Category Archives: News

New Print-on-Demand Program

The American Numismatic Society is proud to announce a new print-on-demand (POD) program.

Every month the ANS will release 4–10 out-of-print and new titles as official POD editions, from recent monographs to the earliest numbers from series such as Numismatic Studies and Numismatic Notes and Monographs.

What are this Month’s Books?

Numismatic Commemorations of the 200th Birthday of George Washington in 1932 (by Sydney F. Martin)
NEW BOOK! 600 full-color pages. Available in hardcover and paperback editions.

Faustina the Younger: Coinage, Portraits, and Public Image (by Martin Beckmann)
NEW BOOK! 182 full-color pages. Available in hardcover.

White Gold: Studies in Early Electrum Coinage(edited by Peter van Alfen and Ute Wartenberg with Wolfgang Fischer-Bossert, Haim Gitler, Koray Konuk, and Catharine C. Lorber)
PREVIOUSLY OUT-OF-PRINT717 full-color pages. Available in hardcover and paperback editions.

Coins of the Ptolemaic Empire, Part 1: Ptolemy I through Ptolemy IV (vol. 1, Precious Metal; vol. 2, Bronze) (by Catharine C. Lorber)
PREVIOUSLY OUT-OF-PRINT. 992 total pages! Available in hardcover and paperback editions.

Why Print-on-Demand?

Many popular ANS titles are now out-of-print. POD rescues these and offers affordable, high-quality editions using the original design and images from the first printing.

Our print-on-demand books and journal issues are officially branded by the ANS at prices often significantly lower than the resale market. 

On occasion, new ANS books will be published directly as POD, saving readers time and money in receiving new volumes.

How Does It Work?

Click the links above to place an order, or visit the ANS Store and search/filter for “POD” or “Print on Demand”. Click the “Add to Cart” button and proceed to check-out. The ANS Member discount of 30% applies to POD books just like it does for new titles. Because of supply chain issues affecting the availability of paper, books will ship directly to you from the printer in approximately 2–3 weeks once your order is received.

Winner of the ANS’s Collier Prize Announced

James M. Collier, self-portrait after Memling (2006).

In 2020, Carole Anne Menzi Collier established the Collier Prize in Ancient Numismatics at the ANS, a new award offered for the first time in 2021. The Prize is named after her late husband Professor James M. Collier and commemorates the life of a remarkable man, an ardent lover of the history and culture of Europe and the Ancient world, and a passionate collector of ancient Greek and Roman coins. A feature on the life of Prof. Collier was published in ANS Magazine 2020, vol. 4, an excerpt of which can be found here.

This substantial monetary prize is to be awarded every third year to the best single or multi-authored book, catalogue, or online digital work in the field of ancient numismatics (650 BCE to 300 CE). The winner(s) receive prize money of $20,000, to be split equally in the event of a multi-authored work. For the initial prize, eligible publications were limited to those works published in 2019 or 2020. A jury of five senior numismatists appointed by the President of the American Numismatic Society reviewed the nine works submitted this year for the contest and, after a protracted period of study and discussion selected the winner of the 2021 Collier Prize based on the judging criteria of the quality and accuracy of the work; the scale and scope of the work; and the potential impact and audience.

At the Annual Meeting held on October 23rd, the winner was announced: Roman Imperial Coinage (RIC) vol.II.3 on the coinage of the Emperor Hadrian from AD 117 to 138 (London: Spink, 2019) by Richard Abdy. This new volume is a substantial reworking of the RIC volume (2C) that included Hadrian’s coinage published nearly a century ago. In addition to the lengthy introductory essay, itself a masterwork of scholarship, Abdy presents a catalogue of over 3,000 types of coins produced under the rule of Hadrian, along with those for Sabina, Aelius and Antoninus Caesar. Included as well are the medallions produced under Hadrian, a catalogue of which Peter Franz Mittag contributed to the volume.

Richard Abdy has worked at the British Museum since 1993 and since 1998 has been a curator of Roman coins in the Department of Coins and Medals. Aside from his award-winning RIC volume, Abdy has published widely on Roman coinage and has long been involved in recording Roman coin hoards in England. An award ceremony will be announced in the coming months.

Managing the Collection: An Interview with Dr. Elena Stolyarik

Dr. Elena Stolyarik, Collections Manager at the American Numismatic Society, has held nearly every single one of the Society’s over 800,000 objects. As a critical member of the curatorial staff, the Collections Manager diligently maintains the Society’s vast, encyclopedic holdings of coins and currency, medals and money—all behind the scenes. Dr. Stolyarik’s background in museological, archaeological, and numismatic methods gives her a unique perspective on the purpose and function of the ANS. Prior to coming to the ANS in 1994, she led the Numismatic Department at the Odessa Archaeological Museum, excavated at Tyras on the Black Sea, and was a research associate at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. In an interview at the Society’s headquarters in New York City, Dr. Stolyarik and Assistant Director Austin Goodwin Andrews discussed her work and the particularities of the Society and its holdings.

Austin Goodwin Andrews: What is the role of the Collections Manager at a research institution like the ANS, where object care and curation are so intermingled? 

Elena Stolyarik: First of all, it means that you are a part of the professional team of one of the oldest museums and research institutions in the United States. The Society has been dedicated to researching numismatic objects and popularizing the field of numismatics since it was founded in 1858. Over the past 163 years, the Society obtained the objects in its collection from a range of sources, including from generous donations, bequests, and purchases. These and any new acquisitions should be properly maintained, preserved, and archived according to established museum practices and procedures. As the Collections Manager, I have several obligations. I register and manage documentation for all new museum objects, including accessioning and deaccessioning, cataloging, inventories, and other records. All of us in the curatorial department share responsibilities. We work as a team to ensure the collection is well cared for, documented, and made accessible to the public and for research. Because every one of us can replace each other when necessary, these are our mutual jobs.

