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ANS Magazine

Summer 2007 Volume 6 Number 2

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Current Cabinet Activities

by Robert Wilson Hoge

Researchers and Researches

As always, research work at the ANS on behalf of the numismatists (and the curious) of the world presents many challenges as well as much that is of considerable interest to the staff as we assist their endeavors and fulfill their inquiries. Time and again, the ANS’s outstanding resources are utilized in many different ways. In this column, I give readers a taste of the fascinating items that have been under investigation.

The Ancient and Classical World

Pierre-Yves Boillet, from France, studied the ANS collection of Seleucid and Parthian coins from the mint of Ecbatana for a broad study he is conducting (Fig. 1). An assistant at the Université Michel de Montaigne in Bordeaux, Boillet is working on a doctoral thesis on Ecbatana and Media from the time of Alexander III (“the Great”) to that of the Arsacids. His work is being conducted under the direction of Alain Bresson and in collaboration with Koray Konuk, the 2005 Visiting Scholar for the ANS Summer Graduate Seminar. Ecbatana, the great ancient city located where Hamadan, in western Iran, is situated today, was one of the principal mints of the East for centuries. It was plundered a number of times—including by both Alexander and Seleucus—but kept rising again to importance. Sharing the site of a large modern city, the town has never been thoroughly excavated but has yielded many archaeological treasures.


Fig. 1. Seleucid Empire. Seleucus I (312-281 BC). AR tetradrachm, Ecbatana Mint, c. 293-280 BC. Obv.: head of young Herakles (as Alexander), wearing the scalp of the Nemean lion. Rev.: Zeus aetophoros enthroned l., holding long scepter in l. hand; on l., Seleucid anchor symbol above tau-alpha monogram; below throne, alpha-pi monogram. ESM (Newell) 506. (ANS 1982.175.4, gift of William F. Spengler) 25.3 mm.

One particularly attractive example of Hellenistic coinage, struck by Seleucus in his own name but with the types of Alexander, was acquired by the late ANS benefactor William F. Spengler while he was employed by the United States Foreign Office of the State Department, in Kabul, Afghanistan, probably around forty years ago. He reported that, at the time, jewelers were routinely melting such items in their shops to satisfy the popular demand for adornment, which was greater than that for old coins. Finding he could routinely purchase such pieces for essentially their melt value, Spengler fell in love with the numismatics of the region and devoted much of the rest of his life to elucidation of South Asia’s complex coinages.

Correspondent Robert Adams inquired about an ancient Parthian coin he had seen advertised, one he had found to be peculiarly designated “AR 19 Drachm.” He wondered why such a piece might be so described. Since it would be highly implausible to think that this could refer to a nonexistent enneakaidekadrachm, presumably the 19 would have been intended by someone to stand for the coin’s diameter. This sort of convention is more commonly encountered, of course, in reference to ancient bronzes of an unknown denominational name: something like “AE 19”—meaning that a nineteen-millimeter coin is of a copper alloy. It is surely somewhat unusual for a coin to be so described in silver, particularly when one knows the denomination. Any bits of data are potentially informative, however, and it may be noted that in the ANS Magazine’s figure captions we always endeavor to include the millimeter size of the illustrated specimens for reference purposes (Fig. 2). But I “die-gress”...


Fig. 2. Arsacid Parthian Empire. Parthamaspates (c. AD 116). AR drachm, Ecbatana Mint. Sellwood 81.1. (ANS 1944.100.83265, bequest of Edward T. Newell) 18.8 mm.

Roman Republican coinage is a focal interest for Dr. Scott Rottinghaus, who visited the cabinet recently while traveling through New York. He particularly appreciated having a chance to examine some of the very earliest of these issues, the aes signatum (“signed” or “marked” bronze) and early aes grave (“heavy” bronze) series of cast pieces and the “Romano” silver nummi (generally known also as didrachms or staters) (Fig. 3). An important Republican bronze specimen that is currently on display in the nearby ANS exhibit “Drachmas, Doubloons, and Dollars,” at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, is an outstanding example of the ramo secco issue. Reportedly found in or near Fabbri, Italy, and formerly in the collection of the great New York financier J. Pierpont Morgan, this important specimen from the former Strozzi collection was acquired by Morgan from the Sangiorgio sale of April 15, 1907. The fishbone or “branch” pattern on the obverse and reverse of this early piece give it the rubric ramo secco (“dry branch”), by which the type is usually described. At 1,111 g—slightly more than 3.3 Roman pounds—this piece of aes signatum must have passed by weight in the early northern Italian monetary system.


