From the Collections Manager (Winter 2006)

by Elena Stolyarik

Since the previous issue of the ANS Magazine, the departments have acquired, and the Collections Committee approved, a number of impressive purchases and several generous gifts.

From the Classical Numismatic Group Auction 142, the ANS obtained a fascinating electrum coin (no. 39) of uncertain type (Fig. 1). The coin had been identified originally as an Ionian half stater, but was reattributed by William Bubelis as a rare issue of c. 500 BC, from the mint city of Eion, in Macedonia.

Fig. 1. Macedonia. Eion. EL half stater, c. 500-450 BC (ANS 2006.35.1, purchase). 8.0 mm, 1.19 g.

By private arrangement, the ANS purchased an exquisite and extremely rare large cast bronze medallion by Augustus Saint-Gaudens (Fig. 2). This relief of Victory is dated to c. 1905 and related to the head of Victory that Saint-Gaudens modeled in connection with the monument of General Sherman. Charged by President Theodore Roosevelt to improve the quality of United States coinage, Saint-Gaudens sculpted a number of designs. His head of the figure of Victory from the General Sherman monument became a combination of Victory with Peace (NIKH-EIPHNH) and was proposed for the cent. It is important to mention that Saint-Gaudens, the designer of the United States’ most beautiful coins, was closely connected with the ANS and officially represented the Society at the Paris International Exposition of 1900.

Fig. 2. United States. Victory-Peace (NIKH-EIPHNH). Cast bronze medallion, c. 1905, by Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907) (ANS 2006.37.1, purchase). 35.5 x 39.4 cm.

A group of twelve beautifully preserved and framed gilt bronze medals by Anthony De Francisci (1887-1964) was also acquired by purchase (Fig. 3). In the center of the presentation panel is a large (160 mm) uniface medallion dedicated to Abraham Lincoln, THE GREAT EMANCIPATOR, showing the president’s bust to right and his facsimile signature. Below it is a uniface medal of 1962, with an image of a beautiful female profile to left with the slogan, A THING OF BEAUTY IS A JOY FOR EVER. Among the other masterworks of De Francisci in this set are a commemorative medal dedicated to the American Civil War, depicting a cavalryman and uniformed bust of General Robert E. Lee (1807-1870); a medal commemorating completion of the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant in 1963; an official 1964 New York World’s Fair medal; an award medal for “XCELLENCE” in physical science; as well as the bronze shells of a medal commemorating the Hundredth Anniversary of Public Service by the one of the largest chains of grocery stores in the United States, the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company (A&P), with images of famous members of the Hartford family dynasty: George H. Hartford, John A. Hartford, and George L. Hartford.

Fig. 3. United States. Group of twelve framed gilt bronze medallions, by Anthony De Francisci (1887-1964) (ANS 2006.38.1-12, purchase). 21 1/8 x 36 7/8 inches, framed.

A fine addition to our medal collection came from ANS Life Fellow Frank L. Kovacs. This is a medal bearing a handsome, realistic image of antiquarian Charles Roach Smith (1807-1890), coauthor of Stevenson’s well-known Dictionary of Roman Coins as well as an early student of lead commercial seals (Fig. 4). The Smith medal was designed by John Pinches (1825-1905), a prominent British die engraver and medalist who worked for the Birmingham and British Royal Mints and founded the famous Pinches Medallions firm. Several variants of Pinches’ famous “Opening of the Crystal Palace” medals are in the ANS collection. This latest piece is a nice adjunct to our previous holdings of Pinches’ medallic works.

Fig. 4. Great Britain. London. Charles Roach Smith (1807-1890), bronze medal, 1890, by John Pinches (1825-1905) (ANS 2006.39.1, gift of Frank L. Kovacs). 57.1 mm.

A bronze Argentine medal of 1968, commemorating the Eighth International Regatta in Buenos Aires, was received by the Society from Richard Burnes (Fig. 5), while the North-West Territorial Mint kindly provided two pieces for our U.S. Medals collection. The first of these was a silver issue of the Illinois Commemorative Medallion Program, bearing an image of Abraham Lincoln. Jeff Murray, a graphic artist with Northwest Territorial, used for this medal a famous image of the sixteenth president beautifully sculpted by Charles Vickers (Fig. 6). The second medal of this donation, designed by Chief Designer of the Northwest Territorial Mint Steven R. Lundberg, is a “merlin gold” alloy (brass) example issued in 2000 to celebrate the sesquicentennial of California’s admission to the union in 1850 as the thirty-first state (Fig. 7). Entitled “Destiny,” this medal was dedicated to the people, both past and present, whose vision and hard work have led to the great destiny California enjoys.

