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New Numismatic Gallery at Yale


DonnaML

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The current issue of the American Numismatic Society's quarterly magazine, ANS, has a rather lengthy article, nicely illustrated, about the new Bela Lyon Pratt  Gallery of Numismatics, which opened last year in the Yale Art Gallery. (The Art Gallery is well worth a visit in general if you're ever in, or passing through, New Haven.)

See  https://artgallery.yale.edu/research-and-learning/curatorial-areas/numismatics :

"The Gallery’s numismatics collection is among the University’s oldest, dating to the early years of the 19th century. By 1863 the holdings numbered some 3,000 items; two decades later, the Greek and Roman portions alone totaled over 3,200. Formerly known as the Yale Numismatic Collection, jurisdiction over it passed from the University Library to the Yale University Art Gallery in 2001. The collection now comprises well over 120,000 pieces and is by far the largest assemblage at any American university.

Its great strength remains Greco-Roman, including examples of the earliest coinage of western Asia Minor, the supreme artistic achievements of Syracuse and southern Italy, and masterpieces of Hellenistic and Roman portraiture. Silver coinage from the Roman Republic has been systematically acquired, and the collection of imperial coins is comprehensive; in 2004 it was augmented by the purchase of the collection of Professor Peter R. and Leonore Franke (over 4,100 pieces from Greek cities and the provinces) and, in 2007, by the acquisition of roughly the first half of the collection of Ben Lee Damsky (about 900 pieces), which has enhanced the Gallery’s imperial holdings. The strengths of the collection include fine examples from the English and German traditions, a broad selection of Renaissance medals, and the coins from Dura-Europos, which complement the Gallery’s other holdings from this important Yale excavation in the 1930s."  [More at link.]

Back when I was an undergraduate at Yale in the mid-1970s, the numismatic collection was held in one of the  Special Collections at the Sterling Memorial Library; it wasn't moved to the Art Gallery until much more recently. I confess that I was only vaguely aware of the collection (at most), even though I spent a good part of my spare time during my years there wandering through the endless corridors and stacks and basements and sub-basements of the Library, just to explore and see what I could find.  (My most interesting finds were probably a box full of typed transcriptions of postwar interrogations of German POWs, and a pristine civil defense air raid shelter complete with supplies dating back to the early 1960s.) I doubt that the numismatic collection was very accessible at the time, and certainly I don't remember any of it being on display.

Now, in addition to the objects on display, it's possible to make an appointment, at least three weeks in advance, to look at specific coins in the "Study Room." See https://artgallery.yale.edu/research-and-learning/resources/numismatics-study-room . The collection is searchable at  https://artgallery.yale.edu/collection?f[0]=department%3ANumismatics .

And here is the general guide to using the collection: https://artgallery.yale.edu/using-collection . The technology, both in terms of what's available at the gallery itself and otherwise, appears to be quite "cutting-edge" compared to most academic and museum collections. 

Here are a couple of excerpts from the ANS article itself:

image.png.a1094f0f0d47b7dc18bd893f6addaefa.png

image.png.2ccab74b67f62150d9b3db1c38b35fc7.png

Edited by DonnaML
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Thanks Donna. It would be nice to visit the Yale collection. Unfortunately I have never visited New Haven. For West coast folks there is a great collection of Ptolemaic coins at the Stanford Art Museum on campus plus the university recently opened the Frank L. Kovacs (a well-known SF dealer) Numismatic library. The best overall museum collection of coins I have seen personally is the national museum in Amman, Jordan with a unique collection of Roman and provincial coins.

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1 hour ago, DonnaML said:

The new issue of the American Numismatic Society's quarterly magazine, ANS, has a rather lengthy article, nicely illustrated, about the new Bela Lyon Pratt  Gallery of Numismatics, which opened last year in the Yale Art Gallery. (The Art Gallery is well worth a visit in general if you're ever in, or passing through, New Haven.)