Fig. 3. Roman Republic. Aes signatum series, northern Italy, anonymous, c. 310-280 BC. Haeberlin p. 20, 10; Raymond p. 33, 1; Thurlow-Vecchi AS-1. (ANS 1949.100.2, purchase from Wayte Raymond, ex J. P. Morgan coll.) 83 x 78 mm.

In Roman Imperial numismatics, an inquiry for research suggestions came from ANS member and donor Dr. William O’Keefe regarding a coin that purports to be a version in silver of a bronze coin of the fourth-century usurper Magnus Maximus, from Aquileia. Appearing to approximate a half-siliqua piece, this odd coin looks a bit barbaric. Presumably just a forgery, one might wonder whether it could have been an “unofficial” striking for which the dies had been, somewhat unaccountably, copied from a bronze issue (Fig. 4).


Fig. 4. Roman Empire. Magnus Maximus (AD 383-388). AR half-siliqua, Aquileia, c. 387/8. Obv.: DN MAG MAXIMVS PF AVG; diademed and draped bust right. Rev.: SPES ROMANORVM; gate or fortress with two towers, star above; in ex., SMKOP. Cf. RIC 55(a)1. Collection of William O’Keefe. 15 mm; 1.439 g; axis 6:00 (190°).

Medieval and Modern Numismatics

Images of Spanish Visigothic gold tremisses issued by the kings Leovigild, Recared, Sisebut, Suinthila, Reccesvinth, and Egica, from the important mint of Tarragona (Tarracona), were requested by Huntington medalist Leandre Villalonga Garriga on behalf of Jaume Benages Olivé, who is preparing a corpus of the Tarragona mintages to be presented for the centenary program of the Institut d’Estudis Catalans (Figs. 5-15). Working with these coins in preparation for their photography, I noticed that there was an attribution error on one of them (Fig. 8), which I was pleased to be able to identify and correct: it had been misdescribed as an M. 177(a) and on its box was further misdescribed as an example of Miles 177(e)2 (ex Ferreira). Note the Visigoths’ conservatism in their use of letter punches. The letter R in TARRACO, for instance, is rendered as an A with an annulet added at the upper right to provide the necessary curvilinear stroke. Also note Fig. 10. I include this piece here so as to show something of the remarkable depth of the ANS cabinet in this field; seldom is it possible to examine two such pieces as this and Fig. 9 from the same dies—and here we also have the comparison with the reverse die of Fig. 7, as well.


Fig. 5. Spain: Visigothic Kingdom. Leovigild (AD 575-586). AV tremissis, Tarracona mint. Miles 21. (ANS 1001.57.538, collection of the Hispanic Society of America, gift of Archer M. Huntington) 15 mm.


Fig. 6. Spain: Visigothic Kingdom. Reccared (AD 586-601). AV tremissis, Tarracona mint. Miles 69(c). (ANS 1001.57.543, collection of the Hispanic Society of America, gift of Archer M. Huntington) 19.2 mm.


Fig. 7. Spain: Visigothic Kingdom. Sisebut (AD 612-621). AV tremissis, Tarracona mint. Miles 177(a). Same rev. die as ANS 1001.1.16115. (ANS 1001.1.16128, collection of the Hispanic Society of America) 18.7 mm.


Fig. 8. Spain: Visigothic Kingdom. Sisebut (AD 612-621). AV tremissis, Tarracona mint. Miles 177(b). (ANS 1001.57.560, collection of the Hispanic Society of America) 19.3 mm.


Fig. 9. Spain: Visigothic Kingdom. Sisebut (AD 612-621). AV tremissis, Tarracona mint. Miles 177(c). (ANS 1001.57.561, collection of the Hispanic Society of America, gift of Archer M. Huntington) 18.6 mm.


Fig. 10. Spain: Visigothic Kingdom. Sisebut (AD 612-621). AV tremissis, Tarracona mint. Miles 177(c). (ANS 1001.1.16115, collection of the Hispanic Society of America, gift of Archer M. Huntington) 19.3 mm.