AGA: I enjoy reading your column in the ANS Magazine with highlights of recent acquisitions. Before you write these, I know a lot of work goes into processing objects and accessioning them to be part of the Society’s collection, officially. What does the process of accessioning look like at the ANS?

ES: To accession objects, I prepare a list of gifts or purchases for the Trustees to approve. After approval, I register them, assign a group number, and then catalogue each object individually. We have a computer program set up with the correct fields. I indicate what we received and from whom we received. I write a short description and give each item its unique accession number. The curators also assign accession numbers, but I often accession Greek, Roman, and Byzantine coins and for the Medals Department.

Before we accession objects, we need to be sure that they have a proper provenance, especially for ancient and medieval coins. We need to confirm that an object was not stolen from an excavation or taken illegally out of another country; we need to be sure that nobody will claim that this is their property. After accessioning, I give materials to our exceptional photographer, Alan Roche, and I write about a few examples for the magazine. When Alan is done with photographing, we insert them into the appropriate trays in our vault. When someone visits for research or a curator needs to find something, we need to know exactly where everything sits. Objects are grouped by periods, mints, or another system. If we have twenty coins from Roman Alexandria from the second or third centuries, they need to be inserted with the other coins from this mint, according to chronology. On the back of the box, we indicate who made the donation. 

Before our move to digitizing the collection, this process was done on a card the same way books are processed in a library. Now, I register and catalogue on our computer program and this creates an electronic record. We also make records of what we’ve cataloged available publicly with high-resolution images through our online collections database, MANTIS. After that, we have another back-up record: I put all of this information in our huge accession book.

AGA: You’re also involved with exhibitions and oversee all of the loans we make to other institutions. While the ANS regularly loans objects to major museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art here in New York or the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, we have loans to much smaller organizations, too, like the Bechtler House in rural North Carolina. What are some interesting examples of loans you’ve helped arrange? 

ES: This is also my job: to keep track of loans, to process new loans, to renew loans, for sending insurance and loan agreements. Along with the curatorial staff, I provide consultation services, help with selections and installations of our objects, and serve as courier to the borrowing institutions to accompany our loans. Today, we have over 380 objects on view in permanent, temporary, and traveling exhibitions. We don’t have space for a big exposition here at the ANS, but we maintain our own Exhibition Hall with several cases on display to introduce our visitors to the history of numismatics. At the end of the year, the curatorial staff organizes a display with new annual acquisitions.

When we had the original screw-press for the gold Bechtler dollars in a popular exhibit at the Federal Reserve, someone visiting from the Bechtler House saw it there and coordinated requesting the loan. This unique artifact became the centerpiece in their exhibition at the historic home of Christopher Bechtler in Rutherfordton, North Carolina. This is very important because, year after year, people can now visit this house and they can see real history: not only the coins, but they can see how these coins were produced.

We had another interesting experience participating in an unusual exhibit organized by BVLGARI, known for its glamorous luxury products. This show, which was organized at their flagship store on Fifth Avenue, connected ancient Rome and the luxury brand since it was founded in Rome in 1884. It provided an opportunity to display some extraordinary objects from the ANS Roman Department, including a portrait coin of Julius Caesar and a remarkable example of a silver tetradrachm of Mark Antony and Cleopatra, among others.

We have objects at some of the best museums in the US and abroad. The Met often has objects from the ANS for temporary exhibits—such as their successful World between Empires exhibit about art and identity in the ancient Middle East—but they also prominently display our numismatic objects in their permanent exhibits.

I can think of many other interesting examples. The Jefferson Foundation at Monticello has displayed our silver Thomas Jefferson Indian Peace Medal since 1992 and War and Peace in Miniature: Medals from the American Numismatic Society was recently on temporary display at the Education Center at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. For several years, an exhibition organized by the American Museum of Natural History, called GOLD, traveled with over 70 gold coins from our collections and the Israel Museum presented a temporary exhibit with our material dedicated to the extraordinary discovery of Herod’s tomb at Herodium. The Block Museum of Art organized a traveling exhibit, Caravans of Gold, about cultural and economic exchanges across the Sahara Desert in the medieval period. This show was exhibited at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto and then traveled to the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC, where it will be on view until February 2022. All of these loans make our collection even more accessible to people around the world. Coins and medals and other objects from the ANS enrich exhibitions with sometimes very different topics.

AGA: This year has seen a lot of important discourse around how we collectively acknowledge and commemorate aspects of the past. Unlike memorial statues or public plaques, the money and medals in the ANS collection are contextualized, studied, and criticized without necessarily glorifying what they represent. How can the collection be a tool for education and deeper inquiry into these subjects? 

ES: It’s why museums are so important. Each museum aims to preserve knowledge for many generations—information which should be accessible not for one year or two years, but it should be for a thousand years. For me, it’s about the preservation of historical sources. This is our mission and it’s an educational mission. We preserve to teach. 

To examine an idea, you should use as many different sources as you can, to understand it. For history, this can include different literary sources, archaeological sources, and also numismatics. You can look at ancient coins, like the coins of Lysimachus or Ptolemy, and you can see faces. This is astonishing because you can see what they really looked like or how they wanted to be seen from thousands of years ago. I believe numismatics is a valuable kind of evidence for history and for teaching about the past. The Virginia Museum of History and Culture displayed the Society’s Butler silver medal of the Army of the James, which was given to Black soldiers in the Civil War, who were integral in winning the war and abolishing slavery in United States. It might be surprising, but this is why it’s important to see and learn the stories from these objects. 

Along with written historical sources, epigraphic, archaeological, and numismatic sources are a materialization of the past. I still believe that you cannot remove from history difficult events, that you cannot erase the past. You can only learn from it. Coins and other artifacts show us how the world really was in a particular time and place, what was valued and who was in power. Coins are not just dead objects. They can talk, if you listen—if you really want to listen. This is ultimately the purpose of our collection, to allow for this kind of careful study.

AGA: Over the years, you have supported many scholars and researchers as they access the collection to conduct their research. From your perspective, what are the most studied areas of the collection and which could use more attention? 

