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Ancient Coins, WWII, and the Holocaust

Curtis JJ

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Collecting ancient coins as hobby may seem too casual a topic to discuss alongside the Holocaust. As a collector focusing on “object biography” or provenance, though, the legacy of World War II and the Holocaust is something I encounter regularly and spend a lot of time thinking about.

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day (Jan 27). It seems a good occasion to share just a few relevant coins and pieces of literature from my collection.

Below is a very abbreviated discussion: There are many other issues, institutions, and important figures worth discussing.
I hope others will bring some of them up. (Also, no reason to limit any comments to just today.)



Felix Schlessinger (1879-1944) was an important coin dealer in Berlin. Like many Jews in the coin and art trade, he fled Germany in the 1930s. (Even before they started killing the owners, the Nazis were already seizing Jewish-owned businesses and placing them under new ownership, as happened with Heinrich Hirsch’s firm, Otto Helbing Nachf., renamed Karl Kress.)

Felix Schlessinger continued to run his business in Amsterdam. He ran his final sale there, in exile, on 31 January and 1 February 1939. The following year, the Nazis invaded the Netherlands, took Amsterdam, arrested Felix and his wife Hedwig Schlessinger (née Feuchtwanger, 1892-1944), and seized their business. Both were deported to Auschwitz, held for a few years, and finally murdered.

My copy of Felix Schlessinger's final auction catalog:




Their son, Mark M Salton (1914-2005, born Max Schlessinger), survived the war and emigrated to the United States (changing his name then). He made his living as a banker, but Salton also sold coins from the late 1940s to early 1960s. He reportedly spent years recovering coins and books looted from his father’s business by the Nazis. (I’m not sure if there is record of which ones.)

As the header of his sale catalog below shows (enlarged bottom right), he considered his New York business continuous with his father’s. His “collection” and “inventory” were often interchangeable: the two coins from his collection below (now in mine), also appeared in his 27th fixed price list:


Coins and books from the Mark Salton and Lottie Salton (1924-2020) Collection were sold by Künker, Stack’s, and Kolbe & Fanning beginning in 2021 (proceeds donated to Jewish charities).

Salton had sold the coin below to Ken Bressett in 1957 (with both of their tags/envelopes), so it was not part of the Kunker sales, but Bressett's (at CNG). I made a point of buying that coin in particular for its connection to the Roman conquest of Judaea, a traditional area of interest for Jewish collectors, and for its parallels to the historical circumstances of Salton's life.


(Incidentally, I strongly suspect Salton bought this coin from Hesperia [List 1, 387, in 1951] while it was being run by Vladimir Clain-Stefanelli [1914-1982], who was imprisoned at Buchenwald -- though not for being a Jew, but as an enemy of the state -- along with his wife Elvira [1914-2001].)



Josef Samel (1913-2005) and his sister Angela Arluk (1920-2015, née Samel) were Jews living in Poland when Germany invaded in 1939. Josef Samel served in the Polish army (how he survived, I know not); his sisters were protected in a Catholic convent. Josef and Angela, who formed the collection, lived in Munich and New York after the war.

Their collection was exhibited at Munich State Museum in 1993 and sold by Kuenker in 2020. Below, my one coin from the collection, with Overbeck and Meshorer’s book based on the exhibition (my copy ex-libris Jay Galst, who also formed an important collection of Jewish coins):




Leo Mildenberg (1913-2001) fled Germany, but was then interned at a concentration camp in Estonia -- not by the Germans, but by the Russians when they invaded. After the war, he moved to Switzerland where he was a principal at Bank Leu, and became a great authority on Jewish as well as Persian and Greek coins.

My numismatic library includes many of his sale catalogs and pieces of scholarship. The pair of Obols below were in his collection, c. 1960s-1970s:



Herbert Cahn (1915-2002) also fled the Nazis to Switzerland. For decades, he was the force behind Münzen und Medaillen A.G., and authored many important pieces of numismatic scholarship. (He cataloged/sold the Thessalian Obol immediately above and many others in my collection, as well as producing hundreds of sale catalogs in my numismatic library, and publishing some of my coins in articles/books.)

