American Numismatic Society
American Numismatic Society



MARGARET THOMPSON ASSOCIATE CURATOR OF GREEK COINS

Peter van Alfen

FY 2013 Annual Report

As in the past, my curatorial activities this year were split between the Greek and medals cabinets. On the Greek side, most of my efforts were directed towards reorganizing our substantial collection of nearly 12,000 Alexander-type coins, which have remained arranged basically as Edward Newell had left them in the late 1930s. Although now almost a quarter century old, Martin Price’s magisterial work, The Coinage in the Name of Alexander the Great and Philip Arrhidaeus (1991), is still the key reference to the series and serves as my guide to reordering our collection. By the time this project is completed, all of our Alexander-type coinage will, at long last, have Price numbers assigned, be physically rearranged according to the Price numbers, and have up-to-date, standardized entries available on MANTIS. Already users will notice more than 4000 new Alexander records, indicating that I’m roughly a third of the way through this mammoth task.


On the medals side, my efforts have been primarily focused on a new project launched this year, directed by myself and Sylvia Karges, on the social and political function of the medal during the Frist World War. Over the course of the next several years (2014-2018), coinciding with the centennial of WWI, we will be rolling out the three parts of this project. The first part, done in collaboration with a number of sister institutions, including the numismatic cabinets in Berlin, Brussels and Vienna, will be an online database of WWI medals. Once launched, this database will serve as a searchable archive of the thousands of medals produced by both sides during the Great War. Already, Ms. Karges and I have identified the 800 or so WWI medals in our collection and have prepared the database records for the project. In addition to the online database, we will be installing a number of exhibits in the coming years and preparing a number of publications that will explore the various roles of the medal during the War vis-à-vis other media, like film, literature, and popular art.



As secretary of the committee of the J. Sanford Saltus Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Art of the Medal, I happy to report that our committee, in its several meetings this last year, managed to select, from dozens of worthy candidates, an awardee for 2014. Since this individual has not yet been informed of the honor, I’ll refrain divulging the name. I can say, however, that in the spring of 2014 I plan to curate an exhibit of this person’s work to coincide with an award event that will include the Scher Lecture on medallic art.


Once again I led the Society’s Eric P. Newman Graduate Summer Seminar in Numismatics in June and July, although this time without my colleague Rick Witschonke’s invaluable help as co-director. Mr. Witschonke plans to return as Seminar co-director in 2014. We were especially pleased to welcome this year Prof. Pere Pau Ripollès, of the University of Valencia in Spain and a renowned specialist on Roman and Iberian coinages, as our Visiting Scholar. This year’s crop of six students hailed from Brown University, CUNY, NYU-ISAW, UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, and the University of Chicago. This wonderfully bright and cheerful group took on a number of challenging projects, supervised by myself, Pere Pau Ripollès, Andy Meadows and Gilles Bransbourg, including ancient Greek cooperative coinages, a die study of later Himyarite Athenian imitations, a die study of the 3rd century BC tetradrachms from Magnesia, monetary systems in fourth century AD Egypt, and the Vandal and Byzantine coinage of Carthage. We look forward to seeing our students’ work in print in the near future.

One of the highlights of my research and publication efforts this year was celebrating the long-awaited publication of Ophthalmologia, Optica et Visio in Nummis at a book signing event in June. This hefty volume, co-authored with Dr. Jay M. Galst, catalogues roughly 1,700 objects in 14 chapters, each of which focuses on a discrete topic, e.g., ophthalmologists, ophthalmological congresses, the blind and their rehabilitation, optical instruments and the eye as a symbol. Dr. Galst and I were also pleased to have an ophthalmogical numismatics article of ours published this year in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association.

Before the end of 2013, another book, a Festschrift for Roberto Russo, edited by myself and Rick Witschonke, will see the light of day. This volume, published by Numismatica Ars Classica, focuses on Greek and Roman numismatics and includes several groundbreaking essays on Roman Republican coinage. I’m pleased to announce as well, that an editorial team consisting of myself, Michel Amandry, and Gilles Bransbourg, are now well underway with a book of essays on mostly Roman topics honoring our good friend and colleague Rick Witschonke. We hope that this book, published by the ANS, will be in hand by this time next year. Besides these book projects, I have completed a number of smaller research projects including articles on a variety of archaic Greek coin problems and medallic art, and have given talks around the globe and closer to home on topics including concepts of Greek minting authority and issues of Byzantine metrology (for details see my CV at numismatics.org or acadmia.edu). I have continued as well to edit and oversee publication of the quarterly ANS Magazine, which again this year won a number of awards from the Numismatic Literary Guild, and I have continued to serve as an editor for the European research journal Notae Numismaticae. My primary research and writing focus at the moment, however, is completing the manuscript of my monograph, Political Economies of Archaic Coinage, a study that analyzes the interactions and intersections of the political and economic realms in the decision processes that lay behind the production of Mediterranean coinages between c. 630 and 480 BC.