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NewStyleKing
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People will know I'm sceptical  of provenance,  I just see it as another money making/consuming exercise.

 

 I can imagine an ancient greek fiddling in his pocket for small change to pay for his purchase but not quite having enough  until a bright idea enters his mind.  Holding a non-descript tiny lump of metal he ejaculates  "it''s from the BCD  collection!   All's well  as he is helped  from the ground  and the world stops spinning!

Edited by NewStyleKing
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My feelings about provenance remain somewhat mixed, though also tinged with skepticism. It can have some snob appeal, i.e., "I now possess an item from a prestigious and renowned collection!" as though the purchaser has entered into some form of consumer primogeniture. This can definitely get exploited into higher prices. Yet, assuming the provenance proves accurate, it also can reveal an object's recent history and give some, though perhaps not indelible, feeling of authenticity. Regardless, provenance accompanying an item often comes with an assumption of accuracy, that no one "mixed up the babies" somewhere in the distant past. Auction catalogs can help substantiate such claims in some cases, but other cases seem reduced to faith.

Recently, I purchased a coin with provenance from a prominent dealer and a deaccession number from a museum. Despite this, I still wanted the coin, and I didn't buy it because of the provenance, but it admittedly added some luster to the purchase. So far, though I have no reason to doubt the claims, I have had no luck tracing the coin to the museum. Do they still have information on where they obtained it? Does that information go further back? It is worth it to contact the museum itself? For whatever reasons, they obviously no longer wanted the item, so the provenance feels twofold: first, it says "this object once graced a museum's collection" and second, it says "museum reject."

Given all of this, I don't dismiss provenance wholesale, but I don't take it too seriously, either. It has its, perhaps sometimes tenuous, uses. Of course some use it as a marketing tactic, similar to slabs, which have also, again perhaps tenuously, taken on an air of provenance. Who knows whether that insinuation will stick long term? On the whole, the collectibles market has become an "exploit what you can" marketplace, but the lure of provenance goes back a long way, arguably back to claims of reliquaries and earlier. Despite everything, I don't see the power of provenance, though disputable, going away anytime soon (I worked in the museum field some years ago and experienced its inexorable force directly many times). Though a good dose of skepticism and education will go a long way towards minimizing the risks of relying on its claims. And that applies to many other things in this strange universe.

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A coin with no provenance, particularly if it's mint state, is just a bit of metal that someone immediately dumped in a hole. It's like finding a modern commemorative in 2000 years. Pretty, but vacuous.

Provenance is not just about authenticity, although it is good to know that. A coin from a hoard gives a better idea of who used it and why, and where it's been since it left the mint. A coin from an avid collector has been in the hands of someone who enjoyed it as much as you, like knowing about the people who lived in an old house before you did. A coin that was owned by someone who knows what they're talking about gives reassurance that not only is this coin genuine, but it's as interesting as you think it is. The same goes for a coin that appears in a published reference.

Provenance provides the story. It adds all the colour. It becomes not just about 'this issue is interesting, because they were made for the emperor's third term as consul', but about the specific coin and its journey to you. Rarity becomes irrelevant, because every coin is unique.

Of course, because provenance has a value, someone might just make it up. But very often, you can see an image of the coin in the auction of that great collector, or in the original sale of the hoard. That label written in the hand of the authority on the issue came with the coin. The patina fits exactly with the coins found in the same hoard.

Scepticism is good, just as it is when deciding if a coin is authentic, or unaltered, or graded correctly. And unless the proof is there, you wouldn't pay a big premium for provenance. But the coin had to come from somewhere. It amazes me that so many coins have no provenance, given they all had one in the first place.

Edited by John Conduitt
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No!  I have a coin from the revered SELTON collection.  before then NO ONE knows whence it came.  It was marked as commerce  by Thompson in NSSCA in 1961, so presumably they bought it from an auction....but no one knows!  Thank god for provenance eh!  It's only one of 4 known, so it's quite common!  And certainly no more since 1961! The Selton's thus blanked all info on its PROVENANCE  and since their deaths that's it folks.  Bit like the Gold Eid mar. a bit of a modern mystery!

T 1227a Very late Ver rare Stacks Demeter & Artemis.png

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23 minutes ago, NewStyleKing said:

No!  I have a coin from the revered SELTON collection.  before then NO ONE knows whence it came.  It was marked as commerce  by Thompson in NSSCA in 1961, so presumably they bought it from an auction....but no one knows!  Thank god for provenance eh!  It's only one of 4 known, so it's quite common!  And certainly no more since 1961! The Selton's thus blanked all info on its PROVENANCE  and since their deaths that's it folks.  Bit like the Gold Eid mar. a bit of a modern mystery!