ES: The current most popular areas for study at the ANS are ancient numismatics, medals, and US material. A lot of people—especially from universities—visit to research ancient material because it’s the basis of their thesis or part of some study. The medieval and Islamic collections are less studied, but that, I think, is due to colleges not offering as many courses in the same way. Classes on the ancient Mediterranean exist and classes on the ancient Roman economy exist, but there are fewer programs in medieval studies like this. We have a brilliant curator of our Medieval Department, David Yoon, who is a well-educated historian, archaeologist, and numismatist. He’s currently leading our new project to digitize the medieval collection, which will put more images and updated information on our database. David does a lot to popularize this area of study and this project will open new opportunities for new research.

Because we are in the United States, there are many people interested in American history—and the ANS’s collection includes a large number of items in the US portion of the Medals Department and in the American Coins Department. On the other hand, if you look at our Summer Seminar, it’s less common for graduate students to come and research US material, even though there are many people interested in American numismatics. Right now, it’s wonderful for us to have someone who is so knowledgeable like Jesse Kraft, who is the Assistant Curator of American Numismatics. I see big potential for our new curatorial staff like him and Lucia Carbone, the Assistant Curator of Roman Coins, who is very hard-working and energetic.

Our chief curator, Peter van Alfen, is also great because he understands people, as a colleague and as an educator. His expertise in the Greek Department and passion for medallic art continues to drive the traditional areas of study at the ANS, while he also spearheads many of our recent innovations and digital efforts. All of our curators are very educated and professional; they conduct their own research and enjoy supporting other scholars and institutions for their research, too. We have very enthusiastic people here at the ANS. Along with our collection, this is our great strength.

Royal Numismatic Society Awards Gilljam Prize to George Watson

The Royal Numismatic Society has awarded its Gilljam Prize for Third-Century Numismatics to George Watson’s book, Connections, Communities, and Coinage: The System of Coin Production in Southern Asia Minor, AD 218–276 (Numismatic Studies 39). The prize, awarded every two years, recognizes the book or article that represents the best contribution to the numismatics of the third century before the reform of Diocletian.

“I am honoured to receive this prize,” Watson said, “which has been awarded to many distinguished scholars of third-century numismatics in the past. I am very grateful to the ANS for producing such a beautiful book that is worthy of this honour.”

Connections, Communities, and Coinage addresses the system of coin production in the regions of Pamphylia, Pisidia, and Cilicia during the third century AD, radically reappraising the numismatic evidence of die-sharing between cities in Southern Asia Minor.

The ANS congratulates Watson on this achievement.

Order the book from our distributors Casemate Academic (US only) and Oxbow Books (rest-of-world).

ANS Acquires Mark Salton Papers

Thanks to the efforts of ANS life fellow Dr. Ira Rezak—and with gratitude to Katharine Conroy, executor of the Estate of Lottie Salton Revocable Trust—the ANS Library and Archives has acquired about 20 cubic feet of Mark Salton’s papers and annotated auction catalogs. This follows a bequest of $500,000 from his wife Lottie to help sustain a chair for Medieval and Renaissance numismatics. I would also like to thank ANS fellow Normand Pepin for his help with the auction catalog portion of the accession.

Lottie and Mark Salton

Mark Salton, born Max Schlessinger in 1914, came from a family of bankers and numismatists in Germany. His father, Felix, opened his own numismatic firm in Frankfurt in 1928, which he later moved to Berlin. As the Nazis gained power, and Jewish businesses came under increasing attack, he moved his family and business to Amsterdam. After the Germans invaded Holland in 1940, the Schlessinger business facilities, numismatic inventory, and library were seized. Mark went into hiding, eventually making his way to Belgium, then to France and Spain, and finally to neutral Portugal in July 1943. Learning that his parents had been killed at Auschwitz, Mark emigrated to the United States in 1946. Two years later he met another refugee, Lottie Aronstein, and the two were married several months later. Mark attended New York University, earning a master’s degree in international banking. He established his numismatic firm in the 1950s, specializing in ancient and foreign coins. (For more on Mark Salton, see Dr. Ira Rezak’s obituary for his friend in the Spring 2006 issue of ANS Magazine.)

The papers include documents relating to Mark Salton’s efforts to recover books and numismatic property taken by the Nazis from his father Felix Schlessinger’s firm, as well as research on medals of the Renaissance and other topics

Even a cursory look at the papers reveals fascinating documents. Perhaps most interesting and important are those relating to Salton’s efforts to recover the objects and books taken by the Nazis from his father’s business. These range in date from the 1940s to the time of Mark’s death in 2006. The earliest are written in the chilling bureaucratic style characteristic of regimes practicing lawful plunder, such as those requesting reports from the “liquidation trustee” assigned to Felix’s “Jewish enterprise.”

ANS librarian and archivist David Hill examines some of the auction catalogs at the Salton apartment

Also included is correspondence from the 1940s and 50s with the Dutch dealer Jacques Schulman, a long letter from a later date containing Mark’s reminiscences about Hans Schulman, materials relating to an exhibit of the Salton’s collection of Renaissance and Baroque medals and plaquettes at Bowdoin College, documentation on the Saltons’ various donations to colleges and to the ANS, and materials relating to Mark’s scholarly research, including a copy of his master’s thesis, The Financing of the Italian South (1966).

From Mound House to Manhattan, Part I

As many of you know, the American Numismatic Society purchased the archives of the Medallic Art Company (MACO) at a bankruptcy auction in 2018. The sheer size of this purchase, however, did not allow for the tale to end so quickly. Within weeks of the landmark purchase, components of the collection were shipped to various corners of the country. The medals and paper archives from MACO moved to the ANS headquarters in New York City; the dies and hubs were transferred to Medalcraft Mint, Inc., in Wisconsin, who is generously storing them for the ANS at the moment; and the galvanos, die shells, and plasters took a short drive to Mound House, Nevada, less than five miles from Dayton—where MACO last operated.

