Volunteer Impressions (Winter 2004)

by Rick Witschonke

Those who read my brief article in the last issue of the ANS Magazine may remember that I have been working as an ANS volunteer since January of this year. Picking up where I left off, since July, things have continued to be busy and exciting.

On July 14, I gave my talk on the cistophorus coinage to the ANS Summer Seminar students. Then, on July 29, I got to hear four of the students report on the fruits of their research during the Seminar. All of the papers were interesting, and it was exciting to see young minds being introduced to the power of numismatics as a research tool, and to the tremendous resources (coins, books, and people) of the ANS.

In August, Elena Stolyarik approached me and asked for my help on a small project. Apparently, during the move, a tray containing about 100 antoniniani of the emperor Probus had been jostled, and many of the coins were no longer in their proper boxes. The Society’s collection of this coinage is quite extensive, so there were many very similar coins. The boxes each had an attribution, usually to Roman Imperial Coinage, and in most cases, the weight of the specimen. So I spent several hours weighing each specimen, and looking them up in RIC to match them to their proper box. Finally, I got them all back where they belong, and even discovered one very old attribution error in the process.

In September, I began work on two other interesting projects. The first involves helping Dr. William Metcalf (former Chief Curator at the ANS, and now Curator of Coins and Medals at Yale University) with a book he is working on. The book, to be published by the ANS, is a complete die study of the Proconsular cistophori. Charles Hersh was working on the catalogue when he died, and Bill has picked up the manuscript and is working to complete it. I am helping by working with the ANS editorial staff to format the digital images Bill is providing into plates that are ready to print. We are hoping to have the book out sometime next year.

The second project also relates to my old friend Charles Hersh. When Charles was on a Fullbright Scholarship to study Numismatics at the British Museum in the early 1950s, he spent a lot of time visiting European Coin Cabinets (he visited 27), and recording all specimens of Roman Republican denarii with symbols on them. (There are many such issues, some with hundreds of different symbols, and these have never been comprehensively published). Charles then compiled all of this information, including complete citations for each symbol, in a 235-page manuscript volume. This unique volume now represents the most comprehensive compilation of this material, and I thought it deserved to be published. When I discussed my idea with various ANS staff members, Sebastian Heath made the excellent suggestion that we publish on the ANS Website (rather than in hard copy) in order to make the information available broadly, and at low cost. Fortunately, Charles’ handwriting is very neat, so we will be able to scan the pages directly, rather than have to typeset them. In any event, Frank Campbell (ANS Librarian) graciously made the volume available, and I am in the process of scanning it. I will then work with Sebastian Heath to make the pages available on the ANS website, and provide access to the relevant page based on a Crawford number. It should provide a useful tool for scholars studying Roman Republican coinage, as well as collectors and dealers.