2023’s Top “Lost & Found” Provenances: How I Found Them

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Curtis, Dec 3, 2023.

  1. Curtis

    Curtis Well-Known Member

    For those interested in “object biography” and/or ancient coin provenance hunting, it is useful to see how others do it. I’ve tried to give enough information here to take away a few tips for one’s own research.

    Thumbnails (click), illustrated full-size below
    Salton Athens Provenance 1KJ Vertical Stack.png Salton Tegea Williams Alexander Lockett.jpg Collection sans Pareille Leo Mildenberg.jpg Epidauros AR Hemidrachm Epiduarus Hoard Requier Provenance.jpg BCD Collection Set Plus Olympia 126.jpg Humphris-Delbridge Plate Coins BCD Lokris Opunti Photos Casts.jpg Arados Sayles Death of Locrian Ajax The Celator.jpg Galst Hemiobol Skione Tags Publication.jpg Myndos Caria Drachm Karl Bricault HNO 2653.jpg Hendin 160a Triptych Plate Cover.jpg

    I try to limit my buying to coins for which I’m aware of some additional collection or publication history that has been lost, or at least not given by the seller. (This way I feel I’m “restoring and conserving” something by collecting; not the physical object, but the “object biography.”)

    I’ll start with some Greek coins for which I was able to restore some lost collection/publication history in 2023. (My “favoritest” were actually Romans, but I’ll comment later for Roman Provincial, Alexandrian, Republican, Roman Imperial, and/or Byzantine.)

    Price note: I always say that you can buy “provenance coins” and “plate coins” in any price range, and that’s strongly supported by the prices of these coins. Most were in the $20 – 200 price range (incl. auction fees).


    I knew this collection had been formed c. 1950s to 1970s, and the collector was closely tied to the scholarly community. By checking old catalogs and die studies I found additional information for dozens of coins from this collection, of which I managed to acquire three (pretty typical success rate).

    ATHENS “NEW STYLE” AR TETRADRACHM (16.61g), 121 BCE (?).
    - Ex Mark Salton (born Max Schlessinger, 1914-2005) & Lottie Salton (née Aronson, 1924-2020) collection;
    - Count Georg de Laval (1883-1970) collection (Glendining’s, “The Property of a Nobleman” (18 Apr 1955), Lot 408.1);
    - Salton-Schlessinger FPL 27 (Fall 1958), No. 63 (“Ex Major de Laval Collection”), unsold;
    - Thompson 540d.3, this coin cited (“Commerce 1955, gr. 16.61”) in The New Style Silver Coinage of Athens (1961, NY: ANS).

    Salton Athens Provenance 1KJ Vertical Stack.png

    I was actually outbid on this coin in 2022. A year later, I recognized it on eBay for a much lower price (having already changed hands repeatedly & lost all provenance).

    I also found this coin listed (but unsold) in one of my old Salton Fixed Price Lists, which noted the Laval Collection (which catalog I also have but is freely available online too). It was also referenced in Thompson’s important book on this coinage (also available online: Text [ANS website], Plates [via Hathi]).

    Ex Salton collection = Williams (1965) The Confederate Coinage of the Arcadians… 84c (this coin cited).

    Ex Salton collection, Richard Cyrill Lockett (1873-1950) collection = SNG Lockett 1501, published in 1942.

    Salton Tegea Williams Alexander Lockett.jpg

    The Arkadian coin is an early, archaic type engraved by the “Athens Master” – I really love the seated Zeus. (I also have a "figures seated left" subcollection.) I figured it out by checking Williams, but then it was also on Salton's collector tag. (Not sure why Stack's didn't include all that info!)

    For Lockett coins, his purchase notebooks, published online by the British Numismatic Society, often contain additional provenance information (but for this one only a Baldwin’s purchase). SNG Lockett (only silver and gold) is also available online as a database (which is how I recognized this & many others).


    Two of my favorite 2023 provenance coins are from the Collection sans Pareille (CsP) of Greek silver fractions.

    Along with Salton, this is the only recent collection about which I felt a great urgency to acquire at least one coin. It was very well cataloged and researched collection, so it was hard to find coins with lost history and I had to stretch a bit. Both the Collectionneuse sans Pareille and their previous owner published essays on small Greek silver, so I suspect I’ll find more publications.

    CILICIA, TARSUS (DATAMES) AR OBOL (9mm, 0.68h), c. 380 BCE.
    - Ex CsP II (Nomos 29), 914 = ex Leo Mildenberg Collection, Hans von Aulock Collection;
    - To confirm (probably this coin) = SNG von Aulock 5419 = Mildenberg “Kleingeld” tf. 16, 33 (?).

    THESSALY, KRANNON AR OBOL (11.5mm, 0.97g), c. 460 BCE.
    - Ex CsP II (Nomos 29), 724 = ex Leo Mildenberg Collection, Münzen und Medaillen FPL 206 (Dec 1960), 21;
    - Liampi Group I, I.B.4, specimen d (this coin cited).

    Collection sans Pareille Leo Mildenberg.jpg

    I strongly suspect that the Cilician Obol was published by both von Aulock and Mildenberg (in Pour Denyse), but I still need to check.