By early 2020, with a good portion of the medals catalogued, the ANS began to think about the parts of the collection that remained out of reach. While we were headlong into making plans, however, the COVID-19 pandemic altered reality for most people and put a halt to everything that we hoped would happen. Along with the rest of the world, the ANS heeded to CDC guidelines, masked up, and waited for life to find some semblance of normalcy.

The time has come, however, for the next chapter in the MACO saga to begin! With the third and most recent wave behind us, vaccines becoming more-readily available, and infection rates dropping by the day, the ANS is in the planning stages to transfer all of the galvanos, die shells, and plasters from Mound House to Manhattan (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. This image only shows about one-third of the boxes with MACO material that are currently stored in Mound House, Nevada. The other two-thirds are on the other side of the wall to the left.

Unlike the galvanos that many numismatists are already familiar with, these were not meant to be sold to interested buyers, but are all production galvanos, made for the sole purpose of creating dies to strike medals. Nearly the entire run of MACO products is represented in production-galvano format. To put quantity of this portion of the collection into perspective, just the material in Mound House equates to about 17,000 objects that are stored in roughly 1,400 boxes, which are situated on about 90 pallets and will likely take four (4) tractor trailers to completely move across the country. Given the size, these early stages have been no easy undertaking and involved three major tasks: organizing what we know exist to efficiently absorb the collection as it arrives, finding a location to store the material, and locating a long-haul trucking company.

The first step in the process was to organize the pieces that we have records for. To do this, I had nothing else but to rely on more than 20,000 photographs that were taken as the collection was packed up in 2018. At the time, knowing that this would likely be the last that any of this material would be seen for at least a few years, the ANS hired Lou Manna Photography, of Reno, Nevada, to image as many as he could (Fig. 2).

Figure 2. Lou Manna Photography and a dozen local college students helped photograph as much as they could in a less-than-favorable timespan.

Fully aware of the magnitude of the task at hand, Manna brought along a dozen college students to aid in streamlining the photography process, box the material, and load them onto pallets. Within the frame of each image, Manna included an individualized 5-digit barcode number to aid in keeping track of them. That same 5-digit barcode was then applied to the outside of the box in which they were stored, and a photograph of the outside of the box was also taken (Fig. 3).

Figure 3. One of the many images that show the pallets of boxes as they were loaded prior to their move to Mound House. There were 156 of these images to go through in order to begin to capture the contents of each box.

This was the only documentation that existed concerning the contents of each box—no paper records were kept during this process. While, unfortunately, time ran out and photographs for only about 10,000 galvanos were taken, they have proven indispensable in this early stage. All of the images were placed on a hard drive, handed over to the ANS, and sat quietly in New York City for the next three years.

The images were not taken in vain! With this triangulation, I was able to cross reference the photographs of each galvano with a box and a pallet. I made a gargantuan Excel spreadsheet and populated a single column with a list of boxes. The corresponding rows were then filled out with the 5-digit number unique to each piece. This painstaking process took several days to accomplish, but what was I going to do with the information? All I had was a list.

While I am not the final decision-maker on what pieces the ANS will ultimately keep forever and which we will not, we had already set some basic guidelines as to what we wanted. I knew that there are some obvious “keepers” and some obvious “non-keepers,” and knew that the list could be helpful in moving forward. For the following three weeks, I went through each of the 20,000 images, made a preliminary curatorial decision as to the fate of that piece, and highlighted the 5-digit number on my list either in green, for keep, or in red, for dispose of (Fig. 4).

Figure 4. A portion of the spreadsheet compiled to help organize the pieces prior to actual shipment. Those highlighted in green represent pieces that the ANS will potentially retain, while those highlighted in red are those the ANS may decide to not accession into the collection.

Basically, my opinion of the piece with the parameters in mind. Moving forward, this list will now be used for two purposes: (a.) to become the basis for how we present the collection committee with the objects the ANS would like to disperse, and (b.) to become the basis for the order in which each box is physically loaded into the truck for the 2,700-mile journey.

Some amazing pieces were uncovered during this process, too. Some important pieces included the galvanos for a series of medals that represent the Twelve Tribes of Israel as designed by Salvador Dalí; those for the 1940 medal of Clyde Trees—the manager of MACO who transformed the small company into an industrial medallic art factory—as sculpted by John Ray Sinnock; and nearly forty different galvanos that portray members of the Arapahoe, Cheyenne, Crow, Kikapoo, Oglala Sioux, Osage, Pawnee, and Wichita nations sculpted by Edward Sawyer between 1904 and 1912 (Fig. 5).

Figure 5. The raw photo files for three important galvanos—each important for very different reasons. (Top) A galvano designed by famed artist Salvador Dalí which represents the Tribe of Gad—one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, (middle) The galvano for the 1940 medal of Clyde Trees by John Ray Sinnock, and (bottom) the galvano for the Navajo Chief, Tja-Yo-Ni by Edward Sawyer in 1904.

This last group is among the most important groups of Native American ethnographic renderings in any medium, perhaps second only to the paintings by George Catlin in the 1830s. While many of the MACO galvanos are of extreme importance or artistic mastery, these truly are priceless American artifacts.

The second main task for the move from Mound House to Manhattan was to find adequate storage near the ANS headquarters so we can start to process the material. If you have ever visited the ANS, you will know that it would be impossible to fit a warehouse worth of material into our already-tight quarters. Truth be told, this was the phase of the move that I thought might give the biggest headaches, as space in New York City (storage or otherwise) is not cheap and we needed the material relatively close by in order to actively process it. Fortunately, a particular website that specializes in commercial properties, had hundreds of potential storage spaces listed. Aside from being close by, the ANS had at least two other requirements: a relatively-small space (ca. 2,000 square feet) combined with a relatively-low rate (ca. $20 per square foot per year). The site allows for potential renters to enter these parameters into search queries in order to narrow the results. This left just two (2) locations available! From the images alone, one location immediately proved inadequate from a security point of view which left just one potential location that met all of our needs (Fig. 6).