See  https://artgallery.yale.edu/research-and-learning/curatorial-areas/numismatics :

"The Gallery’s numismatics collection is among the University’s oldest, dating to the early years of the 19th century. By 1863 the holdings numbered some 3,000 items; two decades later, the Greek and Roman portions alone totaled over 3,200. Formerly known as the Yale Numismatic Collection, jurisdiction over it passed from the University Library to the Yale University Art Gallery in 2001. The collection now comprises well over 120,000 pieces and is by far the largest assemblage at any American university.

Its great strength remains Greco-Roman, including examples of the earliest coinage of western Asia Minor, the supreme artistic achievements of Syracuse and southern Italy, and masterpieces of Hellenistic and Roman portraiture. Silver coinage from the Roman Republic has been systematically acquired, and the collection of imperial coins is comprehensive; in 2004 it was augmented by the purchase of the collection of Professor Peter R. and Leonore Franke (over 4,100 pieces from Greek cities and the provinces) and, in 2007, by the acquisition of roughly the first half of the collection of Ben Lee Damsky (about 900 pieces), which has enhanced the Gallery’s imperial holdings. The strengths of the collection include fine examples from the English and German traditions, a broad selection of Renaissance medals, and the coins from Dura-Europos, which complement the Gallery’s other holdings from this important Yale excavation in the 1930s."  [More at link.]

Back when I was an undergraduate at Yale in the mid-1970s, the numismatic collection was held in one of the  Special Collections at the Sterling Memorial Library; it wasn't moved to the Art Gallery until much more recently. I confess that I was only vaguely aware of the collection (at most), even though I spent a good part of my spare time during my years there wandering through the endless corridors and stacks and basements and sub-basements of the Library, just to explore and see what I could find.  (My most interesting finds were probably a box full of typed transcriptions of postwar interrogations of German POWs, and a pristine civil defense air raid shelter complete with supplies dating back to the early 1960s.) I doubt that the numismatic collection was very accessible at the time, and certainly I don't remember any of it being on display.

Now, in addition to the objects on display, it's possible to make an appointment, at least three weeks in advance, to look at specific coins in the "Study Room." See https://artgallery.yale.edu/research-and-learning/resources/numismatics-study-room . The collection is searchable at  https://artgallery.yale.edu/collection?f[0]=department%3ANumismatics .

And here is the general guide to using the collection: https://artgallery.yale.edu/using-collection . The technology, both in terms of what's available at the gallery itself and otherwise, appears to be quite "cutting-edge" compared to most academic and museum collections. 

Here are a couple of excerpts from the ANS article itself:

image.png.a1094f0f0d47b7dc18bd893f6addaefa.png

image.png.2ccab74b67f62150d9b3db1c38b35fc7.png

Thanks for posting, this looks like a great resource ☺️. The photography looks flawless including the full screen images 🤨. I'm going to be adding some of their photos to my files 😏.

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I found this all-too brief video tour of the new gallery on YouTube; unfortunately, it zooms in on only two ancient coins. Still, it gives an idea of what they've done with obviously limited space. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jG5ij-IOCuA

 

And here's a link to an article in E-Sylum about the eponymous Bela Lyon Pratt.

https://www.coinbooks.org/v25/esylum_v25n23a17.html

I didn't know that he designed the $2.50 and $5.00 US gold pieces minted from 1908-1929.

Edited by DonnaML
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It's a wonderful collection, @DonnaML, and I'm so glad you shared the link to it. I have spent much of the morning exploring the results of a search for "Faustina." There are some VERY rare coins there, among many low-grade examples of common coins.

Take the information there with a grain of salt and don't rely on it for attributions. In dozens of listings, Faustina I is mistaken for Faustina II and even basic descriptions are often in error, such as bare-headed busts being described as "diademed" and left-facing busts being labelled as right-facing. The coins are presented in no particular order, neither chronologically nor by denomination, nor by cross-referencing them to standard reference materials such as RIC. Yale needs for me to go there and straighten out the collection and properly attribute everything because it's an absolute mess. It's little different from a cigar box labeled "Faustina" containing a bunch of loose coins.