Fig. 11. Spain: Visigothic Kingdom. Sisebut (AD 612-621). AV tremissis, Tarracona mint. Miles 178(d). (ANS 1001.57.562, collection of the Hispanic Society of America, gift of Archer M. Huntington) 18.8 mm.


Fig. 12. Spain: Visigothic Kingdom. Suinthila (AD 621-631). AV tremissis, Tarracona mint. Miles 214(b). (ANS 1001.1.16278, collection of the Hispanic Society of America, gift of Archer M. Huntington) 19.2 mm.


Fig. 13. Spain: Visigothic Kingdom. Reccesvinth (AD 649-672). AV tremissis, Tarracona mint. Miles 356(c). (ANS 1001.1.16513, collection of the Hispanic Society of America, gift of Archer M. Huntington) 19.2 mm.


Fig. 14. Spain: Visigothic Kingdom. Reccesvinth (AD 649-672). AV tremissis, Tarracona mint. Miles 357(e). (ANS 1001.57.582, collection of the Hispanic Society of America, gift of Archer M. Huntington) 17.8 mm.


Fig. 15. Spain: Visigothic Kingdom. Egica (AD 687-702). AV tremissis, Tarracona mint. Miles 427(b). (ANS 1001.57.604, collection of the Hispanic Society of America, gift of Archer M. Huntington) 19.9 mm.

Another Iberian request came from Javier Salgado, who was researching the gold morabitinos of the Portuguese kings Sancho I (1185-1211) and Alfonso II (1211-1223). Fortunately, we do have in the cabinet two nice examples of the former’s issues (Figs. 16-17). In addition, there is in the collection a curious copper specimen that had been carelessly assigned an incorrect accession number (Fig. 18). Apparently, this coin had been miscatalogued years ago as having come from a group of Daniel Parish’s medieval English silver pennies; it was probably a part of another 1893 donation from him (ANS 1893.14). The Salgado request has thus provided an opportunity and an impetus to make a correction in our online database.


Fig. 16. Portugal. Sancho I (1185-1211). AV morabitino, Coimbra mint. (ANS 1001.1.25822, collection of the Hispanic Society of America, gift of Archer M. Huntington) 28 mm.


Fig. 17. Portugal. Sancho I (1185-1211). AV morabitino, Coimbra mint. (ANS 1983.154.1, gift of John J. Slocum) 27 mm.


Fig. 18. Portugal. Sancho I (1185-1211). AE morabitino imitation. (ANS 1893.11.67, gift of Daniel Parish Jr.) 28 mm.

Morabitinos played an important role in perpetuating gold coinage in the West during the period of the Middle Ages when the rest of Europe minted virtually none. The morabitino (its name originating in reference to the Arabic gold dinars of the Almorabids), after evolving etymologically into the name maravedi, became a characteristic denomination for hundreds of years, losing its value and cachet as a gold coin and ending up as a low-valued copper-currency accounting unit.

Famed American numismatist Eric P. Newman, Honorary Trustee of the ANS Board and a Life Fellow, sent a clear pencil rubbing of a curious coin that I was able to attribute for him: a scarce Carolingian obol of Pepin II (or Pepin I) of Aquitaine (840-852) from the mint of Melle-sur-Béronne. Located in a mining region of Poitou, in Aquitaine, Melle was the source of much of the silver in France during that time period (Fig. 19). Scholars have pondered how to identify whether this coinage was minted in the name of Pepin I, the son of Louis the Pious (whom he predeceased in 838) and grandson of Charlemagne, or of his son, Pepin II. Grierson (MEC, p. 218) was confident that the coins were issued under the latter. He felt that the fact that there were a few Aquitanian pieces struck in the name of Louis’ imperial successor, Lothar, demonstrated that an imperial monopoly had been in effect while Louis was alive, and that initially its continuation was anticipated upon his death in 840; instead, however, in Aquitaine the actual succession passed to Pepin II. While not nearly as extensive as we would wish, the ANS cabinet provides a splendid resource for medieval numismatics and is frequently consulted. The collection of Carolingian coins, in particular, helped form the basis for the work of the late former ANS curator Henry Grunthal in Carolingian Coinage, which he coauthored with University of Chicago medievalist Karl Morrison, and the strength of the series is due in part to the close and careful attention Grunthal devoted to it.