I do collect Greek fractions, but I bought this group (18 total, 8 pictured) because they were from the H.A. Cahn collection -- albeit the dregs, I'm sure:



Shlomo Moussaieff (1925-2015) was an Israeli-born jeweler, collector, and antiquities dealer. During WWII “he joined the British Army…to fight Nazi Germany” [Wiki bio]. His ancient coin collection included many types relevant to Jewish history.

It is possible that this Titus Denarius was not, in fact, a Judaea Capta issue. But Moussaieff certainly collected it because he did consider it to be part of the Flavians' Judaea Capta commemorative series:



Edited by Curtis JJ
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Thanks a lot. A tragic history to be remembered.
I have a couple of coins from the Mark Salton and Lottie Salton Collection with similar envelopes (which were identified on another thread). This post puts a different perspective on the coins and adds value to provenance research in general.



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Huge thanks, @Curtis JJ, for a profoundly enlightening and timely thread ...and some Brilliant coins.

...After an easy half-century of Holocaust denial, nowadays, Woops, public schools across the (ostensibly) US are hard at work Stalinesquely air-brushing slavery from American history textbooks.  Kind of a mirror image of the way in which the Nazis took extensive, well documented tactical lessons from the Jim Crow South.  Only the best thing Mark Twain ever said: 'History doesn't repeat itself, but it sure as Hell rhymes.'

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I've got one ex-Salton coin. The paper envelope originated with whoever owned the coin before Salton (who then added his own notes in blue pen on the front.) The coin was purchased in Istanbul in 1946 before Salton acquired it.


AR Denarius (19.71mm, 3.70g, 12h)
Struck AD 209. Rome mint
Obverse: SEVERVS PIVS AVG, laureate head of Septimius Severus right
Reverse: P M TR P XVII COS III P P, Neptune standing left, foot on rock, right hand resting on upper leg, left hand holding long trident
References: RIC IV 228, RCV 6346
A beautiful specimen, choice EF with lustrous fields, perfectly centered on a large and heavy flan.
From the Mark Salton Collection (1914-2005)



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An excellent posts and thread!  Quite often this sort of provenance is not well known or "high profile" among collectors, quite unlike the stolen art by Goering and the art works that, over the many decades, have been restored to the families of Holocaust victims.  

I was fortunate to acquire a few 10 marks tokens of the Lodz Ghetto, 1943.  Here are three of them:





My only ancient with a connection to Shlomo Moussaieff is this very light weight and encrusted owl, purchased through MA Shops, Dr. Busso Peus NACHF, a few years ago.  Moussaieff was well known for the antiquities that he collected and sold, primarily of Israeli origin.  Coins were also collected by him.  I imagine that this coin came from a hoard in Israel, but that is really just a guess on my part.  It could have come as well from the surrounding region.

Attica, Athens, archaic tetradrachm,  485-480 BC.  Ex Shlomo Moussaieff,  Seltman Group E.

13.04 grams


The Athenian mint at this time produced tetradrachms not only of varying quality in terms of die work, flan quality and strike quality, the mint also produced coins of varying weights, much more so than the later classical owls.  At this time production of coins was of paramount importance, especially in light of the impending war with Persia.  The silver received by the mint had to to converted into coinage, with the result that weight range spanned coins that are over weight (I have one weighing 17.42 grams and another at 17.52 grams), to very underweight examples, such as the one above, with the majority somewhere in between, mostly above 17 grams.


Edited by robinjojo
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On 1/27/2024 at 4:30 PM, Curtis JJ said:

His ancient coin collection included many types relevant to Jewish history.

Hi @Curtis JJ,

I have a coin from the Moussaief collection but I have not confirmed it yet. Which coin catalog(s) should I be looking at? The coin was bought from Nomos and posted at CT ( here ) in 2020. The history before that gives the Mousaief background (https://www.acsearch.info/search.html?term=cpe+941&category=1-2&lot=&date_from=&date_to=&thesaurus=1&images=1&en=1&de=1&fr=1&it=1&es=1&ot=1&currency=usd&order=0) .