T 1227a Very late Ver rare Stacks Demeter & Artemis.png

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So this would be an example of a provenance that adds colour to the coin's story, but is useless for authenticity or knowing where the coin came from. That doesn't make it bad. It's better than no provenance at all. In fact, the worst thing you say about the Seltons is that they didn't pass on the rest of the provenance. I would agree that it's a pity the great collectors of the past were useless at keeping records.

Edited by John Conduitt
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The effort needed to determine a coin's provenance requires extensive research, actually sleuthing, and a great amount of time. persistence, some luck, patience and knowledge, perhaps even some intuition.  Speaking personally I just lack the will to do these qualities.  As for luck, it's always been a mixed bag.

The vast number of coins that I have do not own a provenance of any kind, other than a record of from whom they were acquired, and even that is spotty. 

I'm trying to document the owls coming out of Syria this year, but really my information is second hand and speculative at best.  Does this information enhance the value of these coins?  Perhaps, for those interested in following the discovery of hoards in the Middle East and the entry of large groups of coins likely to have originated from hoard discoveries that were never documented, the sources for the vast majority of ancients on the market today.  

From a historical context it is always better to have additional information about a coin's past ownership and origins, but I think that we, as owners and caretakers of these coins best serve numismatic knowledge through preservation and current research, both on physical features, scarcity or rarity (almost always in flux with ancients) and esthetic and historical significance of the coins in our collections. 

I suppose it would be nice to know that a coin was once owned by Nelson Bunker Hunt, aside from what one thinks of him, but that information is of secondary interest for me.

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6 minutes ago, robinjojo said:

The effort needed to determine a coin's provenance requires extensive research, actually sleuthing, and a great amount of time. persistence, some luck, patience and knowledge, perhaps even some intuition.  Speaking personally I just lack the will to do these qualities.  As for luck, it's always been a mixed bag.

The vast number of coins that I have do not own a provenance of any kind, other than a record of from whom they were acquired, and even that is spotty. 

I'm trying to document the owls coming out of Syria this year, but really my information is second hand and speculative at best.  Does this information enhance the value of these coins?  Perhaps, for those interested in following the discovery of hoards in the Middle East and the entry of large groups of coins likely to have originated from hoard discoveries that were never documented, the sources for the vast majority of ancients on the market today.  

From a historical context it is always better to have additional information about a coin's past ownership and origins, but I think that we, as owners and caretakers of these coins best serve numismatic knowledge through preservation and current research, both on physical features, scarcity or rarity (almost always in flux with ancients) and esthetic and historical significance of the coins in our collections. 

I suppose it would be nice to know that a coin was once owned by Nelson Bunker Hunt, aside from what one thinks of him, but that information is of secondary interest for me.

Yes whether a famous person owned a coin or not is never going to be more important than the coin. Unless it was Jesus.

A vast number, if not most, of the ancient coins we collect have been found since the advent of the metal detector. They do not need a grand Victorian provenance to know where they came from. There's a good chance the person who found them is still alive. But many people do not keep records. If that's because they smuggled them out of Syria, that is not a good thing, or a reason not to prefer a coin with provenance.

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Yes, the issue of coins coming out of Syria, or Lebanon or Iraq or Jordan or Israel or Yemen or any other conflict zones or area experiencing strife, population dislocations, climate stress or the depravations of poverty and social upheaval is a problematic issue with ancient coins.  The origins of these coins are often murky at best; more often than not there's no information.  Add to the situation that many of these coins end up in auctions, sometimes with references from a dealer or collector, creates a complex picture. 

Do these coins come from people with metal detectors, who are trying to scrape together a living of sorts or do they come from bad actors?  Both could be true, but the fact is that ancient coins, by their nature objects of wide dispersion and distribution across wide areas, are very fluid in movement today, as they were for thousands of years. 

What to do?   I wish there was a simple solution, but I don't know of one.  The movement of ancient coins is unstoppable, with through numerous channels for their entry into price lists, online offerings and auction catalogs.  I think the best that can be made of this situation is to continue, as collectors, to be the gatekeepers to preserve these coins, document and catalog them to the best of our ability.

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Personally, I like owning coins with provenance. However, I won't really pay extra for that, so it's uncommon for me.

