Famous New York antiquities (and ancient coins) dealer closes

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by DonnaML, Jan 11, 2021.

  1. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    After operating for 78 years under the same proprietor, Jerome Eisenberg -- who started as a mail-order ancient coin dealer in 1942 at the age of 12! -- the Royal-Athena Galleries have finally closed, and Mr. Eisenberg has retired. See http://royalathena.com/.

    For a very long time, they were certainly the best-known antiquities dealer in New York City, and I bought a number of artifacts there beginning in the early 1980s. Including one of my Attic black-figure lekythoi in 1985 (see these two photos):

    Attic Black-Figure Lekythos (Royal Athena) 4 Warrior Fighting - 2.jpg

    Attic Black-Figure Lekythos, purchased from Royal Athena March 1986.jpg

    And quite a few of my ancient Egyptian objects, such as this reclining faience lion:

    Reclining Sekhmet.jpg

    They were generally quite expensive (the rent was high, I'm sure, for their store on East 57th Street!), but I suppose they were able to charge a premium for the assurance of authenticity that their expertise provided. I also enjoyed their many publications, such as this exhibition catalog in which my lion was published. Here are the cover page and an interior page on which the lion is on the far right in the top row:
    Royal Athena, Age of Cleopatra exhibition, 1988 - cover page.jpg

    Reclining Lion, Blue Faience -Royal Athena - Age of Cleopatra, 1988, p. 24.jpg

    I was told by another dealer more than a year ago that the store was likely to close in the not-too-distant future because, among other things, nobody in Mr. Eisenberg's family was interested in taking over the business. Some of the store's large remaining inventory will be liquidated through Hixenbaugh Ancient Art, yet another dealer from whom I've made purchases over the years.

    I was sad to learn this, but I suppose it was inevitable.

    Please post a coin or other object you bought from a now-defunct dealer whom you were sad to see close down, and/or whom you miss.
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  3. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Basileus Megalos

    Some very nice antiquities Donna. I purchased an EF-FDC antoninianus of Phillip I / Fortuna Redux from Frank L. Kovacs at his office on Post Street in San Francisco back in 1984 for $100, who was my mentor in collecting. I was fourteen at the time and put most of the money from my SF Chronicle paper route into coins. I have no image of the coin as I sold it back in 1988 when I headed off to UC-Berkeley. Here is a similar coin (not as good, though).


    Since that time the Frank L. Kovacs Numismatic Library has been created at Stanford under the department of Classics.
  4. furryfrog02

    furryfrog02 Well-Known Member

    I have nothing to post but just wanted to comment that those artifacts are beautiful.
    thejewk, Restitutor, DonnaML and 2 others like this.
  5. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    ...this is an ahh/WOW moment....1st, sorry to hear the owners retiring and the business is closing...a mark of time...and WOW on that vase n stuff!! Donna! :)
    DonnaML likes this.
  6. rrdenarius

    rrdenarius non omnibus dormio Supporter

    thanks for sharing, and may I say WOW!
    DonnaML likes this.
  7. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    Bummer. Thank you for the wonderful pics. I just enjoy this type of Ancients collecting... small, intimate, nice art.
    DonnaML likes this.
  8. Parthicus

    Parthicus Well-Known Member

    That's a shame that the business is closing, but given that the gentleman is 90, I can hardly blame him for wanting to retire. I enjoy my job, but if I'm still above ground when I'm 90, I'll probably want to retire, too.

    I never bought from Royal Athena as I don't collect non-coin antiquities, but I do have some coins I bought from dealers who have since vanished. This Roman Republic denarius, showing the submission of the Nabataean king Aretas III, was purchased from Don Zauche at the November 2019 Baltimore coin show. He passed away about a month later. His wife is apparently going to carry on the business, but the Baltimore show just won't be the same without Don around.
    Roman Republic Aretas.jpg
    And I purchased this as of Domitian at a 2016 show from the late Fred Knust of First Light Numismatics. Fred always had an interesting and diverse inventory, and was very knowledgeable about coins and history. I always enjoyed talking to him, and he is another dealer I miss.
  9. Robidoux Pass

    Robidoux Pass Well-Known Member

    I've seen "Wow" in two different messages in this thread. Let me also say "wow, Donna," to make it a third. I enjoyed seeing your antiquities. I do like the Egyptian one. Thanks for sharing.
    DonnaML likes this.
  10. green18

    green18 Unknown member Sweet on Commemorative Coins Supporter

    Loss of a gentleman most profound. End of an era......
    DonnaML likes this.
  11. otlichnik

    otlichnik Well-Known Member

    Wow. Sad to hear. I tried to drop in most times I was in Manhattan. I only ever bought some books there, but I did wander around looking at everything - probably with my tongue hanging out and drooling like a fool.