    The Thessalian Obol was in an old Münzen und Medaillen (MM) Fixed Price List, as noted in the sale. The catalog didn’t mention, however, that Katerina Liampi also cited this coin in her 1996 corpus of Thessalian AR Obols.

    Note: MM’s 609 fixed price lists, published 1942-2004, are not just ordinary dealer lists. They constitute one of the most sought-after and important series in the history of numismatic sale literature. (I have a partial set, but hope to complete it.) Many were famously dedicated to small Greek coins (a particular interest of H.A. Cahn’s). The contents are widely referenced in scholarly studies.


    One of my favorite series in numismatic literature consists of the 10 major sales from the BCD Collection (c. 2001-2012). There were also many “duplicates” sales, which often included coins published throughout studies of ancient coins over the past 40 or 50 years, but not always mentioned in sales listings.

    Consequently, I have made it a focus, and now have a “BCD Collection-Collection” of >100 coins. (Not that many, really; some collectors have literally 1,000s of them!) The first two coins are 2023 purchases; for the final group of 5 Lokris AE, the purchase is older, but the provenance discovery came only this year.

    ARGOLIS, EPIDAURUS AR HEMIDRACHM (14mm, 2.55g), 295-250 BCE.
    - Ex BCD Collection, CNG 84 (5 May 2010), lot 502;
    - Ex 1979/80 Epidaurus Hoard (Coin Hoards VII, 69; CH VIII, 298);
    - Requier, Monnayage, Series 1, dies D4/R4, 105 (this coin illustrated).

    Epidauros AR Hemidrachm Epiduarus Hoard Requier Provenance.jpg

    I already had several bronzes from Epidaurus (famous for its Asclepeion – healing temple). But no silver. So, when I saw this coin, I hoped I could find some lost provenance, so it would “qualify” for me to bid on.

    I knew that most of these Hemidrachms came from the 1979/80 Epidaurus Hoard, but proving it is the hard part. Fortunately, when I checked Pierre Requier’s article(s) on the hoard (PDF Online), I found that it was one of the “plate coins” illustrating its die-pair. (I also recognize that as one of BCD's own little lifesize black & white photos!)

    OLYMPIA, ELIS AR OBOL (12mm, 0.86g), 105TH OLYMPIAD, c. 360 BCE.
    - Ex Marc Bar (1921-2015) collection;
    - BCD Collection (BCD Olympia 126);
    - Hoover, HGC (5) 472 (this coin illustrated).

    This is my only coin from BCD Olympia (the title of Leu Auction 90, 10 May 2004).

    BCD Collection Set Plus Olympia 126.jpg

    It was the BCD Olympia 126 “plate coin” (when an auction catalog is widely used as a standalone reference, I consider it more scholarly publication than commercial), then in the collection of Marc Bar, the important Belgian numismatist and editor of BCEN.

    The only “lost” information I knew was that it was the HGC (5) 472 “plate coin” (i.e., Hoover, 2011, Handbook of Coins of the Peloponnesos...). No big surprise: many HGC plate coins are from the BCD catalogs; being very rare, this was surely the only specimen available (another was photographed in Fitzwilliam >100 years ago).

    But I bought it anyway, since it completed my set of at least one coin from all 10 of the major BCD sales. Hopefully there’s more info yet to add!

    - Ex BCD Collection (Lokris-Phokis duplicates);
    - various findspots;
    - published in Humphris & Delbridge 2014.

    Several years ago, I bought a group of Lokris Bronzes from the 4th-2nd cent. BCE (duplicates of the BCD Lokris coll. sold by Naville Numismatics, sort of a junior partner to NAC, whose 2010 Auction 55 was BCD Lokris-Phokis).

    But I only uncovered the additional publication history (and findspot) a couple weeks ago.
    Humphris-Delbridge Plate Coins BCD Lokris Opunti Photos Casts.jpg

    Once I finally learned that Humphris & Delbridge’s (2014) The Coinage of the Opountian Lokrians was available (with many others) from the RNS Special Publications page, I read it and found that all these were “plate coins.” There was also important info on their individual findspots.

    A few lessons from these ones: [1] be patient, it can take years to recover lost provenance; but [2] you improve your odds by starting with coins from well-documented, scholarly collections (even cheap coins like these); and [3] always check the die-studies!


    PHOENICIA, ARADOS Æ (20.5mm, 8.45g), 129/8 BCE.
    - Ex Cederlind FPL 84 (Spring 1989), no. 65;
    - Sayles, "Death of Locrian Ajax depicted" in The Celator 1.2 (April/May 1987), p. 1 (this coin illustrated).

    Another “second chance” coin: In May 2022, I was outbid (CNG e-Auction 551, Lot 205) on this coin, which was published in 1987 on the front page of the second issue of The Celator, when it was still printed on news broadsheet. (Almost all issues are online; I highly recommend perusing them all!)