Fig. 19. France: Carolingian Kingdom of Aquitaine. Pepin II (AD 840-852). AR obol, Melle mint. M & G 608; MEC 815. (ANS 1961.68.5, purchase: ex Bourgey) 21 mm.

Swedish visitor Anders Frösell made an appointment for studying the bracteate and other medieval Swedish coins in the ANS cabinet emanating from the fine collection purchased in 1929 from ANS Assistant Curator Robert Robertson. Frösell, who is in the process of developing a census, noted the rarity of a number of the pieces, and also the especially high quality of many of the examples in the Society’s cabinet (Fig. 20). One especially noteworthy piece is a bracteate issue of Albert of Mecklenburg (Swedish: Albrekt af Meklenborg), bearing a crowned A between two annulets as its type—one of only four specimens known.


Fig. 20. Sweden. AR bracteate penning, attributed to Albert of Mecklenburg (1363-1389), Vesteras mint. (ANS 1929.103.2052, purchase, ex Robertson Coll.) 13.5 mm.

ANS Life Member Howard A. Minners visited the coin room in connection with his researches on the Aachen Jungheitsgroschen dated 1372-1430. His intention was to attribute these coins to their Menadier numbers, but since the attribution had already been done he was able simply to record the references and check and confirm several attributions (Fig. 21). The ANS cabinet holds some two dozen such coins. On one exceptional piece, the date is rendered using the letter M for the thousands figure, as on earlier dated coins of Aachen. Nearly all other known specimens of this year use the word “millesimo” for one thousand, as on the succeeding coins of 1403 and later. Minners also studied the important undated Pfundner, 1484 Dickguldiner, and 1486-dated Guldiner (guldengroschen) of the Archduke Sigismund of Tyrol—the world’s first precursors of what was to become the “silver dollar” denomination (Fig. 22).


Fig. 21. German States: Aachen. AR “Tournos” groschen, dated 1402. Unpublished. Levinson I-5 (I-5b, with the spelling error SECVDO in the date; and I-5c, with the error CCC instead of CCCC in the date); cf. Menadier 98B; Frey 8; Saurma 2803. (ANS 1970.156.325, gift of Jay Donald Rogasner) 26 mm.


Fig. 22. Austria: Tyrol. Archduke Sigismund (1477-1490). AR guldengroshen, 1486, Hall mint. Moeser 97. (ANS 1960.111.455, purchase, ex Jay Donald Rogasner) 42 mm.

A particularly interesting and unusual portion of the ANS medals cabinet is that of the so-called guild tokens of the Netherlands, mentioned previously in this column in the Spring 2004 issue of the ANS Magazine. This time, the request for a photograph came from Anneloes Burggraaf-Moerman, a descendant of an original owner. Through online research, she had located from our database the 1757 Mason’s Guild piece with the name of Bruyn Moerman hand engraved on its reverse (Fig. 23). The magnificent collection of the prominent New York architect Robert James Eidlitz, which came to the Society in 1940 following his death, included what is probably the foremost array ever assembled of medals relating to architects, architecture, and the construction trades. Among these many items (5,395 pieces) are a number of the individualistic old Dutch guild tokens.


Fig. 23. Netherlands: Amsterdam (Weesp). Obv. within circular line, crown above trowel pointing l.; below, I (a trussel)/ Rev. within circular line, Bruijn/ Moerman/ -:1757:-; below, within rectangular punch marks, (1) crown above column of four Xes (reading inward from 8:00), (2) THM (upside down). Holed and plugged at 12:00. (ANS 1940.100.2331, bequest of Robert James Eidlitz and gift of Mrs. Robert J. Eidlitz) 38 mm.

