FY2015 Margaret Thompson Curator of Greek Coins

Public Annual Meeting Report, October 24, 2015

Margaret Thompson Curator of Greek Coins – Peter van Alfen

A great deal of my time this year was directed towards continuing the work on re-cataloging and re-organizing our substantial collection of nearly 12,000 Alexander-type coins, as well as the coins of Alexander the Great’s Argead predecessors. While I was busy with this task, aided by a number of extremely diligent interns, Sylvia Czander, Cynthia Cheng, and Elena Ferrero, our photographer, Alan Roche, continued to churn out thousands of new digital images of these coins. I’m happy to report that we are nearly completed with this massive task.

Aside from the goal of maintaining the collection in the best possible manner, this work on the coinage of the Argeads has also had the added benefit of providing the foundation for PELLA, a new digital tool that we unveiled for the first time just a month ago at the International Numismatic Congress in Taormina, Sicily.

Pella is designed to help in the cataloguing, research, and identification of the coinage of the Argead kings of Macedonia, from Alexander I down to Philip III, including the posthumous coinages of Philip II and Alexander III. This is an international cooperative project with scholars from England, Germany, and France participating so far. And here particular thanks are due to Karsten Dahmen in Berlin, Frederique Duyrat in Paris, and Andrew Meadows in Oxford for their help is getting PELLA up.

Like all of the family of digital tools that our Director of Data Science, Ethan Gruber, has designed, Pella features the ability to search for specific coins types, like Price.4, for example, to see where the type was minted, where hoards with this type have been found.


to see examples of the coin type held in collections around the world, to search for specific coin types using key words, and to do instant statistical calculations of, for example, weights of tetradrachms over time.

At the moment, PELLA has over 3,000 searchable types, and 10,000 coins, all of which are Alexander types. Soon, however, we’ll be adding coins of Philip II and the earlier Argead kings as well.

On the medals side, my efforts this year were focused on continuing work on Art of Devastation, a web-based catalogue and research tool on the medallic art of the First World War that we launched last year to commemorative the centennial of the start of the War in August, 1914. To commemorate the centennial of US involvement in the War, which begin April 1917, we are working now with our colleagues at the Frances Loeb Art Center at Vassar College to hold a multi-media exhibit featuring medals from our collection that will be opened in the spring of 2017.

Once again I directed the Society’s Eric P. Newman Graduate Summer Seminar in Numismatics in June and July, although sadly this year without Rick Witschonke as my co-director. His presence in the Seminar was sorely missed indeed. We were, however, especially pleased to welcome as our Visiting Scholar Prof. Aleksander Bursche, of the University of Warsaw in Poland, a highly distinguished scholar of Roman coinage and archaeology. This year’s crop of seven students hailed from the University of Rome, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Ohio, the University of Chicago, and Harvard University. This wonderfully bright and cheerful group took on a number of challenging projects, supervised by myself, Prof. Bursche, David Yoon, Matthew Wittman, and Gilles Bransbourg, which included studies of the coinage of Axum, the coinage of the Persian satrap Mazaios, Late Roman coinage circulation in the Caucasus, early Anglo-Saxon coinage, as well as die studies of denarii from 13th c. Tuscany and bronzes of Trajan Decius from Antioch.

As he does every year, Alan Roche once again unleashed his creative genius to cook up a distinctive class photo, something that this time included a chromed Corinthian helmet.

The result was something truly exceptional, a tongue-in- cheek poster for the movie Bimetallic Troopers, which includes the Motion Picture Association of America rating of “B” for boring. How he’s going to top this next year, god only knows!

One of the highlights of my research and publication efforts this year was the publication of Fides: Contributions to Numismatics in Honor of Richard B. Witschonke, a volume I co-edited with Michel Amandry and Gilles Bransbourg.

It is a spectacular volume, much like its companion, KAIROS, a volume in honor of Basil Demetriadis. Spectacular not just because of the high quality of the scholarship found on the pages within it, but because it is also physically a work of art, something due to the hard work of those behind the scenes, Andrew Reinhard, Muserref Yetim, and Aadya Bedi, who crafted the book in hand. I’ve no doubt Rick would have been very pleased with the volume.

I have as well continued to oversee publication of the quarterly award winning ANS Magazine, which as Andrew Reinhard showed earlier has seen some exciting new developments this year, thanks in no small part to his skills.

Here I want to stress that like many of the things we do here, the Magazine is very much a group effort. It would not be possible without the hard work of all of the regularly contributing staff, like Elena Stolyarik, David Hill, Oliver Hoover, and Ute Wartenberg, but especially without those who toil on its production: Joanne Isaac, who deals with the advertisements; Alan Roche, who does his magic on all of the images; Andrew again and David Yoon who tweak the words, and Lynn Cole who does the layout.

Return to the 2015 Annual Report