That being said, today I purchased four coins that were ex-BCD with tag (non-LHS sale). They will increase my "ex-BCD collection" to five. 🙂 

In this case, I respect BCD's knowledge on ancient Greek coins and it's kind of nice that he took the time to select my coins, attribute them, and tag them.

If the seller provides any provenance, I always include it in my database. I believe it adds some extra history to my coins. I certainly hope that someday, after my time, that my family name continues to follow my coins and some future owners will recognize my efforts to put them to stories.

Eventually, and I joke about this but will probably do it someday, I intend to write a book about my collection once it's reached sufficient size - maybe in ten years or so. Then, I'll own a ton of plate coins!

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2 hours ago, John Conduitt said:

A vast number, if not most, of the ancient coins we collect have been found since the advent of the metal detector. 

I am not saying you're right or wrong, but what is your evidence for that statement?

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1 hour ago, DonnaML said:

I am not saying you're right or wrong, but what is your evidence for that statement?

I thought I'd worded it vaguely enough that someone wouldn't ask that, but of course, this is a coin collecting forum 😉

I could be equally precise and say that since the metal detector was invented in 1841, there can't really be much doubt about it, but that wouldn't be playing fair.

Metal detecting as a hobby started in the 1960s and took off in the 1970s. I don't think there's any dispute that a vast number of coins have been discovered since the 1970s. However many have been discovered since then, it is a vast number. Which is the crux of my point about provenance. It isn't so far to go back 50 years, when some of the people on this forum have had coins longer than that.

But what about 'if not most of the ancient coins we collect'? 'If not' was meant to signal possibility and speculation, not certainty with evidence. But could it be true? 

Of Roman hoards from Britain for which I have a discovery date (which mostly came from https://chre.ashmus.ox.ac.uk/), 357 were found before 1970, while 626 were found after (and that's only up to 2019). For Iron Age hoards, it's 13 vs 35. So overall, 64% have been discovered after 1970 (inclusive). More than likely, more hoards were found before 1970 that weren't even recorded, but it would have to double the numbers.

I don't have figures for single finds, at least that aren't even more biased by recording methods, but I would guess this would be at least the same proportion, since it's surely a lot easier to find a single buried coin with a metal detector than by chance. I'm assuming here that the number of ancient coins that came down to us through 2000 years of collectors without ever being buried is negligable.

Obviously, those numbers are for Britain. Other countries may be different. If the metal detector is equally prevalent in those countries, I don't see why it would be. If metal detecting is not as common, the figures may be different. But if so, those countries will represent fewer finds overall, and so overall, recent finds will be higher.

Finally, I think (without any statistics, mind, only logic) that the 'coins we collect' are more likely to be recent finds. This is because anything found for the first time is more likely to go to a museum. A museum will take what it doesn't already have, and allow anything else to be sold. The British Museum has a lot more coins from Victorian collections than I do, and I would guess it is partly for that reason. That, and for coins I'm able to buy, the provenance has been lost.

Edited by John Conduitt
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Metal detecting  I would guess so  to the vast increase.....look at the Portable antiquities scheme in the UK  and the huge finds  of celtic coins!

I have stated that on my experience  since I started collecting NewStyles  I was lucky when I collected when I did  because WITHOUT DOUBT,  the hoards and stuff have stopped.  They were smuggled essentially from eastern Europe into Germany and outwards.  I have no proof  but hoards of NewStyles have stopped.  Most of the few I see seem to be the typical circulation of previously owned coins  re-surfacing.  The odd NewStyle here and there  but nothing NEW..

 

Now if any wants to argue otherwise and has kept an eye on the market...let me know. Cos nothing new has  come to the market for me to comment on for some considerable time.

It might be due to fatigue  but the coins coming onto  POSH auctions  seem to be recycled oldies   except for the tedious, quotidian ,boring, banal  Old Style Athens  stil excavated fresh in Turkey!  Where it can join the DEKADRACHM hoard in obscurity  IF they had got into the authorities pointless hands!

Those coins in the Spanish Tomaras (sic) coins found in jars  could have done with what the bm did with a large Antonian collection,  got amateurs in to help identify them...........  

 

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Modern provenance is a waste of time in numismatics, its where they were found and what other things with it, preferably dateable other coins!  If any of you are truly interested, read The Gaziantep Hoard by Meadows et al  and The Demetrios l  Hoard  where large mixed hoards were found with lots of undated other coins BUT dated seleucid Royal coins. USEFUL or what!  Alexanders, Stephanophores  etc were in the hoards,  sometimes what was missing is interesting.........and luckily both hoards seemed to dovetail  each other and FINALLY the nail in the coffin  of the Thompson  HIGH CHRONOLOGY  for the NewStyle  put to rest except for the Donald Trumps of the coin world!

