Featured FInding Provenance

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Sulla80, Mar 11, 2023.

  1. Sulla80

    Sulla80 Supporter! Supporter


    How can you find provenance for your ancient coins? It helps to get good at recognizing dies and die matches and knowing what your coins look like.

    Brute Force: flipping through large numbers of books and catalogs in paper and electronic libraries. I haven't tried this unless I was just looking for an image of a coin with a known auction listing.
    Example: https://www.sullacoins.com/post/coins-of-parthian-king-phraates-iv

    Two sources for auction catalogs:
    • RNumis a free online resource for provenance research (mostly Greek coin focused)
    • The Newman Numismatic Portal located at Washington University in St. Louis a free resource for numismatic research and reference material (more US Coin focused)

    Roman Republican coins - the Schaeffer Roman Republican Die Project is a useful resource http://numismatics.org/archives/ark:/53695/schaefer.rrdp.b04.


    Coins of Roman Egypt : Dattari Savio is an easy place to check with ~10K coins it provides one stop for 100+ years of provenance.

    Example: https://www.sullacoins.com/post/provenance-rediscovered

    Generally: ACSearch is pretty good - both image search and scanning entries (when you don't have a coin with 1000s of hits), however you will rarely find anything more than 20-25 years old unless the selling auction house lists older provenance.

    Example: https://www.sullacoins.com/post/the-temple-on-mt-eryx


    ACSearch helped me track down this coin to 1989:


    Here's funny story here of 5 previous owners found with image search (5 owners in about 30 months) https://www.sullacoins.com/post/who-s-bidding

    Specific Types: Die studies for your coin of interest are always a good place to look or for rarer coins the one reference article

    Example: https://www.sullacoins.com/post/ae-coin-from-ekkarra-achaea-phthiotis

    Image Searching: Having tried periodically http://ex-numis.com with no luck, even coins that I know have old provenance haven't turned up anything, I still hold out hope that this will be the best way to search provenance in the future, as databases grow and image matching technology improves.

    Post your coins with "restored provenance", or your favorite ways to add provenance, or anything else that you find interesting or entertaining.
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2023
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  3. ancientcoinguru

    ancientcoinguru Well-Known Member

    Great information! Thanks for sharing
    Carl Wilmont, Curtis and Sulla80 like this.
  4. Ryan McVay

    Ryan McVay Well-Known Member

    Can I request that you add a blurp on why provenance is so important to your collection?
    Cheech9712 likes this.
  5. Jwt708

    Jwt708 Well-Known Member

    Excellent information, sadly my coins were ever likely to have been featured in an auction catalog.
    Sulla80 likes this.
  6. Sulla80

    Sulla80 Supporter! Supporter

    Hi Ryan, a good overview here from Edward Waddell in Coinweek:

    For me it is primarily: a coin is more interesting if it can be documented from a famous collection or an important journal articles/book. With a coin like the one illustrated above it is also interesting to see how it looked in 1989 (40 years ago).
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  7. GinoLR

    GinoLR Well-Known Member

    I don't have any coin that could be documented in some important collection catalogue. Most of mine were bought when I was much younger and visited ancient cities with my parents in North Africa or Middle East. In a sense, many are personal travel souvenirs.

    This one, for example. I got it from a local dealer in 1970 at Bamiyan, Afghanistan... Its provenance is just this extraordinary country I was lucky to visit when it was possible. There were few western visitors back then, some were backpackers hitchhiking on their way to Kathmandu. Those were different times.

    soter megas.jpg

    AE tetradrachm of the Kushan king Vima Takto, alias "Soter Megas" (c. 80-90 AD), king of Bactria (Afghanistan)
    Obv: Bust of the king wearing royal headband and radiate, holding sceptre ; three-pronged tamgha behind.
    Rev: ΒΑCΙΛΕΥ(C) ΒΑCΙΛΕΥѠΝ CѠΤΗΡ ΜΕΓΑ(C) : "The King of Kings, Great Saviour", mounted king with royal headband, holding a sceptre. Three-pronged tamgha.
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  8. Sulla80

    Sulla80 Supporter! Supporter

    Great provenance @GinoLR. This coin came with the story of a trip to Rome, an illness and a friendship....is the coin more interesting with the story from its previous owners? from my pespective, yes.
    Orielensis, paschka, BenSi and 10 others like this.
  9. larssten

    larssten Well-Known Member

    Great thread about an important and exiting topic.

