching the problem with a reasonable and effective solution.

When do the harpies of cultural property nationalism ever talk about the “licit” antiquities trade? From the ratio of ink spilled, one would presume that there is not even a legitimate trade in existence. Never mind that there are laws in Britain and the United States that protect private collectors and the legitimate trade in antiquities. Never mind that countries like Greece, Italy and Israel (among others) have state licensed and regulated antiquities dealers. Never mind that EC rules prohibit restrictions on the legitimate exchange of antiquities between private citizens and businesses within the European Union. Is there a legitimate trade? Of course there is, only an idiot would suggest that there isn’t. But is there any attempt among cultural property nationalists to work with the legitimate trade and private collectors to reduce incidents of archaeological looting? Very little if any, and none that I am personally aware of. In fact, as Executive Director of the ACCG, it has been my observation that the door is not and has not been open to any such collaboration for well more than a decade—and, in fact, the ACCG has tried.

The obsession among cultural property nationalists (especially those archaeologists who blog about the subject) has been to label everything without a documented provenance as illicit. Because much of the trade in antiquities does not require documented provenance, and because provenance is not especially valued by collectors of minor objects, it often does not exist. Consequently, the entire trade is painted with a broad brush as illicit. Excuse me, but that’s an asinine position and one that is a non-starter for any serious discussion. No legal system, short of autocratic government, recognizes a premise where something is illegal unto proven legal. In fact, attempts to create this sort of legal environment have led to several major upheavals in global society. A common coin or a clay pot, that is literally one of millions of surviving specimens, is treated by hardline nationalists in the same light as the Rosetta Stone. They can rave on about context and priceless information, but really, one doesn’t have to think very hard to see through that. (more…)