Figure 6. An interior view of about one-half of the location where the galvanos, die shells, and plasters from Mound House will reside and wait to be processed at the ANS headquarters in Manhattan.

After meeting with the landlord and viewing the space, the ANS decided that the undisclosed location was perfect for our needs. Although finding the location proved easy, the process certainly proved more difficult and drawn-out once the real estate brokers and lawyers became involved. In the end, we got a great deal!

Of course, all of this would be for nothing if the ANS could not physically move the items. Therefore, in addition to organizing tens of thousands of images and hunting down adequate storage, I have also been in regular communication with a series of commercial freight trucking companies and have narrowed it down to four potential companies. Through this last process, however, I found out that trucking companies do not necessarily need ample time to take an order. In fact, they don’t even offer quotes that are good for more than 30 days—largely due to the fluctuating cost of fuel. Furthermore, in most cases they can provide service with as little as 24 hours’ notice, unless the product is extremely hazardous or extremely fragile—neither of which pertain to the galvanos, die shells, or plasters.

This is the first of a three-part series. The next installment will highlight the trip to Mound House to actually implement what I had planned while sorting the images and creating the Excel spreadsheet. Please stay tuned for “From Mound House to Manhattan, Part II,” to be published here on Pocket Change ca. mid-June 2021.

Treasure (Rhode) Island? Henry Every and Yemeni Coins found in New England

1837 woodcut depicting Henry Every receiving the treasure from the Ganj-i-Sawai onto his ship, the Fancy.

In a remarkable shift away from the incessant drum-beat coverage of COVID-19 developments,  on 1 April 2021, the Associated Press ran a story about a handful of small silver coins from seventeenth-century Yemen found by metal detectorists in New England and the theory advanced by Jim Bailey that these coins actually represent pirate plunder. In fact, he argues that they are the remains of plunder taken by Henry Every (also written as “Avery”) in one of the most famous pirate actions of the seventeenth century—the taking of the Mughal ship Ganj-i-Sawai (“Exceeding Treasure”) while returning from Mecca to Surat in 1695. The story was quickly seized upon and embroidered by online news outlets over the week that followed. This is perhaps not overly surprising. The readiness with which the Associated Press has picked it up and other news outlets have run with it is clear testimony to the story’s popular exciting qualities. Indeed, if one listens carefully one can almost hear Johnny Depp somewhere in the distance asking us if we are “savvy” to the whole thing. However, as with most astounding discoveries and anything even remotely endorsed by Capt. Jack Sparrow, it is usually a good policy first to sit down, take a deep breath, and then take stock of the actual evidence to determine whether it can really support the weight of the claims piled on top of it. 

Qasimid silver khamsiya of al-Hadi Muhammad III dated AH 1105 (AD 1693/4) similar to coins found in New England. ANS 1971.229.3.

But first, a little background that seems to have been missed. Although the Associated Press piece reports that Bailey “found the first intact 17th-century Arabian coin in a meadow in Middletown [in 2014],” he was actually preceded by the hosts of the National Geographic Channel’s Diggers, who discovered one in 2013 and sought the assistance of the ANS in identifying it. The identity of the coin was subsequently published and it appeared in the Diggers episode “Mystery Coin,” which aired on 4 March 2014. Bailey’s find coin as well as several others were published in the August 2017 issue of the Colonial Newsletter along with his theory associating them with Every and the plunder of the Ganj-i-Sawai. Inexplicably, the Colonial Newsletter as the original publication is not mentioned in the Associated Press item, but is bizarrely misidentified in many of the secondary media reports as “the American Numismatic Society’s research journal” or the nonexistent Journal of the American Numismatic Society, etc.). The American Numismatic Society’s research journal is actually the American Journal of Numismatics (AJN)  but Bailey has never published there.

Although the case for associating finds of coins in New England with Every and the Ganj-i-Sawai can be read in full online thanks to the availability of the full run of the Colonial Newsletter on the Newman Numismatic Portal, his argument rests primarily on three main pieces of evidence:

1. In 1695, when the Ganj-i-Sawai was seized by Every and his piratical colleagues after departing from the Yemeni port of al-Makha (Mocha), the ship is known to have contained thousands of silver coins.

2. After political and economic fallout from the plunder of the Ganj-i-Sawai caused King William III to issue a proclamation calling for the capture of the pirates responsible, some (Bailey suggests 72) of Every’s associates made their way to the American colonies (especially Rhode Island and Carolina) with their loot in the hope of evading the long arm of the law.  

3. Of four Yemeni coins found in Rhode Island and Massachusetts that can be dated with any accuracy, none post-date the capture of the Ganj-i-Sawai.

The first two facts indicate how coins plundered from the Ganj-i-Sawai could have come to New England, but do not prove that they did, or that if they did, the coins in question must have been Yemeni khamsiyat (corrupted in contemporary seventeenth-century English as comassees). The case is very problematic because it begins with the assumption that the coins had to have come from the Mughal ship and pays little serious attention to the possibility that they could have been brought back by American merchants involved in the East African slave trade, the Yemen coffee trade, or by pirates other than Every and his accomplices. Bailey argues in the Associated Press piece that “there’s no evidence that American colonists…traveled to anywhere in the Middle East to trade until decades later” (i.e., after the plunder of the Ganj-i-Sawai) and yet in his Colonial Newsletter article the “overlapping business interests of piracy and the East African slave trade” (p. 4607) are noted with respect to the New York ships Margaret and Nassau in 1699 (only four years after the Ganj-i-Sawai incident) and Every and his colleagues are suspected to have come to Newport, Rhode Island, under the guise of East African slave dealers (pp. 4601–4605)—an odd thing to do if this trade did not yet really exist. Even if we set all of this aside, whatever contextual evidence there may be for any of the found Yemeni coins cannot tell us precisely when they arrived in New England or in whose pockets.