    I have used Ex-Numis quite a lot and can present some data from my submissions. If anyone want help with submission, just send me a PM.

    - Hit-rate: 16% of submitted coins (some coins get 2-3 provenances)
    - Auction date: 68% of matches from the 1980s and 1990s.
    - Location: 71% of matches from Switzerland and Germany

    1.png 2.png 3.png
  10. larssten

    larssten Well-Known Member

    Here is also one example of an exciting provenances I discovered after purchase.
    Its a tetradrachm from Syracuse minted under Agathocles (310 - 305 BC).

    From top to bottom:
    - Oslo myntgalleri 21 lot 57; 27.11.2020
    - Künker 174 lot 134; 27.09.2010 (ID with AC-search)
    - Numismatics Fine Arts 29 lot 40; 13.08.1992 (ID with Ex-Numis)
    - Ars Classica 16, Genf 1933, Nr. 841; 03.07.1933 (Mentioned in Künker-sale)

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  11. larssten

    larssten Well-Known Member

    While I'm at it - here is another great coin - Roman sestertius from Emperor Nero.
    Did only have a Spink-tag when purchased. Using Ex-Numis I found the Ratto 1928-provenance. After that I manually looked through other Ratto cataloges and price lists and found it imaged in a 1933 price list too!

    From top to bottom:
    - Oslo myntgalleri 25 lot 1187; 09.05.2021
    - Spink inventory sale [1980s to 2000s - probably 2011 - tag included]
    - Rodolfo Ratto, Milano 1933 XI Monete Imperiali Da Pompeo Magno A Nerone . Price List 1933 Vol 9 lot 1609 [ID by looking at other Ratto catalogues]
    - Rodolfo Ratto, Lugano, Switzerland; 08.02.1928 lot 2114 [ID Ex-Numis]

  12. svessien

    svessien Senior Member

    Interesting to see those 4 auction houses as the provenance, and also quite typical of where Gunnar Thesen of Oslo Mynthandel would find coins to import to Norway, or buy for other collectors.

    I bought a large lot of old NFA catalogs a while back. Looks like the former owner was Thesen himself. Inside some of them, I found some old letters and bid sheets:


    Here's a bid sheet from 1988, and I'm sure you are familiar with the collector:)
  13. larssten

    larssten Well-Known Member

    This particular coin, the collector who sold at OMG21 told me he bought it at Numisma, who probably purchased it at Künker. The NFA and Ars Classica provenance was hidden I think. But yes, I am sure the mentioned houses were frequently visited by Thesen in both the 80s and 90s.

    Very amusing you found the old bid sheets in your NFA-catalogues. I recognize Gunnar’s handwriting and am sure he purchased quite a bit for Schøyen! The particular lots at NFA XX, i think its:
    - Coronth stater
    - Greek drachma
    - Vespasian aureus

    ..if i am not mistaken..? Had only a lousy PDF-copy of the catalogue.
  14. Curtis

    Curtis Well-Known Member

    Hopefully this thread will resume & keep going! I am working on a website now to illustrate exactly this kind of coin (I have about 60 posted, plus another 100 or so to go). I usually try to buy or bid on coins only when I know some kind of "lost & found" provenance. Including published/"plate coins."

    More generally, I think of the topic as "(modern) object biography," and my collection is about its role in "the history of numismatic knowledge."

    I got hooked by this one. Corinth Stater:

    One of my first ever coin purchases, circa 1990 (~12 years old). It came with no provenance but I later discovered it was from the Dr. S. Pozzi (1846 – 1918) Collection, No. 1688 at the first sale of Naville Ars Classica in 1921 (and 3756 in the expanded Boutin volume):

    Pozzi Corinth Stater 3 Views.png

    I was definitely hooked after that find!

    Here's one of my more extensive ones. A late Byzantine bronze Tetarteron.

    CNG gave it as: "Reportedly ex "Goodacre's Byzantine Empire" (Downie-Lepczyk 70, 17 September 1986), lot 275 (not illustrated in catalog)."