[Edit to add that it was also Ex New York Sale 48 (12-14 Jan 2020), Lot #160 (unsold)]

Edited by Broucheion
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9 hours ago, Broucheion said:

Hi @Curtis JJ,

I have a coin from the Moussaief collection but I have not confirmed it yet. Which coin catalog(s) should I be looking at? The coin was bought from Nomos and posted at CT ( here ) in 2020. The history before that gives the Mousaief background (https://www.acsearch.info/search.html?term=cpe+941&category=1-2&lot=&date_from=&date_to=&thesaurus=1&images=1&en=1&de=1&fr=1&it=1&es=1&ot=1&currency=usd&order=0) .

[Edit to add that it was also Ex New York Sale 48 (12-14 Jan 2020), Lot #160 (unsold)]

Great coin! Glad you asked, because when I looked, I realized I hadn't posted an entry for S. Moussaieff on my page for my "provenance glossary" (still in progress/partially updated).

Gorny & Mosch and Goldberg (partner in The New York Sale) divided the collection between them, and sold different portions of the collection. So, there's no single catalog to refer to.

Note: All the coins and antiquities were officially exported with a permit from the Israel Antiquities Authority.

That Gorny sale in your link was the first appearance for your coin (Gorny & Mosch Auction 261, 4 Mar 2019, Lot 437). That was Gorny & Mosch's first offering of Moussaieff's coins. They offered 135 lots from the collection in their Auctions 261 & 263 (4-7 Mar 2019).

It looks like your coin was indeed purchased at G&M 261. I'm not sure why it would've appeared again at the NYS 48. Maybe it didn't meet the reserve at G&M 261 or went unpaid or was bought by someone in-house.

G&M had also previously sold Moussaieff's antiquities collection (portions not donated to museums) in their Auction 257 (15 Oct 2018).

There was a slightly earlier offering of coins from The New York Sale (Goldberg) at Auction 45 (8 Jan 2019 at NYINC), with 30 lots, but that didn't include yours, since it was with Gorny. Goldberg sold a few more coins at their Auction 109 a few weeks later (29 Jan 2019) and a bunch more that summer at their Auction 110 (4 Jun 2019).

Both firms kept selling coins from that sale in later auctions as well.

Edited by Curtis JJ
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Hi All,

Just to close the circle,  I found that the tetradrachm was pictured with an eBay watermark and described as
"The item "PTOLEMY IV & Arsinoe 219BC Ascalon Silver Greek Tetradrachm NGC ChXF Fine Style" is in sale since Thursday, March 21, 2019. This item is in the category "Coins & Paper Money\Coins\ Ancient\Greek (450 BC-100 AD)". The seller is "victoram" and is located in Forest Hills, New York." [NB: victorram is Sergey Nechayev Ancient Coins.]


The coin was also featured on Nechayev's vCoins site (I assume at the same time as eBay), but that seller is no longer active there so his store was removed. The Internet Archive didn't capture that page so only my PDF capture is proof it was also displayed there.

My next task is to find the sale that got the coin to Moussaieff. The History I have after Mossaieff's death is:

∎ The New York Sale Auction 45 (8 Jan 2019 at NYINC)
∎ Gorny & Mosch Auction 261, Lot 437 (4 Mar 2019)
∎ eBay (victorram) & vCoins (Sergey Nechayev Ancient Coins) - 21 Mar 2019
∎ Nomos Auction 21, Lot 267 (21 Nov 2020)

- Broucheion


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5 hours ago, Broucheion said:

My next task is to find the sale that got the coin to Moussaieff.

Moussaieff reportedly formed his collection between about 1948 and 1980s in the London coin trade. He may have bought it "by private treaty" from a dealer rather than at auction.

My next step would be to check Lorber's big studies of Ptolemaic and any other die studies or Corpus type articles or monographs. Being both rare and very attractive, it could not have escaped notice unless kept buried away in the collection of someone who wasn't active in the 20th cent. coin Socities in London & every other European city, town, and village!

E.g. what does Lorber 941 say? Does she cite this coin from some old auction? Or other databases/ studies /major auctions of Ptolemaic coins in private collections? Or check old coin hoards, etc.

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