Ottoman silver kuruş of Mustafa II dated AH 1106 (AD 1694/5). ANS 1993.11.12.

As much of the silver on the Ganj-i-Sawai was said to have been that of “Turkish merchants,” one might have expected it to have included many Ottoman kuruşlar—large silver coins introduced in in 1688 that were roughly equivalent to European thalers—that would have been far more appropriate for large-scale trade with Mughal India than low-denomination comassees. And even if large quantities of khamsiyat were taken by the pirates, as Bailey himself notes, they were at pains right away to convert as many of the silver coins as possible into more easily transportable gold. John Dann, one of Every’s accomplices, was later arrested in Ireland, given away by the large numbers of gold chequins (perhaps Ottoman sultanis, Safavid Persian ashrafis, or Mughal mohurs) sewn into the lining of his coat! There also may have been some conversion into Spanish silver, judging from the bags of reales that another of the pirates had in his possession when apprehended in Ireland.

Ottoman gold sultani of Mehmed IV dated AH 1078 (AD 1667/8). ANS 1997.65.4870.

The third fact presented by Bailey is of extremely dubious value, not only because the sample size is much too small to be meaningful, but because it may not be truly factual. With one exception, all of the khamsiyat listed by Bailey are issues of the Qasimid imam Muhammad III ibn Ahmad (1686–1717). When dates are not visible (or present), the coins of this Yemeni ruler can be dated to three chronological periods based on his titulature. Issues naming him as “an-Nasir” were struck in the period 1687–1693, those naming him as “al-Hadi” in 1693–1697, and those naming him as “al-Mahdi” in 1697-1718. Therefore, if all the Yemeni coins found in New England were struck prior to the plunder of the Ganj-i-Sawai, there should only be issues in the name of “al-Nasir” and “al-Hadi.” However, Bailey includes two coins of “al-Mahdi” (one of which is his discovery coin) in his list of New England finds (p. 4582, Table 2). These are almost certainly errors for “al-Hadi” which is very clear on the discovery coin (p. 4582, Table 2, no. 1), but illegible on the second specimen (p. 4582, Table 2, no. 7). However, the close similarity of the latter’s reverse legend to a third coin, clearly struck in the name of “al-Hadi” (p. 4582, Table 2, no. 3), suggests that Bailey’s No. 7 is also an “al-Hadi” issue.  

Qasimid silver khamsiya of al-Hadi Muhammad III found by Jim Bailey. As published in the Colonial Newsletter 164 (August 2017), p. 4575, Fig. 1.

Bailey’s discovery coin is critically important for the question of potential connection to Henry Every and the Ganj-i-Sawai because it is the only coin recovered with a visible date. In his article, this date is interpreted as AD 1693, which fell in January–August AH 1104 and September-December AH 1105, but he does not indicate which Hijri year was actually read on the coin. The year AH 1104 is normally written ١١٠٤ in Arabic while 1105 is written ١١٠٥ (see the ANS specimen above for this date and note the difference between the final numeral there and that on Bailey’s coin). Neither of these forms seem to closely match the numbers that appear on the coin. Upon close inspection, the date on Bailey’s coin appears to read ١١٠٨ or AH 1108, the Hijri year that extended from 31 July AD 1696 to 20 June AD 1697 (I am grateful to Dr. Jere Bacharach for confirming the AH 1108 reading of the date). If the date is correctly read here as AH 1108, the coin was struck too late to have been carried off from the Ganj-i-Sawai. Every and his pirates captured and plundered the Mughal ship on 7 September 1695 (i.e., at the beginning of AH 1107) whereas if the coin bears an AH 1108 date, as seems to be the case, at the very earliest it could have been struck only shortly before the proclamation of 8 August 1696 that began the manhunt for Every and his associates. It should go without saying that an AH 1108 date is an insurmountable problem for Bailey’s popular theory.

The preceding discussion seems to scuttle the idea of closely pinning seventeenth-century Yemeni coins found in New England on the fallout from one of the most famous acts of piracy of the period. The celebrity status that Bailey’s theory would lend to the coins must walk the plank, but perhaps casting the infamous glory of Henry Every and the Ganj-i-Sawai into Davey Jones’ locker should not be cause for disappointment. The stardom that Bailey has attached to Yemeni coins with New England find contexts actually obscures the real importance of the coins, which should be linked to other reported finds of Mughal and related Islamic coins in North America. They all serve to underline the fact that the early American colonies did not exist in a vacuum, but rather belonged to global networks of trade and cultural interaction (and piracy), and that enterprising individuals could and did profit from these networks if they were willing to undertake the great dangers of sailing half a world away.

The Making of a Numismatic Short Film

At our 2021 Gala, the American Numismatic Society premiered a new short film by Pascal Perich, The ANS: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. In just under seven minutes, the film traces 162 years of notable people and pivotal moments in the Society’s history, as narrated by the first curator in its professional staff, Agnes Baldwin Brett (1876–1955). Throughout the film, Baldwin Brett wanders around our contemporary headquarters as a sort of benevolent ghost.

She reflects on the origins of the ANS as a small group of enthusiasts, its expansion during her life in the early twentieth century, and our development into the renowned collection, library, publisher, and member organization that we are today.

Pascal Perich—the photographer-videographer who created the film—brought unique vision and perspective to the project. He was, in fact, tasked with the concept on wildly short notice. After several successive plans fell through unexpectedly, the team responsible for producing entertainment for the gala and a new video introducing the ANS was at a loss. A month before the scheduled premiere, our Executive Director, Dr. Gilles Bransbourg, went home, desperate, and mentioned our troubles to his wife. Olivia Bransbourg, an entrepreneur well-connected to a network of creatives across the globe, immediately thought of a solution. One can imagine Olivia calmly shrugging and saying, certainly this is a job for Pascal, the artist. Olivia saved the day and Pascal delivered, even beyond what we expected.