    I now have the following, back to c. 1842:
    • This coin = ex Hugh George George Goodacre (1865-1952), on loan to Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (1952-1986) = Goodacre, Handbook (1933/1965) p. 312, 3 = Goodacre, "Rare..." (NC, 1931) 7 & Pl. XI, 11 = Goodacre, "Flat..." (NC, 1938) 1A
    • This coin probably = Ex Ducal House of Saxe-Coburg, Gotha, and collection of M. Curt de Bose (Curt von Bose, 1808-1884), Leipzig [prior to 1842] = Sabatier (1862) Pl. LXIV, 12, illustrated by L. Dardel = de Saulcy (1842) Pl. XIX, 7 = BMC Vandals (Wroth, 1911) p. 219, note 1 (cited).


    Well, "Goodacre" is the famous Hugh George George Goodacre (1865-1952). After his death, his heir(s) loaned his collection to Ashmolean Museum at Oxford University, where it remained until 1986 (in the famous Heberden Coin Room).

    As it turns out, Goodacre had published the coin twice in the Numismatic Chronicle (1931 & 1938), and again in A Handbook of Coinage in the Byzantine Empire (1933, reprinted in 1957), the standard reference for decades before Sear and Hendy and others.

    Interestingly, he used different sets of casts each time (plaster and/or sulfur), each with different flaws (in Europe casts were usually used for photography through mid-20th cent.):

    Goodacre 1931 1933 1938.jpg

    Moreover, it appears that this coin was from the collection of M. Curt de Bose (Curt von Bose, 1808-1884), Leipzig published & illustrated by de Saulcy (1842, Revue Numismatique) “Catalogue Descriptif de Monnaies Byzantines Inédites...” and then served as the reverse model for the Leon Dardel drawing in Sabatier (1865). (And cited in BMC Vandals [Wroth, 1911: p. 219, note 1].)

    This coin (de Saulcy, 1842):
    Goodacre example in de Saulcy (1842) Curt von Bose (CROP).png

    This reverse (12, right rev.) and one of the two reverse [interlaced crosses] models (the other being the long-pedigreed DOC 56.1 = Karl Egon II, 1759, which serves as primary obv. model):

    Goodacre example in Sabatier et Cohen (1862) combined CROP.png

    I already posted a couple in other threads today, found using strategies mentioned in the opening post:

    This brockage denarius from the Alba Longa Collection (already a nice provenance) was illustrated twice in the Schaefer notebooks, representing sales in 1981 & 1998:

    Here's one for which the provenance given was only to the Sammlung Dr. Peter Robert Franke (1926-2018) -- again, pretty good on its own! -- but that I recognized from the Morcom Collection.

    Morcom gave more information. Then, "brute-forcing" online auction catalogs from University Heidelberg (also linked at rNumis), I added more, finishing with:
    • Ex IGCH 216 (unknown findspot, 1887-1894) [who dispersed them? Was it Canon [Rev.] William Greenwell (1820-1918)?];
    • Gustav Philipsen (Copenhagen, 1853-1925) Collection; Hirsch XXV (25 Nov 1909), 1300;
    • Edward Perry Warren (1860-1928) Collection [Naville's "amateur étranger récemment décédé"?]; Naville Ars Classica XV (2 Jul 1930), Lot 809;
    • Lt. Col. Reginal Keble Morcom (1877-1961) Collection;
    • Christopher Morcom Collection; CNG MBS 76 (12 September 2007), Lot 562;
    • Sammlung P.R. Franke (1926-2018); Solidus Auktion 108 (8 November 2022), Lot 137.

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  15. Curtis

    Curtis Well-Known Member

    Also: Note that the "Mr. le Colonel R.H. Morcom" from the Ratto catalog shown by @larssten is the same Col. R.K. Morcom of my coin above. (Spring 545 on p. 209 -- and the cover image! -- for anyone who has the bibliography... which anyone interested in provenance should get ASAP!)

    I'm not sure why his middle initial was given as "H." in the Ratto sale, since it's "K." everywhere else. But that was only a small portion of Morcom's collection (possibly duplicates?), most of which was passed down to his grandsons John Morcom and Christopher Morcom.