 

The Gaziantep Hoard as such is a reconstruction of packets of coins from various dealers  into a reconstruction  of the general contents of the original, still a very valuable enterprise.  I know, despite me trumpeting them very few could be bothered to read them!  For me it's not the coins  its about them that's gold.But despite all the talk of provenance, most are not actually interested in what provenance can usefully be.,  and are only interested if someone like a US president once seemed to have collected it...not that maybe he wrote about it....perish the thought!

Nevermind possession being 9/10ths of the law, its 9/10ths of coin collecting!

 

Coin NewStyle from a UK collector via Roma, none in the Gaziantep hoard  one in the Demetrios l hoard.  I wonder where the UK collector got it from  and when?  One of 4 known! Essentially useless in numismatical terms except it is a new Obverse and reverse!

 

2_PALMS_ROMA_March_2019-removebg-preview.png

Edited by NewStyleKing
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18 hours ago, NewStyleKing said:

No!  I have a coin from the revered SELTON collection.  before then NO ONE knows whence it came.  It was marked as commerce  by Thompson in NSSCA in 1961, so presumably they bought it from an auction....but no one knows!

How should dealers and collectors ensure provenance is transmitted to future scholars?  How should museums?

When I read 19th century numismatic journals, the provenance is usually given as "My Collection", "Commerce".  Occasional there is a more serious provenance such as "found in a graveyard in Etruria" or "purchased with four coins of Crete at Smyrna by Major Cunningham in 1888" but this is rare.

@NewStyleKing, what steps are you taking to ensure your own collection's provenance is not lost?

If I believe the dealer is open, I ask for the provenance.  Sometimes I get a provenance such as "This was part of a group lot in Steve Album's auction 100" or "Aaron bought it at Numismata in Munich last year".  Sometimes, when I see a large number of coins on the market of a previously rare type, I ask for the nationality of the consigner, but rarely get even this information.  I try to hang out on social media in places where such matters are discussed.

All of my coins are in flips, and all of my flips have a hidden area where I record the dealer, price, and date of purchase.  This keeps the information with the coin.  In case the flips are discarded I have a printed inventory of my collection.  My hope is that if I get hit by a bus this printed inventory is donated to the ANS archives.  However, I haven't taken serious steps like actually writing "please donate this printed archive to the ANS" on that inventory and putting it in a safety deposit box.

I remember once seeing a very nice group lot of bronze coins of Amisos in a Triton auction.  All of them had provenances, and CNG told me that the consigner insisted that the provenances be part of the lot.  I was outbid on this group lot, but acquired one of the coins three months later.  The reseller did not have those provenances any longer.  Many dealers don't believe such information has economic value.

I don't know if it was Mark Salton's responsibility to get the 1961 provenance to you.  He worked really hard on his world coin archive manuscript.  There aren't enough hours to preserve everything, especially in 1961, before the Internet, and before photocopiers were widely available.

What steps do you think Margaret Thompson should have taken?  Should she have insisted on publishing the name of the dealer used by the Saltons?  Should she have kept that information privately with her research materials?  Should she have put that information in "escrow" to be released at a future time?

Have you written to the ANS to see if they have any archives about Margaret Thompson?  I have no idea what she saved.  You might want to come to New York and look through everything they have.  It is possible she had notes on New Style hoards she never published.

What are you doing to ensure your own unpublished research materials are preserved?

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My efforts are on academia.edu. That's it.

My collection, "of the Cicerokid or NewStyleKing  collection= meaningless!  When it comes to sell.  Years ago i would have left them to a museum  but they are soooo arsey these days I couldn't be bothered  to play up their games and prejudices and political correctness  AND their genuine lack of interest. ( University of Warwick, Classics, sub folder:  material culture).  I'd rather melt them down in front of them!

My efforts with the Museo Archaeolgica  Chieti on the Poggio Picenze Hoard IGCH 2056  are a legend in my own lunch time.

I have used to ANS to access Miss Thompsons records  only to find  that stuff had been lost / miss filed  etc. It was painful!  Hence you will notice that Thompson #4 has the later finds photograph less  in my "New finds in the Athens early catalogue" ( a sort of claim to fame on academia!)

I have run out of new coins, ideas and steam.  It cannot be too long before Roma starts selling my collection.......

 

From the SCANLON Collection

DNW Headdress of ISIS T 1063b cropped.jpg

Edited by NewStyleKing
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