The big advantage is that the collection is large and has been photographed. The provenance information is a nice feature. But you almost have to know what you're looking for before you go there.

One fun thing was that I found this coin.

FaustinaSrCONSECRATIOSCfuneralpyredupondiusYaleUniversity.jpg.2c7b24654749341ef9fe0afb9768d0f1.jpg

I previously only had this photo of a plaster cast of this specimen in my photo files, from Munzhandlung Basel, Basel, June 27, 1934, cat. 1, lot 1171.

FaustinaSrCONSECRATIOSCfuneralpyredupondiusMnzhandlungBasel.JPG.66f9254eccb81d1c6cdfbf90d0a2c350.JPG

These are the exact same specimens!! A plaster cast did not do this coin justice!!

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50 minutes ago, Roman Collector said:

It's a wonderful collection, @DonnaML, and I'm so glad you shared the link to it. I have spent much of the morning exploring the results of a search for "Faustina." There are some VERY rare coins there, among many low-grade examples of common coins.

Take the information there with a grain of salt and don't rely on it for attributions. In dozens of listings, Faustina I is mistaken for Faustina II and even basic descriptions are often in error, such as bare-headed busts being described as "diademed" and left-facing busts being labelled as right-facing. The coins are presented in no particular order, neither chronologically nor by denomination, nor by cross-referencing them to standard reference materials such as RIC. Yale needs for me to go there and straighten out the collection and properly attribute everything because it's an absolute mess. It's little different from a cigar box labeled "Faustina" containing a bunch of loose coins.

The big advantage is that the collection is large and has been photographed. The provenance information is a nice feature. But you almost have to know what you're looking for before you go there.

One fun thing was that I found this coin.

FaustinaSrCONSECRATIOSCfuneralpyredupondiusYaleUniversity.jpg.2c7b24654749341ef9fe0afb9768d0f1.jpg

I previously only had this photo of a plaster cast of this specimen in my photo files, from Munzhandlung Basel, Basel, June 27, 1934, cat. 1, lot 1171.

FaustinaSrCONSECRATIOSCfuneralpyredupondiusMnzhandlungBasel.JPG.66f9254eccb81d1c6cdfbf90d0a2c350.JPG

These are the exact same specimens!! A plaster cast did not do this coin justice!!

You should definitely write to them! I wonder if the mistaken attributions were made back when the coins were acquired -- many of them more than a century ago -- or by the people from whom portions of the collection were purchased more recently, with no attempt to re-check the original attributions. In a way, it's better that they photographed everything and put it online now for everyone to see, rather than taking years to individually re-examine more than 100,000 attributions before doing so.

Edited by DonnaML
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Wow, @DonnaML, many thanks for this.  Absolutely amazing.  I was hoping some of the collection might be from J. Q. Adams's collection, but apart from this one being later, they surely would have mentioned it.  But, Yes, amazing.

...My dad, from the Berkshires, got his undergrad degree at Yale, and then moved west.  He's never given me an adequate explanation of why.

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2 hours ago, JeandAcre said:

...My dad, from the Berkshires, got his undergrad degree at Yale, and then moved west.  He's never given me an adequate explanation of why.

Because in 1871 he heard Horace Greeley say "Go West, young man"?

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Yep, @DonnaML, you pretty much nailed it.  Apparently, romanticization of the Old West was pretty rampant in Massachusetts. 

On one trip to the grandparents, as a little kid, I saw this local children's show called 'Boomtown.'  With a theme song that had the refrain, "Boom.  Boom.  Boomtown."  Sung by the kids on the show, replete with cowboy hats and capguns aimed at the camera.  Even then, it made no sense at all that, in a part of country that already had three and a half centuries of its own history, there could be this kind of a fetish about it.

Ironically enough, my dad has told the story that, even though the family were living at, thank you, the extreme west of the state (Lenox and Pittsfield), whenever they had to cross the state line, they'd pack twice as much as when they went to Boston.  Upstate New York was all the Wild West my grandparents needed.

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