    Interestingly, some of the coins from that Ratto catalog remained in the family collection, and were published in the SNG about the John Morcom Collection. In the intro he wrote that he wasn't sure why the coins from that catalog remained in the collection; perhaps they were unsold. I checked for my coin, but it wasn't in the Ratto sale.
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  16. Curtis

    Curtis Well-Known Member

    I showed a couple of examples earlier, but I also have a related project that may be of interest to other provenance enthusiasts, but…

    …Warning… It’s still very much in progress. Enough is done that maybe others can already enjoy it. I’m adding daily but don't expect to finish for weeks/months.

    There are multiple connected provenance pages (8 total) on my website (sorry it loads slow! need to upgrade!):

    1) INTRODUCTION + “PROVENANCE GLOSSARY” (for my coins & literature w/ provenance).

    “Provenance Glossary” comes from Hadrien Rambach’s work (which I link).
    The idea is to list collectors, institutions, hoards, etc. represented in one’s collection. By giving summaries of each collection & references for further info, one’s own catalog can then serve as a general research tool for others.

    To illustrate, here is a screenshot of my entry for C.S. Bement (1843-1923) in the table of Private Collections:


    The coins listed at the bottom of each entry (in this case, “Hidrieus Tetradrachm”) are presently in my collection. They are linked to the entry in my catalog pages with photos, collection history, plates, auctions, etc. As you can see, I also include links to those auctions (on Heidi, Archive, Gallica, etc.), which are useful for research. (Hidrieus is a long one, but the Corinth Stater a few images down illustrates how most of them look.)


    Most "Glossary" entries are also shorter than Bement's for various reasons. For AK, below, there's just not much public info on the collector:

    In total, I have ~200 private collections listed (names, life dates where available), but so far I’ve only added the first ~40 of the biographies – “Adams, Charles Francis (1807-1886)” to “Clain-Stefanelli, Vladimir (1914-1982)” plus scattered others. There are even some CoinTalk users included! (I have the info for all 200+ but editing is always the hard part!)

    Each entry also includes links to any of the coins I’ve uploaded so far, like the Hidrieus above. They are linked here:

    2) CATALOG OF COINS & THEIR PROVENANCES, divided by type. So far, I’ve posted 3 of my 7 groups: Greek West (Part I), Greek East (Part II), and Roman Egypt (Part IV).

    There are around 70 coins now, along with plates from books where they’re published, important auctions, etc. (I’m aiming for 150-200 total coins.)

    There are thumbnails at the top of each page so you can quickly jump to any coin shown, or click on any particular area (e.g., Magna Graecia or Celts), or simply scroll down through the catalog. This is Part I: Western Greek:

    If you click on the very bottom coin, here is what you see (one can also keep on clicking for enlargements and sources):


    : I also have a separate Annotated Bibliography of the BCD Collection, with summary of my own ex BCD coins (~95 of them) & ex BCD Library duplicates.

    If anyone takes a look, I’d love to hear your thoughts! (I’ll be glad to know of any corrections or suggestions.)
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2023
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  17. Gallienus

    Gallienus coinsandhistory.com

    This is of much interest to me. I have my own hobbyist website of Ancient coins and those of the Early Independent Latin American Nations.

    I've used Ex-Numis to try to identify some of my pieces but of 10 submissions, only 1 was identified & that only a few months further back than my records of it.

    I'll look at your website in more detail when I have time.
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  18. Cheech9712

    Cheech9712 Every thing is a guess

    Brilliant. You seem like a go to guy Thanks
  19. Gallienus

    Gallienus coinsandhistory.com

    Hey my portrait Aes of Julius Caesar is ex-NFA. Only I don't have the auction date or number. I do have the old NFA tag, it's lot 1085, ca. 1990. Would you be able to look this one up?

    Here's the pix:


    Attached Files:

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  20. Curtis

    Curtis Well-Known Member

    Not the person you asked, but... Found it! Oddly, with a different lot number, so it may have gone unsold & appeared in a 2nd sale. NFA Auction 28 (23 Apr 1992), Lot 1060.

    In this case, luckily, the die flaws on both sides make it easy to identify in the b&w picture. That's a common theme. Perfect coins can be hard to match. But with a void in the flan at 12h on the Caesar side & 2-3h on the Augustus side, there's no mistaking it.


    20230628_083812.jpg 20230628_084348.jpg
  21. BenSi

    BenSi Well-Known Member

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