  12. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    It's really too bad that nobody in his family wanted to follow in his footsteps. Compare that to Stack's Bowers, also here in NYC, which is now probably on its fourth generation of Stacks involved in running the business since it was founded, back in the 1920s I believe.

    I took a look to see if I have photos on my computer of any other artifacts I purchased from Royal Athena. Here are two photos of an Apulian red-figure stemless cup, showing a "lady of fashion" on each side; notice the flower in her hair. It was made in Southern Italy in the 4th Century BCE, and is almost 6" wide. I bought it in 1993.

    Apulian Red-figure Stemless Cup 2.jpg

    Apulian Red-figure Stemless Cup 4.jpg
  13. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Also from Royal Athena, these two Hellenistic terracotta figures, also from the 3rd-2nd centuries BCE, purchased in 1991. The first is the head of a boy, and the second is a roundel showing the bust of an unidentified winged female deity in relief.

    Antiquities - terracotta head of boy & roundel (2).jpg
    Antiquities - terracotta head of boy & roundel.jpg

    This 26th Dynasty ancient Egyptian faience triad of Horus flanked by his mother Isis and his aunt Nebhet is also from Royal Athena:

    NEW Triad of Isis, Horus, Nebhet.jpg

    Finally, every object in this case came from Royal Athena (including the small blue ushabti on the lower left), except for the bronze Horus falcon on the lower right. I bought that decades ago from a long defunct dealer called the Harmer-Rooke Galleries:

    Antiquities vitrine.jpg
  14. Theodosius

    Theodosius Fine Style Seeker Supporter

    I used to drool over their catalogs but never had the opportunity to buy anything from them. I especially like their red figure vases. Shame no one in the family wants to take over. I would make a bad proprieter because I would just take everything home.

  15. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Me too!
    Theodosius likes this.
  16. green18

    green18 Unknown member Sweet on Commemorative Coins Supporter

    Such a curative endeavor, Donna......
    DonnaML likes this.
  17. TheRed

    TheRed Supporter! Supporter

    That is sad news to hear @DonnaML thank you for sharing it. On my only visit to New York I walked by just to window shop, about the only thing I could have afforded was a mint from a tray (if they offered them). Your collection of artifacts is amazing, I really like the ushabti.

    The coin belowis an Esterlin of Edward III that I purchased from Tom Cederlind. I would see him every 6 months at the Baltimore coin show and he was one of the highlights. Over the few years I purchased a number of medieval English and Seleucid coins from him. He also had a wonderful auction catalogue that was quarterly. Sadly he passed away in 2015.
  18. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Wow! What a stunning collection of artifacts, @DonnaML! Museum pieces!

    I miss Henry Clay Lindgren, who died in 2005 at the age of 91 and sold his collection in the 1990s and early years of the millennium through his firm Antioch Associates. I looked forward to his fixed price lists and buy or bid sales.

    We bought the coins -- often sight unseen -- and sometimes they were less than appealing (but never overpriced):

    Faustina Jr SAECVLI  FELICIT S C As.jpg
    Sometimes they were featured in The Celator:

    Cleopatra Thea Antiochus VIII.jpg
    Cleopatra Thea Celator 1.JPG
    Sometimes you knew what you were getting because they were a plate coin from one of his books:

    Annia Faustina Isinda.jpg
    Annia Faustina Lindgren plate small.jpg
    Annia Faustina Lindgren listing.jpg
  19. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    A great coin! I have one coin -- my Tiberius "Tribute Penny" -- that I bought from Kirk Davis, that was purchased originally from Tom Cederlind a long time ago. I admit I wasn't familiar with him.

    In going through photos of artifacts purchased from Royal Athena, it occurred to me that I'm pretty sure I bought only one object there in the last 20 years or so. Almost all of my purchases were made in the 1980s and 1990s. Why? It got to the point where almost everything in the store was too expensive for me, too. Previously, there were still quite a few items for well under $1,000, and I don't think that was true anymore, although there was still an "under $2,500" section. This is the only object I bought there more recently, a tiny Apulian net lekythos:

    Apulian Lekythos 3.jpg

    You can see how small it is by comparing it to the certificate of authenticity:

    Apulian Lekythos 1.jpg

    But I still miss visiting the place; it was like a museum. I fondly remember looking not only at the small objects, but at all the life-size sculptures and gigantic Greek vases, all marked "P.O.R." If you have to ask, you can't afford it!
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2021
  20. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Those are wonderful. I used to love looking at ads like that. I guess they don't really exist anymore, except on the Internet, sort of.
    Roman Collector and Broucheion like this.
  21. happy_collector

    happy_collector Well-Known Member

    Wished I had a chance to visit the gallery. I still have some of their small size but full color catalogs from years ago. Love those. In addition to the Greek painted vases, I think the company also sells cool Neolithic figurines. I remember seeing a number of clay or stone Neolithic figurines in various auctions having a "from Royal Athena Gallery" description.
    DonnaML likes this.
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