Examples of Pascal’s creative work can be viewed on his website and, as can be seen from this selection, his typical photography and film projects focus primarily on portraiture. In my view, Pascal accomplished a vivid double portrait with The ANS: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, of Agnes Baldwin Brett as an individual and of the Society as an organization. Arriving at the ANS with fresh eyes and an insatiable curiosity, Pascal was clearly in awe of the range of material he encountered as he toured the facilities. Seeing the library, archives, and collection for the first time, like many of us, he was drawn into the people and stories behind each object. 

What struck me in the process of the production of the film was how each person involved found personal connection in the stories being told. Emily Eagen—the voice actress who narrates as Baldwin Brett—is a noted whistler and expressed wonder at the depths of seemingly niche communities. “Somehow,” she told me, “We manage to find each other.” Pascal and Arina Voronova, the actress who portrays Baldwin Brett, are both photographers and loved seeing Baldwin Brett’s fascinating archival photographs. Many of these have been digitized and are available online. One particularly salient image of Baldwin Brett features in the film. She poses, shawled, with her camera on the deck of the S.S. Palatia, a rare moment of the photographer captured on the other side of the lens.  

I also noticed a parallel between Baldwin Brett and our chief curator, Dr. Peter van Alfen, as he showed our guests around the ANS. Dr. van Alfen is not only Baldwin Brett’s direct successor as the primary caretaker of the ANS’s Greek collection, but they share other similarities. Like Baldwin Brett, who most famously published The Catalogue of Greek Coins for the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Dr. van Alfen is a scholar of ancient Greek coinages. Along with his extensive research in ancient numismatics, Dr. van Alfen writes actively on more recent medallic art and, also like Baldwin Brett, has published the catalogues of medallic art exhibitions.

Another parallel is a bit more buried but bears mentioning. Baldwin Brett narrates in the film that “while women have long played an important role in our organization, I am proud to know that we have recently elected our very first woman President.” Baldwin Brett and Dr. Ute Wartenberg, the former Executive Director and current President of the ANS, also have important commonalities beyond that they represent important firsts in the organization’s history. In fact, in White Gold: Studies in Early Electrum Coinage, Dr. Wartenberg draws directly on Baldwin Brett’s publications for her article “Was there an Ionian Revolt Coinage? Monetary Patterns in the Late Archaic Periods.” Notably, Dr. Wartenberg cites The Electrum Coinage of Lampsakos and “The Electrum and Silver Coinage of Chios” in her die study to corroborate and correct Baldwin Brett’s claims with a more robust set of data.

Image result for agnes baldwin and ernst babelon

Beyond these plutarchan parallels, there are a few fantastic but subtle artistic choices folded into the film worth highlighting. At its start and close, Baldwin Brett is surrounded with genuine realia and relevant objects from her life. “The more authentic, the better,” Pascal gleefully insisted. The books on her desk are Baldwin Brett’s own publications and books from her personal library—as well as photographs, correspondence, and other ephemera now housed in the John W. Adams Rare Book Room of the ANS Archives. Above her right shoulder is a painting of a very mustached Ernest Babelon, the noted French numismatist and honorary member of the Society who regularly visited the old ANS New York headquarters at Audubon Terrace. To put his status in context, he was listed in Society proceedings in 1917 alongside the Director of the US Mint and several kings and princes as one of only eighteen honorary members of the ANS.  Ultimately, the whole set was designed in homage to a photo of Babelon and Baldwin Brett, the painting of Babelon standing in for his somber visage. 

In her review of significant scholars and donors associated with the ANS, Baldwin Brett remarks that Edward Newell’s “diligent scholarship transformed our Society” as she displays his book, The Coinages of Demetrius Poliorcetes, with her own ex-libris pasted in the front cover. This reminds me of her own diligent and transformative scholarship. Baldwin Brett was the second individual to ever receive the prestigious Archer M. Huntington Medal Award for numismatic research; she was also the second American to receive the Medal of the Royal Numismatic Society—Newell being the first in both cases. You can learn more about Agnes Baldwin Brett in her entry in ARCHER, the online archives of the ANS, and in this wonderful Spring 2005 article from the ANS Magazine, written by Aviva Gray. 

The past is caught up in the present in delicate and direct ways. Forgive me if I veer too far into the poetic, but, watching the film, I never imagined Agnes Baldwin Brett as haunting the space, but instead as more of a visitation—or bibliographic citation, even—as a blur of memory and presence, knowledge and acknowledgement. In the film’s conclusion, Pascal used an image of Baldwin Brett sitting in a votive niche above the sanctuary of Aphrodite near Eleusis. Her eyes are closed and it’s hard to not think of her as looking transcendent, fixed in a locus of margin-less time.

You can watch the full film, The ANS: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, above or directly on the ANS YouTube channel.

Virtual Conference on the Witschonke Collection

The Decline of the Carthaginian Empire. Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851).

Coinage of the Roman Provinces before Provincial Coinage: The Richard B. Witschonke Collection

March 23–25, 2021

Co-sponsored by the American Numismatic Society and the Ph.D. Program in History at the Graduate Center, CUNY

Register by March 22

This three-day conference, co-sponsored by the ANS and the Ph.D. Program in History at the Graduate Center, CUNY, will feature contributions by the foremost scholars in the field. The papers will offer a numismatic and historical overview of each region represented by the coins in the R. B. Witschonke Collection.

It may come as a surprise to learn that as the Romans came to dominate the Mediterranean world, they ruled most of it without imposing their own coinage. Yet this was typical of the Romans’ pragmatic attitude to imperialism, and their tendency to retain any existing forms of effective organization in newly conquered territories. Indeed, it is now generally recognized that we should not talk of “the Roman economy” as a single phenomenon. Instead we should conceive of it as a group of substantially separate regional economies that were yet strongly interconnected through tribute payments and the movements of armies and goods. Although payment in kind played an important role in the Roman world, coinage was still paramount in transactions between the provinces and Rome. To understand those interactions, it is thus important to research the manifold ways in which local coinages converged, at least partly, to create compatible monetary systems across the Roman Empire. 