East and South Asian Sequels

The major project to publish the Society’s extensive collection of coinages of the Kushans has continued to progress thanks to the efforts of Curatorial Associate Peter Donovan (Figs. 24-25). The already large and significant ANS cabinet of Kushan coins was considerably augmented in the late 1990s by the acquisition of the Olivia Lincoln collection, which is only now being fully catalogued thanks to Donovan’s work. The records are being thoroughly updated in light of modern scholarship and recent advances in understanding of the Kushan coinages, as achieved by the authors Joe Cribb and David Jungward. A noteworthy example is the reattribution of the coinages formerly assigned to a ruler speciously called “Heraios” or “Heraus.” Cribb (1993), having marshaled persuasive evidence that this had been an erroneous classification all along, prefers to read the wording that appears on the coin as an allusion to a native term for “ruler.” As a result, the ANS Sylloge will undoubtedly become the most complete and authoritative work in the field.


Fig. 24. Central Asia-India. Kushan Empire, Kujula Kadphises, c. AD 10-55. AE unit (imitating the issues of the late Indo-Greek Hermaios). SNG-ANS (Bopearachchi) 1510. (ANS 1944.100.74930, bequest of Edward T. Newell) 19 mm.


Fig. 25. Central Asia-India. Kushan empire, Kujula Kadphises (formerly attributed as an imitative issue of “Heraus”) c. AD 10-55. AR tetradrachm, Tokharistan. Mitchiner 514. (ANS 1995.51.328, gift of Harry W. Fowler) 29 mm.

Some months ago I had occasion to address an inquiry that had been submitted by Bob Feiler to the Chicago Coin Club regarding a curious Islamic piece. This item was identified for him by ANS members Robert D. Leonard Jr. and Warren Schultz as what is referred to as an Indian temple token or “Rama-tanka.” The author of the standard reference on these (A Guide to the Temple Tokens of India) is Irwin Brotman, who has turned over to the ANS his research notes and collections developed in preparation for a future new edition, so it seemed advisable to me to make mention of this interesting series and explicate the piece a bit further. Although Islamic in context, this example was part of a rather extensive tradition—mostly Hindu in character and relating to the Indian cultural epic, the Ramayana. These tokens were probably mostly on the order of pilgrim’s souvenirs, obtained and cherished as amulets or charms. Many surviving pieces show traces of having been mounted.

The earliest of the Rama-tanka tokens may date back to the sixteenth century (some are imitations of rupees of the great Mughal emperor Akbar, 1556-1605), but Brotman observed that some were still being produced at the time of the publication of his work. Brotman’s type T, obv. 19 and rev. 16, seemed closest to the Feiler piece variety (Figs. 26-27). Its obverse inscription reads Madina sharif (“noble city”). The reverse was standard for many Muslim coins, although rendered in rather crude Perso-Arabic script. Within its central panel, referred to by Islamic specialists as the “area,” appears the abbreviated first part of the Muslim declaration of faith, the Shahada or Kalima: “There is no God but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God” (La ila illah ullahu, Muhammad rasul Allahu). In the four marginal segments around the area are the names of the first four (orthodox) caliphs: top, Abu Bakr; bottom, ʿUmar; left, ʿUthman; and right, ʿAli (written backward).


Fig. 26. India. Islamic “temple token,” n.m., n.d. Brotman T-16. (ANS 2002.2.84, gift of Irwin F. Brotman) 27.8 mm.


Fig. 27. India. Islamic “temple token,” n.m., n.d. Brotman T-19. (ANS 2002.2.87, gift of Irwin F. Brotman) 29.3 mm.

Latin American Meanderings

After visiting our coin room and studying the coins featured in this column in the Winter 2006 issue of the ANS Magazine, Mexican coinage expert Clyde Hubbard sent me some detailed notes on pieces in the collection in order to upgrade our database. Meanwhile, Roger Lima Calera inquired about coins and banknotes of Cuba from the colonial era, the period ending with the Spanish-American War of 1898. Like many individuals, he was looking for Web pages and valuations helpful to a collector. Author Carlos León Jara Moreno visited the cabinet to examine issues from early Honduras and Haiti (Figs. 28-29). Interestingly, early Tegucigalpa issues replicated the obsolete designs derived from the hand-struck macuquinas coinages of the eighteenth century from the Lima mint. Luis Roberto Ponte Puigbo returned for further study of early Venezuelan coins and tokens housed in the Society’s extensive Latin American collection, in connection with his participation in the New York International Numismatic Convention. Dr. Minners availed himself of his opportunity, while studying other ANS items in the cabinet, to examine the scarce 1732- and 1733-dated machine-made coins of Mexico (Fig. 30).