    One year later, it appeared at Naville 81 – but this time with no provenance whatsoever. (Not even the 2022 CNG sale!) I recognized and won it for the opening bid – at such a deep discount I’m too embarrassed to say it out loud (linked above for the curious).
    Arados Sayles Death of Locrian Ajax The Celator.jpg

    In 1987, Wayne Sayles’ hypothesized that the reverse was modeled on contemporary artworks depicting the “Death of Locrian Ajax.” (Or “Ajax the Lesser,” not to be confused with “Ajax the Great,” confusingly both characters in the Trojan War. Poseidon killed this one for a combination of insolence and desecrating Athena’s temple during the Trojan War.)

    Fascinating theory, but I think it was soon abandoned. (I love to collect coins about which we have revised our interpretations, or that were subjects of controversy.)

    MACEDON, SKIONE HEMIOBOL (6mm, 0.34g), c. 480-450 BCE.
    - Ex Jay Galst (1950-2020) collection, Classical Numismatic Review vol. XXV [CNR 25] (Summer 2000), No. 22;
    - Galst & van Alfen, Ophthalmologia XIII.9 (this coin illustrated);
    - Marathaki Skioni 93 (this coin illustrated).

    The splendid little fraction depicts an Archaic human eye on the reverse. It came from the collection of the prominent NYC ophthalmologist, Dr. Jay M. Galst, who died of COVID. (Collectors’ biographies and the fates of their collections often capture important world events.)

    Galst Hemiobol Skione Tags Publication.jpg

    CNG correctly noted it as a “plate coin” in his 2013 book with Peter van Alfen, Ophthalmologia Optica et Visio in Nummis. But failed to note that the coin was also illustrated (twice!) in Marathaki’s 2014 study of The History and Coinage of Ancient Skione in Chalcidice.

    The obverse is probably Protesilaos, a very interesting hero of the Trojan War (and first to die).

    CARIA, MYNDUS AR DRACHM (18mm, 3,34g), 2nd BCE.
    - Ex Sammlung Erich Karl (1924-2009) = Karl 266;
    - Slg. Laurent Bricault (1963-);
    - SNRIS Myndus 02 (a6);
    - HNO 2653.1;
    - (probably) Gorny 81 (3 Mar 1997), 342, cited in Meadows & Zabel (Coin Hoards IX, 522: pp. 248 & 251).

    Once again, CNG correctly identified this as the HNO “digital plate coin,” from the excellent Sammlung Erich Karl (Lanz Auktion 131, which serves as a valuable specialized reference for Caria).

    Lucky for me, they didn't recognize the Gorny & Mosch 247 listing as being from the Sammlung Laurent Bricualt section of the sale. (Always check the full catalog, whether PDF or print! There is often a heading or introduction that provides information not in the lot archives.)
    Myndos Caria Drachm Karl Bricault HNO 2653.jpg

    Bricault is a French archaeologist/historian who specializes in Greco-Roman religion, including especially cults of the Egyptian deities Isis and Serapis. This coin depicts the headdress of Isis on the reverse and (probably) Sarapis in the obverse. Bricault published it in his 2008 opus, SNRIS (Sylloge Nummorum Religionis Isiacae et Sarapiacae). It’s a very rare type, so I believe this must also be the same coin from Gorny Auktion 81, cited in CH IX, 522.

    JUDAEA, BAR KOCHBA REVOLT AE (25mm, 9.88g), 133/4 CE.
    - Ex David Hendin (1945-) collection, w/ collector tag;
    - Hendin GBC2 (1987) 160a (this coin illustrated).

    Okay, I’ll take a break soon! One more for now. I have only one Judaean coin to share for 2023, so I’m including it with the Greeks.

    This is a Judaean “middle bronze” struck in 133/4 CE during the Bar Kochba revolt during Hadrian’s reign. (Not a Roman Provincial because they were rebelling against Rome and striking their own coins -- over the Romans'!)
    Hendin 160a Triptych Plate Cover.jpg

    I won’t go into all the details, but it’s a fascinating overstrike: One can still clearly see the under-type, a portrait of Titus from a Provincial Judaea Capta issue by Agrippa II (RPC 2285.7 [same die]). I love that the rebels produced coinage by obliterating that of their oppressors. Usually it’s interpreted as a strictly practical matter (these are the coins that were available to re-strike), but I can’t imagine the symbolism was entirely lost on them (or the Romans).

    I’m cheating a bit here because I really didn’t add much to the provenance. CNG EA 538 (10 May 2023), Lot 244 described it as, “David Hendin Collection (his ticket included, noting it is the plate coin for no. 160a [in a prior edition of his book]).”

    Since I had some old editions of his Guide to Biblical Coins, I was able to find it in the 1987 ed. (But I still need to check his original 1976 Guide to Ancient Jewish Coins, where I suspect it is also illustrated, and the third edition.)

    Last edited: Dec 3, 2023
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  3. Nick Zynko

    Nick Zynko ZmanFla

    Curtis this is an absolutely mind-blowing article on research! Amazing attention to details in cross checking, filling in all the possible missing/neglected provenance and history - the importance cannot be overstated-Well Done!
  4. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish)

    Wonderful research as always, Curtis. I never get tired of reading about your provenance finds.
    The Meat man and Curtis like this.
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