Fig. 5. Argentina. Buenos Aires. The Eighth International Regatta. Bronze medal, 1968 (ANS 2006.40.1, gift of Richard Burnes). 61 mm.

Fig. 6. United States. The North-West Territorial Mint. Abraham Lincoln. Commemorative medallion, 2001. Silver proof, by Jeff Murray (ANS 2006.41.1, gift of North-West Territorial Mint). 39.4 mm.

Fig. 7. United States. The North-West Territorial Mint. “Destiny.” Official California Sesquicentennial Medallion. “Merlin gold” alloy (brass), 2000, by Steven R. Lundberg (ANS 2006.41.2, gift of North-West Territorial Mint). 39.1 mm.

Our collection of modern U.S. tokens acquired new examples from ANS fellow Anthony Terranova, while a generous donation of the modern coins of 2006 came from Dr. David Menchell. Among these are individual commemorative silver issues and proof mint sets, including Euro coinages (nickel-brass; cupro-nickel)—productions of the mints of Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Luxemburg, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

Current Exhibition

In November, ninety-three electrum and gold objects from the ANS’s ancient Greek, Roman, Medieval, Islamic, Latin American, and United States coin collections became a part of an exhibition entitled “Gold” at the American Museum of Natural History, in New York City. This major featured exhibit reveals the role that this rare metal has played in the daily lives and cultural beliefs of people from ancient to modern times. The ANS coins (Figs. 8, 9, 10, 11), together with natural gold, treasures from shipwrecks, and extraordinary objects from Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Columbia, and Peru, will be on display through August 2007.

Fig. 8. Asia Minor. Uncertain mint. EL stater, c. 600-500 BC (ANS 1967.152.433, Mrs. Adra M. Newell bequest). 18 mm.

Fig. 9. Attica. Athens. AV stater, c. 296-294 BC (ANS 1967.152.274, bequest of Adra M. Newell).

Fig. 10. Roman Empire. Caligula (AD 37-41). AV aureus. Lugdunum mint (ANS 1944.100.39330, bequest of Edward T. Newell). 19 mm.

Fig. 11. Colonial Brazil (under Portugal). John I. 1810. Gold bar no. 5756, 23 1/4 carat, 7 oitaves 54 graos. Obv.: Crowned arms of Portugal. Rev.: Portuguese globe emblem (ANS 1960.166.281, gift of B. Peyton). 15 x 75 x 2 cm.

In December, the Alexander S. Onassis foundation organized, with the collaboration of the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, an exhibit on the two most prominent city-states of ancient Greece: Athens and Sparta. The exhibition examines the development and flourishing of the two cities, starting from the eighth century BC, their joint efforts during the Persian War, and, finally, their confrontation during the Peloponnesian War. Among ancient artifacts, many of which will travel abroad for the first time, are such treasures as the fifth-century BC marble bust of the helmeted Spartan warrior known as Leonidas, a fifth-century BC marble Athenian Kore from the Acropolis Museum, bronze figurines of hoplites from Sparta from the eighth to the sixth century BC, arrowheads and spearheads from the famous battlefield of Thermopylae, and a black-figure Laconian kylix of the sixth century BC from the Vatican Museums. Legendary objects from the American Numismatic Society, such as the Athenian decadrachm (Fig. 12) and the Kimonean decadrachm of Syracuse (Fig. 13), were lent to accompany these specimens. Together with numerous pieces from American, Greek, and European cultural institutions, the ANS’s coins will be on display in the Onassis Cultural Center in New York until May 2007.

Fig. 12. Attica. Athens. AR decadrachm, ca. 465 BC (ANS 1949.119.1, gift of Wayte Raymond, ex J.P. Morgan coll.). 39.020 g.

Fig. 13. Sicily. Syracuse. AR decadrachm of Kimon, ca. 405-400 BC (ANS 1944.100.55820, bequest of Edward T. Newell). 35 mm, 42.3 g.