Fig. 28. Honduras: Tegucigalpa (under Mexican authority). AR 2 reales, 1823. (ANS 1915.12.1, gift of Howland Wood) 26 mm.


Fig. 29. Haiti. Henri Christophe. AR medal, 1801, commemorating the establishment of religion and law. (ANS 0000.999.32065) 38.6 mm.


Fig. 30. Spanish Colonial Mexico. Philip V (1700-1746). AR 8 reales, 1732-F. KM 103. (ANS 1947.135.1, gift of Robert I. Nesmith) 40 mm.

United States: Appreciating Americana

Regarding U.S. coinage, we receive almost constant inquiries concerning new issues and possible “discoveries” of one kind or another on the part of individuals. Often these turn out to be merely “two-headed” quarters (or other denominations) fabricated by joining two carefully machined coins as novelties or for “magic” acts—or perhaps dishonest gambling. Other frequent “finds” consist of different kinds of conjectured mint errors as well as various forgeries, like the perverse “Blake & Co.” and “Parsons & Co.” pioneer gold pieces.

There are, of course, also serious inquiries from serious numismatists. Following my presentation on the collection of American colonial coins in the Society’s cabinet, given at the C4 (Colonial Coin Collectors Club) Convention at the Bay State Coin show toward the end of last year, Jacques St-Arnaud responded by requesting a listing of pieces in the French colonial series (Fig. 31). Our collection of such items is impressively extensive. The coins have all been catalogued, and their records, including their mintmarks, are available to researchers via our online database. Of course, we are always happy to bring awareness of the ANS collection and our available services to a wider audience.


Fig. 31. France (for French Colonial Canada). Louis XIV (1643-1715), AR 5 sols, 1670-A (Paris). (ANS 1967.99.4, gift of Ambassador and Mrs. R. Henry Norweb) 21.2 mm.

An attorney at law in Liechtenstein, one Dr. Hannes Mähr, contacted me claiming that one of his clients charged him with the disposition of his Panama-Pacific San Francisco International Exposition commemorative coin set of 1915. Sending an image showing what appeared to be one of the rare, original double sets of this famous issue, he wanted to know whether it might have substantial value and what sort of “procedure” I might “consider the most appropriate to sell a coin set of that kind.” Recalling that a renowned American firm had handled two of these sets not long before, fetching record prices, and that they had the knowledge and expertise to advise him appropriately, I suggested the possibility that they might be able to help him. Then I heard nothing more. One always wonders at the seeming naïveté of such inquiries... are they some sort of “scam,” like the notorious Internet Nigerian bank account confidence scheme, or are there really such hidden treasures still “hiding out” all over the world? We routinely refer correspondents to professional dealers in the numismatic community around the country and almost never receive feedback from the original inquirer. I am always curious about the outcome of these questions.

Our guest, 2006 Krause-Mishler Forum speaker Dr. Ian Wiséhn, director of the Royal Coin Cabinet at the National Museum of Economy in Stockholm, Sweden, made a significant discovery in the collections under his care. He reported back to me, following his visit here, the details of one of the foremost American Indian Peace medals, one that somehow found its way into the Swedish national collection (Fig. 32). Because this is one of the very rare, middle-sized Thomas Jefferson hollow silver medals—of the kind of which Lewis and Clark carried a few specimens on their great expedition to explore the Louisiana Territory—in outstanding condition, it seems a worthy adjunct to our own collection items presented for the members in the ANS Magazine.


Fig. 32. United States. Thomas Jefferson, AR Indian Peace medal, 1801, by John Reich or Robert Scot; hollow, three-part construction. Julian IP-3. (Collection of the Royal Coin Cabinet, the National Museum of Economy, Stockholm, Sweden) 76 mm (with loop and ring attachment, 93 mm).

Another of the great items in the medals cabinet that was recently requested as an additional subject for publication was a later example of the rare and popular series of Indian Peace Medals (Fig. 33). This was the ANS’s important original silver example of the rare Andrew Johnson medal, presented by Rachel Barrington and Robert Eidlitz in 1915—a very handsome representative of this issue. Ninety of the medals in this large (76 mm) size, as well as another ninety in the smaller (63 mm) size, were minted from December 1865 to January 1866. It is estimated that around thirty of the former are extant today, and more of the latter.