The Roman Provincial Coinage series offers an incomparable tool for the study of the coinages issued in the Roman provinces and client kingdoms from the age of the Civil Wars onward, but does not include the local production in those regions in the preceding decades. The 4,000 coins included in the R. B. Witschonke Collection at the ANS, mainly dating from the second and the first century BCE, provide the prologue to the study of Roman Provincial coinage. Most of the specimens are of great historical and numismatic value, as they illustrate the gradual transition from distinct to compatible monetary systems in the Mediterranean basin. While exhibiting an extraordinary variety in appearance and weight, the coins of the collection tell the tale of a partial convergence toward the Roman monetary system before the inception of the so-called Roman Provincial coinage in the second half of the first century BCE. The ways in which this convergence took place are manifold, spanning from imitations of Roman Republican denarii from Romania and Gaul to the lead tokens of Spain, from Aesillas’ tetradrachms in Macedonia to the Romano-Sicilian coins in Sicily, local coinages and pseudo-mints in Central and Southern Italy. The collection thus offers a unique overview of the diverse ways in which the monetary systems of the Mediterranean basin responded to the Roman conquest in the second and early first century BCE and to the related necessity of interconnectivity. 


March 23

Chair: Andrew Meadows

Coinage in the Roman Provinces before RPC: introductory remarks

8:15–8:45 am EST Welcome and opening remarks

8:45–9:30 am EST Hidden power indeed: the surrogate coinages used by the Romans in Greece and Asia Minor (François de Callataÿ)

Roman influence on late Hellenistic coinages in the East

9:45–10:30 am EST Cistophoric Mysteries (Lucia F. Carbone)

10:30–11:15 am EST Ghosts of the Seleucid Empire in the RBW Collection (Oliver D. Hoover)

11:30 am–12:15 pm EST Some Cilician coins from R.B. Witschonke Collection at the ANS (Annalisa Polosa)

12:45–1:30 pm EST Coins of Samaria and the Decapolis (David Hendin)

March 24

Chair: Pere Pau Ripollès

Roman Magistrates on coinages issued in the Provinces of the Roman Empire

8:15–9:00 amEST Some remarks on the Roman monetary economy in Bithynia in the light of new evidence from R. B Witschonke Collection (Hale Güney)

9:00–9:45 am EST A Proconsular Bronze and the End of Atarneus (Claude Eilers)

10:00–10:45 amEST Macedonia and Thrace from the Roman invasion to the time of Augustus: the contribution of the RBW coin collection (Sophia Kremydi)

10:45–11:30 am EST Romano-Sicilian coins and other coinages of Sicily issued under Roman rule, a mirror of the formation and transformation of Rome’s first province: RBW’s legacy (Suzanne Frey-Kupper)

11:30 am–12:15 pm EST The Coinage of Copia in the RBW Collection (Euan Wall)

12:45–1:30 pm EST Mark Antony’s ‘Fleet coinage’: a survey of research (Michel Amandry)

March 25

Chair: Michel Amandry

Coinages issued under the Romans in the Western Provinces

8:15–9:00 am EST The Roman Struck Bronze Coinage of Luceria and Canusium (Andrew McCabe)

9:00–9:45 am EST Small Change in Roman Republican Coinage (Liv M. Yarrow)

10:00–10:45 am EST The impact of Roman Republican Coinage on Spanish local issues. The unofficial imitations (Pere Pau Ripollès)

10:45–11:30 am EST Two Denarius Imitations in the the RBW Collection (Phil Davis)

11:30 am–12:15 pm EST Magistrates and citizens: the coinage of Paestum in  the RBW Collection (Federico Carbone)

12:45–1:30 pm EST Non-state coinages of Republican Italy (Clive Stannard)

1:30–2:00 pm EST Final Remarks and Comments

Hiring: ANS Deputy Director


The Deputy Director is a senior member of the management team of the American Numismatic Society. S/he directly reports to the Executive Director and attends all meetings of the Board of Trustees as well as meetings of the Executive Committee. S/he represents the Society in the absence of the Executive Director. S/he is responsible for directly supervising the financial, administrative, technology, library, and publication matters of the American Numismatic Society. 

The Deputy Director is expected to acquire a solid knowledge of all aspects of the Society. 

The Deputy Director shall be prepared to represent the American Numismatic Society at public events, and support the Executive Director in promoting the mission of the Society. 


The position requires a proven and significant track record of dealing with all aspects of finance, accounting, budgeting, and administration acquired in an academic, education, or museum context. Prior experience in managing a team of people is essential. The Deputy Director should have excellent communication skills and be able to speak in public to larger audiences, in-person, and digitally. S/he will have published, researched, and/or taught in the field of numismatics. A graduate degree in a relevant field is a requirement, PhD preferred. 


New York City, New York. Some travel required.


This is a full-time exempt position. The ANS offers generous healthcare, vacation, retirement, and fringe benefits.  Salary is in line with similar positions of the Society. 

To Apply

Please send your resume with a letter describing your interest and qualifications for this position, as well as the names and contact information for three references. 

Send applications to

Application Deadline: March 10, 2021

The ANS is not able to sponsor visas for this position.

Employment at the American Numismatic Society is dependent on a successful background check.

About the ANS

The American Numismatic Society is dedicated to the study and public appreciation of coins, currencies, medals, and other related objects. Since its founding in 1858, the ANS has assembled a permanent collection with over 800,000 objects dating from 650 BCE to the present and a numismatic library, which houses approximately 100,000 books, documents, and artifacts. These resources are used to support publications of books and periodicals, lectures, academic seminars, and exhibitions.

The American Numismatic Society is an equal-opportunity employer.

The American Numismatic Society, organized in 1858 and incorporated in 1865 in New York State, operates as a research museum under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and is recognized as a publicly supported organization under section 170(b)(1)(A)(vi) as confirmed on November 1, 1970.