Fig. 33. United States. Andrew Johnson, AR Indian Peace medal, by Anthony C. Paquet. Julian IP-40. (ANS 1915.160.1, gift of Rachel T. Barrington and Robert James Eidlitz) 75.2 mm (excluding the loop clamped onto the rim).

Other Medallic Series

A considerable amount of my routine work could be said to fall into the category of curating the Medals Department. There are cases where it transpires that I cannot be of much help to investigators, but there are others where, using the resources of the ANS Cabinet and Library, we are able to provide information or images. Work with the medals can occasionally seem to be somehow more difficult and time consuming, but it is invariably interesting in terms of what kind of items can come to our attention.

From Pine Pienaar came an inquiry concerning a medal that matched a specimen in the ANS cabinet, located via our database catalog. This is a handsome memento of the Anglo-Boer War, an issue honoring Marthinus Theunis Steijn (or Steyn, 1857-1916), the last president of the Orange Free State and one of the leaders against the British invasion (Fig. 34). A popular lawyer who was born in the state but studied abroad, Steijn was appointed as his country’s equivalent of Attorney General in 1889, and in 1893, as first puisne judge of the high court (the common-law South African equivalent to associate justice of the United States Supreme Court). Steijn’s decisions as a judge won him a high reputation, and he was decisively elected president of the Free State in 1896. Following a series of provocations, he joined with the Transvaal in declaring a state of war against the British Empire. Many are the leaders of times past who have dropped out of the conscious memory of today’s world. It is fortunate that some have been honored by medals.


Fig. 34. South Africa. AR commemorative medal, 1902. Obv.: portrait bust of Marthinus Steijn, facing; M.T. STEIJN STAATSPRES. VAN DEN ORANJE-VRIJSTAAT. Rev.: a wounded lion; VERWOND MAAR NIET VERWONNEN (“more wounded than wounding”); artist’s initials B.U. (ANS 0000.999.53449, gift of Robert J. Eidlitz; probably part of ANS 1927.192) 60 mm.

Steijn ran a government in hiding while playing a key role in the resistance and guerrilla tactics that made up most of the conflict of the Boer War. Although the imperial war machine may have been cumbersome and inefficient, the rebellious Boer territories were methodically overrun and large numbers of the noncombatant population put into lethally severe concentration camps. Steijn was regarded as one of the most irreconcilable of the Boer leaders, but he steadily preferred and sought peace, attempting to pursue diplomatic solutions. By mid-1902, a victim of the great wartime stresses placed upon him and of the surrender of the Boers, he was stricken by the autoimmune neuromuscular disease myasthenia gravis. Steijn took the oath of allegiance to the British crown in 1904, his health partly restored, and returned to South African politics. Serving as vice president of the Closer Union Convention (1908-1909), he was distinguished for his statesmanlike and conciliatory attitude while maintaining the rights of the Dutch community. He collapsed and died while making a speech in 1916.

An example of the popular Society of Medalists second issue medal, by Paul Manship (1930), was one of a group of nice twentieth-century American items that Damyanna Mendoza “ran across” not long ago, leading her to make an inquiry when she “googled” the parallel specimen in the ANS cabinet (Fig. 35). Information on medals generally seems to be less readily accessible than that for coins, no doubt because there are fewer and less comprehensive reference works available. The ANS’s searchable database can help significantly in tracking down information and is becoming more and more frequently consulted. Manship’s is undoubtedly the most desirable single issue in the delightful Society of Medalists series. In its context, this whimsical creation may be considered a social harbinger in terms of its “antiprohibitionist” subject matter—a tribute to drinking and wine!


Fig. 35. United States. Society of Medalists, silvered-bronze semiannual subscribers’ medal, second issue, 1930, by Paul Manship, Medallic Art Co. Obv.: Dionysus, 3/4 l.; below, a kalyx (an ancient Greek wine cup); HAIL/ TO/ DIONYSUS/ WHO/ FIRST/ DISCOVERED/ THE/ MAGIC/ OF/ THE/ GRAPE. Rev.: two satyrs crushing grapes in a vat. On edge: THE SOCIETY OF MEDALISTS SECOND ISSUE. P.MANSHIP 1930. Noble.223ff. (ANS 1988.124.2, gift of Stack’s) 71 mm.

The Director of the Finnish National Coin Cabinet, Dr. Tuukka Talvio, and his wife, Anja, recently visited the cabinet during a trip to New York. While here, they were able to examine a selection of medals from Finland that were presented to the Society (and some purchased) in the 1920s and 1930s, including a fine group of original pieces by the remarkable Gerda Qvist. Since this part of the collection has been largely uncatalogued, the occasion was a stimulus to work on this important material. I found that the splendid 1923 Qvist medal honoring the great Finnish national composer Johan Julius Christian Sibelius was in fact a 1924 gift to the collection from the indefatigable ANS Librarian Sidney P. Noe, and have thus been able to add it to our database with an accurate accession number (Fig. 36). On this attractive piece, the great Finnish national composer has been depicted with a highly unusual collar and truncation, giving the work a striking distinction. Qvist’s devotion to the original Renaissance medal forms of Pisanello are clearly evident, while her modernist taste brings an inventive feel to the work.


Fig. 36. Finland. AE Jean Sibelius commemorative medal, by Gerda Qvist, 1923. Boström 1, p. 156, 2. (ANS 1924.123.1, gift of Sidney P. Noe) 90 mm.

May 20 to 21 of this year marks the eightieth anniversary of the redoubtable Charles A. Lindbergh’s pioneering solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean, so it is unsurprising to have received inquiries regarding numismatic memorial representations of this significant event. “Lucky Lindy,” the “lone eagle,” was subsequently honored by many medallic commemorations, of which none is perhaps more majestic than the Lindbergh Congressional medal by Laura Gardin Fraser (Fig. 37). It features a strikingly accurate and lifelike Renaissance-style bust of the aviator, horizontally truncated and wearing his flying gear, on the obverse, with an almost breathtaking, somewhat stylized eagle soaring above clouds and sunbeams over the horizon of the world on its reverse.


Fig. 37. United States. AE Charles Lindbergh Congressional medal, 1928, by Laura Gardin Fraser. (ANS 0000.999.3274) 70 mm.

Truly, interest in the ANS cabinet runs a gamut of subject matter and requires the staff to address many areas of numismatics, only a few of which can be encapsulated here. We do welcome inquiries and encourage everyone to utilize the Society’s remarkable online database, available at http://numismatics.org. We are also pleased to host visits from serious researchers from around the world. Contact us. Come visit us. Learn and enjoy!

Bibliography

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Brotman, I. F. 1970. A guide to the temple tokens of India. Los Angeles.

Cribb, J. 1993. The “Heraus” coins: their attribution to the Kushan king Kujula Kadphises, c. AD 30-80. In Essays in honour of Robert Carson and Kenneth Jenkins. London.

ESM = Newell, E. T. 1938. The coinage of the eastern Seleucid mints from Seleucus I to Antiochus III. New York: ANS.

Frey, A. R. 1914. The dated European coinage prior to 1501. New York.

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Noble, J. V. 1988. The Society of Medalists. Coinage of the Americas Conference, Proceedings No. 4: The medal in America, 223-247. New York: ANS.

Raymond, W. 1953. The J. Pierpont Morgan collection: Catalogue of the Greek and Roman coins, Abukir medallions [and] Roman gold bar. New York: W. Raymond.

Saurma = [Saurma-Jeltsch, Hugo, Freiherr von]. 1892. Die Saurmasche Münzsammlung deutscher, schweizerischer und polnischer Gepräge von etwa dem beginn der Groschenzeit bis zu Kipperperiode. Berlin: Adolph Weyl.

Sellwood, D. 1980. An introduction to the coinage of Parthia. 2nd ed. London: Spink and Son.

SNG-ANS = Bopearachchi, Osmund. 1998. Sylloge nummorum graecorum. The collection of the American Numismatic Society: Part 9, Graeco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek coins. New York: ANS.

Thurlow-Vecchi = Thurlow, B. K., and I. Vecchi. 1979. Italian cast coinage: A descriptive catalogue of the primitive cast bronze money of ancient Rome and her dependencies. London: V. C. Vecchi & Sons; Dix Hills, N.Y.: B. & H. Kreindler.

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